He was gunned down days before a major protest against the president. Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, one of the most outspoken critics of corruption in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, was shot four times and killed by an unknown assailant this evening in the capital city. His murder raises fears of a further crackdown on dissent fomented by the country’s liberal opposition. While Putin condemned Nemtsov’s death as a “pure provocation,” his critics must be wondering about any Kremlin ties to the killing.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Three weeks was apparently too long to contemplate. With mere hours before the Department of Homeland Security was to run out of money, the House passed a one-week extension after failing to approve a plan that would have kept funds flowing until March 19. The move avoids a partial shutdown and gives Republican lawmakers more time to sort out deep divisions over the best way to overturn President Obama’s immigration policies. Speaker John Boehner had the most to lose as GOP infighting led to stalled government.
Farewell, Mr. Spock. The Method actor became a household name thanks to his alien character on the sci-fi series, a role whose rigidity cast new light on our own humanity. Beyond the small screen, Nimoy wrote poetry, published books of photography, acted on stage and directed and appeared in Star Trek movies. He was nominated for four Emmys but never won. In the end, it’s his Spock that will likely prove immortal. His heartbreaking last tweet summed it up: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.”
The streets of Athens are burning. Demonstrators clashed with Greek authorities overnight, setting cars alight and smashing shop windows in response to the pending eurozone bailout extension. Many are frustrated by what they see as a failure by new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to deliver on his anti-austerity campaign promises. Today the German parliament approved the extension to help the debt-ridden Mediterranean country avoid default. Eurozone members must now ratify the deal, but with tempers flaring at home, Greece is bracing for more violence.
This was exactly the sort of extremism he opposed. A machete-wielding mob yesterday murdered U.S.-Bangladeshi blogger Avijit Roy. The atheist and pro-secularist writer had been walking home from a Dhaka University book fair with his wife — who was also targeted and seriously injured — at the time of the attack. Roy’s family say he had received numerous threats from Islamists in recent months, and while police have not yet made any arrests, they are investigating a local hardline group that praised his death.
The legal wrangling has gone on for years. Exxon was liable — all that remained was figuring out how much the energy firm would owe the state for environmental damage across some 1,500-plus acres of environmentally-valuable land and water. The state sought $8.9 billion in damages — but settled for $250 million in a deal not yet made fully public. The yawning difference between the figures triggered alarms for some court-watchers and advocates. “It raises questions,” says one expert. Just because there’s a deal doesn’t mean it’s over.
Their destruction knows no bounds. ISIS has released a video of militants ransacking a Mosul museum filled with centuries-old Assyrian artifacts. The terrorists, who have reportedly kidnapped 287 Assyrian Christians, claim non-Muslim cultures should be punished for worshipping the material value of art as “false idols.” The damage has prompted international outcry over the loss of antiquities from early civilizations. But some fear it’s really an attempt to provoke Western retaliation, which could help ISIS recruit more to their cause.
Is Ukraine’s peace deal crumbling? Kiev says three soldiers have been killed over the past day. While pro-Russian separatists are reportedly respecting the ceasefire along most of the front line, clashes continued near Donetsk airport. The demilitarization process on both sides continues. But with these fresh clashes and Ukrainian Prime Minister Petro Poroshenko warning about a continued “military threat from the east” (perhaps referring to Russia), it’s looking more like a slow day of fighting than a longterm peace.
Death came to tiny Tyrone in the early morning hours. A young child’s 911 call led authorities to gruesome discoveries: two bodies found in her home, five other deaths elsewhere, one person wounded, an elderly person gone, and the body of the alleged shooter found in a vehicle. Police knocked on doors throughout the town just before 4 a.m. telling residents to stay put. Details are few at this time, but teachers at a local school were told to report early for grief counseling.
Consumers don’t have enough of a yen for spending. Excluding the effect of last year’s sales tax increase, inflation fell to just 0.2 percent in January, down from 0.5 percent the previous month. Despite strong factory output, the world’s third-largest economy may be in danger of spiraling into a period of falling prices and stagnant growth. That could pressure the central bank to inject billions more in stimulus. And as long as shoppers are holding onto their wallets, exports will be critical to Japan’s growth.
Mexico captures country’s most wanted drug lord Servando “La Tuta” Gomez. (The Guardian)
ISIS victim’s widow: Deny Jihadi John an ‘honorable death.’ (BBC)
Virginia approves payouts to sterilization victims. (Reuters)
Oil slump plagues Texas shale town. (FT) sub
Lupita Nyong’o’s $150,000 pearl Oscars dress stolen. (Telegraph)
U.S. blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh. (Times of India)
It all started with this simple white and gold dress. Or is it blue and black? The question has been raging on the Web, exploding into a viral phenom with its own live blog. People were stunned to discover that anyone could look at the same dress and report different colors. “I’m confused and scared,” tweeted Taylor Swift. Neurologists say it’s because our brains interpret the light coming into our eyes slightly differently — but only scientists could see this conundrum as being so black-and-white.
Sleeping it off won’t work. Researchers have discovered that older people who doze more than eight hours increase their risk of stroke by a whopping 46 percent compared to those getting six to eight hours of winks. Study participants whose sleep habits changed from under six to over eight hours a night had a four-fold risk. More research must determine whether excessive sleep is caused by poor brain health or contributes to it, but these results are enough to raise — and set — the alarm.
Weight Watchers International is losing the battle of the bulge. The weight-loss pioneer blames fitness gadgets for a 15 percent membership slump and a 10 percent decline in fourth-quarter revenue, as more customers turn to wearables paired with free apps to track their exercise and nutrition. Although it has an app, the calorie-counting company has been slow to adapt to a digital world. Its best bet now? Fattening up … by partnering with corporate fitness programs that aim to get employees off the couch.
The world is coming together — at least musically — once a week. The industry’s international trade group has picked Friday as its global release day, ending the tradition of unleashing new albums on Mondays in Britain, Tuesdays in the U.S. and other days elsewhere. The move is meant to reduce piracy, adapt to digital buying habits and take advantage of weekend shopping. With an official new worldwide standard, superstars like Beyoncé will need to find different surprise-release stunts to separate themselves from the crowd.
The trailblazing forward known as “The Big Cat” joined the Washington Capitals in 1950, before playing for the Detroit Pistons and winning the 1955 NBA title with the Syracuse Nationals. The six-foot-five Hall of Famer averaged 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in more than 500 games, and later became the league’s first black assistant coach. Tributes have begun pouring in for the West Virginia State alum who opened the door to so many inspiring careers.