They’re knocking on the door. A handful of Islamic militants, dressed in Iraqi military uniforms, attacked a base in the western Anbar province of Iraq early Friday morning, where around 400 American troops are stationed. The militants were killed by Iraqi forces before they could get anywhere close to U.S. personnel, but a Pentagon spokesperson acknowledged there’s “no question they are close to danger.” The attack comes amid news that ISIS has taken full control of al-Baghdadi, a town 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the base.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The family says the shooting of three young Muslims in North Carolina was a hate crime. Police say it might’ve been anger over a parking space. The FBI isn’t taking over, but they have announced they’re opening an “inquiry.” Obama isn’t saying enough, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The students’ funerals drew 5,000 attendees. The White House is awaiting the investigation’s results before commenting. But Erdogan, a devout Muslim concerned by perceived Islamophobia in the West, wants action now.
Call it healthy skepticism. European leaders have warned Putin to stick to yesterday’s ceasefire agreement for Ukraine or face new sanctions. Talks between Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France in Minsk culminated in a deal for demilitarization and prisoner exchanges, but fighting parties are still disputing how to disengage near the railway town of Debaltseve. The deal goes into effect on Sunday, but with renewed shelling today dampening spirits, U.S. officials are wise to be looking for “actions,” rather than just words.
The 51-million strong republic can’t seem to get any peace. State media reported days of fighting between government forces and ethnic minority rebels this week has left 47 Myanmar soldiers dead. The report said Kokang rebels have been squaring off with the national army near the Chinese border, attacking a military base — government forces retaliated with airstrikes. The report couldn’t be verified and the rebels couldn’t be reached for comment, but the clashes are expected to stymie peace negotiations between the two factions. Beijing, meanwhile, is concerned by a possible influx of refugees and is calling for peace along the border.
His term has flat-lined. John Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, announced he will step down as a criminal investigation into his most recent campaign and crumbling support from fellow Democrats have derailed his unprecedented fourth term in office. During the last election, his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, may have violated ethics rules or criminal law by advising Kitzhaber on clean energy issues while also being a consultant in the field. Kitzhaber’s empty seat will be filled by Kate Brown, the current secretary of state, who will become the first openly bisexual governor in Oregon’s history.
Al Jazeera journalists leave Egyptian prison on bail. (The Guardian)
Obama visits California for cybersecurity summit. (USA Today)
U.S. military approves hormone therapy for Chelsea Manning. (USA Today)
Study: China produces a third of plastic ocean waste. (SCMP)
Amanda Knox plans to marry musician. (BBC)
Journalism has lost another one of its finest. The widely admired media critic who overcame cocaine addiction collapsed yesterday in The New York Times newsroom and was pronounced dead at a Manhattan hospital. The Minnesota native and father of three had just finished a panel discussion with Edward Snowden and Citzenfour director Laura Poitras. Colleagues called Carr “one of the most gifted journalists” ever to work for the paper. His death comes just one day after legendary 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon died in a car crash.
It’s been almost a year since he was charged with hitting his (now) wife. Rice is moving back to New York, ostensibly to resurrect his career, and he issued a love note to Baltimore and his fans while apologizing to them and the Ravens. The former Pro Bowl player had been suspended indefinitely from the NFL after video surfaced of him punching his wife, but Rice won an appeal and can go back to playing — if anyone wants to sign him.
Cambodian officials aren’t happy. Seven foreigners have been kicked out of the country recently for taking naked photos on the ruins, including two Americans. Locals liken the onslaught to taking topless snaps in a Catholic church. Peru’s Machu Picchu faced this issue last year, a sign that these days, for some people, a basic photo in front of a mountain just isn’t enough anymore. But experts say there may not be much Cambodians can do. Maybe just ignore the topless posers, and they’ll go away.
California doesn’t know the half of it. The American West will wither under the worst drought in 1,000 years sometime in the second half of this century, warn scientists. A new study suggests that if the planet keeps packing on greenhouse gases at its current rate, there’s at least an 80 percent chance that a “megadrought” of 35 years or more will scorch the Southwest and Central Plains. Entering its fourth year, the Golden State’s dry spell looks all wet by comparison.
And to my wife, I leave my online profile. The social networking giant has rolled out a feature that enables a “legacy contact” to partially manage your account after you die. This person can post to your wall — presumably to announce your untimely death — change your profile or cover photos, but not read private messages. Previously, accounts of the deceased could only be “memorialized” or deleted. But now we can all go to that big portal in the sky with some measure of immortality.
She’s breaking barriers in style. Actress Jamie Brewer, who stars on American Horror Story, has just become the first model with Down syndrome to strut the runway at New York Fashion Week. The 30-year-old California native appeared in a black Carrie Hammer dress for the designer’s “Role Models Not Runway Models” show. Hammer recruited her after an appeal from photographer Katie Driscoll, who campaigns for positive role models for her young daughter with Down syndrome.
Sorry, you’re not on the list. Professional basketball is throwing its biggest bash of the season, and for the fifth straight year, tickets aren’t available to the public. Only a lucky small percentage of season ticket-holders even get the chance to see Sunday’s All-Star Game or related events, like the Slam Dunk Contest. The league claimed two-thirds of the seats for marketing partners, players and others with connections. But if you really must go, secondary-sale sites are offering tickets — at exclusive prices.