They’re running for their lives. As Iraqi soldiers and Shia militiamen slowly surround Saddam Hussein’s hometown in a bid to take back control from ISIS militants, 28,000 civilians are being forced to flee the city. They’re abandoning their homes and heading south toward Samarra. Some are reportedly still stuck at checkpoints, and there’s increasing concern for the safety of those still stuck in the fray. The U.N., meanwhile, is working to send relief-supply convoys to the area to help those in need.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They hope this will turn things around. The European Central Bank is launching its quantitative easing program on Monday, with plans to start buying $69.7 billion worth of debt a month, including public sector and asset-backed securities. The news boosted Germany’s blue chip stock index, but the euro fell to $1.10 against the dollar, its lowest price in 11 years. In its bid to tackle stagnation and boost growth, the ECB is expected to buy nearly $1 trillion in government bonds by September 2016.
She didn’t need a government account to send this message. “I want the public to see my email,” the former secretary of state tweeted in response to congressional subpoenas over her private email being used for official business. The lawmakers’ move followed news that she’d stored her email on a home-based server, rather than a government one. While the State Department reviews Clinton’s correspondence for possible release, Republicans are gearing up for more tussles with the presumed presidential candidate. Concerned Dems, meanwhile, may be looking for an alternative in the run-up to 2016.
There were no serious injuries among the 132 people onboard. But witnesses described a scary scene as a Delta Airlines jet in New York slid off the runaway in snowy weather this morning and crashed through a fence, forcing passengers to scramble out onto a broken wing. A winter storm system is hammering the East Coast today, canceling thousands of flights and leading to at least nine deaths. Boston only needs a few inches to break the city’s all-time snow record. Spring can’t come soon enough for many.
The minister in charge of Egypt’s police is apparently gone. The ministries of culture, tourism, agriculture and communications were shaken up, too. The big change was the top cop, though. Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim was replaced by another general, Magdy Abdel-Ghafar, after a series of bomb attacks in Cairo attributed to Islamic militants. Ibrahim himself drew fire for alleged human rights violations. The goal, says one Egypt watcher, is to calm critics, even as national security grows more critical.
A militant nationalist was no match for the former Navy SEAL. Mark Lippert, American ambassador to South Korea, is stable after suffering cuts to the face and hand by a knife-wielding reunification activist. The envoy was attacked this morning in Seoul while preparing to speak about peace prospects for the Koreas amid tensions over military drills in the South and missile tests in the North. Pro-American demonstrations are being held in response, and Lippert tweeted that he’s looking forward to promoting peace again after he recovers.
Officer Darren Wilson didn’t break any federal laws when he fatally shot Michael Brown, according to the Justice Department. But policing practices in Ferguson, Missouri, were rife with constitutional violations and did “disproportionately harm African American residents,” according to Attorney General Eric Holder. That “highly toxic environment” fed residents’ distrust of an authority in dire need of an overhaul. Being forced to change its ways, Ferguson may restructure its police department or even eliminate it altogether and outsource to another agency.
It’s time to get real about the real. Brazil’s central bank has raised its benchmark rate to 12.75 percent as inflation grew at the fastest monthly pace in a dozen years in January. Sitting at 7.14 percent, the inflation rate has run riot since President Dilma Rousseff’s government began subsidizing energy and fuel prices. The rate hike is another drag on the economy, beset by declining consumer spending and growing unemployment. And the bank has left the door open to even more increases.
Banks clear first phase of Federal Reserve stress testing. (USA Today)
Chinese premiere discusses plans for slower, steady growth. (FT) sub
Indonesia rebuffs Australia’s Bali Nine prisoner swap offer. (SMH)
Mississippi governor declares state of emergency over winter storm. (The Clarion Ledger)
German vandals sentenced to caning, prison in Singapore. (DW)
Snowden files: New Zealand is spying on Pacific allies. (The Guardian)
Supreme Court justices appear split over Obamacare. (Washington Post)
It’s dangerous flying solo. The Star Wars actor sustained head gashes after the World War II-era, single engine plane he was piloting ditched into a Los Angeles golf course today. The veteran pilot, who was alert and conscious before being transported to a hospital, reported engine failure before crash landing. Reprising his role as Han Solo, the 72-year-old Ford broke his leg last year on the set of Star Wars: Episode VII. He might need to awaken the Force.
An anthropology student made a jaw-dropping discovery in Ethiopia back in 2013. The Arizona State University post-grad found a mandible with five teeth that researchers have now revealed belongs to one of the very first humans. The 2.8-million-year-old specimen pushes human history back by 400,000 years. It also provides a crucial link between our own genus, Homo, and our more ape-like hominid ancestors, Australopithecus. Scientists hope this will help them pin down a turning point in evolution.
The long arm of its law apparently stretches far beyond the Emirates. Helicopter mechanic Ryan Pate has been arrested in Abu Dhabi for social media comments he made about his UAE-based employer while in his native Florida. After reportedly posting messages badmouthing Global Aerospace Logistics, Pate returned to the Middle East to resign and was arrested under cyber-slander laws. After 10 days in jail, he’s out on bail and awaiting a March 17 trial, which could end with a prison term of five years.
The National Transportation Safety Board is mulling another look at the 1959 Iowa plane crash that killed the Texas rock ’n’ roller, along with “The Big Bopper” and Ritchie Valens. Originally deemed a pilot error, a letter from New England aviator L.J. Coon — highlighting issues like weight, carburetor icing and rudder problems — is prompting the rethink. The NTSB will decide within weeks, and Coon boldly predicts the feds will find that pilot Roger Peterson undertook heroic efforts “the day the music died.”
It’s too little, too late. Meteorologists have confirmed the arrival of El Niño, but don’t hold your umbrella hoping that it will bring much relief to drought-stricken California. Cycling through every three to seven years, the phenomenon of warmer waters in the tropical Pacific can dump massive moisture along the West Coast. Not this time. The current weather event is so weak that it barely qualifies as an El Niño. With the rainy season ending soon, the Golden State will stay as parched as ever.
The cable network is in talks to debut its new standalone streaming service next month with Apple TV as a launch partner. The combination would create a powerful presence for HBO Now as it aims to come out of the gate on April 12, just in time for the fifth-season premiere of Game of Thrones. Available to non-cable subscribers, the service will cost $15 — nearly twice as much as Netflix — but its viewers could number as high as 10 million.
Forget what your mama told you. In her provocative book, Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal, historian Abigail Carroll says our rigid devotion to eating schedules can be traced to the Middle Ages in Europe. It was reinforced in the New World by a racist belief that Native Americans acted primitively by eating at irregular times. Later, the Industrial Revolution made dinner heavier, and cereal marketers made breakfast “the most important meal of the day.” But modern research suggests these habits don’t make much metabolic sense.
He’s taking one for the team. The 18-year NFL veteran and all-time touchdown pass leader has agreed to a $4 million pay cut to remain in Denver. Salary negotiations started at an even lower figure, but the 38-year-old New Orleans native got the Broncos to pony up $15 million for his 2015 return — nearly double what Super Bowl champ Tom Brady earns. The next question is how well Manning’s pass-heavy play will mesh with new coach Gary Kubiak’s pro-huddle offense.