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The Syrian government is again violating a daily, 5-hour ceasefire in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta outside the capital Damascus. Residents report airstrikes and shelling against several areas of Eastern Ghouta today. The Syrian government also violated the ceasefire yesterday, launching airstrikes and shelling that killed at least four people. The daily 5-hour “humanitarian pause” was called for by Russia, the Syrian government’s main backer. It’s aimed at allowing time for humanitarian aid to reach the besieged area and for wounded and sick people to be evacuated. One resident told Al Jazeera, “There has been no evacuations whatsoever—not medical, not humanitarian, nothing. The regime has launched a psychological game—that’s all.”
In more news from Syria, a recent report by the United Nations Population Fund warns of widespread reports of sexual exploitation by aid workers in Syria, including meals being traded in exchange for sex. And an unreleased United Nations report is claiming that North Korea shipped materials to the Syrian government in recent years, which could have been used to produce chemical weapons. The report, which was viewed by The New York Times, does not claim North Korea is currently providing supplies to the Syrian government. The United Nations and human rights groups have repeatedly accused the Syrian government of carrying out chemical weapons attacks against civilians, a claim which the Syrian government denies.
In immigration news, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that federal authorities can continue to indefinitely detain immigrants and asylum seekers without a bond hearing. The 5-3 ruling overturned the rulings of two lower courts that found immigrants facing prolonged detention must be given a custody hearing. We’ll have more on this ruling after headlines.
In Northern California, agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, have carried out a slew of raids, arresting over 150 people since Sunday. The deputy director of ICE, Thomas Homan, has also attacked Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for having warned the community about the impending raids in a statement and press conference over the weekend. While Homan called her warning to the community “reckless,” Mayor Schaaf said, “We know that law-abiding residents live in fear of arrest and deportation every day. My priority is for the long-term well-being of Oakland, and I know that our city is safer when we share information that leads to community awareness.”
In more news on immigration, 40 faith leaders were arrested during a protest in the Russell Building rotunda on Capitol Hill Tuesday, demanding lawmakers pass a “clean DREAM Act.” The faith leaders and immigrant rights groups are demanding a permanent immigration solution for so-called DREAMers that does not include funding for the border wall and other anti-immigrant measures in exchange for their protections.
White House senior adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has reportedly had his top security clearances stripped, meaning he’ll no longer be able to access highly classified information. The Washington Post reports Kushner has been unable to obtain permanent security clearance because of concerns within the White House about his contact with some foreign government officials. The Post reports officials in at least four countries—the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico—had discussed ways to manipulate Kushner by taking advantage of his business ties, his financial problems, as well as his lack of foreign policy experience. Kushner is tasked with overseeing a Middle East peace process, in addition to an array of other high-profile responsibilities, including U.S.-China relations.
The outgoing head of the NSA, Michael Rogers, says the Trump administration has not directed him to try to counter Russian election meddling. This is Rogers answering questions by Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed.
Sen. Jack Reed: “The mission teams, particularly at the origin of these attacks, have the authority to do so.”
Adm. Michael Rogers: “If granted the authority, and I don’t have the day-to-day authority to do that. If granted the authority.”
Sen. Jack Reed: “So you would need, basically, to be directed by the president through the secretary of defense.”
Adm. Michael Rogers: “Yes, sir, as I—in fact, I mentioned that in my statement.”
Sen. Jack Reed: “Have you been directed to do so, given the strategic threat that faces the United States and the significant consequences you recognize already?”
Adm. Michael Rogers: “No, I have not.”
That was NSA head Michael Rogers, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to questions about NSA head Michael Rogers’ statement.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “I disagree with the premise of your question. It’s not just one individual. It’s looking at a number of different ways.”
Jonathan Karl: “But why not give him the authority, though? He’s in charge of Cyber Command. Why not give him the authority?”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “Nobody is denying him the authority. We’re looking at a number of different ways.”
In Florida, the House Appropriations Committee has voted to create a statewide program to spend $67 million to arm teachers in classrooms, despite the vocal opposition of the survivors of the February 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. This same panel voted Tuesday against an assault weapons ban. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students are returning to classes today, exactly two weeks after a former student entered the school armed with an AR-15 and killed 17 people. And in breaking news this morning, Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of the nation’s largest sports retailers, says it will immediately stop selling all assault-style rifles in its stores.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has offered to begin peace talks with the Taliban without precondition.
