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A Saudi-led bombing campaign has entered its second day in Yemen. While the U.S.-backed campaign is targeting Houthi Shiite rebels, at least 39 civilians have been reported killed. Amnesty International confirmed at least six of the dead were children under 10. Meanwhile, deposed Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi has left his refuge in Aden for Saudi Arabia. We will have more on this story after headlines.
Iraqi officials say nine of their forces have been accidentally killed in an airstrike as part of the U.S.-backed effort to retake the city of Tikrit from the self-proclaimed Islamic State. U.S.-led airstrikes began Wednesday, prompting thousands of Iranian-backed Shiite militias who were fighting alongside the Iraqis to boycott the battle and retreat. U.S. Army General Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, assured lawmakers, including Senator John McCain, there are no Shiite militias in Tikrit.
Gen. Lloyd Austin: “The folks that we are supporting in clearing Tikrit—”
Sen. John McCain: “Are the Shia militias still in the fight?”
Gen. Lloyd Austin: “No, sir, they’re not — they’re not a part of the clearing operations in Tikrit.”
Sen. John McCain: “So, we are — the airstrikes that we’re carrying out in support are only in support of Iraqi military activities?”
Gen. Lloyd Austin: “That’s correct, sir. Preconditioned for us to provide support was that the Iraqi government had to be in charge of this operation. They had to know — we had to know exactly who was on the ground.”
German authorities are searching for evidence to explain why the co-pilot of a Germanwings airplane deliberately crashed in the French Alps, killing himself and all 149 others on board. Recovered audio shows the 27-year-old co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, was in the cockpit alone, while the plane’s captain was locked out, pounding on the door to get in. Earlier today, the German newspaper Bild reported Lubitz had suffered a “serious depressive episode” six years ago.
In a rare bipartisan move, House lawmakers have overwhelmingly passed a bill to overhaul Medicare’s payment system. The measure would increase payments to doctors, passing higher costs on to some recipients in the form of higher premiums. It also keeps in place a health insurance program for children. Senate leaders will wait more than two weeks to take up the bill.
A new report commissioned by the Colombian government and FARC rebels has concluded U.S. soldiers and military contractors sexually abused at least 54 children in Colombia between 2003 and 2007. The investigator cites one case where 53 girls in the town of Melgar were targeted by contractors who filmed the abuse and sold the films as pornography. In another case, a 12-year-old girl was allegedly drugged and raped by a U.S. Army sergeant and a contractor. Under immunity agreements, none of the alleged abusers were ever punished. The media group FAIR notes the story has received no coverage in the U.S. corporate media. A number of U.S. outlets have reported on a new Justice Department probe which concludes U.S. drug enforcement agents in Colombia participated in “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by Colombian drug cartels.
Parents of 43 students missing from the Mexican state of Guerrero marched Thursday in Mexico City to mark six months since their children disappeared. The parents dispute the government’s claim local police gave the students to drug gang members, who killed and incinerated them. Epifanio Álvarez, whose son is among the missing, spoke at the march.
Epifanio Álvarez: “For us to believe, they need to give us an answer, and there has been no reply. We are the same as we started. What the government has done is hurt us, the parents, by giving us bad news after bad news, without scientific proof. But we will continue forward. We are united. Years can go by, but we will remain united.”
A number of the students’ parents have come to the United States where they are traveling across the country in three caravans to draw attention to the U.S. role in the drug war.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has signed a religious freedom bill critics say will give businesses license to discriminate against LGBT people. The law prevents state and local governments from imposing a “substantial burden” on religion unless the government shows a compelling reason. Pence signed the bill at a ceremony, closed to the media and public, amidst a wave of criticism from celebrities and business leaders like the CEO of Salesforce, who said the firm would dramatically curb business in the state. The measure is similar to one that caused a firestorm in Arizona last year, forcing then-Governor Jan Brewer to veto it.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has declared a public health emergency over a spike in HIV cases in Scott County, in the southeastern part of the state. The outbreak includes 79 new cases all linked to the injection of a potent pharmaceutical painkiller. Pence will allow Scott County authorities to set up a needle exchange program to combat the spread of HIV.
Kentucky will also let local health authorities set up needle exchanges as part of a major new approach to handling heroin and painkiller addiction. Under a new law, the state will also allow more people to carry naloxone, the antidote which prevents overdose deaths, and will stop criminally charging addicts who survive overdoses.
Ohio House lawmakers have passed a bill that would make most abortions a felony offense. The bill would ban abortion after a fetal or embryonic heartbeat is detectable, which happens in the earliest stages of pregnancy when many women have not realized they are pregnant. Doctors who violate the law would face up to a year in prison. Ohio State Rep. Teresa Fedor rose to denounce the bill, disclosing she had had an abortion after she was raped while serving in the military.
