President Obama has announced the deployment of 250 more Special Operations troops to Syria in a move that nearly doubles the U.S. presence in the country. This comes just days after the Obama administration announced 217 more troops would be sent to Iraq to help in the fight against ISIS. President Obama addressed the wars in Syria and Iraq during a speech in Germany.
President Barack Obama: "We continue to make progress, pushing ISIL back from territory that it controlled. And just as I’ve approved additional support for Iraqi forces against ISIL, I’ve decided to increase U.S. support for local forces fighting ISIL in Syria."
Ahead of Obama’s visit to Germany, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest a massive trade deal between the United States and European Union. Critics say the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, would undermine safety and environmental regulations to serve corporate interests. Organizers said 90,000 people attended the rally in the northern city of Hanover Saturday. Protests continued on Sunday.
Ivo Ivancic: "We should be part of the negotiations. They are creating a second judicial system, sitting in secret rooms with business delegates, deciding behind our backs. And putting governments under pressure with court cases worth billions of dollars because they claim they lose money, that is something which is not OK. And that’s why I am totally against TTIP."
Ohio Governor John Kasich and Texas Senator Ted Cruz have announced plans to coordinate their campaigns in an effort to deny front-runner Donald Trump the Republican presidential nomination. Cruz’s campaign says it will focus on the May 3 primary in Indiana in order to allow Kasich to compete with Trump in Oregon and here in New Mexico. Both Kasich and Cruz are hoping to keep Trump from reaching the threshold of 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination before the July convention. If Trump stays below that threshold, it opens the possibility of a contested convention, where delegates could switch their votes away from the candidate chosen in their state’s primary or caucus after the initial convention ballot.
Republican megadonor Charles Koch has said he could support Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over a Republican nominee in November. In an interview with ABC News, Koch said he would only support Republican candidates Donald Trump or Ted Cruz if they change certain proposals, including Cruz’s vow to carpet-bomb ISIS and Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Koch spoke to journalist Jonathan Karl.
Jonathan Karl: "Am I hearing you correctly: You think Bill Clinton was a better president than George W. Bush?"
Charles Koch: "Well, in some ways. In other ways, I mean, he wasn’t an exemplar."
Jonathan Karl: "Yeah."
Charles Koch: "But as far as the growth of government, the increase in spending, on restrictive regulations, it was two-and-a-half times under Bush than it was under Clinton."
Jonathan Karl: "So is it possible another Clinton could be better than another Republican—"
Charles Koch: "It’s possible."
Jonathan Karl: "—the next time around?"
Charles Koch: "It’s possible."
Jonathan Karl: "You couldn’t see yourself supporting Hillary Clinton, could you?"
Charles Koch: "Well, I—that—her—we would have to believe her actions would be quite different than her rhetoric. Let me put it that way."
Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe has restored voting rights to more than 200,000 felons. Bypassing the Republican Legislature, McAuliffe issued the change through executive order. It will allow felons who have served their prison time and finished parole or probation to register to vote in time for the November election. Virginia is a key swing state. Most of those affected are African-American.
Eight members of a single family have been shot to death in rural Ohio. Authorities say seven adults and a 16-year-old, all members of the Rhoden family, were shot in the head, execution-style, most while they slept. They were killed early Friday at four crime scenes within a short distance of each other. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the shootings were not random.
Mike DeWine: "This was a preplanned execution of eight individuals. It was a sophisticated operation. And those who carried it out were trying to do everything that they could do to hinder the investigation and their prosecution."
Meanwhile in Georgia, a man is suspected of fatally shooting five people at two separate locations, then killing himself as part of what authorities described as a domestic dispute. Wayne Anthony Hawes reportedly killed a number of his wife’s relatives after she left him.
In a victory for survivors of CIA torture, a federal judge has allowed a lawsuit to move forward against the two psychologists who designed and implemented the program. Psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen reaped more than $80 million for designing torture techniques used by the CIA. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two torture survivors and the family of a third man, Gul Rahman, who froze to death at a CIA black site in Afghanistan. ACLU staff attorney Dror Ladin called the judge’s decision "a historic win in the fight to hold the people responsible for torture accountable."
A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a human rights activist to nine years in prison. Amnesty International condemned the sentencing of Issa al-Hamid as part of the "Saudi Arabian authorities’ ruthless quest to eradicate any last vestige of dissent." Obama visited Saudi Arabia for a fourth time last week.
Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian military of massacring hundreds of people, burning some alive, and trying to cover up the killings. More than 350 people are believed to have been unlawfully slaughtered by Nigerian soldiers in December during a confrontation between the military and demonstrators with the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.
In Austria, a far-right candidate has won the first round of the presidential elections after running on an anti-immigrant campaign focusing on the arrival of refugees. It was the best result to date for the far-right Freedom Party in a national election. The party’s candidate will face a Green party-backed candidate in a runoff in May.
A group of independent experts have accused the Mexican government of stonewalling their investigation into the disappearance of 43 students in September 2014. Mexican authorities have claimed police turned the students over to drug gang members, who killed them and incinerated their bodies. But the experts, appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, concluded there was no such burning. The experts also found evidence state, federal and military personnel were present on the night of the disappearance, and evidence that suspects whose confessions were used to bolster the government’s account were tortured. The experts said they faced obstacles from the Mexican government, including the withholding of documents and even a retaliatory criminal probe into one of the officials who appointed the panel. In Washington, D.C., Antonio Tizapa, the father of one of the missing students, joined a demonstration in support of the panel. He spoke to Democracy Now! by phone.
Antonio Tizapa: "It’s not a protest. It’s a major show of support for this great work that they have done. This is a way to show gratitude and express our support, so they continue, so they see we have confidence in them, because we don’t have confidence in the government."
A guard at a private immigrant detention center in Pennsylvania will go to prison after admitting he sexually assaulted a 19-year-old Honduran woman. Daniel Sharkey is the first worker at a family detention center to be convicted of institutional sexual assault, despite previous reports of sexual abuse in such facilities. He has been sentenced to six to 23 months in prison; there is a chance he will serve less time than his victim and her three-year-old son spent in detention after fleeing abuse in Honduras.
One of the first people to file a lawsuit in connection with the water poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan, has been shot to death. Sasha Avonna Bell said her child had been poisoned with lead after an emergency manager appointed by Governor Rick Snyder switched the city’s water to the corrosive Flint River. Bell was one of two women found shot to death last week at a townhouse. She was 19 years old.
And family and friends of Samuel Harrell plan to conclude their five-day hunger strike at a rally in Harlem today after marking the first anniversary of Harrell’s death. Harrell was an African-American man who died after as many as 20 corrections officers kicked, punched and threw him down a flight of stairs while he was incarcerated at the Fishkill Correctional Facility in Beacon, New York. At a vigil near the prison, his sister, Cerissa, spoke out about why she and others are on hunger strike.
Cerissa Harrell: "The reason for the hunger strike is to give up—we’re willing to not eat, you know, to get something in return. And what we want in return is justice. It’s been a year. Nothing has happened. Does it hurt? It hurts a lot. Do I think about it? Every day. Do I forget about him? Never."
Samuel Harrell’s supporters have demanded reforms including body cameras for corrections officers. They say all the corrections officers involved in Harrell’s death remain on active duty.