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In West Virginia, teachers have ended their historic strike after state officials agreed to raise the pay of all state workers by 5 percent.
West Virginia teachers: “Who made history? We made history! Who made history? We made history! Who made history? We made history!”
The strike began on February 22 and shut down every public school in the state. It was the longest teachers’ strike in West Virginia history. Meanwhile, teachers in Oklahoma are gearing up for a potential statewide strike. We’ll have more on West Virginia after headlines.
The Justice Department is suing California over the state’s so-called sanctuary laws, which limit local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration agents. The Justice Department is arguing California’s laws are unconstitutional and “reflect a deliberate effort by California to obstruct the United States’ enforcement of federal immigration law.” In response to the lawsuit, Governor Jerry Brown tweeted, “At a time of unprecedented political turmoil, Jeff Sessions has come to California to further divide and polarize America. Jeff, these political stunts may be the norm in Washington, but they don’t work here. SAD!!!” The lawsuit marks the first time under the Trump administration has sued a local or state government over its immigration laws.
President Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, has announced he will resign, amid a dispute about Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum. Cohn is the director of the National Economic Council. Before taking the position, he was the president of Goldman Sachs. He’s now part of an unprecedented number of people to quit Trump’s White House. But during a news conference with the Swedish prime minister Tuesday, Trump denied there’s chaos in the White House.
President Donald Trump: “Many, many people want every single job. You know, I read where 'Oh, gee, maybe people don't want to work for Trump,’ but, believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House. They all want a piece of that Oval Office. They want a piece of the West Wing.”
Meanwhile, the Office of Special Counsel says White House counselor Kellyanne Conway twice violated the Hatch Act by endorsing Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore while speaking in her official capacity for the White House. The Hatch Act restricts employees from using their official government positions for partisan political purposes.
Adult film star Stormy Daniels is suing President Trump after his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, tried to pressure Daniels not to talk publicly about an alleged affair she had with Trump in 2006 and 2007. Stormy Daniels’s lawsuit says Trump never signed the 2016 non-disclosure agreement, making it null and void. Michael Cohen has said he paid $130,000 of his own personal money to Daniels to keep her quiet. The Wall Street Journal reports this money transfer was received on October 27, only 12 days before the presidential election. The Journal also reports First Republic Bank flagged the transfer as suspicious and reported it to the Treasury Department. This could amount to a violation of federal election law. As California Congressmember Ted Lieu tweeted, “Hush agreement & side letter attached to Stormy Daniels’ filing essentially shows coordination between @realDonaldTrump, Cohen & Daniels. That means the $130k payment from Cohen to Daniels to silence her during the campaign violated federal election law. Penalty is 5 year felony.”
The New York Times reports United Arab Emirates adviser George Nader is cooperating with the investigation and reportedly gave testimony to a grand jury last week. Nader has ties to both current and former Trump aides. Mueller appears to be investigating whether money flowing from the UAE to Washington influenced U.S. foreign policy, particularly regarding Qatar and the Saudi- and UAE-imposed blockade against its Gulf neighbor. The New York Times reports Nader attended a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles, along with a Russian investor close to Putin and Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who served as an informal adviser to Trump during the transition and is also the brother of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary. The Seychelles meeting was brokered by the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates. A year later, in January, Nader was on his way to Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to celebrate Trump’s first year in office, when he was was detained by the FBI at Washington Dulles International Airport and questioned for more than two hours.
All this comes as Trump insisted Tuesday that Russian interference had no impact on the 2016 election. This is Trump, speaking during a news conference with the Swedish prime minister.
President Donald Trump: “Well, the Russians had no impact on our votes whatsoever. But certainly there was meddling, and probably there was meddling from other countries and maybe other individuals. And I think you have to be really watching very closely. You don’t want your system of votes to be compromised in any way. And we won’t allow that to happen. We’re doing a very, very deep study, and we’re coming out with some, I think, very strong suggestions on the '18 election. I think we're going to do very well in the ’18 election.”
The White House has had to correct the record after President Trump apparently confused North and South Korea, mistakenly claiming he had a phone call with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. On Saturday night, Trump said of the conflict with North Korea, “It was headed for disaster and now we’re talking. And they, by the way, called up a couple of days ago and said, 'We would like to talk.'” But Trump has never spoken directly to the North Korean leader. Instead, the White House said Monday he was referring to a phone call with South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in.
The Pentagon has concluded its investigation into the October 4 attack in Niger that killed four U.S. Special Forces soldiers, concluding the team did not get required approval before launching the risky mission. The report concludes that the Army Special Forces team never intended to meet with local Nigerien leaders as higher command thought. Instead, the report says the team’s intent from the beginning was to try to capture an alleged militant. During the mission, the small team was attacked by as many as 100 militants linked to ISIS, leading to the deaths of the four U.S. Special Forces soldiers and five Nigerien soldiers. The incident provoked increased scrutiny of U.S. military operations in Niger, where at least 800 U.S. troops are currently stationed.
United Nations investigators have accused the U.S.-led coalition and Russia of potentially violating international law and committing war crimes in Syria during 2017. The new U.N. report comes as the Syrian government, backed by Russia, continues its offensive against Eastern Ghouta, outside the capital Damascus. Activists say 80 people were killed in Eastern Ghouta by airstrikes and shelling on Monday alone. Meanwhile, a Russian cargo plane crashed near a Syrian air base on Tuesday, killing all 39 Russian servicemen on board. The Russian military says the crash was caused by a technical error and that the plane was not shot down.
In Honduras, the police have arrested a high-ranking executive with a hydroelectric dam company in connection with the assassination of internationally renowned Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres just over two years ago. David Castillo Mejía is a former military intelligence officer and the president of the dam company known as DESA, which Cáceres was fighting at the time of her murder. This is Berta Cáceres’s mother, Austra Flores, speaking after the arrest.
Austra Flores: “Today we’re asking that they sentence those that are in prison—I believe there are eight—and that they capture the masterminds, and also that internationally the government of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández is not recognized, because not only is he an impostor, but he also permits these murders in this country.”
Officials from two dozen Latin American and Caribbean countries have now signed on to an environmental rights pact aimed at protecting the lives of land defenders. The pact was signed only days after the second anniversary of Berta Cáceres’s assassination.
Meanwhile, in more news from Honduras, activist Edwin Espinal has launched a hunger strike to protest his ongoing imprisonment, after he was arrested for protesting against the re-election of U.S.-backed, right-wing President Juan Orlando Hernández. The Organization of American States says the November election was marred by widespread election fraud. Espinal has been jailed for nearly two months.
Sri Lanka has declared a state of emergency amid violence against the Muslim community in Sri Lanka. In recent days, members of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist majority have torched mosques, homes and businesses owned by Muslims. The state of emergency is the first to be declared since Sri Lanka’s civil war ended in 2009. This is Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.
President Maithripala Sirisena: “I condemn all the violent incidents that have taken place. Not only do I condemn the violence, I have also instructed the police to take maximum action against individuals, organizations and/or groups involved in those violent acts.”
In Britain, a former Russian spy appears to have been poisoned. Sergei Skripal, an ex-Russian military intelligence officer who once spied for Britain, was found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury on Sunday. In 2006, another former Russian spy was poisoned and died in London, causing years of tensions between Britain and Russia.
And women across the world are mobilizing to take to the streets on March 8, International Women’s Day. In Spain, women are poised to stage their first 24-hour nationwide strike. Their motto: “If we stop, the world stops.” Other protest actions are planned in cities around the world, including here in New York City, where activists are calling for women to launch a 1-hour work stoppage, from 4 to 5 p.m., and then gather for a rally at Washington Square Park.