waters. >> thank you we'll continue to follow. that's our show for today i'm ali velshi, thank you for joining us. joining us. federal corruption charges. >> i'm angry and ready to fight. >> senator robert menendez is indicted and accused of taking bribes for political favors. he's vowing to fight but giving up an influential backlash on capitol hill arkansas is the latest state to confront a measure critics call antigay. the governor there is calling for changes before he agrees to sign it.
dealing with drought. >> it's a historic drought and demands unprecedented action. >> mandatory water restrictions in effect across the state >> and sea levels rising at an alarming rate. >> it's guaranteed the ocean is coming up. >> fears that could endanger a nuclear plant in a major american city in tonight's look at our "fragile planet" good evening. this is al jazeera america. one of the top democrats in democrats in the senate tonight is facing federal corruption charges. robert menendez is calling it a political witch hunt. john, the indictment did not come as a total surprise. >> that's absolutely right. good evening to you. senator robert menendez has been at the
center of a federal probe for two years now. today an indictment was handle down by the state of new jersey. it's the first time a sitting u.s. senator is facing bribery charges in a generation. >>reporter: walking into a room full of cheering supporters, robert menendez menendez called out the prosecutors. >> i'm outraged they were tricked into starting this investigation three years ago with false allegations by those who have a political motive to silence me. >>reporter: never one to back down from a fight in the senate the two-term democrat sounded like he was gearing up for the fight of his political life. >> i'm angry and ready to fight. today contradicts my public
service career and my entire life. >>reporter: he faces a long list of charges including conspiracicy violating the travel act, bribery, fraud, and making false statements. all stemming from his relationship with his friend dr. solomon melgin who has also been charged. >> i'm angry because prosecutors at the justice department don't know the difference between friendship and corruption and has chose on the twist my duties as a senator and my friendship into something improper. >>reporter: the justice department alleges he was lavished with gifts and trips and campaign contributions close to $1 million. in exchange the indictment says he used the power of his office to benefit his friend's financial and personal interests. according to the fbi, he used his influence to change medicare reimbursement policy resulting in melgin pocketing millions.
he received more medicare reimbursements in 2012 than any other doctor in the country >> i have always stood up for what i believe is right. >>reporter: menendez says he paid back the cost of the flights and has done nothing wrong and while he's temporarily stepping down from the foreign relations committee, he says he will not resign his seat in the senate. >> i am proud of what i have accomplished and i am not going anywhere. >> menendez has been a very vocal critic of white house foreign policy especially when it comes to dealing with iran and cuba in particular. >> thank you breaking news now, a russian ship has gone down in the western pacific ocean killing at least 54 people. it happened off the coast of -- a peninsula in far east russia. russian news agencies say there were 132 people on board. dozens have been rescued. it's described as a fishing
trawler with crew members from at least five different countries arkansas's governor today refused to sign the religious freedom bill in the wake of backlash from crateitics who call it antigay. >> this is a bill that in ordinary times would not be controversial. but these are not ordinary times. >>reporter: thrust into the national spotlight, the governor of arkansas seized an opportunity to quell a growing controversy. >> we want to be a place that has the right balance between religious protections and freedoms and nondiscrimination. >> we are arkansas. >>reporter: but opponents of the so-called religious freedom law say it would simply allow business owners to discriminate against anyone for religious reasons. >> i think it's ironic at best
that they're using religion as an excuse to pass something that could have intentional or unintentional consequences that are not good for a huge segment of our population here. >>reporter: that population is the lgbt community. opponents feel with the equality movement gaining speed nationwide this kind of law represents push back against that success. >> it's done in the name of religion and it's income prehenceable that anyone with a relationship would believe that's even necessary. >>reporter: and that's the thing. why do some law makers find state legislation like this necessary especially if it already economistxists on a federal level. >> proponents are say bing look we simply want to give businesses which is broader than the federal law, which defines the law in terms of persons, they're saying we want to give businesses the right to
