He says he’s beat the odds. Netanyahu declared the election “a great victory” for his Likud party before almost any news source, and while results won’t be official until Thursday, polls are bearing him out. Likud could take as many as 30 seats in Israel’s parliament, and other conservative parties that will likely join their coalition also did well. It remains to be seen whether Netanyahu will keep his last-minute campaign promise to oppose a two-state solution — and how that will affect the record numbers of Arab voters that came out to the polls.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They can’t practice on the real one. So the Secret Service wants an $8 million fake White House built in southern Maryland to help them train agents. It’s quite a response to a string of scandals that have caused many to accuse the agency of incompetence, including a recent incident in which two possibly intoxicated agents might have run over a suspicious package and definitely plowed into a security barricade. The head of the agency pleaded with Congress today for more time to “change the culture.”
The West is at a loss. In the overthrow of Yemen’s government and the resulting turmoil, $500 million in weapons and equipment funneled from the US to Yemeni allies has apparently gone… missing. Officials say the Pentagon can’t locate or recover the missing ammunition, helicopters, Humvees and body armor, and that they could be in the hands of Yemen’s Houthi rebels or even Al-Qaida. The terrorist group’s Yemen branch, one of its strongest, is considered a direct threat to US security.
Should’ve stuck with frequent flier miles. But the scandal over getting reimbursed by taxpayers for 90,000 more miles on his personal vehicle than he’d actually driven was just the last straw for Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock. Schock had also been dinged for flying thousands of miles on the taxpayers’ dime, at least once just to attend a Bears game. He cited the “constant distractions” as the reason for his sudden withdrawal from Congress. He’ll end his career in the house (for now) on March 31.
This could destroy John Kerry’s negotiating strategy. Just days after the Secretary of State said the US might have to negotiate with Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president’s regime has been accused of killing at least six people with a chlorine gas attack on a village. The UN has just approved a resolution condemning chemical attacks and allowing for military intervention. If Assad is indeed at it again, the UN Security Council could approve military action over what will likely be strenuous objections from Assad ally Vladimir Putin.
That’s one way to try to influence foreign policy. Instead of talking to the Obama administration about its recent reclassification of Venezuela as a security threat, the country’s foreign ministry has bought a full-page ad in The New York Times, framed as a letter that describes the reclassification as an imperialist attack on Venezuela’s sovereignty. President Maduro, whose approval rating stands at 22 percent, may be milking the incident to gain public support. Regardless, many analysts think the letter was really aimed at Venezuelans rather than Americans.
There’s no consensus yet. The EU is coming closer to a coherent policy when it comes to sanctions on Russia over its conduct in Ukraine — and lifting those sanctions will likely depend on Russia’s ability to hold to the current ceasefire agreement. However, Putin has been courting EU leaders, knowing that all 28 states have to agree on the sanctions, and most analysts expect the EU to kick the can on the question of whether to extend the current sanctions to the end of 2015.
Everybody check your pantries. Kraft says a manufacturing error may have left fragments of steel in some boxes of its macaroni and cheese. The company is recalling 6.5 million boxes that were sold throughout the US, South America and the Caribbean in an incident that echoes one just 4 years ago when wire bristles contaminated another Kraft product. The incident comes as Kraft struggles to reclaim its place as a dinner-table standard, amid competition from healthier options.
There’s still a long way to go. New York allowed a gay rights group to march in its St Patrick’s Day parade for the first time this year, lifting the longtime ban that prompted Mayor de Blasio to refuse to attend last year. But it allowed the participation of just one group, OUT@NBCUniversal — composed of workers at the network that broadcasts the parade. In protest, other LGBT groups boycotted, and the mayor issued a statement calling for more diversity next year.
The cyclone has passed, but the battle to survive has just begun. Eleven people have died, a relatively small toll, but the majority of the island nation’s populace remain homeless. Starvation looms — winds that toppled trees like matchsticks also took out crops in a country where families eat what they grow. Potable water remainds scarce. A lack of deep ports and airstrips have kept rescue missions at bay. Some islands still haven’t been contacted yet — and they are likely some of the hardest-hit.
