As the West ramps up sanctions against Russia, Putin ramped up military exercises with 3,500 troops and air defense drills, reports confirmed Friday. The EU and U.S. sanctions threaten asset seizures and bans on business if Russia does not relent. President Obama spent an hour on the phone with Vladimir Putin, but the Russian president later said that Washington and Moscow remain heavily divided. His stance was strengthened by the Crimean parliament’s support for secession. Despite threatening a boycott, Ukrainian athletes have announced that they will participate in the Paralympic Games and raise their flag “for peace” at tonight’s opening ceremony.
The Presidential Daily Brief
A controversial bill to take responsibility for prosecution of rape and sexual assault cases away from the military command has failed to pass the Senate, falling five votes short of the 60 required. The bipartisan bill’s supporters, led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, insisted that drastic reforms were necessary to address the military’s sexual assault crisis. Opponents argued that it would undermine faith in the officer corps. The charged debate took place just hours after a top military prosecutor of sexual assault cases was himself suspended amidst allegations that he had attempted to grope a female colleague in 2011.
Cerberus, a New York-based private equity firm, is to buy Safeway, the second-largest grocery chain in the U.S. Cerberus acquired Albertson’s, the nation’s fifth-largest grocer last year, and yesterday’s $9 billion deal will allow it to merge the two to create a 2,400-store conglomerate with over 250,000 employees. According to Safeway CEO Robert Edwards, the merger would increase the companies’ competitive position in an increasingly tough business. In recent years, traditional supermarkets have been chewed up by Walmart and warehouse clubs at one end, and spat out by high-end competitors like Whole Foods at the other.
Hopes that relations on the Korean Peninsula were improving have been dashed by the North’s refusal to allow further cross-border family reunions. Six days of reunions were held last month, but military tests on both sides may have closed the brief window of civility. Since February 24, the South has been conducting military tests with the U.S. and in recent days the North has sparked outrage by test-launching four projectiles without notifying international aviation personnel. Both governments agreed to increased dialogue following rare high-level talks last month, but those promises are already ringing hollow.
Beijing-bound plane with 239 passengers vanishes between Malaysia and Vietnam. (BBC).
U.S. added 175,000 jobs in February; unemployment also up. (WSJ).
Christie calls on GOP to improve its image. (Boston Globe).
Two killed as Venezuela protests continue. (Washington Post).
Alleged Bitcoin founder denies claims. (The Telegraph).
Oscar Mayer has created an app that wakes up sleepyheads by recreating bacon cooking in the pan. The problem is, the iPhone dongle will only be available to the winners of a contest run by the company’s Institute for the Advancement of Bacon. The lucky recipients, all 4,700 of them, will receive the smartphone attachment necessary for the scent; everyone else will have to make do with just the sweet sound of meat in the pan. What’s more, while waking up and smelling the bacon may seem like a carnivore’s dream, when the alarm stops, most users will still have to face the harsh reality of soggy Cheerios.
The Nordic country has revealed the design of a memorial dedicated to the victims of the devastating 2011 terrorist attack that killed 77 people. The design will cleave a rocky headland in two, creating three-and-a-half meters of empty space in the peninsula near the island of Utoya, where Anders Breivik opened fire at a youth camp. As part of the memorial, the names of those killed will be carved into the rock. The piece, named Memory Wound, reflects what the Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg describes as “abrupt and permanent loss.”
Hollywood can be a harsh place, as Barkhad Abdi knows all too well. The co-star of Captain Phillips is struggling to make ends meet, having received just $65,000 for his Oscar-nominated portrayal of a Somali pirate. Apparently, such paltry paychecks aren’t all that rare in the movie industry. Jonah Hill, another of Sunday’s nominees, was so eager to work with Martin Scorsese that he accepted payment of just $60,000 for The Wolf of Wall Street. Considering that the two films have raked in nearly $600 million, the actors are entitled to feel a little shortchanged.
When it comes to housework Norwegian men are out-scrubbing their international counterparts, according to data released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The research details how much time is spent on unpaid household work in the OECD’s 34 member states. Although Norwegian gents spend an impressive 180 minutes a day on household chores, they still lag behind the ladies who put in 210 minutes. Japanese men trailed in last, committing just 62 minutes a day compared with women’s 300 minutes. Maybe Japanese husbands should celebrate International Women’s Day tomorrow by scrubbing a few more bathroom floors.
Source: Chicago Tribune
Indian authorities are threatening to press sedition charges against a group of Kashmiri students who supported Pakistan in a cricket match against India. The police want to interrogate 66 students who were suspended by their university after accusations of “anti-national activities.” Theoretically, rooting for the wrong team could land those accused with life sentences, though Indian Kashmir’s chief minister has declared that sedition charges would be “unacceptably harsh.” While cricketers may display good manners on the ground, outside the oval India and Pakistan have little time for pleasantries.
Source: Al Jazeera