exercise their religious beliefs and feelings. >>reporter: nationwide 20 states already have some kind of religious freedom laws on the books. 12 other states introduced legislation this year and it became law in indiana this week. but bills recently stalled in north carolina and georgia. in arkansas the state's biggest employer, wal-mart urged the governor to veto it saying diversity benefits business. >> i think we have potentially opened the door for people to interpret this as the ability to treat others differently based on our religion. that's not my religious belief and i don't think if jesus were alive today that's what he would be telling us to do. >> this is both about substance which is getting this legislation right and it's also about communicating to the world
and to our neighboring states that we're a state that recognizes the diversity of the workforce, the need for nondiscrimination, and we want to accomplish that. a local pizza parlor in indiana is reserving the right to not cater gay weddings. owners of memories pizza say they agree with the state's new religious freedom restoration act and they will not cater same-sex weddings because their religious beliefs don't support gay marriage. >> if they wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have so say no. >> they choose to be homosexual. why should i be beat over the head because they choose that lifestyle? >> social media users have
responded with blistering online attacks against the owners. businesses, performers, and governors are boycotting indiana because of the new law four years of drought and today california reached critical mass. jerry brown announced new mandatory statewide water restrictions. to give you an idea of how bad the situation is, this is like orville in 2011. that was then. this is now if the water levels at the lake have plunged 68%. here's another look at the same lake. this is before. this is after. now, an executive order signed today requires farms, businesses and individuals to conserve. jennifer london reports. >>reporter: desperate times calling for desperate measures in the golden state. standing on the slopes of a bone dry ski area in the sierra nevada mountains, california governor jerry brown announced new mandatory water restrictions. >> we're in a historic drought and that demands unprecedented action.
>>reporter: the state was already reeling from an epic drought. now after record low snowfall this winter, officials are running out of options. >> i asked this gentleman have you ever stood on this meadow on this day that there wasn't snow? he said no. >>reporter: it aims to cut water usage by at least 25% statewide. golf courses, colleges cemeteries, and other facilities with large landscapes will take the biggest hits. the governor's action also creates a temporary statewide consumer rebate program giving consumers an incentive to replace old appliances with new water efficient models. new homes and developments are prohibited from irrigating with drinking water. and the state is going to replace many municipal lawns with drought tolerant landscaping. >> we're standing on dry grass and we should be standing in five feet of snow.
>>reporter: sierra ski resorts already know the severity of the crisis. after one of the most dismaloesismal seasons in their history. now the rest of the state could be in for a harsh reality. california needs a staggering 11 trillion gallons of water to even begin a recovery. >> people should realize we're in a new era. the idea of your nice green grass getting lots of water every day, that's going to be a thing of the past. >>reporter: jennifer london al jazeera >> another extension today for negotiations on iran's nuclear program. john kerry will remain at the talks in switzerland until at least thursday. some diplomats say they believe the negotiations are in final stages but they're apparently still far apart in some key issues. >> if we sense the talks have stalled, yes, the united states and the international community is prepared to walk away because
we've been very clear about what kinds of commitments we expect and we've been clear about those commitments for in excess of a year. >> iran's foreign minister said it is time to seize a moment that may never come again. both sides though are accusing each other of holding up a deal the iraqi government tonight is claiming victory over isil fighters who for ten months until today held the northern city of tikrit. iraqi troops retook the city after a month-long battle that saw them supported by shia militias and recently u.s.-led air strikes. here's this report from the pentagon. >>reporter: after a full month of fighting in tikrit iraqi officials paraded in the city center wednesday declaring a magnificent victory and promising a return to normalcy. >> we will start the process of clearing the city from road side bombs and car bombs and then we should begin to process our reconstruction. >>reporter: in washington the u.s. was taking credit for the
tri triyou were cans -- >> the iraqi military made a specific request to the united states to back their efforts with military air strikes and we've seen over the last five days that the stalemate that had been in place for a couple of weeks had receded. >>reporter: tikrit was considered a major isil strong hold even though- held by just a few hundred isil fighters. its capture was crucial because it's a necessary stop on the road to mosul 140 miles to the north where an isil force of unknown strength holds iraq's second largest city with a population of around 1 million. one lesson is clear, continued progress depends on the shia militias including some the u.s.
