One allegedly offered to kill President Obama. The FBI has charged three men living in New York for allegedly providing material support to ISIS. Police seized Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, a citizen of Kazakhstan, yesterday as he tried to board a flight to Istanbul, en route to Syria. Two citizens of Uzbekistan were also apprehended, one of whom volunteered to plant a bomb at Coney Island. The arrests underscore the militants’ ability to aggressively recruit Westerners and raise concerns over the possibility of homegrown terror.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Abercrombie & Fitch faced its toughest critics yet. Mocking the teen fashion chain as “mythical preppy,” the high court appeared today to side with a Muslim woman who wasn’t hired by the store because she wore a black hijab that conflicted with its dress code in her job interview. The landmark decision will help clarify whether employers should know that an applicant is seeking a religious exemption or if the candidate must proactively request one. The case could also spur retailers to abandon their “look” policies.
The gloves are off. Obama’s national security advisor, Susan Rice, called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress next week “destructive.” Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu without consulting Obama, a move considered a breach of protocol. Arab ambassadors aren’t attending, despite Israeli requests, while Netanyahu nixed meeting with pro-Israeli Democrats. Meanwhile the vice president and the secretary of state have made a point of meeting with Israeli opposition leaders during this crucial run-up to Israeli elections in mid-March.
He’s facing life behind bars for killing the deadliest sniper in U.S. history. A Texas jury convicted Eddie Ray Routh yesterday of capital murder for the 2013 shooting deaths of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield. The judge sentenced Routh — an ex-Marine who confessed to the killings but pleaded insanity — to life without parole after jurors deemed him legally sane. Routh’s motive remains unclear, and he has the right to appeal.
Amnesty International is calling on the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members to surrender veto rights in cases of genocide and mass atrocities. The human rights watchdog labeled 2014 a “catastrophic year” with abuses in 160 countries, and pointed its finger directly at Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. for misusing vetoes in favor of national interests. But considering China and Russia have blocked intervention in Syria four times, it seems unlikely the Big Five will all give up their right to rock the vote.
The condemnation was almost universal. A panel officially recommended moving the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to winter. FIFA says it won’t compensate the leagues for lost revenue the change wreaks as their players head abroad for the tournament — even if the final lands on Dec. 23. The English Premier League, for one, says this will mess with their Christmas campaign. It’s not like no one knew summer in Qatar might be rough, one wag notes. The final decision comes March 20.
Keep an eye on the word “patient.” In remarks to the Senate Banking Committee yesterday, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the central bank would first drop that word from its statements before it makes a move to raise the benchmark interest rate from near zero. Her comments laid the groundwork for liftoff later this year, possibly as early as June, but more likely in October. Yellen’s testimony, swinging from optimism to concern over low inflation, will ultimately keep investors guessing.
The president axed plans yesterday for an 875-mile oil pipeline, using his third-ever veto. Republicans, fed up after six years of debate on the issue, held off on their Keystone bill until Tuesday to avoid rejection while Congress was on recess. But it made no difference: Obama pulled out his red pen, as expected, and admonished the GOP for trying to circumvent the approval process. Republicans will now try to muster a two-thirds majority — an unlikely prospect — to override the veto.
Board expected tomorrow to approve new rules to preserve open Internet. (USA Today)
Senate leaders head off shutdown of Department of Homeland Security. (LA Times)
Three Al-Jazeera journalists arrested for illegal flying drone in Paris. (BBC)
U.S. offers $3 million reward for Russian hacker. (BBC)
Activist: ISIS is holding 150 Assyrian Christians. (CNN)
U.S. new home sales turn down. (WSJ)
Greece secures four-month bailout extension. (The Guardian)
The Material Girl should thank her lucky star. Making her 20-year return to the U.K. awards show, the pop star fell backward and hit the ground hard after one of her backup singers yanked her bolero-style black cape. Like a pro, the “Living for Love” performer immediately recovered and kept on singing. She later revealed that the cape malfunctioned, but she’s “fine.” Collecting a Brit award, Taylor Swift could have given some advice to Madge — “Shake It Off.”
History ratted out the wrong rodent. For centuries, the black rat has been blamed for the bubonic plague pandemic that ravaged medieval Europe and killed millions of people. But climate researchers are now pointing the finger at Asian giant gerbils, whose populations rose and fell in a weather-related pattern matching the outbreaks. Asian gerbils are still carriers of the plague-causing Yersinia pestis bacteria. Not to worry, though, your furry pet is fine — it’s as innocent as the rat.
Why walk to work when you can glide? The capital of Alberta may soon flood a seven-mile stretch of sidewalk into a frozen path, turning cold temperatures to its advantage. The “freezeway” aims to promote exercise and combat the sluggishness of winter’s unrelenting chill by getting the city’s 878,000 residents to skate around town. A pilot project for the ice trail — which would melt in spring into a bike path — may have folks donning their skates as early as next winter.
They’re shaking up Hollywood. Dubbed the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” 54 survivors of the country’s civil war — now living in Atlanta — allege that Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment exploited their personal accounts of genocide for the 2014 Reese Witherspoon drama, but reneged on a promise to pay them. The lawsuit claims that the refugees essentially served as co-authors by sharing their life stories, and its potentially groundbreaking outcome could change the way writers research future flicks.
The windy city is howling. The Chicago Bulls announced last night that 26-year-old Derrick Rose has suffered a medial meniscus tear in the right knee, requiring surgery that may cost him the season. The South Side native — known for his explosive, graceful style — was in the midst of a promising comeback after rehabilitating the same knee from a 2013 injury. Fans are cheering for the 2011 MVP to make another comeback, but some are beginning to wonder how well he’ll rebound.
Has Kickstarter gone corporate? Smartwatch company Pebble launched its latest product on the crowdfunding website yesterday and raised a million dollars in a record 49 minutes (and millions more later). The problem is, the venture-backed company isn’t exactly a scrappy startup, having raised $10 million in a 2012 Kickstarter campaign for what’s become the world’s most popular smartwatch. Pebble’s double-dipping recalls the backlash against Zach Braff when he crowdfunded $3.1 million for a movie. But the huge response does bode well for one corporate behemoth: Apple.