They were “dropping like sparrows.” Believing they were troops transporting wounded comrades, guards waved attackers through one checkpoint outside an Afghan military base in northern Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif, ultimately breached with rockets and explosives. Ten militants, whom the Taliban claimed as members that included four insiders, mowed down soldiers emerging from a mosque and dining facility, killing at least 140 Friday before Afghan commandos reportedly killed those who didn’t blow themselves up. It was the country’s worst on-base assault since 2001 — a grim precursor to the Taliban’s annual spring offensive.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Will La Republique turn á droite? Sunday’s French presidential election will be anything but traditional. Unpopular center-left François Hollande’s the first president since World War II not to seek re-election, but voters won’t simply choose between two dominant parties. An uncertain electorate could embrace far-right Marine Le Pen, who said a “monstrous ideology” had “declared war on our nation” after Thursday’s killing of a policeman on Paris’ Champs-Élysées. She and centrist Emmanuel Macron are favorites, meaning they’d compete in a May 7 runoff, but undecideds make forecasting seem futile.
Attention span check: Remember the whole nuclear thing? After Pyongyang’s failed missile test and the discovery that a U.S. carrier group hadn’t really been steaming toward the Korean Peninsula, the world seemed to forget about that kerfuffle. But not Russia, which has reportedly moved troops and weaponry to its border with the Hermit Kingdom. That’s got neighbors — especially the 25 million Seoul residents living within range of the North’s artillery — considering their options as tensions mount between America’s mercurial new president and his even less predictable enemy, Kim Jong-un.
It’s a “ridiculous standard.” That’s what President Donald Trump is calling the symbolic “first 100 days” milestone he’ll cross April 29. A day earlier, federal departmental funding will expire if he doesn’t persuade Congress to approve a budget, which means a partial government shutdown. Even if there’s a deal, Republicans are unlikely to fund Trump’s more extreme demands, like an extra $30 billion for defense, or $1.4 billion for the border wall. With the hard-right Freedom Caucus pushing back and Democrats smelling blood, gridlock may again seize the Hill.
It may not lift all boats. Cambodia’s Kbal Romeas village will soon be submerged by a new hydroelectric dam, but not everyone’s cheering — or evacuating. Some 5,000 homes in this Mekong River offshoot will be lost to the Lower Sesan 2 Dam, a 400-megawatt hydroelectric complex set to power up in August. From Laos to the South China Sea, the river’s residents and ecosystem rely on its fertility, but harnessing its energy at numerous points will impoverish its nutrient-rich sediment, while touted electricity riches appear unlikely to trickle down anytime soon.
Know This: President Trump’s Friday vow to introduce a “massive” tax cut plan took even his own staff aback. The Justice Department has warned eight California cities they’ll lose federal funding if they continue protecting illegal immigrants. And meanwhile, Australia will send 1,250 migrants to America under an Obama-era agreement, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence affirmed during his visit with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Spend This: $81: That’s what Vivendi, owner of rights to the film This Is Spinal Tap between 1984 and 2006, says is due and payable to Harry Shearer, one of the film’s actors and creators. He’s suing the multinational for $125 million, charging the company “fraudulently underreported” revenues from the comedy, which bombed in theaters, but became a cult classic in video stores and beyond.
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It seemed crazy at the time. For two years, the tiny Saxon town of Sumte has provided living space for hundreds of asylum seekers — just one facet of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s response to accepting more than a million migrants. Spread out over a previously abandoned complex, as many as 750 refugees at any one time live next to the 102 villagers, with some unsurprising tension. Yet the proactive evolution of the shelter’s capacities and the residents’ genuine, more economically focused perspective on immigration suggests Germany’s humanitarian response can successfully trade Angst for Gemütlichkeit.
This is where it hurts. Scientists are working on a clinical trial for drugs that would essentially block the transmission of pain signals between nerve cells without harmful side effects. Over 25 million American adults say they deal with chronic pain, and nearly 2 million are addicted to painkillers. Researchers believe that by regulating Nav1.7, a channel that allows charged sodium ions to transmit pain signals, they can block those signals, and most importantly, offer relief to sufferers of “man on fire” syndrome — a condition as painful as it sounds.
Make some noise for the Day of Silence. The only place you’ll see this Hindu celebration for the Saka New Year in all its quiet glory is on the island of Bali, Indonesia, but advocates say it has global implications. Known as Nyepi, once a year the shops are shuttered, vehicles are shut off and muted celebrants are shut in, sans electricity, fire or entertainment. Perhaps it’s only a 24-hour gift to Mother Nature, but bringing the Balinese holiday global could push the world closer to sustainable climate change than Earth Day.
Can they put lipstick on this pig? Maurice Bessinger, who popularized South Carolina’s mustard-based barbecue style, built a pulled-pork empire — flavored with white supremacist thinking. By refusing to serve Black diners and challenging desegregation in the Supreme Court, the onetime gubernatorial candidate triggered a boycott of his restaurant chain while supermarkets shunned his Confederate flag-emblazoned sauce. Following his 2014 death, his heirs removed the flags and slavery-glorifying pamphlets, but barbecue lovers wonder if returning to Bessinger’s Piggie Park will leave a bad taste in their mouths.
Not likely, some insiders say. Chances are speed, skill and strength will outweigh prospects’ propensity for criminal activity, sources tell sportswriter Albert Breer. The tragedy of a Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots tight end who, after playing three seasons, was imprisoned for murder and reportedly killed himself Wednesday, has “left an impression,” one official says. Another says, “There are seven or eight players” on next Thursday’s draft list with gang connections — who, some argue, might reform with pro success and team support. But changing the front office is another game entirely.