Is a national movement underway? Thousands gathered in New York and other cities for a second night of protest at the failure to indict the officer who held Eric Garner in a chokehold, leading to his death. Meanwhile, a Justice Department review in Cleveland has found a pattern of excessive police force, both in the use of weapons and non-lethal methods. Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to the Ohio city yesterday to announce the findings, a sign that the administration is trying to get ahead of the crisis.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The capsule is one small launch for NASA, one giant step toward putting a person on Mars. The vessel left Earth Friday morning and soared 3,600 miles, an altitude not reached by spacecraft meant to hold humans since Apollo reached similar highs some 40 years ago. It splashed down safely in the Pacific. Plans for Orion involve putting an asteroid into orbit in the 2020s and sending a person to Mars in the 2030s. But for now, we have some pretty cool rocket photos.
The president has announced that Ashton Carter, a Pentagon pro with national security expertise, is his choice to be the next secretary of defense. The move had been expected after reports trickled out earlier this week. The former Rhodes scholar has a reputation as a smart wonk who worked his way up the Pentagon ranks. Carter must still pass Congressional muster, but he should have bipartisan support.
It’s courting criticism. The International Criminal Court at The Hague has dropped charges against Kenya’s president. Kenyatta was suspected of crimes against humanity for an alleged role in ethnic, post-election violence in 2007 and 2008 that claimed 1,200 lives. Kenyatta was the first head of state to appear before the court. Prosecutors said they couldn’t prove the case “beyond reasonable doubt,” highlighting what many consider to be the court’s weakness in holding powerful leaders to account.
The good news: The U.S. added 321,000 jobs last month, more than expected. The not-so-good news: The country still has a long way to go. At this rate, a full pre-recession recovery won’t hit until fall 2016, some analysts say. The percentage of Americans who aren’t part of the workforce remains near historic lows — 62.8 percent vs. 67.3 percent in 2000. And many of the jobs are low-wage. In sum, the new job stats are a positive step, but not a slam-dunk.
Following a failed rescue attempt last month, an al-Qaida branch in Yemen has threatened to kill American journalist Luke Somers within days. Last month’s raid on a remote camp — which freed eight captives and killed seven militants — was aimed at rescuing Somers, but he’d been moved shortly before. Unlike ISIS, al-Qaida rarely executes hostages, preferring to claim hefty ransoms. But that’s unlikely to help Somers, who is a citizen of the U.S. and Britain, both of which have a no-payout policy.
Some 20 people were killed in a 12-hour gun battle in the Chechen capital of Grozny yesterday, coinciding with Vladmir Putin’s State of the Nation address. Crushing the separatist insurgency in Chechnya is a central aim of Putin’s presidency, and this attack disrupts several years of relative calm in the volatile region. The leader briefly mentioned the unrest in his address, but focused mostly on Crimea, tensions with the West, and growing economic concerns driven by the slide of the ruble.
Reports of the ride-sharing app’s death have been greatly exaggerated. With its new $1.2-billion round of financing, Uber is now worth $40 billion. The aggressive growth comes amid a series of controversies involving mouthy executives, concerns about misuse of private data and regulatory battles. But with that kind of money, Uber isn’t going down anytime soon. Yet in a blog post announcing the cash infusion, CEO Travis Kalanick took a surprisingly conciliatory tone, promising that Uber can be “a smarter and more humble company.”
Anti-corruption probe targets high-ranking Communist Party leader. (NYT)
Grammy nominations out today favor young Brit Sam Smith. (USA Today)
Typhoon Hagupit hits Philippines. (Reuters)
South Africa marks Mandela anniversary. (BBC)
Phoenix police officer kills unarmed black man. (WP)
Starbucks opens Seattle coffee emporium. (USA Today)
First daughters flash smiles at tree-lighting. (CSM)
From the beginning, questions hung over the shocking story of “Jackie,” an unidentified freshman allegedly gang raped in 2012 at a fraternity party at the University of Virginia. UVA shut down all Greek activities after the explosive exposé, even as fraternity officials strongly questioned its authenticity. After weeks of defending author Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the magazine’s editors concluded today that “our trust in her was misplaced.” While something horrific may have happened to Jackie, an accurate account of that night seems far off.
After 18 years in the Senate, she’s sinking in Louisiana. Saturday’s runoff determines if Sen. Mary Landrieu will return to D.C., but the Dems have already given her up for dead. She trails more than 20 points behind GOP opponent Bill Cassidy, who expertly tied her future to the state’s discontent with Barack Obama. Her decline is a stark symbol of the Democratic downfall; as of tomorrow the party won’t hold a governorship, Senate seat, or legislative chamber from the Carolinas to Texas.
They share at least 97 percent of our DNA, but none of our legal rights. A New York appeals court yesterday rejected a landmark bid to extend “legal personhood” to chimpanzees. Attorney Steven Wise attempted to secure a writ of habeas corpus for a chimp named Tommy, who is confined alone in a warehouse, but the judges argued that animals don’t have the right to liberty because they cannot bear legal responsibility. Wise will appeal to New York’s highest court — so there’s still hope for Tommy.
On the occasion of its 100th birthday, the influential liberal magazine is being torn apart. Several staff members are expected to resign today, following the departure of top editors Franklin Foer and Leon Wieseltier. They cited differences of vision with Chris Hughes, the 31-year-old owner and Facebook tycoon, who hopes to turn the storied institution into a “vertically integrated digital media company.” For good or ill, TNR’s turnaround is a decisive victory in the battle between click-chasing and longform journalism.
International athletics could be facing its biggest scandal in decades. A German TV documentary claims the majority of Russian competitors are using banned substances and paying officials to cover up positive tests. The program includes damning interviews with athletes, including a three-time winner of the Chicago Marathon and an Olympic gold medalist. The World Anti-Doping Agency is already investigating the allegations and, though Russia insists it’s all a lie, the primary whistleblowers are reportedly in hiding in Spain.
Have you been feeling the strain this winter? The CDC warns that this year’s dominant flu virus, H3N2, typically produces twice as many hospitalizations and deaths, concentrated among children and the elderly. Even worse, this season’s flu shots are decidedly less effective at fending off the fevers and coughs, because the virus mutated after the vaccine was created. Doctors say it’s still better than no vaccine at all, but are also calling for increased use of antivirals as a “second line of defense.”