They made a deal. After eight days of talks, Iran and six partner nations have reached a framework agreement on its nuclear program. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the deal resolves major issues and that more talks between the nations will be scheduled soon. Specifics are still forthcoming but are expected to include access to Iranian sites suspected of developing nuclear weapons technology. Iran will reportedly receive immediate sanctions relief, and U.S. Republicans have demanded to be allowed review of the terms before that happens.
The Presidential Daily Brief
He’s caved in to criticism. Governor Mike Pence signed a new version of Indiana’s Religious Freedom law, which caused companies and even other state governments to vow a business ban on Indiana. The new bill makes clear that it’s not a license for businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers, as do the revisions of a similar bill in Arkansas, now signed by Governor Asa Hutchinson. Activists, who were hoping for a full repeal, say this is a start toward rolling back discrimination in Indiana.
They’re taking advantage of disorder. As the country’s infrastructure crumbles, Yemen’s al-Qaida faction caused chaos in the city of Mukalla, liberating about 300 prisoners and reportedly looting the central bank. Government security forces have already abandoned the city and residents were on their own to deal with hours of explosions and gunfire. Houthis are already extrapolating that forces ranged against them are allowing al-Qaida to take power, as al-Qaida and the government are both Sunni and the Houthis identify as Shiite.
Students have been taken hostage by armed Islamists at Kenya’s Garissa University College. Militants separated Muslims from non-Muslims in what they called an operation against “infidels,” killing at least 143 and wounding scores. Troops tracked the al-Shabab gunmen to a dormitory and killed four of them, but are still sweeping the campus. The Somali-based militant group has launched similar attacks in retaliation for Kenyan troops being sent into Somalia, and it is feared that today’s violence may mean the group’s Kenya-based campaign is heating up.
The co-pilot may have been even more troubled than investigators thought. It looks like Andreas Lubitz, believed to have steered the Germanwings flight into a mountain, researched suicide and the security of cockpit doors online, days before the fatal flight. He also appears to have been doctor-shopping, having seen at least five before his death, including a sleep expert for nighttime problems. Authorities also announced they found the flight data recorder. Maybe soon the case will get a little more closure.
He could use a little help from his friends. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., is pleading not guilty on the 14-count indictment Fed leveled against him. Prosecutors say he intervened in at least two disputes on behalf of friends, including one with federal regulators over Medicare charges, on behalf of Dr. Salomon Melgen — who was also indicted. Menendez is the first senator to face federal bribery charges since 1980, and for each of several counts against him, he faces up to 15 years behind bars.
Turn it off! Gov. Jerry Brown just issued the Golden State’s first-ever mandatory water restrictions. Standing in a parched Sierra Nevada meadow — which should have been covered in deep snow — Brown announced an executive order demanding that urban areas reduce H20 usage by 25 percent. Government-owned grass will turn brown or be replaced by drought-friendly landscaping in a bid to save 1,766 Empire State Buildings-worth of water. But that’s just a drop in the bucket of California’s massive moisture deficit.
It probably won’t shake American inequality. The world’s largest restaurant group plans to pay workers at 1,500 company-owned outlets in the U.S. at least a dollar more an hour than the local minimum wage. But the raises and improved benefits impact just 10 percent of McDonald’s workforce; 90 percent of its staffers work at franchises, free to set their own regulations. The move, effective July 1, may help retain some employees, but critics want more and plan to strike in 200 cities on April 15.
Russian trawler sinks off Kamchatka peninsula, killing 54. (DW)
Atlanta educators convicted in school cheating case. (NBC)
U.N. says 25,000 foreign fighters have joined Islamists. (BBC)
Obama told negotiators to ignore Iran nuke deadline. (NYT)
‘Anti-gay’ bills stir major corporate backlash. (FT) sub
You’ll have to wait for the rest. The sci-fi author gave readers a taste of the next book in his “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, “The Winds of Winter,” letting the fans know a bit of what’s up with Sansa Stark in an excerpt posted on his website. The book still doesn’t have a solid release date, but Martin opted out of writing any episodes in Season 6 of Game of Thrones to give himself time to finish the book. Still, the book isn’t expected until 2016.
What would Jesus do? Pope Francis ventured out to a Roman prison for Holy Thursday to ceremonially wash the feet of six female inmates and six male inmates. He also washed the feet of an infant, held in his mothers lap as he washed her feet. This is an ancient ritual, but Francis is the first Pope to wash the feet of women or of non-Catholics. From here, he’ll slide into Easter festivities, culminating in Easter Sunday mass this weekend.
They’re trying to keep Putin off the airwaves. President Poroshenko has signed a law that will ban any Russian film made after January 2014 from Ukraine’s TV channels, as well as media made since 1991 that paints the Russian government or military in a positive light. It will also issue bans on the work of individual actors who are deemed to be spreading propaganda. Now Ukraine’s networks will have to adapt to fill the many hours per day of Russian programming that currently pads the airwaves.
Sun-kissed rooms with pastel balconies await for just $23 a night. That’s the draw according to more than 1,000 listings for the island on the home share site, with an average price of $43 a night. Slow Internet and an inability to quickly update reservations could prove tricky, but as long as travelers have some patience, this could help relieve some market pressure. Previous reports have highlighted concerns about a potential lack of hotel rooms to accommodate the expected American tourism onslaught as travel restrictions between the mainland and the island relax.
Family owners of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, were the first to say they were relieved to see the state’s new “religious freedom” law, declaring that they would refuse to cater LGBT weddings because homosexuality is against their Christian beliefs. One-star Yelp reviews and threats of violence popped up online in response, and the pizzeria has closed its doors until further notice. But the family’s GoFundMe page drew $45,000 in just seven hours last night. So intolerance, it seems, cuts both ways.
It can come aboard … but it can’t make a name for itself. The island, estranged from the mainland since 1949, applied to join the new development bank seen widely as Beijing’s answer to the Washington-based World Bank. Chinese leaders seemed unenthusiastic at first, but have relented, saying Taiwan is welcome, as long as it identifies itself by an “appropriate” name: Taipei, China. Protesters back home fear Taiwan’s government is selling out. But “Taipei” says it’s happy to participate, as long as it isn’t “belittled.”
This may put you to sleep. The disorder causes snoozing sufferers to hallucinate loud booming noises, waking them to discover that nothing caused the sound. Scientists thought it was rare, but a new study has found that one in five participants experienced the problem. Researchers describe it as a “kink” in the brain’s shutdown process, causing auditory neurons to turn off all at once — with a bang. Medicine can quiet the noise, but future research must focus on how to stop your head from lowering the boom.
She might’ve been a schoolteacher if not for a shaggy-haired musician named John. Cynthia Lennon died yesterday after a “short battle with cancer,” according to her son Julian, her only child with the murdered Beatle. The couple met as teenagers, marrying just before the Fab Four recorded “Love Me Do” in 1962. At the time, she was hidden from publicity to let fans dream that John was available. Ultimately he was, and second wife Yoko Ono is asking fans to send “love and support” Julian’s way.
Political pressure is the goal. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including John McCain and Dick Durbin, have made a case to FIFA president Joseph Blatter that international soccer shouldn’t allow Russia to host 2018’s World Cup. The lawmakers cite a desire to help end the Ukrainian crisis and ensure a peaceful tournament. They fear the sports coup would boost Putin’s world prestige and bolster Russia’s floundering economy, circumventing international sanctions — and making it harder to kick Moscow back into line.