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News Wrap: Germanwings co-pilot was hiding illness, say prosecutors

Andreas Lubitz runs the Airportrace half marathon in Hamburg

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JUDY WOODRUFF: No suicide note was found in the search of the homes of the Germanwings co-pilot, but there was evidence he was hiding an illness from his employers.

It’s believed the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, deliberately steered Flight 9525 into the French Alps on Tuesday, killing everyone on board.

Neil Connery of Independent Television News has this report from the co-pilot’s family home in Montabaur, Germany.

NEIL CONNERY, Independent Television News:
Behind the energetic and healthy appearance, what turmoil could have driven Andreas Lubitz to do what he did?

More clues uncovered about his mental state are starting to surface. Documents with medical information discovered at the house he shared with parents are helping investigators trying to understand his actions. At his flat in Dusseldorf, where he sometimes stayed, torn-up sick notes for Lubitz are helping prosecutors build up a picture of the 27-year-old.

“The fact that a ripped-up current sick note which covered the day of the crash was found supports the assumption that he kept his illness secret from his employer,” this prosecutor says.

Neighbors say Lubitz appeared to be in excellent physical shape. But evidence is growing of some other problem. In his flat, along with torn-up sick notes, investigators found medical documents relating to an existing illness, which they say showed he was receiving appropriate medical treatment for.

And it’s been reported his pilots’ license required him to have specific regular medical examinations. At the local flying club where Lubitz was a member, they’re in disbelief.

Ernst Mueller tells me none of this makes sense.

ERNST MUELLER: It’s strange. This isn’t an everyday event, that someone kills themselves and takes 149 others with them?  Some things happen, but to take innocent people with you like this, it’s just terrible.

NEIL CONNERY: The regional mayor told me his thoughts are with all those suffering.

“We mourn with all the families, including the family of the co-pilot,” he says.

But there’s no proof so far that the media reports are what really happened. There’s been more police activity at Lubitz’s parents’ home, with items taken away as this investigation continues.

As the hours pass, more details continue to emerge about the real Andreas Lubitz.

JUDY WOODRUFF:
Lubitz locked himself in the cockpit alone before the crash. That prompted Europe’s aviation safety agency today to recommend all airlines adopt the two- person cockpit rule as soon as possible. U.S. rules already require it.

Saudi Arabia launched a new wave of airstrikes today against Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen. They targeted a northern stronghold, an oil-rich area in the east and the rebel-controlled capital. The Saudi Press Agency released this video showing Saudi Arabian air force jets bombing an airport today in Sanaa. A spokesman for the operation said the Saudi-led coalition is prepared to take further military action if warranted.

BRIG. GEN. AHMED ASSERI, Coalition Spokesman (through interpreter):
There are no plans at this stage for ground forces operations. But if the need arises, the Saudi ground forces and those of our friends are ready and will repel any aggression.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, four Egyptian warships are en route to the coast of Yemen to secure the strategic sea passage off of its coast.

In Somalia, Al-Shabaab militants stormed a hotel popular with government officials and foreigners today, killing at least nine people. The incident happened in the heart of the capital, Mogadishu. Somali police said a suicide bomber detonated a car filled with explosives at the hotel’s gate.

That allowed militant gunmen to enter the building, where they exchanged fire with security forces. An unknown number of people are still trapped inside.

Back in this country, the University of Oklahoma announced it is disciplining 25 more students linked to the singing of a racist song captured on video. The school’s president, David Boren, said two members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity have now been expelled. The students learned the song during the fraternity’s national leadership cruise four years ago. Boren said he took action so everyone can move on.

DAVID BOREN, President, University of Oklahoma:
Our purpose here is not to brand people with certain words for life. Our purpose is not to forgive. Our purpose is to learn lessons and be held accountable and then move forward with our lives.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Boren said that, after investigating over 160 people, it became evident that the song was — quote — “part of the institutional culture of the chapter.”  The SAE chapter at the University of Oklahoma has since been disbanded.

