They may be having a rethink. A handful of Republican senators broke ranks yesterday, expressing willingness to consider, or at least meet, Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. None said they’d support the chief of the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C., but his candidacy poses a dilemma: Dems are unlikely to be amenable to anyone a Republican president chooses next year if the GOP plays hardball now. And if conservatives reject a well-respected moderate, they risk having Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders foist a more liberal choice on them later.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Will this make them behave? President Obama, responding to Kim Jong Un’s “illicit” nuclear test and satellite launch, has slapped the dictatorship with new restrictions via an executive order. The administration also demanded that they release Otto Warmbier, a 21-year-old American sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for trying to steal a sign from a hotel. The sanctions expand the current blockade, freezing any of Pyongyang’s property in the United States and banning exports to the Hermit Kingdom, while allowing authorities to blacklist anyone dealing with Kim’s economy.
They’re not mincing words. For the first time since Darfur in 2004, the United States has declared a genocide. Congress unanimously passed a resolution earlier this week labeling ISIS’s treatment of Christian groups a genocide. The State Department has been reluctant to use the term, but now Secretary of State John Kerry is pulling no punches, saying ISIS has committed ethnic cleansing again Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims. Now, he says, the U.S. will support all efforts to collect evidence of the terrorist group’s atrocities, and to hold its leader responsible for their actions.
He’s working the system. Ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is coming out of retirement to become President Dilma Rousseff’s top adviser. Recently questioned in relation to the Petrobas corruption scandal, Lula was facing possible fraud and money laundering charges. But the new appointment shields him from prosecution by a federal judge because cabinet members can only be tried by Brazil’s Supreme Court. The move, which many believe will see Lula head the fight against congressional attempts to impeach Rousseff, has sparked protests in cities nationwide.
American and British home buyers can relax. U.S. economic data is shaky enough, thanks to jitters in global markets, that the Federal Reserve decided yesterday to hold its benchmark interest rate steady — sending the Dow into positive territory today for the first time in 2016. The Fed also said to expect only two quarter-point hikes this year, not four, with Chair Janet Yellen noting that a cautious approach will allow for assessment of the U.S. labor market. Today, the Bank of England followed suit, voting to hold interest rates at 0.5 percent.
SeaWorld agrees to stop breeding orcas in captivity. (NPR)
Kurdish militant group claims responsibility for Ankara bombing. (BBC)
Sanders conceded Missouri primary to Clinton (Politico)
Sticking points stand in way of EU, Turkey migrant deal. (AFP)
Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan dies at age 71. (Al Jazeera)
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to testify before congress in water probe. (AP)
She won’t be following Hillary’s lead. Speaking at SXSW about female empowerment and the importance of education for women, the first lady said she’s not eying the presidency. While dynasties like the Bushes and Clintons tend to dominate U.S. politics, Obama says she has no plans to seek the White House — in part because her daughters have already endured eight years in the public eye. But that doesn’t mean she’s bowing out altogether: Obama noted that you don’t have to be commander in chief “to do wonderful things.”
We don’t mean to drone on … but with artificial intelligence and robotic weaponry advancing at breakneck speed, warfare is evolving into a digital landscape of machines and cyberhacking that would baffle General Patton. Robot soldiers won’t get upset over a comrade’s demise; nor do they bring compassion to the battlefield. Some predict this sci-fi scenario isn’t confined to the pages of pulp novels — that machine warfare like drones and AI are already here, poised to change the way both we, and the bad guys, wage war.
What has a long, toothy snout, eyes on stalks, and lurked in rivers 300 million years ago? Scientists couldn’t decide on a phylum for Tullimonstrum gregarium, aka Tully Monster, when it was discovered in 1955. But a team at Yale, working with the American Museum of Natural History, has studied the official state fossil of Illinois and decided the creature that “looks like an alien” is a vertebrate jawless fish similar to modern-day lampreys. While Illinois schools update their books, researchers are turning their attention to how the “monster” swam and ate.
He inherited the world on a string. But the son of Ol’ Blue Eyes, whose velvety baritone voice echoed that of his famous father, devoted much of his life to celebrating and preserving his pop’s legacy. The second-generation crooner was touring with a centennial tribute to Frank Sr. in Daytona Beach, where he died yesterday of cardiac arrest. Tributes are pouring in from friends and admirers, including Mia Farrow, and he’s being remembered, as singer Jesse Ruben tweeted, for a “voice totally worthy of his father’s name.”
There’s no asterisk on this. The former major leaguer, 51, outpaced a number of Marlins players, including big-time hitter Giancarlo Stanton, at batting practice yesterday. Though the home run record-holder’s career was overshadowed by allegations of performance-enhancing drugs, Bonds has worked his way back as Florida’s hitting coach. Calling it “one of the coolest things,” Stanton admitted that Bonds’ four homers eclipsed his own three — a feat that will likely see players go to bat for even more of the HR king’s advice.