Now it’s personal. After al-Shabab’s cold-blooded murder of 148 students and others on a university campus, the Kenyan government bombed bases believed to shelter the terror group in Somalia. Meanwhile, Nairobi’s Interior Ministry named Mohamed Mohamud, a.k.a. Dulyadin and Gamadhere, as the mastermind of Thursday’s massacre, in which gunmen targeted Christians, reportedly killing one who tried, but failed, to recite a Muslim prayer. It remains to be seen if a $215,000 reward will be enough to compromise the al-Qaida-affiliated leader.
The Presidential Daily Brief
No need to subtweet. Turkey has been banning all social media sites that refused to take down images of a Turkish prosecutor being held at gunpoint during last week’s hostage situation in Istanbul. They also went after newspapers, accusing any organization printing the images of spreading terrorist propaganda. Turkey has banned Twitter before — right before local elections last year. Now people are fearing that Twitter will go down again when the time comes for Turkey’s general elections in June.
They might be voting in change. Ferguson’s six-member city council might get a shakeup during tomorrow’s elections, when as many as three African Americans could win seats. That’d be an unprecedented percentage of black council members for the city, whose population is two-thirds African American — in fact, only two black people have ever sat on the council, and never more than one at a time. Many see the focus on the elections as a search for a civic solution to the violent unrest that gripped the city last summer.
This may be it. A Jakarta administrative court today affirmed Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s denial of clemency for two young men facing a firing squad for drug trafficking. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were arrested in 2005 and convicted as ringleaders in a scheme to smuggle 18 pounds of heroin from Bali to Australia, where Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was “revolted” by the thought of the execution. “We abhor drug crime,” he said, “but we abhor the death penalty.” A constitutional court appeal is possible, but options are running out.
They’re responding to the emergency. Red Cross planes aimed for the Yemen capital of Sanaa will deliver much-needed medical supplies and staff. The move follows nearly two weeks of bombardment against Shiite Houthi rebels by a Saudi-led coalition. Aid workers are concerned that disrupted water supplies and inability to source food will worsen an already “dire” humanitarian crisis that has claimed more than 500 lives. They’re calling for a ceasefire to make the deliveries, which they hope will arrive today.
He’s making the hard sell. The U.S. president says last week’s framework agreement with Iran is America’s best hope for preventing Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. Obama offered assurances to critics, telling American lawmakers he’s open to a non-binding congressional vote, and affirming to Israelis that “we’ve got their backs.” But he admitted details need finessing before the June 30 deadline for finalizing a deal and that Iran’s leadership is a “tough read.” So he’s hopeful of a major breakthrough, but he’s not leaving all his “rifles at the door.”
All that talk might be paying off. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has vowed to make good on nearly $500 million owed to the International Monetary Fund this week. Greece may be digging deep to meet its commitment, which IMF Chief Christine Lagarde applauded, but Athens is still anxiously awaiting nearly $8 billion in bailout funds from eurozone creditors in order to make subsequent payments later this year. Greek leaders submitted new reform plans last week, and negotiations resume today over funding.
Can it stay green forever? The dollar has surged in 2015, but financial experts are conflicted about its future. The thought of a Fed interest rate boost in June was making the buck look like a good buy, but now many think rates will stay put for a while. That, combined with a cooling U.S. job market and troubled European economies apparently on the rise, has impacted the dollar in recent days. But if the greenback dips, the U.S. could see its cheaper exports become desirable again.
French special forces rescue Dutch hostage in Timbuktu. (Reuters)
Edward Snowden spills his guts to comedian John Oliver. (Quartz)
Jeb Bush ticked ‘Hispanic’ on voter registration form. (NYT)
Indian leader Modi says changing lifestyles foul air. (AP)
Oil prices rebound as fears of Iran-fed glut fade. (MarketWatch)
It had it all: sex, violence and privileged elites. But ”A Rape on Campus,” the November Rolling Stone article about University of Virginia frat brothers assaulting a female student, was all wrong, according to a 12,000-word Columbia University report. The magazine retracted the article Sunday, but said writer Sabrina Erdley will continue her work with the magazine. Erdley apologized to those affected, including assault victims “who may feel fearful as a result of my article” — but Phi Kappa Psi says it will be pursuing legal action.
One way to attract high-quality workers: Promise them a life beyond the coffee shop. Starbucks was already offering two free years of tuition for its workers through an online degree program from Arizona State University, but now those who toil more than 20 hours per week will get all four years paid for. This could open new doors to about 140,000 covered Starbucks employees, and may put Starbucks a degree above other low-wage employers like Target and Wal-Mart (who are hiking up wages to attract and keep workers).
