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HeadlinesMarch 23, 2015

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U.N. Warns of Civil War in Yemen as Violence Grows; U.S. Closes Key Base

Mar 23, 2015

Yemen could be on the brink of civil war amidst escalating clashes between government forces and Shia Houthi rebels, and an attack on two mosques that killed dozens. The Houthis have seized the country’s third largest city, Taiz, and its military airport. In recent days, unidentified warplanes have reportedly bombed the Aden headquarters of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Hadi has asked the United Nations for “urgent intervention” to defend his government against the Houthis’ advance. Briefing the Security Council on Sunday, U.N. envoy Jamal Benomar warned the situation in Yemen could become an “Iraq-Libya-Syria” scenario.

Jamal Benomar: “It would be an illusion to think that the Houthis could mount an offensive and succeed in taking control of the entire country, including Marib, Taiz and the south. It would be equally false to think that President Hadi could assemble sufficient forces to liberate the country from the Houthis. Any side that would want to push the country in either direction would be inviting a protracted conflict in the vein of an Iraq-Libya-Syria combined scenario.”

The latest unrest comes after suicide bombers attacked two mosques in the capital Sana’a on Friday, killing more than 130 worshipers and wounding hundreds. The so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility. The United States has evacuated its remaining personnel from Yemen and recalled approximately 100 special operations forces from a southern military base key in the drone war against al-Qaeda.

Obama Chides Netanyahu on 2-State Rejection, Race-Baiting

Mar 23, 2015

President Obama says he has personally confronted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about his rejection of Palestinian statehood and his anti-Arab race-baiting. Netanyahu was re-elected last week after vowing to prevent a Palestinian state and bemoaning a high turnout of Arab voters. Speaking to The Huffington Post, Obama said he personally rebuked Netanyahu in their first post-election phone call.

President Obama: “I did indicate to him that we continue to believe that a two-state solution is the only way for the long-term security of Israel, if it wants to stay both a Jewish state and democratic. And I indicated to him that given his statements prior to the election, it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing that negotiations are possible. We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership, and so that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region.”

In response to Netanyahu’s comments, the Obama administration is considering not blocking, or maybe even backing, a U.N. Security Council resolution that would call for a two-state solution based on an Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. That would mean Obama would formally support official U.S. policy for the first time, after previously vetoing similar U.N. resolutions. But despite the potential shift, White House officials have vowed the billions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Israel will continue unimpeded.

Iran Nuclear Talks Approach Final Week; Tehran Demands Immediate End to Sanctions

Mar 23, 2015

Talks over a nuclear deal with Iran are approaching their final week before an end-of-the-month deadline. Both sides have reported progress, but differences remain over the timeline for ending U.N. sanctions and the expansiveness of international inspections. Speaking ahead of a meeting with European counterparts in London, Secretary of State John Kerry said after substantial progress, tough decisions will be made in the days ahead.

Secretary of State John Kerry: “We have not yet reached the finish line. But make no mistake, we have the opportunity to try to get this right. It’s a matter of political will and tough decision making. It’s a matter of choices, and we must all choose wisely in the days ahead. Over the past months, the P5+1 have made substantial progress towards that fundamental goal, though important gaps remain.”

Iran has demanded an immediate end to all United Nations sanctions that have crippled its economy and health sector. In a public address, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said an end to the sanctions is non-negotiable. Iranian negotiators have also reportedly rejected U.S. demands for inspections of any potential nuclear site, including Iranian military bases. If a framework deal is reached in the next week, the talks would continue for a final agreement by June.

Kurdish Rebel Leader Seeks Vote on Ending Armed Struggle

Mar 23, 2015

Jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Öcalan is calling on his group to consider ending a three-decade uprising against Turkey. Öcalan is serving a life sentence after leading the PKK in its struggle for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast. Peace talks have faltered since their launch in late 2012. In a statement read to tens of thousands of supporters, Öcalan called for a formal congress to consider ending the armed struggle, but stopped short of declaring an immediate halt.

Sirri Süreyya Önder, reading message from Abdullah Öcalan: “We have the duty to kick off a new phase. I regard it necessary and historic for PKK to hold a congress to end a 40-year-old armed struggle against Turkey and designate new social and strategic moves for this new period as articulated in a joint declaration.”

Thousands Protest Austerity in Spain; Podemos Makes Gains in Regional Vote

Mar 23, 2015

Thousands of people have marched in the Spanish capital of Madrid in the latest rally against European-backed austerity. The “Dignity March” drew residents from across Spain to protest worsening poverty and demand basics like jobs and affordable housing.

Protester: “We are asking for food, jobs, housing and dignity. That is what we deserve, dignity, because we don’t have that at the moment. There are no jobs, and they are evicting us from our homes.”

