Germany’s former quantum chemist and plain-talking leader has arrived in Washington with hopes of delivering peace to Ukraine. She and President Obama will discuss a proposed ceasefire plan for the region, two days ahead of a summit in Minsk. The gritty chancellor, who doesn’t believe guns can intimidate Putin, is expected to express her opposition to American thoughts of supplying lethal aid to Kiev. Anti-ISIS efforts, climate change and Europe’s stagnating economy will also feature in the leaders’ discussions.
The Presidential Daily Brief
It’s a go for same-sex marriages in the state, but the legal wrangling could hint at how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule when it hears a gay marriage case in April. In January, a federal judge ruled Alabama’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional, but last night, the chief justice of the state supreme court defied the federal bench and decided that probate judges shouldn’t issue same-sex marriage licenses. The state appealed to SCOTUS, and lost. Some judges ignored the state ban anyway. Court watchers, start your speculating.
He was released from Guantanamo and said he just wanted to go home and farm. But Mullah Abdul Rauf went on to become one of the world’s most-wanted insurgents based in Afghanistan. The former Taliban leader had a falling out and turned to ISIS. A NATO strike hit a car he was in. NATO hasn’t confirmed the death, but Afghanistan has. Taliban fissures leading to ISIS recruits is a relatively new phenomenon, but one that raises concerns — and potential new targets — for the West.
They’ve called an indefinite timeout. Clashes between police and Zamalek soccer club’s supporters, who were reportedly trying to attend yesterday’s game in Cairo without buying tickets, left at least 22 dead and dozens injured. Fans blame the police, saying they used unnecessary violence, causing a deadly stampede. The government has postponed Egyptian Premier League matches until further notice, and a prosecutor has opened an investigation. It could result in a two-year domestic soccer ban, much like the one following a 2012 riot.
He’s bruised, but not beaten. Tony Abbott overcame a potentially career-ending vote today when his conservative Liberal Party voted 61-39 in his favor. The ballot serves as a wake-up call to the beleaguered leader, in power for just 16 months, who has withstood criticism over economic policy and his knighting of Britain’s Prince Philip. Humbled, Abbott vowed to deliver “good government,” but many believe today’s margin of victory will prove too weak to ward off future challenges to his tenure.
A trove of secret documents leaked by a whistleblower has revealed that HSBC’s Swiss banking arm helped a variety of international criminals — from arms traders to blood-diamond merchants — conceal billions of dollars in assets to avoid paying taxes. The revelation puts huge pressure on U.S. authorities to explain what actions they took after receiving the HSBC files in 2010. Undoubtedly the disclosure will heat up calls for harsher crackdowns on offshore tax dodgers and increased efforts to close loopholes.
The car companies don’t seem too concerned. Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey sounded the alarm today on the auto industry’s lackluster efforts to protect cars against hacks that can compromise privacy or, worse, tamper with the brakes or steering. His report highlights how cars are increasingly becoming connected computers on wheels with all of the vulnerabilities of a PC, yet anti-hacking measures have been ”inconsistent and haphazard.” But some experts are putting the brakes on the hysteria, calling the concerns overblown.
Should you tip a computer that carries your bags? Japan is blazing its way toward dismantling the service economy with a new hotel in Nagasaki’s Huis Ten Bosch amusement park that’s staffed by humanoid robots. The 72-room, $60 a night Henn-na Hotel will have 10 robots who speak four languages as they check guests in, clean and make coffee — all while simulating breathing and making eye contact. They’ll work alongside a few humans for now, but the automatons will eventually conduct 90 percent of the work.
His work can be found in countless sushi joints. Kenji Ekuan, 85, was inspired by the destruction of Hiroshima to create function from destruction. He became a monk after his father died in the atomic bombing, but later traded the monastery for art school and founded a renowned design firm. He created the ubiquitous red-capped soy sauce bottle that dots tables around the world, along with Japanese bullet trains and Yamaha motorcycles. The man who helped give rise to modern “Japanese lifestyle” design died of heart problems this weekend.
The mood was less than “Happy,” with tributes to victims of racial violence, a presidential reminder that “it’s on us” to stop sexual assault, and messages about domestic abuse. But Pharrell Williams brought back smiles by performing his hit single, and Sam Smith snagged four awards, including song of the year for mega-hit “Stay With Me” (so Tom Petty is also happy). Beck surprised even himself by winning album of the year, which prompted Kanye to mockingly take aim before sitting down.
He’s in the hot seat now. The scandal engulfing the NBC Nightly News anchor over an embellished Iraq story isn’t letting up. Williams has decided to take himself off the air for “several days” amid questions about his coverage of Hurricane Katrina and other events. Embattled, the newsman yesterday canceled a David Letterman appearance that was meant to help rebuild his reputation. NBC wants to save its asset, and ratings leader. But first the network must gauge whether this storm will ever blow over.
Mission nearly accomplished. The SpaceX rocket carrying a satellite dreamed up by the former U.S. vice president in 1998 is now delayed until tomorrow night, after yesterday’s attempt was scrubbed. Nicknamed DSCOVR, the spacecraft will fulfill Gore’s 17-year-old vision of beaming back a continuous image of the Earth from a million miles away. Shelved for years after becoming a political hot potato, the project was revived because NASA needed a satellite to scope out disastrous solar storms.
From Michael Jordan to Obama, the tributes keep rolling in for the former Tar Heels coach. Smith was one of the best basketball minds in history, with 879 wins — the most of any Division I coach when he retired in 1997 — plus two national championships and an Olympic gold medal. But the son of schoolteachers also left his mark off the court, awarding North Carolina’s first scholarship to a black athlete in 1967 and guiding 96 percent of his players to graduation.