A day after delivering his State of the Union address, President Obama again pushed for an increase in the minimum wage. But this time it was in suburban Maryland, where he kicked off a two-day, four-state swing intended to showcase new areas of executive action. Obama also signed an executive memorandum ordering the creation of new workers’ retirement savings accounts — MyRAs — at a steel plant in Pennsylvania. Though the policies Obama is implementing by executive order are relatively modest, they are intended to demonstrate his commitment to action with or without Congress and build momentum for his agenda in the face of slipping approval ratings.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Any hopes of peace arriving on the streets of Kiev are being dashed as protesters remain defiant in the face of government concessions. Ukraine’s parliament voted on Wednesday to grant amnesty to detained protesters on the condition they vacate all occupied government buildings within 15 days. Today the protesters have answered the condition with a resounding “no.” Pro-EU protests began back in November when President Viktor Yanukovych backed out of an EU trade deal. The demonstrators say the concessions are just part of a stalling tactic by the government to quash the activists, so they’ve decided to stay put.
Google is exiting the smartphone hardware business just 22 months after acquiring Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, but it’s retaining 17,000 patents it gained from Motorola, which help protect devices running its Android operating system. For Lenovo, this comes on the heels of the $2.3 billion acquisition of a large portion of IBM’s computer server unit and is part of a strategy to help it counter falling personal computer sales. The move could be a win for both companies, freeing Google from potential conflicts of interest with other hardware makers using its Android system and giving Lenovo a foothold in higher-end smartphone markets.
Making the most powerful type of cell in the world used to require destroying human embryos, and controversies over harvesting the cells have slowed research. But now scientists at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan have figured out a way to make them by simply soaking animal cells in an acidic solution for half an hour. Tests in mice proved the cells worked, growing into tissues and organs. Stem cells can turn into virtually any other kind of cell, with the potential to regenerate the body and treat diseases like Alzheimer’s. Tests must now move on from mice to men.
Amanda Knox found guilty of murder, again. (WSJ).
Rep. Henry Waxman retiring after 20 terms. (NYT).
Diplomat says expectations low for Syria talks. (DW).
Thailand deploys 10,000 troops before vote. (Al Jazeera).
Snowden nominated for Nobel Peace Prize. (The Guardian).
Despite Brazil’s political and economic achievements, persisting inequalities have allowed the practice of slavery to continue, with around 200,000 people trapped by debt bondage. Since 2004, a massive campaign, akin to the one against blood diamonds, has put pressure on companies to sever ties with businesses that practice slavery. To that end, Brazil is closing in on a new constitutional amendment targeting slaveholders where it hurts the most — the pocketbook. If passed, they will have to give up all of their property, including their slaves.
Baby fat, as it turns out, is more dangerous than we thought. A new study carried out with 7,000 overweight children in kindergarten has discovered that a third of them were obese by the age of 13, risking a lifetime of heaviness. Researchers believe the link may go back as far as the womb but said the younger years are clearly influential in determining obesity and weight-related illnesses later in life. The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, pointed to the importance of healthy eating and exercise, urging parents to hide sodas and remotes. Parents: Be sure to tell kids that protesting healthy changes will do them a fat lot of good.
Social media giant Facebook has beaten market expectations, reporting profits of $523 million for the fourth quarter and annual profits of $1.5 billion. Advertising revenues have increased 76 percent over the past year, largely due to strong mobile advertising. Mark Zuckerberg’s networking site now has more than 750 million daily global users. While some may have doubted the network site’s market potential in the past, investors will be clicking their thumbs up buttons today over news that Facebook shares rose more than 10 percent based on the profit report.
A new petition on the White House’s website demanding that singer Justin Bieber be deported has already gathered more than 100,000 signatures. The signatories appear to be aggravated by the 19-year-old’s misbehavior — he’s been accused of egging a house in California and racing a car with an expired permit while under the influence of alcohol in Florida. There’s little chance of Bieber being forced out, but with news that the singer faces new charges for allegedly assaulting a limousine driver in Toronto, it appears Canada may not want him back either.
They work more than 40 hours a week, exert their bodies to the limit, and take brutal hits to make billions for their industry — but they don’t get health insurance, workmen’s compensation or pensions. For the first time in college sports history, football players at Northwestern are petitioning for union representation in order to fight for health benefits and protections for student athletes, including after graduation. Governing body the NCAA has come out in opposition, but the players’ cause is being supported by the United Steelworkers, the largest labor union in North America. If approved, it could help student athletes score nationwide.