-THE SOLDIER’S STORY…Today we may learn the name of the soldier who massacred civilians in southern Afghanistan last weekend – and already we’re learning how his lawyer will proceed. The attorney’s comments suggest he’ll use post-traumatic stress as part of his defense – and perhaps put the U.S. conduct of the war (multiple deployments especially) on trial as well. Luis MARTINEZ reports he’s likely to arrive at a prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas – after a controversial trip out of Afghanistan. Afghans wanted him to stay there to face justice; and Kuwaiti officials were reportedly furious when they learned he’d been brought to a U.S. base on their soil. The shooter has hired Seattle-based, high-powered attorney John Henry Browne who said last night that the soldier had part of his foot removed because of a combat injury, in addition to the traumatic brain injury he sustained in Iraq in 2010 that Martha RADDATZ reported earlier this week. The day before the attack the soldier apparently saw his friend’s leg blown off. Browne admitted he had heard there was alcohol on the base but said it would be a leap to assume his client was drinking just because alcohol was present. An official quoted in the New York Times says he heard from two other soldiers who were drinking with the attacker that the soldier was under stress from combat and tensions with his wife and “he just snapped.”
-KARZAI MEETS VICTIMS’ FAMILIES, BLASTS INVESTIGATION…Muhammad LILA reports from Kabul: President Karzai has charged the United States of failing to fully cooperate with an investigation into the massacre – and questioned whether more than one soldier was involved, given the high death toll in the shootings. This comes after Karzai met with victims of the shooting in Kabul. Karzai is towing the line of the delegation he dispatched to Panjway to investigate. The team is now back, and will be presenting their report tomorrow to members of Parliament. It’s expected the report will be a scathing critique of the US response to the shootings.
-CHOPPER CRASHES INTO HOME – 12 SOLDIERS AND 2 CIVILIANS KILLED…LILA and Aleem AGHA report another tragedy from the war zone: Twelve Turkish soldiers and two Afghan civilians are dead after a NATO chopper crashed outside of Kabul. The helicopter crashed on to a civilian home in the Bagrami area. The two Afghans were inside the house when it happened. The helicopter was on a NATO mission – cause of the crash isn’t known, but there are no reports of any insurgent activity in the area.
NORTH KOREA TO LAUNCH LONG-RANGE ROCKET
More provocation from North Korea today – an announcement that it plans to launch a long-range rocket mounted with a satellite next month. It’s a surprise move that comes weeks after the North agreed to nuclear concessions including a moratorium on long-range missile tests. The launch is to take place exactly three years after a similar launch in April 2009 drew widespread condemnation from the U.S., South Korea and others. The State Department calls North Korea’s announcement “highly provocative”.
-KOFI ANNAN TO BRIEF U.N….Special envoy and former Secretary General Kofi Annan will brief the U.N. Security Council Friday about the deteriorating situation in Syria as the deadly conflict enters its second year. Annan, the U.N.-Arab League special envoy on Syria, met last weekend with embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
-CLASHES IN DAMASCUS SUBURBS…From the AP: Activists say Syrian troops have clashed with army defectors in several areas near the capital. The clashes in the Damascus suburbs of Qatana, Dumair and Tal came six weeks after President Bashar Assad’s forces retook areas around the capital in a major military operation.
-THE ASSADS’ IN-BOX…Per Alex MARQUARDT: More emails between the Assads have been released – Al Arabiya says almost all will be released in the coming days. The Guardian today features Asma al-Assad’s father’s messaging tips while in the Telegraph the father-in-law, Dr. Fawaz Akhras, compared the uprising to the London riots. There has been some doubt cast on the e-mails, one person close to Assad telling me they’re fake and other more independent actors questioning the sources (i.e. the opposition).
-HUMANITARIAN MISSION…A UN humanitarian delegation will accompany a government-led mission to Homs, Hama, Tartous, Lattakia, Aleppo, Dayr Az Zor, Rural Damascus and Deraa starting this weekend. Not included: Idlib – scene of heavy fighting in the north.
