Smiling European Protester Is Very Happy to Be Throwing Confetti on Central Bank President
The European Central Bank is a controversial institution, currently reviled in several countries because of the “austerity” budget-cutting demands it’s made of governments it helped bail out during the post-2008 financial crisis. While the ECB has recently taken more stimulus-oriented positions, countries like Greece are still struggling with the terms of the earlier bailouts, and anyhow the point here is that a protester threw confetti on ECB President Mario Draghi at a Frankfurt press conference Wednesday and looked very excited to be doing so.
Here’s a short video:
The woman is reportedly a 21-year-old German activist from a feminist group, which (sort of) explains the “dick-tatorship” spelling on her shirt.
Aaron Hernandez Found Guilty on All Charges
A jury in Massachusetts has found 25-year-old former NFL star Aaron Hernandez guilty on all counts against him, including first-degree murder, related to the June 2013 shooting death of acquaintance Odin Lloyd. The murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
Hernandez’s trial lasted more than two months, and observers were not confident that he would be convicted; no murder weapon was ever recovered, and the only alleged witnesses to the crime are charged as accessories and did not testify. District attorneys were also legally prevented from discussing what they believe to be Hernandez’s motive. From the AP:
Prosecutors have suggested Lloyd may have been killed because he knew too much about Hernandez's alleged involvement in a deadly 2012 drive-by shooting in Boston. But they were not allowed to tell the jury that because the judge said it was speculation.
As a result, they never offered a motive beyond saying Hernandez appeared angry with Lloyd at a nightclub two nights before the killing.
Hernandez also faces two counts of first-degree murder in the 2012 case.
Video Shows Arizona Police Car Slamming Armed Suspect at High Speed
Stunning dashboard camera video from a Feb. 19 incident in Marana, Arizona, shows a police car slamming into an armed suspect at high speed, launching him into the air:
The suspect, 36-year-old Mario Valencia, was hospitalized and released into custody. Before the moment captured on video, he had allegedly robbed a 7-Eleven while holding a “metal object,” set a fire at a church, broken into a home, stolen a car, and stolen ammunition and a rifle from Walmart. He was carrying the rifle when he was struck and had reportedly fired it in the air and pointed it at police and at himself.
Kenyan Police Chief Sent Commando Transport Plane on Family Holiday During Garissa Attack
In the weeks after the Garissa University massacre in Kenya, carried out by the Somali-based militant group al-Shabab, horror at the brutality of the loss of nearly 150 lives morphed into anger at the Kenyan government’s woefully slow response to the attack. On Tuesday, the government’s ham-handed reaction looked even worse “after a police chief admitted that a plane meant to transport commandos to the scene was instead being used to fly his family back from holiday on the coast,” according to the Guardian.
The plane’s crew had been sent to Mombasa on the morning of the attack to pick up police official Rogers Mbithi’s daughter-in-law and her child, according to the Daily Nation. The plane did, eventually, return and transport commandos to the site of the attack, but that was hours after the siege began. Making things worse "some of the victims had initially managed to hide from the killers after the assault began at dawn, but were discovered and murdered in the afternoon, many hours later,” the Guardian reports. “The police commandos only arrived seven hours after the attack started, finally breaking the siege in the evening.”
Shipwreck in Mediterranean Kills as Many as 400 Migrants Trying to Reach Italy
A boat full of migrants heading for Italy flipped some 24 hours after departing Libya, killing as many as 400 in the Mediterranean. It’s still not completely clear when exactly the accident took place over the past several days. Most of the boat’s approximately 550 passengers were from sub-Saharan Africa, according to the nongovernmental organization Save the Children.
“[The] death toll from that vessel would mark one of the largest losses of migrants’ lives at sea yet, bringing the number of people who have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean so far this year to a new record,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The [Italian] coast guard said Tuesday ... that 8,480 migrants have been rescued since the start of last weekend. On Monday alone, the rescues involved people who had been traveling on 20 different vessels carrying migrants coming from Syria and sub-Saharan Africa.”
Italy has struggled to deal with the wave of migrants attempting to reach the country illegally that has spiked of late due to more temperate weather and regional unrest in Libya, Syria, and beyond. “Italian authorities say more than 15,000 migrants have arrived so far in 2015,” Agence France Presse reports. “There were 15,000 in April alone last year and an average of 25,000 each month between June and September.”
