They’re searching for answers. Yesterday, Germanwings flight 9525, part of a Lufthansa-owned budget airline, crashed into the French Alps, killing all 150 aboard. The White House reports there’s no suspicion of terrorism. The plane’s cockpit voice recorder and another black box have been located, but officials haven’t been able to recover anything from the former, and the latter’s data card was dislodged. Both are major setbacks for the investigation. Meanwhile, passenger information has slowly trickled out. The dead include two well-regarded opera singers and a Spanish politician’s wife.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The bad guys are out there, but the Feds aren’t doing a good job keeping pace with them. That’s the gist of the findings out today from the FBI 9/11 Review Commission, tasked with tracking how the agency has fared since the 2011 attacks. The lawmen desperately need to hire more linguists, treat their analysts with more respect, and conduct a five-year, top-down, complete overhaul, the report says. At stake is nothing less than the safety and security of the country. G-men, you’ve been warned.
They made it official. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl will be tried by the U.S. Army for desertion and misbehavior before the enemy — meaning he could be facing life in prison on top of the five years he spent as a Taliban prisoner. Prosecutors say they won’t pursue a death sentence. Last year, Bergdahl was exchanged for five captured Taliban members, a deal that left many military higher-ups concerned about President Obama’s priorities. If he’s convicted, Bergdahl could also be stripped of his rank and dishonorably discharged.
Step back mac n’ cheese, the ketchup company is taking over. Market mover Warren Buffett and Brazil’s private 3G Capital Partners equity firm are backing a Heinz merger with Kraft. This creates the fifth-largest food business in the world, and the third-largest in North America. 3G and Buffett also control Tim Hortons and Burger King. The deal shows food firms are in serious play in today’s market, analysts say. Buffet announced the deal Wednesday morning.
Boots are staying on the ground. President Obama agreed in meetings with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani yesterday to keep 9,800 American troops in the South Asian country through the end of 2015. The plan had been to reduce that number by half in the coming months and to withdraw all but 1,000 troops by early 2017. Citing the need to strengthen counterterrorism and CIA operations in the region, Obama has decided to delay the drawdown. But he maintains his intention to reduce the numbers before leaving office.
The Houthis have advanced. They reportedly took the nation’s largest air base Wednesday, and are on the cusp of taking the port city of Aden, where President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled after the rebels took the capital city. The Houthis claim, but officials deny, that the president fled Aden and that the defense minister has been arrested. Meanwhile American officials say the Saudis have shifted heavy artillery near the Yemeni border, raising fears that the oil-rich nation will get involved.
Maybe both of them need a timeout. President Obama sharply reiterated yesterday that he’ll be evaluating how he manages Israeli relations, citing Netanyahu’s campaign pledge to never allow for a two-state solution. He went so far as to say prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace were “dim.” Tensions also flared over reports of alleged Israeli spying on U.S.-Iran nuclear talks — a charge Israel denies. But even Netanyahu’s critics fear the White House is going too far in pressuring Bibi and risking their long-held alliance.
Italian justices postpone Amanda Knox conviction decision to Friday. (BBC)
Morocco breaks up suspected ISIS-linked cell. (Al Jazeera)
Boko Haram kidnaps hundreds of civilians. (Time)
U.S. cash is flooding toward European stocks. (CNN Money)
Thousands pay respects to Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore. (SCMP)
They’ve revoked his license to drive. The BBC will not renew the contract of the “Top Gear” host, who is charged with attempting to hit producer Oisin Tymon over a disagreement about the show’s catering. The blowup was the final act in a series of politically incorrect gaffes from Clarkson over the years. Clarkson’s agent said the show may continue, though a BBC executive said it will be a “big challenge” for the network regardless of which direction it goes.
They want his exhibit closed. A number of scientists, including several past Nobel winners, are circulating a petition demanding the Smithsonian drop corporate sponsors who deny the effects of global climate change. Along with targeting the likes of Exxon Mobile, the group wants David Koch removed from the Smithsonian’s board. Koch has given more than $40 million to the institution, but is also expected to help raise nearly $1 billion for conservative candidates in 2016. The petition has already received more than 50,000 signatures in a little more than a day.
They’ll save you a click. While news sites already share content on Facebook via links, the next step is distributing it directly on the social media network. Publishers like the idea of getting stories to readers as quickly as possible, though some worry about sharing brand space and ad revenue with Mark Zuckerberg’s firm. Tests with The New York Times, Buzzfeed and others start soon, and you’ll know if it works … if you read about it on Facebook first.
They just won’t have the time. This summer the New Horizons probe will zoom past Pluto and its biggest moon, giving us our first proper look at the dwarf planet’s craters and mountains. The fly-by will happen so quickly that NASA wants help drumming up names beforehand for all the potential geographical finds. Suggestions should follow an “exploration” theme and can include both famous and fictional explorers, or their favorite steeds and ships. Ideas should be sent to the SETI Institute before voting ends on April 7.
And you thought the Sand People were bad. The Tunisian desert which served as the backdrop of the Star Wars films’ Tattoine locations are now reporting jihadist activity from the terrorist group ISIS, with foreign governments issuing warnings to tourists to stay away. In recent months, terror recruits have tried to pass through the Northern African country’s borders to enter Libya and arms caches containing rocket-propelled grenade launchers have also been captured. With an increasingly difficult environment, it might be best to skip this Star Tour.
Immigration officials may be kicking themselves. South Africa-born Grant Elliot, who now plays for New Zealand, hit the penultimate ball into the stands — the cricketing version of a walk-off — to seal a four-wicket win and a place in the Cricket World Cup championship. It’s taken Elliot’s team seven tries to reach the tournament’s final stage, while South Africa remains in a finals drought. Next up for the Kiwis? The winner of Thursday’s match between formidable Australia and reigning champ India.