His tales of Don Quixote form the first modern novel. But his final resting place remained shrouded in mystery. Miguel de Cervantes was buried in 1616 in a Madrid convent, the year after the final sections of the novel published. But when the convent was rebuilt, his remains moved. Now researches say he’s been found again. Officials plan to rebury him with great ceremony, and open the crypt to the public. The hope is not just to honor the author, but to spark new interest in his work.
They’ve got their eyes on the green. As President Obama celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with Irish President Enda Kenny at the White House today, House Republicans are set to unveil a 2016 budget proposal that would partially privatize Medicare. It would also turn Medicaid into block grants to states and repeal the Affordable Care Act. The proposal — which is unlikely to pass and would face a presidential veto — seeks to force Senate Republicans to deliver on promises to save federal cash and repeal Obamacare.
Xi Jinping’s brainchild is gaining momentum. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, China’s newly launched alternative to the World Bank, is welcoming France, Germany and Italy to the fold, despite Obama’s warnings that it will shift global power east. The U.K. joined last week, determined to harness Chinese investment, and Australia is reconsidering its pledge to stay out. China had been kept on the sidelines of international development banks but now looks poised to take advantage of Asia’s infrastructure boom — while perhaps sidelining the U.S. in the process.
ISIS and its comrades are feeling the heat. Nigerian officials have reportedly recaptured the towns of Bama and Goniri from Boko Haram, just days after the group aligned itself with ISIS. Some jihadists fled toward the Chad border, where the Chadian military awaits. In Tikrit, meanwhile, Iraqis have ISIS cornered, but have suffered heavy casualties, and the push has been temporarily halted. They’ve pledged to continue fighting, but the setback raises questions about the Iraqis’ ability to wage — and win — the battle.
U.S. stocks fall as Federal Reserve meeting starts. (NYT)
Robert Durst faces first-degree murder charges. (NYT)
Amnesty points to ‘war crimes’ in Syrian anti-ISIS push. (DW)
Ferguson suspect claims he wasn’t targeting cops. (AP)
Prince Harry plans to leave the army. (BBC)
Call it a rush to judgment. The Kappa Delta Rho fraternity at Penn State University has been suspended pending an investigation into an an allegedly illegal Facebook private group. The page included pictures of naked, unconscious women posted without consent, in addition to drug deals and hazing ritual notes. The Interfraternity Council says the organizational branch is subject to a conduct review session and the brothers may also be subject to the social network’s new harrasment guidelines. Whatever happens, it looks like the party’s over.
They’re blasting off. The private contractor for the Zhongguo nation is preparing new “eco-friendly” rocket boosters called the Long March 6, which use liquid oxygen and kerosene for propelling. The 120 ton thrust engine boosters have been in development for 15 years and can carry a metric ton of equipment into orbit at 700 kilometers. China has been accelerating the development of its rocket engines as preparation for building its own space station in the next decade. Hey Houston: They have a solution, both literally and figuratively.
The truth came crashing down. David Duckenfield, the chief superintendant in charge of security at Sheffield’s Hillsborough stadium during the 1989 FA-Cup semifinal, admitted fault for his role in the deaths of 96 people. The match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest turned deadly when thousands of fans entered a tunnel leading to a packed terrace, leading to hundreds getting crushed. Saying he “froze” during a critical moment, the 70-year-old admitted his incompetence on the sixth day of the inquest, which is expected to continue through the spring.
Cancer cells are so immature. Scientists at Stanford say they have stumbled on a process that transforms deadly leukemia cells into harmless immune cells. Spurred by a chance observation in the lab, a scientist remembered an old paper that described a similar process in mouse cells and found it had the same effect in humans. The technique forces cancer cells to mature into macrophages that eat other cancerous cells. Stanford scientists say the next step is creating a drug that will trigger the same.
