Prime Minister Najib Razak asked for prayers and patience today as crews continue searching for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370. Questions have arisen about apparent confusion over the plane’s last-known whereabouts and whether it veered off course. Vietnam, meanwhile, has said it will scale back its rescue efforts. With criticism mounting over Malaysia’s handling of the search, distraught relatives of the 239 passengers are venting frustration as they await answers.
The Presidential Daily Brief
At least three people are dead and two dozen injured after two buildings collapsed in East Harlem, following an explosion triggered by a gas leak. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the situation a “tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication in time to save people.” The blast, which blew out windows in surrounding buildings and caused debris to fall onto nearby streets, leveled the five-story residential buildings. Search-and-rescue efforts continue to find the missing.
A quarter-century ago Tim Berners-Lee convinced his bosses at the Swiss Cern labs to let him create a document-sharing network. And thus was born the World Wide Web. How things have changed: not only have we traded dancing babies for cat memes, but the creator himself is calling for an international Magna Carta-like Bill of Rights to keep networks free from government and corporate influence. That includes the U.S., which he wants to see back off from being the dominant keeper of domain names. LOLcats 4ever.
Russian authorities are refusing to speak to their Ukrainian counterparts, and flights into Crimea have been suspended, unless they come from Russia, reports say. Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, meanwhile, is heading to the U.S. to meet President Obama as both try to apply more pressure on Vladimir Putin ahead of Sunday’s referendum on Crimea’s future. Western leaders fear more violence and mayhem in the wake of the vote, which they say defies Ukraine’s constitution and international law.
The death of a 15-year-old boy has set off Turkey’s worst civil unrest in months. Last June, a police tear gas canister hit Berkin Elvan in the head as he walked to buy bread in Istanbul. He then fell into a coma. Since then, Elvan has become a human rights symbol for anti-government protesters. His death on Tuesday sparked peaceful and violent protests across Turkey. The country is gearing up for expected protests today during Elvan’s funeral, and authorities have cordoned off Istanbul’s Taksim Square, the site of last summer’s large anti-government demonstrations.
After a long and winding road, the U.S. Justice Department has launched a criminal probe of General Motors. A House committee has ordered GM to provide answers as to the steps taken to recall unsafe cars, and prosecutors are reportedly questioning whether the auto giant misled federal regulators. GM has been plagued by a history of safety issues, including faulty ignition switches that may have contributed to 31 accidents and 13 deaths. Its recent recall of 1.6 million cars prompted federal concern, and investigators are now demanding answers.
The South Asian nation is looking for a new “executioner” after its latest recruit decided he had too many hangups with the job. The Prisons Department spent a week training the man — the third in a succession of recruits who have failed to report for duty — only to have him quit when he finally saw the gallows. Sri Lanka has prisoners on death row but hasn’t executed anyone since 1976, so the job is mainly administrative. Still, officials have vowed to show the gallows to any future recruits first before letting them get the hang of the job.
In 1211, Genghis Khan ruled over Mongolia. By 1225, his empire stretched from coastal China to the Caspian Sea. It seemed improbable that nomads dominated the continent so quickly, but researchers now believe they know how it happened: with lots of rain. Core samples of millennium-old Siberian pines in Asia show that during the empire’s rise, the region experienced 15 unprecedented years of sustained wet, warm weather. The rain meant more grass, healthier horses and stronger invaders — which probably left the conquered singing “rain, rain, go away.”
The U.S. space agency is searching for coders to assist in the hunt for asteroids on a collision course with Earth. Its Asteroid Data Hunter contest pits the technologically savvy against one another to identify asteroids captured by ground-based telescopes. The contest, which kicks off on March 17, seeks improved algorithms that increase the detection rate while minimizing false positives — with $35,000 up for grabs. While asteroid detection systems can currently only track about one percent of objects orbiting the sun, amateur astronomers may well be thinking: watch this space.
In order to promote his healthcare plan to young people the president decided to tap into youth culture by appearing on comedian Zach Galifianakis’ online satire Between Two Ferns. The mock celebrity interview show has Galifianakis grilling guests while sitting between two potted plants. Obama gamely took a beating but also showed he can do funny. The president got to share his healthcare message, and the comic got an episode likely to rival his Justin Bieber interview. Thankfully, for the state of the Republic, Obama came across much better than the preening pop star.
Musher Seavey didn’t even know he’d won this year’s Iditarod, much less in record time, thanks to the terrible weather conditions. This is Seavey’s second victory in the 1000-mile dog sledding race across Alaska. Mother Nature was unusually cruel this year, battering competitors with gusting winds and a minimal amount of the race’s key component: snow. While other competitors were blown off course, Seavey managed to claim victory in just over eight days.