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Local authorities in Moore, Oklahoma, have lowered their estimate of the death toll from Monday’s devastating tornado. The total dead now stands at 24, down from the original number of 91. At least nine children were killed. Emergency workers say they have pulled more than 100 survivors from the rubble of collapsed homes, buildings and schools.
Betsy Randolph: “We had to be careful, as we stood on debris, that we weren’t standing on people that were buried underneath. And as you can imagine, just absolutely gut-wrenching trying to deal with the families and communicate with them and tell them. We moved them to a location and tried to feed them information as we were getting it in. Unfortunately, there was people that lost their lives, little children that lost their lives.”
The National Weather Service has confirmed the two-mile-wide tornado hit the category of EF5, the highest possible.
In a White House address, President Obama vowed federal aid for Oklahoma’s recovery.
President Obama: “For all those who have been affected, we recognize that you face a long road ahead. In some cases, there will be enormous grief that has to be absorbed. But you will not travel that path alone. Your country will travel it with you, fueled by our faith in the almighty and our faith in one another. So our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today. And we will back up those prayers with deeds for as long as it takes.”
The federal government is expected to tap a more than $11 billion disaster relief fund to pay for recovery efforts in Oklahoma. But a congressional debate has already erupted similar to the partisan conflict around Hurricane Sandy last year. On Tuesday, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican, sparked controversy after saying that any additional federal money for his home state should be offset by an equal amount in spending cuts.
The bipartisan measure providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants has moved a step closer to approval. On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced its comprehensive immigration reform bill in a 13-to-5 vote. Under pressure from Republicans and some members of their own party, Democrats removed an amendment that would have recognized immigrant couples in same-sex marriages. The full Senate could begin debate on the bill next month.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has advanced a bipartisan measure to arm rebels battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The vote marks the first time U.S. lawmakers have formally backed the direct arming of the Syrian opposition. Fifteen senators voted in favor of the measure, while three voted against — Democratic Senators Tom Udall of New Mexico and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. Paul criticized the measure by saying: “You will be funding the allies of al-Qaeda. It’s an irony you cannot overcome.”
Iraq continues to face a wave of sectarian attacks, raising fears of a return to the Sunni-Shiite violence of 2006. At least 40 people were killed Tuesday in a series of bombings and shootings. The killings came one day after 70 people died in several blasts. Nearly 300 people have been killed in Iraq’s violence over the past week.
The mangled corpse of an Afghan torture victim has been found near a U.S. military base in Afghanistan. The victim, Sayid Mohammad, was last seen being taken to the base for interrogation in November. His body was found with both feet cut off. Afghan officials are seeking the arrest of an Afghan-American interpreter on charges of murder and torture. The interpreter was reportedly identified in a video showing Mohammad’s abuse. Mohammad is one of 17 people who disappeared after reportedly being seized in Wardak province. The U.S. military says its soldiers were not involved in the abductions, but have not released the findings of an internal probe.
A 27-year-old man in Orlando, Florida, has reportedly been shot dead by the FBI after being questioned about the bombing of the Boston Marathon. Ibrahim Todashev, a Chechen native, was apparently questioned because he knew one of the Boston suspects. He died in what was said to be an overnight gunfight with FBI agents.
A military judge has ruled some testimony in the upcoming trial of Army whistleblower Bradley Manning will be kept from the public. On Tuesday, Colonel Denise Lind granted the government’s request to call 24 witnesses behind closed doors. The Obama administration had argued for the secretive testimony by citing the need to protect classified information. Manning is accused of disclosing a trove of government documents and cables to WikiLeaks. Prosecutors are proceeding with the charge that Manning “aided the enemy” but have agreed to drop one count related to diplomatic cables in Iceland. The trial is slated to begin June 3rd.
New disclosures show government spying on a Fox News reporter may have ensnared the network’s other employees. The Justice Department tracked Fox News reporter James Rosen’s personal phone records and emails after he obtained details of a secret government report in 2009 on North Korea. The government has named Rosen a potential “aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in its case against Rosen’s alleged source, State Department security adviser Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. The New Yorker now reports that in its probe of Rosen and Kim, the government seized more than 30 phone records, including a phone line at Fox News’ Washington bureau that could have been used by multiple people. A White House phone number was also included in the probe.
A federal appeals court has struck down an Arizona law that bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in medical emergencies. Abortion rights advocates challenged the measure last year. On Tuesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned a lower court ruling allowing the ban to stand. In a statement, the Center for Reproductive Rights said: “With today’s defeat in federal court, we call on [politicians] to stop wasting Arizona taxpayers’ time and money on these cruel and extremely harmful efforts to chip away at women’s constitutionally protected rights.”
Hundreds of workers at federal contractors in Washington, D.C., held a one-day strike on Tuesday in a call for higher pay. A new group called Good Jobs Nation is calling on President Obama to sign an executive order requiring better pay for government contractors’ low-wage workers. A new report from Demos says the government has the leverage to improve worker pay at federal contractors because it is already subsidizing nearly two million low-wage jobs.
Thousands of California healthcare workers are staging a two-day strike over staff shortages and proposed cuts to their retirement plans. The strike is spanning all five medical centers in the University of California hospital system.
A series of protests against North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature appear to be growing by the week. Some 57 protesters were arrested at the North Carolina General Assembly on Monday, the highest count to date. The NAACP has been holding what it calls “Moral Mondays,” a weekly demonstration against North Carolina Republicans’ legislative actions. These include cuts to social programs, restrictions of voting rights, and the forgoing of Medicaid expansion under President Obama’s healthcare law.