Vice President Mike Pence has made an unannounced visit to the Demilitarized Zone separating South and North Korea, following North Korea’s attempted missile launch and a massive military parade celebrating the birthday of the country’s founder on Saturday.
Speaking at the border, Vice President Pence warned that the U.S. would consider a military response to North Korea, and said the recent U.S. strikes in Syria and Afghanistan show the “strength” of President Trump.
Vice President Mike Pence: “Since 1992, the United States and our allies have stood together for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. We hope to achieve this objective through peaceful means. But all options are on the table. Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan. North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.”
Pence’s visit comes at a time when tension between the United States and North Korea is quickly ratcheting up. A U.S. armada, including an aircraft carrier and multiple warships, has been deployed to the Korean Peninsula. Last week, NBC News reported the Trump administration is prepared to launch a preemptive attack on North Korea if it proceeds toward a nuclear weapons test. Hours before Pence arrived in South Korea, North Korea attempted to test launch a new ballistic missile, but the test failed as the missile blew up almost immediately.
It is unclear if the U.S. had any role in the missile’s failure. The New York Times reports the U.S. has a covert program to sabotage North Korea’s missile program using cyber and electronic strikes. North Korea is vowing to retaliate against U.S. military aggression. This is the state-run television station reading a statement by the North Korean army.
KRT news reader: “The Trump administration, which made a surprise guided cruise missile strike on Syria on April 6, has entered the path of open threat and blackmail. Our toughest counteraction against the U.S. and its vassal forces will be taken in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory in Sunday’s referendum over whether to give sweeping powers to the president, even as the Turkish opposition says they’ve received widespread complaints about voting fraud and that the referendum was held in an atmosphere of fear and repression.
The referendum would allow the winner of the 2019 presidential election to seize full control of the government, dissolving the post of prime minister, and allow the president to issue decrees, declare emergency rule and appoint ministers and top state officials. Critics say the constitutional changes will allow Erdogan to rule until at least 2029, if not longer, and could turn Turkey into a dictatorship.
On Sunday, President Erdogan announced the referendum had passed, even though all the votes had not yet been counted.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “Turkey took a historic decision on a 200-year-old discussion on its constitutional system. This decision is not an ordinary event. This is the day on which a very important decision on the constitution has been decided.”
The electoral commission says support for the referendum is currently leading 51 to 48 percent, with 99 percent of the votes counted. But the opposition says they’ve received thousands of reports of voter fraud, including some alleged instances caught on camera. Thousands across Turkey’s mostly Kurdish southeast were also unable to vote because they didn’t have an address, after having been displaced from their homes by the ongoing government offensive, which has destroyed whole villages.
On Monday, hundreds of opponents of the referendum marched through Istanbul in protest, while in Ankara some residents spoke out about alleged voting fraud.
Ebru Tavukcu: “This almost feels like saying farewell to the republic system. I believe our votes are stolen. I think the electoral board’s decision to count unstamped 'yes' votes as valid, upon AK Party’s request, is a big scandal. We all remained silent in the face of this.”
We’ll have more on the Turkish referendum later in the broadcast.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 126 people were killed, including 68 children, in a bomb attack targeting a convoy of buses filled with civilians being evacuated from besieged government-held areas near Aleppo. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. The attack occurred during a planned evacuation in which thousands of civilians trapped in both rebel-held and government-held areas were supposed to be guaranteed safe passage out of the besieged towns.
National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other top Afghan leaders in the country’s capital Kabul over the weekend, only days after the U.S. dropped its most powerful non-nuclear bomb on Afghanistan.
The attack was carried out with a 21,600-pound bomb called the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, nicknamed “The Mother of All Bombs.” Afghan officials say it killed nearly 100 ISIS militants when it was dropped on Achin district in Nangarhar province. The Guardian reports that a parliamentarian from Nangarhar says the explosion killed at least two civilians: a teacher and his young son.
Over the weekend, Afghanistan’s former president, Hamid Karzai, called President Ashraf Ghani a “traitor” for coordinating the attack with the U.S. military. He also criticized Thursday’s attack, saying, “This is not the war on terror, but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons.”
