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French Alps Plane Crash, Israeli Spying, Flushing Gold

“NO SURVIVORS” EXPECTED IN ALPS PLANE CRASH
Photo: A Germanwings Airbus A320 — Xinhua/ZUMA
An Airbus A320 carrying 150 people crashed in the southern French Alps near the town of Digne this morning, and French President François Hollande has said officials expect no survivors in what represents the first crash of a low-budget airline in Europe.

  • The crash occurred in a particularly hard-to-access area of the French Alps, between the cities of Digne and Barcelonnette, the French daily Le Monde reports.
  • The flight was operated by Germanwings, a Lufthansa budget airline, and was connecting 144 passengers and 6 crew members from Barcelona to Düsseldorf.
  • Madrid officials say there could be at least 45 Spanish victims.
  • According to Germanwings, 67 German passengers — including 16 students and their two teachers returning from a school exchange — were on board.
  • One of the two black boxes has been recovered, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced.
  • After first announcing the aircraft issued a distress call, the French Civil Aviation Authority said "the crew had not transmitted a Mayday."
  • Plane debris have been found, and search and rescue teams are on site.
  • The weather conditions were reportedly clear at the time of the crash.

VERBATIM
“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” a senior U.S. official told The Wall Street Journal in a news story reporting that Israel spied on the Iran nuclear talks. Israeli officials deny the claims, but in a development that highlights an increasingly tenuous relationship between the two countries, sources told the newspaper that the White House discovered the operation when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel “intercepted communications among Israeli officials that carried details the U.S. believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks.”

EXTRA!
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel appear to have a hard time understanding each other in a photo on today’s front page of the Greek daily I Kathimerini. Merkel was welcoming the Greek prime minister in Berlin — his first visit to Germany since taking office in January — as Tsipras was seeking financial help from Germany for cash-strapped Greece. Read more on our 4 Corners blog.

CHINA EXECUTES 3 FOR KUNMING ATTACK
Three men accused of leading a terrorist attack that killed 31 people and wounded 141 at a train station in Kunming, China, last year, were executed today on the orders of the Supreme People's Court, China Daily reports. In December 2014, a group of knife-wielding attackers, believed to be separatists from the Uyghur minority in northwestern China, randomly attacked civilians before the police shot four of them dead and arrested four others. A spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress rights group said the defendants were denied a fair trial and that China used the death penalty as a political tool.

0.0%
The inflation rate in the United Kingdom has fallen to 0.0% for the first time on record, The Guardian reports.

GUNMEN KILL 13 IN AFGHANISTAN
Masked gunmen killed 13 people near Afghanistan’s capital Kabul today when they opened fire on bus passengers, Reuters quoted local officials as saying. This follows two other bus attacks by unknown gunmen in the last month. In the previous raids, members of the ethnic Hazara group, who were persecuted during Taliban rule, seemed to have been targeted. Current Taliban insurgent groups have denied any links to these attacks, while militants who have allegedly sworn allegiance to ISIS have also been accused.

ON THIS DAY
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On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez spilled millions of gallons of crude oil in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Time for your 57-second shot of history.

UTAH AUTHORIZES FIRING SQUADS
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill yesterday authorizing the use of firing squads as a backup execution method when lethal injection drugs are not available, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. The bill comes amid a nationwide shortage of lethal injection drugs. Several foreign manufacturers that make such drugs but are opposed to the death penalty have recently refused to provide the products to the United States. This has led to several botched executions, because some states developed their own lethal injections that proved defective. Numerous rights groups have called for a veto against the bill.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
[rebelmouse-image 27088790 alt="""" original_size="610x600" expand=1]


LARGEST-EVER ASTEROID IMPACT FOUND
Australian National University scientists said yesterday that they found a 400-kilometer-wide asteroid impact area — the largest ever discovered — in central Australia’s Warburton Basin. The asteroid broke into two before it hit the ground at least 300 million years ago, according to the research team.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As Die Welt’s Dirk Schumer writes, the European Union was built atop the rubble of so much bad history, and was meant to build democracy and keep peace among neighbors. But something has come undone, and the union itself is now in mortal peril. “Now the last bastions of international courtesy are crumbling after decades of a common market and shared laws,” he writes. “Greek officials, led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, are demanding reparations dating back to World War II and threaten to enable Islamic terrorists to travel to Berlin by allowing illegal immigrants in Greece to travel northward unless the eurozone backs down on austerity demands. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn't gone that far. And never has a common social calamity, an international showdown, been treated with more cynicism and defamation.”
Read the full article, The Dying Days Of The Great European Experiment.

FLUSHING MONEY
An eight-year study by the U.S. Geological Survey has found that significant levels of precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum can be found in human feces and could even be comparable with those found in mines. Scientists believe that retrieving the metals could be both an income source and a way to make waste a safer fertilizer.


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Geopolitics

AMLO Power Grab: Mexico's Electoral Reform Would Make Machiavelli Proud

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, aka AMLO, says his plans to reform the electoral system are a way to save taxpayer money. A closer look tells a different story.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico votes

Luis Rubio

OpEd-

MEXICO CITY — For supporters of Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) the goal is clear: to keep power beyond the 2024 general election, at any price. Finally, the engineers of the much-touted Fourth Transformation, ALMO's 2018 campaign promise to do away with the privileged abuses that have plagued Mexican politics for decades, are showing their colors.

Current electoral laws date back to the 1990s, when unending electoral disputes were a constant of every voting round and impeded effective governance in numerous states and districts. The National Electoral Institute (INE) and its predecessor, the IFE, were created to solve once and for all those endemic disputes.

Their promoters hoped Mexico could expect a more honest future, with the electoral question resolved. The 2006 presidential elections, which included AMLO as a recalcitrant loser, showed this was hoping for too much. That election is also, remotely, at the source of the president's new electoral initiative.

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