Across the world, women and their allies rallied Wednesday to mark International Women’s Day. In the United States, organizers declared "A Day Without a Woman," calling for a one-day strike and for boycott of stores. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, the entire school district closed down after 1,700 teachers asked for the day off. In New York City, thousands rallied outside Trump International Hotel and Tower. Speakers included Linda Sarsour, a lead organizer of the historic January 21 Women’s March on Washington.
Linda Sarsour: "So I want you to understand that your statement that you’re making today is part of a long history of women who have led us in social justice movements. What makes it different now? Now we have an open sexist, misogynist, anti-women president."
Linda Sarsour was one of 13 activists later arrested for acts of civil disobedience outside Trump Tower.
There were events marking International Women’s Day worldwide. In Bangladesh, garment workers rallied for higher wages and an end to sometimes deadly working conditions. In Nigeria, women rallied against sexual abuse and kidnappings. In Argentina, thousands rallied in the capital, Buenos Aires. This is activist Mariana Carbajal.
Mariana Carbajal: "Today, we women say enough. It is a day when we are saying we are fed up with femicides, which are the most extreme expression of macho violence. And we are also saying we have had enough of historical inequalities that push us to be second-class citizens."
We’ll have more on nationwide actions on International Women’s Day, including voices from the streets of a major march in New York, after headlines.
In healthcare news, House Republicans advanced a measure this morning to abolish the tax penalty imposed on Americans who don’t purchase health insurance. The move by the House Ways and Means Committee followed a marathon 18-hour debate and came as Republicans pressed for legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. On Wednesday, a broad coalition of nurses, doctors and hospital organizations rejected the Republican bill, saying in a letter to Congress the legislation would add to the ranks of the uninsured. The mounting opposition came as Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan vowed passage, calling the repeal of Obamacare an "act of mercy." That statement drew a sharp response Wednesday from Massachusetts Democratic Congressmember Joe Kennedy III.
Rep. Joe Kennedy III: "There is no mercy in a system that makes healthcare a luxury. There is no mercy in a country that turns their back on those most in need of protection—the elderly, the poor, the sick and the suffering. There is no mercy in a cold shoulder to the mentally ill. There’s no mercy in a policy that takes for granted the sweat, the tears and the sacrifice of working Americans that they shed every day so that they might care for their families’ basic needs—food, shelter, health and hope for tomorrow. There’s no mercy to the 2.6 million people who will lose their job if Obamacare is repealed. This is not an act of mercy. It’s an act of malice."
The legislation also faces opposition from some conservative Republicans who blasted it as "Obamacare lite." Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas predicted Wednesday the bill lacked the support needed to pass the Senate.
Politico is reporting that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign sent a former foreign policy adviser to Russia on the condition that he would not be an official representative for Trump. The trip by Carter Page last July came just days before WikiLeaks began publishing thousands of emails taken from the servers of the Democratic National Committee—a theft that Democrats and many intelligence officials allege was carried out by Russia. Meanwhile, the White House blasted newly resurfaced reports that Donald Trump personally met Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak last April as "disingenuous and absurd." The Wall Street Journal report from April 26 noted that Trump met the ambassador at a VIP reception ahead of a major foreign policy speech by Trump. A photograph by Getty Images shows the ambassador approaching his seat near the front of the invitation-only reception. The resurfaced report contradicts Trump’s claim at a news conference last month he hasn’t spoken to anyone from Russia other than a pair of post-election calls from President Vladimir Putin.
In Washington, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Wednesday he wants to interview the former British spy who authored a dossier alleging damning ties between Donald Trump and Russia’s government. Congressmember Adam Schiff of California says he’ll seek testimony from Christopher Steele, whose 35-page memo alleges the compromising information could be used by Russia to blackmail the president. Most of Steele’s claims have not been verified. Steele re-emerged from hiding earlier this week, after his disappearance in January following reports about the dossier. Congressmember Schiff also said this week his committee would accept Donald Trump’s call for a congressional investigation into the president’s unsubstantiated claims that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower ahead of November’s election.
Rep. Adam Schiff: "We accept: We will investigate this. The president has said that this is a scandal that dwarfs Watergate, that his predecessor engaged in an illegal wiretap of his campaign. That is one potential scandal. The alternative is a different kind of a scandal, and that is a scandal of a sitting U.S. president alleging that his predecessor engaged in the most unscrupulous and unlawful conduct. That is also a scandal, if those allegations prove to be false."
