They have until sundown Thursday. The militants threatened to “immediately” kill a Jordanian pilot if a female terrorist sentenced to death in Jordan isn’t delivered to the Turkish border by the new deadline. Jordan had agreed to swap the would-be hotel bomber Sajida al-Rishawi for pilot Moaz al-Kassasbeh, but no word came until this newly released audio message, purportedly read by Japanese hostage Kenji Goto. The Jordanian and Japanese governments are facing extreme pressure to save their prisoners, even if it means negotiating with the terror group.
The Presidential Daily Brief
There’s soon to be a new sheriff in town. The lawyer tapped to take over the nation’s top legal spot, potentially the first black woman to become attorney general, faces the Senate Judiciary Committee today. She’s vowed to make the constitution her “lodestar” and improve ties between cops and the public in our post-Ferguson world. Republicans want assurances that she’ll remain independent, and won’t just fall into lockstep with the current administration. A final vote on her confirmation isn’t expected for a few more weeks.
Just what the Middle East needs, more fighting. Anti-tank weaponry fired from Lebanon’s interior struck an Israeli military vehicle. Seven others were wounded, and the Israelis fired rockets back. A UN peacekeeper died inside Lebanon. It’s a sign of increasing tensions along the Jewish state’s northern border, the worst it’s been in years. Hezbollah, long mired in Syria’s civil war, had warned it would soon return to fighting Israel. That’s not a promise many outside of radical organizations want to see come to fruition.
He’s buddying up to Putin. North Korea’s supreme leader will embark on his first official foreign trip this May when Kim flies to Russia for ceremonies marking the Soviet victory over Germany in World War II. Both countries have been looking to bolster ties, with Putin keen to help overhaul a North Korean railway in exchange for mineral resources. By visiting Moscow before Beijing, Kim may be trying to snub China for its 2013 rebuke over the Hermit Kingdom’s third nuclear test.
Parents were giving him a bad grade. It’s been just a week since the president vowed to end tax breaks on 529 college savings accounts, saying they’re disproportionately used by the wealthy. But 12 million Americans use 529s, allowing them to withdraw money tax-free for higher education. Some experts think 529s could be to college what 401(k)s are to retirement. In a rare show of unity, politicians from both parties complained, and yesterday Obama dropped the idea. If only he could drop the price of Harvard, too.
This is one for Wall Street’s record books. The tech giant has reported the largest-ever quarterly profit by any public company, boosted by “staggering” sales of 74.5 million iPhones. Apple’s net profit grew 37 percent to $18 billion last quarter, surpassing ExxonMobil’s quarterly record of $15.9 billion from 2012. CEO Tim Cook can thank the Chinese for the historic haul, which puts Samsung, Xiaomi and Google on notice. Analysts, meanwhile, wonder whether new products like Apple Watch will clock similar results.
Is he shooting himself in the foot? Israeli politicians are calling on their prime minister to cancel his speech about Iran before the U.S. Congress next month. Bipartisan American support is considered vital to Israel, and some fear Netanyahu’s move could endanger relations. Netanyahu and Obama are already known for not being on the friendliest terms. But now Democrats are postponing a planned sanctions bill on Iran, and analysts wonder whether Bibi has hurt his chances in Israel’s March election.
He claims it was a case of mistaken identity. Mexico’s attorney general thinks the 43 students who went missing in Iguala last September were killed after a drug gang mistook them for rivals. Jesus Murillo Karam says the victims were murdered, burned and thrown in a river and insists there’s no evidence of army intervention. Families responded angrily to the news, clinging to hopes that the students remain alive. A former Iguala mayor and his wife, meanwhile, await trial over suspected links to the case.
Federal Reserve won’t hike interest rates before June. (NYT)
Greece PM says country will not default on bailout debt. (BBC)
Yahoo plans to spin off $40 billion Alibaba stake. (FT) sub
2 Chainz says he wants to run for political office. (Buzzfeed)
Japan blasts China for bullying with military parade. (SCMP)
Want to know where homes will boast venti-size values in the years to come? Just look for the familiar green-and-white logo. According to data crunched by Zillow, the chain doesn’t just follow the gentrified masses, it can actually fuel rising home prices on its own. Between 1997 and 2014, on average, U.S. homes within a quarter mile of a Starbucks gained 96 percent in value, whereas properties not near one appreciated only 65 percent. That’s a latte bang for your buck.
Call it a millennial news channel. The ephemeral photo messaging hit now features bite-sized content in the form of photos, video and short text — all of which disappears within 24 hours. Users swipe to access the Discover hub’s daily editions from 10 major outlets to start, including CNN, ESPN, Cosmo, Vice and Yahoo News. The move could help the social media app stick around awhile by transforming it into a publishing powerhouse featuring much more than just sexts.
It only took 54 years. To a standing ovation, a judge vacated the trespassing convictions against nine black men who broke the law by sitting at a whites-only lunch counter in Rock Hill, South Carolina. “We cannot rewrite history, but we can right history,” said Judge Mark Hayes. Eight surviving members of the Friendship 9 appeared for the hearing where they cheered and wept. No one could argue that their historic act at the height of the civil rights movement remains as relevant as ever.
The queen of pop needs a better password. Hacking group Lizard Squad commandeered the 25-year-old’s Twitter and Instagram profiles for 15 minutes yesterday, sending prank messages to her 71 million combined fans. The group, which has claimed responsibility for hacking the Sony PlayStation Network and North Korea, threatened to release nude photos of Swift. But America’s Sweetheart — who owns the fourth-largest account on all of Twitter — shook it off, tweeting: “Have fun photoshopping cause you got NOTHING.”
They’re free at last. In 2014, a whopping 125 people walked out of U.S. prisons after courts overturned their convictions. Forty-eight of them had done time for murder — and six were on death row. In one heartbreaking case, Ohioan Ricky Jackson spent 39 years behind bars, the most time of any known exculpated prisoner. Credit for the record number of exonerations goes to “conviction integrity units” established by local prosecutors to prevent and remedy wrongful convictions. But even they can’t make up for lost time.
Now they can tackle jail time. Former Vanderbilt footballers Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey, both 21, were convicted yesterday in the 2013 rape of an unconscious coed. Their defense? A college culture of binge drinking and sexual promiscuity was to blame. Jurors didn’t agree, and both men could face decades behind bars. Now the woman — along with college officials, who are meeting in Nashville this week to discuss sexual assault — will focus on other victims, telling them, ”You are not alone.”
His father was a former slave who fought for the Union Army, serving with one of the nation’s first black regiments. But Luke P. Martin Jr. — who died Sunday in the same North Carolina home where he was born — was a modern man. The elder Martin was born in 1837 and died in 1920, making his son one of the last surviving children of the American Civil War. The younger Martin, a beloved community man, will be laid to rest on Thursday.