Thursday’s Mini-Report, 2.12.15

Today’s edition of quick hits:
 
* A step in the right direction: “World leaders announced on Thursday a cease-fire to the violence in eastern Ukraine that has claimed more than 5,000 lives and forced hundreds of thousands more to flee their homes. The truce, set to kick in midnight on Saturday.”
 
* On the other hand: “[W]hile the agreement may succeed in establishing a cease-fire by mid-February, it is likely to leave Russia and the separatists it supports holding the upper hand in eastern Ukraine for months, if not longer.”
 
* Confirmed: “The Senate on Thursday easily approved President Barack Obama’s pick to head the Pentagon, confirming the fourth secretary of defense in six years. In a 93 to 5 vote, the Senate approved Ashton Carter to head the Department of Defense to help lead the U.S. response to Islamic extremists, Russian-back militants in Ukraine, and an end to the war in Afghanistan.”
 
* An overdue law: “President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act Thursday that will provide $22 million to help boost programs that look to reduce the veteran suicide rate that has climbed to 22 veterans each day.”
 
* More on this in the morning: “The same federal judge who last month struck down Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban has ordered a probate judge to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.”
 
* Afghanistan: “That night the Afghans and Americans got their man, Abu Bara al-Kuwaiti. They also came away with what officials from both countries say was an even bigger prize: a laptop computer and files detailing Qaeda operations on both sides of the border.”
 
* An important speech: “In a rare move by a top Justice Department official, F.B.I. Director James Comey on Thursday addressed the tenuous relationship between law enforcement and many African Americans, acknowledging ‘hard truths’ about the current state of race relations and policing.”
 
* Scary stuff: “Some eight million metric tons of plastic waste makes its way into the world’s oceans each year, and the amount of the debris is likely to increase greatly over the next decade unless nations take strong measures to dispose of their trash responsibly, new research suggests.”
 
* Gail Collins: “[The Affordable Care Act] is apparently working better than any of us imagined…. Really, Obamacare is terrific. You can tell by looking at the people who are against it.”
 
* Watching this really was a little creepy: “As a lawmaker addressed his colleagues about legislation on Capitol Hill Tuesday, at least one congressman appeared to have his mind on other matters.  Video captured by C-SPAN shows Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) winking at the camera and apparently texting during a speech by his colleague on the House floor on Tuesday.”
 
Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.
 

Thursday's Mini-Report, 2.12.15