North Dakota: Police Raid Pipeline Resistance Camps, Arresting 33
In North Dakota, a heavily militarized police force on Thursday raided the main resistance camp set up by Lakota water protectors fighting the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. The camp was largely vacated ahead of an eviction deadline set one day earlier by North Dakota’s governor, but police arrested at least 33 people who refused to leave. Police in armored vehicles backed by National Guard soldiers later raided the nearby Rosebud resistance camp. Despite the evictions, indigenous-led water protectors say they’ll continue to oppose the pipeline. This is Navajo activist Lyla June.
Lyla June: "We actually won this movement in so many profound ways. As my ina Sheryl says, we are seeds. And they might have buried things, but we have planted seeds all across the world and inspired and awakened people to see water in a new way, to see water as life. And we’ve also—for that matter, we have united things that were never united before."
Earlier this month, construction crews resumed work on the final section of the pipeline, after the Trump administration granted an easement to allow Energy Transfer Partners to drill beneath the Missouri River.
DHS Secretary Denies Deportations are a Military Operation, Contradicting Trump
In Mexico, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly insisted Thursday the U.S. would not carry out "mass deportations" and that President Trump’s deportation program was not a "military operation," contradicting a statement made by Trump just hours earlier. Kelly was on a two-day visit with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson aimed at smoothing U.S.-Mexico relations.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly: "And again, listen to this: No—repeat, no—use of military force in immigration operations. None. So, again, I repeat, there will be no use of military forces in immigration."
Kelly’s comments came after Trump told a gathering of corporate CEOs at the White House his deportation program was in fact a "military operation."
President Donald Trump: "We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country and at a rate that nobody’s ever seen before. And they’re the bad ones. And it’s a military operation."
Mexico has rejected Donald Trump’s pledge that he will force Mexico to pay for an expanded wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Mexico’s foreign minister also denounced new rules authorizing the U.S. to deport undocumented immigrants to Mexico, whether or not they are Mexican citizens.
Trump Suggests He Will Seek to Expand U.S. Nuclear Arsenal
President Trump suggested Thursday he’s looking to expand the size of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. Trump’s comment came during an interview with Reuters.
President Donald Trump: "It would be wonderful; a dream would be that no country would have nukes. But if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack."
The statement drew alarm from anti-nuclear activists, who fear it will touch off a new worldwide nuclear arms race.
Justice Department to Reverse Obama's Hands-Off Policy on Marijuana
The Trump administration said Thursday it will enforce federal laws barring the use of marijuana, reversing an Obama administration policy that gave wide latitude to states to determine their own pot laws. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the Trump administration would prioritize enforcement in states that have passed laws allowing for the recreational—rather than medical—use of the drug.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer: "But I think the Department of Justice has the lead on that. It is something that you should follow up with them. But I believe that they are—they are going to continue to enforce the laws on the books with respect to recreational marijuana."
DOJ Will Reverse Obama Plan to Phase Out Private Prison Contracts
Meanwhile, the Justice Department said Thursday it will reverse an Obama administration policy that would have phased out the federal government’s use of private prisons. The announcement touched off a spike in the after-hours share prices of for-profit prisons, including CoreCivic and GEO Group.
Top Trump Adviser Steve Bannon Makes Rare Appearance at CPAC
White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon made a rare public appearance Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC. Speaking alongside White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Bannon admitted that many of President Trump’s Cabinet picks were selected to head agencies whose mission they oppose.
Stephen Bannon: "The third, broadly, line of work is what is deconstruction of the administrative state. If you look at these Cabinet appointees, they were selected for a reason, and that is the deconstruction. The way the progressive left runs is that if they can’t get it passed, they’re just going to put it in some sort of regulation in a—in an agency. That’s all going to be deconstructed. And I think that that’s why this regulatory thing is so important."
Stephen Bannon is the former head of Breitbart Media, a far-right website which frequently publishes racist, sexist, anti-immigrant and xenophobic news. His appearance at CPAC came as officials expelled white nationalist Richard Spencer from the conference on Thursday. A CPAC spokesperson called Spencer’s views "venomous," "horrible" and "repulsive." Breitbart has previously praised Spencer, calling him one of the leading "intellectuals" of the so-called alt-right movement.
Kansas: Indian Man Shot Dead by Man Shouting Racial Slurs
In Kansas, police have charged a 51-year-old man with first-degree murder after he allegedly shouted "Get out of my country" before firing on a pair of Indian men at a restaurant in suburban Kansas City. The gunfire killed 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla. His friend and a bystander who confronted the shooter were injured. Witnesses say Adam Purinton was drinking and spouting racial slurs before he opened fire. Purinton fled the scene and was arrested hours later after telling a bartender in Clinton, Missouri, he had just shot two Middle Eastern men. Police have said it’s too early in their investigation to determine if they’ll charge Purinton with a hate crime.
