The Jordanian government has agreed to release a female prisoner in exchange for the freeing of an air force pilot captured by militants in Syria a month ago. The Islamic State had threatened to kill the pilot and a kidnapped Japanese journalist if the prisoner, Sajida al-Rishawi, was not released. She had been facing a death sentence for her role in a 2005 attack on three hotels in Amman that killed more than 57 people.
In other news from the region, tension is growing along Israel’s borders with both Syria and Lebanon. Earlier today, an anti-tank missile was fired at an Israeli military vehicle near the Lebanon border wounding four soldiers. The incident came several hours after Israel launched an airstrike in Syria. On Tuesday, at least two rockets from Syria hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Editor’s Note: Since our live broadcast ended, Israel announced two of its soldiers died in the missile attack. A United Nations peacekeeper from Spain was killed in Israel’s shelling of Lebanon]
The United States has agreed to give the Ukrainian government $2 billion in loan guarantees as fighting increases between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed rebels. Three more Ukrainian soldiers reportedly died over the past 24 hours. On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned about the growing threat of a continental war.
Petro Poroshenko: “I will not mention clear and obvious parallels between the events in Europe in the 1930s and present developments. The threat of continental war is now great as never before. There should be no doubt that the ambitions and appetite of the aggressor go far beyond Ukraine.”
In Greece, the country’s new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has promised “radical” change as his government begins to roll back key parts of Greece’s international bailout. The government has put off the planned sale of the country’s biggest power utility while pledging to raise pensions for those on low incomes and reinstate some fired public sector workers. On Tuesday, the new Greek government was sworn in.
George Katrougalos, new deputy minister of public administration: “It is the reforms, but the reforms that the country needs, not the reforms that are dictated from outside its borders. We must restart the economy. We must reinvigorate democracy. It is a big challenge, but I think we are fit to it.”
President Obama has wrapped up a short visit to Saudi Arabia to meet the new King Salman and pay his respects following the death of King Abdullah. In an interview on CNN, Obama defended the United States’ close partnership with Saudi Arabia despite the the kingdom’s poor human rights record.
President Obama: “Sometimes we have to balance our need to speak to them about human rights issues with immediate concerns that we have in terms of countering terrorism or dealing with regional stability.”
The Mexican government is now saying the 43 Mexican students who disappeared four months ago were murdered on the orders of a drug cartel who mistook them for members of a rival gang. Attorney General Jesús Murillo said the gang members suspected of killing the students had been so thorough in the destruction of their remains that it was difficult to identify them. The remains of only one of the missing students has been identified so far. On Monday, Attorney General Murillo discussed the case with reporters.
Jesús Murillo: “Closing the investigation is perhaps not the most adequate word. While we don’t have all the suspects, I can’t close it. It’s not the right word. You asked me if the elements that we have are sufficient enough to determine what is there, that they killed them, burned them. I would say yes, much more than in any other case.”
On Capitol Hill, the confirmation hearing of attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch begins today to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder. Lynch is currently the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
The state of Georgia executed an intellectually disabled prisoner last night, ending a four-year legal battle. Warren Hill was determined to be mentally retarded by several doctors, but Georgia officials disputed their finding. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court banned executing mentally retarded people, but gave states some discretion in deciding who qualified for protection.
More information has to come to light about the small drone that crashed on the grounds of the White House on Monday. The recreational drone was operated by an employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. According to the agency, the employee was off duty and is not involved in work related to drones or unmanned aerial vehicles in any capacity.
In Florida, domestic abuse survivor Marissa Alexander has returned home after three years in prison. She was jailed after firing a warning shot into a wall near her abusive husband. Alexander, who is African-American, was originally sentenced to 20 years in prison. Alexander’s attorneys unsuccessfully tried to use Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law in her defense, saying she feared for her life when she fired the shot. After an appeals court ordered a new trial over faulty jury instructions, a deal was reached for her early release.
The Justice Department has agreed to pay $25,000 to a college student who was detained at an airport for five hours in 2009 for having Arabic-language flashcards in his pocket. The student, Nicholas George, was studying Arabic and had visited several Mideast countries through a summer study program. His flashcards included the words “bomb” and “to kill.” One Transportation Security Administration supervisor interrogating him asked about the Sept. 11 attacks and noted that Osama bin Laden also spoke Arabic.
Parts of New York and Massachusetts are digging out after a massive snowstorm. Massachusetts’ second largest city, Worcester, received a record-breaking 33 inches of snow. The entire island of Nantucket lost power during the storm.
The top U.S. trade official has told lawmakers the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal could be wrapped up within months and urged Congress to give the White House fast-track authority to approve the deal. Protesters with the group Flush the Trans-Pacific Partnership repeatedly interrupted U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman’s testimony before Congress. The protesters — Dr. Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese and retired steelworker Richard Ochs — were all arrested after being removed from the hearing.
Michael Froman: “At USTR, we’re advancing those goals by knocking down barriers to U.S. exports and leveling the playing field for American workers and businesses of all sizes. As we work to open markets around the world, we’re”—
Dr. Margaret Flowers: “Mr. Froman, you are not telling the American people the truth. We know that the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been negotiated in secret for five years, when you’re trying to rush it through Congress with fast track because it’s secret and you know that things in there are going to hurt the American people. They’re going to offshore our jobs and lower our wages, in fact. Our job is to protect our communities.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch: “Let’s have order. All right, remove this person from the room, and if anybody else—if anybody else does this, we’re going to be—you’re going to be removed.”
Dr. Margaret Flowers: “They’re not going to allow us to protect our communities from corporations that want to poison us. They’re not going to allow us to protect our workers from poor working conditions. You are not going to get fast track. The American people are against it. They’re against the TPP. No secret trade deal!”
Kevin Zeese: “We’re saying stop fast track, today.”
Richard Ochs: “No TPP! No”—
Kevin Zeese: “We don’t want supersized NAFTA. We don’t want—we don’t want [inaudible].”
Sen. Orrin Hatch: “Remove these people.”
Kevin Zeese: “We don’t want to undermine [inaudible]. We believe in democracy, not secrecy. We want transparency!”
Richard Ochs: “No TPP! No TPP! No TPP!”