Obama's Budget, DSK Trial Begins, End Of South Sudan War?
U.S. PONDERS ARMING UKRAINE
The United States may decide soon to equip Ukraine’s armed forces with “defensive weapons and equipment,” The New York Times reports, adding that many military and administration officials “appear to be edging toward that position.” Secretary of State John Kerry, who will travel to Kiev Thursday, is said to be open to discussions about sending lethal equipment after pro-Russian rebels launched a major offensive against army positions in eastern Ukraine. The leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic announced plans to hold a general mobilization in 10 days to recruit up to 100,000 people, just days after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Kiev had recruited 45,000 troops.
“He won't give up until Baher and Mohamed are out of there,” the family of Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste told a news conference after he was released from prison in Egypt, where he spent 400 days behind bars. Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy remain jailed. The three journalists were sentenced to seven to 10 years after being tried for allegedly spreading false news and aiding the Muslim Brotherhood. Their convictions were overturned Jan. 1 after the country’s highest court ordered a retrial.
OBAMA’S $4 TRILLION BUDGET
U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to submit a $4 trillion budget to Congress today, in accordance with what he termed “middle-class economics” during his recent State of the Union address. According to The Washington Post, the 2016 budget features a six-year, $478 billion public works program for upgrading infrastructure such as highways, bridges, railroads and ports, and a 1.3% pay raise for federal workers and troops. Obama expects to finance these measures with a new tax on the wealthiest as well as a one-time 14% tax on the estimated $2 trillion in profits that companies have been keeping abroad.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
According to the Financial Times, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and advertising network Taboola have “quietly” paid the makers of Adblock Plus to stop the popular software from blocking ads on their sites, even as usage of such software increased 70% last year.
JORDAN STILL SEEKS ISIS SWAP
The Jordan government is still seeking proof that a Jordanian pilot ISIS took hostage is alive. Meanwhile, the terrorist group claimed it killed a second Japanese hostage. A government spokesperson said Jordan was still ready to hand over an Iraqi woman jailed there “in return for the return of our son and our hero.” Meanwhile in Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reacted to the death of journalist Kenji Goto by saying, “Japan will never give in to terrorism.” He added that the country would expand its humanitarian assistance in the Middle East. But an editorial in the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun urges the government to go further and says it’s not “the duty of Japan” to join the anti-ISIS coalition.
As Madr Masr’s Heba Afify writes, Egypt prides itself on having one of the oldest railways in the world, founded in the 1800s. But the railway that was once a source of pride has decayed into an embarrassing testament to negligence and corruption. “Catastrophic train accidents have become regular occurrences, especially on the Upper Egypt line, which is in the worst shape,” Afify writes. “The deadliest was the Upper Egypt train fire in 2002, which killed more than 350 passengers. I have first-hand experience of the incompetence of the system that was behind most of these accidents. Almost every time I take the train to Upper Egypt, it either breaks down or gets delayed because another train has broken down and is blocking the tracks. The latter was the reason for a two-hour delay on the way to Aswan, bringing the time of the trip to 15 hours.
Read the full article, Thirty Hours Aboard The Rickety Upper Egypt Railway.
END TO SOUTH SUDAN WAR IN SIGHT
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and rebel commander and former Vice President Riek Machar have signed an agreement on a future transition government, a first step towards ending a months-long conflict that has killed as estimated 10,000 people and displaced 1.5 million, The Sudan Tribune reports. But rebel leaders have insisted that “many issues” still need to be negotiated and resolved before a final peace agreement can be reached.
ON THIS DAY
On this day in 1922, James Joyce’s Ulysses was published. Time for your 57-shot of history.
DSK PIMPING TRIAL BEGINS
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF chief who was forced to resign in disgrace in 2011 amid allegations that he had raped a Manhattan maid, goes on trial today over his alleged “pimping” role in sex parties with prostitutes, Le Monde reports. DSK has repeatedly said he didn’t know the women were in fact prostitutes being paid to attend the parties in luxury hotels in Paris, Washington, Vienna or Madrid. But some of the sex workers have responded that it was impossible for him not to know. Read more from our 4 Corners blog.
"O LUNA MIA
Check out this week's horoscope, straight from the Eternal City.
TABLETS BAD FOR BABIES’ BRAINS
New research suggests that the use of tablets or smartphones to pacify toddlers could damage their brain development and affect their “own internal mechanisms of self-regulation.”
SUPER BOWL — LATE BUT GREAT
An epic final eight minutes saw the New England Patriots make a dramatic comeback last night to secure their fourth Super Bowl win (see photo above) with a 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Once again, the adverts were also among the evening’s highlights as well as one of Katy Perry’s shark-clad dancers.