At the White House, Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave conflicting responses Wednesday to questions about whether Donald Trump might have been wiretapped because he was under investigation.
Reporter: "Sean, is the president the target of a counterintelligence investigation?"
Press Secretary Sean Spicer: "I think that’s what we need to find out."
But later in Wednesday’s news conference, an aide passed Sean Spicer a note. That prompted this statement from the press secretary
Press Secretary Sean Spicer: "There is no reason that we should—that we have to think that the president is the target of any investigation whatsoever."
The White House signaled Wednesday that former Utah Republican Governor Jon Huntsman has accepted President Trump’s nomination to serve as U.S. ambassador to Russia. Huntsman is a former Mormon missionary to Taiwan who served as President Obama’s ambassador to China before he left that post to run unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.
President Trump’s newly revised ban on refugees and travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is facing its first legal challenge. A federal judge in Hawaii will hear a case brought by the state’s attorney general. It charges Trump’s travel ban violates religious freedoms protected by the Hawaiian and U.S. constitutions. The suit also claims the ban would hurt Hawaii’s economy and that it would tear apart families. The ban is set to go into effect on March 16. It prohibits travel for 90 days for residents of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It also bans all refugees from resettling in the U.S. for at least four months.
The United Nations high commissioner for refugees is warning that President Trump’s travel ban will compound the misery of migrants fleeing war, poverty and persecution. This is U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq.
Farhan Haq: "UNHCR has underscored that refugees are ordinary people forced to flee war, violence and persecution in their home countries, and are in urgent need of life-saving assistance and protection. Commenting on the executive order, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said that the imperative remains to provide protection for people fleeing deadly violence, and we are concerned that this decision, though temporary, may compound the anguish for those it affects."
In Syria, the Trump administration has deployed several hundred U.S. marines armed with heavy artillery in advance of a planned fight against ISIS in the city of Raqqa. The Pentagon said a further 1,000 troops were deploying to Kuwait and could be brought into the battle if needed.
The buildup came as the group Save the Children reported Syria’s nearly six-year-old civil war has exposed children to "toxic stress" that’s leading to self-harm, aggression and suicide. Researchers found that two-thirds of Syria’s children have lost a family member, had their houses bombed or suffered injuries from fighting. More than 70 percent of those surveyed said Syrian children suffer from bedwetting and involuntary urination—symptoms of toxic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In Somalia, the United Nations is warning a worsening drought risks plunging millions of Somalis into famine. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres made the warning during a visit to Mogadishu.
Secretary-General António Guterres: "We have 6.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Somalia. That’s almost half of the Somali population. We have 333,000 children that are acutely malnourished, and the risk to go up to a million if there is not enough support to avoid it."
Guterres is appealing for more than $800 million in emergency aid for Somalia.
Israel’s parliament on Wednesday advanced legislation that would silence the Muslim call to prayer over loudspeakers in residential areas and prohibit early morning calls across Israel and occupied East Jerusalem. Right-wing Israeli lawmakers claim the call to prayer is noise pollution. Many Arab lawmakers tore up copies of the bill and were ejected from the floor of the parliament. This is Israeli parliamentarian Ahmad Tibi.
Ahmad Tibi: "Here in this house, we never interfered with any religious ceremony relating to you, to Judaism. Your act is a racist hazard. You interfere with the most sensitive issue for Muslims and hurt the religion of Islam."
In Guatemala, at least 21 people are dead after a fire ripped through a government-run shelter for abused teens. At least 40 other girls suffered burns in Wednesday’s blaze in San José Pinula, which began when residents set mattresses on fire to protest overcrowding and dismal conditions at the facility, which held over 500 teens in a center designed to house 400.
In Brazil, investigators have released a harrowing video showing six men assaulting a transgender woman who was found murdered last month, as police attempt to track down her killers. The cellphone footage shows the men shouting homophobic slurs as they kick and beat 42-year-old Dandara dos Santos, before throwing her into a wheelbarrow and carting her onto the side street where she was found shot to death. Dos Santos was one of at least five transgender Brazilians murdered last month. Worldwide crime statistics show that, on average, one transgender person is murdered every three days.
In North Carolina, a district attorney will not bring criminal charges against a Wake County police officer who was caught on video picking up a high school student and slamming her onto a concrete floor. Fifteen-year-old Jasmine Darwin, who is African-American, suffered a head injury after the assault by school resources officer Ruben De Los Santos. The officer announced last week he is resigning from the police force.
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