Days before primaries in Nevada and South Carolina, Obama has announced a visit to America’s island neighbor next month — the first Cuban trip by a sitting president in seven decades. OZY co-founder Carlos Watson has predicted the likely ascent of America’s first Latino nominee “from the deceptively small, yet mighty Cuban-American population.” Unsurprisingly, Republican hopefuls Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio had critical words about Obama’s trip. Newly endorsed by Gov. Nikki Haley, the Florida senator lambasted Obama for visiting an “anti-American communist dictatorship.”
The Presidential Daily Brief
Was ISIS sending a message? Terrorists have struck in the heart of the Turkish capital, killing at least 28 and injuring scores. A vehicle laden with explosives was detonated as buses carrying military personnel drove by in the midst of evening rush hour. No one has claimed responsibility, but government officials are treating it as a “terrorist” attack. Heightened tensions with ISIS over border controls have seen similar incidents in recent months, prompting speculation that the jihadists are behind today’s carnage as well.
Help has arrived. The first of several aid convoys — including 35 trucks — has reached the war-torn town of Muadhamiya. The deliveries were made possible after Bashar Assad’s government gave the U.N. permission yesterday to begin rolling in relief for the almost 500,000 people living in besieged areas. Another 65 trucks are en route, and aid is also heading to the towns of Madaya and Zabadani, near Damascus, and to two northern villages, with more areas expected to receive supplies later this week.
They object. Some senators facing tough re-election battles are questioning the idea of unilaterally blocking any nominee chosen by President Obama. Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk called the debate “unseemly,” while Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley walked back his earlier promise to block any choice: He now says he’ll wait to see who the nominee is. Obama says “the Constitution is pretty clear” that he has the right to nominate — but constitutional law expert Larry Kramer tells OZY it’ll be a shock if any Obama nominee gets confirmed.
Well, this is awkward. President Petro Poroshenko, who ran as a reformer after Ukraine’s uprising, promising to bring unprecedented transparency to the nation’s governance, took a gamble when he called for a no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Multiple ministers have resigned recently over the corruption and gridlock endemic in Ukraine — but Yatsenyuk survived the vote, despite his single-digit popularity rating with Ukrainians. Poroshenko’s ruling party can’t call another no-confidence vote until parliament ends its session in July, meaning the two will have to compromise.
Tension is high in India’s capital, where Kanhaiya Kumar, president of the student union at the country’s top liberal arts college, has been arrested for “sedition.” The government says Kumar broke the colonial-era law by shouting “anti-India slogans” at a rally where students questioned the hanging of a Kashmiri militant 15 years ago. Today things grew even more heated when Kumar and a local reporter were reportedly beaten up by lawyers at the courthouse. Delhi’s police commissioner is blaming the crowds — for “jostling” the victims a bit too heartily.
It might just be media hype. Taiwan reported that its neighbor has placed anti-aircraft missiles on a disputed man-made island in an effort to shore up its territorial claims. China’s controlled the area since 1974, but the U.S. maintains the right to patrol the surrounding waters — something that may have spurred Beijing to show off its weaponry. President Obama and Southeast Asian leaders have called for “peaceful resolution,” while China dismissed the whole incident, which some fear could lead to the militarization of the South China Sea.
He says it’s time to shift the boundaries. Neel Kashkari, a Republican who just took office as president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve in January, says America’s biggest banks are still “too big to fail” and pose a huge threat to the economy if regulators don’t forcibly break them up. The former Goldman Sachs executive has created a task force to consider new systemic safeguards, and he says it’ll have a plan by the year’s end — though the whole Federal Reserve will need to cooperate on implementation.
France’s Front National offices raided in EU fraud probe. (BBC)
Austria sets daily migrant cap and boost border controls. (DW)
Eagles of Death Metal and 800 terror survivors gather for Paris concert. (France 24)
U.S. fighter jets fly over South Korea in show of force to the North. (AP)
Mexico welcomes Pope Francis, who warns young people against drug trade. (CBS)
South Dakota senate approves “bathroom bill” to restrict transgender students. (Time)
Argentine amateur soccer referee shot and killed by disgruntled player. (CNN)
It’s a question of principle. A California district court judge has ordered the tech giant to assist the FBI in its efforts to gain access to an iPhone used by the couple who killed 14 people in a terrorist attack last December. Apple isn’t being asked to unlock it, just to create software that would help officials get around the phone’s security system. But Apple has refused to comply, saying it sets a dangerous precedent and that creating a “backdoor” could eventually allow officials access to any iPhone, and Edward Snowden, for one, is on Apple’s side.
They’re often too ashamed to admit it. But African men are increasingly being forced into this inhumane trade, writes OZY’s Laura Secorun Palet, noting that human trafficking of both genders is on the rise. For example, some 23 percent of foreigners trafficked into Kenya are male, and while many work on plantations, the second most common use of forced labor is sexual exploitation. Male victims are often too embarrassed to share their ordeals, but conviction rates remain low, and experts say it’s vital to forewarn and forearm Africa’s youths.
Americans won’t have to fly to Havana via Canada much longer. U.S. airlines can start bidding on routes for up to 110 flights a day that will see commercial air traffic — not just charters — between the countries take off for the first time in five decades. President Obama will make an official visit to Cuba at the end of next month, something no sitting president’s done since 1928. The airlines now have 15 days to submit applications, and flights are expected to launch by the end of the year.
Someone’s getting a stack of treats. Three-year-old CJ, whose show name is GCH Vjk-Myst Garbonita’s California Journey, beat out 2,751 pedigreed pups to fetch the 140th annual Best in Show in New Jersey. After winning the Sporting group category, the California canine rolled over six other finalists. CJ’s the third in his breed to become top dog, and owner Valerie Nunes-Atkinson said his “it factor” gave him the edge. For puppy lovers, the next big event will be the Crufts competition March 10 in Birmingham, England.
She had to learn to get back up. The previously undefeated UFC champion tearfully told talk show host Ellen DeGeneres that she debated ending it all while recovering from a knockout loss last November. The outspoken and usually boastful 29-year-old said her relationship with boyfriend Travis Browne helped pull her through the depression following her first professional loss. The former Olympic bronze medalist in judo is expected to fight again this year and says she’s hoping for an eventual rematch against current champ Holly Holm.