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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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The White House is releasing a new set of guidelines to address the epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses. A new task force report urges colleges to conduct anonymous surveys and adopt proven strategies for combating assault. The announcement follows a rash of high-profile cases where schools across the country, from Brown University to Florida State University, have been accused of mishandling sexual assault. One in five college women will be sexually assaulted during her college career.
The U.S. Senate has stripped a provision from a key intelligence bill that would have required President Obama to publicly disclose the number of people killed by drone strikes. The move reportedly came at the behest of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who suggested it could undermine operations. The provision would have required Obama to report the number of civilians and “combatants” killed or injured in drone strikes, but panel chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein agreed to drop it. Clapper says the Obama administration is exploring its own ways to disclose data on the strikes.
Attacks in Iraq killed 57 people on Monday as soldiers and police went to the polls two days before nationwide elections. This week’s parliamentary poll is Iraq’s first since the withdrawal of U.S. troops. In the deadliest attack, a suicide bomber killed 30 people and injured scores of others at a political gathering in a mostly Kurdish town northeast of Baghdad.
In Central African Republic, the group Doctors Without Borders has suspended activities in the northern town of Boguila following an attack on its compound by Muslim Seleka rebels. Sylvain Groulx, head of MSF’s mission in the country, described the casualties.
Sylvain Groulx: “These unarmed civilians were heads of villages, heads of areas within Boguilatown, and they had been invited by MSF for what we have are these periodical meetings with these village heads. And unfortunately, at the end, tragically, 16 of those people lost their lives, of which three of our national staff colleagues from Médecins Sans Frontières were also unfortunately killed.”
In the capital Bangui, international peacekeepers have evacuated 1,300 Muslims who had been surrounded by Christian vigilantes, known as “anti-balaka.” Fighting between the two sides has killed thousands since a coup last year.
The death toll from a series of tornadoes in the Midwest and South has risen to least 28. The storms killed at least 11 people in Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama, a day after at least 17 were killed, almost all of them in Arkansas. Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe described the wreckage.
Gov. Mike Beebe: “The devastation, in terms of the power of it, may be as big as I’ve ever seen. We’ve seen steel girders, huge steel I-beam-type girders, twisted and torn completely out of the cement footing and lifted completely out of the ground. You can look at the trees and see how they’ve been stripped of leaves to see the force and the power of this one. Then there are houses and businesses that are just destroyed. Lots of them.”
In Syria, a mortar attack in central Damascus killed at least 14 people today. The attack comes a day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad formally submitted his nomination to run for re-election, despite a raging conflict that has killed more than 150,000 people and displaced millions. Assad is expected to secure another seven-year term in the June poll, which the opposition and its allies have denounced as a farce.
An Egyptian court has banned the April 6 movement, a pro-democracy group that played a key role in the popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Speaking Monday, April 6 member Mohamed Yousef said the group would defy the ban on its activities.
Mohamed Yousef: “This is a decision only on paper that will not stop the activities of 6th of April. To the contrary, tomorrow we will be in the streets to tell them that this banned group is only banned in your imagination and in your dreams. This ruling will not stop the members of the movement from demonstrating, will not stop them saying what they believe, will not stop us standing up to any despot however powerful he might be and however many institutions he can control to push his ideas through.”
The ban came the same day an Egyptian judge sentenced 683 people to death, including the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie.
President Obama has wrapped up his tour of Asia with a stop in the Philippines. Speaking in Manila, Obama issued a defense of his overall foreign policy, saying his critics had failed to learn from what he called the “disastrous decision” to invade Iraq.
President Obama: “Typically, criticism of our foreign policy has been directed at the failure to use military force. And the question I think I would have is, why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget?”
In the Philippines, Obama was met by hundreds of protesters angered by a 10-year pact to revive the U.S. military presence in the Philippines. The deal arrives more than 20 years after popular protests forced the U.S. to leave its bases. On Monday, protesters destroyed the barrier outside the presidential palace and burned effigies of Obama and Philippine President Benigno Aquino.
The Obama administration has unveiled new sanctions on Russia over its response to the crisis in Ukraine. The measures target 17 banks and other firms controlled by four billionaires with close ties to President Vladimir Putin, as well as seven prominent figures, two of whom are Putin advisers. The European Union followed suit with sanctions on 15 new individuals.
Secretary of State John Kerry has apologized for saying Israel could become “an apartheid state” if it does not reach a two-state solution with Palestinians. Kerry made the remarks Friday at a closed-door meeting, a recording of which was obtained by The Daily Beast. Kerry’s remarks sparked condemnation both from supporters of Israel and from Palestinians, who say Israel already is an apartheid state. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas called for Kerry to resign over the comments.
Sen. Ted Cruz: “Mr. President, sadly, it is my belief that Secretary Kerry has proven himself unsuitable for the position he holds, and therefore, before any further harm is done to our national security interests and to our critical alliance with the nation of Israel, that John Kerry should offer President Obama his resignation and the president should accept it.”
In a statement Monday, Kerry said “apartheid” is “a word best left out of the debate here at home.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visits Ethiopia today, where the government is under fire for arresting six bloggers and three journalists. The nine were reportedly rounded up on Friday and Saturday and charged with attempting to incite violence. Human Rights Watch has called on Kerry to press for their release, saying they are being held in a facility known for abuses, including torture.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took aim at Republican donors Monday. Speaking on the opening day of the legislative session, Reid blamed billionaires like the Koch brothers for the failure by House Republicans to pass key legislation, like an extension of unemployment benefits.
Sen. Harry Reid: “While struggling American families plead to Congress for help in providing work or getting paid fair, livable wages, House Republicans prefer to talk about anything but what is relevant. Why? Because their billionaire 'sugar daddies' aren’t interested in helping middle-class Americans get a fair shot. Charles and David Koch aren’t concerned with the long-term unemployed families, and so the Republicans they sponsor in the House of Representatives are content to do nothing for the long-term unemployed.”
As Congress returned from recess, about 1,500 people descended on the Capitol to protest the widening gap between rich and poor. Under the banner “Battle for the Capitol,” the marchers condemned corporate tax cuts and called for a rise in the minimum wage. A new study confirms most of the job growth since the economic recession has been in low-wage jobs. The National Employment Law Project reports today that there are nearly two million fewer jobs in mid- and higher-wage industries and nearly two million more jobs in lower-wage industries than before the recession.
New York Republican Rep. Michael Grimm has surrendered to federal authorities after being indicted for fraud. Grimm is accused of concealing more than $1 million in taxes and wages at his restaurant in New York City. The charges are part of a wider probe into Grimm’s campaign finances. In January, Grimm was caught on camera threatening to throw a New York 1 reporter off a balcony for questioning him about the investigation.
In Gaza City, a boat that activists intended to use to challenge the Israeli blockade has been hit by an explosion. Known as Gaza’s Ark, the boat had been refurbished with the goal of exporting Palestinian goods. But according to a press release, the boat’s night guard received a call warning of an attack. Minutes later, the boat exploded. In a statement, the group said they would continue efforts against the blockade. “You can sink a boat, but you can’t sink a movement,” they said.