Hillary Clinton Hints at Support for Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United
Hillary Clinton started her 2016 presidential campaign in Iowa on Tuesday by pledging to push back against the influx of "unaccountable money" in American politics. Clinton hinted that she would support a constitutional amendment to counteract Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a Supreme Court ruling that has allowed her supporters to use super PACs to collect millions in donations on her behalf. From the Washington Post:
Holding her first official campaign event at Kirkwood Community College in rural Monticello, Clinton identified campaign finance reform as one of several pillars of her 2016 presidential campaign.
"We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all—even if it takes a constitutional amendment," Clinton said in opening remarks at a roundtable event with Kirkwood students and instructors.
Ready for Hillary, a super PAC that raised tens of milliions in advance of Clinton's announcement on Sunday, has rebranded itself as Ready PAC to avoid running afoul of one of the few restrictions it faces—having a declared candidate's name in its title. Several of its staffers have migrated to Clinton's newly official campaign, MSNBC reports, and a spokesman for the operation formerly known as Ready for Hillary told Slate Tuesday that they've "pretty much closed up shop" and declined to comment on her remarks.
The Center for Public Intergrity, calling Clinton the "Citizens United Candidate," noted last year that a case that started with an unflattering movie about Hillary Clinton would likely make her one of the best unofficially funded candidates in 2016, but could put her in an awkward position, given some of her past statements on campaign donations.
Compounding Clinton's campaign cash intrigue is her incongruent record of supporting measures that would curb the influence of big money in politics.
She served as a co-sponsor of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001 and voted for the bill that ultimately passed in 2002. She's called for public financing of campaigns, saying in 2007, "when I'm president, I'm going to see if there is a way to do just that."
While Clinton's detractors will almost certainly accuse her of hypocrisy for denouncing the loosened restrictions on fundraising that have allowed her shadow campaign to amass a huge war chest, the Citizens United ruling offers an airtight defense: Since she is not allowed to "coordinate" with her unofficial army, she couldn't make them stop spending money on her, even if she wanted to.
Clinton is not the only presidential hopeful calling for an amendment to reverse the effects of Citizens United. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has formed a committee to explore a 2016 run, told WMUR in New Hampshire last Friday: "Well, Citizens United has gotta be fixed. Y'all agree with that? You're gonna need a constitutional amendment to fix this problem." Graham is free to take a stand on the issue with less risk than Clinton that he'll be accused of hypocrisy, as he appears to be unencumbered by sizeable super PAC donations.
Why Did China Release the 'Feminist Five'?
After more than a month of imprisonment, the so-called “feminist five” were released from custody by Chinese police yesterday. The five activists had been arrested on March 8, International Women’s Day, over a campaign they attempted to organize online to hand out fliers on buses and subways in several cities calling attention to sexual harassment and groping in China.
That may not seem like much of a crime, even in China—they were arrested for “picking quarrels and creating a disturbance”—but the planned action took place at the same time as the so-called “two meetings,” the annual high-profile gathering of China’s rubber-stamp legislature, during which authorities are highly sensitive to any provocation. The arrests have also been read as a blunt message from the increasingly autocratic Chinese government to civil society groups.
The arrest of the activists is less surprising than the fact that they were released. (They’re not out of the woods yet. They’ll be under a form of restricted and monitored release, which was also used on artist Ai Weiwei after his highly publicized arrest and release in 2011.) The case sparked international outrage and drew condemnations from prominent figures including John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. But China has brushed off similar international criticism of its human rights practices in the past. So why did it back down this time?
For one thing, the case provoked an unusual amount of internal criticism. The five activists, all in their 20s and 30s, included some of China’s best known women’s rights campaigners, famous for performance-art style actions like occupying men’s restrooms to protest the unequal ratio of available stalls, shaving their heads to protest unequal university admissions requirements, and wearing red-splattered wedding gowns to draw attention to domestic violence. While not exactly encouraged by the authorities, feminist activists, challenging social conditions or even particular laws rather than the government itself, haven’t faced the same level of repression as campaigners on other issues. If the women had been handing out fliers about Tibet, Xinjiang, or Falun Gong, this would be a very different situation. But public pressure, both international and domestic, can have results on issues not considered national security concerns by the Chinese authorities.