President Ashraf Ghani: “We are making this offer without any preconditions, in order to lead a peace agreement. I call on the Taliban and their leadership. Today, the decision is in your hands. Accept peace, a dignified peace. Come together to safeguard this country, which has been the result of our sacrifices and struggle.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also proposed a ceasefire, a prisoner release and the recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group. This comes after the Taliban recently published an open letter expressing the Taliban’s desire for peace talks and calling on the American people to pressure President Trump to the negotiating table.
In Yemen, a series of U.S.-backed, Saudi-led airstrikes have killed five civilians outside the northern city of Saada on Tuesday. This is Abed Abdullah, a volunteer health worker, who was one of the first responders after the strike.
Abed Abdullah: “We went to see who survived from the house, and we only found one woman. She was saying that there were victims under the rubble of the house, so we went to get them out. We were alarmed when the second strike hit. We ran away, attempting to escape, and then there was a third strike that hit us while we were removing the rubble over the dead corpses.”
In Somalia, the death toll has risen from a double suicide bombing in the capital Mogadishu on Friday. Nearly 40 people were killed in the explosions and subsequent gunfire near the presidential palace and a popular hotel. The militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Burma’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is facing increasing pressure from fellow Nobel Peace Prize winners to condemn the Burmese military violence against Rohingya refugees. The Nobel Peace Prize winners—Irish peace activist Mairead Maguire, Yemeni human rights activist Tawakkol Karman and Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi—are visiting Rohingya refugee camps and demanding Aung San Suu Kyi take action to stop the violence, which the U.N. has called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Meanwhile, two Reuters journalists who were arrested and imprisoned after reporting on a Burmese military massacre against Rohingya appeared in court today. This is Kyaw Soe Oo.
Kyaw Soe Oo: “We were arrested while covering the news. We covered the Inn Din mass grave story, as you know. Aung San Suu Kyi said it is new that the military had admitted to what happened in Inn Din. Nobody recognized that we were the first ones who shed light on that fact.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling for an investigation into the killing of Slovak investigative journalist Ján Kuciak. He and his girlfriend were shot to death in his home late last week. Kuciak was working for a news website called Aktuality, investigating tax fraud by people associated with Slovakia’s ruling party.
In news on the environment and climate change, scientists have been stunned by the unprecedented warm temperatures in the North Pole, which has surged above freezing temperatures in the middle of the winter. Meanwhile, a number of retired U.S. military generals and admirals say rising sea levels are flooding an increasing number of U.S. military bases around the world. In Nigeria, leaders from across Africa are gathering to discuss the escalating hunger crisis of 17 million people who depend on Lake Chad, which is shrinking due to climate change. And in China, more than a quarter of a million companies that discharge air and water pollution will have to start paying an environmental tax beginning in April, under China’s new Environmental Protection Tax Law.
Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló said the U.S. Treasury Department has unexpectedly slashed the disaster relief loan for the island after Hurricane Maria. The loan has been cut to $2 billion—down from $4.7 billion. This comes as the Army Corps of Engineers says parts of Puerto Rico will not have electricity restored until the end of late May—eight months after the hurricane hit the island.
In Georgia, U.S. intelligence contractor Reality Leigh Winner appeared in court in Augusta Tuesday, where her lawyers asked the judge to exclude her statements to FBI agents the day she was arrested, arguing she was denied her Miranda rights. Reality Winner has pleaded not guilty on charges of leaking a top-secret document claiming Russian military intelligence conducted a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software company just days before the November 2016 election.
And in West Virginia, unionized teachers have won a 5 percent pay raise, after launching a 4-day statewide strike. West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said he changed his mind about the teachers’ strike after talking to a sixth grader, who is the son of a teacher and had been joining his mother on the picket line since last week. On Monday, the student, Gideon Titus-Glover, asked the governor about state investment in tourism. After the governor explained the idea of returns on investments, the student responded, “Wouldn’t it be an investment to invest in smart teachers that would make me smart and then I can in turn, turn around and do smart, good things for our state?” Teacher salaries in West Virginia are lower than in all but two other states, with salaries beginning at just over $32,000 for a new teacher. Other teachers’ demands, such as lower costs for health insurance, have not yet been resolved. Teachers are returning to work today.