SYRIAN TALKS, ELECTIONS, CEASEFIRE BREACHES
Voting is underway in 12 of Syria's 14 provinces where government institutions are still functioning, with voters required to choose 250 members of parliament among 3,500 candidates, AP reports. Supporters of President Bashar al-Assad are expected to win the vote, which has been dismissed by Western leaders as a sham. The election takes place while peace negotiations are due to resume in Geneva, and amid a recent multiplication of ceasefire breaches for which all warring sides are trading blame.
PANAMA POLICE RAIDS MOSSACK FONSECA HQ
Police raided the Panama City offices of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the center of the Panama Papers scandal, looking for evidence of money laundering and financing of terrorism, The Wall Street Journal reports. Panama's government had said after the first revelations emerged last week that it would investigate the claims, despite Mossack Fonseca denying all wrongdoing. Prosecutors told the BBC, the operation Tuesday was carried out "without incident or interference."
Is there a way for tax havens like Panama to give up their sheltering services? Swiss daily Le Temps goes across the border for a visit to the tiny nation of Liechtenstein, which has largely given up on hiding other people's money over the past five years. "We've gone from 90,000 companies to about 40,000 now," explains Katja Gey, director of the Principality's Office of International Financial Affairs in the capital Vaduz. The interest in these structures has largely vanished since Liechtenstein gave up on attracting undeclared money. While the Panama Papers are rocking the offshore world, Liechtenstein seems to show us another way. It's been a largely forced march towards conformity that allows Liechtenstein to look down not only on Panama the straggler, but also on Switzerland, of which it long was a satellite." Read the full article: Liechtenstein, When A Tax Haven Rights Its Ways And Sheds Its Shells
"Today, we commit to this next great leap into the cosmos, because we are human, and our nature is to fly," scientist Stephen Hawking told a press conference in New York yesterday, as he announced his support for a $100 million program to send iPhone-sized spacecrafts to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, a mere 4.37 light years away. Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg are also behind the project.
AUSTRIA PLANS TOUGHER BORDER CHECKS
Austrian authorities have announced that construction has begun on the building of a border management system at the Italian border, amid concern that the closure of the Balkan route is redirecting the flow of migrants to Italy. Italian coastguards said yesterday that they had rescued about 4,000 migrants trying to reach its shores from Tunisia in the previous 48 hours. In Greece meanwhile, about 6,000 migrants have taken shelter inside a former Athens airport, and the site's management is concerned over potential health hazard due to the overcrowding.
ON THIS DAY
What do Pocahontas, Henry IV of France and Samuel Beckett have in common? They're all in today's shot of history!
DILMA LOSES ANOTHER COALITION PARTNER
Another day, another blow for Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff. The leftist leader, who will face an impeachment vote on Sunday, has lost the support of another coalition partner, the Progressive Party, and a vast majority of its 47 MPs will vote against Rousseff, O Globo reports. According to Folha de S. Paulo, government ministers were yesterday considering the impeachment battle as "virtually lost."
KIRCHNER TO APPEAR IN COURT
Former Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner is expected to appear in court later today after she became a suspect in a corruption case, La Nación reports. Kirchner will face questions over her alleged role in the sale of $17 billion worth of dollar futures contracts at artificially low prices.
Kobe Bryant will play a regular-season NBA game for the 1,346th and last time tonight when the Los Angeles Lakers face Utah Jazz. Looking back on a 20-year career with the Lakers,L.A. Times reporter Bill Plaschke writes that Bryant "never wanted to win our hearts, he just wanted to win. Yet in the end, laying himself bare to Los Angeles for two decades as both basketball deity and flawed human, Kobe Bryant somehow did both."