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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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After eight days of talks in Switzerland, Iran and world powers have reached a framework agreement on curbing Iran’s nuclear program for at least a decade. In return, the United States and Europe plan to lift economic sanctions on Iran. As part of the deal, Iran must reduce the number of its centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium into a bomb by more than two-thirds. It also has to redesign a power plant so it cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium and be subject to regular international nuclear inspections. The parties must now reach a final agreement by June 30. President Obama said the deal was a good one.
President Obama: “Remember, I have always insisted that I will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And I will. But I also know that a diplomatic solution is the best way to get this done.”
Israel has condemned the deal, while Republican lawmakers are demanding the right to review it. We’ll have more on the deal after headlines.
In Kenya, officials say 147 people, mainly students, were killed when al-Shabab militants stormed a university in Garissa, making it the worst attack on Kenyan soil since the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy. Gunmen reportedly went through the university dorms, separating Muslims from Christians and killing the Christians. The siege lasted about 15 hours before security forces killed four militants.
In Yemen, Houthi rebels have reportedly retreated from the former palace of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi in his former stronghold of Aden. The rebels seized the palace Thursday but retreated after Saudi-led airstrikes. The fierce fighting in Aden comes as the British Red Cross warns of a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation in Yemen, with more than 10 million people in need of food. According to the United Nations, the violence has killed more than 500 people in the past two weeks, 90 of them children.
The United Nations has acknowledged its peacekeepers “used unauthorized and excessive force” when they opened fire on protesters in northern Mali in January. A U.N. probe found four U.N. police shot and killed three civilians and injured four others in the town of Gao. The peacekeepers will be returned to Rwanda, where they are from.
The governors of Indiana and Arkansas have signed revisions to two so-called religious freedom measures which would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT people. Indiana’s law provoked a national outcry, with celebrities, top corporations and city and state governments condemning or boycotting the state. Flanked by business leaders, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a revision specifying the law does not authorize anti-LGBT discrimination. Eli Lilly executive and former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson hailed the change.
Bart Peterson: “For the first time ever, the words 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity' appear in Indiana statute — or they will, after this law is passed — in the context of nondiscrimination.”
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a similarly updated bill Thursday after he balked at signing an unrevised version, following condemnation from Wal-Mart, the outcry in Indiana and an email from his son saying he would sign the petition against the bill. In a statement, the ACLU said: “The events in Indiana over the last week represent a dramatic change in the way our country reacts to discrimination hiding under the guise of religion.”
In Queens, New York, two women accused of amassing materials to build a bomb have been arrested in an FBI sting. Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui, both U.S. citizens, are accused of sympathizing with al-Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State. An undercover agent appeared to play a key role in the sting, downloading information about explosives, and shopping with them for bomb components.
German prosecutors say the co-pilot accused of deliberately crashing a Germanwings plane in the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board, had researched suicide and cockpit doors in the days before the crash. Prosecutor Christoph Kumpa unveiled the findings.
Christoph Kumpa: “According to the results, the user informed himself about medical treatments, as well as different kinds of and the implementation of a suicide. On at least one day, he had searched for several minutes about cockpit doors and their safety precautions.”
Data from a newly recovered black box appears to show Andreas Lubitz intentionally sped up the plane’s descent after locking the plane’s captain out of the cockpit.
Nearly 800 former Guatemalan research subjects and relatives have sued Johns Hopkins University for its alleged role in a U.S. government program, which deliberately infected hundreds of people with syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases in the 1940s and 1950s in Guatemala. The $1 billion lawsuit filed in a Maryland court accuses Johns Hopkins and the Rockefeller Foundation of helping “design, support, encourage and finance” the nonconsensual tests.
At Philadelphia International Airport, baggage handlers, cleaners and other workers went on strike Thursday to demand higher pay and benefits. The workers, who are paid as little as $7.25 an hour, want the airport to comply with a higher wage requirement for city-owned facilities.
McDonald’s workers rallied in dozens of cities, from New York City to Los Angeles, calling for an expansion of McDonald’s plan to raise pay to at least $1 above the local minimum wage. Some 90 percent of McDonald’s workers are excluded, since the hike does not apply to franchises.
Officials at Duke University in North Carolina say a student has left campus after admitting to hanging a noose from a tree. Duke says the student will be subject to school disciplinary procedures. The noose was discovered Wednesday, days after another incident where a black female student said a group of white male peers harassed her using the same racist chant that prompted the expulsion of fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma.
The New York affiliate of Boy Scouts of America has announced the hiring of an openly gay Eagle Scout, defying the national organization’s ban on LGBT adult employees or members. Pascal Tessier will work at a scout camp this summer. Last year, the Boy Scouts lifted a ban on LGBT scouts, but not on adult leaders.
In Alabama, a prisoner who has spent nearly 30 years on death row is being released today. Anthony Ray Hinton was accused of murdering two fast-food managers in 1985, but subsequent tests found bullets at the scene could not be matched to the gun he was accused of using. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, which won his release, Hinton is among the longest-serving death row prisoners ever to be freed after presenting evidence of innocence.
Imprisoned journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal has been transferred back to prison after he was taken to the intensive care unit at Schuylkill Medical Center in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, following a blackout from diabetic shock. Abu-Jamal’s supporters said he was kept under heavy guard and isolated from visitors in the hospital. Following an international outcry, close relatives, including his brother, Keith Cook, were allowed to visit.
Keith Cook: “Mumia was shackled to the bed. Matter of fact, there were two policemen in the room, and there were three policemen outside the door, so you couldn’t talk about anything that you didn’t want them to hear. That was clear. When I saw him, he ate lunch in front of me. I helped him cut the meat. He had one arm with handcuffs on it, and then he had a needle in the other arm being dripped for insulin. He was smiling. It was obvious to me that he was weak and not his normal self. But he did have some smiles on his face, and he did crack a couple jokes. So his sense of humor was there. He just was in a lot of pain. The report the following day was that he was doing worse.”
Abu-Jamal has been moved back to the infirmary at SCI Mahanoy prison in Frackville, Pennsylvania, where he was not allowed visitors Thursday. His supporters plan to rally at the prison today to demand he be allowed to receive medical care from doctors outside the facility. They say authorities may have withheld from Abu-Jamal details about blood tests that could have indicated he was suffering from diabetes.