Prompted partly by a 4.5 percent drop in oil prices, the Dow industrials took their worst shellacking in two months as nervous investors fled stocks. Wednesday’s 268-point punch came as more signs emerged of an even greater oil glut than expected. The smart money may also be pocketing profits as the major indexes linger near record territory. Oil’s dramatic descent to a five-year low rippled across Asia as well, sending markets in Hong Kong and Tokyo down around 1 percent on Thursday.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They served as humanity’s front-line defense against the virus. Time magazine hails those fighting Ebola, from a Liberian doctor with the foresight to raise an early alarm, to an American Doctors Without Borders expert who found ways to gain the trust of locals. The disease continues to out-pace containment efforts, as the World Health Organization’s director general noted. Many criticize the WHO for a painfully slow response. “Ebola is a war, and a warning,” writes Time’s editor. Hopefully, the world will learn.
Let the international backlash begin. The CIA torture report released Tuesday by the Democratic-led Senate Intelligence Committee has prompted leaders from China to Iran to call for the U.S. to clean up its own backyard. Domestically, Amnesty International wants torturers prosecuted. But the chorus isn’t universal. Former top CIA brass defended the actions, and Republicans launched a 100-page counter-point accusing the Democrats of getting their facts wrong. The critical chorus is sure to grow.
With two days to spare, Congressional leaders have agreed to a $1.1-trillion spending bill that, if passed on Thursday, will avert a shutdown. But negotiators added a string of controversial provisions. Most of the government is covered through September 2015, but the Department of Homeland Security is only funded until February, setting up a battle over Obama’s immigration overhaul when the Republican Congress takes power in the new year. For now, at least the 1,603-page bill will keep the lights on.
For environmentalists, Keystone XL may have a silver lining. Using the high-profile campaign as a template, activists have strengthened their resistance to other pipeline projects. Six have been delayed so far — that’s 3,400 miles of pipeline as yet unbuilt — and four more face increasing opposition, now that their adversaries know how to prolong review processes for the multi-billion dollar projects. For Keystone XL itself, the next hurdle is Nebraska’s Supreme Court, which will rule soon on whether to allow the pipeline to run through the state.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the e-commerce giant doesn’t need to pay warehouse workers for time spent in security check lines after their shifts. Yesterday’s challenge was brought by two Nevada employees who claim they waited up to 25 minutes to clear security, though Amazon says it was less than 90 seconds. The court determined that security checks, intended to prevent employee theft, were not integral to workers’ jobs. The verdict offers relief to other retailers facing similar suits, including CVS and Apple.
After the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee revealed the brutality and extent of “enhanced interrogation” procedures concealed from the White House, Congress and the public, President Obama called them “contrary to who we are.” In addition to detailing human rights abuses committed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the report found that torture provided no valuable intelligence, as previously claimed. For some, the truth isn’t enough: Human rights organizations are demanding prosecution of officials from the previous administration who sanctioned the torture program.
The Umbrella Revolution appears to be folding. (NYT)
Team owners approve new rules for handling player misbehavior. (ESPN)
Judge allows Pistorius prosecutors to appeal. (CNN)
Eric Garner protests continue, with NBA star support. (Reuters)
Palestinian minister dies after confrontation with Israelis. (NBC)
Malala Yousafzai, Kailash Satyarthi receive Nobel Peace Prize. (BBC)
Uber faces international scrutiny over background checks. (NYT)
One of the best-known streaming services for unauthorized movies, television and music files went dark Tuesday after police in the Stockholm area raided one of its server rooms. The action was part of a long-running effort by authorities and the entertainment industry to stop illegal file sharing. Blame North Korea, suspected in the recent Sony Pictures hack, which pilfered files that happened to turn up on Pirate Bay. A Danish court jailed one PB co-founder in October, and Thai police busted another last month.
It’s not so easy to go cold turkey on turkey. A new report from the Humane Research Council found that 84 percent of vegetarians and vegans go back to meat consumption, usually in less than a year. In other words, there may be three times as many ex-veggies as actual herbivores. Health trumps ethics for many people and, done carelessly, vegetarianism can cause anemia and other problems. But social factors also play a role — unsuccessful vegetarians often live with omnivorous partners.
“Do you deliver to the Ivory Tower?” Ben Edelman, an associate professor at Harvard Business School and a Harvard Law grad, got charged an extra $4 on a $53.35 order of Chinese takeout. What happened next probably won’t dispel any stereotypes about lawyers or overly educated Ivy Leaguers. Edelman threatened legal action unless the family-run restaurant ponied up three times his overcharged amount. “You seem like a smart man,” wrote Sichuan Garden manager Ran Duan, “but is this really worth your time?” Edelman later apologized, though it appears this wasn’t an isolated incident.
From “Blowing in the Wind” to karaoke? Bob Dylan’s new cover album will focus exclusively on songs by Old Blue Eyes. On Shadows in the Night — due Feb. 3 and available for pre-order — Dylan sticks to somewhat lesser-known Sinatra songs, and strips the complex arrangements down to the bones to suit his five-piece band. Indeed, he doesn’t see the record as a cover album at all, claiming that he is “uncovering” the songs.
Of course there’s an app for that. The so-called “pull-out generation” is practicing one of the oldest forms of contraception with the help of tools like Daysy, OvuView and CycleBeads. Tired of the pill’s side effects, many women are turning to their smartphones, which map body temperatures and cycle dates to let them know when it’s safe to have unprotected sex. Daysy claims to be 99.3 percent accurate, but the National Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists maintains that natural contraception falls short of other methods.
Panthers fans are holding their breath. The Carolina quarterback suffered two transverse process fractures in his lower back from a car crash Tuesday afternoon near the team’s stadium. Newton is reportedly “in good shape,” but was held overnight as a precaution. The crash comes at a bad time for the Panthers, who, despite a dismal 4-8-1 record, are still in contention for a playoff spot. If Newton is unable to play this Sunday against the Bucs, veteran Derek Anderson will suit up.