Insurgents aligned with ISIS claimed responsibility for four attacks last night in northern Egypt that killed 27 and injured scores. The Egyptian military dismissed their claim, instead blaming the Muslim Brotherhood, long suspected of inciting violence by providing arms to Sinai terrorists. The U.S. condemned the attacks, reiterating its support for Cairo’s struggle against terror. Expect more clampdowns on militants in the north, as well as rising tensions across Egypt as the country marks the fourth anniversary of its Arab Spring.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Mitt’s out. The Republican told donors this morning that he won’t try for a third go at the White House, leaving the race wide open for Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and the rest of the GOP field. The announcement came amid signs of waning support for Romney, including the defection of Iowa strategist David Kochel to Bush’s camp. With Romney’s exit, the former Florida governor easily assumes GOP frontrunner status. Bush has already built a formidable apparatus that’s expected to post a massive fundraising figure for the first quarter. Run with it, Jeb.
At least that’s the idea behind a plan Obama will announce today to collect genetic information from one million Americans. The gene studies will ostensibly help doctors figure out the best treatments for their patients in what the White House calls the “precision medicine initiative.” It’s part of the president’s $215 million ask for medical research initiatives that Obama will include in his budget request on Monday. Of course, it has to pass Congress.
He co-founded one of the top rap labels in the world. But he couldn’t seem to shake legal troubles, from bankruptcy to assault, and now Suge Knight faces the most serious charge yet: murder. Police say an argument on an L.A. movie set escalated until Knight allegedly ran over two men with his car, killing one. He’s being held on $2 million bail. He’s already out on $500,000 bail for an earlier camera-snatching arrest. Dark days indeed for the former Death Row Records head.
The man known as “prime evil” has been pardoned. Under South Africa’s brutal regime, Eugene de Kock led a death squad that targeted black protest leaders with torture and death in the 1980s and 1990s. He served 18 years of a 212-year sentence. De Kock begged forgiveness from some of his victims’ relatives while behind bars. Some blame the regime, not the man, saying de Kock took the fall for carrying out orders while the real culprits walked free. Where and when de Kock will be released remains veiled.
Let’s hope they play nice. Greece’s new anti-austerity leader is meeting with EU creditors in Athens today. Many fear clashes will result over Greek plans to scale back economic reforms, especially with Greece’s end-of-February bailout deadline looming. But EU parliament president Martin Schulz is confident Greece will avoid a rash decision that could endanger its access to ECB funding and its place in the eurozone. And Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has vowed to find a “mutually beneficial solution.”
Obama’s looking for his red pen. The U.S. Senate passed a bill approving the controversial Keystone XL pipeline yesterday, setting the president on his first collision course with the GOP-controlled Congress. Lawmakers approved the measure 62-36 — notably not enough to override a presidential veto. The bill now heads back to the House before landing in the Oval Office next week. Obama has vowed to await a review of the project, due Monday, before making his expected decision to veto the plan.
The eurozone’s deflationary trap just caught the big fish. Inflation in Deutschland, Europe’s economic engine, fell below zero for the first time since 2009. The 0.5 percent decline in consumer prices over the last 12 months was almost entirely due to collapsing oil prices. Germany’s predicament means the eurozone faces an even bigger risk of falling prices and stalling economic activity than previously thought, especially in its weaker markets. Maybe now the Germans won’t view the European Central Bank’s stimulus bazooka with such disdain.
U.S. economic growth slowed in fourth quarter. (WSJ)
ISIS launches assault on Iraqi town of Kirkuk. (CNN)
EU extends Russian sanctions. (Reuters)
African Union supports plan for 7,500 troops to fight Boko Haram. (DW)
British air force intercepts Russian fighters. (FT) sub
Hova doesn’t want to miss a beat. Through his company Project Panther, the relentless entrepreneur and rapper is making a bid to buy Swedish music streaming company Aspiro for $56 million, giving him a platform to compete against the likes of Spotify, Beats, Rhapsody and YouTube. Panther plans to “upscale” and expand Aspiro’s services, WiMP and Tidal, focusing on high-fidelity audio that is much better than what Spotify currently offers. Expect Jay Z to make some big noise in this space.
And you may have just lost yours. The Federal Communications Commission announced yesterday that it’s resetting the standard for broadband-caliber download speeds to 25 megabits per second from 4 Mbps, and upload speeds to 3 Mbps from 1 Mbps. By upping the 2010 levels, the FCC is boldly banning cable companies from marketing slower DSL services as broadband, forcing them to enhance speeds for everyone. With America ranked 26th worldwide for speedy Internet, the FCC can’t afford to go any slower.
Not one of them earned high honors. An analysis of 47 major U.S. food and beverage chains found that most companies aren’t doing a good job of reducing paper and plastic packaging that ends up in the garbage or, worse, in the ocean. Only Starbucks and McDonald’s earned the second-best rating of “Better Practices” for using some post-consumer recycled content in their disposables. Eight laggards showed little interest in recycling at all, which probably won’t change unless consumers make a stink.
He’s going home. While making the rounds to promote his new reggae single, “Oh Jah Jah,” Murphy said he’ll return for Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary special, a three-hour primetime event airing Feb. 15 on NBC. It’s the comedian and movie star’s first reunion with the legendary comedy show’s Not Ready For Prime Time Players since leaving the cast in 1984. But no word yet on whether beloved characters like Mister Robinson or Buckwheat might make an appearance.
All that stood between him and millions were seven measly seconds. A Canadian accountant whose winning lottery numbers were printed in 2008 — just moments after the official deadline — lost his Supreme Court appeal yesterday. Joel Ifergan spent US$79,000 trying to legally claim the $21.3 million jackpot. He technically purchased his tickets on time, but a 10-second printing delay cost him the winnings. After seven years of fighting, a disappointed Ifergan says he’s getting on with his life, without a moment to spare.
Forget horsepower and hardware. Elon Musk announced via Twitter that his company’s Model S P85D — famed for its Insane acceleration button — will now zip from 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds after a software update to its inverter algorithm. That puts it on par with McLaren’s MP4-12C, an industry-dubbed “supercar.” While technically only a 0.1 second improvement, it was achieved without tweaking the vehicle’s hardware. Analysts say it’s the first time a software adjustment could change the outcome of a race.
Will they rebound? Portland’s Damian Lillard and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins headline the list of shutouts from All-Star Weekend. Cleveland’s Kevin Love was among the surprising omissions in the East, while Los Angeles center DeAndre Jordan was left out in the cold in the West. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will need to choose a replacement for fan-picked Kobe Bryant, who’s benched with a shoulder injury. Lillard warned he’ll be “pissed off” if he’s not selected, but the ball is still in the air.