Several recent moves by the Afghan president, including foot-dragging on a security deal with the U.S., suddenly make sense: President Karzai was trying to broker a secret peace deal with the Taliban. He failed. Now the U.S. security deal is at stake, as American leaders gather at the White House to plan. As one source tells The New York Times, the timeframe is “weeks not months” for NATO and Washington plans. And it’s not just Karzai’s future on the line. The average Afghan life expectancy has jumped from 45 to 62 since the Taliban fell. But that number could revert once international forces leave.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Company man Satya Nadella, who has served Microsoft since 1992, has been anointed CEO. He’s seen as a “safe” choice who will focus on company continuity. Nadella is only the company’s third CEO and has pegged Microsoft’s future to services and the cloud. In a bit of boardroom musical chairs, the previous CEO, Steve Ballmer, will take the chairman’s helm, vacated by founder Bill Gates, who will serve as a technology advisor. Gates’ return might be even bigger news for eager investors, one analyst says, than any word from the top office.
The federal deficit will be some $46 billion less than previously thought, and Obamacare will net the government $8 billion during the next year, says the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The bad news? Just about everything else. Small businesses will hire fewer employees in order to skirt health care regulations, but mostly the U.S. is still feeling the impact of the recession, as unemployment rates aren’t expected to dip below six percent until 2017. As one blog put it, the U.S. has lost potential, and it’s not working up to the potential it does have.
Even though science is trying its best, modern medicine is still struggling with one of the biggest threats to health: Cancer. According to a recent study by the World Health Organization, the rate of new cases of cancer globally, which in 2012 stood at more than 14 million a year, is expected to soar by 70 percent over the next two decades. The numbers also indicate that in poorer countries infections are increasingly causing cancer. But in the West, the rise is being fuelled by unhealthy lifestyles, such as smoking, obesity and alcohol abuse.
Source: The Guardian
Al-Qaeda has officially broken ties with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) for not playing nicely. Its former affiliate in Iraq rushed to build an Islamic state in the midst of Syria’s crisis, but ISIS’s brutal tactics and targeting of fellow Muslims have antagonized other rebel groups. The Nusra Front, now Al-Qaeda’s only official branch in Syria, will gain defectors and stature, but ISIS will be difficult to uproot. As Al-Qaeda central command tries to reassert its authority, the question remains over which group will prove the biggest playground bully.
The recent death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman highlights what experts already knew: The United States is in the grip of a new heroin crisis. Unlike the drug scourge of the 1970s, this time it knows no geographic or demographic bounds. The number of U.S. heroin users jumped an estimated 80 percent between 2007 and 2012, and the number of deaths attributed to heroin overdose rose 55 percent between 2000 and 2010. Experts say a crackdown on prescription pain pills has pushed many of those users towards heroin, while increased production in Mexico has made supplies more readily available.
Target executive testifies before Congress on data breech. (Reuters).
Ukrainian MPs seek to curb president’s power. (BBC).
Obama allies demand end to deportations. (Washington Post).
El Salvador and Costa Rica presidential elections head for run-offs. (NYT).
Microsoft, FB, Yahoo, Google release surveillance data. (The Guardian).
Mandela leaves $4 million estate, squabbles expected. (Al Jazeera).
Stocks reclaimed some ground on Tuesday, after U.S. markets suffered the worst February day since 1933 and the sharpest drop since June in the wake of discouraging manufacturing numbers from the Institute of Supply Management. Next up: Employment data, to be released Friday. That’s an important indicator of whether yesterday’s numbers point toward a broader slowdown. With ongoing concerns over recent market tumbles, the Federal Reserve’s plans for interest rates and slowing auto sales, so far 2014 has given investors plenty to wring their hands over.
The Ugandan parliament is set to ban the itty bitty clothing from women‘s hips. Sixty years after the controversial strip of fabric became a symbol of the sexual revolution, women in the East African nation now face the risk of 10 years in jail for wearing minis. Adding to the government‘s list of attacks on gender equality, this bill is expected to be signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni soon. Meanwhile, activists are encouraging women to stand up for their rights and hike up their skirts.
Source: The Guardian
Irish drinking culture is infamous, but a new social media game may be too much. “NekNominate” involves young people posting videos of themselves downing alcohol and then nominating someone to out-drink them. The craze went viral in Ireland and reportedly led to the death of a young man, prompting condemnation from government ministers and a public backlash debating the corrosive effect of social media. But the Internet has come to its own rescue as conscious netizens have posted spoof videos to discourage the practice by mocking it.
Wikipedia has launched a project to archive the voices of famous people for posterity. Stephen Fry, Jane Goodall, Dustin Hoffman, Aung San Suu Kyi and Emma Thompson are just some of the celebrities lined up to provide 10-second audio clips that will be attached to their biographical entries. The online encyclopedia’s goal is to add voice to every single biography page with the help of institutions like the BBC, which has already agreed to share its sound archive. Text and pictures are very useful, but there is nothing quite like hearing someone’s voice.
This is not the first time fans have labeled Bob Dylan a “sellout.” Some were furious after he featured in a Victoria’s Secret commercial in 2004, and thought he had hit rock bottom with one for Pepsi in 2009. But his appearance in the Chrysler ad during Sunday’s Super Bowl has outraged the legendary singer’s followers like none other. Yet, after hearing Dylan say: “What is more American than America?,” it is hard to tell whether he is indeed selling out or performing one of his most overtly political acts ever.
The Winter Olympics in Sochi will be the most expensive in history — around $50 billion — but is the investment worth it? According to several economists, the answer is no. Despite the promise of increased tourism and a patriotic boost, hosting the Olympics is rarely a wise investment. While some cities like London have managed to re-purpose their Olympic complexes, many others have not. In places like Athens, where the 2004 Games cost $15 billion and contributed significantly to the country’s debt, costly buildings have been abandoned. Cities will have to choose whether to make history or money.