military has vowed never to support. >> i'd like to just highlight that three tours in iraq commanding troops who were brutalize by some of these shia militias i will not and i hope we never doored coordinate or cooperate with shia militias. some of the iranian-backed shia militias the u.s. said were unwelcome returned to the battle after u.s. air strikes softened isil offenses. >> they're under the command of the iraqi military and the iraqi central government and that's key. >> so the new talking point is that if they are in the battle they're taking their orders from baghdad and not at the ran. mosul has been under coalition bombardment for several months
now. the original target date of this month or next seems highly unlikely could climate change threaten a nuclear power plant just 30 miles from downtown miami? why some activists say rising sea levels could turn that plant into the next fukushima. also 11 former educators found guilty in a huge test cheating scandal and many of them were sent straight to jail. traight to jail.
>> i think we're into something that's bigger than us... >> that's the pain that your mother feels when you disrespect her son... >> me being here is defying all odds... >> they were patriots they wanted there country back >> al jazeera america presents the passion... >> onward.. >> pain... >> it's too much... >> ..and triumph... inspirational real life stories >> all these labels the world
throws at you, that's what drives me hat drives me prosecutors say they don't believe there is video from the downed germanwings plane. today the ceos of the airline visited the crash site in the french alps. they laid flowers at' memorial and expressed their sorrow about the accident. the co-pilot is accused of bringing down the plane on purpose the new york city -- uber drivers and anybody else is forbidden. >> this is important enough to me. you're not important enough. don't ever do that again. don't ever do that again. >> nypd commissioner bill braton said a detective caught on
camera berating a driver on youtube. he's been reassigned but today the commissioner told me he's appalled by what happened. >> the abegansrrogancearrogance, the disrespect was rampant and there's nothing in that video that i like for nearly a decade they refused to classify a crime now the new orleanses coroner is saying it was a homicide when police killed a man in the wake of hurricane katrina and then tried to cover it up. the officer who shot him had already been acquitted of the crime arguing self-defense but a second officer is serving 17 years for burning the body. it's unclear what legal implications the new murder classification could have fog boats have been battling
massive flames at an oil platform in the gulf of mexico. at least four people were killed dozens injured. 300 workers were evacuated from the platform located on the west side of the u.c.l.a. tan peninsula just south of miami. tonight in our month-long series fragile planet we take a look at. potential risks. ♪♪ >>reporter: turkey point, florida's biggest power source was built on the edge of biscayne bay in the 70s when rising sea levels were not a concern. the reactors sit 20 feet above sea level but that's not
reassuring to all. >> could be 60 or 100 years but it's guaranteed the ocean is coming up. >>reporter: he loves these waters. he's a retired boat captain born raised, and still living in the miami area. >> this is florida limestone. >>reporter: today he's an activist worried that turkey point is the next fukushima, the 2011 disaster in japan triggered with a tsunami hit a nuclear power plant. >> the steel rods are in a plant with water. >>reporter: after fukushima, the u.s. nuclear regulatory commission ordered u.s. plants to review their safety plans. an nrc spokesman said turkey point is secure against sea level conditions. the nrc has reviewed the flooding re-evaluation and have determined it's free of immediate safety issues.
