He says he isn’t the one to lead. Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who was anointed by outgoing Speaker John Boehner as the next leader of the House GOP, has taken himself out of contention for the top job — and thrown the House into chaos, with the election suddenly postponed. McCarthy reportedly believed he didn’t have widespread support among Republicans and might not survive the necessary public roll call vote to make him Speaker. No new date for the election has been set, and it’s now unclear who Boehner’s successor will be.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Has his 17-year reign over international soccer ended? FIFA’s ethics committee has provisionally suspended its president, Sepp Blatter, alongside Secretary General Jerome Valcke and VP Michel Platini, for three months. The three are being investigated by the committee for corruption — Blatter’s accused of signing a contract “unfavorable” to FIFA and making a “disloyal payment” to Platini — but the trio deny any wrongdoing. Today’s move bans them from any soccer-related activities, slimming Blatter’s chances for a return and the likelihood of Platini taking the helm.
Sometimes sorry just isn’t enough. The U.S. president issued a rare apology yesterday for the “tragic incident” resulting in a Doctors Without Borders facility being bombed in northern Afghanistan last weekend, killing 22. He also promised a thorough investigation and to make any needed changes to rules of engagement in order to prevent such tragedies. But the aid agency has publicly doubted the independence of probes by the U.S., NATO and Afghanistan, and its president — who responded merely to say Obama’s message was “received” — is still demanding an independent investigation.
Are they risking World War III? The “troubling escalation” of Moscow’s aggression in Syria — which yesterday saw Russia launch cruise missiles at 11 targets — has prompted talks today among the alliance’s defense ministers. Amid international outcry over Putin’s apparent snub of the allied push to oust Assad, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is urging the Kremlin to stop supporting Syria’s regime. He also says NATO is ready to deploy forces to defend Turkey following reports of Russian jets violating Turkish airspace, even as reports come in that Russia may have accidentally dropped missiles into Iran.
It’s time to test the waters. Washington is reportedly set to sail warships close to artificial islands that China has built in the marginal sea between Singapore and Taiwan. Beijing says it has territorial control of the area, and the U.S. maneuver signals Washington’s rejection of that claim. American ships will reportedly venture — for the first time since 2012 — within the 12-mile maritime zone the Chinese assert is theirs. The move, expected in the next two weeks, is likely to further strain relations between the countries.
The Democratic presidential front-runner is sticking with her party’s progressive base and flip-flopping on Obama’s hard-sought trade agreement with 11 Pacific Rim nations. The former secretary of state expressed concern that the deal wouldn’t create enough jobs or raise American wages while unfairly favoring pharmaceutical companies. Clinton’s been distancing herself for months, so the public rejection isn’t a surprise, but it could further steepen the deal’s uphill battle for congressional approval. It also leaves some wondering whether she’s currying party favor to slow Bernie Sanders’ growing momentum.
Belarussian Svetlana Alexievich wins Nobel Prize for Literature. (Reuters)
VW exec tells U.S. lawmakers he knew of possible issue in 2014. (BBC)
Search for missing cargo ship ends. (CBS)
French train attack hero stabbed. (NBC)
Conservative caucus flexes muscle ahead of speaker vote. (The Hill)
Deutsche Bank warns of third-quarter losses. (DW)
They’re planting seeds of change. Known for its violent history and 1994 genocide, the nation is now ingeniously using its limited arable land to feed its 11.7 million people. Since 2008, the Rwandan government has micromanaged agricultural output, instructing farmers — which four out of five Rwandans are — in land use consolidation by telling them what, where and when to plant. Many have protested, with some saying they were forced into cooperation by armed guards. While similar policies have failed elsewhere, Rwanda’s starvation rate is now steadily in decline.
They’re promising the moon. Despite its small space industry — Israel Space Agency’s annual budget is $80 million, compared to NASA’s $17.6 billion — the country has spawned an ambitious project. SpaceIL, a nonprofit company, plans to use SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to put the world’s first private lander on the moon. It’s competing for the Google Lunar X Prize, which will hand $20 million to the first company that can land on the lunar surface, and if all goes well, its rover will blast off in late 2017.
He refuses to turn a blind eye. The U.S. Senate minority leader — who plans to retire rather than seek re-election — and his wife are suing the creators of an exercise band they allege caused him to lose sight in his right eye. The 75-year-old Nevada native was using a TheraBand on New Year’s Day when he says it slipped or snapped, causing eye, head and rib injuries. The lawsuit seeks $50,000 in medical expenses and notes that the accident could impair his ability to earn future income.
The entertainment giant’s next big animated feature will look to the Pacific Ocean for inspiration, and specifically the famed navigational skills of the seafarers who settled Polynesian islands, sailing huge expanses of open ocean with only the stars to guide them. Moana, which has already signed Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to voice a helpful demigod, now has a lead actress for the title role: 14-year-old native Hawaiian Auli’i Cravalho. The film — part of a promise to diversify Disney stories — sails into theaters in November 2016.
Timing is everything. Chicago dismissed Pittsburgh 4-0 in dramatic fashion in yesterday’s NL wild-card game. Both benches cleared when starter Jake Arietta was hit by a pitch in the seventh, but he regained control and became the first Cub to pitch a complete-game, postseason shutout in 70 years. History isn’t on their side for Friday’s matchup against the Cardinals, who they’ve never met in the playoffs. But, then again, Back to the Future II did predict that 2015 would finally end Chicago’s century-long World Series drought.