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10 things you need to know today !

1. Terrorist charged in Christchurch shooting

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Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian citizen, was charged with murder on Saturday following mass shootings at two mosques that killed 49 and left dozens more seriously wounded in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday. Although three people were initially taken into custody, New Zealand Commissioner of Police Mike Bush said that at this stage there is no evidence that suggests there was more than one person involved in the shootings.

Tarrant claimed responsibility for the attacks and posted links to a white-nationalist, anti-immigrant manifesto on social media, identifying himself as a racist. A list of names of the deceased has yet to be released, but many of the victims were reportedly migrants and refugees. Bush said that Tarrant possibly purchased his weapons legally, prompting New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to announce that New Zealand’s gun laws “will change.”

In addition to those who died, Christchurch Hospital chief of surgery Greg Robertson said 39 people remained in hospital and seven patients admitted yesterday had now been discharged.

Suspect Brenton Tarrant appeared in court on a single murder charge.

“The others included a 4-year-old girl who has been transferred to the Starship Hospital in Auckland in a critical condition. Four patients died on their way in to the hospital yesterday. Those injured ranged in ages from the very young to quite elderly patients.”

It was very unusual for local surgeons to deal with gunshot wounds, and certainly on this scale, he said. “As you would expect the wounds from gunshots are often quite significant. We have had patients with injuries to most parts of the body that range from superficial soft tissue injuries to more complex injuries involving the chest, the abdomen, the pelvis, the long bones and the head.”

Canterbury District Health Board chief executive David Meates said the people who had been killed were yet to be formally identified but that would get underway this afternoon when the chief coroner arrived in Christchurch.

He recognised the pressures and challenges for the families as according to Islamic tradition a body should be buried as soon as possible after a death.

It is believed that Tarrant was living in Dunedin from at least August 2017 and travelled through the Middle East and Afghanistan last year. Cordons were still in place and armed officers were standing guard at the house where the gunman was believed to live on Somerville St in Anderson Bay.

Tarrant entered no plea to the single charge of murder laid against him. He did not seek bail and was remanded in custody till his first High Court appearance on 5 April.

Retired doctor gave 15 people refuge

Irfan Yunianto escaped the Al Moor mosque and took refuge in a retired ophthalmologists house.

An Indonesian student has told the BBC how he escaped the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch as a gunman began an attack on worshipers.

Irfan Yunianto was in a small room performing Friday prayers and listening to the sermon when he heard a loud noise. “Seconds later I heard rapid gunfire,” he said.

He ran out of an emergency exit door beside him and into a car park behind the mosque, where people were attempting to climb the gate to escape.

Yunianto said a friend helped him climb the gate and he hid in a retired doctor’s house with “at least 15 people, two of them were injured”. “He was so kind, offering us beverages and a place to rest,” he said. “We didn’t dare to go outside as we were afraid of being shot or even worse, meet with the perpetrator.” The group were evacuated by police about five hours after the attack.

[RNZ National, BBC News]

2. Trump vetoes resolution to block his national emergency declaration

President Trump on Friday issued the first veto of his tenure, overruling Congress’ vote to block his declaration of a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump declared an emergency in an effort to access further border wall funding that congressional lawmakers did not grant him after a month-long government shutdown.

The Senate approved a resolution to block the move 59-41 on Thursday; the House voted in favor of the termination, 245-182, last month. The vote was widely seen as an embarrassing rebuke on Trump, since lawmakers expected Trump to veto the resolution. Following the veto, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House will vote March 26 to see if it can get the two-thirds majority it needs to override Trump. [Reuters, CNN]

3. Trump says white nationalism not a rising threat

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President Trump was asked on Friday about whether, in his view, white nationalism “is a rising threat around the world,” in light of the deadly shootings in New Zealand that targeted mosques. “I don’t really,” said Trump, saying “it’s a small group of people” committing these crimes.

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“But it is a terrible thing,” he continued. The alleged shooter in Christchurch, New Zealand, posted links to a white-nationalist, anti-immigrant manifesto on social media and identified himself as a racist. Advocacy groups have said hate group activity has been rising in the U.S. for the past few years. Defending his national emergency declaration, Trump called crimes “coming through our southern border” an “invasion;” the alleged gunman also referred to “an invasion” in his manifesto. [BuzzFeed News, The Washington Post]

4. Boeing software patch update expected within the coming weeks

Boeing will reportedly upgrade the stall prevention software on its 737 MAX 8 planes within “the coming weeks,” a Boeing spokesperson told AFP on Friday. The updating process began after a 737 MAX 8 flown by Lion Air crashed just minutes after takeoff in Indonesia in October. But it has been expedited following the crash of a second 737 MAX 8 plane in Ethiopia shortly after takeoff last Sunday, which killed all 157 people on board.

Why Investigators Fear the Two Boeing 737s Crashed for Similar Reasons

The planes flew in similar erratic patterns, suggesting to experts that an automated system might have malfunctioned on both flights.

New evidence found at the crash site in Ethiopia points to connections between the two incidents, suggesting that both aircrafts potentially struggled with the newly installed automated system intended to prevent a stall.

Why the 737 That Crashed Is Boeing’s Best-Selling Plane Ever

Jumbo jets are being replaced by planes like the Boeing 737: smaller, fuel-efficient aircraft capable of traveling greater distances.

[AFP, The New York Times]

5. Dangerous flooding threatens Midwest

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Several states in the Midwest declared emergencies on Friday as a result of severe weather and heavy rain. A “bomb cyclone” storm slammed the Midwest earlier this week, and the snow melt, combined with rain, has pushed waterways in the region beyond their limits, hitting record levels in Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota.

