Grief-stricken loved ones and fans are paying tribute today to the endearing, wildly creative comedy genius after a suspected suicide in his California home. Williams, who struggled with depression and substance abuse, died of apparent asphyxiation. Known for roles that made us laugh and cry, from Mork & Mindy and Good Morning, Vietnam to his Oscar vehicle, Good Will Hunting, Williams will long be remembered as a brilliantly funny comedian and talented actor.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Do they come in peace? Putin has dispatched 300 trucks toward eastern Ukraine in a humanitarian aid mission for civilians in rebel-held areas, or so he claims. Ukraine approved the aid, stipulating that it come through the Red Cross, but the humanitarian organization says details have yet to be finalized. NATO’s secretary general believes there’s a “high probability” Russia is preparing to attack, and the West has warned Putin not to use the shipments as cover for an invasion.
The FBI has launched a civil rights investigation into the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teen in a St. Louis suburb. The news came shortly before violence erupted for a second night in response to the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown — violence that prompted authorities to teargas a crowd. Protesters question the explanation that Brown was shot during a struggle for an officer’s gun, and the teen’s family has hired a lawyer.
Doctors suffering from the deadly virus in Liberia will soon be given an experimental drug called ZMapp. The U.S. is rushing sample doses to the continent, where the outbreak’s death toll has climbed above 1,000. ZMapp, produced by American company Mapp Biopharmaceutical, was used for the first time on two Ebola-plagued American missionaries last week, both of whom are improving. This limited success is offering a glimmer of hope to fearful African communities.
U.S. applauds Iraqi nomination of Maliki successor. (NYT)
Brazilians throw monkey wrench into Chiquita merger. (FT) sub
Level of Gaza destruction ‘unprecedented,’ says U.N. (The Guardian)
Rights group suspects systematic killings by Egyptian forces. (BBC)
U.S., Australia seek UN policy on returning Islamist fighters. (DW)
Are there perks to being Putin’s pawn? Former world chess champion and outspoken Putin critic Garry Kasparov thinks so. He just lost his bid to head the World Chess Federation to a Putin supporter who claims to have been abducted by aliens. Russian millionaire Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who has led the organization for 19 years, won Monday’s vote in Norway in what Kasparov has called a rigged election. What does Ilyumzhinov’s think? His rival is “dangerous,” and has turned chess into a political game.
It seems nothing is out of reach. Scientists have determined that the massive 2010 earthquake in Chile triggered “icequakes” nearly 3,000 miles away, in Antarctica. The magnitude 8.8 earthquake devastated Maule, Chile, leaving 500 dead, but it also broke ice at the South Pole — the first documented instance of a distant quake affecting an ice sheet. As the sixth-largest temblor on record, it was unusual, but scientists think they may be learning “something new about the way the Earth works.”
Can men be Jewish without being circumcised? The brit milah, or snipping of a male baby’s foreskin on the eighth day of life, is symbolic of Jews’ covenant with God. But some are eschewing tradition in favor of less surgical — and bloody — ways of celebrating their faith. A non-circumcision ceremony called brit shalom, which includes reading blessings and bestowing a Hebrew name, is slowly gaining momentum. The problem? Most rabbis and Jewish grandmothers don’t approve.
If you suffered withdrawal when Walter White’s meth-jacked adventures ended, prepare to fall off the wagon. Fans of the beloved AMC series are squealing over the first trailer for the spin-off show, Better Call Saul, which focuses on the smarmy lawyer who provided counsel to Breaking Bad’s morally challenged protagonists. Whether the new show satisfies fans’ cravings will depend on whether it inherits Breaking Bad’s street cred; viewers must wait until February 2015 to see whether Saul delivers a good high.
The Toronto Raptors made rapper Drake their “global ambassador” last year, but the title didn’t come with an NBA rulebook. When Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant attended a recent Drake concert in Toronto, Drake asked the crowd to show the star forward what they’d think of him playing locally. Durant got a standing ovation, but the NBA fined the Raptors $25,000 for a recruiting violation (Durant isn’t a free agent until 2016) — a costly lesson in diplomacy.