LISTEN: Urban Christian News Network #113

1. According to the AP, the nation’s first black president said on Saturday that America’s racial history “still casts its long shadow upon us” as he stood in solidarity and remembrance with civil rights activists whose beatings by police a half-century ago galvanized people against racial oppression and hastened passage of historic voting rights for minorities. On the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march that erupted in police violence on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, President Barack Obama praised the figures of a civil rights era that he was too young to know. He called them “warriors of justice” who pushed America closer to a more perfect union. Thousands packed the riverside town for commemorations of the march of March 7, 1965, in what became the first of three aiming to reach Montgomery, Alabama, to demand an end to discrimination against black voters and all such victims of segregation. Scenes of troopers beating marchers on the bridge shocked the nation, emboldening leaders in Washington to pass the Voting Rights Act five months later.

2. According to the AP, five suicide bomb attacks on Saturday hit the city of Maiduguri killing at least 54 people and wounding 143 in the heartland of Nigeria’s northeastern Islamic uprising. The blasts occurred over four hours in locations from a busy fish market to a crowded bus station. A fifth explosion from a car bomb at a military checkpoint 50 miles outside the city wounded a soldier and two members of a civilian self-defense unit. The bomber apparently wanted to reach Maiduguri.

3. According to the AP, Russia’s security service head said two suspects in the killing of leading opposition figure Boris Nemtsov have been detained, but the short and vague announcement on Saturday prompted only skepticism and weak satisfaction from his comrades. Federal Security Service director Alexander Bortnikov, said the two suspects were from Russia’s North Caucasus region, but gave no details other than their names. He said they were “suspected of carrying out this crime,” but it wasn’t clear if either of the suspects was believed to have fired the shots that killed Nemtsov as he and a companion walked over a bridge near the Kremlin on Feb. 27. No charges were immediately announced.

4. According to the AP, Islamic State militants continued their campaign targeting cultural heritage sites in territories they control in northern Iraq, looting and damaging the ancient city of Hatra just one day after bulldozing the historic city of Nimrud, according to Iraqi government officials and local residents. The destruction in Hatra comes as the militant Islamic group fended off an Iraqi army offensive in Saddam Hussein’s hometown and fought pitched battles in eastern Syria in an area populated by predominantly Christian villages. Iraqi officials in the northern city of Mosul said Saturday that Islamic State militants have begun demolishing Hatra, a move UNESCO described as “cultural cleansing.”

5. According to the AP, Ukraine’s military says it is completing its pullback of heavy weapons under the terms of a peace agreement aimed at ending the war with separatist rebels that has killed more than 6,000 people. An internationally brokered agreement calls for both sides to create a buffer zone by pulling back heavy weapons. Saturday was the deadline for the pullbacks to be completed. Rebel official Denis Pushilin on Saturday said the separatists had completed their pullback ahead of schedule.

6. According to the AP, the father of an international aid worker killed while being held captive by Islamic State militants read a moving letter at his daughter’s hometown memorial service on Saturday, recounting her discovery that her life’s purpose was to ease the suffering of others. Kayla Mueller’s father read the letter written while his daughter worked an earlier job at an orphanage in India. The 26-year-old was captured in August 2013 after leaving a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo, Syria, and held for 18 months. An estimated 500 people attended the memorial held in a college auditorium in Prescott, the northern Arizona mountain community where Mueller grew up. Speakers at the ceremony described Mueller as the ultimate Good Samaritan who had quick wit and an overflowing heart.

7. According to the AP, a masked gunman sprayed bullets in a restaurant popular with foreigners in Mali’s capital early on Saturday, killing five people including a French person and a Belgian national. Nine people were wounded including two experts at the U.N. mission in the country. The two are Swiss soldiers and are being flown to Senegal for treatment. Mali’s president and prime minister visited the scene and called it “a criminal and terrorist act.” A government statement said an investigation has been opened and pledged to arrest the perpetrators.

8. According to the AP, Every work day lost during New England’s historic winter has meant millions of dollars taken out of the regional economy. IHS Global Insight, an economic analysis firm, estimates Massachusetts alone suffered roughly $1 billion in lost wages and profits, as storm after storm pummeled the region, delivering over eight feet of snow in roughly a month. Retailers and restaurants were among the hardest hit, as customers held off on big purchases or chose to stay at home rather than enjoy a night on the town. A survey released this week by Massachusetts business groups representing those and other industries reported sales dropped an average of 24 percent and payroll dropped about 7 percent among their small businesses members.

9. According to the AP, a Canadian special forces soldier was killed and three others wounded in a friendly fire incident in northern Iraq. Canadian troops training local forces had just returned to an observation post at the front line on Friday when they were mistakenly fired upon by Kurdish fighters. The slain soldier was identified as Sgt. Andrew Joseph Doiron, from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, based at Garrison Petawawa, Ontario.

10. According to the AP, the police chief of Madison, WI, said the 19-year-old black man who was shot and killed by a veteran white officer was unarmed. Tony Robinson was shot Friday night after an altercation in which Officer Matt Kenny was knocked down by a blow to the head. Chief Mike Koval said it wasn’t clear whether Robinson, who died at a hospital, was alone in the apartment where the shooting happened, which neighbors said was where Robinson lived. Koval added, “He was unarmed. That’s going to make this all the more complicated for the investigators, for the public to accept.” Several dozen protesters gathered outside the Dane County Public Safety Building on Saturday before starting to walk toward the scene of the shooting. Protests also took place on Friday night after the shooting.

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