Belgium has begun three days of mourning after at least 31 people died and more than 200 others were injured Tuesday in bombings targeting the Brussels Airport and a crowded subway station near the headquarters of the European Union. ISIS took responsibility for the Brussels bombings and claimed more would follow. The attacks took place just days after authorities arrested Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the November Paris attacks that killed 130 people. A massive manhunt is now underway for a 24-year-old Belgian man named Najim Laachraoui, who is suspected of being involved in both Tuesday’s attack as well as the Paris bombings. Belgian media has also reported two brothers, Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui, as being involved in the bombings. Both are believed to have blown themselves up in the attack. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel condemned the explosions.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel: “I really want to say, with the greatest force, to those who have chosen to support a barbaric enemy of liberty, democracy and fundamental values—to say to them that we will remain united and assembled, that today we’ll be fully mobilized, with a profound pain in our hearts but with full and whole determination to act to protect liberty, to protect our way of life.”
We’ll have more on the Brussels attacks after headlines.
In response to Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels, Republican presidential candidate and Texas Senator Ted Cruz said, “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” Among those to criticize his comments was New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton.
Commissioner William Bratton: “I would remind the senator he lives in the United States of America. And the statements he made today is why he’s not going to become president of this country, because we don’t need a president that doesn’t respect the values that form the foundation of this country.”
Republican front-runner Donald Trump called for “closing up” U.S. borders and doubled down on his vow to bring back torture. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton warned against insulting Muslim Americans in the wake of the attacks, while her rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, said the United States is fighting ISIS, not Islam.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “We are fighting a terrorist organization, a barbaric organization that is killing innocent people. We are not fighting a religion.”
Bernie Sanders won the Democratic caucuses in Utah and Idaho by a wide margin with about 80 percent support in each state. Clinton and Trump both won their party’s respective Arizona primaries. Cruz defeated Trump in the Utah Republican caucus. We’ll have more on the results later in the broadcast.
President Obama has wrapped up his historic visit to Cuba after delivering an address to the Cuban people. It was the first-ever live address by a sitting U.S. president to the people of Cuba.
President Barack Obama: “I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas. … In many ways, the United States and Cuba are like two brothers who have been estranged for many years, even as we share the same blood. We both live in a new world, colonized by Europeans. Cuba, like the United States, was built in part by slaves brought here from Africa. Like the United States, the Cuban people can trace their heritage to both slaves and slave owners.”
Obama attended a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and a Cuban team in Havana Tuesday with Cuban President Raúl Castro. Also present at the game were members of Colombia’s FARC rebel group, including leader Rodrigo Londoño. On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry held an unprecedented meeting with FARC leaders in Havana. The FARC and Colombian government are said to be nearing an agreement after three years of talks to end the five-decade-long conflict. Obama has now arrived in Argentina, where he will seek to renew ties with the country under its new pro-corporate, right-wing President Mauricio Macri.
The now-eight-member Supreme Court has deadlocked in a 4-4 tie for the first time since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month. The tie left intact the decision of a lower appeals court in a bankruptcy case. Senate Republicans have vowed to block Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to replace Scalia. This comes as the court is set to hear arguments today in a case concerning birth control coverage under Obama’s signature healthcare law. The Obama administration has already exempted churches and other houses of worship from a rule requiring employer health plans to provide birth control coverage to employees without a copay. For religiously affiliated nonprofits, they simply need to notify the health insurer or the government that they object to providing birth control coverage, at which point the government takes over and the nonprofit has no further role. But a number of nonprofits said the mere act of communicating their objection would make them complicit in providing contraception, and therefore violate their religious freedom. If the court deadlocks in the case, it would leave intact appeals court rulings that have largely supported the birth control mandate.
A Mexican activist has launched a hunger strike here in New York City to call for the indictment of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and the return of the 43 students missing in Mexico for 18 months. Leobardo Santillán has launched similar actions in Dallas and Houston. He began his fast Monday in a plaza near the United Nations. Ahead of his fast, Santillán spoke in Times Square, where he went to show support for Antonio Tizapa, the father of one of the missing students, who ran Sunday’s New York City Half Marathon. Santillán explained the reason for his hunger strike.
Leobardo Santillán: “We are taking action because of the double standard in Washington, that has privatized, and they are pleased the corporations are in Mexico. And really, it’s a double standard of the United Nations. They have become an organization of delinquents, an organization of mercenaries, that serves the corporations. And we are very bothered because of the U.S. double standard, to say they are going to get rid of ISIS, and we have ISIS over here in Los Pinos [the Mexican presidential residence]. The Mexican government and the cartels are working together, and the new cartel is the cartel of Peña Nieto.”
In a victory for reproductive rights in Tennessee, a law that criminalizes people who use drugs during pregnancy, allowing them to be jailed for up to 15 years, will expire July 1, after an effort to extend the measure failed in a state House subcommittee. Alabama and Wisconsin have prosecuted women under similar measures as part of what advocates say is an increasing criminalization of pregnancy.
In other news from Tennessee, a bill banning transgender students from using bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity has died in a House committee after transgender students packed the meeting to protest it. This comes after Charlotte, North Carolina, passed an ordinance protecting the right of transgender people to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. But North Carolina lawmakers are now taking action not only to overturn that ordinance but to ban local governments statewide from prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in public accommodations.
ConAgra has become the latest food giant to announce plans to use labels disclosing the presence of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, in foods throughout the United States. Campbell Soup Co., General Mills and Kellogg Company have also announced plans to apply the labels in order to comply with a new Vermont law requiring GMO labeling that will take effect in July.
And former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has died of a rare and aggressive form of cancer at the age of 46. Ford is best known for admitting to using crack cocaine “probably in one of my drunken stupors.” A number of his exploits were caught on video, including a profanity-laced tirade about how he wanted to murder an unidentified person, as well as homophobic remarks and lewd comments about a female opponent. Ford refused to step down, and the Toronto City Council voted to curb his powers. He filed to run for re-election but dropped his bid after his cancer diagnosis in 2014. He leaves behind a wife and two children.