The march comes as the Spanish political party Podemos has made strong gains in a regional vote. Podemos went from zero to 15 seats in the region of Andalusia, cutting into the share of Spain’s two traditional parties, the Socialists and the People’s Party. Podemos has ridden a wave of anti-austerity sentiment to become a major contender in upcoming national elections. (Watch our recent interview with Podemos Secretary General Pablo Iglesias.)

Singapore Founder Lee Kuan Yew Dies at 91

Mar 23, 2015

The founder of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, has died at the age of 91. Lee pioneered what came to be known as “soft authoritarianism,” restricting free speech and political freedom while expanding economic prosperity. Singapore will celebrate its 50th anniversary in August.

Mass Grave Found in Nigerian Town After Expulsion of Boko Haram

Mar 23, 2015

A mass grave has been discovered in a Nigerian town following the ouster of the Boko Haram. Nigerian and Chadian forces found more than 70 bodies after expelling Boko Haram fighters from Damasak. Nigeria is holding national elections later this week after postponing them in the wake of Boko Haram attacks.

Ebola Toll in West Africa Tops 10,000 on Outbreak’s 1st Anniversary

Mar 23, 2015

The record outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has marked its first anniversary, with more than 10,000 people dead. Liberia announced its first confirmed case of Ebola in weeks Friday, quashing hopes the country had eliminated the virus. Guinea and Sierra Leone have continued to report about 100 to 200 new cases combined each week. Guinea recently reported a doubling of cases over the course of a month, with three doctors among those falling ill. Sierra Leone, meanwhile, has announced plans for a two-day quarantine this week, when nearly the entire country will be told to remain indoors. Reflecting on the anniversary of the outbreak, the group Doctors Without Borders criticized the slow international response, saying: “For the Ebola outbreak to spiral this far out of control required many institutions to fail. And they did, with tragic and avoidable consequences.”

ISIS Releases Personal Info, Threatens Alleged U.S. Marines

Mar 23, 2015

The self-proclaimed Islamic State has published the names and addresses of dozens of people whom it claims are U.S. marines and that it wants supporters to kill. An Islamic State hacker group says it stole the personal information from government services, but U.S. officials say it was publicly available. The Marine Corps has advised its forces and their families to be diligent in protecting their privacy online.

Hundreds Protest Mideast Military Action Outside White House

Mar 23, 2015

Hundreds of protesters rallied in front of the White House on Saturday to oppose what organizers called perpetual war in the Middle East. The rally from the antiwar group ANSWER comes as Congress weighs President Obama’s request for authority to strike the Islamic State anywhere in the world.

Ming Chen: “I am here to take a real stand against the Bush regime’s war on the Middle East as well as Obama’s continuation on the war in the Middle East.”

Amnesty Leads NYC March for Accountability in Police Shootings

Mar 23, 2015

Protests for accountability in police shootings continue across the United States. On Friday, members of Amnesty International led a march across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Noor Mir: “The reason that we chose Shereese Francis, Eric Garner and Akai Gurley as three cases we’re focusing on is because it’s right here in New York City. They were all unarmed, they were all black, and they were all either between the ages of 20 and 40. And in all three instances, they were violent deaths. So we’re asking for some response, we’re asking for some accountability.”

The protest came one day after a Staten Island judge 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.

Families of 43 Missing Mexican Students Lead NYC Protest

Mar 23, 2015

Parents and colleagues of 43 students missing for nearly six months in Guerrero, Mexico, have launched a caravan inside the United States. The students’ families question the Mexican government’s claims local police turned the students over to drug gang members, who killed and incinerated them. Only one student’s remains have been identified, and Mexican media reports have tied federal authorities to the attack. On Sunday, a crowd of Mexican caravan members and their supporters rallied in New York City.

Denise Romero, Caravan 43 organizer: “These students were taken alive by both drug lords and police forces, and have been disappeared ever since. Obviously we know that due to the war on drugs, there is close to 20,000 people who have died, who are disappeared in the country, and close to 100,000 people who have died because of the U.S.-backed policies.”

Federal Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Anti-Abortion Law

Mar 23, 2015

A federal judge has struck down a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, ruling it unconstitutional. While anti-choice proponents argue the bill makes patients safer, U.S. District Judge William Conley wrote: “The court is, if anything, more convinced that the admitting privileges requirement … 'remains a solution in search of a problem,' unless that problem is access to abortion itself.” Providers had argued the law would shutter at least one of Wisconsin’s four abortion clinics, possibly causing waiting periods of up to 10 weeks at the remaining facilities. Courts have blocked similar laws in a number of other states.

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