-TWO JOURNALISTS ‘HELD BY SYRIAN FORCES’…Al Jazeera reports two Turkish journalists are being held by Syrian government forces. Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister says the reporters are safe and that the Turkish government is trying to get them released. The Turkish state news agency, Anatolia, said the journalists had been handed over to Syrian intelligence by pro-government thugs. One of the journalists, cameraman Hamit Coskun, was injured and he may have been tortured, the agency said.
HUMAN RESISTANCE TO ANTIBIOTICS COULD BRING ‘THE END OF MODERN MEDICINE AS WE KNOW IT”
Quite a headline. The Telegraph reports Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO, warned that humans have become so resistant to common antibiotics that we could face “the end of modern medicine as we know it.” She claimed every antibiotic ever developed is at risk of becoming useless, making once-routine operations impossible. This would include many of the breakthrough drugs developed to treat tuberculosis, malaria, bacterial infections and HIV/AIDS, as well as simple treatments for cuts. Speaking to a conference of infectious disease experts in Copenhagen, Dr Chan said we could be entering into a “post-antibiotic era”.
NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING IN BELGIUM
Belgium is holding a national day of mourning for the 28 victims of this week’s bus crash today. A moment of silence was held across the country at 11am local time to honor those who died. Flags were flown at half-mast and drivers of buses and trains were asked to switch off their engines as a sign of respect.
GEORGE CLOONEY, OTHERS TO PROTEST AT SUDAN EMBASSY
Actor and advocate George Clooney will highlight a protest at Sudan’s embassy in Washington this morning. The protesters accuse Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, of provoking a humanitarian crisis and blocking food and aid from entering the Nuba Mountains in the county’s border region with South Sudan. The Washington Post reports others expected to attend include Clooney’s father, Nick; NAACP President Ben Jealous; Martin Luther King III and congressmen including Virginia Democrat Jim Moran.
ISRAEL OFFICIAL PRAISES BLOCK ON IRAN BANKS
No surprise really – Israel’s deputy prime minister has welcomed new financial measures against Iran, saying his government’s lobbying helped bring them about. Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio Friday that “sanctions on Iran were too soft for a long time.” His remarks follow a move announced Thursday by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication — or SWIFT — that it would block 30 Iranian banks from its global network. This makes it difficult for Iran to make international money transfers and will likely hurt its vital oil trade.
U.S. TIE TO CHINA SURVEILLANCE
From the NYTimes: As the Chinese government forges ahead on a multibillion-dollar effort to blanket the country with surveillance cameras, one American company stands to profit: Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Mitt Romney. In December, a Bain-run fund in which a Romney family blind trust has holdings purchased the video surveillance division of a Chinese company that claims to be the largest supplier to the government’s Safe Cities program, a highly advanced monitoring system that allows the authorities to watch over university campuses, hospitals, mosques and movie theaters from centralized command posts. The Bain-owned company, Uniview Technologies, produces what it calls “infrared antiriot” cameras and software that enable police officials in different jurisdictions to share images in real time through the Internet. Previous projects have included an emergency command center in Tibet that “provides a solid foundation for the maintenance of social stability and the protection of people’s peaceful life,” according to Uniview’s Web site. Such surveillance systems are often used to combat crime and the manufacturer has no control over whether they are used for other purposes. But human rights advocates say in China they are also used to intimidate and monitor political and religious dissidents.
CHINA’S JOB APPLICANTS OFTEN SKIP THE INTERVIEW
At Italian fashion house Versace Spa’s local headquarters here, human-resources director Su Meizhen has noticed a trend among applicants for sales positions: anywhere from 15% to 30% of them don’t show up for their interview. As The Wall Street Journal reports – that isn’t something that happens much outside China but, in the world’s No. 2 economy, job openings often outnumber job hunters, Ms. Su says. While many people struggle just to land interviews in Europe and the U.S., where high unemployment persists, the Chinese assume there will be more jobs tomorrow. “Motivation is a problem,” she says.
