Arkansas execution — Arkansas overcame a flurry of court challenges Thursday that derailed three other executions, putting to death an inmate for the first time in nearly a dozen years as part of a plan that would have been the country’s most ambitious since the death penalty was restored in 1976. Ledell Lee’s execution was among eight inmates originally scheduled to be put to death before a lethal injection drug expires April 30. He was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m. Thursday, four minutes before his death warrant was due to expire. The state originally set four double executions over an 11-day period in April. The eight executions would have been the most by a state in such a compressed period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Two more inmates are set to die Monday, and one on Thursday. Another inmate scheduled for execution next week has received a stay. The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for Lee’s execution less than an hour before his death warrant was set to expire at midnight.
Ann Coulter speech at Berkeley — The University of California, Berkeley, on Thursday reversed its decision to cancel a speech by the conservative author Ann Coulter, approving her to appear on campus May 2. University administrators had said a day earlier that they could not let Coulter speak because of security threats. In a letter to the Berkeley College Republicans, who were sponsoring the speech, the university said it had been “unable to find a safe and suitable venue for your planned April 27 event featuring Ann Coulter.” The decision was criticized by groups across the political spectrum who viewed it as an attack on free speech.
Venezuela protests — Venezuela’s energized opposition is planning sit-ins on roads, silent marches in white to commemorate the dead and other nontraditional protests as it tries to build on the momentum of recent street demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of the South American country again Thursday to demand elections and denounce what they consider an essentially dictatorial government. General Motors announced early Thursday that it was closing its operations in Venezuela after authorities seized its factory in the industrial city of Valencia. The plant was confiscated Wednesday as anti-Maduro protesters clashed with security forces and pro-government groups. The seizure arose from an almost 20-year-old lawsuit brought by a former GM dealership in western Venezuela.
Russia bans Jehovah’s witnesses — Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday declared Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination that rejects violence, an extremist organization, banning the group from operating on Russian territory and putting its more than 170,000 Russian worshippers in the same category as Islamic State militants. The ruling, which confirmed an order last month by the Justice Ministry that the denomination be “liquidated,” had been expected. Viktor Zhenkov, a lawyer for the denomination, said Jehovah’s Witnesses would appeal the ruling.
Iran presidential candidates — A council that vets Iran’s political candidates disqualified former two-term president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday — along with hundreds of others — from the presidential election next month. No official reason was given for the disqualifications in the May 19 election, which were announced on state television by an election official. While Ahmadinejad’s disqualification was not unexpected, the timing of the announcement — around midnight, two days before what had been the scheduled unveiling of the final list of candidates — was unusual.