Ukrainian troops have launched a major “anti-terrorist” action and seized an air base in Kramatorsk that had been held by pro-Russian separatists. The moves prompted Vladimir Putin to warn that Ukraine may be veering towards civil war. Putin referred to Ukraine’s action as a “sharp escalation” in a telephone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but the White House praised the measure. Diplomats from Russia, the EU, U.S. and Ukraine are scheduled to meet in Geneva tomorrow for the first time since the crisis began in February.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The New York Police Department has done away with a secretive program aimed at listening to conversations in places frequented by Muslims. The initiative began in the wake of the 9/11 attacks as a way of gathering intelligence in a bid to root out potential terrorist threats. The tactics are the subject of two federal lawsuits and have drawn criticism from civil rights groups while also sowing mistrust of law enforcement in the Muslim community. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the unit’s closure was a “critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve.”
A day after 71 people were killed by a bus station bomb outside the capital, Abuja, gunmen are believed to have kidnapped at least 100 girls from a school in the northeast. Two members of the security forces were reportedly killed in the attack, and about a dozen girls managed to escaped. Boko Haram — which means “Western education is a sin” — wants to turn the region into an Islamic state. Fighters have been known to kidnap young women to use as cooks and sex slaves.
Two suspicious backpacks were blown up near the site of the Boston Marathon finish line on Tuesday as a man was taken into custody. Police evacuated a downtown street on the anniversary of last year’s bombing. The man reportedly told officers he had a rice cooker in his bag. Local media posted a video of a barefoot man wearing a floppy hat and black veil carrying a large backpack. He was shouting “Boston strong,” the phrase popularized after three were killed and 260 were injured in the marathon bombing. Police are trying to trace the owner of the second bag.
Nearly 300 missing after South Korea ferry sinks. (BBC).
Police charge white supremacist suspect with capital murder in Kansas shootings. (Kansas City Star).
Masked gunmen kidnap Jordan’s ambassador in Libya. (DW).
Former Italian PM Berlusconi gets community service for tax fraud. (LA Times).
Iran considers vasectomy ban. (The Guardian).
A London hair salon hung a head-turning poster in its window offering a 15 percent discount for a solution to a “Bad Hair Day.” The poster featured a photo of the famously coiffed North Korean leader and his trademark flop-top. The result? A visit from some very unamused North Korean officials from their nearby embassy. The manager explained that they were in England, not North Korea, adding: “We live in a democracy, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to get out of my salon.”
Even casual pot smokers show signs of brain changes, according to a new study. Researchers believe the changes could indicate serious long-term issues. Some of the 20 college students from the Boston area who participated in the study only got high once or twice a week. But compared to 20 non-smokers, their brains showed marked differences in two areas linked to emotion and motivation. The question is whether states contemplating the legalization of recreational marijuana will think differently after hearing the news.
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of India has recognized a “third gender,” ordering the government to provide transgender citizens fair representation in education and professional life, as well as access to key amenities. All citizens should have the opportunity to “attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender,” the court ruled. Previously, transgender Indians, known as hijras, could only identify themselves officially as male or female. The progressive decision bizarrely follows a ruling in December re-criminalizing gay sex.
The “Bangerz” star is in hospital after suffering a “severe allergic reaction” to antibiotics, according to her spokesman. Cyrus was forced to cancel last night’s concert in Kansas City but appears to be on the mend. She posted a selfie with an octopus toy in her Kansas bed and tweeted that she was “heartbroken” about missing her gig. The singer, who reportedly became ill shortly after shopping with her mom, canceled a concert earlier this month after falling ill with the flu.
Despite a Sweet 16 appearance in March, the Tennessee Volunteers coach — who has struggled to escape the shadow of his predecessor Bruce Pearl — has opted for greener pastures in California. Martin’s decision shocked administrators and fans, but his disappointed players took to Twitter to shout out messages of support and understanding. Depending on who succeeds Martin, Tennessee may have a mutiny brewing — recruit Kingsley Okoroh, who was committed to the Vols, reportedly tweeted after the announcement that he too would be heading for Berkeley.