Just 22 years ago, divorce and homosexuality were illegal in the traditionally socially conservative, majority Roman Catholic nation. On Friday, 62 percent of Irish voters showed they’d turned a corner, legalizing same-sex marriage via popular vote — the first nation on Earth to do so. “It’s a very proud day to be Irish,” declared the nation’s health minister, Leo Varadkar. The nation joins 17 mostly European countries in which gay unions are legal and is likely to be “a beacon,” as the newly out minister put it, to legalization efforts elsewhere.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Memorial Day is a time to honor the dead — and, apparently, to have some fun. Indeed, many would argue that Monday’s military remembrance has gotten lost in the beer cooler. Started after the Civil War to commemorate fallen soldiers, the holiday’s modern version is a frenzy of backyard cookouts, road trips and discount shopping. So while the Old Guard places nearly 270,000 American flags at Arlington National Cemetery, police will be out in force, dealing with traffic bottlenecks and drunken drivers flirting with their own mortality.
After nine men died in a parking lot gun battle, police were overwhelmed. They arrested and charged 170 people, towed 135 motorcycles and investigated the city’s worst shootout since the 1993 siege at the Branch Davidian compound. But some questioned the response, asking why Waco’s white suspects were treated with kid gloves while black petty criminals are brutally restrained. As the Texas probe continues, expect further rancor over the perception that only altercations in black communities trigger discussions of single-parent homes breeding “thugs” and a subculture of violence.
Nobody’s counting them out now. ISIS smashed its way into the key targets of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria over the past week, routing both governments’ forces. To fight back, the Iraqi government has unleashed Shiite militias — some backed by Iran — in a fresh counterattack. Seemingly weakened after losing Tikrit to Iraqi forces last month, ISIS’s advances have quieted talk of the group’s demise. As volunteers continue to arrive, the murderous “caliphate” is stoking fears that it’s putting itself on the map to stay.
Uncle Sam has clogged the brain drain. U.S. immigration policy has cut visas for highly educated or skilled workers, rejecting tens of thousands of applications this year. But some enterprising firms have shown that where there’s red tape and a will, there’s often a way. Consultants are devising creative schemes for grabbing those coveted stamps, from “cultural exchanges” and lofty job titles to letting employees commute … from Europe. Failing that, companies are moving entire teams overseas to get the job done.
Defense Secretary Carter says Iraqi troops lack will to fight ISIS. (NYT)
Protests, 71 arrests follow acquittal of officer who fired fatal barrage. (Reuters)
Women activists cross Korean DMZ in peace protest. (CNN)
Nepal says Qatar denied workers leave for quake funerals. (The Guardian)
Malaysians discover 30 suspected migrant mass graves. (Al Jazeera)
He solved problems no one else could, including his own. John Nash, 86, the mathematician who won the 1994 Nobel economics prize and whose schizophrenia-plagued life was captured in A Beautiful Mind, died with his wife in a New Jersey taxi crash Saturday. His Nobel-winning work on game theory came before the age of 30, when his illness started reducing him to homelessness. Nonetheless, his wife, Alicia, helped him through his “lost” decades until he began to “intellectually reject” his delusions, ultimately winning the most vexing game of all.
Kevin Richardson is a lion’s man — but hopes to be the very last. Establishing close bonds with these peak predators — they nuzzle him but would happily eat you — he has reached a devastating conclusion: Demand for cub-petting and fenced-in hunting in South Africa drives up breeding and consequently more hunting to control population. As development continues to squeeze space in the wild, Richardson hopes his cat-nuzzling will help others see that these beautiful beasts need us to love them from afar.
Is there any way to save the Greek economy? Yanis Varoufakis, the country’s rock-star economist turned finance minister, hopes there is — but he’s not willing to compromise everything to get it. Varoufakis and his Syriza party were elected in January and have been struggling to deal with Greek debts while trying to loosen austerity policies that would slash wages, shrink the government and even raid pension funds. It’s that last item Varoufakis won’t tolerate in negotiations, even if it means taking his country out of the eurozone.
Is he just a hungry businessman, a die-hard proponent of democracy, or both? Jimmy Lai, a 66-year-old, Chinese-born billionaire who presides over a pro-democracy media empire in Hong Kong, put both his money and mouth behind the city’s Umbrella Revolution last autumn. But if a stronger democracy movement begins taking root, the portly, “offbeat and quirky” mogul-turned-protester is well-placed to play a big role in its flowering, and perhaps capture an oversize share of its fruit.
While race issues tear adults apart, third- to fifth-graders obsess over fairness. That’s why an exclusive private school in the Bronx is sorting kids that age by race once a week. It’s meant to facilitate a candid discussion of racial identity, but many of the school’s progressive-minded parents are aghast and fear “irreparable harm” will result. But researchers say getting real about race may be inhibited by liberal “color blindness,” and to understand our humanity, we need to see — and embrace — our differences.
Anyone who leaps from a 3,500-foot cliff is looking for attention, right? Not Graham Hunt, who died last Saturday during an illegal wingsuit BASE jump in Yosemite National Park, along with climbing legend Dean Potter. While Potter was winning and losing endorsements for his exploits, “Grambo,” 29, stayed in the background, supporting himself with firefighting, carpentry and the occasional janitorial gig. He may have avoided the limelight, but he didn’t lack for accomplishments: When Potter made his 2013 record-breaking wingsuit soar in the Alps, Hunt was flying alongside.