Russia, U.S. Trade Sanctions over Ukraine; EU Leaders Sign Deal with Ukraine Gov’t

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Russia and the United States have each imposed new sanctions on the other over the crisis in Ukraine. President Obama made the announcement on Thursday.

President Obama: “Based on the executive order that I signed in response to Russia’s initial intervention in Ukraine, we’re imposing sanctions on more senior officials of the Russian government. In addition, we are today sanctioning a number of other individuals with substantial resources and influence who provide material support to the Russian leadership, as well as a bank that provides material support to these individuals. Now we’re taking these steps as part of our response to what Russia has already done in Crimea.”

Obama also said the United States could impose sanctions on key sections of the Russian economy. Russia in turn barred nine U.S. officials from entering the country, including House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Earlier today, President Putin signed bills completing Russia’s annexation of Crimea after the region voted to secede from Ukraine. European leaders meanwhile signed a deal to strengthen ties with Ukraine’s new pro-EU government. The deal’s abandonment by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych sparked the protests that led to his ouster.

Reid Orders Probe of Senate Computers After Reports of CIA Spying

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has ordered a forensic examination of Senate Intelligence Committee computers following reports the CIA spied on committee staff to thwart a probe of the CIA’s torture and rendition program. In a letter to CIA Director John Brennan, Senator Reid bolstered last week’s claims by Senator Dianne Feinstein, who openly accused the CIA of spying on Senate staffers and seizing material from their computers. Reid also dismissed Brennan’s claim Senate staffers penetrated classified CIA networks, calling the allegation “patently absurd.”

North Carolina: Duke Energy Cited for Dumping 61 Million Gallons of Toxic Waste

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Environmental regulators in North Carolina have cited Duke Energy for intentionally dumping 61 million gallons of toxic coal ash waste into a canal that feeds a river which supplies drinking water. Duke is already under federal investigation for a coal ash spill in February that coated the bottom of another river with 70 miles of toxic sludge. North Carolina regulators have faced accusations of guarding Duke from litigation over coal ash. Governor Pat McCrory worked at Duke for 28 years.

New York: 59 Arrested Protesting for Economic Justice at State Capitol in Albany

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In New York, 59 people were arrested in the State Capitol in Albany at a protest calling for economic and social justice. As lawmakers debated the state budget, the protesters staged a sit-in and blocked the entrance to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. Their demands include closing the gulf between rich and poor.

Rev. Frances Rosenau: “Because a budget is a moral document, it has implications for people across the state, young and old, rich and poor. And because these decisions about the budget are so crucial, they have moral implications. And so we join with people of faith and people of no faith who call for morality in our leadership as a state.”

Julia Boyd: “So far, our 1 percent governor has done absolutely nothing, and we’re sick and tired. So we’re here today, and I’m oldest one here, to let him know we ain’t gonna take it no more.”

That was Julia Boyd, age 77, and, before that, Reverend Frances Rosenau. Special thanks to Democracy Now! fellow Messiah Rhodes for that report.