While You Slept
Polls have opened throughout Iran as the country votes for two assemblies in the most important election since the 2013 presidential campaign that ushered in the reformist Hassan Rouhani.
Voters will cast ballots for the unicameral "Islamic" parliament (Majles) and the Assembly of Experts (Majles-e khobregan), a body of clerics and "experts" deemed versed enough in public affairs and laws to merit choosing, in time, the next supreme leader. Rouhani's camp hopes to make gains that could allow for more significant reform. Read more from our Take 5 feature: Iran Election: Five Questions To Understand What's At Stake.
FIGHTING CONTINUES AS SYRIA CEASEFIRE LOOMS
Intense fighting continues across western Syria, with reports today of heavy airstrikes on rebel-held areas east of Damascus ahead of a U.S.-Russia-brokered ceasefire due to begin at midnight local time, Reuters reports. Among the fronts on which the Syrian army is trying to take back territory is the northwestern province of Latakia, close to the Turkish border. In the Aleppo province meanwhile, government forces backed by Russian warplanes recaptured the town of Khanaser yesterday, driving out ISIS fighters, and continued to make gains against ISIS and al-Nusra around Homs and Hama, state news agency SANA reports.
Speaking on the imminent ceasefire, U.S. President Barack Obama said yesterday that there were "many potential pitfalls" and "plenty of reasons for skepticism." But he added that "history would judge us harshly if we did not do our part in at least trying to end this terrible conflict with diplomacy."
Jihadist groups like ISIS and al-Nusra are not included in the ceasefire agreement and other rebel groups are concerned that the Syrian army might target them on the pretext that they are jihadists. Bashar al-Assad's government has also warned that the agreement could fail if the rebels use the ceasefire to rearm with the help of foreign powers.
THREE KILLED IN KANSAS
At least three people were killed and another 14 injured in the city of Wichita, Kansas, after a gunman opened fire on a highway and later at his workplace. Police fatally shot the gunman late Thursday afternoon, reports The Wichita Eagle.
TURKISH JOURNALISTS FREED
Two Turkish journalists who had been arrested after publishing a report alleging that the Turkish government was involved in the supplying of weapons to jihadists in Syria were freed from prison yesterday, Today's Zaman reports. Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled that the detentions of Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, from the newspaper Cumhuriyet, amounted to a violation of their rights as journalists. "We think the Constitutional Court's ruling is a historic one," Dundar told reporters outside the prison. "This verdict has cleared the way not only for us but for all of our colleagues and freedom of press and expression." Read an open letter Dundar wrote last month from prison.
GENERAL ELECTION IN IRELAND
Irish voters have begun voting this morning to choose their next Parliament with Prime Minister Enda Kenny hoping to become the first of his liberal-conservative Fine Gael party to win a second consecutive term in office. But according to the Irish Independent, the outcome of the election is all but certain, and deep "voter schism" could force the two main parties into a "historic grand coalition." Vote counting will begin Saturday.
Scientists in California have found that the methane leak in the Porter Ranch area was the biggest in in U.S. history, with an estimated 100,000 tons of gas released into the atmosphere in four months, The Los Angeles Times reports. The amount of methane leaked effectively doubles the emissions rate for the entire Los Angeles Basin. The leak was sealed permanently on Feb. 18.
COURT CLEARS WAY FOR CALAIS EVACUATION
A French court green lighted late yesterday the evacuation of a large part of the refugee camp in the coastal city of Calais, commonly referred to as "The Jungle," Le Monde reports. The port city is currently home to an estimated 4,000 refugees. French officials have stated that the number of refugees who will be affected in the targeted southern sector is around 1,000, while humanitarian organizations claim the actual number to be three times higher. Authorities say that refugees will be encouraged to visit temporary welcome centers where they can apply for asylum.
MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD
CYCLONE TOLL: 35,000 HOMELESS, DOZENS DEAD
Fijian officials reported on Thursday that at least 42 Fijians were killed and 35,000 remain homeless and living in evacuation shelters in the aftermath of the cyclone that hit the country last weekend, Reuters reports. Various international aid agencies say supplies are on their way, but that the damage to the country's infrastructure makes it hard to reach remote communities.
ON THIS DAY
We know where he found his thrill, but now you know when Fats Domino? Find out what else happened on Feb. 26 in today's shot of history!
U.S. TO DEPLOY TO BOKO HARAM FRONTLINES
The Pentagon plans to deploy dozens of Special Operations advisers to the front lines of Nigeria's fight against the ISIS-allied militant group Boko Haram, reports today's New York Times. Since the withdrawal of the majority of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. has relied heavily on Special Operation forces to train and advise local troops fighting ISIS as well as carrying out clandestine operations. Military officials state that in Nigeria, U.S. forces will serve only in noncombat advisory roles.
SPARKS FLY AT GOP DEBATE
With billionaire Donald Trump on the verge of running away with the race for the Republic nomination, his two closest challengers, Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, went on the attack in last night's debate. It was not a cordial affair, and CNN has compiled a video of the 20 best/worst insults.
FIFA VOTES FOR BLATTER SUCCESSOR
Soccer's scandal-plagued worldwide governing body, FIFA, is voting today for the successor of its longtime chief Sepp Blatter. Follow the latest on ESPN.
DISCOS OF EUROPE ARE DYING
Nightclubs and discoteques across the Old Continent are losing their grove. Italian daily La Repubblica has published a multi-part series that explores the widespread closures of dance spots in the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and elsewhere. Read more in English on Le Blog