March 21, 2014

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's decision to restrict the country's access to Twitter sparked charges of censorship and immediate international backlash for restricting free speech. Erdoğan is in the midst of dealing with a corruption scandal in which wiretapped recordings were leaked via the social network. He said the leak damaged his reputation days before local elections.

Declaring it "Twitter schmitter" and vowing to "root out" the website, Erdoğan said he didn't care what the world thought about his decision. "The international community can say this, can say that... Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is," he said. Turkish courts blocked Twitter early Friday, claiming the San Francisco-based website ignored requests to remove "illegal links."

A Twitter spokesman said it was investigating the reports of its blockage. The hashtags #TurkeyBlockedTwitter and #ErgodanBlocksTwitter blew up on the social network overnight in solidarity with the country's citizens who are angry about the restriction. A depiction of Ergodan's face placed on Twitter's logo is also being circulated. --Jordan Valinsky

(don't) watch this
8:20 a.m. ET
YouTube/Draft Joe Biden

Joe Biden was none to happy with his super PAC's six-figure TV ad asking him to run for president, calling it "in poor taste" according to anonymous sources who spoke with the press. The super PAC, Draft Biden, has since responded by agreeing not to run the advertisement nationally, The Boston Globe reports. Titled "My Redemption," the ad showed images of Biden's family, including his late son Beau, with a sound clip of Biden's heart-wrenching speech about his personal tragedies that he gave at an address at Yale in May. The ad ended with two words on screen: Joe, run.

"The vice president appreciates that they are trying to help," a source "close to the vice president" told The Los Angeles Times on Thursday. "But he has seen the ad and thinks the ad treads on sacred ground and hopes they don't run it."

Others have criticized the super PAC of exploiting the tragic car accident that killed Biden's wife and daughter in 1972, and the brain cancer that killed Beau Biden earlier this year.

"Obviously we will honor his wishes," the senior adviser to the super PAC said in a statement. While Biden's supporters had planned to run the 90-second ad nationally, it had not yet been on air before it was yanked. Jeva Lange

This just in
8:13 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The U.S. will no longer be training Syrian rebels, Obama administration officials said Friday. After the $500 million Pentagon program failed to produce ground combat forces that could effectively take on the Islamic State in Syria, The New York Times reports that the White House decided to pull the plug.

The program had initially promised to produce 5,000 capable fighters by the end of the year, a goal that officials admitted at the end of last month was "unattainable," Foreign Policy reports. The U.S. had suspended the recruitment of new fighters last month after the first two groups that were trained had "either been killed, handed over some of their equipment to the al Qaeda-backed al Nusra Front, or simply melted away," Foreign Policy says.

Pentagon officials are expected to make an official announcement Friday. Becca Stanek

Crisis in Syria
8:08 a.m. ET

With Syrian forces, backed by Russian and Iranian military assistance, attacking rebel forces and occupying their attention, Islamic State attacked the rebels from the other side on Thursday night, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. By Friday, ISIS had captured a string of towns and villages, starting with a rebel-held Syrian military base, north of Aleppo. Iran also blamed ISIS for the death Thursday afternoon of a senior Revolutionary Guard commander, Gen. Hossein Hamedani, who Iranian state television said "martyred by Daesh [ISIS] terrorists while carrying out an advisory mission in the outskirts of Aleppo."

The surprise attack by ISIS was its biggest advance in months, The Associated Press reports, citing the Observatory. "Why didn't America attack Daesh fighters during their attack?" asked the group's director, Rami Abdurrahman. BBC News explains the complicated tangle of alliances and objectives in Syria in the video below. Peter Weber

This just in
7:08 a.m. ET
CC by: Jimmy Emerson, DVM

Northern Arizona University said Thursday that one person was dead and three wounded overnight outside a dorm at the university's Flagstaff campus. The suspected shooter is in custody and the campus isn't on lockdown, the university added. NSU spokeswoman Cindy Brown didn't provide many details about the shooting, except that it was first reported at about 1:20 a.m. local time happened outside Mountain View Hall, a dormitory that ABC News says houses most of the students involved in Greek organizations. Peter Weber

