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]
Idina Menzel started Super Bowl XLIX on the right note, with a stirring rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Watch her impressive performance in the video below. —Catherine Garcia
President Obama's forthcoming budget proposal will include a request for $478 billion for vast infrastructure improvements, to be funded with a 14 percent tax on $2 trillion in corporate earnings held abroad. The six-year plan is a more robust version of a policy Obama has proposed in the past. Obama is to unveil his budget on Monday.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday stood by his harsh criticism of protesters who last week interrupted a Senate hearing with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
"I was outraged and I'm still outraged," McCain said on CNN, arguing that the protesters were physically threatening Kissinger. "I think they're terrible people that would do that to a 91-year-old man with a broken shoulder," he added.
Last week, McCain called protesters from the anti-war group Code Pink "low-life scum" after they brandished banners and handcuffs during the hearing. —Jon Terbush
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Sunday said homosexuality is a "lifestyle" choice, adding that while he disagreed with it personally, he was accepting of people with different beliefs.
"I don't drink alcohol, but gosh, a lot of my friends, maybe most of them, do," he said on CNN. "I don't use profanity, but believe me I've got a lot of friends who do. Some people really like classical music and ballet and opera. It's not my cup of tea."
Deflategate may have been a bunch of hot air.
The NFL's investigation into the New England Patriots' alleged ball tampering has determined that the footballs used in last month's AFC Championship were not as underinflated as previously believed, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. Though previous reports said 11 of 12 footballs were each underinflated by two pounds per square inch, the league actually found many to be only "a few ticks" under the minimum allowable PSI; only one was two pounds under the limit.
The Patriots denied tampering with the balls in any way, and team owner Robert Kraft demanded an apology from the NFL should it find no evidence of wrongdoing.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said Sunday that the U.S. had to be "prepared to put boots on the ground" in Syria and Iraq to battle ISIS. In an appearance on ABC's This Week, the potential 2016 candidate said that he did not consider it an "immediate plan," but that it should remain on the table.
Also Sunday, a Des Moines Register poll showed Walker leading a hypothetical GOP field in Iowa one year out from the Iowa caucuses. Walker declined to say Sunday if he was indeed preparing a White House run, though he said he "wouldn't bet against me on anything."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday condemned the Islamic State's apparent killing of journalist Kenji Goto, calling it a "despicable and horrendous act of terrorism."
ISIS on Saturday released a video purporting to show Goto's decapitated body after its demand of a prisoner exchange went unmet. Though the video has yet to be authenticated, both Japan and the U.S. have released statements tacitly confirming it is real.
"To the terrorists, we will never, never forgive them for this act," Abe said.
As you may have heard, the Super Bowl is finally here. So ahead of the big game, Saturday Night Live showed what it would be like if the Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman hosted their own talk show. Incredibly, a special guest even got he media-averse Lynch (played by Kenan Thompson) to crack a smile and open up a little bit. — Jon Terbush
Egypt on Sunday said it freed Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste and would soon deport him to his native Australia.
Greste was arrested in December 2013 and accused of publishing false news, sparking an international outcry from free press advocates who considered the charges bogus. Egypt has not said what it plans to do with two other Al Jazeera reporters, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who were imprisoned along with Greste.
Novak Djokovic on Sunday defeated Andy Murray in four sets — 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-0 — to claim a record fifth Australian Open title.
The top-ranked player in the world, Djokovic remained perfect in Australian Open finals while claiming his eighth Grand Slam. Murray, who has never won the event, settled for his fourth second place finish in Melbourne.