Russia may have been denied a seat at the table at this week’s meeting of the Group of Seven leaders, but it’s still topping the agenda. The leaders of the world’s top industrialized nations warned that they will impose harder-hitting sanctions on Russia unless it takes steps to stabilize eastern Ukraine. The statement followed talks yesterday in Brussels which were due to take place in Sochi but had to be relocated following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Today the group is expected to discuss diversifying energy to reduce regional dependence on Russian oil and gas.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Bashar al-Assad has claimed a landslide victory in Syria’s presidential poll with 88.7 percent of the vote. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the vote as ”meaningless,” with the EU and Syrian opposition viewing the election as a farce. The victory affords Assad his third seven-year term in office, despite a three-year civil war sparked by protests against his rule. Experts see the outcome as another sign that the Syrian opposition and its international backers have failed to change the balance of power on the ground.
The country’s federal prosecutor has announced a formal investigation into suspected NSA monitoring of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. The alleged surveillance, which was revealed in documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, seriously damaged relations between the U.S. and Germany. Merkel complained directly to President Obama. The former head of the NSA has claimed that the agency is no longer spying on the chancellor. Although it may weaken Berlin’s relationship with Washington even further, the investigation has won broad political support domestically.
The march of the mega-mergers continues with Sprint about to gobble up T-Mobile. The third- and fourth-largest cell phone operators have agreed to a $32 billion merger deal under which Sprint would buy T-Mobile for about $40 a share in cash and stock. The companies are taking action now because of the rapid growth of rivals Verizon and AT&T, which recently agreed to acquire DirecTV, the nation’s largest satellite TV operator. Sprint and T-Mobile will need to go big in order to compete with those super-companies.
Canadian police launch manhunt after officers killed. (BBC).
Sgt. Bergdahl’s hometown cancels his homecoming party. (LA Times).
UK baby dies from contaminated IV drip. (The Guardian).
Military jet crashes in California but none injured. (CNN).
Thai junta claims support of China and Vietnam. (Reuters).
You might think that Vladimir Putin would benefit from making a few friends in Washington, but he’s certainly going about it the wrong way. In a recent interview, the Russian leader brushed off remarks from Hillary Clinton — who reportedly compared him with Hitler — on the grounds that it’s “better not to argue with women.” Putin believes that such overstatement is a sign of weakness. But Clinton shouldn’t worry too much about that because, according to the president, “weakness is not the worst quality in a woman.”
Chester Nez, the last living creator of the unbreakable code that confounded the Japanese military in World War II, has died at 93 in his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Nez was one of 29 Navajos recruited by the U.S. Marine Corps to create a code based on the Navajo language, chosen because the syntax and tonal qualities of Navajo are almost impossible to learn and have no written form. The code talkers were forbidden from discussing their work until the code was declassified in 1968, but they were later honored with the Congressional Gold Medal.
The U.S. could reach Mars in 2037 according to a National Research Council report, despite the fact that there’s no room in current budgets. The mission would require an unprecedented commitment of support and funds and would involve substantial risk. The report urges greater international cooperation, emphasizing the importance of partnership with China. Meanwhile, Big Brother creator Endemol is partnering up with the privately-funded Mars One mission to create a reality TV show from the crew-selection process. But many are skeptical of Mars One’s aim to reach the red planet by 2025.
An online enthusiast of the plastic toys has convinced the toy-making giant to create a line of miniature female scientists. The toy company has previously been criticized for gender imbalance, particularly since male plastic figures range from explorers to builders to pirates, while female ones are mostly restricted to the home or salon. Through Lego Ideas, an online platform that allows enthusiasts to suggest new sets, a Swedish scientist won the 10,000 votes needed to set her idea in motion. The new series of miniatures will include a chemist, an astronomer and a paleontologist — and none of them will wear pink.
Source: The Guardian
The New York Rangers started hot in game one of the Stanley Cup finals, torching the LA Kings 2-0 in the first few minutes with breakaway speed. The Kings struggled to best super-goalie Henrik Lundqvist, but goals from Kyle Clifford and Drew Doughty leveled the score, and the elite defense slowed New York down. In the second and third periods, LA out shot New York, 27-12. In overtime, an untimely Dan Girardi turnover gave LA’s Justin Williams an unimpeded line of sight, which he used to hammer home the game winner.