5:35 a.m. ET

The winner of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize isn't Pope Francis or German Chancellor Angela Merkel or any of the other high-profile objects of speculation. On Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the prestigious prize to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, a civic group, "for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011." The Quartet formed in 2013, in the chaos unleashed during the Arab Spring, and the Nobel committee gave the prize to the group rather than its four main member organizations — the Tunisian General Labor Union; the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade, and Handicrafts; the Tunisian Human Rights League; and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers — because they "represent different sectors and values in Tunisian society" and thus could "advance peaceful democratic development in Tunisia with great moral authority."

The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet didn't turn Tunisia into a peaceful oasis, the Nobel committee noted: The country still "faces significant political, economic, and security challenges." But the Norwegians said awarding the group the Nobel Peace Prize would serve as "an inspiration to all those who seek to promote peace and democracy in the Middle East, North Africa, and the rest of the world" and, more directly, "as an encouragement to the Tunisian people, who despite major challenges have laid the groundwork for a national fraternity which the committee hopes will serve as an example to be followed by other countries." You can watch the announcement below. Peter Weber

last night on late night
4:25 a.m. ET

Lena Dunham has an email newsletter about women's issues, and she opted for a newsletter because it's "kind of an intimate format," she told Jimmy Kimmel on Thursday's Kimmel Live. "We're reaching you in your inbox. You don't have to come to us, we're coming to you." But the newsletter isn't just about women's health, she said; it also includes interviews with political figures and a horoscope. Oh, Kimmel said, "you have a horoscope writer?" Yes, they have "an amazing woman," Dunham said, and Kimmel asked how she does her business. "Is she, like, 'Ah I feel like Pisces is going to have a great, positive day today'?"

Dunham said that the woman, a poet, does her astrological research and translates it into messages for readers. "Do you believe in any of that stuff?" Kimmel asked. "So much," Dunham said. "You do?" Kimmel asked. Dunham said she believes in horoscopes and psychics: "Mercury is in retrograde — if any of your technology is failing, that's what's been going on." Kimmel was bemused: "I find it hard to believe that you believe that." Dunham responded like any believer would: "I've felt its effects myself — a psychic told me when I was going to meet my boyfriend." It turned out, they do have one thing in common about psychics: Both of their mothers believe in them. Kimmel noted that his mother's psychic worked at a Pizza Hut. "It's hard to make a living on just your psychic abilities," Dunham pointed out. Watch the deep stuff below. Peter Weber

diners drive-ins and dorms
1:50 a.m. ET

Per Se is now passé — New York City diners are flocking to Pith, a small supper club operating out of a Columbia University student's dorm.

Jonah Reider, a senior economics major, uses the communal kitchen to prepare his prix fixe New American meals — one recent dinner included seared lamb chops with paprika, barley with figs, snow peas with pancetta and mushrooms, house pickled red kale stalks with olive, and artisanal cheese. "I think of myself as better than the average college student but definitely not an amazing cook, so I'm pleasantly surprised by all the positive feedback," Reider told NBC New York.

Reider charges $10 to $20 a meal, and takes reservations four nights a week through Pith's Yelp page, which currently boasts five star reviews. Since opening Pith a few weeks ago, Reider has served a few "randos," but most diners have been friends. Good luck getting a table if you don't have an in — Pith is booked through January, and because the health department is looking into whether it should be held to the same regulations as an actual restaurant, Reider said "I may have to cool down the acceptance of people who I don't know, or the frequency of which this is happening." Reider maintains that even though he is charging for food he cooks, Pith is nothing like a typical dining establishment. "The intention and the atmosphere is not one of a restaurant," he told NBC New York. "It's a collective experience of getting to know people." Catherine Garcia

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