In labor news, McDonald’s workers have filed a series of lawsuits in three states accusing the company and its franchises of stealing their wages through a range of illegal practices. Workers’ accusations include being forced to work while off the clock, having hours deleted from their timecards and being denied meal and rest breaks. Lawyers say the suits could impact more than 30,000 workers.
In El Salvador, a former rebel leader has been officially declared the winner of the presidential election. Election authorities say Salvador Sánchez Cerén defeated right-wing candidate Norman Quijano by a fraction of a percent. Quijano has contested the results, calling for a vote-by-vote recount. Sánchez Cerén said he will seek to work with his opponents.
Salvador Sánchez Cerén: “We have opened our arms to the political opposition so that we can build an agenda for the country together that seeks to find solutions to the problems most Salvadorans have.”
Sánchez Cerén is the first FMLN president to succeed another after decades of right-wing rule in El Salvador.
There is still no sign of a Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 239 people, nearly a week after it disappeared while en route to China. An ABC News report citing unnamed U.S. officials said two communications systems on the plane may have shut down 14 minutes apart, suggesting deliberate intervention. Reuters, also citing unnamed sources, said military radar data shows the plane was deliberately flown hundreds of miles off course toward India’s Andaman Islands. The United States has sent the U.S.S. Kidd to the Indian Ocean to aid in the search.
The standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine is intensifying ahead of a referendum on secession in Ukraine’s Crimea region. Crimea residents are set to vote Sunday on whether to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. Secretary of State John Kerry is in London today for meetings with his Russian counterpart. On Thursday, Kerry warned Russia faces sanctions if the vote proceeds.
John Kerry: “There will be a response of some kind to the referendum itself. And in addition, if there is no sign of any capacity to be able to move forward and resolve this issue, there will be a very serious series of steps on Monday in Europe and here with respect to the options that are available to us. Now, our choice is not to be put in the position of having to do that. Our choice is to have a respect for the sovereignty and independence and integrity of the country of Ukraine.”
The United States is circulating a United Nations resolution to declare the referendum a violation of international law. But Russia has compared the secession of Crimea to Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, which the United States backed. Russia has begun massing troops along Ukraine’s eastern border.
In Michigan, an anti-choice measure dubbed the “rape insurance” law has gone into effect. The law bars insurance companies from covering abortion — including in cases of rape — unless consumers purchase a separate rider. But after Thursday, no insurance companies are providing the riders to new consumers in the private marketplace. While the riders will reportedly be available in some employer-provided plans, people buying their own insurance can no longer obtain coverage for abortion. Michigan is the ninth state to restrict abortion coverage in private insurance plans.
In California, newly revealed documents show local police are using powerful devices that allow them to secretly collect location and other data from cellphones. Known as StingRays, the devices pose as cell towers to intercept real-time data from all cellphones in a certain radius. While their use by federal agencies was previously known, new records obtained by News10 in Sacramento show StingRays are in wide use by police forces in California, from Los Angeles to Sacramento and Oakland, where they were used to make 19 arrests in 2009 alone. According to News10, “When Miami-Dade police [in Florida] submitted a grant application to buy a StingRay, they told the city council they needed one to monitor protesters at an upcoming World Trade Conference. Parking a StingRay outside the protest would give law enforcement the names and telephone numbers of everyone nearby.”