White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest released this statement Thursday night regarding Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, with a call for a ceasefire between Russia, Ukraine, and pro-Russia separatists, in order for a full investigation of the evidence to be conducted. The statement also clearly puts the responsibility on Russia to take these actions, after having substantially aided the separatists, in contrast to a much clearer trust in the Ukrainian government. --Eric Kleefeld
The United States is shocked by the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and we offer our deep condolences to all those who lost loved ones on board. We continue to seek information to determine whether there were any American citizens on board.
It is critical that there be a full, credible, and unimpeded international investigation as quickly as possible. We urge all concerned – Russia, the pro-Russian separatists, and Ukraine – to support an immediate cease-fire in order to ensure safe and unfettered access to the crash site for international investigators and in order to facilitate the recovery of remains. The role of international organizations – such as the United Nations and the OSCE in Ukraine – may be particularly relevant for this effort, and we will be in touch with affected nations and our partners in these organizations in the coming hours and days to determine the best path forward. In the meantime, it is vital that no evidence be tampered with in any way and that all potential evidence and remains at the crash site are undisturbed. The United States remains prepared to contribute immediate assistance to any international investigation, including through resources provided by the NTSB and the FBI.
While we do not yet have all the facts, we do know that this incident occurred in the context of a crisis in Ukraine that is fueled by Russian support for the separatists, including through arms, materiel, and training. This incident only highlights the urgency with which we continue to urge Russia to immediately take concrete steps to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine and to support a sustainable cease-fire and path toward peace that the Ukrainian government has consistently put forward. [The White House]
The self-imposed deadline for a framework deal on Iran's nuclear program is midnight Tuesday (6 p.m. on the U.S. East Coast), and State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf puts the odds of a deal at 50-50. And while there is some speculation that the talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, could continue into Wednesday, "March 31 is the deadline," Harf told reporters. "It has to mean something. And the decisions don't get easier after March 31."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov — who is rejoining his counterparts from Iran, the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, and China on Tuesday — put the odds of success considerably higher. "They are probably not 100 percent but you can never be 100 percent certain of anything," he told Russian media before heading back to Lausanne for the final push. "The odds are quite 'doable' if none of the parties raise the stakes at the last minute." If an agreement is reached, the details won't have to be ironed out until the end of June.
Tuesday's edition of The Indianapolis Star has an unusual front page editorial on Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Under a massive headline, "Fix This Now," the editorial says that the law "already has done enormous harm to our state and potentially our economic future," and urges "bold action" to fix the problem. Karen Ferguson, The Star's president and publisher, underscored the urgency:
— Karen Ferguson (@karenferguson33) March 31, 2015
The governors of Washington and Connecticut have already banned state-sponsored travel to Indiana, several companies have condemned the law, and the NCAA is under pressure to criticize the law or even move the college basketball finals from Indianapolis to another city. On Monday, the Republican leaders of the General Assembly said they would try to "clarify" the law so it won't be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
"Half steps will not be enough," The Indianapolis Star said. "Half steps will not undo the damage" to Indiana's image, "reputation as a state that embraces people of diverse backgrounds and makes them feel welcome," and yearslong effort "to attract talented workers and thriving businesses." Repealing the law isn't politically feasible, the paper says, but "Gov. Mike Pence and the General Assembly need to enact a state law to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education, and public accommodations on the basis of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity." Read the entire editorial at The Indianapolis Star.
Forget those alarm clocks that you can plug your iPhone into — isn't your smartphone an alarm clock by itself? — because waking up to your favorite song or podcast or ringtone is nothing compared with waking up to a cup of freshly brewed coffee. Meet the Barisieur, created by designer Joshua Renouf:
— Daily Dot Technology (@DotTech) March 30, 2015
The stylish alarm clock not only heats up water, siphons it over your favorite ground beans, and filters it into a cup, but the Barisieur also has a special refrigerated vial to hold your milk and a drawer for your sugar, if you're into anything other than black coffee. And it plays the radio, too. There are two downsides: The Barisieur isn't available for purchase yet, and when it does go on sale, hopefully sometime in 2015, it will cost about $300-375. That's still cheaper than hiring a live-in barista. For more photos, visit the JR Industrial Design site.
Van Halen, with David Lee Roth back as frontman, is releasing a new album, Tokyo Dome Live in Concert, on Tuesday. On Monday, they shut down part of Hollywood Blvd. to perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live. If you're wondering why Roth's nose is bandaged, he smacked it with a microphone in their first take of "Panama." He makes a joke about it halfway through the version below, but his bloodied nose doesn't stop the 60-year-old rocker from kicking and singing his way through the song. And Eddie Van Halen's guitar work is pretty close to the same as it was when Roth left the band in 1985. Watch below. —Peter Weber
On Sunday, police found the body of Spence Jackson, the media director for Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich, about a month after Schweich apparently killed himself hours before a planned news conference to accuse the head of the Missouri Republican Party of waging an anti-Semitic smear campaign against him. Jackson, 44, was discovered inside his locked apartment in Jefferson City, shot dead in an apparent suicide, according to Jefferson City Police Capt. Doug Shoemaker.
Police are treating Jackson's death as a suicide, though they aren't ruling out other causes of death, and they aren't releasing the contents of a note found near Jackson's body. Schweich, a Republican, was running for governor, and after his death, Jackson called on Missouri GOP Chairman John Hancock to resign. Shoemaker has more information about the case in the news conference below. —Peter Weber
If you're looking for a brief recap of why people are getting worked up over Indiana's new "Religious Freedom Restoration" law, preferably with some jokes thrown in, Seth Meyers has you covered. On Monday night's Late Night, Meyers explained the controversial law, why people think it will lead to anti-gay discrimination, how it differs from similar federal and state laws, and why Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) is an ineffective spokesman for the bill he signed last week. Or, you could just watch for the jokes. —Peter Weber
Justin Bieber threw some pretty good barbs of his own at his Comedy Central roast, which aired Monday night, but after sitting through an hour of mercilessness mockery, Bieber took the stage and apologized for being a jackass. "Let's get serious for a moment," he said, noting that nothing prepared him for being a teen mega-star. "There's been moments I'm really proud of and a lot of moments I look back and I’m pretty disappointed with myself for, but the things I've done don't really define who I am." Bieber sort of undercuts his perceived sincerity by licking his lips repeatedly, but his apology earns him a hearty round of applause — which he follows up with a Selena Gomez joke. You can watch some of the night's jokes at Comedy Central, and Bieber's coming-of-age speech below. —Peter Weber