A security officer stands on the corner of the U.S. embassy in Havana July 27, 2015. 
Photo by Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

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Here are the top five stories of the morning:

  1. Secretary of State John Kerry will see the American flag fly over the Cuban embassy for the first time in 54 years on Friday. Three Marines lowered the flag in 1961 amid Cold War-era tensions, and the same Marines hoist the flag more than half a decade later. The ceremony represents another milestone in the warming of relations between the U.S. and the Communist country. The embassy reopened after President Obama and Raul Castro announced a historic accord and, since then, Cubans have been lining up for visas to visit the U.S. or to make a permanent move. 

  2. This year’s  El Niño, the occasional warming of the Pacific Ocean water around the equator, could be one of the strongest on record, forecasters said on Thursday. Although it may not bring enough rain to end the historic drought in California, forecasters said it could raise the risks of floods and mudslides this winter in Southern California. Some say it “has the potential of being the Godzilla El Niño,” 

  3. The Associated Press reported this morning that Hillary Clinton’s private email server contained top-secret information on it, including an email discussing a news article detailing a CIA drone operation. According to a new McClatchy report, this information was discovered by U.S. officials in May, raising questions about possible political motives in concealing or revealing the information.

  4. Despite rumblings of a possible Al Gore 2016 presidential campaign, a high-level Democratic source told NBC News that there is nothing substantive happening in the Gore camp. A BuzzFeed report on Thursday said supporters have been looking into whether a presidential campaign is financially and politically viable for the 67-year-old. On the other hand, rumors about Vice President Joe Biden running have gained steam. The stories circulating about Hillary Clinton’s email server, which could prove disastrous for the Clinton campaign, could provide more of a reason for other Democratic candidates to run. 

  5. Clinton got a boost as she prepares for a weekend in Iowa: An endorsement from former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin. In an op-ed published on Thursday in The Des Moines Register, Harkin writes that the former secretary of state is a “fighter who has a record of getting things done.” Harkin also added that Clinton “has devoted her career to championing the needs of children” and has been a  ”tireless advocate for women and families.” 

In case you missed it:

  • Minor injuries were reported after an East River Ferry “smashed” into the Wall Street Pier in New York City. (Gothamist)
  • This record-breaking cat is 26 years old. (Guinness World Records)
  • Director Ryan Murphy finally revealed the new ”American Horror Story” characters. (LA Times)
  • A “Modern Family” star discussed why she got a breast reduction — and her reason is powerful. (Mic)
  • On this day in 2003, a historic blackout left 50 million people in the Northeast without electricity. (History)

Get your morning news roundup here

Updated