Pierre Korkie was so close to freedom. The South African hostage was killed by al-Qaida-linked militants on Saturday during an unsuccessful U.S. commando raid to rescue American journalist Luke Somers. But his release had already been negotiated and secured by a charity in exchange for $200,000. The U.S. says it knew nothing about the deal before conducting the raid, but the tragic outcome raises questions about coordination between governments and civilian hostage negotiators.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The answer no one really wanted finally came. A forensics lab identified a bone fragment from a Mexican river as that of Alexander Mora Venancio, one of 43 college students whose disappearance sparked international outrage. The finding is the first to confirm a student’s death. At least 75 people have been arrested, in a case where the local mayor reportedly called on cartel contacts to murder the students. More remains from the area are being tested now. Hopefully answers will allow the families, and a nation, to start healing.
Call it good cop/bad cop diplomacy. French President François Hollande tried sweet-talking Putin at a Moscow airport meeting Putin himself said offered “positive results.” Meanwhile German Chancellor Angela Merkel blamed Putin’s policies for problems in Moldova, the Balkans and Georgia, in a German newspaper interview. Merkel and Putin’s long personal friendship partially disintegrated at the G20 conference last month when she publicly denounced his incursions in Ukraine. She says Europe is always ready to negotiate. If Putin will come to the table.
We’ve made progress. That’s the message President Obama wants black Americans to hear after an NYC grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of a black man. “Things are better” than they were 50 years ago, Obama said in a BET interview set to air later today, encouraging those fed up by suspected police brutality and racism to be patient. Protests have erupted across the country, with demonstrators resorting to violence in Berkeley and Seattle over the weekend.
Go to Uruguay: Do not pass your native Syria, Palestine or Tunisia. That was the card dealt to six Guantanamo Bay detainees — suspected but never charged with links to al-Qaida — after 12 years in Cuba. The inmates are the first to be released to a South American country for resettlement, but 136 of their associates remain imprisoned. U.S. officials thanked Uruguayan leadership for accepting the men on humanitarian grounds in the latest signal of a push by President Obama to close the controversial detention center.
It’s even worse than we thought. Revised figures reveal that Japan’s economy shrank 1.9 percent in the third quarter — not 1.6 percent, as first reported — on top of the second quarter’s 6.7-percent drop. Today’s financial warning comes days before Sunday’s snap elections, when voters decide whether they want to stick with Abenomics or change course. Polls show increasing distaste for the strategy, but Abe’s party is expected to do far better than the economy.
Senate report on U.S. use of torture could spark violence. (USA Today)
Typhoon kills 21 in eastern Samar. (Reuters)
Experts fear global impact of resurgent U.S. dollar. (FT) sub
EU seeks Turkish action against ISIS. (BBC)
Chinese export slowdown puts economic growth at risk. (AFP)
Syria: Israeli jets hit targets in Damascus. (Al Jazeera)
It sure looks suspicious. An enormous blaze that consumed an entire city block in the predawn darkness Monday is being investigated as a criminal fire. The blaze closed freeways, melted highway signs and shattered dozens of windows on nearby buildings. The unfinished apartment tower complex sprawled across nearly 1 million square feet. “It’s very rare for the entire building to be engulfed at once,” a fire captain noted. One witness, apropos of Hollywood’s vicinity, compared the scene to the opening credits in “Apocalypse Now.”
Michael Brown’s family wants them. So does President Obama. But a three-month investigation of urban police forces reveals that video captured by body cameras usually helps police more than citizens alleging abuse. The practical problem? Officers can control when cameras are rolling, leading to many misconduct cases where footage isn’t available. In Albuquerque, officer-involved shootings have actually increased since the cameras were introduced. It seems there are limits to video’s usefulness — a point on which Eric Garner’s family would probably agree.
The British have landed. Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are set to wow American crowds on their second U.S. visit, having arrived in the Big Apple last night. But eyes are on the royal pair for more than just charity work and Kate’s second pregnancy. Their visit signals a new diplomatic role for the next generation of British royalty. Illegal wildlife trading will top the agenda when William meets President Obama today.
It’s not an oxymoron: Vegans who crave the taste of meat. At least not to siblings Kale and Aubry Walch, who are launching Herbivorous Butcher next spring in Minneapolis. The shop replicates the tastes and textures of good ol’ animal flesh, minus the ethical or health issues. Think delicious chorizo, sausages, smoky ribs, teriyaki jerky — all of it plant-based. The meat-free merchants have good timing: A new report suggests the livestock industry is more environmentally damaging than driving.
Adnan Syed is nearly a household name after the hugely popular podcast began revisiting the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, for which he’s serving a life sentence. For the first time, Adnan’s mother and younger brother recount how his conviction tore the family apart. Their private suffering has become very public fodder for millions of obsessed Serial fans. Even the family listens, particularly for details supporting Adnan’s innocence, and hopes for a happy ending. Lest we forget: A video of Hae also surfaced.
Bye-bye, BCS. A newly formed committee has selected the semi-finalists in the sport’s first-ever postseason playoff: Alabama vs. Ohio State and Oregon vs. Florida State. Two Big-12 teams, TCU and Baylor, were left on the sidelines complaining after red-hot OSU leap-frogged into the Number Four slot. Fans have been calling for a playoff for years, and now they’ve got one, at least through 2025. But critics are already questioning the new system’s first-year picks.
If you’ve ever picked up a controller (or a “joystick” back in the day), take a moment of silence today for Richard Baer. The inveterate tinkerer created the Brown Box, marketed by Magnavox as the Odyssey — the world’s first gaming console. He also dreamed up Simon, the lighted memory game, and the light gun for Duck Hunt. In short, he invented your childhood. Baer, who died Saturday at age 92, never retired. Clearly, he was having too much fun.