House GOP Drops Standoff over Debt Ceiling

The House has narrowly passed a new measure to lift the debt ceiling until March 2015. Twenty-eight Republicans joined with Democrats, dropping their party’s long-running tactic of tying the debt limit to cuts on social spending, this time military pensions. The measure faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, where it is unclear if Democrats will have the votes to overcome a filibuster.

Holder Calls for Restoration of Felons’ Voting Rights

Attorney General Eric Holder has called on states to repeal laws that prohibit formerly incarcerated people from voting, a move that would restore the right to vote to nearly six million people. Holder spoke at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Attorney General Eric Holder: "Formerly incarcerated people continue to face significant obstacles. They are frequently deprived of opportunities that they need to rebuild their lives. And in far too many places, their rights—including the single most basic right of American citizenship, the right to vote—are either abridged or denied. As the Leadership Conference Education Fund articulated very clearly in your recent report, and I quote: 'There is no rational reason to take away someone's voting rights for life just because they’ve committed a crime, especially after they’ve completed their sentence and made amends,’ unquote."

Holder’s call was largely symbolic since the federal government cannot force states to change their voting laws. Click here to watch our segment today about this headline.

Washington State Freezes Death Penalty

Washington state has become the latest in the U.S. to suspend the death penalty. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee announced the move.

Gov. Jay Inslee: "A system that does not deter crime, costs citizens millions of dollars more than life imprisonment without parole, is uncertain in its application, and exposes families to multiple decades of uncertainty as to the result of the judicial decision, is not right. You could say it’s not moral, but I can say it’s not right."

Washington state is the 18th state to halt capital punishment, and the sixth in as many years. Nine prisoners will be moved off of death row as a result.

Websites Stage Global Action Against NSA Surveillance

Thousands of websites took part in a day of protest against mass surveillance by the National Security Agency on Tuesday by displaying banners and encouraging a flood of calls to Congress. Organizers of "The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance" say lawmakers received phone calls at a rate of 5,000 per hour to back laws that would reform government spying. Click here to watch our coverage of the day of action.

Appeals Court Rejects Halt to Guantánamo Force-Feeding, Allows Challenges to Prison Conditions

A federal appeals court has rejected a bid by hunger-striking Guantánamo Bay prisoners to stop the government from subjecting them to force-feeding. Human rights groups say the practice amounts to torture, but the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said any injunction against force-feeding could lead to a prisoner’s death. In a defeat for the White House, the judges also ruled federal courts can oversee complaints about prison conditions for Guantánamo prisoners. The decision could lead to new challenges from Guantánamo’s 155 remaining inmates.

New Spill in West Virginia with Leak from Coal Slurry

West Virginia is facing a new toxic spill following the rupture of a coal slurry. An undisclosed amount of waste has leaked in the eastern part of the state after a slurry line broke open. The leak comes as West Virginia continues to grapple with the aftermath of a massive chemical spill that cut off water supplies for more than 300,000 people last month.

Environmentalists: N.C. Trying to Avoid Scrutiny of Duke Energy Deal Following Toxic Leak

A coal ash pond owned by Duke Energy leaked in North Carolina last week. Environmental groups are now criticizing state regulators for seeking to delay an agreement with Duke that would shield it from responsibility for cleaning up pollution of waterways. The North Carolina government says it will re-evaluate the agreement in light of the spill, but environmentalists say it is a move to buy time until public outcry subsides. Over the past year, the administration of North Carolina governor and former Duke employee Pat McCrory has shielded the company from a series of potential lawsuits.

1 Missing After Natural Gas Explosion at Pennsylvania Well

An explosion at a natural gas fracking well has sparked a massive fire in Pennsylvania. One person is missing while another has been hospitalized with injuries. The well’s operator, Chevron, was reportedly preparing to begin pumping gas from the well when the blast occurred. The fire is expected to last up to several days.

U.N. Envoy Calls on Russia, U.S. to Help Salvage Syrian Peace Talks

U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has moved up a meeting with U.S. and Russian diplomats in a bid to overcome an impasse at the Syrian peace talks in Geneva. Brahimi says he hopes the two world powers backing opposite sides in the conflict can help break a deadlock in talks. On Tuesday, Brahimi said the summit is failing to make progress.

