The United States and Russia have reached a deal to extend a fragile ceasefire to the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo. A surge in fighting between rebels and the Syrian regime has killed about 300 people there over the past two weeks. The city now appears relatively calm, with reports of sporadic violence. U.N. Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman condemned the recent attacks on area hospitals.
Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman: “Ever more shocking reports have been received from Aleppo city over the past two weeks. You have all seen the horrifying images of attacks on hospitals in both government- and opposition-held neighborhoods of the city. Let me be absolutely clear once again: Intentional and direct attacks on hospitals are war crimes.”
A U.S. Army officer has sued President Obama, saying the U.S. war against ISIS is illegal. Captain Nathan Michael Smith, who is deployed in Kuwait, says he believes the mission is justified, but lacks proper authority from Congress. “I began to wonder, 'Is this the Administration's war, or is it America’s war?’” Smith said in the lawsuit. “My conscience bothered me.” Smith wants a U.S. court to tell Obama he must get approval from Congress for the war in Iraq and Syria.
Ohio Governor John Kasich has dropped out of the Republican presidential race, all but sealing the nomination for Donald Trump. Kasich’s campaign had initially said he would remain in the race after Texas Senator Ted Cruz dropped out following a loss in the Indiana primary. But Kasich reversed course on Wednesday.
Gov. John Kasich: “You see, I have always said that the lord has a purpose for me, as he has for everyone. And as I suspend my campaign today, I have renewed faith, deeper faith, that the lord will show me the way forward and fulfill the purpose of my life. Thank you, and God bless.”
The Canadian province of Alberta has declared a state of emergency over a massive wildfire that has forced all 88,000 residents to flee the city of Fort McMurray in the heart of the oil sands region. More people have been ordered to evacuate from surrounding communities while a number of oil companies have shut down or curtailed operations. Scientists have linked the increase in wildfires to climate change.
President Obama criticized what he called a “man-made disaster” in the city of Flint, Michigan, Wednesday during a visit to address the city’s water crisis. The crisis began when an emergency manager appointed by Governor Rick Snyder switched the city’s water supply to the corrosive Flint River, which ate away at the lead pipes, poisoning the drinking water. During his visit, Obama took sips of filtered water to reassure residents it’s now safe.
President Barack Obama: “I know that there’s a lot of suspicion about whether or not the water coming out of people’s taps in their homes are safe or whether they’re still contaminated and still a problem. And I want to emphasize that the EPA has looked at this very carefully, and they are very confident that if you use a filter, then it is safe for kids over six.”
The Justice Department has warned North Carolina its new anti-transgender law violates the Civil Rights Act and Title IX. The announcement could jeopardize billions in federal educational funding. The department gave North Carolina until Monday to confirm it would not implement the law, which prevents trans people from using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. In related news, the City Council in Oxford, Alabama, has voted to rescind its ordinance that made it a misdemeanor punishable by jail time for people to use a bathroom that didn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth. And in Illinois, a group of families have sued a Chicago area school district for allowing a transgender student to use the girls’ locker room.
In Egypt, a court has sentenced human rights activist Sanaa Seif to six months in prison on charges of “insulting the judiciary.” Seif was summoned by a prosecutor on accusations of inciting protests against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, but officials said she failed to comply with the summons. Seif is the sister of blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah, who has been jailed since February 2015. To see Democracy Now!'s interview with Seif in 2011 when she was just 17 years old, go to democracynow.org. Meanwhile. thousands of journalists rallied Wednesday to call for an apology and the ouster of Egypt's interior minister following a police raid on the journalists’ union and the arrest of two reporters. Protests against President el-Sisi reignited last month over his decision to hand two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.
Hundreds marched in Mexico Wednesday to mark 10 years since a brutal police raid on the town of Atenco. Current President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was then the governor of the state of Mexico, ordered the police raid on Atenco amid protests in support of local flower vendors. Two people were killed, 200 activists and peasants arrested, and more than two dozen women said they were sexually tortured. Activists continue to protest renewed plans to build a new airport in the area. Adán Espinoza of the People’s Front in Defense of the Land spoke at Wednesday’s march.
Adán Espinoza: “There has not been any justice, as the intellectual author, Enrique Peña Nieto, has not been held responsible for the beating, the injuries, the death and the women who were [sexually] assaulted who have not received any justice, which is the most important thing. We have kept our word and will keep doing so, saying no the new airport. We are not going to leave our land, and it will keep being our land at whatever cost.”
And an Israeli army general has compared modern-day Israel to “nauseating trends” in 1930s Germany. The Israeli military’s deputy chief of staff, Major General Yair Golan, made the remarks Wednesday evening on Holocaust Remembrance Day, saying: “After all, there is nothing simpler and easier than hating the foreigner, there is nothing easier and simpler than arousing fears and intimidating, there is nothing easier and simpler than becoming bestial, forgoing principles and becoming smug.” Following a firestorm, he was forced to walk back the comments, saying he had not “intended to compare Israel to Nazi Germany.”