It’s a “disastrous mess,” says Philadelphia’s mayor of the seven-car Northeast Regional 188 that toppled over as it headed from D.C. to New York. Five people were killed in the accident, six were in critical condition and 43 others were injured — and it’s not even clear if all the passengers have yet been evacuated from the site, or that all the cars have been searched for survivors, so the death toll may well rise. The National Transportation Safety Board says it’ll be investigating the incident, which is so far unexplained.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The country is shaking today after another massive temblor — 7.3 in magnitude — rattled underfoot for about 30 seconds. The quake, coming less than three weeks after a devastating 7.8-magnitude one killed 8,000, hit near Mount Everest and sent people into the streets in Kathmandu. It’s hoped that most vulnerable buildings were already felled by the previous disaster, and that today’s quake will prove less deadly. But the U.N. reports that some structures have collapsed. More than 40 people have died, and more than 1,000 were injured, and authorities warn that the death toll is likely to rise.
It’s a good thing, as long as you’re not a business owner left scrambling. More American workers left their jobs in March than anytime since spring of 2008, which means they’re more confident about their worth in the market — and that wages, long stagnant, should rise too. That’s a big deal, since stagnating pay has remained a holdout in the otherwise strong economic recovery. Wages could still take another six to 12 months to move north, but economists are starting to celebrate — as should the rest of us.
The broadband and telecom giant is branching out. Verizon announced today that it’s buying AOL for $4.4 billion, tapping into the mass media corporation’s ad-selling and mobile video technology in a bid to outmaneuver rivals like AT&T and Sprint. The cash deal pegs AOL shares at $50, and CEO Tim Armstrong — who’s staying put — was quick to tell staff via email that “AOL is back” and planning, alongside its new partner, to take on the world.
They’ve turned up seven bodies so far behind a shopping center not far from Hartford. Cops are calling it the deadliest case in the state since Michael Ross killed eight women in the 1980s. The remains of four women were discovered by cadaver-sniffing dogs, after three others surfaced in the same area in 2007. Police have a suspect, William Devin Howell — he’s been in jail for a decade for another woman’s murder. Meanwhile they’re working to ID the remains for more clues — and closure for the families.
Being an atheist writer is proving deadly. Ananta Bijoy Das, a secular blogger, was reportedly hacked to death by machete-wielding masked men — presumed Islamist militants — this morning in Sylhet, Bangladesh. Today’s victim, the third this year, wrote for Mukto-Mona, a website formerly moderated by Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi American who was killed in February. The government has been cracking down on Islamist extremism, but this and similar attacks reflect a rising tide of fanaticism hell-bent on seeing sharia law enforced nationwide.
Europe likes to set trends, but that’s bad news for the U.S. Treasury market. Dismal European performance has jumped the pond and prompted a massive sell-off, pushing American borrowing costs to their highest levels in months. Analysts say bonds were getting too popular and that it’s just a natural progression. But Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen warned last week about bond volatility if interest rates were to rise. If they begin to climb, the market may prove even more volatile in the months ahead.
Environmentalists aren’t exactly gushing over this. The U.S. has given Dutch Royal Shell a conditional green light to begin exploring for oil off the Alaskan coast this summer. The drilling giant has its sights on the Chukchi Sea, which experts believe could hold up to 15 billion barrels of oil. Opponents say it’s too remote and too risky, fearing a Deepwater Horizon-style disaster. But Obama’s administration noted that Shell, which must still obtain drilling permits, will be closely monitored under new safety regulations.
Picasso painting breaks record in $179 million auction sale. (FT) sub
John Kerry met with Putin today to talk Ukraine and Syria. (Reuters)
Jean-Marie Le Pen to form new political party. (Telegraph)
Greek leaders fear cash will run out in two weeks. (Sky News)
New low for U.S.-Saudi relations as King Salman stays home. (NYT)
The Eurovision Song Contest is famous for cross-dressing, and this year it’s also crossing … the street. As the musical competition’s 60th anniversary host, the Austrian capital will replace its traditional pedestrian signals with lights depicting gay and lesbian couples. It’s not just about acceptance: The 1.7 million-strong city hopes to improve traffic safety with the eye-catching illuminations. And data about their effectiveness, to be collected ahead of the Eurovision final on May 23, might get other cities singing the same tune.
It’s cashing in to win greater market share. The notoriously cashless car service, which normally takes payment via the app’s digital wallet, has begun accepting currency in the bustling southern Indian state capital. The experiment will help the San Francisco-based startup gather data on potentially rolling out cash transactions in other emerging markets where credit cards are uncommon. And it will help Uber compete with cash-friendly car-sharing rivals in South Asia.
H58 knows its way around drugs. Normal typhoid fever responds well to antibiotics, but researchers say this 25-year-old strain doesn’t, and it’s quickly becoming the dominant form of the disease. Some 47 percent of samples collected over two decades were attributed to it. And while there are vaccines, they’re expensive and not often used in poorer countries. Scientists admit that multi-drug-resistant typhoid is here to stay, and they recommend better global tracking in order to contain it.
Once known as the network’s Death Star — killing all competition with a whopping 36 million viewers in 2006 — it’s given the world chart-toppers and flops alike. Executives say they want to end on a high note, but it’s no secret that ratings have slipped. While the reality TV giant still draws 11.6 million faithful, it’s costly to produce. Former judge Simon Cowell responded to the news, saying, “We had a blast.” And this year’s winner, to be crowned Wednesday, will be the show’s penultimate idol.
He’s bound to feel a bit deflated. Just days after being named and shamed in a report about underinflated balls used in the Patriots’ AFC Championship win over the Colts in January, the New England QB has been benched for four games without pay. The NFL fined the team $1 million and docked them two draft picks while also suspending two locker room attendants. Patriots CEO Robert Kraft criticized the decision, saying the team stands by three-time Super Bowl MVP Brady, who is expected to appeal.