Six days of historic talks aimed at a nuclear deal with Iran are wrapping up in Lausanne, Switzerland. Today marks a self-imposed deadline for the deal between Iran, the United States and five other world powers. The Associated Press reports the talks will conclude with an agreement to continue a new phase aimed at reaching a comprehensive accord by the end of June. Speaking before he rejoined talks today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said prospects for a deal are good.
Sergey Lavrov: "The prospects of this round of talks are not bad. I would even say they are good. The chances are high. They are probably not 100 percent, but you can never be 100 percent certain of anything. These chances are quite 'doable,' if none of the talks’ parties raise the stakes at the last minute, hoping to gain something extra in the final stage instead of preserving the balance of interests."
The Pentagon has rejected claims a U.S. drone strike killed two Iranian military advisers who were aiding Iraqi attempts to retake the city of Tikrit from the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Iran said the two men were killed on March 23, two days before the United States said it began airstrikes.
Saudi-led forces have intensified their aerial bombardment of Yemen and launched strikes from warships around Aden in a bid to prevent Houthi rebels from advancing on the city. On Monday, at least 40 people were reportedly killed when an airstrike hit the al-Mazraq camp for displaced people in a Houthi-controlled area in the north. According to Doctors Without Borders, about 500 new families had arrived at the camp over the past few days, fleeing bombings in other parts of Yemen.
In Nigeria, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari is leading in the presidential election. With over half of states declared, Buhari is ahead by about two million votes, threatening to make President Goodluck Jonathan the first incumbent to lose at the polls in Nigeria’s history. The polling took place amid violent attacks which killed an estimated 50 people. Addressing the U.N. Security Council by video stream, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, head of the U.N. Office for West Africa, described the ongoing threat from the militant group Boko Haram.
Mohammed Ibn Chambas: "Today, as we meet, though weakened, the group continues to commit horrendous acts against civilians, including women and children. We’ve received reports that children, in particular, have been abducted, abused, recruited, maimed and killed. Schools in northeast Nigeria are no longer safe places of learning, as many of them continue to be attacked, looted and destroyed. Several schools in the areas targeted by Boko Haram in Cameroon and Niger also remain closed."
Two Nigerian journalists working for Al Jazeera have been detained in their hotel room in Maiduguri for a week. Nigerian authorities have accused Ahmed Idris and Ali Mustafa of operating without clearance, but Al Jazeera says they are accredited.
In Bangladesh, a secular blogger has been hacked to death with machetes in the second such killing in just over a month. Two students have been arrested for killing Oyasiqur Rhaman over his criticism of Islam. Rhaman had expressed solidarity with Avijit Roy, another secular blogger killed last month, posting, "I am Avijit," on social media.
In the Mexican state of Baja California, farmworkers who pick fruit and vegetables for consumers in the United States are continuing a historic two-week strike. The farmworkers, who may earn in a day about what low-wage U.S. workers earn in an hour, have reportedly rejected the offer of a 15 percent raise. They are demanding a higher raise, benefits, and an end to harassment and other abuses.
In Quebec, an 18-year-old student says she will press charges against a Quebec City police officer after she was hit in the face by a tear-gas canister. Naomie Trudeau-Tremblay was participating in protests against austerity cuts in the provincial budget when an officer fired the tear-gas canister into her face at point-blank range. She described what happened.
Naomie Trudeau-Tremblay: "I was gasping for breath. I didn’t realize right away that I was swollen like this. I just put my hands like this. I was trying to catch my breath, and then I lost consciousness for about two minutes, not too long. When I got up, I touched my face and felt that it was burned."
Police at the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland, shot and killed the driver of a car after he refused calls to stop. Authorities say two men dressed in women’s clothing drove a stolen car down a highway exit reserved for NSA employees. The NSA says the driver failed to stop and "accelerated toward an NSA police vehicle." Police opened fire, killing the driver and injuring the passenger, identified as 20-year-old Kevin Fleming. An officer was also injured. Officials say they found cocaine and at least one gun in the vehicle. It is unclear if the men actually intended to enter the NSA.
Connecticut has become the first state to officially boycott Indiana over a new "religious freedom" law that could allow discrimination by letting businesses refuse service to LGBT people. Washington state, San Francisco and Seattle have also imposed bans on state or city-funded travel to Indiana. Nine chief executive officers, including the heads of Angie’s List and Eli Lilly, wrote letters asking Indiana state officials to "take immediate action" to ensure the act will not sanction or encourage discrimination. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, the world’s most profitable company, slammed Indiana’s law and others like it, likening it to the Jim Crow laws of the American South. We will have more on the story after headlines.
The Germanwings co-pilot who crashed a plane in the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board, reportedly received treatment for "suicidal tendencies." A German prosecutor said Andreas Lubitz was in treatment for the problems "over a long period" before he received his pilot’s license. Officials are also looking into reports Lubitz suffered from vision problems, which may have been psychosomatic.
In Pennsylvania, imprisoned journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal has been taken to the intensive care unit of a local hospital after he was removed from prison for a medical emergency without notification to his family, friends or lawyers. Friends say they were told he was in "diabetic shock," but they have so far been unable to visit him or obtain any details. Noelle Hanrahan, producer of Prison Radio, which distributes Abu-Jamal’s commentaries from prison, spoke to Democracy Now! from the hospital.
Noelle Hanrahan: "We are standing in the ICU waiting room. We are at the nurses’ desk. We can see his room. We cannot see him. I am looking at phalanx of police officers. Four are guarding his room. The curtain is pulled across. He is trying to access whatever healthcare they have for him, and it has been woefully inadequate, and we are deeply, deeply concerned about this. They don’t take people to outside hospitals. This is not standard operating procedure. You have to be extraordinarily sick to be moved, period."
Abu-Jamal’s transfer came the same day as a court hearing on a Pennsylvania law he says tramples his free speech. The law was introduced after Abu-Jamal gave a pretaped commencement address at Vermont’s Goddard College. It authorizes the censoring of prisoners’ public addresses if a judge agrees the speech would cause "mental anguish" to victims.
In Indiana, Purvi Patel has been sentenced to 41 years in prison for what she says was a miscarriage. Patel was convicted of feticide and felony neglect last month after prosecutors accused her of taking drugs to induce an abortion, even though no drugs were found in her system. She said she miscarried and disposed of her dead fetus in a dumpster. But prosecutors, using scientifically contested evidence, claim the baby was born alive. A judge sentenced her to 30 years for neglect and six for feticide, plus five years probation. The sentences will be served concurrently, with 10 years suspended, making her effective sentence 20 years. The two charges appear mutually exclusive: Feticide applies when a fetus dies in the womb, while felony neglect applies to live children — but Patel was convicted of both. Critics say her case showcases the increasing criminalization of pregnancy.
In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey has signed the first-ever law requiring doctors to tell patients they can reverse the effects of a drug-induced abortion, despite a lack of any scientific evidence such a step is actually possible. The law also prevents women from buying insurance policies that cover abortion through the federal marketplace.
Comedy Central has announced a successor to Jon Stewart, who is stepping down this year as host of "The Daily Show." Trevor Noah, a 31-year-old comedian from South Africa, will be the new host. He debuted on the show last year with the line, "I never thought I’d be more afraid of police in America than in South Africa."