Good morning — and happy Friday! It’s also Ronald Reagan Day (in many states). The Gipper was born on this date in 1911.
Stat of the day: 257,000 — the estimated number of people who could die over the next decade from China’s polluted air, according to a new study by researchers at Peking University and Greenpeace (Via: Mother Jones).
“We are fighting with the Russian regular army” –> John Kerry met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Kiev on Thursday. Yatsenyuk said that it’s “crystal clear” that his country is at war not just with insurgents but with regular Russian troops as well, and Kerry said that the withdrawal of Russian heavy weapons is a necessary first step for de-escalating the crisis. Laura Smith-Spark, Jim Sciutto and Ashley Fantz have more details at CNN. AND: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande brought a European proposal for a new peace deal to Kiev on Thursday, and will continue on to Moscow today to discuss it with the Russians. Richard Balmforth and Pavel Polityuk have that story for Reuters. AND: At The Christian Science Monitor, Howard LaFranchi reports that pressure is mounting on the Obama administration to send arms to Ukrainian government forces, but Russia could blink and bring an end to the standoff.
More problems ahead? –> David Sirota reports for IBT that federal agents have “launched a criminal investigation of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and members of his administration, pursuing allegations the governor and his staff broke the law when they quashed grand jury indictments against Christie supporters.” Sirota adds that it appears the investigation is “at an exploratory stage” and it’s not certain that any charges will be filed.
Day Two –> As the scandal grows, Stars and Stripes follows up with more details about what NBC News host Brian Williams did and did not experience on a helicopter flight over Iraq in 2003. Airmen themselves tell conflicting accounts of what transpired. AND: At CNN, Tom Kludt and Brian Stelter look at how Williams’ story evolved over the years — it seems that until very recently the anchorman consistently said that he had been flying on a helicopter behind the one that was hit with RPG fire.
Activist judges –> NYT legal reporter Linda Greenhouse writes that Obamacare’s future isn’t the only thing at stake in the case of King v. Burwell — so, too, is the court’s credibility. She’s optimistic that the court will place the institution’s reputation over ideology and reject the challenge to the ACA’s subsidies.
“A muddled understanding of the fight” –> Conservatives have attacked the Obama administration for refusing to say “we are at war with radical Islam.” At The Atlantic, Peter Beinart takes on the critics, noting that the fact that the policy originated during the Bush administration isn’t the only weakness to their argument.
“As American as apple pie” –> Jonathan Alter writes at The Daily Beast that the anti-vaccine movement springs from a rich tradition, representing a regression to a time of snake oil salesmen and patent medicines. AND: At NY Mag, Jesse Singal notes that vaccine paranoia is a phenomenon seen across the political spectrum, and warns that politicizing the issue can only make it worse.
It’s hard to find a campaign finance law to violate these days –> But Jonathan Easley reports for The Hill that one watchdog group “is arguing that Bush’s Right to Rise leadership PAC is raising money for his presidential exploratory efforts that exceeds federal contribution limits.”
Threat inflation –> Matthew Harwood writes at TomDispatch that the “problem with the rising crescendo of alarm about [lone wolf terror attacks]: most of it simply isn’t true.”
A long half-life –> Slate’s Josh Voorhees writes that the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline may be dying down for the moment, but “another high-profile energy battle is bubbling back up: the decades-old debate over Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, the proposed site of a massive federal repository for America’s nuclear waste.”
Fitting in with the locals –> According to a new study published in the journal Current Biology, when chimpanzees join a new troop, they will abandon the calls they used to signify various things and instead mimic their new family’s language. Reuters reports that it’s the first evidence that species other than humans “can replace the vocal sounds their native group uses for specific objects.”
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