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President Trump met with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, on Tuesday at the White House, where they finalized a $12.5 billion weapons deal. Human rights groups warn the massive arms deal may make the United States complicit in war crimes committed in the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen. This is President Trump speaking about the weapons deal.
President Donald Trump: “Some of the things that we are now working on—thanks—and that have been ordered and will shortly be started in construction and delivered: THAAD system, $13 billion; the C-130 heli—airplanes, the Hercules, great plane, $3.8 billion; the Bradley vehicles, that’s the tanks, $1.2 billion; and the P-8 Poseidons, $1.4 billion.”
The U.S.-Saudi arms deal comes as the Senate rejected a bipartisan resolution to end the U.S. military involvement in Yemen within 30 days, unless Congress formally authorizes the military action. The vote was 44 to 55, with 10 Democrats joining the Republican majority to block the legislation and Arizona Senator John McCain not casting a vote.
In Afghanistan, dozens of people have been killed in an explosion in the capital Kabul today. The Afghan outlet TOLOnews reports the attack was near a hospital and Kabul University. The attack came as many Afghans were celebrating Nowruz, a national holiday marking the new year.
In Syria, the rescue volunteers known as the White Helmets say at least 56 people have been killed in recent days by Syrian and Russian airstrikes against Eastern Ghouta, outside the capital Damascus. Among the reported victims were 16 children and four women who had taken shelter in a school, which was reportedly hit with an airstrike on Monday night.
In Maryland, a teenager shot and critically wounded his girlfriend and another student in a shooting at Great Mills High School on Tuesday. The shooter, Austin Rollins, was then killed during a confrontation with an armed school resource officer. News reports say it’s not clear whether the teenager was killed by the officer or whether he died from a self-inflicted gunshot. The shooting is the latest case highlighting the links between gun violence and domestic violence. Last month, Democracy Now! spoke with journalist Soraya Chemaly about these connections.
Soraya Chemaly: “You see repeatedly in these cases of mass violence, particularly where four or more people are killed, that the perpetrator had a history of attacking an intimate partner, a parent. It happened in the Boston massacre. It happened in Sandy Hook. And so, for many of us, you kind of just wait for this information to come to the surface. And we wonder: Why is it that this kind of behavior isn’t seen as an essential element to understanding lethality in public violence?”
In Arizona, a rare murder trial has begun for Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz, who has been indicted on second-degree murder charges for the 2012 shooting of 16-year-old José Antonio Rodríguez. Agent Lonnie Swartz killed the unarmed Mexican teenager by firing through the border fence from the U.S. side. The teen was walking unarmed on the sidewalk in Nogales, Sonora. An autopsy shows he was shot 10 times in his head and back.
In Minnesota, Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor has been indicted on murder charges for fatally shooting Australian woman Justine Damond Ruszczyk in July. She had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley behind her home, before she was shot dead by Officer Noor, who was responding to her emergency calls. This is Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freedman.
Michael Freedman: “In the short time between when Ms. Damond Ruszczyk approached the squad car and the time that Officer Noor fired the fatal shot, there is no evidence that Officer Noor encountered a threat, appreciated a threat, investigated a threat or confirmed a threat that justified his decision to use deadly force. Instead, Officer Noor recklessly and intentionally fired his handgun from the passenger seat, in disregard for human life.”
The shooting is a rare case in which a black police officer killed a white woman. It sparked widespread protests and the resignation of the Minneapolis police chief.
In Illinois, a Holocaust denier and a former American Nazi Party member has won the Republican primary in the 3rd Congressional District Tuesday. Republican candidate Arthur Jones is not expected to win the general election this November, as he’s competing in a heavily Democratic district that includes parts of Chicago. His Democratic challenger for the district will be the anti-abortion incumbent Dan Lipinski, who narrowly beat out his progressive challenger Marie Newman. Lipinski also opposes the Affordable Care Act and refused to endorse President Obama in 2012. Before he won the congressional seat in 2004, his father, Bill Lipinski, held the seat for 11 terms.
A former model has filed a lawsuit aimed at releasing herself from a hush agreement so she can speak publicly about her alleged affair with Donald Trump in 2006. Karen McDougal has sued the National Enquirer’s parent company, which paid her $150,000 to buy exclusive rights to her story, under a contract her lawyers say was misleading. The company’s chief executive, David Pecker, is a close personal friend of President Trump. The tabloid company is known to buy and then bury stories that might damage Pecker’s allies. Karen McDougal’s lawsuit comes after adult film star Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, sued earlier this month to release herself from a $130,000 hush deal paid by Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, only days before the 2016 election. Experts say this payment may have violated federal election law. A third woman, “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, is suing President Trump for defamation, after Trump called her a liar when she accused him of sexual assault.
Cambridge Analytica has suspended its CEO, Alexander Nix, amid revelations about how the company harvested the data of 50 million Facebook users in order to launch targeted political ads to sway the 2016 election to help President Trump win. The suspension also comes after Channel 4 News videos revealed executives from the company, including Nix, boasting about entrapping politicians and launching fake news campaigns in order to sway elections around the world.
A federal judge has temporarily blocked a highly restrictive anti-abortion law signed by Mississippi Republican Governor Phil Bryant on Monday. The law bans abortions after 15 weeks, even in the case of rape or incest. It is now blocked for 10 days while the judge considers full legal challenges. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves in Jackson, Mississippi, said, “The Supreme Court says every woman has a constitutional right to 'personal privacy' regarding her body.”
And Les Payne, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and assistant managing editor and columnist for Newsday, has died suddenly at the age of 76. Payne was a champion for racial equality and a groundbreaking journalist who exposed racial injustice from Long Island, New York, to apartheid South Africa. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on a 33-part series entitled “The Heroin Trail,” in which he and other reporters traced the drug from the poppy fields of Turkey to the streets of U.S. cities. Les Payne was a founding member and former president of the National Association of Black Journalists. For years, he’s been working on an unfinished biography of Malcolm X. This is Les Payne, reading his essay “The Night I Stopped Being a Negro,” about his experience hearing Malcolm X speak at Bushnell Memorial Hall in Hartford, Connecticut, in June 1963. At the time, Payne was one of only 60 African-American students at the University of Connecticut—out of 10,000 enrolled students.
Les Payne: “By the end of the lecture, I felt—and knew—that something within me had changed, this time irreversibly. Whites henceforth would no longer be superior. Blacks—most important, I, myself—would no longer be inferior. This cardinal message, powerfully delivered to millions, would make Malcolm X a treasure for black liberation and a serious threat to white America. Until this June night, I had been imprisoned. But Malcolm X shook my dungeons, and, as a poet said, my chains fell off. I had entered Bushnell Hall as a Negro, with a capital N, and I wandered out into the parking lot as a black man.”
Groundbreaking journalist Les Payne died after suffering a heart attack in his home in Harlem, New York, on Monday. He was 76 years old.