President Obama says he has not yet decided whether to send arms to the Ukrainian military to fight Russian-backed rebels. Obama criticized Russia’s role in the conflict during a joint news conference at the White House with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
President Obama: “Unfortunately, Russia has made a decision that I think is bad for them strategically, bad for Europe, bad for the world. And in the face of this aggression and these bad decisions, we can’t simply try to talk them out of it. We have to show them that the world is unified in imposing a cost for this aggression.”
On Wednesday, Chancellor Merkel will travel to the Belarus capital of Minsk for talks with the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and France in an attempt to end the crisis, which has killed more than 5,400 people. We will have more on Ukraine after headlines.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said his regime is receiving updates on U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria. Assad told the BBC that while there is no direct cooperation with the United States, other countries, including Iraq, have been supplying Syria with information. Assad’s forces have been conducting strikes against both ISIS and the anti-government rebels supported by the United States.
In Niger, lawmakers have voted to send troops to fight the Nigeria-based militant group Boko Haram. The decision came after Boko Haram set off a deadly explosion in the Niger town of Diffa. The group also attacked three towns in Cameroon, kidnapping more than 30 people, including 20 who were on board a bus.
A NATO drone strike in Afghanistan has killed a number of people, including a former Guantánamo prisoner suspected of ties to the Islamic State. Mullah Abdul Rauf was killed along with his son-in-law and others in the southern province of Helmand. Rauf, a former Taliban commander, had reportedly pledged loyalty to ISIS. U.S. officials confirmed the attack killed eight people accused of posing a threat.
At least 29 African migrants have died of hypothermia after they were rescued from the frigid Mediterranean Sea near Libya. The migrants were among the more than 100 people pulled from an inflatable boat by the Italian coast guard. They died en route to the Italian island of Lampedusa.
An Egyptian court will retry two imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists this week despite hopes at least one would be released. Last week, Canada had announced the release of Mohamed Fahmy was imminent after he renounced his Egyptian citizenship. Fahmy is a Canadian citizen. But both Fahmy and his colleague Baher Mohamed face a retrial on Thursday. Fahmy’s family has launched a social media campaign calling on Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene.
Alabama has become the 37th state to allow same-sex marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the state’s bid to block the unions. Same-sex couples lined up to marry in parts of the state, including Huntsville, Birmingham and Montgomery. But about 50 counties reportedly refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses after Sunday’s conflicting order from an Alabama Supreme Court justice. Chief Justice Roy Moore ordered judges and officials not to issue or recognize the licenses, arguing the local courts are not beholden to a federal court ruling that struck down the ban.
The largest oil strike to hit the United States in decades has grown larger. Union workers at two BP refineries in Indiana and Ohio have walked off the job, joining colleagues from nine other sites across the country. In total, more than 5,000 workers have joined the strike to demand safer conditions, higher pay, better healthcare and an end to unsafe staffing levels.
A British court has ruled the spy agency GCHQ acted illegally when it accessed data gathered by the National Security Agency through mass surveillance. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which oversees British spy agencies, ruled the secrecy surrounding the data-sharing program broke British human rights law. But the court found the program is now legal, because more information has been made public after civil liberties groups filed suit. The case marks the first time in its 15-year history the court has ruled against the spy agency.
A team of Argentine forensic experts has cast doubt on Mexico’s claims about the disappearance of 43 students in September. Mexico’s attorney general has said local police in Guerrero state turned the students over to members of a drug gang who killed them and incinerated their bodies at a garbage dump. But reports by the Mexican magazine Proceso have implicated federal authorities, accusing them of torturing local police to force them to confess. The Argentine investigators now say satellite images show fires at the garbage dump years before the students’ disappearance, and human remains found at the site include dentures, which none of the students wore. They also say authorities left the site unsecured for weeks and made errors in genetic profiles from the students’ relatives. Only one student’s remains have been identified. Felipe de la Cruz, a spokesperson for the parents of the missing students, said the findings bolster claims the students are still alive.
Felipe de la Cruz: “Today we can say to the world that we were not wrong. We always said that until it was proven scientifically with elements of truth that are credible for us, (we would not believe the students’ deaths).”
The office of Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam has disputed the findings as speculation and questioned the expertise of the Argentine team.
An activist who organized protests over the students’ disappearance in Guerrero has been found murdered in the neighboring state of Morelos. Labor and land rights activist Alejandro Salgado Delgado was reportedly found with his head and hands cut off. Authorities have detained four suspects, but Salgado’s supporters blame the state government for targeting him over his activism.
The president of East Timor has chosen former health minister Rui Araújo as the new prime minister following the resignation of former guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmão. Gusmão helped win independence from Indonesia and spent seven years in an Indonesian prison before becoming East Timor’s first president in 2002. He had served as either prime minister or president ever since.
The city of Boston, Massachusetts, has shut down its public transit system amidst record-setting snowfall across the New England region. Two feet of snow fell Monday in parts of Massachusetts, marking the state’s third major snowstorm in two weeks. Gov. Charlie Baker says workers have removed enough snow to fill 90 football stadiums. Scientists, meanwhile, say the trend of increased snowfall and stronger storms is fueled by global warming.
The Obama administration has pledged $3.2 million to help save the monarch butterfly, which has seen its population plummet 90 percent. Research has tied the butterfly’s decline to the rise in industrial agriculture and genetically modified crops which destroy milkweed, the monarch’s food source.
Police in Gastonia, North Carolina, have shot and killed a 74-year-old African-American Army veteran after his family asked the police to check on him. Relatives of James Howard Allen asked police to perform a welfare check because Allen had recently undergone heart surgery. Police first arrived at about 10:20 p.m. Saturday night, but Allen did not answer. They returned about an hour later with the fire department and forced his door open. Police say Allen, who was reportedly hard of hearing, pointed a gun at Officer Josh Lefevers, who then opened fire. Allen’s sister Mary Battle told local news station WSOC her brother likely thought someone was breaking into his house in the middle of the night.
Mary Battle: “I am so hurt that he had to die like this. … Maybe the police was frightened. Maybe they were. I don’t know. But he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave pending investigations by police and the State Bureau of Investigations.
At Guantánamo, a pretrial hearing for suspects accused of helping plot the 9/11 attacks was halted Monday after prisoners recognized the courtroom interpreter from a CIA black site. One prisoner said he could not trust the interpreter because he worked with the CIA. A second prisoner also recognized the man, whom he accused of participating in his torture. In a statement, Amnesty International called the allegations “deeply unsettling,” adding “the courtroom at Guantánamo Bay is piling further injustice on top of impunity for torture.”
A group of 150 journalists, academics and activists have arrived in Havana, Cuba, as part of a delegation with the peace group CodePink. The delegation plans meet with Cuban officials and members of the Cuban 5 who were recently released from U.S. prison. The activists have called for Congress to lift all travel restrictions and return Guanatánamo Bay to Cuba. CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin said Cuba should also be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, where it stands alongside Iran, Sudan and Syria.
Medea Benjamin: “We also think it’s important that we work, when we go back, to push that Cuba be taken off the terrorist list. There is a State Department report that’s supposed to come out in March that is supposed to advise President Obama on whether Cuba still belongs on that terrorist list, and we want to be ready for when that report comes out by putting out educational work and organizing and lobbying for Cuba to be taken off the list.”