There has been intense fighting in Ukraine as the sides get in some last licks ahead of the planned ceasefire. The Guardian reported the Ukrainian military saying 11 soldiers had been killed and 40 wounded in the past 24 hours, while there were also reports of numerous civilians being killed.
The agreement, reached in Minsk on Thursday, is set to come into effect at midnight local time on Saturday; but violent clashes have continued around the contested territory, prompting the US to criticize Russia, while the EU and the G7 warned late on Friday of fresh sanctions if the deal is not implemented:
We urge all sides to adhere strictly to the provisions of the Package and to carry out its measures without delay, starting with a ceasefire on the 15th of February. All parties should refrain from actions in the coming days that would hinder the start of the ceasefire. The G7 stands ready to adopt appropriate measures against those who violate the “Minsk package” and therefore intensify the costs for them, in particular against those who do not observe the agreed comprehensive ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons.
* WORLD * ISIS militants were reported to be in control of the Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi and threatening a nearby airbase – apparently a complex the size of Boulder, Colorado – where some 400 US service personnel, who have been training Iraqi forces, are stationed. One attack on the base has reportedly already been repulsed.
In Argentina, a federal prosecutor on Friday asked a judge to charge the country’s President Cristina Kirchner and others over an alleged cover-up of a 1994 bombing.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei sent a secret letter to President Obama related to the ongoing nuclear talks.
New England is braced for another severe storm this weekend, with blizzard and winter storm warnings in place for much of the region. Boston’s MBTA announced it was suspending all services for Sunday and would make a decision about Monday subsequently. The storm comes as Boston and the surrounding region is already struggling to clear unprecedented amounts of snowfall.
* POLITICS * Oregon’s Governor John Kitzhaber is to resign amid continuing questions concerning his fiancee’s role as a consultant, and announced he would step down next Wednesday. Kitzhaber, a long-serving Democrat, insisted he had broken no laws, and said: “Nonetheless, I understand that I have become a liability to the very institutions and policies to which I have dedicated my career and, indeed, my entire adult life.” Oregon’s Secretary of State Kate Brown is in line to replace him, which would make her the nation’s first openly bisexual Governor.
President Obama went to Palo Alto for a summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection, urging private companies to be more open about sharing cyber-threat information. The CEO of Apple was there, but the bosses of Yahoo! Google and Facebook were not. During his trip, the President sat down with Re/code‘s Kara Swisher for a conversation about a range of tech-focused topics.
Pennysylvania’s newly-elected Governor, Tom Wolf, imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in the state, a campaign promise which could lead to a legal challenge from prosecutors. According to Reuters, there are currently 186 inmates in Pennsylvania sentenced to be executed, while Pennsylvania has executed three inmates since reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.
* BUSINESS * Engineering giant Rolls-Royce reported its first fall in revenues for a decade, warning on profits and announcing 2,600 job losses.
On Friday, Brent crude closed above $60/barrel for the first time in 2015.
* MEDIA * Tributes, tales and and tears flowed for David Carr, the New York Times media writer who died on Thursday night at the age of 58. Times’ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan curates the wake.
The Daily Mirror printed its first open apology to the victims of phone hacking. “It was unlawful and should never have happened and fell far below the standards our readers expect and deserve,” the paper wrote.
The BBC interviewed a labrador called Bounce, who’s apparently able to sense your mood through facial recognition. But it was the brilliantly minimalist caption that sent this particular piece of fluff viral: (image BBC)
* SPORTS * The ICC Cricket World Cup is under way in Australia, with one of the opening games being England against the hosts in Melbourne. Sunday’s match between India and Pakistan could be the most-watched in the history of the sport. Follow live coverage of the tournament at The Guardian here; ESPN Cricinfo here; the BBC here.
It’s the NBA All-Star Weekend in New York City. Here’s ESPN’s Fan Guide. The marketing folks at Gatorade have decided to revive their famous “Be Like Mike” spot for the brand’s 50th anniversary.
* CULTURE * Talking of anniversaries, there’s a pretty special one coming up on Sunday – Saturday Night Live‘s 40th birthday celebration sees a live three-and-a-half hour gala with a remarkable cast of characters and guests.
Here’s SNL’s 13 best fake ads as chosen by real ad execs.
Of course, there’ll be plenty of comedy before that, since Saturday is Valentine’s Day. Ana Swanson at the Washington Post’s Wonkblog has everything you ever wanted to know about love, in 25 maps and charts.
In Britain, staff at hardware store B&Q may or may not have been told to read Fifty Shades of Grey in anticipation of a spike in demand for bondage gear after the movie opens this weekend. Of course it’s possible they may heave meant this instead: