UN to vote as Syria fighting worsens

Fighting is escalating in the Syrian city of Aleppo, with more deadly attacks on both sides,  even as there seem to be fresh moves towards peace talks in a conflict that has claimed more than 200,000 lives – half of them civilians.

The UN is set to vote on Friday on a US resolution over the alleged use of toxic chemicals.

Meanwhile, the jihadist al-Nusra Front group – one of the most powerful groups fighting to overthrow President Bashir al-Assad  – was killed in an air strike along with three other leaders, the group said on social media. The group was thought to be involved in an attack on the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Headquarters in Aleppo.

AFPSyria(image: AFP)

The Russian government said it would host talks between the Assad regime and opposition groups in April. A UN envoy is also attempting to broker a humanitarian pause in fighting to allow for urgent relief to the city, despite such a plan having been already rejected in principle by the rebels.

Dominique Soguel at the Christian Science Monitor looks at what’s at stake and what might happen next.


* WORLD * ISIS forces set fire to oil wells in an effort to slow the assault on the Iraqi city of Tikrit and to hide from military helicopters, Reuters reports. The operation to retake the city is entering its fifth day, and so far is thought to have displaced around 30,000 people.

The second day of the Boston marathon bombing trial heard some heartrending,  emotional testimony from victims. The Boston Globe reports:

Jane Richard lost her left leg in the blast and had numerous pieces of shrapnel removed. Denise Richard suffered head injuries and lost sight in one eye. Henry Richard suffered cuts, scrapes, and temporary hearing loss. Bill Richard had a piece of metal lodged in his leg and suffered hearing loss after his two eardrums were perforated.

“But I can still hear you, I can still hear music, I can still hear the beautiful voices of my family,” he said.

The trial is expected to last anything up to four months. Full coverage of the proceedings from the Globe is here.

A freight train carrying oil derailed and partially caught fire in rural Illinois. The Chicago Tribune reports:

The derailment comes amid increased public concern about the safety of shipping crude by train. Since 2008, derailments of oil trains in the U.S. and Canada have seen 70,000-gallon tank cars break open and ignite on multiple occasions, resulting in huge fires. A train carrying Bakken-formation crude from North Dakota crashed in a Quebec town in 2013, killing 47 people.

Severe weather again battered several US states from the south, through the mid-Atlantic, to the northeast. It even snowed in Hawaii. Thousands of flights were cancelled, and New York’s LaGuardia airport was temporarily closed after a Delta flight from Atlanta skidded off the runway on landing. No-one was seriously injured.

amberreid:AP(image: passenger Amber Reid via AP / USAToday)


* POLITICS * With a State Department official saying the review of Hillary Clinton’s emails could take months, the controversy over her personal communications while Secretary of State doesn’t look like going away anytime soon.

Josh Gerstein writes at Politico that the private email account “violated ‘clear-cut’ State Dept rules,” while the Chicago Tribune says she has been “playing fast and loose with emails and democracy.” 

Fox News wonders “are we watching a cheap spy movie or a presidential campaign?”

The Washington Post has “six questions Hillary Clinton must answer.”

What we have now is a rather absurd situation, in which everyone’s trying to figure out how this all worked and what the implications are, but the one person who could answer most of the questions hasn’t yet given an interview about it. But eventually, she’ll have to.

On the GOP side, another-still-possibly-Presidential-candidate, Chris Christie, has raised the ire of officials in New Jersey after the state’s chief counsel agreed to settle – for “roughly three cents on the dollar” – a legal fight with Exxon Mobil over damages for environmental impact.  The Washington Post writes:

It’s one thing to be pro-business, the environment be damned. But it’s quite another to trade billions of dollars tomorrow for a tiny fraction of that today and still call yourself a fiscal conservative. This is the very definition of penny-wise, pound-foolish. But remember that Christie gets credit for those pennies today, whereas pounds forfeited tomorrow will be the next governor’s problem.