State Rep. Teresa Fedor: “What you’re doing is so fundamentally unhuman, unconstitutional. And I’ve sat here too long. And I dare every one of you to judge me, because there is only one judge I’m going to face, and I’ve heard the word 'judge.' And you deserve my lecture right now. I dare you to walk in my shoes, and walk after I leave this chamber. And I dare you to vote for this bill, because you know it’s fundamentally inhuman for you to do so.”
Earlier this month, another lawmaker in Arizona, State Rep. Victoria Steele, disclosed her experience with child sexual abuse during a debate over another anti-choice bill. The Arizona bill passed and is in the hands of Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. It bans abortion coverage in health plans purchased through the federal exchange, and requires doctors to tell women they can potentially reverse a drug-induced abortion, despite the lack of any scientific evidence.
Agribusiness giant Monsanto has agreed to pay a fine for failing to report hundreds of uncontrolled releases of toxic chemicals at a plant in Idaho. Monsanto will pay $600,000, a tiny fraction of the more than $240 million in profits from the last quarter alone. Meanwhile, footage has emerged of a lobbyist claiming Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller is safe to drink, but then refusing to drink it. Pat Moore, a former Greenpeace activist turned corporate lobbyist, made the remarks in an interview for a documentary with the French channel Canal+.
Pat Moore: “You can drink a whole quart of it, and it won’t hurt you.”
Paul Moreira: “You want to drink some? We have some here.”
Pat Moore: “I’d be happy to, actually. Not, not really, but …”
Paul Moreira: “Not really?”
Pat Moore: “I know it wouldn’t hurt me.”
Paul Moreira: “If you say so, I have some glyphosate.”
Pat Moore: “No, no, I’m not stupid.”
Paul Moreira: “Ah, OK. So you …”
Pat Moore: “No, but I know …”
Paul Moreira: “… said it’s dangerous, right?”
Pat Moore: “No. People try to commit suicide with it and fail, fairly regularly.”
Paul Moreira: “No, no, but let’s tell the truth. It’s dangerous.”
Pat Moore: “It’s not dangerous to humans. No, it’s not.”
Paul Moreira: “So you are ready to drink one glass of glyphosate?”
Pat Moore: “No, I’m not an idiot. Interview me about golden rice. That’s what I’m talking about.”
Paul Moreira: “We did. We did. We did.”
Pat Moore: “OK. Then it’s finished.”
Paul Moreira: “Except it’s …”
Pat Moore: “Then the interview is finished.”
Paul Moreira: “That’s a good way to solve things.”
Pat Moore: (getting up to leave) “Yeah. You’re a complete jerk.”
Earlier this week, a report by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer found glyphosate, a main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, likely causes cancer.
A member of the Illinois National Guard and his cousin have been arrested and accused of plotting to join the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria or carry out attacks inside the United States. Guardsman Hasan Edmonds allegedly sent messages to an undercover agent saying he would bring “the flames of war to the heart” of the United States if he could not get into Syria. His cousin, Jonas Edmonds, allegedly boasted to an agent of plans to kill up to 150 people at the Illinois military facility where his cousin had trained.
An alleged bank robber accused of killing two people, including a state trooper, earlier this week in Wisconsin has been identified as a white supremacist with a criminal record. Steven Timothy Snyder died in a shootout with Trooper Trevor Casper Tuesday. In the mid-1990s, Snyder was part of a white supremacist group convicted of an attack on a group of African Americans and Latinos.
Newly released video shows police in the Detroit suburb of Inkster pummeling and tasing a 57-year-old, unarmed African-American auto worker. The video shows Officer William Melendez approaching Floyd Dent’s car with his gun drawn. Another officer pulls Dent to the ground, and Melendez places him in a chokehold and pounds him in the head 16 times. Dent said he thought he was going to die.
Floyd Dent: “I’m lucky to be living, you know, because I think they were trying to do — they were trying to kill me, especially when they choked me. I mean, I was on my last breath. I told the officer, 'Please, I can't breathe.’”
Police claimed Dent threatened and bit them, although they have provided no evidence. They also claim they found crack cocaine in his car, but Dent says the drugs were planted, and his drug test came back clean. Melendez, the officer who pummeled Dent, is nicknamed “Robocop,” and has been sued repeatedly for excessive force. During an earlier stint in Detroit, he was indicted for leading a corrupt ring of officers who planted evidence, although he was ultimately acquitted. In 1996, he and a partner shot and killed unarmed African American Lou Adkins in a case Detroit paid $1 million to settle.
Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, have won a settlement requiring police to restrict their use of tear gas following the militarized response to protests over the police shooting of Michael Brown. St. Louis City and County police, as well as Missouri State Highway Patrol, all agreed to requirements, including clear warnings for tear gas use. A judge will supervise the terms for three years. Attorneys say the St. Louis area will be one of just two police jurisdictions in the country with such a policy for tear gas.