U.S. lawmakers yesterday announced legislation that, if approved, would give the president authority to secure the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the world’s largest trade accords. It would allow Congress to vote on trade deals without the chance of amending them. Many Democrats disagree with the bill — only 15 in the House reportedly support it — and unions are fiercely opposed, citing fears over American jobs and wages. All of this pits Obama against prominent allies and is sure to fuel heated debate ahead of 2016.
The Presidential Daily Brief
He’s been on the run since the U.S. invasion in 2003. Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who was 72 and has been reported killed on multiple other occasions, was the highest-ranking member of Saddam Hussein’s regime still considered at large. He died fighting for ISIS in Tikrit, his hometown, which was recently freed from the militant group’s control. The area’s provincial governor says the body belongs to Douri — but it’s on its way to Baghdad for some DNA testing, just in case.
But can Iran be neutral? The Islamic republic has submitted its four-point plan for Yemen, which includes a total ceasefire, humanitarian aid to those whose lives have been devastated, and a new “inclusive” government. Ban Ki-moon has also called for a ceasefire, but many Western diplomats have ignored Iran’s proposal, saying the country is too involved to be a disinterested peace broker. Iran — and the rest of the world — is worried that without some peacemaking, Yemen’s instability will allow terrorist groups to fill the power vacuum.
They’re asking federal prosecutors to take the death penalty off the table. Bill and Denise Richards lost their son in the Boston Marathon bombing, and their young daughter lost a leg. But they want the man responsible to face life in prison, not death. In a victims’ statement, the Richards said another death doesn’t serve anyone. Other relatives of victims agree; some don’t. U.S. officials have said they’ll take everyone’s concerns into account, as the federal jury that found Tsarnaev guilty reconvenes on Tuesday to consider his sentence.
It’s supposed to be a land of opportunity, serving as a beacon to Africa in the way the U.S. is for so much of the rest of the world. But a series of violent attacks against foreign nationals in Johannesburg and beyond has caused many expats to return home. Some blame the problem on a lack of national leadership, and express bigger fears — that maybe the land of apartheid will once again turn on its own.
Teutonic flags hung at half-staff as Cologne Cathedral hosted 1,500 mourners paying tribute to the victims of Germanwings flight 9525, which crashed last month in France. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was joined by French and Spanish officials for the ecumenical service. Investigators strongly suspect that depressed co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed the Airbus on March 24, killing all 150 aboard. The investigation continues, along with efforts to identify the victims, but today’s memorial aims to help a nation begin to heal.
He thinks things will soon improve. In a national call-in program, the Russian leader offered assurances about the recent economic downturn and offered hope for a brighter future. He optimistically said the worst had passed and that the Russian economy would fully recover within two years — though new numbers show it’s still contracting. While notably warning that he expects no change in U.S. relations or a lifting of sanctions, he said such obstacles will help Russia strengthen and prevail.
No grace periods! That’s the message IMF chief Christine Lagarde delivered to Athens after it suggested delaying its next loan payment, due on May 12, of $806 million. The interchange is the latest red flag fueling fears of a “Grexit.” Greek officials have vowed to remain in the eurozone, but doing so will require getting their hands on $7.8 billion in loans. With soaring borrowing costs and little chance of finding funds elsewhere, Lagarde suggests that Greece quickly find favor with EU creditors by designing much-needed reforms.
Syrian ’chlorine’ attack video moves U.N. to tears. (BBC)
Chinese journalist Gao Yu faces seven years in jail. (SCMP)
Al-Qaida branch in Yemen captures airport. (NYT)
Jameis Winston faces civil lawsuit over alleged rape. (NBC)
WikiLeaks publishes Sony hack documents. (The Guardian)
But does it disprove the segment’s point? Two brothers who appeared in footage on Indian child labor Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel say they were never child laborers and were given lines to read by HBO. They’re supporting witnesses in a lawsuit from Mitre soccer balls. The company seeks defamation damages over “Children of Industry,” while HBO says they have supporting evidence that Mitre uses child labor, so the charge of defamation is meritless. The trial will likely last four weeks, with expected defense testimony from Gumbel himself.
They’re here to stay. WikiLeaks has made it easier to search through the huge cache of hacked Sony emails and documents, more than two hundred thousand in all, with a new online archive. Though it can be used to browse gossip-y tidbits about stars, the activist group says they’re publishing it because Sony execs admit to lobbying and influence-peddling. Now that the full cache is available to everyone, maybe an enterprising user will turn up something new in the trove of data.
They’re way ahead of schedule. A Central Japan Railway Co. magnetic levitation train hit 366.6 mph yesterday, breaking the firm’s own 12-year-old record. The speed was sustained for 19 seconds and came three days after another of the company’s trains set a single-day distance record of 2,525 miles. CJR holds all of the world’s major train records but may face competition from the Hyperloop — Elon Musk’s futuristic vacuum-tube transport — which would zoom from San Francisco to Los Angeles in half an hour.
Fans hope the force will be strong with this one. Thousands gathered in Anaheim for the Star Wars Celebration yesterday, where director J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy gave folks a glimpse at the series’ seventh entry, The Force Awakens, scheduled for release in December. Stars of the original trilogy, including Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, shared the stage with their younger on-screen counterparts. The event culminated with a new trailer, further stoking anticipation for what could be the highest grossing film ever.
All pups learn this trick. Human babies and mothers bond by gazing at one another’s faces, and that same reaction works when canines stare into our eyes, according to new research. Scientists found that when pups and owners exchange looks, “love hormone” oxytocin levels rise in both, proving there’s a chemical feedback link. Dogs don’t gaze at one another, so it’s a trick reserved for humans — and it may shed light on how once-fearsome wolves evolved into man’s best friends.
It’s selling more than crafts. The online marketplace for handmade items started trading as a public company yesterday and saw share prices soar, starting at $16, opening at $31 and peaking above $34. Etsy has enjoyed big revenue growth in recent years — a whopping $195.59 million last year, up 161 percent from 2012 — but has yet to turn a profit. Now it must work to retain its artisan fanbase while taking on the likes of Alibaba and Amazon.
They’re one win closer to redemption. The New York Rangers opened this year’s National Hockey League playoffs with a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The team expects to make another run at the Stanley Cup finals, where they were defeated last year by the Los Angeles Kings. The Rangers appear to have rebounded from that setback, winning the annual Presidents’ Trophy for the league’s best regular season record. And they’re hoping to carry that momentum all the way to a championship win, which would be their first in 21 years.