And they’re off! Just hours after the Kremlin beefed up its argument for keeping Assad in power with an approval to use military force abroad, Russian forces launched their first strike near Homs, Syria, today, according to U.S. officials. The White House, meanwhile, wants the Syrian leader gone and says he has little effect on the anti-ISIS push. It’s feared that today’s green light will only lengthen the conflict and stir up regional animosity. Saudi Arabia is already pledging boosted support to Syrian rebels while threatening to use military options to remove Assad.
The Presidential Daily Brief
It’s a blast from the past we could do without. Afghan soldiers and NATO special forces have been mobilized after the Taliban seized the northern city in their biggest feat since 2001. Heavy fighting is underway, with limited progress yesterday, and the U.S. launched airstrikes to try to prevent the Islamic fundamentalists from taking the airport. While casualties are mounting, taxing local health facilities, it’s unclear how much is now controlled by the militants. American authorities believe this is just a setback, but many fear a greater Taliban offensive throughout northern Afghanistan.
He’s not sticking to their agreement any longer. In an inflammatory speech to the U.N.’s General Assembly, the Palestinian Authority president said that because Israel hasn’t kept to its side of the Oslo peace accords, the Palestinian Authority is no longer bound by them either. Israeli authorities didn’t react immediately to the speech itself, but have said in the past that they’re open to restarting piece talks — though they’ve claimed Abbas’ attitude toward a two-state solution has poisoned the process.
No appeal was high enough. The southern U.S. state executed its sole female death row inmate, Kelly Gissendaner, today by lethal injection, despite last-ditch legal efforts and an appeal by Pope Francis to save her life. It was the first time a woman died at the hands of the state in 70 years. She was convicted of murder after convincing her lover, Gregory Owen, to fatally stab her husband. Owen testified against Gissendaner in exchange for a deal, and will be eligible for parole in seven years.
Is it the end of an era? Diesel car manufacturers, reeling from the prospect of tighter emissions standards in the wake of the VW scandal, are eyeing their slim profit margins and fearing the worst. Volkswagen’s shares are down nearly 40 percent since news broke about it faking emissions tests, and this has caused repercussions for investments in other European automakers. If stricter regulations boost manufacturing costs — alongside a rising awareness of diesel pollution — the fuel once touted for greater mileage may hit the ultimate red light.
Planned Parenthood goes on the defensive. (Washington Post)
Japan on verge of technical recession. (FT) sub
U.S. judge dismisses 9/11 lawsuit against Saudi Arabia. (DW)
Derrick Rose says woman consented to group sex. (USA Today)
Lawyer says Kim Davis met with Pope Francis. (NYT)
All that glitters is definitely not gold. Scientists studying a 20 million-year-old flea corpse — preserved in sparkling amber — have discovered that it has company: a primitive version of Yersinia pestis, aka bubonic plague, which killed around half of the population of Europe in the 14th century. This version of the bacteria is far older than modern plague, which is believed to be about 20,000 years old, and could offer insight into an ancient scourge that may have wiped out other mammals long before Homo sapiens first evolved.
It’s no longer a good fit. After nearly 50 years atop one of the most powerful forces in fashion, Lauren’s stepping down and transferring power to Stefan Larsson, who has successful runs at Old Navy and H&M under his belt. Larsson will be looking to knock our socks off with a global push and his trademark mass marketing. But the 75-year-old outgoing CEO isn’t hanging up his hat. He says he’ll continue to “actively drive the company’s vision” in his new roles as executive chairman and chief creative officer.
Can the Middle East peace process get an L.A. jolt? Aziza Hasan thinks so. Her Los Angeles-based nonprofit brings Jews and Muslims together so they can become friends and try to start solving ancient religious enmities. She runs NewGround, a model of interfaith dialogue and community-building that parlays Hasan’s multiethnic, multireligious background into a new calling: getting Muslim and Jewish Americans to talk to each other. The effort’s still small, having reached about 10,000 people, but it’s a model that could soon be extended to other U.S. cities.
What’s good, Nicki? The rapper, who’s had a banner year — songs going triple and quintuple platinum and an album debuting atop the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop chart — will both produce and appear in an ABC Family sitcom dramatizing her own “inspiring and hilarious” 1990s childhood in Queens. Minaj, who originally pursued an acting career, has had some roles in films but calls this show “one of the more unique adventures I’ve ever embarked on.” The news is already sparking speculation on social media over who will play #YoungNicki.
He reminded everyone who’s in control. The Dallas native pitched a complete-game one-hitter, striking out 13 Giants, in L.A.’s 8-0 victory on rival San Francisco’s home turf last night. Kershaw’s well-timed triumph over Madison Bumgarner snapped a four-game losing streak and propelled his team to a third straight divisional title — though they were the last NL team to clinch. Now the Dodgers have five extra days to rest up before taking on the New York Mets in the best-of-five Division Series.