Lakhdar Brahimi: "The beginning of this week is as laborious as it was the first week. We are not making much progress. I’m not sure whether I can impose an agenda on people who don’t want. You know, how can you? Put a gun on their heads? You know, it is their country. This is a huge responsibility they have."

Syrian Forces Interrogate Males Evacuated from Homs

Hundreds of civilians have been evacuated from the besieged city of Homs as part of an agreement to emerge from the Geneva talks. But many Syrian males fleeing the city have been detained for interrogation. The evacuations have resumed following a one-day pause.

Okinawa Residents Protest U.S. Base During Ambassador’s Visit

Hundreds of protesters are rallying on the Japanese island of Okinawa to mark the first visit by new U.S. ambassador Caroline Kennedy. The trip is seen as a show of support for Okinawa’s governor, who recently agreed to relocate a major U.S. military base from a densely populated urban area to a more remote location. But a decades-long movement of Okinawa residents has opposed the base altogether and pushed for ousting U.S. forces off the island, citing environmental concerns and sexual assaults by U.S. soldiers on local residents. Around 300 people marched in the town of Naha ahead of Kennedy’s arrival, waving signs saying, "No Base."

Thousands Mark Pro-Democracy Uprising Anniversary in Bahrain

Thousands of people have rallied in Bahrain to mark this week’s third anniversary of a pro-democracy movement. Opposition activists began protesting the U.S.-backed Sunni regime on February 14, 2011, amidst popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. The protests have been crushed by martial law and a U.S.-backed invasion of Saudi Arabian forces. A massive crowded marched in the capital Manama on Tuesday behind a banner reading, "It’s impossible for the Bahraini people to give up on democracy." Bahrain is a key U.S. government ally in the Gulf, hosting the Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Study Casts Doubt on Effectiveness of Mammograms

New medical research has cast doubt on the value of mammograms, the test used to screen for breast cancer. A wide-ranging study in the British Medical Journal involving nearly 90,000 women has found death rates, both from breast cancer and other causes, were the same regardless of whether a woman underwent mammograms or not. In fact, the study found one-in-five women whose cancers were detected by mammograms in the early 1980s were "over diagnosed" and underwent unnecessary treatment for slow-growing cancers that did not pose a threat to life expectancy.

Hollande: France, U.S. Have Resolved Spying Row; Obama Warns Firms on Iran Sanctions

President Obama welcomed visiting French President François Hollande on Tuesday with a White House news conference. Hollande said he thinks trust has been restored between the two governments following the news of National Security Agency spying on foreign leaders and citizens that emerged last year. Obama, meanwhile, issued a warning to businesses on flouting U.S. sanctions with Iran during the period of an interim nuclear agreement.

President Obama: "Businesses may be exploring: Are there some possibilities to get in sooner rather than later, if and when there is an actual agreement to be had? But I can tell you that they do so at their own peril right now, because we will come down on them like a ton of bricks, you know, with respect to the sanctions that we control."

Florida Man Who Killed Unarmed Teen over Music Testifies at Murder Trial

The Florida man who killed an unarmed black teenager in a dispute over loud music has taken the stand at his murder trial. In 2012, Michael David Dunn pulled up next to a car of teenagers to ask them to turn their stereo down. Following an argument, Dunn shot eight or nine times into the vehicle, even after the teens tried to drive away, fatally hitting 17-year-old Jordan Russell Davis. Testifying for the first time on Tuesday, Dunn claimed he feared for his life.

Michael Dunn: "When this 'I should kill that m—————r,' comes through, now I’m paying attention to what they’re saying."

Attorney: "OK, that kind of got you to perk up?"

Michael Dunn: "Yes. And in an even more elevated voice, I hear, 'I should f——-g kill that m—————r!' And now he’s screaming. But he said he was going to f’ing kill me, but after he opened the door, then he looked at me and said, ’You’re dead, bitch!’ I became even more fearful at that point. OK, say over here is my glovebox. I’m looking out the window, and I say, ’You’re not gonna kill me, you son of a bitch!’ And I shot."

Attorney: "OK. And do you even recall how many times you shot?"

Michael Dunn: "I do not."

The young men never got out of their car. No weapons were ever found in the teenagers’ vehicle. Dunn fled the scene instead of calling the police, went to a hotel with his girlfriend and ordered pizza. The shooting has prompted comparisons to the death of Trayvon Martin. Dunn is expected to use the Stand Your Ground defense, which was invoked in the jury instructions during the trial of Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman.

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