A Blackhawk helicopter landed hard and then came under insurgent fire in southern Afghanistan Tuesday. The Taliban claimed responsibility. American officials said there wasn’t any known fighting in the area before the incident, and they weren’t sure if the bad landing or the fighting afterward claimed the troops’ lives. The troops were part of the International Security Assistance Force, led by NATO.
The Presidential Daily Brief
An easy majority voted to end debate on a measure that ends the U.S. federal budget spending drama, essentially guaranteeing smooth sailing for the final vote expected on Wednesday. Some programs are cut, others have funding restored, but already groups like veterans are upset at trims. And the future looks potentially dire for those who depend on federal unemployment benefits. President Obama has already signaled his support.
In the first ruling of its kind, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon declared that the NSA’s collection of Americans’ phone records likely violates the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches. Leon granted a preliminary injunction against the collection of the two plaintiffs’ phone records. If the government appeals, the case could go to the Supreme Court. As OZY explores, the bipartisan battle against NSA spying is just getting under way. Meanwhile, leaker Edward Snowden offered to help Brazilian lawmakers investigate “suspected crimes” against its citizens by U.S. surveillance.
A new study by Japan’s central bank shows that the country’s economy is returning to form. Business confidence reached its highest level this month since 2007. Growing optimism can be found in big companies and also small firms, which struggled the most during the financial crisis. With Japanese companies enjoying high demand at home and a weak yen that boosts exports, Abenomics appears to be gaining traction. Analysts claim that the next big test of the stimulus program, and the economy’s true strength, will come in April when a higher sales tax is scheduled to hit consumers.
Source: The Guardian
In the latest attempt to bolster the odds of an Israeli and Palestinian peace deal, the European Union has promised massive political and economic aid. The offer lacks specifics but would include giving Israel and the future state of Palestine a “special privileged partnership” with the 28-member union that could mean enhanced trade with member states and access to EU markets. The larger carrot dangling over the bargaining table is no guarantee of an agreement, but given that the EU is Palestine’s biggest aid donor and Israel’s largest economic partner, it certainly won’t hurt.
A new healthcare delivery model in Mali is showing exceptional results. In just three years, the system based in the small community of Yirimadjo has drastically dropped child mortality rates. Previously one in six children there died before age 5. Now it’s one in 59. The model focuses on reaching the kids quickly through a community-based network of health workers. If the initiative can be replicated, it may inspire others to re-think medical aid as we approach 2015 and the Millennium Development Goal for child mortality reduction.
Source: The Global Post
UN appeals for record $6.5 billion in humanitarian aid for Syria. (USA Today).
Merkel unveils new coalition cabinet, including Germany’s first female defense minister. (WSJ).
Two Saudi prisoners held by U.S. for 12 years without a trial sent home from Guantánamo. (NYT).
Google buys military robot-maker, the eighth robotics firm it has purchased in the last six months. (CNN).
The president of South Sudan announces foiled coup, enacts curfew. (Al Jazeera).
Whole Foods watchers may have their eyes on the upscale grocer’s vinyl-stocked Brooklyn location opening today (complete with rooftop beer garden), but investors have had their eyes on the chain’s less trendy locations in recent months. Despite being widely dismissed when it was first announced, Whole Foods’ expansion into smaller American cities like Boise appears to be succeeding. Even better, the impact appears to benefit non-Whole Foods shoppers as other grocery stores drop prices and expand natural produce selections in an effort to compete.
Three sequels to the box-office smash “Avatar” will be filmed in New Zealand, director James Cameron announced. At least $413 million will be spent in the island nation, creating hundreds of jobs. The announcement follows the government’s recent decision to increase the film industry tax rebate from 15 percent to 25 percent. Cameron hopes that the sequels, to be released yearly from 2016, will repeat the $2.8 billion box office success of the first film. New Zealand is fast becoming the home of fantasy filmmaking, having hosted the ”Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” franchises as well.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced new requirements for manufacturers of antibacterial consumer products using triclosan, an agent widely used in hospital settings. Manufacturers will now have to demonstrate that such products are more effective than plain soap and water in stopping the spread of germs. The move is prompted by concerns that the widespread use of products containing triclosan is stimulating the development of germs resistant to antibiotics, as well as by EU studies suggesting that triclosan may interfere with hormones.
Beyonce’s fifth album has smashed the iTunes download record, selling 828,773 copies in just three days since its release on Friday. The self-titled “visual” album, “Beyonce,” which includes 14 new tracks and 17 music videos, was released without the usual press build-up, taking fans by surprise. Nevertheless, it’s on course to be one of the fastest-selling albums of 2013. Lee Ann Callahan-Longo, general manager of Beyonce’s production company, said, “The Internet has changed the game.” And now, so has Beyonce.
The National Institutes of Health will use part of a $30 million dollar grant from the NFL to fund brain trauma research, including several projects looking into cranial injuries, and focused on identifying chronic traumatic encephalopathy and concussions in young athletes. The NFL has been widely criticized for its handling of serious cranial injuries, but it’s hoped the grant will help secure a safer future for both the young stars of tomorrow and the league’s own damaged brand.