Tom Witke, Chad Witke, Nick Kenny

The flooding forced some residents to evacuate their homes and shut down a major highway. At least one in person in Nebraska was killed by the floodwaters. Some locations experienced their worst flooding in decades. The situation is expected to improve swiftly in several places, though for others, such as eastern Nebraska, it remains a real concern. [The Weather Channel, The Associated Press]

6. Sanders campaign staff unionizes

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The presidential campaign for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced on Friday that its staffers will become the first ever major U.S. presidential campaign unit to have a unionized workforce. The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 will represent the staffers.

Anyone below the rank of deputy directory will be able to join the bargaining unit. Sanders, who is well-known as a pro-union candidate, tweeted that he was “proud” of his staff’s unionization. “We cannot just support unions with words,” he wrote. “We must back it up with actions.” Contract negotiations will begin soon and the bargaining unit could ultimately reach 1,000 members.

The move will put other Democratic presidential campaigns, especially the ones competing for progressive voters, under pressure to follow suit and at least remain neutral if their staffers decide to organize. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro’s campaign has signaled it would back a similar move. On the campaign trail, Sanders has repeatedly vowed in speeches — as he did in 2016 — to make it easier for workers to unionize, often tying it to his push for a rise in the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour.

This time around, following reports of sexual harassment and pay disparities on Sanders’ last presidential campaign, there will also be added pressure to fortify safeguards against similar mistreatment.

“We expect (unionizing) will mean pay parity and transparency on the campaign, with no gender bias or harassment, and equal treatment for every worker,” United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 President Mark P. Federici said in a statement on Friday, “whether they’re in Washington, D.C., Iowa, New Hampshire or anywhere else.”

In the aftermath of 2016, Sanders implemented what he described in January as a robust new reporting structure during his 2018 Senate re-election bid — independent from the campaign — for allegations of sexual harassment and “training for all employees on this issue.”

While Sanders’ is the first large-scale presidential campaign to unionize, the move comes in the wake of a growing wave of organization within political operations — for candidates and causes — that have for decades been effectively accepted as difficult and occasionally dangerous working environments.

Campaign workers for Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state were represented by the Campaign Workers Guild during the fall midterm elections, making her the first incumbent member of Congress with a unionized campaign staff. The campaign staff of Cynthia Nixon, who ran as a progressive outsider in New York’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, was among the handful of others to take similar steps.

[CNN, Politico]

7. U.S. will deny ICC investigators’ visas

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Friday that the United States will deny or revoke visas for International Criminal Court staff who are involved in an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by U.S. troops in Afghanistan that launched in 2017. “The ICC is attacking America’s rule of law,” Pompeo told reporters. The secretary also said that the U.S. is prepared to take further action against the ICC, including imposing economic sanctions. The ICC responded to Pompeo’s comments and said it will continue the investigation regardless. Pompeo said the U.S. has never joined the ICC “because of its broad unaccountable prosecutorial powers.”

“The first and highest obligation of our government is to protect its citizens and this administration will carry out that duty,” Pompeo said Friday.

The secretary of state also warned that “these visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursed allied personnel including Israelis without allies’ consent.” The Palestinians have asked the ICC to investigate Israel for alleged human rights abuses.

Friday’s actions by the State Department followed a September 2018 threat from National Security Adviser John Bolton that the US would “use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.”

[CNN, The Guardian]

8. Students around the globe protest climate change

Coordinated student-led climate demonstrations took place in more than 100 countries and territories around the world on Friday. As part of a growing global movement demanding tough action on climate change from their governments, tens of thousands of students walked out of school to join the protests, including in nearly every U.S. state.

The movement began last year when a 16-year-old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, began holding solitary demonstrations in front of the Swedish parliament in Stockholm. Friday’s “strikes” provided one of the largest turnouts so far. Students mobilized via word of mouth and social media. [NPR, The Associated Press]

9. Supreme Court questions constitutionality of census citizenship question

Image: U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testifies at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday that it has agreed to decide whether the Trump Administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census violated the Constitution. The court had already agreed to decide on whether the question violated federal administrative law, but after a California judged ruled in March that the question violated the Constitution’s Enumeration Clause — thus preventing the government from recording an accurate count of every person living in the U.S. — the Supreme Court expanded the scope of the review.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose agency oversees the census, defended the question during a congressional hearing on Friday. He said the question was added to aid in enforcing the Voting Rights Act,which protects eligible voters from discrimination. Only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections.

Democrats call the citizenship question part of a broader Republican effort at the federal and state level, also including voter-suppression measures and redrawing of electoral districts, to diminish the voting power of areas and groups that typically back Democratic candidates, including immigrants, Latinos and African-Americans. Republicans reject the accusation.

[NBC News, Reuters]

10. Disney rehires James Gunn to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

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Disney has rehired James Gunn to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Gunn revealed on Friday. The director was removed from the Marvel sequel in July 2018 when offensive jokes he made on Twitter years earlier resurfaced; Disney CEO Bob Iger said in September that he never “second-guessed” the choice to boot Gunn.

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However, the decision to bring Gunn back was reportedly made “months ago,” and Disney apparently never hunted for a replacement. Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn reportedly met with Gunn several times and was “persuaded” by his apology; Gunn had said that his old tweets were “totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative” and that he has “regretted them for many years since.” [Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter]

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