* BUSINESS * The February US jobs report is released on Friday morning. Here’s what to watch for. The Wall Street Journal reports that economists forecast employers added 240,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 5.6% from January’s 5.7%.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg apparently has just one hiring rule.

As trademark infringement cases go, this one is pretty crunchy.

haulin   (image: Early Bird)


* MEDIA * The BBC was at the eye of a social media storm over “India’s Daughter” a documentary in its Storyville series, about a 2012 gang rape in New Delhi. An Indian court blocked the broadcast, and India said it would take action against the BBC for showing it in Britain.

Where does BuzzFeed source its content from? An analysis by Priceonomics has some clues, finding that “just 25 sources made up 62% of BuzzFeed’s content. While the Internet is a huge place, Internet Culture is birthed in just a few areas.”

A new report from the Tow Center at Columbia University looks at Who Retweets Whom? – How Digital and Legacy Journalists Interact on Twitter. Benjamin Mullin at Poynter breaks it down:

The big takeaway: Journalists at The New York Times were much more likely to retweet journalists at other traditional media organizations, and reporters from BuzzFeed were more likely to retweet journalists from other digital news organizations.

And, talking of sharing stories on Twitter, this one seems to have a pretty specific SEO signature.

The ONA’s Mobile conference in London happens tomorrow at Reuters. Here’s the line-up and you can follow using the hashtag #ONALondon.

In cable news, the Bill O’Reilly fabrication/exaggeration story rumbles on. Eric Alterman at The Nation writes on Why Nobody Seems to Mind That Bill O’Reilly is a Total Fraud.

Even Rachel Maddow on her show on Wednesday night said she had reached out for a Fox response. TPM Livewire writes:

Maddow noted that she had reached out to Fox News about the stories, but was given an interesting response: Information on Bill O’Reilly’s “great” ratings. Maddow burst out laughing. “Your ratings are great! I’ve seen your ratings shoot my ratings right in the head,” Maddow said. “Well, I’ve seen pictures of that, I should say.”

Erik Wemple in the Washington Post calls out the Fox host on “the importance of trust,” while Jeb Lund at Rolling Stone goes just a little bit further.


* SPORTS * Friday sees the kick off of MLS 20th season after the settlement of a collective bargaining agreement averted a possible players’ strike. But the deal isn’t to everyone’s liking. SI’s panel of experts look ahead with some predictions.

With Spring Training in full swing, even if you’re not a sports fan, or a baseball fan, this beautifully-turned ESPN article by Eli Saslow about the Blue Jays’ Daniel Norris,  “the most interesting pitcher in baseball” is definitely well worth your time. A flavor:

It unsettled him in those first months to see so many zeros on his bank account balance — “Who am I to deserve that?” he wondered. “What have I really done?” — so he hired financial advisers and asked them to stash the money in conservative investments where Norris wouldn’t have to think about it. His advisers deposit $800 a month into his checking account — or about half as much as he would earn working full time for minimum wage. It’s enough to live in a van, but just barely.


* CULTURE * Actor Harrison Ford was in hospital Thursday night after crash-landing his single-engine vintage plane on a golf course just after taking off from Santa Monica airport. His son said he was “battered” but OK, while his fellow celebrities took to Twitter to pass on good wishes.

Ringling Brothers said it would phase out performing elephants in its circus, with the last retiring in 2018.

It’s the end of another era in New York on Friday, as the last classical sheet music store in the city closes its doors.

“We went from seeing 15 to 20 people per day to seeing two or three,” [owner Heidi] Rogers said. “I went from feeling like I was at the center of the world to feeling invisible.” The store, on West 54th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, opened in 1937 and provided the city’s musicians scores from the standard— Bach, Beethoven —to the arcane. Ms. Rogers bought it in 1978.

Finally – finally – according to AdWeek, Pornhub is getting into wearable tech with the Wankband. Yes, the Wankband.

And they really are looking for beata testers. Here’s the pitch. Make of it what you will:





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