Are we there yet? Voters primed for the 2016 election tuned in to two political reality shows last night. In the Fox News debate — the last before next week’s caucuses — Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio took potshots from challengers, all of whom drilled down on policy. Meanwhile, no-show Donald Trump held his own party, raising $6 million for veterans. OZY’s Nick Fouriezos, who attended the fundraiser, says the billionaire shocked everyone again — not with something he said, but by stealing the spotlight for a worthy cause.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Saturday night’s all right for fighting. Ted Cruz announced that he’s booked a venue in Sioux City, Iowa, for a one-on-one weekend debate between himself and fellow front-runner Donald Trump. While Trump leads in national polls, OZY’s Nick Fouriezos says he has much more to lose if he accepts the showdown against Cruz, a former national college debate champ. Then again, taking this challenge lying down could also hurt the Teflon Don’s image as a fighter who never backs down, a major reason that voters have flocked to his cause.
Can they stay or should they go? It depends where they land, and it’s changing all the time: Formerly welcoming Nordic countries are shutting the door on refugees, with Sweden gearing up to expel 80,000 migrants and Denmark’s new law allowing the confiscation of asylum-seekers’ valuables. Meanwhile, the U.K. has resisted taking refugees from the rest of the EU, but has now agreed to accept an unspecified number of unaccompanied children from Syrian camps. With another million refugees expected in 2016, they may still be convinced to do more.
“We need to get some answers quickly,” World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan told a special meeting in Geneva. She said Zika, which is linked to birth defects and neurological problems, is spreading “explosively” and that this year El Nino may exacerbate weather conditions around the world that could increase Zika-speading mosquito populations. The CDC says the Zika virus, which was first discovered in the 1940s, is now in over 20 countries — and Chan has called a meeting for Monday to determine whether it should be declared an international emergency.
He says it’s time to go. In a written statement read by his lawyer, Ammon Bundy asked holdouts at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon to stand down. Faced with felony charges after he and seven other occupiers were arrested by the FBI and Oregon State Police on Tuesday, the son of rancher Cliven Bundy urged his followers to “go home and hug [their] families.” He’ll face a hearing tomorrow. Three more protesters were arrested last night, but Oregon Gov. Kate Brown cautions: “It’s still not over.”
“The Fed dished up one of its classic non-decision decisions — little to confirm market fears, but nothing to dispel them either,” says OZY’s Steve Butler. America’s central bank left the benchmark rate unchanged at between 0.25 and 0.5 percent, citing volatility in global markets. But the Fed still thinks the U.S. economy will grow and lift inflation to a target of 2 percent. Commerce Department figures due out Friday may show things are still wobbly, though, and bankers warn that they may boost short-term interest rates in March.
Man carrying two guns, Koran arrested outside hotel at Disneyland Paris. (BBC)
HIV is resisting key drug in Africa. (BBC)
NASA pays tribute to Challenger crew on 30th anniversary of disaster. (IBT)
Stock futures rise in U.S. as oil hits $33 a barrel. (USA Today)
Ex-Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo’s war crimes trial begins at the Hague. (Reuters)
Australian ISIS teen planned to strap explosives to kangaroo. (ABC)
Ferguson police, Justice Department reach agreement on overhauls. (AP)
Thirteen die in Chibok suicide bombing, Boko Haram suspected. (BBC)
Iran’s Rouhani visit Paris to seal deals with Airbus and Peugeot. (France24)
This would be toxic. Former CIA deputy director and OZY contributor John McLaughlin ponders whether ISIS — after gaining land in Iraq and Syria and waging cross-border attacks — might be capable of pulling another ace from its sleeve: WMD. He points to U.S. military reports showing that ISIS used chemical agents twice in recent months. It’s unlikely that the militants have the ability to manufacture such murderous tools themselves, but considering their recent land losses in Iraq, McLaughlin notes that they’re feeling “some jitters, if not outright desperation.”
It wasn’t even close. AlphaGo, an AI program developed by the Internet giant’s DeepMind division, crushed European Go champion Fan Hui five games to zero. The seemingly small victory came a decade earlier than expected and has major implications for the future of AI, because the possible moves during any given game are essentially limitless. DeepMind chief Demis Hassabis called Go the “pinnacle” of AI research and said AlphaGo’s machine-learning methods could fuel future applications in medical research, climate change or even just making smartphones more useful.
Tuskdown! Anthropologists at Oregon State University have found big-boned remains dating to the last ice age in Reser Stadium’s end zone. During offseason renovations, workers uncovered a massive femur, pelvis and other parts from a woolly giant, as well as bones from a bison and a camel or horse. They’re thought to have been there for 10,000 years, dating back to when the site was still a marshy bog. Now the extinct creatures, dubbed a “great learning experience” by professor Loren Davis, get to star in OSU anthropology classes.
They’re changing stations. Jaap van Zweden, 55, is the new music director of the nation’s oldest orchestra. He’ll have a difficult job: Three years from now, the Philharmonic’s home at Lincoln Center is scheduled for total renovations, so van Zweden will have to keep his orchestra cohesive while they take stints in other New York venues. Some are skeptical that the Dutch conductor has the charisma to nail what’s known as a tough gig, but they’ll have to wait and see: He doesn’t officially take up the baton until autumn 2018.
He’s the expert. Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist famous for identifying chronic traumatic encephalopathy in football players, says he would “bet [his] medical license” the fallen star suffers from it. The doctor who inspired the film Concussion said much of Simpson’s past behavior aligns with its symptoms. Simpson considered using CTE as a defense during a 2008 trial for armed robbery and kidnapping, for which he was later convicted. But because the condition can only be formally diagnosed after an individual’s death, it’s impossible to know for sure.