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The death toll from a string of tornadoes in the Midwest and South has reached at least 17, almost all in Arkansas. Dozens of homes were destroyed, and thousands of people have lost power. In the Arkansas town of Vilonia, a witness described the flattening of an entire neighborhood.
Phil Ellis: “I saw some of the biggest trees just turned upside down and literally the houses picked up and set on top of cars. Over there, some of the garages are just literally out — the cars and the garage in the yard.”
The deaths are the first of this year’s tornado season in the United States.
The United States has signed a deal to revive its military presence in the Philippines over 20 years after being forced to leave its bases. Under the 10-year agreement, U.S. forces, warships and fighter jets will be stationed on Filipino territory for training and exercises. The Philippines was a U.S. colony from 1898 to 1946, and the U.S. maintained bases until popular protest forced their ouster in 1992. In a signing ceremony today, U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg said the United States does “not intend” to re-establish permanent bases.
Philip Goldberg: “A commitment to democratic governance and international law, the mutuality of benefits for both nations as we develop our individual and collective defense capacities, respect for Philippine sovereignty over all locations covered under the agreement, and the understanding that the United States does not intend to establish a permanent military presence in the Philippines.”
The deal is being unveiled today amidst a visit to the Philippines by President Obama. At a protest in New York’s Times Square, a Filipino activist with the group BAYAN criticized the accord.
Gary Labao: “We are definitely against more U.S. troops in the Philippines and in Asia-Pacific region because we believe that the presence of U.S. military in the Asia-Pacific region is not beneficial to the sociopolitical and economic development of Asian countries.”
President Obama is in the Philippines today as he continues an Asia-Pacific tour. On Sunday, Obama faced protest at a public event in Malaysia over the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The secretive pact would establish a free-trade zone among Pacific Rim countries, encompassing nearly 40 percent of the global economy. As Obama spoke at a town hall event, a group of demonstrators stood up in the audience and held placards in silent protest.
An Egyptian judge has sentenced hundreds of people to death as part of the continued crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. The 683 defendants were convicted of violent acts on behalf of the Brotherhood, which the military regime has deemed a terrorist group since overthrowing President Mohamed Morsi in July. The defendants include the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie. The judge in the case is the same judge who sentenced more than 500 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death in another mass trial last month. In today’s hearings, 37 of those death sentences were upheld while the rest were changed to 25 years in prison.
A government panel in Afghanistan says it has uncovered two previously undisclosed secret prisons run by U.S. and British forces. The prisons are said to be on the NATO coalition bases of Kandahar Airfield and Camp Bastion. The Pentagon has not denied the claim, but says all of its prisons are known to the Afghan government and the Red Cross.
The United States has announced new sanctions on Russia in the continued standoff over the crisis in Ukraine. Speaking today in Manila, President Obama said he would expand the list targeting Russian individuals and firms with financial and diplomatic action.
President Obama: “Russia has not yet chosen to move forward, and these sanctions represent the next stage in a calibrated effort to change Russia’s behavior. We don’t yet know whether it’s going to work. And that’s why the next phase, if in fact we saw further Russian aggression towards Ukraine, could be sectoral sanctions, less narrowly targeted, addressing sectors like banking or the defense industries.”
Tensions in Ukraine remain high with continued violence and a new hostage crisis. Over the weekend, pro-Russian separatists seized a group of monitors with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the town of Slovyansk. The separatists say they want to trade the monitors for a group of their jailed activists. Meanwhile, the mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, has been seriously wounded in a shooting. Doctors say the mayor, Hennadiy Kernes, is fighting for his life.
In Nigeria, about 200 girls remain missing nearly two weeks after they were kidnapped from their boarding school. The Islamist militant group Boko Haram is suspected of abducting about 230 schoolgirls during a night raid in the northeastern town of Chibok on April 15. Some have managed to escape. The Nigerian military initially reported most of the girls had been freed, but that statement was soon retracted.
A federal judge has ruled the government can force Internet companies to hand over customers’ private data, even when that data is held overseas. The case saw Microsoft challenge a warrant for a user’s email account stored on a server in Ireland. Microsoft had argued the United States does not have jurisdiction over a foreign server, and says it plans to appeal. The ruling comes amidst news an undisclosed phone company tried to stop involvement in the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of call records earlier this year. The New York Times reports the firm cited a federal judge’s ruling that found the bulk collection unconstitutional and “almost Orwellian.” But the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court denied the request.
The National Basketball Association is facing one of its biggest controversies in years after a team owner was recorded making racist remarks. On the tape, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is heard telling a woman identified as his girlfriend not to spend time with African Americans.
V. Stiviano: “People call you and tell you that I have black people on my Instagram, and it bothers you.
Donald Sterling: “Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
Sterling has faced previous allegations of racial discrimination. In 2009, he paid more than $2.7 million after being accused of driving out people of color from apartment buildings he owns. A former Clippers general manager has also sued Sterling for racial bias. The Clippers players reacted to the controversy on Sunday with a silent protest against Sterling’s remarks. They wore their warm-up jerseys inside out, hiding their team’s logo, and then stacked them in the middle of the floor. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league is investigating.
Adam Silver: “The audio recording posted by TMZ is truly offensive and disturbing, and we intend to get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible. … I think our track record is stellar, and while I understand anger that would be naturally expressed over hearing a tape like this, I also believe that ultimately the players and the rest of the NBA family has confidence that we’ll deal with it appropriately.”
Several current and former NBA stars, including LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson have condemned Sterling’s remarks. James, one of the league’s top players, said: “There’s no room for Donald Sterling in our league.”