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HeadlinesMarch 20, 2015

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Netanyahu Tries to Walk Back Vow Against Palestinian State

Mar 20, 2015

Newly re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tried to walk back his pre-election vow not to allow a Palestinian state. Netanyahu had emphasized his right-wing positions in the lead-up to the election, urging supporters to cancel out the votes of Arabs he said were heading to the polls “in droves.” A day before the election, when asked if he was ruling out establishment of a Palestinian state under his tenure, Netanahu replied, “Indeed.” But he tried to backtrack in an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “I haven’t changed my policy. I never retracted my speech in Bar-Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. What has changed is the reality. Abu Mazen, the Palestinian leader, refuses to recognize the Jewish state, has made a pact with Hamas that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. And every territory that is vacated today in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces. So —”

Andrea Mitchell: “But they are saying —”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “We want that to change, so we can realize a vision of real, sustained peace. And I don’t want a — I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change.”

The White House has said it will “evaluate” its path forward after Netanyahu’s pre-election dismissal of the two-state solution. President Obama called Netanyahu to congratulate him Thursday, two days after the election.

ISIS Claims Responsibility for Tunisia Attack

Mar 20, 2015

The self-described Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a mass shooting at the Bardo museum in Tunisia which killed 21 people. In an audio recording circulated online, ISIS says two of its gunmen carried out the attack. On Thursday, Tunisians rallied outside the museum to denounce the attack and honor the victims, most of whom were foreign tourists.

U.N.: ISIS May Have Committed Genocide Against Yazidis

Mar 20, 2015

The United Nations has accused the self-proclaimed Islamic State of a possible genocide against Iraq’s Yazidi minority. Chief U.N. investigator Suki Nagra said all Iraqi communities have been impacted.

Suki Nagra: “No community has been spared in Iraq from ISIL’s violence, including the Yazidis, the Christians, Turkmens, Sabean-Mendaeans, Kaka’e, Kurds, Shia and indeed the Sunni. Essentially, what we’re seeing is the rich ethnic and religious diversity in Iraq that’s been shattered completely.”

The U.N. report also found U.S.-backed Iraqi forces “may have committed some war crimes” while battling ISIS militants.

Pentagon: U.S. Conducted 2,320 Airstrikes Against ISIS

Mar 20, 2015

The Pentagon says the U.S. military has conducted more than 2,300 airstrikes against the Islamic State since August at a cost of $1.83 billion. U.S. strikes account for 80 percent of those carried out by an international coalition of more than 60 countries. Obama recently has acknowledged that ISIS developed as a direct consequence of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Peace Activists Block Hancock Drone Base with Giant Books

Mar 20, 2015

Thursday was the 12th anniversary of the Iraq invasion. Peace activists in upstate New York marked the anniversary by using giant books to block the gates of Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, where overseas drones are piloted remotely. In an action dubbed “Educating the Base,” protesters shut off the main gate with eight-foot replicas of books, including “Dirty Wars” by Jeremy Scahill, and the U.N. Charter. Seven people were arrested.

Reports: U.S. to Keep Bases, More Troops in Afghanistan

Mar 20, 2015

The Obama administration is poised to keep more U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The New York Times reports while Obama had touted plans to roughly halve the number of U.S. troops from its current level of 10,000 by the end of this year, officials are now considering keeping most of those troops in place. Reuters reports U.S. military bases in Kandahar and Jalalabad will likely remain open beyond 2015.

Japan: Police Arrest Man Accused of Threats to Bomb U.S. Embassy, Base

Mar 20, 2015

Japanese authorities have arrested a man accused of threatening to bomb the U.S. Embassy and a military base. The man was detained on the island of Okinawa, which houses about 26,000 U.S. troops. For decades, residents there have protested the presence of the soldiers, citing environmental concerns and sexual assaults.

Surveillance Video of Secret Service Agents in Alleged DUI Erased

Mar 20, 2015

Surveillance video showing two Secret Service agents allegedly drunk driving into a bomb investigation at the White House has been erased. Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy told lawmakers the footage was lost because the agency automatically records over surveillance video every three days. But he said footage that does exist shows the incident was less serious than media reports have described.

Joseph Clancy: “I’ve also personally reviewed video surveillance from the evening of March 4th, and I welcome the opportunity to review this footage with each of you. Based on the footage, previous reports of a crash are inaccurate. There was no crash. The video shows a vehicle entering the White House complex at a speed of approximately one to two miles per hour and pushing aside a plastic barrel. There was no damage to the vehicle.”

UVA Students Protest Bloody Arrest of Classmate Martese Johnson

Mar 20, 2015

Students at the University of Virginia are protesting the arrest of an African-American classmate shown bleeding profusely from the head after being slammed to the ground by state alcohol agents. Martese Johnson needed 10 stitches in his head. He was charged with obstruction of justice without force and public swearing or intoxication. Bryan Beaubrun, who took the now-viral photo of Johnson bleeding on the ground, said the agents pulled Johnson aside after he was denied entry to a bar. After Johnson tried to pull his arm away, they wrestled him down. State police have launched a probe at the request of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and UVA President Teresa Sullivan, who said she was “disturbed” by the arrest video. Johnson’s attorney, Daniel Watkins, read a statement from his client.

