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

In our news wrap Friday, no suicide note was found in the search of the home of Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, but a torn-up doctor’s note suggests that he was hiding an illness from employers before he crashed a plane into the French Alps. Also, Saudi Arabia launched new airstrikes against Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, targeting three areas, including the rebel-controlled capital.

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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, Independent Television News:

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

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

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

  • BRIG. GEN. AHMED ASSERI, Coalition Spokesman (through interpreter):

    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. 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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