An unusual sight is expected to hit the Saudi streets tomorrow — veils behind the wheel. The law doesn’t prohibit women from driving in Saudi Arabia per se, but religious edicts have been interpreted to that effect. For weeks a planned protest has called for women to take the wheel on October 26. The government has issued veiled threats asking women not to drive — but not saying what might happen if they do.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Critics of U.S. healthcare often decry the system’s over-reliance on tests. But when it comes to the rollout of HealthCare.gov, it appears that a lack of testing contributed most to the site’s afflictions. That’s what the private contractors in charge of building the site told frustrated lawmakers at a House committee hearing yesterday. Testing how the site’s components work together wasn’t conducted until two weeks before the site went live, they said. One important question that has yet to be answered: when can consumers expect the website to work properly?
Though profits have generally been slipping at major corporate tech providers, yesterday Microsoft announced a 17 percent increase in its own profits from the same quarter last year. The company saw growth in both cloud software business sales and the Surface tablet, selling twice as many of the latter as it had in the previous quarter. Still no word, though, on who will be taking the reins of the software giant after CEO Steve Ballmer steps down by the end of this year; front-runners for the job include Allan Mullaly of Ford and Stephen Elos of Nokia.
The FDA has announced new regulations for painkillers that contain the narcotic hydrocodone, including drugs like Vicodin or Lortab. While the drugs are used by millions to cope with severe or chronic pain, their abuse has reached epidemic proportions in some U.S. communities. Opioid drugs (most of which contain hydrocodone) were responsible for more deaths than any other legal or illegal drug in the country in 2010. The measures have been the subject of intense debate, with doctors, pharmacies and patients’ advocacy group protesting that tighter regulations, including shorter periods between prescription renewals, place an undue burden on patients.
Just 12 miles from the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster zone, Japan is making a bold bid to bolster its energy independence with the world’s first offshore floating wind farm. The Japanese government is funding the first three turbines; after that, a consortium of domestic companies, including Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, plan to commercialize the project and build an additional 137 wind turbines by 2020. The initiative could create as much power as a nuclear reactor and help Japan transform its coastline into a huge energy resource. But the island nation will also have to navigate the challenges posed by maintenance, transportation and anxious fishermen.
Voters in Madagascar go to the polls in a critical presidential election. (BBC).
Is Iran one month away from having a nuclear bomb? (USA Today).
Chinese court upholds Bo Xilai’s life sentence. (BBC).
Twitter sets IPO price at $17 to $20 a share. (CNN).
Cardinals even World Series at 1-1 behind rookie pitcher. (NYT).
A handful of Filipino troops living aboard the rusting wreckage of a boat marooned in the shallows of a reef in the South China Sea represent a tiny stake in a global trade battle. The lonely troops are their nation’s effort to lay claim to an island-dotted area at the heart of a major Asian nation tug-of-war over water, trading and development rights. Four nations, including China, lay claim to the area, valuable in part because of the natural oil and gas beneath, not to mention shipping lines.
Thanks to carrier consolidation and route reduction, bargain holiday airline tickets are few and far between this year, and that’s not likely to improve. On average, prices are 9.4 percent higher for Thanksgiving flights and 7.3 percent higher for Christmas than last year. Travelers are also continuing to pay more for less — seat sizes are shrinking as carriers pack more seats (and profit) into their planes. And the last major holdout on charging for checked luggage, Southwest, wonders whether norms have changed so much that fliers wouldn’t mind them getting in on the action. But if you’re hoping for high-speed rail to save the day for the American traveler, then, as OZY’s Libby Longino explains, you’ll be waiting on the platform for quite a while.
Some $70 million over the next five years to study brain implants was announced by the federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, on Thursday. Implants stimulate the brain to stop the involuntary movements produced by neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, and scientists are experimenting with using similar implants to treat depression and other medical issues. Darpa wants to know why these implants work, and wants to monitor and treat issues in real time. The hope is that the new funding can help injured soldiers returning from war zones.
Troubled Australian artist Nigel Milsom won the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize — and $150,000 — for his cubist-like ”Uncle Paddy.” But Milsom is currently serving six years in prison for robbing a 7-Eleven. Milsom claimed in court that he was “buying doughnuts” at the Sydney convenience store, but he was high on heroin, meth, prescription drugs and alcohol at the time. The 38-year-old painter will have to finish his sentence before pocketing the prize. The art judges hoped the award would help him turn his life around. Officials say that Milsom has thus far declined to participate in prison art classes.
Album of the Year Grammy winners Arcade Fire have been slowly building hype for their hotly anticipated album ”Reflektor.” After releasing stacks of street art and staging secret shows in Brooklyn, the group has released a stream of the full double album. Available on YouTube, the video overlays the new songs with footage from the 1959 film ”Black Orpheus.” The restless indie rebels turned stadium rockers have swerved again, this time onto the dance floor thanks to the production skills of James Murphy, formerly of LCD Soundsystem. The grandiose results have produced mixed critical reactions. The official release is Oct. 28.
Vitali Klitschko, the WBC heavyweight champion of the world, has announced that he will seek the presidency of his native Ukraine in 2015. Klitschko, 42, is the president of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform and a member of the Ukrainian parliament. For years, the 240-pound boxer has mused about a retirement from boxing and a full-time entry into the political ring. Klitschko (45-2, 41 KOs) ran for mayor of Kiev in 2006 but lost — yet he refuses to stay down for the count. Dr. Ironfist is running on an anti-corruption ticket, but only time will tell if he’ll be a real contender.