Syrians began voting Tuesday in a farcical election almost certain to hand President Bashar al-Assad another seven-year term. Government forces provided heavy security at more than 9,000 polling stations in government-controlled areas. State employees said they had been told they had to vote or face interrogation. Opposition groups urged Syrians to boycott the "blood election," and rebels said anyone not staying home was a legitimate military target.
But in perhaps the most telling example of the election's illegitimacy, North Korea joined Zimbabwe, Russia, and Iran to monitor the voting. Per The New York Times:
While Mr. Assad’s international opponents have branded the election a farce, election observers were on hand Tuesday from North Korea — a country even less tolerant of dissent than Syria — as well as from Mr. Assad’s allies Iran and Russia, along with Brazil, Zimbabwe and others. [The New York Times]
The nation's largest banks are all financialy strong enough to weather an economic crisis, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday. Thirty-one banks in all passed the Fed's annual stress test, meaning they had enough available capital to withstand a theoretical depression in which unemployment soars to 10 percent amid collapses in the housing and stock markets.
However, it was only the first stage of stress testing. Next week, the Fed will announce whether banks pass a second test to determine if they are fit enough to buy back stock and distribute dividends to shareholders.
Astronomers have discovered what is only the second known planet living in a family of four stars.
While still rare, the find means four-star systems with planets are much more common than previously believed. Discovery News notes that the discovery could have significant implications about how planets form in multi-star systems.
Scientists had previously identified the planet, but thought it was part of a three-star system. Only recently did astronomers discover a fourth star, a red dwarf, lurking there.
"Star systems come in myriad forms. There can be single stars, binary stars, triple stars, even quintuple star systems," Lewis Roberts from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory told Discovery News. "It's amazing the way nature puts these things together."
Scientists now believe that four percent of solar-type stars are part of four-star systems. The findings about the new four-star system, named 30 Ari, will be published in the Astronomical Journal.
Because of liability concerns, lots of cities across the U.S. have banned sled-riding in public places. And residents of our nation's capital are taking it lying down — literally.
The Hill reports that protesters upset over the sledding ban on the west lawn of the Capitol — prime sledding real estate — planned to stage a ''sled-in'' today. An online petition to get the Capitol Board Police to lift the ban had more than 800 signatures by noon on Thursday.
A police official told The Hill, ''For security reasons, the Capitol grounds are not your typical neighborhood hill or playground.''
Defiant sledders are reportedly being told to leave the premises ''brusquely'' by police.
As a former local news anchor and current executive vice president of Marriott International, Kathleen Matthews has a lot going for her besides a famous husband. And it looks like she'll try to add to that impressive resume.
Politico reports that the wife of Chris Matthews, the firebrand host of MSNBC's Hardball, has begun "talking to Democratic activists and interviewing potential consultants'' about running for Rep. Chris Van Hollen's (D-Md.) seat, as he leaves to seek retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski's seat.
According to Politico, Kathleen Matthews has worked to improve Marriott's sustainability and to make the company friendlier toward the LGBT community. She also earned kudos from former President Bill Clinton, who recently attended the opening of a Marriott in earthquake-damaged Haiti, an effort Matthews spearheaded.
Mark Lippert, the American ambassador to South Korea, said Thursday he was upbeat and on his way to recovery after an attacker slashed his face with a knife.
"Doing well & in great spirits," he wrote on Twitter.
On Wednesday, a knife-wielding attacker stabbed Lippert during a breakfast lecture in Seoul. South Korean authorities said the assailant, Kim Ki-jong, was a fringe nationalist who acted alone, and President Park Geun-hye condemned the incident as an "intolerable attack on the South Korean-United States alliance."
Moles might just be the unsung heroes of archaeology.
A team of moles previously unearthed Roman artifacts from an ancient fort in England, and the creatures' talents are helping archaeologists once again.
The Viborg Museum in northern Denmark is using moles to help look for a fort from the Middle Ages. Researchers from the museum analyze mole hills after the moles bring pottery fragments and other artifacts to the surface.
"The closer we get to a building, the higher the content of items per liter we find," Jesper Hjermind of the Viborg Museum told The Copenhagen Post. "It's simple, but it works."
Hjermind even gave the moles' work an adorable name, "moleology."
Lawyers for Michael Brown's parents announced Thursday that they will file a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, and former police officer Darren Wilson.
Wilson, who is white, fatally shot Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old, in Ferguson last year.
The announcement comes after the Justice Department said it would not bring charges against Wilson. The department also released a report Wednesday that charged Ferguson's police department with routine racial discrimination.
Daryl Parks, Brown's family's attorney, said the report documented "rampant, wholesale, systemic" problems in Ferguson's police department that must "change soon for the safety of the citizens."
An Arizona judge on Thursday declared a mistrial in the sentencing phase of the Jodi Arias murder case, after a jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict. The mistrial came after another jury, which convicted Arias of murder two years ago, also failed to agree on whether she should be sentenced to death or face life in prison.
Arias was found guilty in May 2013 of brutally killing her boyfriend five years earlier. A judge will now decide her fate at a sentencing hearing set for April 13, though the death penalty is off the table because of the two mistrials.
A Delta plane skidded off a snowy runway at LaGuardia Airport on Thursday morning, crashing through a fence.
— Steve (@steveblaze98) March 5, 2015
No injuries have been reported. The passengers were evacuated from the plane, which is apparently leaking fuel. The plane was Flight MD-88, arriving from Atlanta.
All LaGuardia traffic has been shut down until 7:00 p.m. EST.