Republicans pushed a balanced budget plan through the Senate after a marathon overnight session. It passed along — nearly along party lines and follows one passed by the House earlier this week. The proposed budget shrinks federal deficits by more than $5 trillion over the next decade, mostly by cutting health care and other benefits.

The Senate’s top Democrat, Harry Reid, has announced he won’t be seeking reelection next year. His party lost the Senate majority in the 2014 midterm elections. Reid has served Nevada for five terms. The 75-year-old recently suffered an exercising accident that left him with injuries to his face and eye.

In a video statement released by his office, Reid said that had nothing to do with his decision.

SEN. HARRY REID, Minority Leader: We have to make sure that the Democrats take control of the Senate again. And I feel it is inappropriate for me to soak up all those resources on me, when I could be devoting those resources to the caucus, and that’s what intend to do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In a statement, President Obama called Reid a fighter and said the Senate won’t be the same without him. Reid later endorsed New York Senator Chuck Schumer to succeed him as minority leader.

A new plan to fight the threat of drug-resistant bacteria was unveiled by the White House today. The program aims to curtail the overuse of antibiotics, which can lead to new strains of untreatable deadly so-called superbugs, and to ramp up research into alternative medications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that superbugs cause about 23,000 deaths and two million illnesses in the U.S. each year.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen signaled during a speech in San Francisco there could be an interest rate hike coming — quote — “sometime this year.”  But she added it would be gradual.

Wall Street had little time to digest the news and stocks broke a four-day losing streak. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 34 points to close at 17712. The Nasdaq rose 28 points and the S&P 500 picked up five points. For the week, the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P all dropped more than 2 percent.

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Why Assad sees an opening for dialogue with the U.S.

ASSAD TALKS monitor bashir syria

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JUDY WOODRUFF: The war in Syria entered its fifth year earlier this month, and despite predictions years ago of his demise, the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, is still standing in Damascus.

PBS host and CBS News anchor Charlie Rose traveled to the Syrian capital and talked to the leader yesterday about the war and the region’s instability.

Assad told Rose that he is open to a dialogue with the United States, and he also dismissed accusations that his army has used chemical weapons.

CHARLIE ROSE, PBS & CBS News: The weapons of war that have been used that most people look down on with great — one is chlorine gas.

They believe it has been used here. They have said there is evidence of that. And they would like to have the right to inspect to see where it’s coming from.

As you know, barrel bombs have been used, and they come from helicopters. And the only people who have helicopters is the Syrian army. And so those two acts of war…

PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD, Syria: Yes.

CHARLIE ROSE: … which society looks down on as barbaric acts…

PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD: Let me fully answer this. This is very important. This is part of the malicious propaganda against Syria.

First of all, the chlorine gas is not a military gas. You can buy it anywhere.

CHARLIE ROSE: But it can be weaponized.

PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD: No, because it is not very effective. It is not used as military gas. That is very self-evident.

Traditional arms is more important than chlorine. And if it was very effective, the terrorists would have used it on a larger scale. Because it is not effective, it is not used very much.

CHARLIE ROSE: Then why not let somebody come in and inspect to see whether it’s been used or not?

PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD: Well, we allow…

CHARLIE ROSE: You would be happy for that?

PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD: Of course. We always ask a delegation, impartial delegation, to come and investigate.

But, I mean, logically and realistically, it cannot really be used as military. This is part of propaganda, because, as you know, in the media, when it bleeds, it leads. And they always look for something that bleeds, which is the chlorine gas and barrel bomb.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Some of the interview can be seen on Sunday night on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”  All of it will appear Monday evening on PBS’ “Charlie Rose.”

And to tell us more about his experience interviewing President Assad, Charlie Rose joins me now.

Charlie, welcome back…

CHARLIE ROSE: Thank you, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … after what sounds like a pretty grueling trip over and back in just a matter of a day or two.