She only held the title for five days. Gertrude Weaver of Arkansas, aged 116, died today of complications from pneumonia. She credited her longevity to the Golden Rule: ”Treat people right and be nice to other people the way you want them to be nice to you.” The world’s new oldest living person is a woman from Michigan, aged 115, and next in line after her is a New York woman. The oldest living man, who is Japanese, is a measly 111.
Is this the way to bridge the gender gap. Reddit CEO Pao, who just lost a gender discrimination suit against her old venture capital firm, has decreed that since men tend to benefit from salary negotiations — and even women who negotiate are sometimes penalized for trying — Reddit won’t be negotiating anymore. While some are applauding this as a step toward better pay equality, some say it won’t negate gender bias in the office — and it may just hurt Reddit’s ability to attract the best.
You could call them woodlizards. But why would you, when scientists also accept the name “dwarf dragons”? The Andes have yielded up three new species of the little reptiles, which have only been seriously studied for less than a decade and turn out to have many more species than previously suspected — seven new varieties have surfaced in as many years, even though the lizards are quite large and not much for hiding. Biologists believe more research will yield myriad new species of woodlizard in the coming years.
Their lack of smarts left them smarting. Three men who tried to harvest honey from a wild hive in Florida ended up hospitalized with some 50 stings each after angry drones swarmed them to the point where rescue workers had to hose them down. “They were covered in bees, their beards, their hair, their clothes,” said a witness. A neighbor woman survived collateral stings as well. A local beekeeper counseled to give the colony a day to calm down, and authorities are spreading the buzz.
They were driven to drink. More than 30 cabbies drank pesticides this weekend, trying to kill themselves in a street protest to raise awareness — their mouths foaming in front of crowds — about vehicle leasing requirements that affect their self-employment status. The taxi drivers traveled from Suifenhe, in Heilongjiang province, in a last-ditch effort to air their grievances after unsuccessfully petitioning through traditional government routes. They were found unconscious and taken to hospitals, where all are expected to recover.
Move over, Kevlar. The next generation of super-soldiers may be coated in new non-Newtonian Shear Thickening Fluid (aka “oobleck”) that absorbs the impact of bullets and forms a hard surface when hit. Poland isn’t the first to experiment with liquid armor — the U.S. and U.K. both tried it — but earlier attempts proved too heavy for soldiers’ use. The Military Institute of Armament Technology in Warsaw may have cracked the code to revolutionizing military equipment, but they’re keeping their formula a secret, at least for now.
Singing the blues doesn’t mean you have them. A new study shows that a whopping 69 percent of those taking drugs to relieve depression aren’t clinically depressed. Instead they’re living normal lives, which include stress and sadness, and are trying to mask the gloom. One in 10 Americans currently pops pills — how depressing — to chase the blahs. Many doctors think meds are overused, but with more than half of them reporting financial ties to pharmaceutical companies, choosing psychotherapy instead may be too hard to swallow.
He’s just as hard to pin down as his suspects. The surrealist auteur behind the 1990s crime drama announced this weekend that he won’t be a part of the comeback, noting he wasn’t offered enough money to “do the script the way I felt it needed to be done.” Showtime, which has been in negotiations with the Blue Velvet director and series co-creator Mark Frost for the planned nine-episode revival, said it was disappointed and still hopes to work things out.
His mic was still hot. Smarting from Kentucky’s stunning loss to Wisconsin, Andrew Harrison muttered “F*** that n*****” when another player was asked about Badgers forward Frank Kaminsky at a press conference on Saturday. Harrison maintains the words were used “in jest” but apologized on Twitter (and by phone) the next day. Kaminsky responded to the racial slur, saying he’s “over it.” Besides, he’s got bigger things on his mind: Wisconsin faces off against Duke in the NCAA championship final tonight.
Call it Latino voter inreach. The 2016 Republican frontrunner and former Florida governor checked the “Hispanic” box on his 2009 voter registration form for ethnicity/race. While he is married to a Mexican-American, and an advocate of a more moderate immigration policies than most of his conservative contemporaries, Bush is of course white. Bush himself called the mislabeling an honest mistake, joking on Twitter that, “don’t think I’ve fooled anyone.” Still, don’t be surprised if his campaign uses the slip-up to remind Hispanic voters of Bush’s more inclusive immigration philosophy.