A multi-country effort is in its third day of searching for a commercial airliner that disappeared en route from Malaysia to China without a trace. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was carrying 239 people on board. Suspicion of a hijacking has grown after it emerged at least two passengers were traveling on stolen passports. A team of ships and aircraft has been scouring the waters between Malaysia and Vietnam, where the plane last made contact, as well as the Strait of Malacca, on the opposite side of the Malaysian Peninsula. No debris has been found so far. A large oil slick was spotted in the sea south of Vietnam, but its source has yet to be confirmed.
Tens of thousands took part in rival pro-unity and pro-Russian rallies in Ukraine on Sunday ahead of a planned secession referendum in Russian-occupied Crimea. Crimea is set to vote this Sunday on whether to break off from Ukraine and join Russia following the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych last month. In a show of support for the new government, the White House has announced President Obama will host newly installed Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at the White House this week. We’ll have more from Ukraine after headlines.
At least 45 people were killed in Iraq on Sunday when a suicide bomber hit a checkpoint in the southern city of Hilla. More than 100 people were wounded. The attack engulfed several dozen cars in flames, trapping motorists inside. Violence continues to rage in Iraq this year after more than 8,000 deaths in 2013.
Both candidates have claimed victory in El Salvador’s presidential election after a preliminary count showed the vote was too close to call. The race pitted the governing party’s Salvador Sánchez Cerén against the right-wing candidate, Norman Quijano. Sánchez Cerén, a former rebel commander, was running to replace Mauricio Funes, marking the first time an FMLN candidate succeeds another after decades of right-wing governments. Sánchez Cerén was seen as the favorite coming in, but the latest results show him ahead by less than 1 percent.
A new report on the Syrian conflict warns children are among the most severely impacted by the virtual collapse of the country’s health system. According to Save the Children, several thousand Syrian kids have died because of a drastic reduction in access to health services, losing their lives to diseases and conditions including cancer, epilepsy, asthma, diabetes, hypertension and kidney failure. Overall, at least 10,000 children have died in violence. Save the Children’s Roger Hearn said the problem is most acute in besieged cities like Aleppo.
Roger Hearn: “What we’ve seen with the report is, basically, there’s been a complete collapse of much of the health system inside Syria. We’re seeing situations, for example, in Aleppo where 36 doctors are looking after around 2.5 million patients across the city. So, a system that’s collapsed, 60 percent of health facilities have been damaged or destroyed, and as a result of that, we’re seeing some really terrible outcomes for children.”
Later this week will mark three years since the Syrian conflict began.
Around 750 prisoners at a Washington state immigration jail have launched a hunger strike. The strikers at the Northwest Detention Center are protesting the Obama administration’s record deportations as well as poor conditions that include wages of just one dollar a day for prison labor. Some areas of the prison have been locked down, and around 30 people are reportedly being held in isolation or crowded cells. Speaking on Friday, two prisoners appealed for public support.
Prisoner 1: “So that they give us better food, so that they give us lower prices on what they sell here in the commissary, and so that they stop the deportations.”
Prisoner 2: “I’m hoping we can get some support from all the people who are listening, because, don’t believe what you hear, life in here is not very easy. They have us here working for one dollar a day. We work for four hours, five hours sometimes, and for just one dollar.”
The prison is run by the GEO Group, a contractor for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. According to The Nation magazine, GEO recently violated a pledge to refrain from lobbying Congress on immigration reform, presumably in favor of for-profit jails.
Over 100 families are expected to take part in a protest against deportations today on the U.S.-Mexico border. The families, including many undocumented members, say they’ll cross over into Mexico and then seek re-entry in the United States through a humanitarian visa or asylum.
The U.S. Border Patrol has issued fresh restrictions on when agents can open fire. Under the new rules, customs and border agents are barred from shooting at vehicles whose occupants are trying to flee. They are also prevented from stepping in front of the vehicle or using their body to block it in the case of escape. In cases where migrants are throwing rocks, agents have been told to first seek cover or move way and only open fire in cases of “imminent danger of death or serious injury.” A recent report found U.S. border agents have been involved in 20 fatalities since 2010, eight of which involved rock throwing. Agents were also involved in at least 67 shooting incidents in the same period. The new policy reverses a decision last year that ignored an independent panel’s recommendation to use restraint with rock throwers.
Yet another Army official involved in sexual assault prevention has been charged with a related crime. Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen, who runs the sexual assault and harassment prevention wing at Fort Hood, is accused of setting up a prostitution ring of cash-strapped female soldiers. McQueen was charged Friday with 21 counts, including pandering, conspiracy, maltreatment of a subordinate and abusive sexual contact. McQueen’s court-martial comes days after the Army’s top prosecutor for sexual assault cases, Lt. Col. Joseph Morse, was suspended for alleged sexual assault. Morse and McQueen bring to at least five in the last year the number of Army officers involved in sexual assault oversight to be accused of some of the very same offenses they’re tasked with preventing and punishing. Last week the Senate rejected a measure that would have moved oversight of sexual assault in the military outside of the chain of command.
