LEADERS AGREE ON UKRAINE CEASEFIRE
After hours-long negotiations in Minsk, leaders Petro Poroshenko, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel and François Hollande (Photo: Henadzi/Xinhua/ZUMA)have reached what the French president described as a “comprehensive deal” for a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine to begin at midnight Saturday. Putin was the first one to speak after the meeting adjourned, saying that the deal also included withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the line of contact. Under the agreement, all prisoners must be released. Pro-Russian rebels have signed a roadmap to implement the truce.
- Some issues have yet to be resolved, namely what status will be granted to the rebel-controlled and self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. While the four leaders committed to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the deal includes what Putin described as a “constitutional reform that should take into consideration the legitimate rights of people who live in Donbass.” According to the BBC, further talks will be held to decide on the matter.
- The New York Timescharacterized the deal as “fragile,” noting “the fact that the leaders used three separate news conferences to announce the accord suggested a lack of unity.”
- Moments before the agreement was made public, the International Monetary Fund announced a total financing package of about $40 billion for the next four years. IMF chief Christine Lagarde said the bailout could be “a turning point” for Ukraine.
The captain of the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia was sentenced to 16 years in prison yesterday after being found guilty of causing a maritime disaster, abandoning ship and manslaughter. Thirty-two people died when the ship, which was too close to the shore, hit rocks and sank off the Tuscan island of Giglio. Read more in our 4 corners blog.
GREECE, EU BAILOUT TALKS GO NOWHERE
Greece’s anti-austerity government and the EU have failed to reach a deal on renegotiating the country’s huge bailout program, which Prime Minister Tsipras wants to end, the BBC reports. Though both sides have said there’s still hope for a deal, talks will go down to the wire next week, with the current bailout expiring at month’s end. Failure to agree on an extension would mean Greece defaulting on its debts and possibly leaving the Eurozone.
“If she wants to go to eat noodles, then she can go, but if we prohibit her, then she cannot go,” Thailand's junta chief said about former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, by way of explaining just how close the military is watching the ousted leader.
OBAMA REQUESTS WAR POWERS
U.S. President Barack Obama submitted to Congress Wednesday a request for legal authorization to fight the ISIS terror group in Iraq and Syria, though he stopped short of requesting power for a full-scale military intervention. According to The New York Times, Obama’s request puts “some handcuffs on his power” and imposes a three-year limit on American action.
- A French-language ISIS magazine published what it claims to be an interview with Hayat Boumeddiene, the wife of Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four hostages at a kosher supermarket in Paris last month. The interview suggests that Boumeddiene, dubbed the “most wanted woman in France,” is in “Caliphate territory.” French authorities initially believed she had been with Coulibaly when he shot the four hostages but later said she had fled to Turkey before the attacks and was believed to have crossed into Syria. The interview provides no details of her alleged role in the attack. The magazine praised Coulibaly as “an example to follow” and called for more attacks in France. Read more in English from CNN.
ON THIS DAY
Abraham Lincoln was born on this day in 1809. Time for your 57-second shot of history.
CONGRESS OKS KEYSTONE PIPELINE
The Republican-controlled U.S. Congress passed legislation approving construction of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, setting the stage for a confrontation with President Obama, who has threatened before to use his veto, The Wall Street Journalreports. The $8 billion project would connect Canada's tar sands with Gulf coast refineries.
In an interview with Clarin’s Marina Zucchi, 43-year-old Latino singer Ricky Martin reveals a more serene relationship with fame, fatherhood and a growing thirst for tango. And he really likes Pope Francis. “I realize he is very diplomatically demanding change in the Church,” he told the newspaper. “In my case, as a member of the LGBT community, the only thing I ask for is equality in the strictest sense of the word and that we should stop being judged. We are not asking for more rights than others. So when His Holiness speaks of equality, you have to applaud.”
Read the full article, Ricky Martin Praises Pope, Dies Online, Releases New Album.
AL-QAEDA ATTACK IN YEMEN
At least seven people were killed in an al-Qaeda attack on an army base in southern Yemen, AFP reports. The terrorist group claimed responsibility for the raid on Twitter, and accused troops there of having links with the Shia Houthi rebellion that controls the capital of Sanaa and toppled the government and president in recent weeks. This comes as the U.S., Britain and France rush to close their embassies in the capital over security fears. The Houthi rebels have so far refused calls from the United Nations to restore the Western-backed president Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to power.
Bob Simon, the longtime 60 Minutes correspondent and renown CBS News foreign reporter died last night in a car accident in New York City. He was 73.
SILICON VALLEY VACCINATION
Amid the vaccination debate following a measles outbreak in Disneyland, Wired reports that six of the 12 day-care centers affiliated with tech and biotech companies in the Bay Area have below-average vaccination rates.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
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A former Korean Airlines executive who forced a plane to return to the gate to offload a flight attendant who had the nerve to bring her macadamia nuts in a bag instead of a bowl last December has been found guilty of violating aviation safety law. She was sentenced to a year in prison.