As promised, he did it without “drama or fanfare.” Still, the political theatrics sparked by President Obama’s veto — only his third — of the energy project seen by Republicans and some Democrats as a crucial jobs creator are only heating up. Environmental groups are planning marches against the pipeline, while the GOP-controlled Congress may try to attach its approval to other legislation. With an override unlikely, Obama’s pen stroke sets up the first of many veto battles expected in his remaining years.
The Presidential Daily Brief
He couldn’t win outright. Incumbent mayor Rahm Emanuel surged at the polls Tuesday night, but his lead wasn’t enough to avoid a runoff against Cook County commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. Chicago voters must now endure six more weeks of campaigning to decide whether to give the former Obama chief of staff a second term or switch horses. The next mayor must wrangle the city’s severe financial problems, including budget shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Still, the Windy City hasn’t been captivated by the race, and turnout was low.
This is sure to open old wounds. The Department of Justice announced today it won’t pursue civil rights charges in the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin since the “high standard” for a federal hate crime can’t be met. Prosecutors said they would not have been able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman intended to shoot the unarmed teenager in a hoodie because he was black. While not unexpected, the decision will add to the wrenching national debate over racial profiling, excessive force and gun rights. And activists will mourn another opportunity to bring the conversation into a court of law.
Interest rates will remain super low — for now. Fed Chairman Janet Yellen testified before the U.S. Senate this morning noting that the market has improved, although there remains plenty of room for growth. When inflation goes back to about 2 percent, then the Fed might raise rates. Risks remain if the rates stay at rock bottom, and some read between the lines to see Yellen laying the groundwork to hike rates later this year.
Despite mentioning a possible “apocalyptic scenario,” President Vladimir Putin says he does not foresee Russian and Ukrainian troops bringing Europe to the brink. In his first public comments since the Feb. 12 ceasefire, the Russian leader predicted stability in the region, but also warned Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko not to try regaining Crimea. Peace depends on the Minsk deal holding, though, and a lack of demilitarization is raising doubts. Leaders are meeting today in Paris to try and bolster chances for its success.
They get credit … for offering a solution. Athens met a midnight deadline for delivering a list of reform proposals to Brussels to secure a four-month bailout extension. The European Commission said today that the reforms are “sufficiently comprehensive” and approved the plan. It includes an overhaul to Greece’s tax collection system and crackdowns on tax evasion. Proposed social spending may cause hiccups, but a Greek default seems to have been averted. The markets have already signaled their enthusiasm.
The militants are reportedly lashing out. U.S.-backed Kurds have won key victories against ISIS, and now ISIS has apparently taken at least 90 members of an ancient Christian community near the town of Hasaka. The location is key, near the Iraqi border area where militants carried out atrocities against another religious minority, the Yazidis. Already thousands of Christians in communities whose roots date back essentially to the time of Christ have fled Iraq — and many of them have sought safety near Hasaka.
Is the cartel crumbling? OPEC is likely to call an emergency meeting if crude prices keep plummeting, according to Nigeria’s oil minister and president of the cartel. Diezani Alison-Madueke’s comments suggest that the gambit to ditch a decades-old strategy of keeping prices high in favor of gaining market share is more than most members can bear. “Almost all OPEC countries, except perhaps the Arab bloc, are very uncomfortable,” she said. But hard-hit economies like Nigeria and Venezuela must first get Saudi Arabia to feel their pain.
A “crazed individual” opened fire around lunchtime. The rural restaurant in Uhersky Brod in the eastern part of the country had about 20 people inside when a senior citizen walked in with a gun. Weapons are common in the area near the Slovakia border where hunting remains popular, despite national gun control efforts. Police say this isn’t terrorism, but the lone act of one person.
Sponsoring terror is costly. A federal court in New York is demanding that the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization pay a whopping $218.5 million for supporting six terror attacks in Israel that killed 33, including Americans, between 2002 and 2004. The victory spells big cash for 10 plaintiff families, as the fine is tripled to $655.5 million under a U.S. anti-terrorism law. Whether the Palestinian groups can or will pay remains unclear, but they have called the claims “baseless” and plan to appeal.
Olbermann suspended from show after inappropriate Penn State tweets. (ESPN)
Antonio Villaraigosa says he won’t enter the race for Barbara Boxer’s seat. (LA Times)
14-year-old dies after being shot during anti-government protest in Venezuela. (AP)
A California train derailed after hitting a truck on the tracks. (LAT)
Indonesia: Mercy pleas will not delay executions. (Reuters)
McConnell hopes to avert Homeland Security shutdown amid immigration clash. (The Hill)
Drones flying above sensitive sites stir panic in Paris. (Telegraph)
‘American Horror Story’ actor Ben Woolf dies at age 34. (NYT)
The Earth might swallow us whole. Scientists are raising the alarm over giant holes that have appeared around the Yamal Peninsula of Siberia. Last summer, three giant craters were discovered, and satellite imagery has since revealed another four, with some researchers fearing as many as 30 exist. Most experts believe the craters are caused by methane gas eruptions triggered by global warming. But studying gas emissions is risky, and scientists are calling for urgent investigations to bridge the gaps.
Start spreading the news. For years, parents have kept peanuts away from babies for fear of life-threatening allergic reactions. But a landmark study has found that infants who consume about four heaping teaspoons of peanut butter each week, starting by 11 months of age, are more than 80 percent less likely to develop a peanut allergy by their fifth birthday. Researchers recommend that most babies should eat peanut products as soon as they wean — so parents can feel free to go a bit nuts.
Do all-white computer characters get under your skin? Fear not, because diversity is penetrating the ranks of emoji. A beta release of an update for Apple’s Mac and iOS devices reveals smiley faces and winks in a variety of flesh tones. While emoticons have expressed scores of attitudes and poses, the majority have been yellow or white. But with new hues now being tested, experts are giving a thumbs-up to the likelihood of more varied emoji dancing onto our screens sometime soon.
They’re taking off. New Zealand-based jetpack manufacturer Martin Aircraft Company soared in its Australian Stock Exchange debut today, before falling back to where it started. The fueled backpacks — which can zoom at 46 mph and rise 800 feet — are set to hit the market next year. Early jetpack concepts captured imaginations in Space Age movies and TV but have seemed stuck in development ever since. Now fans can finally save for the $200,000 estimated sticker price and enjoy the stock’s wild ride.
He seems to like red, white and … green. The Red Sox have snagged 19-year-old Cuban sensation Yoan Moncada with a $31.5 million signing bonus, eclipsing the Yankees’ reported $25 million offer. The infielder, who debuted in Cuba’s top pro league when he was just 17, left the island in November with Castro’s blessing, and scouts believe the switch hitter has huge potential. Moncada is expected to don his red-and-whites in Florida this week before a stint in the minors.