It’s headed to the highest court in the land. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to decide whether gays and lesbians can marry nationwide, resolving one of the country’s fiercest debates. In October, the justices declined to take up the issue, tacitly allowing gay marriage to expand from 19 to 36 states since then. A split among federal appellate courts is forcing the justices to act now. Their ruling, due out by June, will surely end up as one of the landmark cases of our time.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The Beagle 2 had landed. A British space probe tasked with searching for signs of life on the Red Planet disappeared during a landing attempt on Christmas 2003. The mission was considered a bust — until now. NASA photos appear to show the Beagle intact. The communication apparatus apparently failed, but otherwise things went as planned. Scientists speculate that the probe may even have been able to take photos. Now all they need is an astronaut with a USB drive to show up.
Blame humanity. Since record keeping began in 1880, we’ve never seen a year this warm. The difference is less than one degree Fahrenheit, but there’s only a 1 in 27 million chance this happened naturally. Especially considering that there was no El Nino to help push temps up last year. Scientists say it’s proof that global warming isn’t something to worry about for our children — it’s right here, right now. “Our entire idea of ‘normal’ is changing,” one says.
Break out the cigars. The president’s administration is loosening U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba today and allowing folks to return with small amounts of cigars and alcohol. The move also enables Americans to send more money to Cuban nationals. Obama has so far used executive power to relax the restrictions, but next week an assistant secretary of state will travel to Cuba to discuss lifting the decades-long trade embargo. To do so they’ll need to convince a Republican-run Congress that isolation hasn’t helped anyone.
The threat is growing. Parisian police have seized 12 suspects in last week’s attacks just a day after authorities thwarted other suspected terrorists in Verviers, Belgium, where a shoot-out killed two militants. And today German authorities arrested two Turkish men with suspected links to ISIS. With European jihadists returning from Iraq and Syria, the continent is on edge. While some attacks are linked to ISIS and others to al Qaida, analysts fear the groups are beginning to compete for gruesome publicity.
Hoard those Easter bunnies now. Chocolates, watches and other Swiss goods will get much more expensive for foreigners after Switzerland unexpectedly scrapped its cap of 1.20 francs to the euro. The Swiss currency soared up to 39 percent against the euro in a record one-day surge before settling at 17 percent. The Swiss National Bank says the cap is no longer needed because the franc isn’t as overvalued as it was in 2011. So your ski trip to the Alps may have to wait.
Practice makes perfect. Americans and Brits are heading into battle … in cyberspace. The plan, arranged during Prime Minister David Cameron’s current U.S. visit, is to simulate attacks on the financial hubs of both countries to test how they share information. The first battle takes place later this year, with subsequent skirmishes to check the security of national grids. New “cyber cells” of FBI and MI5 agents are teaming up — an unprecedented partnership — to help ensure victory in case of a real cyber war.
President Obama says new sanctions would blow up Iran deal. (AP)
Joe Paterno restored as winningest coach in college football history. (ESPN)
Boy who ‘came back from heaven’ recants published story. (Washington Post)
Chinese authorities arrest 60,000 in massive drug sweep. (The Guardian)
U.S. to send 400 troops to train Syrian opposition. (USA Today)
Okla. puts first inmate to death since last year’s botched execution. (Washington Post)
Target Corp. admits defeat, pulls out of Canada. (WSJ) sub
Tech giants agree to $415 million ’non-poaching’ settlement offer. (BBC)
We’re not sunk yet. One of the most extensive studies of the world’s oceans ever conducted reveals that we’ve done nearly irreparable damage to its delicate ecosystems, but there’s still time to reverse course. As overfishing, pollution, mining operations, climate change and other habitat-altering activities increase, marine animals may disappear as fast as many land species did after the Industrial Revolution. Researchers hope the ocean can avoid the kind of “wildlife Armageddon that we engineered on land.”
The battle between diet and exercise may be over. Being sedentary is twice as likely to kill you as obesity, research on 334,000 Europeans has found. Being fat isn’t healthy, but if you’re active, you’re in better shape than the thin person who parks it on the couch all day, according to the 12-year study. But couch potatoes needn’t despair: Researchers suggest that just 20 minutes of brisk walking a day can cut one’s mortality risk by as much as 30 percent.
They were arrested and held in without trial, in secret — that’s what a new report, as well as scores of grieving parents, allege. The kids, mostly male teens, stand accused of fomenting unrest. The ones who’ve made it out describe torture. Parents of missing kids say government authorities won’t tell them anything, and won’t let them see their sons. Even if the boys are eventually cleared of wrongdoing, the arrest alone may be enough to cut off their future — they’re automatically booted from school.
It’s gonna be a pale party. This year’s Oscar nominations suffered a notable lack of diversity, with all 20 best- and supporting-actor nominees being white, and Birdman director Alejandro Inarritu the only non-white finalist for best director. But the biggest snubs belonged to Selma, overlooked in key categories despite a best picture nod, and children’s multicolored “block” buster The Lego Movie. Critics say Academy members’ inability to see beyond their mostly white fraternity is everything but awesome.
They want him to stay. While many foreigners are feeling unwelcome in France following last week’s attacks, the Malian who saved a dozen would-be victims by hiding them in a Parisian supermarket’s freezer is now feeling right at home. Nearly 300,000 people signed a petition demanding that Lassana Bathily be granted citizenship, and he’s being naturalized next week. The Muslim immigrant — hailed by President Francois Hollande for aiding police and saving lives — also gets the Légion d’Honneur, France’s top accolade for heroes.
It’s their “manifest destiny,” says commissioner Adam Silver. The league staged a fifth regular season match in London this week, featuring Milwaukee beating the miserable Knicks, while the NBA’s fearless leader announced plans for four European franchises in the near future. Although the NBA still has a “long way to go,” the sport’s popularity exceeds that of American football, which also has plans to land permanently on the continent. Let the PR blitz begin.
He wants good grades. OSU’s third-string quarterback had a stellar championship run, amassing 742 passing yards and six touchdowns in three starts to help the Buckeyes clinch the title. Rumors swirled of him becoming a first-round draft pick, but Jones is forgoing a lucrative jump to the NFL and returning to campus. He says football is the “stepping stone” to his education. The Cleveland native isn’t even guaranteed to play next year at OSU, but fans are still giving him an A+.
They’re eyeing a fresh start. The tech giant is halting sales of its much-derided optical computers and bringing in new leadership as it returns to the drawing board. Many problems plagued the first-of-its-kind wearable device, from its $1,500 price tag to its clunky look — not to mention the creepy “Glasshole” perceptions. Google has picked iPod designer Tony Fadell to lead the revolution, banking on his ability to take geekdom mainstream. But will critics begin to see the light?