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets nationwide on Saturday’s Tax Day to demand President Trump release his tax returns. Crowds gathered in more than a dozen cities from coast to coast, including Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago and Seattle, and in South Florida, where activists marched to Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago resort, where Trump was staying over the weekend. Trump has refused to release his tax returns, becoming the first U.S. president in more than four decades to do so. This is comedian Sarah Silverman, speaking at the New York City protest.
Sarah Silverman: “We’re living in a time where honesty has no currency. And I think, because of that, it’s kind of all we have. And the only way to really penetrate this administration is to take to the streets and to be relentless.”
President Trump responded to the demonstrations, tweeting, “Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!”
The White House said Friday it will keep its visitor logs secret, meaning the public will not be able to know with whom the president and other top officials are meeting. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union said, “The only reasonable conclusion is to believe the Trump administration has many things it is trying to hide.” The White House announcement came the day before tens of thousands of people marched to demand Trump release his tax returns.
In Berkeley, California, at least 21 people were arrested as fights broke out between white nationalist Trump supporters and anti-fascist protesters during competing rallies on Saturday. Photos show some of the Trump supporters posing with the Nazi salute. Journalist Shane Bauer reported on Twitter that some of the Trump supporters were members of armed, right-wing militias. Police say at least one person was stabbed during the clashes.
Arkansas’s plan to carry out an unprecedented series of executions has been thrown into chaos, after judges ruled to halt temporarily the state’s plan.
Hundreds of death penalty opponents rallied at the State Capitol in Little Rock on Friday, as state Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary stay of the executions over concerns the state used false pretenses to obtain the drug vecuronium bromide, which is one of a cocktail of drugs slated to be used in the executions.
The following day, federal Judge Kristine Baker also temporarily blocked the state’s execution plans from proceeding over concerns about another one of the execution drugs: the sedative midazolam. Arkansas is appealing the rulings.
If Arkansas prevails, it’s slated to begin its executions today. Arkansas has planned to execute eight prisoners this month. No state has ever sent as many inmates to the death chamber in as short a period of time. Arkansas is rushing to carry out the executions before the state’s supply of the sedative midazolam expires. But midazolam has been linked to painful botched executions. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has described it as “the chemical equivalent of being burned at the stake.”
As many as 700 Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails have launched a hunger strike, with the strike expected to spread. The prisoners, who are sometimes cut off from seeing their family members for years, are demanding more visitation rights and increased access to telephones. Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied territories must apply for a permit to even enter Israel in order to see their imprisoned family members, and these permits are often rejected. The strike coincides with Palestinian Prisoners Day, which is today.
Migrant justice activists are searching for Hugo Castro, a U.S.-based immigrant rights activist with the group Border Angels, who disappeared in Mexico on Thursday. He disappeared after posting a Facebook video asking for help, saying his life was in danger. He’d previously received death threats for his work to support refugees traveling through Mexico en route to the United States. He disappeared while he was traveling to join a caravan of Central American refugees who are heading to the U.S. to apply for asylum.
In Georgia, two police officers have been fired after cellphone video emerged of them punching and kicking an African-American student who was handcuffed. The cellphone video shows them kicking 21-year-old African-American student Demetrius Hollins in the head as he was handcuffed on the ground, after they stopped him while he was driving.
And in New York state, nine peace activists were arrested on Good Friday at a protest outside the Hancock Air Base in Syracuse, New York. The activists blocked the entrance to the air base by tying themselves to crosses resembling drones. This is Charley Bowman of Buffalo Peace Center.
Charley Bowman: “Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus. Recognizing that 70 percent of our nation identify as Christian, we come to the gates of the Hancock drone base to make real the crucifixion today. As Jesus and others were crucified by the Roman Empire, drones are used by the U.S. empire. In Roman times, crosses loomed over the community to warn people that they could be killed whenever the empire decided. So, too, our drones fly over many countries, threatening extrajudicial killings of whoever happens to be in the vicinity.”