He’s tearing down fences. Obama and his family have arrived in Havana to put decades of neighborly tension to rest. They will visit Old Havana and historical sites ahead of Tuesday’s meeting between Obama and President Raúl Castro. Discussions about greater cooperation in fields like agriculture and health care are on the agenda in a bid to cement the warmer relations. The U.S. commander in chief will also deliver a speech from the capital’s Grand Theater to publicly embrace this new era of opportunity for both nations.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They have a lead. Turkish Interior Minister Efkan Ala says investigators know who blew himself up on a busy shopping promenade yesterday, killing two Israeli-Americans, an Israeli and an Iranian. He named Mehmet Ozturk of Gaziantep, in his 20s, as the bomber and “a member of Daesh,” the Arabic name for ISIS. The attack resembled the January attack in the city that killed 12 German tourists, among the 80 deaths in four such attacks this year. Meanwhile, Israel is investigating whether its citizens, another 36 of whom were wounded Saturday, were intentionally targeted.
He’s getting it off his chest. Suspected “eighth attacker” Salah Abdeslam, 26, arrested Friday in Brussels, is reportedly telling all he knows about the ISIS-inspired Nov. 13 Paris terror that killed 130. The Belgian national, who hid for four months, told interrogators he “wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France,” but balked at the last minute, said French prosecutor Francois Molins. The statements of the man charged in the attacks should be regarded cautiously, Molins warned, and as Abdeslam awaits extradition proceedings, he will have much more explaining to do.
Will they give up their secrets? The ‘black boxes’ for FlyDubai Flight 981, which disintegrated in a fireball with no survivors upon crashing at Russia’s Rostov-on-Don airport early Saturday, were quickly recovered, but with “significantly damage,” aviation officials said. The Boeing 737-800, originating in Dubai with 62 passengers and crew, circled for more than two hours in poor weather after an aborted landing, then pilots crashed near the runway on their second attempt. Now specialists from Russia, the United Arab Emirates and France are working on the recorders while the nation observes a day of mourning.
Obama’s calling their bluff. Senate Republicans have vowed to ignore anyone Obama nominates to the Supreme Court — but GOP senators are breaking ranks, with Utah’s respected Orrin Hatch calling Garland a “fine man” and Illinois’ Mark Kirk urging colleagues to “man up” and vote on the choice. The nominee investigated the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and could be Obama’s ace in the hole, even if a white 63-year-old seems a curiously retro option. With such a moderate choice, the GOP may fold, rather than risk the election of Hillary Clinton and a whole new game.
They may be wretched, but they’re also yearning. While 64 percent of Americans don’t want to allow Syrian refugees inside their borders, and pro-refugee European politicians are seeing political backlash, migration isn’t all bad. The influx can revitalize communities — the newcomers, after all, had the stamina and drive to move families across continents. They can also enrich their new homes with ideas, entrepreneurship and tax revenue. Likewise, as Europe’s population ages and contracts, refugees can fill workplace gaps … unless, of course, they’re sent to Turkey under an EU agreement that authorities are beginning to enforce.
Libya’s on the brink. Two governments are fighting for control, even though the unrecognized rival officials in Tripoli act like everything’s under control. In reality, the two militaries are threatening each other, the population is split, and various militias and clans are choosing sides. In the midst of the turmoil, jihadist militants — who’ve made their way from Syria, Iraq and other parts of Africa — are taking up positions across the country. Cross-border violence has already erupted in Tunisia, shining a glaring light on the Middle East’s newest deadly hot spot.
Bus crash in northeastern Spain kills 13 university students. (AP)
Arizona police charge man after anti-Trump protester punched, kicked. (NBC)
U.S. Marine killed by rocket on base in northern Iraq. (ABC)
Brazil crisis: Poll shows 68 percent favor impeaching president. (Reuters)
Hikers find human skull in L.A. near iconic Hollywood sign. (LA Times)
The bears aren’t the only problem. Many female rangers and scientists who work in America’s national parks or forests have long endured a culture of harassment from colleagues and guides. In 35 years, female U.S. Forest Service employees have filed four class-action lawsuits alleging sexually intimidating behavior and gender discrimination — and retaliation for reporting it — and many more have registered individual complaints that often go ignored. Still, women continue to fight against male hostility in this traditionally macho environment and take their place in America’s great outdoors.
They knew where they were going. Scientists are researching Marshall Islands sailors’ ability to navigate without instruments. For thousands of years, wave pilots relied on ocean patterns to sail the high seas. To keep the method alive, a trio of amateurs is having a go to prove they can take sailing canoes out of sight of shore, even at night, and still make landfall. Researchers hope their work will pave the way toward understanding how humans can steer free of a satellite-driven world … and set their own course.
It’s no place for doves. Civil war-ravaged Syria is famous for pigeon breeding, a practice that dates back to the eighth century. But with elite bloodlines facing extinction, some residents have taken to smuggling the prized creatures through deadly Hezbollah-controlled territory into Lebanon. Certain breeds can fetch up to $15,000 per bird, competing internationally and even donning bejeweled anklets. These price tags have prompted some impoverished Syrians to sell off their flocks. But others are trying to buy them back, hoping that someday these harbingers of peace can safely return home.
Can we handle the truth? A new book by philosopher Michael Lynch, The Internet of Us, asks readers to imagine a world where smart phones stream information directly into our brains, the implants eventually fail, and we can no longer distinguish fact from fiction. He insists it’s not far off, as “facts” are replaced by downloaded “data,” candidates shout “liar!” and the truth is measured by whose websites voters believe. Unless Americans wrest responsibility for their beliefs back from search engines, Lynch argues, they will surrender reason, along with their republic.
The four bracket-topping teams have lost 23 games, so anything can happen in March Madness. During the last 30 years, seven schools have captured 21 championships, and only 35 universities have cut the nets throughout the tourney’s 77-year history. In the past five years, a quarter of the games have been nail-biters right down to the final seconds. So expect drama and lots of money to change hands: NCAA fans will bet an estimated $12 billion over the next three weeks, most of it illegally.