UPDATE 2PM ET WEDS: President Hadi is expected to agree to power-sharing with Houthi rebels following a meeting with militant leaders. A statement is expected later today.
MIDNIGHT TUESDAY: The situation in Yemen is increasingly uncertain after Houthi militants took the presidential palace in the capital Sanaa in an apparent coup. In an emergency meeting of the security council, the UN condemned the action and backed President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi as the “legitimate authority.” Hadi, who is thought to be surrounded in his private residence, which has come under “heavy shelling”, is an ally of the US and has supported US drone strikes on Al Qaeda forces in his country.
Clashes have intensified since the weekend between government forces and Houthi rebels, and a US embassy vehicle came under fire from unknown gunmen on Monday. US diplomatic staff are on high alert and plans are in place for a possible evacuation of the embassy.
(image: AFP/BBC: Yemen crisis – Who are the Houthis?)
* POLITICS * President Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union address on Tuesday night, his first to a Congress under full Republican control. His speech focused on broadening economic equality, combatting terrorism and urging greater bipartisan co-operation.
You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America, or a conservative America; a black America or a white America — but a United States of America.
I said this because I had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs; because I made Illinois my home — a state of small towns, rich farmland, and one of the world’s great cities; a microcosm of the country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.
Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision. How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever. It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws — of which there are many — but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, and naïve, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it.
I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong.
The BBC’s Jon Sopel said the President “..learnt from the rock stars who play a gig with a new album to sell. Yes, he played some new tunes – the closure of tax loopholes, the increase in tax credits and the like. But some of the biggest applause came when he went to the back catalogue and replayed his greatest hits.”
With hours of live coverage and analysis chasing a steadily declining audience – Obama’s 2014 speech had one of the smallest combined viewing audiences of the past 20 years – TV networks, social media and the White House itself tried some new ways of capturing potential eyeballs on the “trolliest night of the year”.
The Guardian‘s Emojibama Twitter feed was hilariously compelling, while CNN and MSNBC used the Bing Pulse audience sentiment tracker, which surprisingly showed around 90% of MSNBC viewers agreed with the President – almost as many as text option “A” on the Ed Show most nights.
The President now takes his message on the road, visiting Idaho on Wednesday and Kansas on Thursday. It was also announced today that he would visit Selma, Alabama on March 7 to mark the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march.
Back at the White House, meanwhile, Wednesday is Big Block of Cheese Day.
Talking of food, reporters at Time analyzed some 12,400 press pool reports to serve up a compilation of pretty much everything Obama has eaten as President. It’s brilliantly moreish.
Elsewhere, in things potentially presidential, after Bobby Jindal’s European vacation this week, another GOP Governor, Chris Christie, is heading to London next month on a trip to promote New Jersey, with a soccer match apparently potentially on his schedule. If he plans to pack his famous orange sweater, he’ll be perfectly at home on the terraces at Kenilworth Road.
* WORLD * Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe pledged to do everything possible to free the two Japanese hostages apparently held by ISIS. “Their lives are the top priority,” said Abe, who is seeking the help of Middle East countries. The militant group has demanded a $200m ransom for the two men, but Abe has said Japan would not bow to terrorism.
Police in Tel Aviv shot and arrested a Palestinian man who attacked bus passengers with a knife, injuring 17, four of them seriously. The attack happened near the Maariv Bridge in Israel’s second largest city.
A new round of peace talks on the situation in Ukraine will be held in Berlin on Wednesday. The foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France will take part.
Sir John Chilcot is expected to write to Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday explaining the reasons for the decision to delay publication of Chilcot’s report into the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The report is now expected to be released after the general election in May.
The doctor shot at a hospital in Boston on Tuesday morning has died. Police said the suspect died earlier of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. They did not give any information regarding a motive.
* BUSINESS * The World Economic Forum meeting starts in Davos on Wednesday, and 1,700 private jets are dropping off their precious cargo amid warnings of epidemics, growing effects of income inequality, a decline in optimism about the global economy, and if all that wasn’t depressing enough, it costs more to be there thanks to the Swiss Central Bank.
Quartz has a searchable database of the attendees, while senior writers at the Financial Times look at what they can expect:
SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket and satellite company, announced it had raised $1bn from new investors Google and Fidelity.
Microsoft will unveil specific details of its Windows 10 system on Wednesday.
* MEDIA * The Mayor of Paris said she was contemplating legal action against Fox News over the channel’s remarks about Muslim “no-go zones” in the city. Anne Hidalgo said: “The image of Paris has been prejudiced, and the honor of Paris has been prejudiced.” The Lord Mayor of Birmingham – who is Muslim – is apparently not taking a similar path.
The BBC agreed a deal with US public broadcaster PBS to jointly develop and deliver a range of factual programming.
Facebook rolled out some changes aimed at having fewer “hoax” stories show up in users’ feeds.
* SPORTS * In “DeflateGate”, ESPN reported quoting “league sources” that 11 of 12 balls used by the New England Patriots in Sunday’s Conference Championship game had been “under-inflated”. The NFL made no initial comment and the investigation is continuing.