UKRAINE CREATES NATIONAL GUARD
The Ukrainian Parliament voted overwhelmingly to create a 60,000-strong National Guard, Interfax reports. According to AFP, the new force will mostly include volunteers from Maidan’s self-defense groups and will be in charge of interior and border security.
Earlier today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a speech to the Bundestag that Russia risked “massive” political and economic damage if it refused to change course on Ukraine, adding that Moscow was exploiting the country’s weakness. Continuing to apply pressure ahead of Sunday’s planned referendum in Crimea, she said that Ukraine’s territorial integrity “cannot be called into question.”
After meeting with interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenuyk, U.S. President Barack Obama vowed to “stand with Ukraine,” The New York Times reports.
Meanwhile, in Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s popularity is reaching new highs, Itar-Tass writes. According to the most recent poll, 71.6% of people surveyed approved of his actions, an increase of 9.7% from one month ago. This comes as the Russian Finance Ministry said it wouldn’t exclude sanctions against the EU and the U.S. An advisor to Putin has already suggested that Russia could sell all of its U.S. treasury bonds, a move that could seriously damage the dollar.
MISSING PLANE COULD HAVE FLOWN FOR HOURS
“We will not give up on any suspected clue,” China’s Premier Li Keqiang said of the missing Malaysian Airlines plane whose 239 passengers included 153 Chinese. Missing since Saturday, the plane could have flown for four or five hours after it was last located, U.S. investigators told The Wall Street Journal. During today’s press conference, Malaysia’s defense and acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein dismissed the report as “inaccurate,” Straits Times reports. Meanwhile, Vietnamese authorities found no trace of the missing aircraft in an area where images from a Chinese satellite suggested debris of the plane might be located.
HARLEM DEATH TOLL CLIMBS TO SIX
Authorities have confirmed the death of a sixth victim after yesterday’s explosion in Harlem that leveled two buildings, leaving more than 70 people wounded, NBC New York reports. The blast was caused by a major gas leak, whose origin is still unknown. Read more from The New York Times.
AIR RAIDS ON GAZA, ROCKETS FIRED ON ISRAEL
Israel’s air force launched at least 29 strikes on the Gaza strip overnight in a tit-for-tat response after the Quds Brigade claimed it fired some 90 rockets on Southern Israel, five of which hit populated areas. According to AFP, no casualties were reported on either side. Ma’an news agency reports, however, that two more rockets were fired this morning, one of which was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.
THREE DEAD IN VENEZUELA
Three people were shot dead yesterday in Venezuela, in the central city of Valencia. Among the victims were two citizens who were shot by pro-government gunmen passing on motorbikes, El Universal reports. The third, an army captain, was killed while fighting “terrorist groups,” the state’s governor Francisco Ameliach said. This happened as people were demonstrating in the capital of Caracas, one month after violent protests began. Read more from the BBC.
NSA COULD INFECT MILLIONS OF COMPUTERS
The U.S. National Security Agency is using automated systems that can potentially send malware to millions of computers around the world, making it possible for the agency to hack into the machines, top secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveal. The documents show, for example, that the NSA even used “a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer.” Read more from The Intercept.
DEADLY SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST ACCIDENT
Two people died after a drunk driver plowed into a crowd near the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, ABC reports.
“Jihad marriages” is how German security forces characterize increasingly common unions between young German Muslim women and Islamist terrorists. “We’re even seeing marriages being arranged on Facebook,” says one analyst at the inland intelligence service. It’s a phenomenon that worries the intelligence community because there is the possibility that it is a targeted strategy on the part of Islamic terror groups — jihadists with no previous access to Germany acquiring wives with German passports. “Pregnant, the woman may return to Germany. And then at some point there’s a family reunion. That’s when the husband, a jihadist with fighting experience, turns up in Germany.”
Read the full Worldcrunch/Die Welt article: Germany's "Jihad Cheerleaders," Running Off To Marry Islamist Terrorists
BY THE NUMBERS
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has pledged 10 billion euros in tax cuts for low-wage workers — some 10 million Italians — and has given parliament a six-month deadline to rewrite labor regulations to stimulate hiring. Read more from Bloomberg.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD