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French police have surrounded a building in a northern town near Charles de Gaulle Airport as part of a massive manhunt for the two men accused of carrying out the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Police say they believe the suspects, Said and Chérif Kouachi, are holed up in a small printing business where they have taken a hostage. Meanwhile, French officials are now saying there is a link between the two brothers and the heavily armed man who shot dead a French policewoman on Thursday. The suspect in that shooting has reportedly taken hostages at a kosher supermarket in Paris. We will have more on this breaking news after headlines.
People across France and around the world are paying tribute to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack, including Police Officer Ahmed Merabet, whose execution on a sidewalk outside the office was captured on video and shown around the world. Thousands have memorialized Merabet with the social media hashtag “Je Suis Ahmed,” or “I am Ahmed,” a take on the viral hashtag “Je Suis Charlie.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to Merabet as he called for unity.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “We now know that policeman’s name. He was Ahmed Merabet. He himself was a Muslim. This is yet another reminder of what we are facing together. It should never be seen as a war of religion, for religion or on religion. It is an assault on our common humanity, designed to terrify and incite.”
In Nigeria, the militant group Boko Haram has laid siege to the northeastern town of Baga. The militants have reportedly decimated the town and attacked surrounding areas, leaving bodies strewn in the streets. The death toll is feared to be in the hundreds, with estimates from local officials ranging from more than 100 to as high as 2,000 people.
The South Asian nation of Sri Lanka has elected a new president, dealing an unexpected defeat to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has ruled the country for nearly a decade. Rajapaksa is credited with defeating the Tamil Tigers in 2009 after a 26-year civil war, but accused of presiding over war crimes in the conflict’s final stages. His opponent, Maithripala Sirisena, who won the election, was acting defense minister in the bloody final days of the conflict.
In the Mexican state of Veracruz, 13 local police have been detained over the disappearance of a journalist. Moisés Sánchez, who reported on drug-related violence and corruption, was kidnapped from his home in Medellín de Bravo earlier this month. The 13 officers detained constitute about a third of the municipal police force.
In Saudi Arabia, an imprisoned blogger and activist has been publicly flogged. Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes to be carried out at a rate of 50 per week for charges including insulting Islam. Amnesty International considers Badawi a prisoner of conscience who is being punished for creating an online forum for debate. U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki has urged Saudi Arabia to review the case and cancel the floggings. We’ll have more on Saudi Arabia and its close ties to the United States after headlines.
The Obama administration has fined Honda a record $70 million for failing to report death and injury claims related to its vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the fine after it was revealed the automaker failed to report more than 1,700 claims over more than a decade.
President Obama has announced a new proposal to make community college free for two years to students who maintain a certain grade-point average. Under the plan, the federal government would pay 75 percent of tuition, while states would need to pay the remaining 25 percent. In a video ahead of today’s formal announcement, Obama said the plan was part of a preview of policies outlined in his upcoming State of the Union address.
President Obama: “Put simply, what I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everybody who’s willing to work for it. That’s right, free for everybody who’s willing to work for it. It’s something that we can accomplish, and it’s something that will train our workforce so that we can compete with anybody in the world.”
The Pentagon is consolidating its forces in Europe and returning 15 sites to their home countries in a purported cost-saving measure. But the plan will keep U.S. troop levels about the same, with increases in Italy and Germany, and plans to launch a new fleet of stealth fighter jets from a base in England.
U.S. lawmakers have advanced a measure to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline which would bring carbon-intensive tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The newly Republican-led Senate Energy Committee approved the bill, which President Obama has vowed to veto. Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders denounced the measure.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “I am very worried about the United States Congress turning its back on science, turning its back on those people who tell us that we have got to cut carbon emissions rather than give a green light for the exploration and the production of some of the dirtiest oil on this planet. I think, frankly, that is crazy.”
The vote on Keystone XL comes as one of the Senate’s leading voices on environmental protection, California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, has announced she will not run for re-election in 2016. Boxer, who was first elected in 1992, has supported reproductive rights and gun control and was one of the “Immortal 23” — the 23 senators who voted against authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
A coalition of Democratic lawmakers has joined with labor and environmental activists to oppose President Obama’s plan to fast-track approval of trade deals. The Obama administration has been quietly pressing for the authority to secretly negotiate trade pacts and then rush them through Congress with an up-or-down vote. The new powers could help Obama push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive pact encompassing 40 percent of the global economy. On Thursday, Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro said trade deals merit debate and cannot be rushed.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro: “Trade deals go well beyond trade. They can compromise the quality of the food we eat. They can raise the prices that we pay for medicines. They can attack our environmental regulations, weaken our financial regulations, stop our government from supporting American businesses, and they do nothing to stop the injustice of currency manipulation.”
Ohio has announced it will drop a two-drug cocktail that was used during a botched 26-minute execution during which the prisoner gasped for air. The same two-drug combination was used in an execution in Arizona which lasted for nearly two hours. Ohio says it will delay at least one execution as it seeks a replacement anesthetic. But the anesthetics have been nearly impossible to obtain due to a refusal by European drug makers to sell them for executions.
Newly released video from a fatal police shooting in Cleveland, Ohio, shows officers failed to provide medical help to 12-year-old Tamir Rice after they shot him, and knocked his sister to the ground when she ran to him. Previously released footage showed police shot Rice within two seconds of pulling up next to him in a park where he was playing with a toy gun. Following a battle with city officials, Northeast Ohio Media Group obtained a longer version, which shows Rice did not receive medical attention until four minutes after the shooting, when an FBI agent who was in the area came to his aid. About a minute after Rice was shot, his 14-year-old sister is seen rushing toward him as he lies behind a police cruiser. Police tackle her to the ground, then handcuff her and place her in the cruiser, feet from her dying brother. The footage matches what the sister, Tajai, told The Today Show last month.
Tajai Rice: “I ran to the gazebo, and I couldn’t get there all the way to him, because the officer attacked me, threw me on the ground, tackled me on the ground, put me in handcuffs, and put me in the back of the police car, right next to his body.”
The video shows it took more than eight minutes for emergency medical personnel to arrive and more than 12 minutes for Tamir Rice to be taken away on a stretcher. He was pronounced dead hours later at a hospital.
An environmental activist sentenced to 19 years in prison for “ecoterrorism” in what his supporters say was a case of FBI entrapment has been released after serving nine years. Eric McDavid was convicted of plotting to bomb sites in California including the Nimbus Dam. But his attorneys say he was entrapped by a teenage informant who supplied him with food, housing and bomb-making instructions, and pressured him into illegal activity. As part of a settlement, federal prosecutors acknowledged withholding evidence in the case, including an FBI request for the informant to undergo a lie-detector test. McDavid was released after pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge.
The White House has responded to a petition calling for the firing of the federal prosecutor who led the case against Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz — two years after the petition was created. More than 60,000 people signed the petition on WhiteHouse.gov calling for the firing of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz for prosecutorial overreach against Swartz, who took his own life two years ago this Sunday, on January 11, 2013. Swartz’s suicide came just weeks before he was set to go on trial for downloading millions of academic articles with the intent of making them freely available. He faced decades in prison. The petition launched the day after Swartz’s death quickly passed the threshold of 25,000 signatures, which at the time was supposed to mandate a public response from the White House. Two years later, the White House has issued a statement refusing to “address agency personnel matters in a petition response.” In a statement, David Segal, head of the group Demand Progress, which Swartz co-founded, said, “A White House that truly cared about protecting Internet freedom would recognize the chilling effects that actions like those of Carmen Ortiz have on activists and technologists, and see to it that they were put to an end.”