Low-wage workers in the United States have staged their largest action to date to demand a $15-an-hour minimum wage, with some 60,000 workers walking off the job in more than 200 cities. The actions brought together fast-food workers, home-care aides, child-care providers, Wal-Mart clerks, adjunct professors and airport workers to demand wage increases and the right to unionize. Organizers staged the action on Tax Day to highlight the cost to taxpayers of supporting workers who are underpaid. A new study says low wages are forcing working families to rely on more than $150 billion in public assistance. We will have more on the historic protests after headlines.
In Iraq, the self-proclaimed Islamic State has gained new ground, claiming several villages near Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province. The takeover of at least three new villages poses ISIL’s greatest threat to date against Ramadi, which lies about 70 miles west of the capital Baghdad.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has sharply criticized the Saudi-led bombing of Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, escalating tensions between two key U.S. allies. Speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., Abadi said the Saudi operation had “no logic” and could trigger a wider regional conflict. Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States quickly hit back, defending the U.S.-supported offensive and denying reports of heavy civilian casualties. Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, has called for an investigation into airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition on a dairy in Yemen which it says killed at least 31 civilians at the end of March.
NBC News has changed its story about the 2012 kidnapping of chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel in Syria after reporting by The New York Times called his account into question. Engel had said he was captured by Shiite forces loyal to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But after the Times found Engel was likely captured by Sunni militants affiliated with the opposition Free Syrian Army, Engel said the kidnappers were Sunni, but had “put on an elaborate ruse to convince us they were Shiite Shabiha militiamen.”
In Ukraine, a prominent journalist has been shot dead in the capital Kiev. Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said Oles Buzina was attacked by masked gunmen. His death comes after a former lawmaker and ally of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych was found shot to death in Kiev on Wednesday.
About 400 migrants have perished off the coast of Libya after the boat they were traveling in capsized. Rescuers managed to save 145 people, including at least one baby, but hundreds more appear to have drowned. In a statement, Amnesty International criticized European countries for their approach to the flood of migrants seeking to reach Europe, saying their “ongoing negligence towards the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean has contributed to a more than 50-fold increase in migrant and refugee deaths since the beginning of 2015.”
The Colombian government has moved to resume its bombing of FARC rebels following what Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called a “deliberate attack” by the FARC. Santos said the attack, which killed 10 Colombian soldiers and one rebel, marked a breach of the FARC’s unilateral ceasefire.
President Juan Manuel Santos: “This is a reprehensible act that will not go without punishment and requires decisive action, and there will be consequences. We are going to pursue those responsible for this despicable act. I have ordered the armed forces to lift the suspension of the bombings on FARC camps until further notice.”
Santos did not suspend historic peace talks between the FARC and Colombian government aimed at ending the 50-year conflict.
A mailman from Florida has landed a tiny personal aircraft known as a gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in a protest to demand campaign finance reform. Doug Hughes was carrying letters to every member of Congress calling for them to address corruption. He flew about an hour from Maryland into restricted airspace and onto the Capitol’s West Lawn, stunning authorities and bystanders. He was immediately arrested. Before taking off, Hughes had spoken about his plans to the Tampa Bay Times.
Doug Hughes: “I’m going to violate the no-fly zone nonviolently. I intend for nobody to get hurt. And I’m going to land on the Capitol Mall in front of the Capitol building. I’m going to have 535 letters strapped to the landing gear in boxes, and those letters are going to be addressed to every member of Congress. I don’t believe that the authorities are going to shoot down a 60-year-old mailman in a flying bicycle.”
Hughes’ action comes after another apparent protest at the Capitol, which received far less attention. On Saturday, 22-year-old Leo Thornton shot himself to death outside the Capitol while bearing a protest sign that said, “Tax the 1 Percent.”
The European Union has unveiled antitrust charges against Google. EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said Google appears to be favoring its own products in web search results.
