No Internet slow lanes, ever. After years of acrimonious debate, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to propose reclassifying high-speed Internet service as a utility, ensuring that Web content is not blocked. But the road to neutrality will be bumpy. Wheeler, who has the backing of the president, has the delicate task of crafting tough rules that are politically palatable and can thwart potential lawsuits from providers. The proposal is expected to drop this week, with the commission voting on it later this month.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Look who’s deflated now. New England overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the defending champs 28-24 in one of the best Super Bowl matchups in recent memory. Tom Brady connected for four touchdown passes — breaking Joe Montana’s Super Bowl record — and was named MVP. Malcolm Butler’s dramatic goal-line interception halted a late Seahawks rally, handing the Pats their first championship in a decade. Few are asking for a ball check, but many are wondering if Brady will retire on top.
One man walks, two remain jailed. Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, en route to Australia today after 400 days behind bars, “won’t give up” until his two colleagues are freed. Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were convicted of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood and sentenced to seven to 10 years. Last month, the sentences were overturned, but a retrial date has yet to be set. Some expect Fahmy, with dual Canadian citizenship, may soon be freed, but concerns remain for Mohamed, an Egyptian without dual nationality.
He’s vowing revenge. After the beheading of journalist Kenji Goto — the second ISIS murder of a Japanese hostage in two weeks — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged increased humanitarian aid for the Middle East and promised “to make the terrorists pay.” It’s tough talk for long-pacifist Japan, raising questions over whether Abe will back his words with military might. So far, a furious Japanese public looks set to battle terror, but some wonder whether the resolve will stick after the shock fades.
To borrow is human, to forgive, historic. Without paying anything, the Croatian government has convinced public and private creditors to cancel the debts of some 60,000 citizens, giving them “a chance for a new start,” according to the country’s deputy premier. Those with with no savings or property, monthly incomes of less than $138 and debts of no more than $5,100 qualify. Officials hope to release some of the 317,000 blocked debtor bank accounts while kick-starting the economy after six years of recession.
He wants some corporate cash to come home. The president hopes to slap a one-time 14 percent tax on the estimated $2 trillion in profits that U.S. companies have stockpiled abroad, in order to pay for America’s crumbling highways and transit systems. By combining two key priorities with bipartisan support — overhauling the overseas tax code and funding infrastructure — Obama just might be able to find common ground. But the rest of the $4 trillion budget he introduced today will foster stark battle lines.
U.S. household purchases dropped by the most in five years. (Bloomberg)
Dominique Strauss-Kahn faces ‘aggravated pimping’ charges. (Euronews)
U.S. considers sending arms to Ukraine as fighting flares. (The Guardian)
Hungarian rally seeks Merkel’s help in face of right-wing governance. (DW)
China executes pair convicted of McDonald’s murder. (CNN)
First large human trials begin for Ebola vaccine in Liberia. (BBC)
They got duped by a classic Web scam. Hackers aligned with Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad stole a trove of intelligence on Syrian opposition groups by posing as attractive female supporters on Skype and convincing the romance-starved rebels to download pictures loaded with malware. The stolen information included strategy documents, battle plans, personal names and birthdates. After receiving a photo from a fake femme fatale, one fighter texted back: “You drive me crazy.” The rebel handbook needs some serious updating.
We’re not getting rid of Ebola. Not this year — maybe never. Despite new cases dwindling and expanded human trials for a vaccine, the deadly virus will likely linger somewhere forever. Humans have eradicated only one disease, smallpox, and there are still pockets of polio 60 years after its vaccine. And thanks to the anti-vax movement, America is seeing its worst measles outbreak in 20 years. President Obama addresses the issue today on NBC, advising folks to get their kids vaccinated.
Who can we trust? Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating woodchuck of Pennsylvania, saw his shadow today, thus “predicting” six more weeks of winter. But Staten Island Chuck, the New York State groundhog, indicated that spring would arrive early this year, after surviving an encounter with Mayor Bill de Blasio. Phil’s accuracy is highly debatable, but at least this year, he didn’t have to exert much predictive power: A winter storm is dumping heavy snow across the Northeast today, after record snowfalls in the Midwest.
They gave it a shot. The controversial Oscar-nominated film depicting the life and military career of former U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle has dominated the American box office despite criticism that it oversimplifies the harsh realities of war. After opening in Baghdad’s Mansour Mall in January, the film played to surprisingly “full and enthusiastic” crowds before being pulled over concerns about anti-Muslim rhetoric. Some Arab supporters reportedly said it gave them courage in the struggle against ISIS, while detractors felt it glorified “bloodthirsty” American troops.
Will this bring a storm of criticism? A travel company in France is offering to blow rainy wedding days sky-high by spraying clouds with silver iodide before clients’ nuptials. The chemical reaction condenses the clouds to quickly shed pesky moisture. It’s been used elsewhere — Beijing, for example, sprayed clouds to ensure sunny Olympic skies. But lovebirds must book three weeks in advance, and there are no refunds for messing with Mother Nature, even if she sends naturally clear skies their way.
Nearly 80 million pounds of the green stuff went down the hatch during last night’s Super Bowl. Once known as a West Coast oddity, the avocado has planted itself as the fruit of choice for the big game. How it also became a bestselling produce item is a story of magnificent marketing, changing demographics and a growing awareness of “good fats.” The other reason is less virtuous: Americans started gorging on Super Bowl Sunday, downing chicken wings, chips and, yep, guacamole.
They want authenticity. A younger generation is flocking to cities more associated with troubled pasts than bright futures: Baltimore, Nashville and Detroit, among them. These recent college grads are diverging from their coastal-bound colleagues to settle in formerly forgotten central cities. St. Louis alone saw a 138 percent bump in educated 25-to-34-year-old residents. Public transportation, diversity and cheap rent rank among the reasons, but many are simply fleeing their parents’ suburban homes, even if they hope one day to return to the ’burbs.
It knew the final score two days early. A simulation of Super Bowl XLIX by the “Madden NFL 15” video game accurately predicted the score of Sunday’s real thing two days before it happened. Over the past 12 years, Madden has an impressive 9-3 record, but this is the first time the game accurately predicted the final score. It also foresaw Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s 300-plus yards, four touchdowns, and MVP honors for leading his team to a fourth-quarter comeback after trailing 24-14.
It was Serena, Novak and Kim’s weekend. Williams, 33, won her 19th Grand Slam title against Maria Sharapova on Saturday, while the men’s number one stayed true to his ranking yesterday, defeating Scotland’s Andy Murray in a roller-coaster four sets lasting nearly four hours. But it was Murray’s fiancée who stole the show initially. After being lambasted for swearing, Kim Sears donned a T-shirt with the words “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content,” prompting the press to respond: “Very well played.”