they're satisfied to this point that turkey point is appropriately implementing strategies in case of a severe event affects installed system >> i'm not aware of anything they've done to harden the site since fukushima. >>reporter: he recently was re-elected to a third term as mayor of south miami. >> is it a good idea to have nuclear plants on a hurricane swept coast line of my aage? there's concerns about sea level rise. as the water comes up they only become more at risk. >>reporter: a geologist at florida international showed me the maps he's made showing how rising seas will innoneundate the
area. >> it's surrounded by water. >>reporter: and here's what two feet three feet four feet of permanent sea rise at high tide looks like waves would roll in on top of that. by the end of this century, the u.s. government predicts sea levels could rise as much as six and a hat feet meaning storm surges get bigger. in 1992, hurricane andrew devastated south florida but turkey point emerged largely unscathed unscatheded. florida power and light cites that prominently on its website. but andrew's peak surge missed the plant by ten miles. >> they'll tell you that turkey point withstood the brunt of hurricane andrew. it never was tested by the surge. >>reporter: even if florida power and liked and the nrc are right and turkey point is safe
he says south florida will soon be tested by bigger questions as the water permanently rises. >> how soon? not this year. not 30 years. 200 years, i don't expect much of florida to be above the water line. how do you depopulate an urban area like miami? it's not going to be pretty. guilty verdicts in the biggest cheating scandal in georgia's history. in atlanta today 11 of 12 former educators were on trial convicted of theft and making false statements. more than 200 teachers were suspected of wrong doing. many took plea deals to avoid prison. some say they were instructed to change test scores to get bonuses or even keep their jobs >> starting today most minimum wage workers in seattle will earn $11 an hour. how workers and small business
its labor practices. company officials say they will boost starting pay to an average of $9.90 by july and will also offer paid vacation. the move does not cover employees at franchises which make up nearly 90% of mcdonald's u.s. restaurants the minimum wage went up to $11 an hour in seattle today and it will keep rising over the next several years until it reaches $15. >>reporter: restaurant owner john pratt's price of doing business is going up. we met him last year when the seattle city council was still debating raising the minimum wage. >> when i start hearing things like it's a done deal i'm shocked. did seattle really think about this? >>reporter: pratt was worried about the impact on the bottom line for both his restaurant and his employees. >> whatever people's perception of wealthy business owners i'm not that guy.
>>reporter: that guy has changed his tune. >> you know last year at this time totally freaked out. >>reporter: he's less worried now because of the way the pay hikes will be phased in gradually. half of his workers will now make $10 an hour base pay. that's the new low end for employees who also make tips or get health benefits. across the city most minimum wage workers go to $11 an hour right now and will make 15 within three years. he says the step by step approach should make it economically feasible. >> as a community, we're going to walk together with this. >>reporter: but it's a slow walk. it will be 2021 before all of the estimated 100,000 low wage earns in seattle hit that $15 mark. robert o'neil has been waiting tables for minimum wage plus tips for the last several years. he knows this first bump isn't a
big one. >> when i was a kid i liked to work for $10 an our. 11 is even better. >>reporter: the wage boost will have the biggest impact in the food hospitality, and healthcare industries. complaints and enforcement will be handled by the new office of labor standards at city hall. but there's one problem. >> right now, the office of labor standards exists on paper only. >> the office of labor standards, the city has not yet appointed a director. >> no enforcement officers. >> nothing has happened yet and i'm hopeful that it will the appointees will be selected very soon. >> keep the fire burning. >>reporter: council woman, a major player in the labor backed 15 now movement wants employers to know they'll be tracked and punished if they don't pay the new rates. but exactly how that will happen if it does is not clear.
john pratt says a few employees might lose a few hours of work here and there and the gradual wage hikes will guarantee gradual price hikes. astronauts on board the international space station have caught opp amazing film. it's a typhoon packing winds of 160 miles per hour or more. the storm has already killed at least five people. it's forecast to hit the philippines this weekend she is a photojournalist who's covered some of the worst conflicts of the last decade from syrian refugees to fighting in afghanistan, she's captured the suffering of war around the world. we'll share her story tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. eastern. thanks for joining us. for the latest news any time