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Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych announced concessions to his pro-European opponents on Friday, including a plan to hold early elections, but it remains unclear whether the opposition will accept the deal. At least 47 people died on Thursday in the most violent day Ukraine has seen since it became independent 22 years ago. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned both the police and armed protesters for using deadly force.
Ban Ki-moon: “I continue to strongly appeal to all involved to cease the violence and for the Ukrainian authorities to refrain from excessive use of force. I am appalled by the use of firearms by both the police and protesters. I urge all parties to immediately resume a genuine dialogue. This is the only way to prevent further bloodshed and arrive at a solution to the deepening political, security and economic crisis.”
In news from Somalia, the presidential palace in Mogadishu has come under attack. Police said a huge car bomb exploded outside the gates, then militants attempted to shoot their way into the compound. It is unclear how many people have died. The United Nations’ top envoy to the country said the Somalian president survived the attack.
Three Al Jazeera journalists on trial in Egypt pleaded not guilty Thursday to having links to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian military government has accused them of “joining, or aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.” The trio were denied bail, and their trial was adjourned until March 5. Heather Allan, the head of Al Jazeera English news gathering, criticized Egyptian authorities for prosecuting journalists.
Heather Allan: “We believe we will be acquitted. The lawyers are fully on board with us. They fully believe in our case. They fully believe that we were just operating as journalists. We don’t have an agenda. We’ve got nothing against Egypt. We certainly don’t lie or do biased reporting. So, we believe that we are innocent.”
In news from Japan, about 100 tons of highly radioactive water have leaked from one of the hundreds of storage tanks at the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant. The Tokyo Electric Power Company described it as the worst spill at the plant in six months. Next month marks the third anniversary of the meltdown at Fukushima.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is reporting last month was the fourth warmest January globally since record keeping began in 1880. Temperature maps show much of the world — except the eastern United States — experienced warmer than average temperatures. The NOAA also reported 37 percent of the United States is now suffering from drought. Precipitation was below normal for more than 30 states last month.
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the New York Police Department’s secret surveillance of Muslims and Arabs in New Jersey. The lawsuit alleged the surveillance programs were unconstitutional because they focused on religion, national origin and race. U.S. District Judge William Martini said, “The motive for the program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but to find Muslim terrorists hiding among the ordinary law-abiding Muslims.” Judge Martini also criticized the Associated Press for exposing the secret spy program. He wrote, “Nowhere in the complaint do the plaintiffs allege that they suffered harm prior to the unauthorized release of documents by the Associated Press. This confirms that plaintiffs’ alleged injuries flow from the Associated Press’s unauthorized disclosure of the documents.” The judge went on to write, “The Associated Press covertly obtained the materials and published them without authorization. Thus the injury, if any existed, is not fairly traceable to the city.”
In Georgia, the family of a 17-year-old ROTC student who was shot and killed by a police officer says police mistook a video game controller the teenager was holding for a gun. Police shot dead Christopher Roupe on Feb. 14 when officers showed up at his mobile home to serve a probation violation warrant for his father. Police had claimed the teenager pointed a gun at the time of the shooting, but the family says a Nintendo Wii video game controller was in his hands.
Authorities in Bastrop County, Texas, are also facing questions over a fatal shooting. On Sunday a police officer shot dead a 47-year-old African-American woman as she opened the door for police at her boyfriend’s house. Police initially claimed Yvette Smith was armed, but investigators now say they “cannot confirm” if she had a gun or even if she refused to follow commands.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appealed to the international community to send an additional 3,000 troops and police to Central African Republic to combat worsening sectarian violence.
Ban Ki-moon: “It is a calamity with a strong claim on the conscience of humankind. Over the past year we have seen, in quick succession, the violent overthrow of the government, the collapse of state institutions, and a descent into lawlessness and sectarian brutality. More than 2.5 million people, more than half the population, need immediate humanitarian assistance.”
A Haitian appellate court has ruled that former U.S.-backed dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier could be charged with crimes against humanity under international law. The suit was filed by victims of forced disappearances and torture during his 15-year rule. The court reverses an earlier ruling.
The Humane Society of the United States has just released undercover video showing shocking conditions at a huge hog operation in Kentucky called Iron Maiden Farms. One video shows pigs confined in cramped cages known as gestation crates being fed ground-up intestines from piglets who had recently succumbed to a highly contagious disease. More than 900 piglets recently died from the disease in a two-day period.
In related news, Idaho has become the latest state to consider an “ag-gag bill” that would impose penalties for trespassing and filming without permission in farming facilities. In 2012, undercover activists in Idaho filmed workers stomping on cows, beating and dragging them at a dairy farm.
Former Black Panther Russell Maroon Shoatz has been moved out of solitary confinement for the first time in 22 years. Last year, the 70-year-old prisoner filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections over being held in isolation for so long. Click here to see our recent special report on aging political prisoners being held in solitary confinement.
Jerry Boykin is back in the news. The retired Army lieutenant general who once described the war on terror as a “holy war” is now predicting Jesus will return to Earth armed with an AR-15. Boykin now serves as the executive vice president of the Family Research Council. He made the comment at a recent Pro-Family Legislators Conference in Dallas, Texas.
Jerry Boykin: “The lord is a warrior, the lord is his name, and in Revelation 19 it says when he comes back, he’s coming back as what? A warrior, a mighty warrior leading a mighty army, riding a white horse with a blood-stained white robe. And I don’t know about theologians, and I was at Dallas Theological Seminary yesterday, and I said, ’I’m not going to argue theology with you folks, but I believe that blood on that robe is the blood of his enemies, because he’s coming back as a warrior carrying a sword.’ And I believe now — I’ve checked this out — I believe that sword he’ll be carrying when he comes back is an AR-15.”
While the Academy Awards are still a couple weeks away, the Oscar-nominated documentary “An Act of Killing” had an unusual screening on Thursday; it was projected on the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C. The East Timor and Indonesian Action Network used the film to call on the World Bank to acknowledge its role in the 1965 military coup in Indonesia that led to the massacre of an estimated one million civilians. Robin Bell of Bellvisuals helped set up the screening.
Robin Bell: “We like to project on buildings. We like people to see the films, and we want to kind of shake things up and spark dialogue. We’ve had people walk by who have had no idea about the crimes that were committed, and this is a good way to spark discussion and get people’s comments and, in general, let people know what’s going on.”