Customs Agents Demand IDs from Passengers on Domestic Flight
In New York City, Customs and Border Protection agents met passengers as they exited a flight from San Francisco Wednesday, demanding to check their IDs. A staffer for VICENews who was aboard the flight captured photos of the incident, saying passengers were told they couldn’t disembark without showing their documents. The CBP later said its agents were assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement in seeking a person ordered removed by an immigration judge.
Malaysia: Banned Nerve Agent VX Used in Assassination of Kim Jong-nam
In Malaysia, police say a pair of women used the banned chemical nerve agent VX to assassinate Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korea’s leader. Kim died of a seizure on his way to a hospital on February 13, after the women doused his face with the chemical as he was waiting to board a flight at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The United Nations has banned VX as a weapon of mass destruction. Although North Korea has denied involvement in Kim’s assassination, the country is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention and is believed to have stockpiles of VX and other nerve agents.
CNN: Reince Priebus Sought FBI's Refutation of Russia Report
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus sought unsuccessfully to have the FBI refute news reports that Donald Trump’s campaign advisers were in frequent contact with Russian intelligence agents ahead of November’s election. That’s according to CNN, which reported Thursday the FBI declined to publicly corroborate Priebus’s denial. Priebus’s outreach to the FBI violated policies intended to limit communications between the White House and the FBI on pending investigations.
Pentagon Plan Would Extend U.S. Troop Deployment in Iraq Indefinitely
The Pentagon is considering a plan that would see a large contingent of U.S. troops remain in Iraq—even after the planned defeat of ISIS. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday the Pentagon was discussing the possibility with Iraq’s government, saying the plan to extend troop deployment has "no fixed end date."
Chief Digital Officer Gerrit Lansing Dismissed After Failing FBI Check
White House Chief Digital Officer Gerrit Lansing was among six staffers fired by the White House after they failed an FBI background check. Lansing is the former head of the Republican Party’s digital operations. According to Politico, Lansing failed due to conflicts of interest posed by his business investments.
Philippines Police Arrest Senator Critical of Bloody Drug War
In the Philippines, police arrested an opposition senator and fierce critic of President Rodrigo Duterte today, accusing her of taking bribes from drug dealers. Senator Leila de Lima says she’s innocent of any crime, and called her arrest retribution for her criticism of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, which has seen police carry out thousands of extrajudicial killings.
Senator Leila de Lima: "The truth will be out in the right time. If they think they can silence me, if they think I can no longer fight for what I’m fighting for, especially finding the truth behind the daily killings, the other issues, the pressures and tyranny under Duterte’s regime, then it is my honor to get arrested because of what I’m fighting for."
President Duterte has boasted about personally murdering drug dealers. Last September, he compared himself favorably to Adolf Hitler, saying he wanted to kill millions of drug addicts.
Former CIA Officer Arrested in Portugal for Kidnapping Cleric
In Portugal, police have arrested a former U.S. intelligence operative and are preparing to extradite her to Italy, where she faces a prison sentence for her role in the kidnapping and rendition of an Egyptian cleric in 2003. Former undercover CIA officer Sabrina De Sousa was one of 26 Americans convicted in absentia by an Italian court in 2007. They were charged with illegally seizing the cleric, Abu Omar, from the streets of Milan in 2003 and sending him to Egypt, where he was tortured during a four-year imprisonment. De Sousa moved to Portugal in 2015 and was arrested Monday as she attempted to leave the country. She faces four years in an Italian prison.
Japan: Okinawan Activist Opposed to U.S. Military Base Denied Bail
Japan’s Supreme Court has denied bail to a prominent activist opposed to the U.S. military’s presence in Okinawa. Hiroji Yamashiro was arrested last fall on charges he cut through a barbed wire fence surrounding a U.S. base. For decades, residents have called for the expulsion of U.S. troops from Okinawa, which houses about two-thirds of the 50,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Japan.
Puerto Rican Students Strike Ahead of Looming Cuts to Education
And in Puerto Rico, thousands of university students are on strike this week, protesting imminent cuts to public education amid an economic crisis. Puerto Rico’s governor has until the end of the month to submit a budget plan to a federally appointed oversight control board with sweeping powers to run Puerto Rico’s economy. The oversight board wants sharp cuts to public spending and a strategy to pay the debt to bondholders. If the demand is not met, the oversight board will make its own budget plan. On Thursday, thousands of students gathered in front of the Capitol and marched to the Governor’s Mansion. This is graduate student Loderay Bracero Marrero.
Loderay Bracero Marrero: "We’re here today in defense of the University of Puerto Rico, in defense of the country’s public education, in defense of the education of the working class of the country, for us to be able to have an accessible and public education. We understand that the different campuses have approved different shutdowns and strategies of action to be able to protect the University of Puerto Rico, that we know is decaying because of the plans of Wall Street and the plans of the government, that is a puppet of whatever the oversight control board says."
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