It’s all over, apart from the centrifuges. Western officials are confident of closing a deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear-weapons capability and ease sanctions by Tuesday’s deadline. At issue are how many thousands — the U.S. had insisted just hundreds — of nuclear fuel-enriching centrifuges the Islamic Republic will be allowed to operate, and where. Even Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who risked his relationship with Obama to lobby Congress against a deal, has seemingly softened his stance. Timing is critical: Iran’s help could be instrumental in conquering ISIS and calming Yemen.
The Presidential Daily Brief
After hearing horrific details of how Germanwings Flight 9525 and 150 onboard crashed into the French Alps on Tuesday, the world’s focus turned to co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, 27. Investigators believe he locked the captain out of the cockpit and deliberately crashed the A320. He reportedly also concealed treatment for depression and potentially career-disrupting vision problems. Some airlines quickly mandated two crew members in cockpits at all times, but Lufthansa, the budget airline’s owner, has yet to explain its apparently deadly psychological-screening failure.
She hopes for the best — while planning for the worst. America’s employment level has improved, but there’s been only “sputtering signs” of rising wages, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker tells OZY. And she warns that businesses are growing concerned over dark economic clouds looming in other parts of the world. Still, the swift-talking optimist is pushing to secure trade deals across Asia and enact comprehensive immigration reform — a “moral responsibility” that will likely add $1.4 trillion to the future U.S. economy.
Since DNA identification became possible, Americans have discovered that the innocent were wrongly convicted more often than most could imagine, with exonerations reaching 126 in 2014. The problem those former convicts face is that authorities haven’t agreed on what to do with them. Many struggle to restart lives, but while parolees get counseling and other help, exonerees in some states get nothing, unless they sue or are favored by a legislative act. One Georgia exoneree is campaigning to change this, admitting that sometimes it seems he’d be better off behind bars.
Al Qaida branch, rebels wrest key city from Syrian regime. (NYT)
Snowy Nova Scotia landing mishap injures 25 jet passengers. (NBC)
Boko Haram reportedly kills, intimidates Nigerian voters. (CSM)
Indiana governor vows not to soften anti-gay law. (USA Today)
Perfect Kentucky survives to face Wisconsin in Final Four. (CBS)
It’s a secretive religion — some would say a cult — that hones a carefully crafted image. But as the Church’s secrets are increasingly divulged and disseminated across the Web, Scientology leaders struggle to combat the negative press. Membership rolls appear hugely exaggerated worldwide, and they’ve taken flak for promoting a reportedly abandoned building as a hub of worship, alleged baby-napping and accusations of harsh punishments and abuse. Next up is an HBO documentary, set to air March 29 and 30, that pulls the curtain back even further.
Jah be praised! It’s finally legal for Rastafarians to smoke their sacramental “herb” at home. But some contemplative members of the unique faith worry about the implications of their government deciding who is or isn’t yearning for Zion. And after decades of legal struggles, the dread-adorned disciples feel entitled to the financial benefits of any emerging ganja-growing industry, with Bob Marley’s estate already having developed its own “Marley Natural” brand and one academic speculating, “Maybe everyone will become Rasta now.”
EpiPens save lives — if they’re handy. People with severe allergies don’t have much hope for a cure, but technology can help them survive. The new Veta case holds the epinephrine-injector pen and links wirelessly with a smartphone app that beeps when the case is left, say, at home. It also monitors ambient air to keep the lifesaving medication at the right temperature, and calls for medical assistance when an attack seems imminent. This and other advances may help those with anaphylactic allergies breathe a little easier.
They’ve got a new row to hoe. The waters of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay are so overfished and polluted that the state has legalized oyster farming, long resisted by watermen as a threat to their way of life. Unlike farmed fish, these domesticated bivalves improve water quality by filtering nitrogen. Maryland’s seafood industry is already healthier, sending farmed oysters across America and putting the state in the fast lane of global aquaculture, which outweighed beef production in 2011. Some dredgers have even started raking in the farm-fresh profits.
It could save the sport — if it doesn’t kill its competitors. Quebec’s Whitewater Grand Prix is too dangerous to draw sponsors and too remote for many spectators. One wrong shift and the Mistassini River rapids can polish off a paddler within seconds. But GoPro cameras there have captured some of the Web’s most popular whitewater footage, and kayakers hope sponsorships will chase that fame. Whitewater kayaking peaked more than a decade ago, but if the carnage is tolerable, it might find new life in these churning, icy waters.