They want to shore up legalities. The Central American country is creating an international panel to investigate the working practices of its offshore financial industry, and to propose ways to improve transparency in Panama’s banking and legal systems. This follows a massive data leak from law firm Mossack Fonseca that revealed it helped clients — including world leaders — evade taxes and dodge sanctions. Co-founder Jürgen Mossack maintains that his colleagues have done nothing wrong, and Vladimir Putin today denied any corruption by associates named in the papers, blaming political opponents of trying to destabilize Russia.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The reign of terror continues. Militants believed to be affiliated with the infamous terrorist group have taken hundreds of people hostage at the al-Badiyeh Cement Company about 30 miles north of Damascus. The numbers aren’t certain — one local official said only about 125 people had been loaded onto buses that were headed for secure ISIS territory — and some even say the militants were unaffiliated with ISIS. Now officials say they’re making unspecified inroads through anonymous contacts in an attempt to secure freedom for the workers.
They’re showing their claws. The former secretary of state says the Vermont senator hasn’t “done his homework” and that she “isn’t even sure” he’s a Democrat. OZY’s Nick Fouriezos, reporting from a Sanders rally in Philadelphia, says the 74-year-old replied in kind, listing reasons why Clinton is “not qualified” to be president. In a new poll, 25 percent of Sanders supporters say they wouldn’t back Clinton as the nominee, and with the rhetoric sharpening, the Democratic race is clearly escalating ahead of New York’s April 19 primary.
This is beyond belief. A law student who expressed secular views online was slaughtered by three men in the Bangladeshi capital last night. Nazimuddin Samad, 28, was hacked with machetes and then shot — the seventh secular activist to be killed in recent months. Police suspect he was targeted for pro-atheism posts on social media, and because he supported a 2013 movement against leaders accused of war crimes during the country’s war of independence. Police are investigating but have yet to prosecute any suspects linked to earlier attacks.
They’re probably staying put. Notes from last month’s meeting of the Federal Reserve signal a house divided over when to tighten U.S. monetary policy, with those urging caution apparently outnumbering those who’d prefer a rate boost this month. Chair Janet Yellen and many of her colleagues — notably not all — have been making a case for a more gradual normalization of rates, citing concern over downturns in global markets. News that an April hike is unlikely helped lift stocks, and the Dow Jones closed up 112.73 points.
Belgian police release new video of airport attack suspect. (BBC)
EU leaders look to centralize asylum process for refugees. (DW)
New role for Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi expected to let her rule by proxy. (CNN)
Russian athletics suffer in wake of meldonium ban. (NYT)
France makes paying for sex illegal, imposes fines. (BBC)
Cities, states ban employee travel to Mississippi, North Carolina. (USA Today)
South Carolina introduces bill to restrict transgender access to bathrooms. (Reuters)
One of country music’s famed outlaws, who channeled outsiders and working men with songs like “Fightin’ Side of Me” and “Okie From Muskogee,” died of pneumonia on his 79th birthday yesterday. Haggard’s tunes about the hard life weren’t just an act: He grew up poor, fell into petty crime in his teens and did a stint in San Quentin for a bungled burglary. His rags-to-riches success saw him top music charts for decades, and he’s being remembered by colleagues like Carrie Underwood as “a true entertainer … a legend.”
Residents are fuming. Mexico’s capital suffered a six-month-long dry season that pushed pollution rates sky high. To fight back, authorities are banning as much as 40 percent of cars from city roads. So residents are increasingly turning to Uber — if they can afford it. The firm’s infamous “surge pricing” has seen prices climb to nearly 10 times normal rates. Citizens have taken to Twitter to vent their frustrations, but Uber says high prices are necessary to ensure they have enough drivers to meet demand.
They’re taking a lesson from Silicon Valley. The East African country’s known for wobbly infrastructure, a lack of schools and poorly trained teachers. But the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and startups are jumping in to fill the void, offering cheap private schools and e-textbooks. Meanwhile, NGOs are working on similar projects aimed at tech-training the country’s kids — occasionally causing awkward overlap, though some insist competition will keep the market lean — as the Kenyan government promises a tablet for every first-grader.
It’s a matter of life and death. Obama asked the U.S. Congress to put $1.9 billion toward fighting Zika, but it’s been two months, and lawmakers haven’t come up with the cash. Meanwhile, over 600 cases of the mosquito-borne disease have been reported nationwide. So the administration is taking drastic measures, redirecting $589 million — funds originally earmarked to combat Ebola — for Zika-related public education, vaccine development and mosquito control. Some fear a resurgence of Ebola, but officials say Zika is likely to be a bigger threat.
It’s time for a new Big Mac. Andrew McKenna, having served McDonald’s board for 25 years as a director and the last 12 as chairman, has announced his departure. The fast food giant will name a new chair next month during its shareholders meeting. During his tenure, the 86-year-old has also served as a trustee of the Ronald McDonald House Charities and worked with seven different CEOs through thick and thin. Dubbed “the power behind the throne” by Chicago newspapers, McKenna will retain the title “chairman emeritus.”
He’s fighting to stay in the game. The former Utah Jazz coach announced that he’s suffering from the neurological disorder, along with Lewy body dementia. The 74-year-old is the third-winningest coach in NBA history and reached the Finals twice in the 1990s before retiring in 2011. Sloan says he was diagnosed last year but chose to come forward now because his symptoms are worsening. His wife, Tammy, says he’s still pursuing treatment options, and Sloan himself notes that he continues to walk four miles a day.