Before his four-nation tour, the U.S. president signaled to Asian allies that closer ties with Beijing won’t jeopardize their relationship. But that might be a tough sell in China, with Beijing’s media blasting U.S. attempts to “cage” the increasingly powerful nation. Obama’s trip begins today in Tokyo, where he plans to reassure Japanese officials that the U.S. is committed to standing with the nation, while also currying favor with Asia’s largest economy. Other stops will include South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, where talks are expected to focus on economic ties and regional stability.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Ukrainian leaders have thrown down the gauntlet in the wake of a politician’s death. The politician and another man were reportedly tortured before being killed, prompting Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov to launch military operations against rebels in the east. The U.S. is sending 600 troops to Eastern Europe for infantry exercises in a bid to reassure allies concerned by the crisis, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry threatened further sanctions against Russia, urging Moscow to help calm pro-Russian separatists.
In a decision that could further reduce numbers of minorities at state universities, the Supreme Court voted 6-2 that Michigan’s affirmative action ban in public college admissions does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The justices ruled it was not up to them to overturn a 2006 decision by voters to bar consideration of race in admissions as long as the action didn’t involve intentional discrimination. But dissenting Justice Sonia Sotomayor criticized the decision, calling it an attempt to “wish away” racial inequality.
The automotive giant has asked a federal bankruptcy court to dismiss dozens of lawsuits, and potential lawsuits, related to its recall over faulty ignition switches. The motion asks a judge to enforce a provision shielding the “new GM” from liability for incidents before its July 2009 restructuring agreement. Though the motion is simply seeking reaffirmation of a protection already in place, it’s being seen as a bid to get the cases dismissed all at once. GM did acknowledge, however, that it has “civic and legal obligations” related to injuries. The faulty switches have been linked to 13 deaths.
Rio streets erupt in protests after dancer is killed. (BBC).
Texas fertilizer plant blast deemed ‘preventable.’ (NYT).
U.S. reporter taken hostage in Ukraine. (Mashable).
No air pockets found on key floors of sunken ferry. (CNN).
Jihadists in Mali announce death of French hostage. (AFP)
Twitter was awash with images criticizing police after the New York City Police Department asked users to post photos of officers under the hashtag #myNYPD. Hoping for pictures of smiling officers with citizens, organizers of the campaign received a sobering reality check. One stated: “Free massages from the #NYPD. What does YOUR Police Department offer?” beside a picture of a cop holding a screaming man’s arms behind his back, on top of a car. While the campaign got a few positive responses, most showed police laying down the law with what looked like a heavy hand.
City-flattening asteroids are not necessarily science fiction, a study shows. Information collected by a non-profit group reveals that 26 asteroids have exploded in the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 13 years. The group hopes to raise awareness of the relative frequency of asteroids hitting the planet, putting to bed the popular myth that such occurrences are rare. An asteroid as small as 131 feet across — less than half a football field — could level a city, reminding us all that the larger they are, the harder they fall.
What a difference a letter makes. Columbians, er, Colombians are fed up with foreigners constantly misspelling their name. And it’s not just Paris Hilton who has goofed. Virgin Mobile, P.F. Chang’s, Lufthansa, Justin Bieber, Ozzy Osbourne — and Richard Nixon — have all made the same mistake. Now, tens of thousands of Colombians are fighting back with T-shirts and on social media in a campaign called “It’s Colombia, NOT Columbia.” The instant anyone goofs in the media, the volunteer spell-check police shame them on Facebook and Twitter. Word!
The Reservoir Dogs director has hinted that he may continue with his film The Hateful Eight despite shelving the project in January after the script was leaked online. At a reading of the script in Los Angeles, the director alluded to the resurrection of the film by suggesting that he was working on a redraft of the screenplay. The film is a follow-up to his commercial and critical success Django Unchained, which picked up an Oscar for best original screenplay. Tarantino was reportedly “very depressed” after his work was leaked online and is suing the website Gawker for contributory copyright infringement.
Los Angeles Angels player Albert Pujols has reached the hallowed home run ground. After blasting number 499 in the first inning against the Washington Nationals, the man they call “The Machine” left the park again in the fifth, hitting one of the most-celebrated round numbers in baseball history: 500. Pujols is the 26th player to reach the 500-home run mark, and at 34, the third youngest. He was greeted by his teammates at home plate, and the Washington crowd gave the visiting slugger a well-deserved curtain call. The Angels won 7-2.