Why do you think President Assad agreed to talk right now?  What do you think they’re trying to get across?

CHARLIE ROSE: He believes now that the rise of ISIS has caused the United States and others to make him not the priority, the overthrow of him or his departure from power, but, somehow, building some effort against ISIS.

So I think he thinks it’s timely there. So I think he wants to reach out and say, circumstances have changed, and I’m open to a conversation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were telling me he’s about to have talks in Moscow, that the Russians play — could play a key role here?

CHARLIE ROSE: The Russians indeed can play a key role here.

They have great interests in at least Syria and have had, as do the Iranians — and the Iranians have given a lot of support. And, in fact, Hezbollah came in and really saved the day for him at a time that his regime was tottering.

He said to me he’s optimistic about the possibilities coming out of sort of the statements that Secretary Kerry started, this new round of intense focus.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Charlie, it also sounds like he worked really hard to defend himself when you asked him about the chlorine gas, when you asked him about the barrel bombs.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: At one point, he said: We wouldn’t be trying to kill our own people when we’re trying to win hearts and minds.

But doesn’t that just fly in the face of objective evidence?

CHARLIE ROSE: Yes, it does, absolutely.

Most of the civilian casualties have come from — not from, say, ISIS, but most of the civilian crisis — civilian casualties have come from other means. And, clearly, there are serious international accusations against his government. And some people who you say — when you say accusations, say that’s crazy. Why is it an accusation?  It’s a fact.

Barrel bombs have been dropped. He’s the only person, his army, that has helicopters and the capacity to drop these barrel bombs. He got into this discussion with me about, we don’t know what barrel bombs mean. And I simply said, it’s a barrel with things that explode and kill a lot of civilians.

And he also, Judy, in an interesting way has enormous things to say that are critical of Saudi Arabia, which has been supporting people on the ground against him, as has the Qataris. He was very accusatory against Turkey, because a lot of the people who are coming into Syria to fight against him, he believes, come through the Turkish border.

And he talked about Erdogan, the president of Turkey, as being simply, in his own way, very much in kin to the Muslim Brotherhood.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Last thing, Charlie, how did you find him personally?  And how did you find Damascus?  You had to make the trip from across the border.

CHARLIE ROSE: As we drove with two other CBS colleagues from Beirut, took us about, I would say, you know, 2.5 hours to make the trip, you didn’t hear as many explosions in Damascus as I did in 2013, when I was there.

It was quieter. You see people outside engaged in the parks, you know, talking to each other. At the same time, you see military people everywhere. You know that there is a kind of on-alert circumstance in Damascus.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Charlie Rose, we will look for the entire interview on “Charlie Rose” on PBS on — on Monday night. Thank you.

CHARLIE ROSE: Thank you, Judy. A pleasure to be with you.

 

 

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Nigeria wages offensive against Boko Haram ahead of election

nigeria1

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Tomorrow, millions in Africa’s most populous country will turn out to vote in a very tight presidential race, with fears of terrorism looming.

Jeffrey Brown reports on the Nigerian election.

JEFFREY BROWN: The two front-runners are coming down to the wire in what could be closest election since the end of military rule in 1999.

President Goodluck Jonathan is facing off against former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari to lead Africa’s largest economy, its biggest oil producer and home to 173 million people. One man must win more than 50 percent of tomorrow’s vote to avoid a runoff.

PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN, Nigeria: Let us all, political party leaders, contestants, party members, party agents, supporters, and ordinary voters alike, be very cautious of the fact that the eyes of the entire world are on us.

JEFFREY BROWN: Jonathan, a Christian from the south, has been in power since 2011. Buhari, a Muslim from the north, is a retired general who ruled Nigeria in the 1980s following a military coup. He is running on an anti-corruption platform.

MUHAMMADU BUHARI, Nigerian Presidential Candidate: I am not contesting this election because I want power and money. I am doing so because Nigerians believe I am what it takes to achieve a much needed change.