Margrethe Vestager: “Our investigation so far has shown that when a consumer enters a shopping-related query in Google’s search engine, Google’s comparison shopping product is systematically displayed prominent at the top of the search results. This display is irrespective of whether it is the most relevant response to the query.”
EU regulators have also launched an antitrust investigation into Google’s Android smartphone software.
A protester opposed to the austerity policies of the European Central Bank interrupted a news conference by the bank’s president, Mario Draghi, in Frankfurt Wednesday, jumping on a desk in front of Draghi and showering him with confetti made from a statement condemning the ECB’s neoliberal policies. Josephine Witt wore a T-shirt which read, “End the ECB dick-tatorship.”
In the United States, Hillary Clinton has shifted her stance on same-sex marriage just days after announcing her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton opposed same-sex marriage as a candidate in 2008, then came out in support of it in 2013, but suggested it should be handled by the states. On Wednesday, a Clinton spokesperson said in a statement Clinton supports marriage equality as a “constitutional right.”
Six people have been arrested after occupying the lobby to BP’s headquarters in Houston, Texas, ahead of the fifth anniversary of the explosion and oil spill which devastated the Gulf of Mexico. On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 workers and triggering the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Among those arrested Wednesday were Cherri Foytlin from South Louisiana.
Cherri Foytlin: “I have seen with my own eyes the devastation that this spill has caused and continues to cause to this day This disaster is not over. We have oil that continues to run into our marshes and on our beaches. Our dolphins and turtle continue to wash in dead at higher rates than normal in the longest mortality events in the recorded history of the Gulf of Mexico. But what I’m mainly concerned about is the toxic dispersants they used during the spill, that has caused a grave health issue for the people in the Gulf. I’ve seen children who are sick. In the early days we had rashes and respiratory problems, but now it’s moved into cancers, very aggressive cancers. In parts of where I live in Louisiana, just south of us in Plaquemines Parish, they say they’re burying about a person a week.”
Protesters say the action is one of several planned for the lead-up to the spill’s anniversary, including an action today outside BP’s annual shareholder meeting in London.
The Chicago City Council has agreed to pay a $5 million settlement to the family of an African-American 17-year-old who was killed when a police officer shot him 16 times. Police say Laquan McDonald was armed with a knife when an officer killed him in October. But attorneys for the family say unreleased video from a police dashboard camera shows McDonald was walking away from police. The news comes as the City Council considers a $5.5 million reparations fund for victims of police torture. Under the rein of Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge from 1972 to 1991, up to 120 African-American men were tortured with tactics including electric shocks and suffocation. Newly re-elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel has backed a reparations proposal, which includes free city college tuition for victims and relatives, counseling services, a memorial to victims, inclusion of Burge’s actions in school curriculum, and a formal apology.
In Oklahoma, the Tulsa World newspaper reports supervisors at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office were ordered to falsify the training records of a reserve deputy charged with manslaughter for the fatal shooting of unarmed African American Eric Harris. Robert Bates is a wealthy insurance executive who donated heavily to the Tulsa police department. At least three of Bates’ supervisors were reportedly transferred after refusing to falsify his training and certification records.
In southern Texas, immigrant mothers held with their children in a private detention center have launched a new hunger strike and work stoppage to demand their release. The women are asylum seekers who say they have been denied bond despite having established a credible fear of violence if they return to Central America. Honduran migrant Kenia Galeano, who spent five months in detention with her two-year-old son before finally being released on bond, described how she was put in isolation as punishment after joining an earlier hunger strike.
Kenia Galeano: “We knew that we had to find a way to let people outside know what was happening inside Karnes, and so we started the hunger strike. There were three of us, three mothers, who were placed in isolation. Inside this room it was really cold. It was dark. And there was a bed in the bathroom; the toilet was right next to the bed, the toilet where we had to go to the bathroom. And my son was in there with me this entire time.”
For more on the hunger strike and conditions at the Karnes detention center, click here.