Executives at Boeing have tacitly admitted that software in the company’s 737 MAX airplanes may have played a role in two recent deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. On Wednesday, Boeing executives laid out plans for new software updates to the 737 MAX plane, giving pilots more control of the aircraft. Many aviation security experts believe faulty autopilot software was to blame for the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which killed a combined 346 people. This comes after The New York Times reported both those flights lacked optional safety features that could have prevented the deaths. On Capitol Hill, FAA Acting Administrator Daniel Elwell on Wednesday defended his agency’s oversight of Boeing. He was questioned by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey.
Daniel Elwell: “I find it hard to believe that a safety company like an airline would save a couple thousand dollars on an option that might improve safety on a multi”—
Sen. Ed Markey: “Yeah, it may be hard—it may be hard for you to believe, but it’s happening.”
This comes as The Wall Street Journal reports Boeing sought to accelerate the development of the 737 MAX jet by lobbying to reduce regulatory scrutiny while requiring as little new training for pilots as possible. We’ll have more on Boeing later in the broadcast.
A federal judge has struck down rules in Kentucky and Arkansas requiring Medicaid recipients to work in order to receive healthcare under the federally funded program. Under the states’ Medicaid work requirements, which were encouraged by the Trump administration, all “able-bodied” adults who get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion are required to prove that they’re working, studying or volunteering. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled the requirements were “arbitrary and capricious,” and said they exceeded Medicaid’s mission to provide health coverage to the needy. The ruling could affect six other states that imposed similar rules and seven other states that have applied for Medicaid work requirements.
At the U.S.-Mexico border, Customs and Border Protection says it will reassign hundreds of agents to the port of entry in El Paso, as the agency faces a surge of Central American migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. The announcement came as CBP confined hundreds of migrant families behind a chain-link fence topped with razor wire in the parking lot of an El Paso Border Patrol station. This is immigrant rights activist Cristy Velez.
Cristy Velez: “We’re here to protest the inhumane conditions that the families are being kept in under this bridge. They are being kept behind cages and in tents. And the mothers are being treated very badly, the families are being treated very badly, and the children are being treated very badly. This is no condition to keep families and babies. And the rhetoric that’s being spread about these families is completely untrue, and it’s inhumane.”
President Trump told a meeting of Republican lawmakers Tuesday that Puerto Rico has received too much aid since Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Senator Marco Rubio told reporters Trump said the aid is “way out of proportion to what Texas and Florida and others have gotten.” His comments come as Democratic lawmakers say more aid for Puerto Rico must be included in a $13 to $14 billion disaster aid package being pushed by Republicans. A study by the Universities of Michigan and Utah found that federal aid to Puerto Rico was slower and less “generous” after Hurricane Maria than federal aid received by Texas and Florida after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. President Trump has still not acknowledged that more than 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico after the hurricane.
In Florida, authorities have identified a second survivor of the February 2018 Parkland mass shooting who died by suicide this month. Sixteen-year-old Calvin Desir took his own life on Saturday, just days after 19-year-old Sydney Aiello also died by suicide. Seventeen students, staff and teachers were killed in Parkland on Valentine’s Day last year, in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. If you or someone you love is in crisis, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
On Capitol Hill, some Democratic lawmakers are calling on the Trump administration to rescind new rules that make it easier for U.S. weapons manufacturers to sell grenades, flamethrowers and semiautomatic rifles overseas. Under the new rules, gun makers no longer need to be licensed by the State Department to sell weapons like the AR-15 to foreign buyers, and will instead need only a far-easier-to-obtain license from the Commerce Department. On Tuesday, Minnesota Democrat and freshman Congressmember Ilhan Omar took up the issue at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. She was questioning Jeff Abramson of the Arms Control Association.
Rep. Ilhan Omar: “On March 15th of this year, there was a shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left 50 people dead. The shooter was armed with five guns, two of which were semiautomatic rifles. Is it your understanding that this policy would make it easier for American manufacturers to export that weapon?”
Jeff Abramson: “Indeed. That’s exactly what we’re talking about.”
This comes as an undercover investigation by Al Jazeera English found officials with the National Rifle Association gave advice to members of Australia’s far-right One Nation Party on their campaign to overturn Australia’s strict gun control laws, enacted after a mass shooting in 1996. This is an NRA media liaison speaking in Washington, D.C., to members of the One Nation Party in a secretly recorded video.
Lars Dalseide: “You have somebody who maybe leans to your side that worked at a newspaper, or maybe he was covering city hall or a crime reporter. We want to print up stories about people who were robbed, had their homes invaded, beaten, or whatever it might be, that could have been helped had they had a gun. And that’s going to be the angle on your stories. And that’s what he’s got to write. He’s got to put out two to five of those a week.”