JEFFREY BROWN: But hanging over the election, and sidelining normal election-year issues, is the rise of Boko Haram. The Islamic militant group has killed more than 1,000 civilians this year alone, and controls parts of Northern Nigeria. It recently pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State.

President Jonathan cited the Boko Haram threat when, in early February, he delayed this election six weeks. Now Jonathan says the army has beat back the group, even though many areas in the north will still have no polling stations.

Just today, the military said it recaptured a northeastern town and destroyed the militants’ headquarters in the process.

GEN. CHRISTOPHER OLUKOLADE, Defense Spokesman, Nigeria: A lot of arms and ammunition have been recovered, and the administrative headquarters of the terrorists have been completely destroyed.

JEFFREY BROWN: But whether it is actually the Nigerian military making those gains is an open question. The Nigerian government reportedly has used mercenaries from South Africa and the former Soviet Union to press the offensive.

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Will Nigeria have its first-ever democratic transition of power since independence?

A man carries goods on top of his head at an open market in front of election posters in Kano

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JEFFREY BROWN: And joining me to discuss tomorrow’s election and what it means is the Nigeria bureau chief for the Associated Press, Michelle Faul.

Welcome to you.

So, is this election now about the two men, the two regions, the economy, Boko Haram?  What’s it coming down to?

MICHELLE FAUL, Associated Press: I think it comes down to the future of Nigeria.

And President Obama in his message to the Nigerian people was very clear when he said that this is a matter of keeping Nigeria together, of the need for Nigerians to unite. And there are very real fears of violence here. And that’s because the contest between these two men is so incredibly close.

And that’s a good thing, in a way. As the human rights commissioner said, it’s a cause for celebration. It should be a sign that Nigeria’s democracy is maturing. But in fact what’s happened is, even before the voting started, a campaign that’s degenerated into the kind of worst hate speech.

JEFFREY BROWN: How much is the outcome determining the fight against Boko Haram and how that proceeds from here?

MICHELLE FAUL: There are lots of people who will tell you, critics of President Jonathan, that reason that, at this point, the military were able to announce today that they have cleared Boko Haram out of the three northeastern states, is that that was done because of President Jonathan’s reelection bid as a political ploy.

The military have said that they were waiting to get the arms and training in order to make this push against Boko Haram. But, either way, on the eve of the election, we have this major announcement of victory over Boko Haram, one, by the way, that I do not think is likely, you know, that they have absolutely done away with Boko Haram.

JEFFREY BROWN: You mean because they have announced such things in the past and it’s hard to verify at this point?

MICHELLE FAUL: Well, because of that, and also because I think, from speaking with analysts and diplomats and just my own knowledge of what’s happening on the ground there, that this is not going to be a campaign to annihilate Boko Haram, that the best you can hope for is that you push them out of the territory that they have been holding now, as the West Africa franchise of I.S., and you’re left with a situation where they will continue to make hit-and-run attacks and you will continue to have suicide bombings.

JEFFREY BROWN: What is the potential that the vote, because it is close, will be inconclusive?  And there is talk about a potential for violence in its aftermath.

MICHELLE FAUL: There are great fears.

I mean, the pre-election violence has been unprecedented. Dozens of people have been killed. And, if you remember, after 2011 elections, again, the same two contenders. General Buhari lost President Jonathan won. The north went up in flames, riots, and over 1,000 people were killed then. And this is much more contentious, the reason being that Nigeria’s political landscape has just been transformed.

Two years ago, the main political parties came together and formed an opposition, not just formed an opposition. They have united behind one candidate, which for the first time in the history of Nigeria — and that’s since independence, 1960, from Britain — for the first time in its history, you have the possibility of an actual democratic change of power. It’s never happened before.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Michelle Faul of the Associated Press in Nigeria, thank you so much.

MICHELLE FAUL: Thank you.

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