Crimean lawmakers have voted to hold a referendum on switching the region’s allegiance from Ukraine to Russia. Residents will vote on the measure on March 16. While a Crimean politician calls the move an attempt to reunite with the Motherland, the Ukrainian interim prime minister has condemned the votes, and the U.S. restricted visas for Ukrainian and Russian officials accused of “threatening the sovereignty” of Ukraine. The crisis on the peninsula has pitted neighbors against each other, although both sides appear to be hopeful for a peaceful resolution.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Pro-Russian forces are still at the helm in Crimea, where a UN envoy was intimidated yesterday and tensions are still bubbling over. The EU, which is holding emergency talks in Brussels today, plans to freeze the accounts of 18 people suspected of misusing Ukrainian government funds, including deposed President Viktor Yanukovych. But the U.S. has bigger plans. As President Putin tries to use Russian energy supplies to bring Ukraine to heel, the U.S. is gearing up to use its recently acquired status as the world’s largest natural gas producer to show Putin who is really top dog.
The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan killed Afghan troops in a botched bombing earlier today. NATO issued a statement confirming the accidental deaths, for which it apologized. An Afghan official told reporters the carnage — which is bound to fan the flames of an already worsening situation — was inflicted by a U.S. drone. President Hamid Karzai has yet to comment, but air strikes killing civilians in the past have enraged the Afghan leader, who this week expressed ”extreme anger” at the U.S. over both civilian and military casualties of the 12-year war effort.
A son of Libya’s former leader is back in Tripoli to face charges of misappropriating property by force and armed intimidation when he was chief of the Libyan football federation. Saadi Gadhafi, best known for his own brief football career and playboy antics, fled to Niger after his father was killed in 2011. Fearing Gadhafi would face the death penalty, Niger had previously refused to deport him. This is the latest in a string of extraditions sought in a bid to bring Gadhafi family members and ex-officials to trial, but the wheels of justice seem to move slowly in Libya.
Doctors have cured a Californian baby girl of the virus that causes AIDS. A radical new drug treatment helped the “miracle baby,” and this is the second time an infant has reportedly been freed of the virus. A clinical trial of 60 babies is set to begin and could well bring changes to how 250,000 babies born infected each year are treated. HIV care is already improving — in Uganda last year, HIV-positive birth rates were nearly halved. This new treatment is raising hopes of eradicating the disease, which has plagued 34 million worldwide.
Obama gives health plans additional two years to adjust. (WSJ)
Venezuela breaks ties with Panama. (BBC).
Police investigate ‘unnatural’ death of virtual currency chief in Singapore. (FT)
Army general to deny sexual assault but admit adultery. (USA Today).
SAT exam gets a do-over. (IBT).
The FBI is investigating a video starring a crazy pair who claim to be Californians “gangbanging” with Syrian forces against the rebels. They’ve been identified by Los Angeles police as gang members and Syrian nationals who are believed to have been deported. They fire Kalashnikov rifles in the video and boast about battling “enemigos.” The feds are attempting to determine if they are a threat to U.S. interests. Some 50 Americans are known to have joined Syrian rebels, but this has got to be the first time former La-La-Landers have buckled up for Bashar al-Assad.
Drop the soda and chocolates and kiss those love handles goodbye — it’s time to cut back to less than a Coke’s worth of sugar a day. The World Health Organization (WHO) is revising its recommendation that the sweet stuff make up no more than 10 percent of daily calorie intake: Experts are shooting for five percent. With populations fattening up worldwide, some believe meeting that target is essential. But it could be a tough sell for parents, as just one soda can push children over the 10 percent mark. Sweet-toothed readers may be asking: “WHO do these experts think they are?”
Source: The Guardian
Chinese authorities claim they’re ready to battle the choking smog cloaking their cities. What better way to wage war than with drones? Government agencies are about to test a strategy using the aircraft to spray chemicals that freeze pollutants, which will allow them to fall inert to the ground rather than being inhaled. Drones have been used before, but the new system is supposed to be more efficient. The next order of business: figuring out how to clean up the chemicals sprayed on the pollutants.
Was Nicolas Sarkozy really a “kept man” whose first years in office were “idiocy”? That’s what the former French president’s aide Patrick Buisson says in audio tapes he secretly recorded when he worked in the Elysee Palace — and his sarcastic running commentary has just found its way to the press. Wife and folk-singing beauty Carla Bruni adds to the embarrassment when she’s overheard calling her hubby a “kept man” reliant on her fortune. Sarkozy, who is gearing up for another run at the presidency in 2017, is said to be tres furious.
When are sports bets on a runner’s chances not OK? When he’s Paralympian “blade runner” Oscar Pistorius and he’s being tried for the murder of his girlfriend. The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority is banning a newspaper ad by popular Irish bookmaker Paddy Power touting a bet on the South African. “It’s Oscar time. Money back if he walks,” sniggers the tasteless ad. The ASA is investigating whether the ad “is offensive for trivializing the issues surrounding a murder trial.” Any bets on the findings?