Meanwhile, the trial of an Army general accused of sexual assault continues at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. On Friday, the alleged victim in the case, an Army captain, testified Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair twice forced her to perform oral sex during their three-year affair in Afghanistan, and threatened to murder her and her family if she revealed the affair. She said Sinclair had forced her head into his lap as she cried. The general’s defense is set to cross-examine her today.
The final public comment period has closed for weighing in on the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Opponents say they gathered more than two million voices urging the Obama administration to reject the pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast. A group of activists rallied in front of the State Department on Friday, part of a wave of actions across the country. Secretary of State John Kerry could issue his recommendation at any point, leading to a final decision by President Obama. Over 86,000 activists have signed a “Pledge of Resistance” to commit civil disobedience if Kerry recommends the pipeline’s approval.
President Obama used his weekly address on Saturday to continue backing an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Obama urged Republicans to drop their opposition in the face of public support for a wage hike.
President Obama: “It’s good for our bottom line. And working Americans have struggled through stagnant wages for far too long. A clear majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage, because we believe that nobody who works full-time should have to live in poverty. About half of all Republicans support raising the minimum wage, too. It’s just too bad they don’t serve in Congress, because the Republicans who do serve in Congress don’t want to vote on the minimum wage at all.”
Obama’s comments come as new figures show the economy added 175,000 jobs last month, but the official unemployment rate increased to 6.7 percent.
Republican Congressmember Paul Ryan has admitted a story he told to slam government food programs was based on a false statement. Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, Ryan recounted the testimony of Eloise Anderson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. Anderson claimed to have spoken to a child from a low-income family who expressed misgivings over receiving a free school lunch.
Rep. Paul Ryan: “What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul. The American people want more than that. You know, this reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. … She once met a young boy from a very poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. He told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown paper bag, just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown paper bag had someone who cared for him.”
It turns out Anderson never spoke to the child in question. The story apparently comes from the 2011 book, “The Invisible Thread,” which recounts an exchange from two decades ago with a homeless child who has since gone on to advocate for the government food programs that Ryan denounced. In a statement, Ryan said: “I regret failing to verify the original source of the story.”
International Women’s Day was celebrated on Saturday around the world. In New York City, dozens gathered at the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the deadliest workplace accident in New York City’s history. On March 25, 1911, 146 garment workers, mostly young immigrant women, died after a fire broke out at their workplace. Candice Sering of the Filipino women’s group GABRIELA said migrant women are at the forefront of today’s struggles for social justice.
Candice Sering: “Throughout the course of time, you saw the women’s movement sort of changing, and today I would say that migrant workers are at the forefront of what that struggle looks like, for the pure basis of migration being a global issue. There are — human beings are becoming capital, women are commodities of labor, and as they move, the injustices come to the surface. You see how they’re affected, how their families are split apart, how their jobs are insecure, how their wages are stolen. So all of these things are just continuing and just affecting different classes of women and different communities of women. So the fight is still not done.”
Hundreds of people gathered in Jackson, Mississippi, on Saturday for the funeral of the city’s late mayor, Chokwe Lumumba. A longtime black nationalist organizer and attorney, Lumumba died last month of heart failure. His election less than a year ago led many to call him “America’s most revolutionary mayor.” At a service that ran nearly five hours, with a flood of speakers and musical tributes, Lumumba’s children honored their father’s life.
Rukia Lumumba: “He was a man that loved deeper than we could ever understand the meaning of love, and dedicated his life to that love.”
Chokwe Antar Lumumba: “But more importantly, he taught us through his actions. He showed you the type of leader you wanted to be. He showed you the type of father you wanted to be. And for many of us, he showed you true friendship.”
Over the past four decades, Lumumba was deeply involved in numerous political and legal campaigns. He helped found the National Black Human Rights Coalition and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, which he continued to work with after taking office in advocating participatory democracy and the creation of new worker-run cooperatives in Jackson. You can go to our website DemocracyNow.org for our interview with Chokwe Lumumba and our coverage of his life and legacy.
And the whistleblower Edward Snowden is set to deliver his first real-time address in the U.S. today with a speech by video feed at the music and technology conference South by Southwest. A crowd of hundreds of people is expected in Austin, Texas, to hear Snowden’s remarks. Ahead of the speech, Republican Congressmember Mike Pompeo of Kansas called on organizers to cancel the event. Snowden is expected to discuss how people can protect themselves from government surveillance.