He’s popping in to do some propping up. The U.S. vice president hasn’t visited the country in nearly five years, and his secret overnight flight has a deadly importance: damage control in the fight against ISIS. A potential visit has been discussed for months, but Biden’s departure and itinterary have been kept clandestine due to security concerns, which itself points up Iraq’s current instability. Now he’ll be meeting with top officials to discuss the battle against terrorism, while trying to help Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi project some political strength.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Time for an intervention. So says U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura, noting that February’s partial truce is “barely alive.” He’s urging the U.S. and Russia to step in to save stalled negotiations aimed at resolving the Syrian conflict. Violence there has spiked in recent days, with renewed fighting between government forces and rebels reportedly killing scores. Yesterday a regime airstrike hit a hospital in Aleppo, killing 27, and the renewed assault on the besieged city is prompting fears that the fragile “cessation of hostilities” could soon collapse entirely.
He has grand designs. A day after declaring himself the “presumptive nominee,” the billionaire laid out his international agenda in a serious address … even using a teleprompter. He chastised Europe for not funding its own defense, vowed to mend ties with Russia, pledged a major military buildup and promised to wipe out ISIS. America “is going to be a friend again,” Trump added, while saying his administration’s major theme would be “America first.” But the speech, which promised both a “consistent” and “unpredictable” foreign policy, is doing little to quiet opponents.
They don’t need a lift just yet. That’s the message from the U.S. central bank, which decided yesterday to hold rates at between 0.25 and 0.5 percent. No hike was expected, due to concerns over slowing U.S. economic growth, low spending and international volatility, but the Fed said that it has become less concerned about a global downturn. Experts think a rate boost will come this summer, though Janet Yellen and her colleagues will be keeping a close eye on developments like the Brexit vote before preparing for take-off.
Baltimore TV Station Evacuated Over Bomb Threat, Three Arrested in Connection with California Shooting
Man reportedly clad in ‘hedgehog onesie’ claimed to have a bomb at Maryland’s Fox 45 station. (Baltimore Sun)
Three people arrested in connection with San Bernardino shooting. (KTLA)
Military personnel disciplined over Afghan hospital debacle, official says. (BBC)
Medicaid to cover most halfway house inmates under new policy. (USA Today)
Comcast agrees to buy Dreamworks for $3.8 billion. (WSJ) sub
North Korean missile crashes after launch. (USA Today)
Australia, Papua New Guinea to hold urgent refugee talks. (BBC)
Facebook stocks rise 9.5 percent on quarterly earnings report. (Huffington Post)
Priceline CEO resigns after investigation into at-work conduct. (USA Today)
Yen surges 2 percent, stocks drop after Japan’s central bank refuses stimulus. (FT) sub
Valeant Pharmaceuticals plans big changes to board of directors. (WSJ) sub
He’s going Hollywood. The 6-foot-4 Cal quarterback was chosen to lead the Rams in their heralded return to Southern California. His selection wasn’t much of a surprise: The only mystery was whether L.A. would take Goff or North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, who went second to Philadelphia. Expectations are high for Goff — the Rams, who traded up for the first pick, have the league’s worst total quarterback rating since 2007 and want to make a big splash as they reunite with their West Coast fan base.
This would be tough to swallow. Investigators reportedly discovered prescription painkillers at the superstar’s home last week, though police have not said whether the medication played a role in his death. The county sheriff has called in the Drug Enforcement Agency to determine where the pills came from and whether they were legally prescribed. Some reports have said Prince used Percocet, an opiate pain medicine, to treat hip pain. While this finding could help shed light on the 57-year-old icon’s mysterious death, an official autopsy report remains weeks away.
It didn’t click with parents. A federal judge has given Amazon a potentially expensive slap on the wrist for promoting “free” children’s apps that encouraged in-app purchases, despite concerns that kids were unwittingly clicking and dropping real dollars. The FTC’s complaint alleged that Amazon has billed users millions over this, and while it’s not yet clear how much the company will have to pay — Apple and Google were fined tens of millions in similar cases — the agency says it’ll push for full refunds for consumers.
Prepare for a cold wave. A recent analysis of the icy continent’s Eastern region known as Princess Elizabeth Land indicates that more may be hidden beneath it than anyone suspected. Satellite imaging has helped scientists identify what they believe is a canyon system about 680 miles long and a huge ribbon-shaped lake. International researchers will meet in May to discuss the data, hoping to learn more about what lies beneath the ice, which could include never-before-seen subglacial life forms that thrive in the harsh Antarctic ecosystem.
Can they write the book on equality? Their presence is hardly new, especially those who write about rural life, and their numbers remain small, but authors of the Dalit caste — so-called “Untouchables” — are increasingly finding their way onto Indian bookshelves. Today more urban writers are putting pen to paper, highlighting the institutionalized discrimination they endure. And many hope more literature from this social strata — they’re not even recognized in the four rungs of the Hindu caste system — will help bring an end to the hatred they face.
He’s got old man game. Jonathan Nicola was arrested this month in Canada for false student visa documents saying he’s 17 — but he’s really 12 years older. The 6-foot-9, 202-pound Catholic Central High School star says his mother never told him his age, and that people back home in South Sudan never ask. The discrepancy was discovered when Nicola — whose coach thought he had NBA potential — applied for a visitor’s visa to the United States. His next detention hearing is May 24.