Wahoo! You may be powering up Mario on the iPhone soon. Japan’s iconic company has agreed to reverse its policy against adapting games for competing platforms, partnering with mobile maker DeNA for favorites to be played on iOS, Android and other rival software. Each company invested $182 million in the other’s portfolio to make it happen. Mobile games generated about $25 billion in revenue in 2014. Forget traditional stand-alone consoles – the smart money is on multi-platform mobile gaming.
Call it the unquenchable fire. The coal under Jharia, India, has burned for almost a century. Started in an improperly shuttered mine, the fire has consumed some 41 million tons of coal. Villagers struggle with health issues from the toxic fumes, and illegally harvest coal to eek out a living. A Western photographer has won international acclaim for his dramatic shots. But there’s little hope for Jharia — underground fires are hard to quell, the area remains impoverished and the local government has done little to help.
Zero gravity is no excuse to look bad. A Brooklyn firm has started designing pressure suits that look as good as they protect for the space tourists expected to launch in a few years. The project combines high-tech efforts like 3-D printing with input from a Broadway costume designer. While the market for $80,000 space suits may stay limited, the Final Frontier Design folks hope to spin off more terrestrial accoutrements, like a belt. There’s precedence, of course. NASA did bring us shoe insoles and memory foam.
He wants to be a contender, only this time it’s in the ring. The former presidential candidate plans to go head-to-head with former heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield at a charity event this spring. “It will either be a very short fight, or I will be knocked unconscious,” Romney said, ignoring the possibility of both. Romney is an inch taller than Holyfield, but the pair really just plan to spar, please the crowd and raise funds for the blind.
They were trying to slide over the border. Polish authorities questioned a Frenchman at the Belarussian frontier on Friday after finding that his suitcase contained … his Russian wife. The two were en route to Nice, in southern France, and apparently believed they’d face travel restrictions. Turns out, she could’ve happily traveled alongside him on the train, as long as she could prove the two were married. Instead the pair, who zipped back to Belarus after being release, risked being charged with evading border patrol.
They’ll be pinning this one up. The social bookmarking tool is now valued at $11 billion, following its latest fundraising round, which brought in $367 million in new equity. The boost brought the online pinboard’s total funding up to $1.1 billion and will be used for international expansion. Execs claim users grew a whopping 135 percent last year and that they hope to raise another $211 million this round, all of which is fueling speculation of a huge IPO later this year.
They want to conquer America. The ultra-low cost airline — famed for schemes to charge passengers to sit down or to use the bathroom — has long planned transatlantic service. It has now finally begun talks with manufacturers to purchase suitable planes that would see its U.S.-bound flights take off within five years. The Ireland-based carrier is planning routes to New York, Chicago, Boston and Miami, with some one-way fares as cheap as $21, though most are expected to fly higher.
It’s one less thing to remember — just don’t forget your phone. For those concerned about online security, the Web giant is debuting an option that texts single-use, disposable passwords to authorized phone numbers. Yahoo is clearly trying to get out in front on security offerings. But while Google and Twitter offer two-step verification, which texts a secret code that must be entered along with a password, this new system makes passwords visible to anyone who has access to your smartphone.
What more could wellie-wearing hippies want? The American rapper is bracing for rain and ready to rock their world from the famed British festival’s main Pyramid Stage. Organizers announced yesterday that 37-year-old West will headline Glastonbury’s Saturday night lineup on June 27, following the Foo Fighters on Friday. Tickets sold out last October, and while hip-hop headliners have proven controversial before, West — who spent much of Monday tweeting pics of his wife — seems unfazed, perhaps believing he’s the Only One.
He’s not taking any chances. San Francisco linebacker Chris Borland, one of the NFL’s most promising young players, is leaving pro football due to concerns about the long-term effects of concussions and head injuries. The 24-year-old former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year at University of Wisconsin is the first high-profile player to cite mental health for early retirement, and the fourth under-30 to retire in recent days. The Ohio native will now put his head toward a career in sports management.