Twenty-five years to the day after security forces cracked down on student protests in Beijing, authorities are again gearing up in Tiananmen Square. Foreign journalists have been restricted from the square, and passers-by are being searched. Some 66 people, including lawyers and activists, have been detained ahead of the anniversary, according to Amnesty International. Access to some Internet searches has also been restricted. Tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated for weeks for democratic reform in 1989 before troops opened fire and massacred hundreds.
The Presidential Daily Brief
As the controversy continues over Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release and negotiated prisoner swap, the White House has defended its actions. The administration points to the “unique circumstances” that gave President Obama the right to sidestep a statute requiring Congress be informed 30 days before transferring five Guantanamo Bay detainees to complete the deal. Meanwhile, an official has said the military will review the circumstances leading up to Bergdahl’s capture five years ago following allegations that he had abandoned his post. On Wednesday, the Taliban released a video purporting to show Bergdahl’s release.
On day two of his European tour, President Obama is meeting with newly elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Obama has said he plans to offer U.S. support for the flagging Ukrainian economy. The country is struggling to pay its gas bill to Russia while fighting a recession. NATO leaders, who also met with Obama, announced plans today to improve the alliance’s response capabilities in the wake of Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea. Obama and other world leaders will assemble in Brussels for Group of Seven meetings later on.
Mississippi’s incumbent GOP Senator Thad Cochran was locked in a dead heat with Tea Party-backed State Sen. Chris McDaniel as of early Wednesday. With 99 percent of the ballots counted, each had 49 percent of the vote, which means a runoff in three weeks is likely. In Iowa, another of the eight states holding primaries, State Sen. Joni Ernst clinched the Republican nod for the U.S. Senate in her bid to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. She was backed by both the Tea Party and establishment Republicans, and is the first female GOP Senate nominee in Iowa history.
U.S. plans to raise tariffs on Chinese solar panels. (FT) sub.
Boko Haram ‘kills dozens’ in fresh Nigerian attacks. (BBC).
Europe is struggling with low inflation. (NYT).
Sisi officially declared Egyptian presidential winner. (Al Jazeera).
Vote count expected to favor Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (DW).
Bill Clinton has called U.S. inaction over the Rwandan genocide 20 years ago one of his biggest regrets, and thanks to newly revealed documents, we know more about what happened. Some 300 secret cables reveal debates at the highest levels, detailing how diplomats with limited information who were plagued by the memory of Somalia voted to pull out at such a crucial time. Madeleine Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the UN at the time, reportedly urged that the U.S. take the lead in withdrawing the UN peacekeepers. Shortly after they left, Rwanda plunged into a genocide in which 800,000 people were killed. Albright has also expressed regret.
A group of young Russians are saying no to America’s beloved soda to protest U.S. sanctions against Russia over the annexation of Crimea. Youths gathered in Moscow’s Gorky Park with signs and T-shirts with slogans like “For Russia, Say ‘No’ to Cola” and “Defend Our Children From Overseas Poison.” They also met outside the U.S. Embassy, where they asked fellow citizens to boycott U.S. businesses, like Pepsi and McDonalds. But for the big finale — Coke mixed with mints to explode into three-foot high fountains — they had to break the boycott and buy a few bottles.
Bryan Ellicott, a 24-year-old transgender man who has been in transition from female to male for two years, is suing New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation for locker room “discrimination” after he was told to use the women’s facilities at a public pool. Ellicott, who has not yet undergone gender reassignment surgery, said he was “humiliated” by the incident. The case highlights a common problem for transgender people who often suffer unease, ridicule or aggression while using public facilities. Ellicott’s lawyer is asking the court to ”put transgender people under the human rights law” to protect them from discrimination.
The Barbadian singer’s provocative new perfume ad is being restricted in Britain to places where it’s unlikely to be seen by children. A complaint claimed the ad — which features a nearly nude Rihanna sitting on the floor in heels with legs raised against a large bottle of Rogue perfume — was overly sexual and demeaning to women. The Advertising Standards Authority disagreed, noting Rihanna’s face looked defiant, not vulnerable. The ASA decided instead that the ad was “sexually suggestive” and unsuitable for kids. Rihanna shocked the U.S. with her barely there dress this week at the CFDA Fashion Awards in Los Angeles.
A day after the former Miami Dolphins quarterback joined the concussion lawsuit against the NFL, the hall of famer has withdrawn from litigation, saying it was a misunderstanding. Marino — who sustained at least two concussions while playing — reportedly never planned to be part of the suit but had instructed his lawyers to ensure he could get medical coverage later, if need be. There had been mixed reaction to the news that he had joined the suit, ranging from questions of motive to delight from former colleagues. But Marino’s very public withdrawal is a blow to the case.