Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed that it has gathered 8,500 infantry and 1,500 paratroopers, as well as armored vehicles, helicopters, and artillery batteries along Ukraine’s eastern border. The move has heightened concerns that Russia intends to assert itself beyond Crimea. The troop movement provoked the sharpest response yet from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In London today, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry holds key talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. Al Jazeera reports that Western diplomats are preparing a draft resolution against Russia’s actions to be put to the U.N. Security Council before the Crimean secession vote on Sunday.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The President has ordered a review of how the administration handles deportations, he announced at an Oval Office meeting with Hispanic politicians. Obama says he wants to find ways to make the deportation process more humane. Hispanic leaders say he doesn’t go far enough; Obama says the law ties his hands; and Republicans fear Americans will lose jobs and that Obama’s priorities are skewed. But with a bipartisan deal unlikely on an issue of great concern to a key voting block, the president has clearly decided to take a different tack.
The search for Flight MH370 is moving westward into the Indian Ocean. It now appears that two of the aircraft’s operating systems were separately shut down, further evidence that it did not suffer a sudden catastrophic failure. Despite conflicting media reports, there is a growing belief that the plane continued to fly for hours after contact with ground controllers was broken. The flight had enough fuel to fly 2,500 miles, which could have carried it far across the Indian Ocean. Six days after the disappearance, an answer seems more remote than ever.
BP and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have reached an agreement that will allow BP to do business with the U.S. government for the first time since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. BP sued the EPA when the ensuing ban on the company renewing or bidding for federal contracts was not lifted, even after it reached a $4.5 billion settlement with the Justice Department. The new agreement requires BP to comply with heightened safety, ethical, and corporate governance standards. But critics say it doesn’t go far enough — especially since the Deepwater clean-up is still under way.
Convicted drug dealers could face reduced prison sentences under proposals endorsed by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, a further sign that the Obama Administration wants to cool the war on drugs. Revised conviction guidelines would reduce average sentences from 62 months to 51. Several Republicans in Congress have also shown support for a separate plan to eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent drug offenses. The U.S. has the world’s largest prison population, with almost 1 in 100 adults behind bars.
Death toll rises to eight following East Harlem explosion. (NYT).
Pope invited to address U.S. Congress for the first time in history. (USA Today).
Obama orders extension of overtime pay to millions more. (ABC).
McDonald’s workers sue employer for stolen wages. (The Guardian).
Delhi High Court upholds gang-rape death sentences. (CNN).
The Facebook CEO updated his status to reveal that he had spoken to President Obama to “express his frustration” over the NSA’s alleged shady practices. A recent report – which the NSA rejects – suggests that the spy agency posed as Facebook in order to install malware on users’ devices. Zuckerberg says that following his discussion with the president he is convinced that true reform will be a long time coming. He quipped that Facebook’s security engineers have always assumed they were protecting users from criminals, not from their own government. Sounds like the president has just been de-friended.
Source: LA Times
Convinced he is just meditating, devoted followers of an Indian guru have frozen his dead body until he awakes. Ashutosh Maharaj, leader of the Divine Light Awakening Mission which claims to have 30 million followers, was pronounced dead by the authorities on January 29 after a suspected heart attack. His followers, however, believe that he is still alive and will return to consciousness to lead them, arguing that medical science simply cannot comprehend the depth of yogic science. They may believe in divine light, but before long his followers could face a holy stink.
Vladimir Putin has surged to a three-year approval high, as Russians back his stance on Ukraine. Though support for the president has never dipped below 60 percent, he has climbed over 10 points in the last month to almost 72 percent. And the stats could keep climbing; following his 2008 invasion of Georgia, Putin’s popularity hit 88 percent. Alternatively, if Russians are forced to bear the economic brunt of their president’s adventurism he could quickly fall from favor. For now, though his actions have received an icy international reception, those at home have rekindled their passion for Putin.
Authorities in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain have announced that they will ban Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming Noah epic. Censorship officials claim the movie, starring Russell Crowe, violates the Islamic belief that prophets should not be depicted. Other Islamic states may follow suit. The film has also been controversial among conservative Christian groups in the U.S., who object to Aronofsky exercising artistic license when dealing with the Old Testament. Having played badly with polling audiences, Noah could well be a flop. But at least Aronofsky will have inspired some Abrahamic agreement.
Manny Ramirez, who left major league baseball in 2011 under a cloud of performance-enhancing drugs, says he has learned his lesson and wants back in. Even if he has cleaned up, it’s not clear anyone would want him. He’s old for the league at 42, and was so difficult to manage that the Red Sox tried to get rid of him both before and after his bat carried them to two World Series victories. It looks like he’s following in the footsteps of Michael Jordan, but Ramirez might be closer to Dennis Rodman — more trouble than talent.
Source: Sports Illustrated