Meanwhile, HuffPost is reporting an official with the National Rifle Association corresponded with a prominent Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist to call into question the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last year. In an email obtained by HuffPost,
NRA program coordinator Mark Richardson wrote to the conspiracy theorist, Wolfgang Halbig, just one day after the massacre, “Just like [Sandy Hook], there is so much more to this story. [The Parkland shooter] was not alone.” The email was made public as part of the discovery process in a lawsuit by parents of victims of the Sandy Hook massacre against Alex Jones and his website Infowars. Jones is a far-right conspiracy theorist who’s denied that 20 schoolchildren and six adults were killed in the 2012 mass shooting, calling survivors of the massacre “crisis actors.”
In Virginia, self-described neo-Nazi James Alex Fields pleaded guilty Wednesday to 29 counts of hate crimes in a federal court for plowing his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville in August of 2017. As part of the deal, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty. Last December, a Virginia jury sentenced Fields to life in prison for murdering anti-fascist protester Heather Heyer and injuring 28 others at a counterprotest of the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally.
Facebook said Wednesday it has banned white nationalism and white separatism from its social media networks. Facebook says it will redirect users trying to engage in such content to a page for the nonprofit Life After Hate, which seeks to help people leave hate groups.
In Texas, a Houston-area county official is under fire after he criticized a judge for speaking Spanish on television. On March 25, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo was giving updates in both English and Spanish about a chemical fire that was burning at a petrochemical plant in the Houston suburb of Deer Park. The press conference was carried live on the Facebook page of Houston’s CBS affiliate KHOU, where Mark Tice, a Chambers County commissioner, posted the comment, “She is a joke. English this is not Mexico.” Following a public uproar, Tice later apologized. Census data show Harris County is 43 percent Latino, and nearly half of its residents speak a language other than English at home.
A New York City suburb has banned children who aren’t vaccinated against measles from schools, markets and other public spaces, amidst one of the worst U.S. outbreaks in decades of the sometimes-fatal disease. Rockland County Executive Ed Day said the ban will target parents who refuse to give their children the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella.
Ed Day: “Effective at the stroke of midnight tonight, March 27th, anyone who is under 18 years of age and is unvaccinated against the measles will be barred from public places until the declaration expires in 30 days or until they receive at least their first shot of MMR.”
The order will affect an estimated 6,000 unvaccinated children and their families. The outbreak, which has seen at least 150 people infected with measles since last October, has mostly been confined to Rockland County’s Orthodox Jewish community, which has particularly low vaccination rates.
In California, a federal jury ordered Monsanto to pay over $80 million to a cancer survivor whose illness was found to have been partly caused by the herbicide Roundup. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman says he sprayed the widely used herbicide on his property for almost three decades and once got the product directly on his skin. He has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The jury’s award could have implications for hundreds of others accusing the company of making them sick.
And the Trump administration is struggling to justify its plans to cut federal funding to the Special Olympics and other programs benefiting students with disabilities, while spending tens of millions more to fund charter schools and higher salaries at the Department of Education. Under President Trump’s 2020 budget plan, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed zeroing out funding for the Special Olympics—the third year in a row she’s made such a request. This is Betsy DeVos being questioned Tuesday by Wisconsin Democratic Congressmember Mark Pocan.
Rep. Mark Pocan: “Do you know how many kids are going to be affected by that cut, Madam Secretary?”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: “Mr. Pocan, let me just say again, we had made—we had to make some”—
Rep. Mark Pocan: “OK.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: —”difficult decisions with this budget. And”—
Rep. Mark Pocan: “OK, and this is a question of how many kids, not about the budget.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: “I don’t know the number of kids.”
Rep. Mark Pocan: “OK. It’s 272,000 kids.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: “I also know that I—I think”—
Rep. Mark Pocan: “That’s all—OK, I’ll answer it for you. That’s OK, no problem. It’s 272,000 kids that are affected.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: “Let me just say that I think Special Olympics is an awesome organization, one that is well supported by the philanthropic sector, as well.”
Rep. Mark Pocan: “Sure.”
As of Thursday morning, a MoveOn petition asking DeVos to reverse plans to cut programs for the Special Olympics had gathered nearly 100,000 signatures. Last year Congress allocated about $17.6 million to the Special Olympics. The Washington Post reports that figure is roughly equivalent to the amount taxpayers allocated to President Trump’s last five trips to his golf resort at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.