CHINA ACCUSES McDONALDS OF SELLING OLD CHICKEN
Chinese state television has accused McDonald’s and French retailer Carrefour of selling expired chicken products in separate incidents amid public anxiety in China over food safety. McDonald’s Corp. and Carrefour Inc. issued public apologies Friday and said they were investigating the report by China Central Television. The report Thursday said a McDonald’s restaurant in Beijing sold chicken wings 90 minutes after they were cooked while the company’s rules set a 30-minute limit.
Apple’s new iPad uses chips made by Qualcomm, Broadcom, Samsung Electronics and other semiconductor makers, according to a firm that cracked open one of the devices. The newest iPad went on sale in Australia early on Friday, and at the front of a line of fans hoping to get hold of the 4G-ready tablet computer was a tinkerer from California gadget-repair firm iFixit, who quickly took one apart for a Web blog. Supplying parts for Apple’s iPhones and iPads, the industry’s gold standards, is considered a coup for chipmakers and other manufacturers. The iPad includes a Qualcomm LTE cellphone chip as well as a Qualcomm wireless modem for 3G and 4G. Broadcom supplies a semiconductor handling wireless tasks like WiFi and Bluetooth, according to iFixit. Fueled by cans of carbonated caffeine drinks, iFixit cofounder Luke Soules’ before-dawn teardown at a Melbourne computer shop found that Apple suppliers Qualcomm, Broadcom and Samsung have maintained their key roles in the newest iPad. The iPad’s new A5X application processor, with improved graphics horsepower, is based on energy-efficient technology licensed from Britain’s ARM Holding and is manufactured by Qualcomm, as in past Apple devices. Apple doesn’t disclose which company makes the components that go into its smartphones, and insists its suppliers keep quiet.
RUSSIA “PROPAGANDA MACHINE”
From Kirit RADIA in Moscow: The propaganda machine grinds on – The state-owned NTV television station has aired a “documentary” claiming the protestors on the streets of Moscow came out only for money. Some parts of the piece appear a bit sloppy…according to some reports a trailer shows a man speaking in German and then the narrator talks about members of the US embassy. Twitter has lit up with people mocking the program, but since a vast majority of Russians get their news from state-owned TV this kind of propaganda may have is intended effect. Meanwhile, The Moscow Times has a story today about the airtime given to opposition protests in the last few months, something unheard of tightly-controlled state media. The question swirling now, of course, is how long will this last…?
TOKYO GETTING LONELIER
From Akiko FUJITA: New numbers out from the Tokyo government show the average number of people per household dropped below 2 for the first time on record. While the number isn’t entirely surprising, considering the overall population decline in Japan, Tokyo is the first of 47 prefectures to post an average below two. Household sizes are shrinking largely because the elderly are increasingly living alone (instead of with family, which is traditional in Japan), and young people are opting to stay single. The average household number is now at 1.99. By comparison, the average is 2.59 in New York, 2.81 in Los Angeles.
“HYPERREALIST” CREATES PHOTOS…WITH A PENCIL
From Simon MCGREGOR-WOOD: These might look like photographs, but it’s not all black and white when it comes to the work of this artist. Despite looking like they have been captured on a camera, these are actually hand-drawn images created by hyperrealist artist Paul Cadden. The 47-year-old, from Scotland, is able to recreate photos in amazing detail, often just using only a pencil. From the wrinkles on a woman’s face, a puff of smoke from a cigarette or dripping water – Cadden’s drawings look unbelievably realistic.
THE COLLAPSING WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER
From Joe SIMONETTI: A large section of the famed white cliffs of Dover has collapsed into the English Channel. It’s thought freezing condition over the winter may have weakened the cliffs. Tons of rock collapsed – fortunately no one was injured. WHEN YOUR GPS, ER, GOES SOUTH
Three Japanese tourists found themselves in an embarrassing situation after their GPS led them to drive right into the muddy waters of Moreton Bay. The trio were trying to get to North Stradbroke Island in Queensland yesterday when they took the wrong turn. They travelled about 500m through mangrove mud, apparently unaware of the 15km of water separating them from their destination. Yuzu Noda, 21, said their GPS guide “told us we could drive down there”. There are photos