Daniel Watkins: “I’m shocked that my face was slammed into the brick pavement just across the street from where I attend school. Three officers then pinned me to the ground, pressing their knees in my back, while blood flowed freely from the gash to my head. As the officers held me down, one thought raced through my mind: How could this happen? My head lay bloody, but unbowed.”

Last year, Virginia agreed to pay more than $200,000 in a lawsuit brought by another UVA student, who was arrested after state alcohol agents mistook the sparkling water she had purchased for beer. Elizabeth Daly called 911 and attempted to drive away in terror after the agents swarmed her car and pulled a gun. She pulled over after a 911 dispatcher confirmed the men were agents. Daly was charged with eluding police and assaulting an officer, but the charges were later dropped.

NY Judge Refuses to Release Testimony in Death of Eric Garner

Mar 20, 2015

A judge in Staten Island, New York, has refused to release testimony heard by the grand jury that failed to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the chokehold death of unarmed African American Eric Garner. The New York Civil Liberties Union, along with Public Advocate Letitia James, the New York Post and NAACP had joined together to request the documents. But State Supreme Court Justice William Garnett said they had not shown a compelling need for the release. NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement: “The failure to indict the officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner has left many wondering if black lives even matter. Sadly, today’s decision will only leave many asking that same question again.”

Mississippi: FBI Probes Death of Black Man Found Hanging from a Tree

Mar 20, 2015

In Mississippi, the FBI is investigating the death of an African-American man found hanging from a tree. Otis Byrd had been missing for over a week when he was found dead in a wooded area. The Mississippi NAACP has called for a probe to determine if his death was a hate crime. The news came as a team of experts from Syracuse University told a U.N. panel in Geneva the United States has failed to adequately address the lynchings of African Americans in the civil rights era, with more than 300 suspicious killings still unrecognized by the FBI.

Border Patrol Agent Fatally Shoots Man in Washington State

Mar 20, 2015

A U.S. Border Patrol agent in Washington state has shot and killed a man suspected of crossing into the United States from Canada illegally. According to local reports, the agent opened fire after he was attacked with pepper spray.

Chicago Police Commander Resigns After Homan Square Exposé

Mar 20, 2015

A top Chicago police commander has resigned following reports of abusive methods at the secretive Homan Square compound. The Guardian revealed people taken to the nondescript warehouse have been denied access to attorneys, beaten and held incommunicado without notification to their families. The Guardian now reports Nicholas Roti, chief of the Bureau of Organized Crime, which operates out of Homan, resigned last week. Attorneys for three people held at Homan have announced plans to file a civil rights lawsuit in a bid to shut the facility down.

Napolitano Apologizes for Calling Student Protests “Crap”

Mar 20, 2015

University of California President and former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has apologized for referring to student protesters as “crap.” As students disrupted Wednesday’s UC regents meeting to protest tuition hikes, Napolitano was caught on an open mic saying, “Let’s go. We don’t have to listen to this crap.” She later apologized for “using a word I don’t usually use.”

TransCanada Probed for Alleged Safety Violations

Mar 20, 2015

The company behind the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline is under investigation by regulators in Canada for possible safety violations after a complaint from a whistleblower. Reuters reports TransCanada is facing up to a dozen allegations, including reports it took several months to repair a damaged pipeline and made sloppy repairs to a major line.

Transgender Healthcare Now Covered Under NY Medicaid

Mar 20, 2015

Transgender New Yorkers can now receive coverage for transition-related healthcare under Medicaid. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has officially adopted a new regulation ending the 17-year-old ban on transgender healthcare following a years-long campaign by activists.

Author, Filmmaker Danny Schechter, “The News Dissector,” Dies at 72

Mar 20, 2015

The author, filmmaker and media reform activist Danny Schechter has died at the age of 72. Schechter rose to prominence as “The News Dissector” on Boston’s WBCN radio in the 1970s. He went on to work as a television producer at ABC’s 20/20, where he won two Emmy Awards, and at the newly launched CNN. But he left corporate media to become executive director of and co-founder and executive director of Globalvision. He authored 12 books, including “The More You Watch, the Less You Know.” He was also a leading activist against apartheid in South Africa and made six nonfiction films about Nelson Mandela. Schechter appeared on Democracy Now! multiple times. In this 2013 interview, after Mandela’s death, he reflected on his own activism as part of a project called “Sun City: Artists Against Apartheid.”

Danny Schechter: “This was not all about lobbying Congress. This was about informing America about what was happening. And in some cases, it was cultural figures, 58 of the world’s top artists who indicted the system of forced relocation in South Africa. That’s what Sun City was all about. It was a part of an effort to promote a cultural boycott alongside an economic boycott. And it was very successful and worldwide in its impact. And I think that was important. And then, you know, I helped start the TV series, South Africa Now, that ran for 156 weeks, every week, in the United States, reporting on South Africa through the eyes of South Africans. It was their story.”

Schechter died in New York City after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 72.

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