Just when the others had agreed to put their guns down, Bashir Assad is vowing to quash the opposition and take back the country. The ceasefire agreement allows for an immediate influx of humanitarian aid followed by a “cessation of hostilities” next week — with exceptions for efforts to rout out ISIS and the al-Nusra Front. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the plan “ambitious,” which seems like an understatement now that Assad is warning he’ll continue fighting “terrorism” throughout the peace process.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They’re back at it. Two days after a resounding victory in New Hampshire for the Vermont senator, the White House hopefuls debated in Wisconsin. Hillary Clinton embraced Obama, who’s still popular with Democrats, and argued that Bernie Sanders needs to “level with people” about the costs of his proposals. Meanwhile, a finger-wagging Sanders said it’s more about political “courage” and even promised race relations would “absolutely” be better under him than Obama. Both candidates are vying for an edge ahead of the Nevada caucus on Feb. 20.
They’ve got three months. Greece is the portal through which more than 850,000 refugees made their way into the EU last year, but a recent report found that Athens isn’t holding up its obligations to vet and make record of the people streaming in across land and sea borders. Now Greece has been given twelve weeks to up its game — or potentially see the Schengen zone suspended for two years. Most doubt Greece can make it happen before the deadline, but any suspension will need unanimous approval from the 28 EU member states.
It was an insult to industry. North and South Korea shared custody of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint manufacturing park just north of the DMZ, until the South suspended operations there earlier this week. But Kaesong is one of North Korea’s main sources of cash — and now Pyongyang, incensed, says its armed forces will take control. It also cut one of its few military hotlines with Seoul, a symbolic act that could have real-life consequences if the two Koreas have another misunderstanding as tensions flare.
Is it too late to boost growth? Central banks in Europe and Japan have instituted negative interest rates recently, and that’s bad news for the world’s banking community. Many fear banks are caught between investors, who can’t function with negative rates charging them for holding onto monetary reserves, and limping economies that can’t handle higher rates. That could cause a “doom loop” like the one that battered Eurozone economies four years ago if interest rates go even lower — though analysts say Europe’s central bank likely won’t take that risk.
Jim Gilmore ends GOP presidential bid. (Washington Post)
Pope Francis meets with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church for historic talks. (AP)
Singer Barry Manilow is ‘doing well’ after surgery in the U.S. (BBC)
ICC judges bar use of recanted testimony in Kenyan VP William Ruto’s case. (BBC)
NYPD officer convicted in shooting of unarmed Akai Gurley. (NYT)
Obama protects 1.8 million acres of California as three new national monuments. (LA TImes)
UAE appoints Minister of Happiness. (NPR)
Mexican prison riot leaves 49 dead. (CNN)
He really was a genius. Researchers say they’ve observed the warping of space-time by studying a collision of black holes millions of light-years away, thus proving the theory of general relativity. The phenomenon was predicted by Albert Einstein back in 1915, but the detection of gravitational waves — ripples in space and time caused by momentous events — have eluded science for over a century. It’s being hailed as one of the most important scientific discoveries ever and could shed new light on what happened during the Big Bang.
The diagnosis could prove fatal. Days after CEO Parker Conrad resigned, the $4.5 billion human resources startup is being investigated by California’s Department of Insurance over its licensing practices. Regulators are questioning “the Macro,” a digital tool that allegedly let brokers lie about how many pre-examination hours they logged before their formal exams. A Zenefits spokesperson said they’re cooperating with the investigation, but it could result in the dismissal of some of the San Francisco-based company’s brokers — and it further calls into question the health of the reeling enterprise.
The 38-year-old hip-hop star used a Madison Square Garden event to debut his hugely anticipated album, The Life of Pablo. He also launched a new fashion line and promoted a video game that follows his late mother through Heaven’s gates. But some Swift fans are giving him a helluva time after hearing the lyrics to one song: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / I made that bitch famous.” West claims Swift approved of the wording beforehand, but it’s unclear whether fans will … shake it off.
And the winner is … the nominees! A UCLA study says a movie with five nominations can expect to make $68 million more than one with no nods. Academy Awards nominations are big business, increasing publicity and extending time in cinemas, and they encourage studios to choose certain kinds of projects to tempt the golden trophy’s voters. OZY’s Libby Coleman says viewers should keep an eye on box office hits this month, bearing in mind that Oscar homogeneity hurts bottom lines for movies created by people of color.
And you thought t-shirt jerseys were bad. When team owners meet before this weekend’s All-Star Game in Toronto, they’ll discuss a proposal to allow 2.5-inch corporate logos on jerseys beginning with the 2017-2018 season. The plan would let smaller-market teams increase revenue, but it’s something no major U.S. sports league has ever allowed. Though it’s not a slam dunk, the NBA has already granted Kia sponsorship on the All-Star jerseys, and they’ll discuss expanding the uniform advertising scheme during April’s Board of Governors meeting.