The case was also particularly embarrassing for China, which is due to co-host a U.N. meeting on women’s rights in September. The meeting will mark the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing summit at which Clinton, then first lady, delivered a forceful and well-remembered speech on women’s rights. China would presumably prefer that problems like forced abortions and the shaming of so-called “leftover women” not be in the global spotlight ahead of the meeting.
White House Wants to Take Cuba Off the Terrorism List. It’s About Time.
In 1982, the U.S. State Department labeled Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism due to its support of Communist guerilla movements in Latin America and Africa. More than two decades after the end of the Cold War, it remained on the list mostly because it’s been politically easier to leave it on than to take it off.
But now, just a few days after a historic meeting in Panama between President Obama and Raul Castro of Cuba, the White House announced that it is supporting Cuba’s removal from the State Department list. Cuba can be removed from the list after a 45-day review period, which should give members of congress and GOP presidential candidates plenty of time to accuse the administration of appeasement. The delisting will remove a legal barrier to the eventual lifting of economic sanctions as well as a major sticking point in normalizing diplomatic relations between the two countries. It’s also an acknowledgment of reality.
The State Department’s probably purposefully half-hearted report on Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism in 2013 (it’s one of four countries on the list along with Iran, Sudan, and Syria) based its case on the fact that Havana has “long provided safe haven to members of Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.” But ETA, the Basque group that was once one of Europe’s most dangerous terrorist organizations, is something of a spent force. Weakened by the arrest of its key leaders and a loss of Basque support, the group unilaterally declared a ceasefire in 2011 and has been disarming, albeit much slower than the Spanish government would like. In any case, according to the State Department “Cuba’s ties to ETA have become more distant.”
As for the FARC, Cuba has been a longtime supporter of the guerilla group, but over the past year also hosted peace talks between it and the Colombian government. Given that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos strongly supports improved relations between the U.S. and Cuba, it would be odd to let this continue to be an obstacle.
Supporters of Cuba’s designation have also pointed to its harboring of wanted U.S. fugitives including Assata Shakur, formerly known as Joanne Chesimard, a former member of the militant Black Liberation Army who fled there after she was convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973. And Sen. Marco Rubio has pointed to the 2013 seizure of a North Korean ship attempting to carry Cuban weapons through the Panama Canal. While certainly concerning and probably illegal, it doesn’t quite constitute support for terrorism: The Bush administration removed North Korea from the terror list in 2008.
Cuba’s support for extremist groups that actually pose a national security threat to the U.S. or its allies is negligible at this point, and certainly less than some countries Washington considers allies.
NBA Player With Broken Fibula Says He Was Injured by NYPD
NBA guard Thabo Sefolosha, who reportedly sustained a fractured fibula while being arrested early on the morning of April 8 for allegedly interfering with New York City police officers at the scene of a stabbing, said in a statement Tuesday that he is in “great pain” because of “a significant injury” and that “the injury was caused by the police.”
Sefolosha, 30, is a trilingual Switzerland native whose parents are artists; he plays for the Atlanta Hawks. He and a teammate were arrested shortly after another NBA player, Chris Copeland, was stabbed outside a New York nightclub. (Copeland is recovering.) All three players were in the city for games against New York-based teams.
A video obtained by TMZ appears to show an NYPD officer wielding a baton near Sefolosha, though it’s not clear if Sefolosha is struck with it. The National Basketball Players Association, Sefolosha’s union, has said it is investigating the incident.
Waiting for Hillary: “Why Do We Do This?”
MONTICELLO, Iowa—Scores of reporters had been camped out front of a community college here for hours Tuesday by the time Hillary Clinton’s mini-motorcade arrived for her first scheduled event since officially kicking off her campaign this week. The van known as Scooby drove right past reporters and went around to a private entrance at back of the building. The reporters followed in hot pursuit. (Your humble—if arguably lazy—correspondent opted for a brisk jog.)
After Clinton made it inside—apparently without any reporter catching so much of a glimpse of her—the press corps resumed their posts outside. “We are horrible,” one television producer said after checking out a version of the above clip on an iPhone. “Why do we do this?”