"BREAKTHROUGH" MIGRANT DEAL
European leaders and Turkish officials have reached an agreement in principle that German Chancellor Angela Merkel described as a "breakthrough if it becomes reality." The deal, whose final details still need to be settled, would see Turkey take back migrants who have traveled from Turkey to Greece but don't meet criteria for asylum in Europe. In exchange, EU countries would resettle Syrians in Turkey, who clearly do meet asylum criteria, on a "one-for-one" basis. According to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, such a move would "break the business model of smugglers exploiting human misery and make clear that the only viable way to come to Europe is through legal channels." EU President Donald Tusk also hailed the decision, saying it sends "a very clear message that the days of irregular migration to the European Union are over."
- But the Financial Times notes that this "most ambitious" solution could prove to be "politically explosive." Under the agreement, Turkey would also get an extra $3.3 billion from Europe to support Syrian refugees in Turkey, double the amount it asked for and obtained a few months ago. Turkish citizens would also benefit from visa liberalization, allowing them free access to Europe's Schengen zone, something Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said to "prize â€¦ perhaps more than anything else in the package." The newspaper also points to "big legal doubts" over the return of migrants to Turkey, which is not a party to the Geneva Convention and suggests the scale of the operation would lead to "very ugly scenes."
JIHADISTS, SYRIAN ARMY BATTLE OUTSIDE ALEPPO
Syrian government troops have regained control today over a set of strategic hilltops that had been seized yesterday by jihadists south of Aleppo, Reuters reports. Terror groups such as ISIS and al-Nusra Front are excluded from a fragile ceasefire that started more than a week ago. Meanwhile, the YPG Kurdish militia, backed by the U.S. and Russia, said that Turkey was firing artillery at its fighters in the northern Aleppo province, where they also came under Turkish attack a month ago.
A woman's movement challenging a centuries-old practice of denying women entry into the most sacred areas of worship in Hindu temples and Muslim shrines is generating a heated debate across India, Bismillah Geelani reports for PortalKBR. "The movement of women demanding access to worship sites gained momentum after an announcement at the Sabrimala Temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala. A centuries-old tradition there allows only women who have reached menopause or girls who have yet to reach puberty to go inside the temple. To enforce the rule and to essentially ensure that women who menstruate never darken the temple door, authorities wanted to install a machine at the gate to scan women devotees. The plan drew outcry, inspiring an online women's campaign called â€˜Happy to Bleed.'"
Read the full article, Barred From Worship Sites, Indian Women Fight Back.
S. KOREA UNVEILS N. KOREA SANCTIONS
South Korea's government unveiled measures to blacklist 38 North Korean officials and 30 organizations, following in the UN's footsteps to punish Pyongyang, Yonhap reports. The move comes one day after South Korea and the United States began their biggest joint military drill to date, prompting threats from North Korea of a nuclear attack. U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said yesterday that Washington was taking ese threats seriously and called on Pyongyang "to cease with the provocative rhetoric, cease with the threats and quite frankly, more critically, cease with the provocative behavior."
Photo: Sydney Low/CSM/ZUMA
"I did fail the test and take full responsibility for it," Russian tennis champion Maria Sharapova told a press conference in Los Angeles yesterday. The 28-year-old revealed she had tested positive after an Australian Open match for meldonium, a recently banned drug she said she'd been "legally" taking for 10 years. An investigation is ongoing, and Sharapova potentially faces a ban. "I know many of you thought that I would be retiring today, but if I was ever going to announce my retirement it would not be in a downtown Los Angeles hotel with this fairly ugly carpet," she told reporters.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced he won't launch an independent bid for president. In a piece published on his news website, Bloomberg explains that a three-way race would split the vote and leave the decision in the hands of Congress. "As the race stands now, with Republicans in charge of both Houses, there is a good chance that my candidacy could lead to the election of Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz. That is not a risk I can take in good conscience," the media tycoon wrote. Bloomberg's announcement comes ahead of another crucial round of presidential primaries today. To get yourself in the mood, watch this exclusive Worldcrunch video about Trump's alter egos around the world.
A French cleric's detective work helped the police catch an 80-year-old anticlerical revolutionary and his 60-year-old female neighbor after the pair stole more than 3,000 church artifacts. "At the home of the octogenarian, the toilets were absolutely full of crucifixes," priest Ludovic Serre told reporters. "There wasn't so much as a square centimeter of space." Read more from The Local.
LAST PUSH FOR ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE
The Obama administration is working on plans to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations before the president's term ends, The Wall Street Journal reports. The White House is considering a UN Security Council resolution that would set the principles for a permanent agreement between the two sides. "Over the next 10 months, President Obama could be the savior of the two-state solution or bury it," the newspaper quotes a senior aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as saying. Any such move could further increase tensions between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama. Late yesterday, Netanyahu canceled a planned visit to Washington after he was invited to meet with the U.S. president.
AL-SHABAAB CONFIRMS U.S. AIRSTRIKES
Somali-based jihadist group Al-Shabaab confirmed its fighters had been targeted by a series of U.S. airstrikes but ridiculed Pentagon claims that 150 of its members had been killed. "The Americans are dreaming," a spokesman for the terror group told Al Jazeera. "We never gather that many of our fighters in one place." The U.S. airstrikes were conducted Saturday, but the Pentagon only communicated about them yesterday.
MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD
IS ROCK â€˜N' ROLL NOISE POLLUTION?
AC/DC is postponing the rest of its U.S. tour after doctors told singer Brian Johnson that he risks "total hearing loss" if he continues to perform, a statement on the band's website reads. The remaining shows are likely to be performed later this year with a guest vocalist.