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Three Michigan officials have been criminally charged for their involvement in the Flint water contamination crisis: Flint employee Michael Glasgow and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees Stephen Busch and Michael Prysby. Meanwhile, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said he has not been questioned by prosecutors. The lead poisoning began when an unelected emergency manager appointed by Gov. Snyder switched the source of the city’s drinking water to the corrosive Flint River. We’ll have more on Flint with investigative reporter Curt Guyette later in the broadcast.
In Louisiana, five former police officers pleaded guilty in federal court to charges related to the 2005 killings of unarmed African American civilians on the Danziger bridge in the days after Hurricane Katrina. On September 4, 2005, a group of New Orleans police officers opened fire with AK-47s on families crossing the bridge in search of food. Two people, teenager James Brisette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison, were killed. Four more were injured. Police later tried to cover-up the case. On Wednesday, five police officers pled guilty to conspiracy, obstruction of justice and civil rights charges. Their sentences range from 3 to 12 years.
The Senate has passed a broad energy bill Wednesday that would speed up the export of gas extracted through fracking. The bill includes limited provisions promoting renewable energy such as wind and solar. But it also hands a victory to fossil fuel companies by requiring the Energy Department to speed up permitting of coastal terminals used to ship oil and gas overseas. This comes as world leaders are slated to sign the Paris Climate Accord at the U.N. headquarters in New York on Friday.
Volkswagen is headed to court today in San Francisco, where it faces a deadline to work out a deal with the U.S. government over the auto giant’s emissions cheating scandal. The deal reportedly includes Volkswagen either fixing or buying back more than 500,000 cars that were equipped with software to evade U.S. emissions rules. Volkswagen also faces a maximum fine of $18 billion. Volkswagen has admitted to rigging some 11 million vehicles worldwide. U.S. regulators say Volkswagen vehicles were emitting up to 40 times more pollution than standards allow.
In Washington state, workers are scrambling to move nuclear waste out of a storage facility after a leak was discovered inside one the tanks at the Hanford Site over the weekend. None of the nuclear material appears to have escaped the double-walled storage tank yet. But a former worker at the site has called the leak “catastrophic.” The tank holds 750,000 gallons of radioactive waste.
New data shows the U.S. Air Force is increasingly relying on drones, rather than manned aircraft, in the ongoing war in Afghanistan. In 2015, drones released 530 bombs and missiles in Afghanistan. This accounts for 56 percent of the weapons deployed by the U.S. Air Force. In contrast, in 2011, drones were used for only 5 percent of the weapons deployed by the Air Force. President Obama had previously said the 2014 drawdown would “reduce the need for unmanned strikes.”
In New York City, Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C., Jews have staged protests dubbed “Liberation Seder” to demand U.S. Jewish establishment groups end their support for Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. The protests draw on rituals from Passover, which begins Friday night. Seventeen people were arrested at a protest inside the New York City offices of the Anti-Defamation League Wednesday, while six people were arrested Tuesday at a protest at AIPAC’s offices in Boston. More protests are planned for San Francisco later today.
In New York City, residents gathered outside the Brooklyn Board of Elections office to protest the purging of 125,000 Democratic voters from the voting lists ahead of Tuesday’s primary. Kathleen Menagozi spoke out.
Kathleen Menagozi: “I’m here protesting for the purged voters. I was one of them. I registered in 2008, voted in 2008 and then voted again in 2012, checked my registration about, I would say, three weeks ago. I was told that they couldn’t find it in any of the boroughs. I also checked in Westchester County; they couldn’t find it there. And then they told me to give them a call back and that they were figuring it out. And then I called them back the day before I was supposed to go in and vote, and they told me that I was still not in their records, although they had seen that I had in fact voted in the past. So, I’m here today because voters shouldn’t be silenced, the voting process shouldn’t be as difficult as it is, and I’m not going to be silenced.”
Later, activists from the art collective The Illuminator staged another protest, projecting onto the Election Board building: “Where are our votes?”
And across Canada, a protest for indigenous rights is sweeping across the provinces, as First Nations communities have occupied a series of government buildings. The movement is dubbed “Occupy INAC“—a reference to the Ministry of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. Activists are demanding the Canadian government address youth suicides in First Nations communities, as well as water and housing crises in their territories. Over the last week, protesters have set up occupations inside and outside the government offices in Toronto, Regina, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Gatineau, Quebec. Earlier this week, 10 people locked themselves together inside the Toronto office, while Kayla Sutherland of the Attawapiskat First Nation spoke to a rally outside.
Kayla Sutherland: “Why don’t you learn something from the indigenous people and change things? It will help everyone. Canada, we respect human rights when we accomplish this, because right now we’re violating those rights. We say reconciliation as if colonization is not over. Colonization is continuing. And that, we must admit to and change.”
The Attawapiskat First Nation saw 28 suicide attempts last month within a population of 2,000 people.