Australian Army commandos flooded the Lindt Chocolate Cafe today, where an Iranian refugee, Man Haron Monis, had taken patrons and staff hostage for 16 hours. Two of the captives were killed in the raid, along with the gunman. Distressed hostages were forced to stand in a window holding a black flag bearing the Shahada, a profession of Islamic faith often appropriated by militants, as Monis — a self-proclaimed sheikh — reportedly demanded to speak with the prime minister.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Borrowers are screaming nyet. Russia’s central bank boosted rates by 6.5 percent overnight, taking the key interest rate up to 17 percent after the ruble dropped to a record low. Russian leaders are looking to salvage the currency, which has fallen more than 45 percent against the dollar since January. But pricier borrowing could grind growth to a halt.
They can see the brink from here. Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Russian counterpart Sunday in Rome to do damage control on Congress’ latest foreign policy effort. The Ukraine Freedom Support Act calls for new sanctions against Moscow and authorizes $350 million in military assistance to Kiev, including weapons to fight Russian-backed separatists. The bill passed unanimously in both houses after the president had language softened to avoid poking the bear. Luckily for Kerry, Obama still has the last word.
Pets are big business — $8.7 billion big, marking the largest private equity sale globally this year. The company’s stock had fallen this summer, and online retailers keep taking a bite out of profits from the chain, which has almost 1,400 stores. But a push from a hedge fund that saw opportunity — buying up shares, then pushing the company to sell — might represent a new way of doing business for Jana Partners. Already the new buyers, BC Partners, expect to cut costs by $200 million.
Has he been inside a real newsroom? Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, whose Steve Jobs biopic was the subject of some of Sony’s leaked emails, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times calling journalists who published hacked information “morally treasonous,” and accusing them of aiding terrorists who are threatening the company and its employees. Meanwhile, Sony has lawyered up, retaining the services of attorney David Boies, who sent letters to media organizations warning that they’ll be held responsible for any harm caused by the leaks.
Shinzo Abe is getting another chance. Japan’s incumbent prime minister won a landslide victory in Sunday’s snap elections, despite deep misgivings about his stewardship of the national economy. His strategy of cheap credit, public spending and structural reforms didn’t stop the country from falling into a recession this year. With a new voter mandate, Abe must now deliver on a revival plan that has failed to impress investors, evidenced by the Nikkei stock index dropping 1.6 percent following his election victory.
Four dead outside Philly after gunman reportedly attacks relatives. (CNN)
Turkish authorities jail 20 media workers linked to opposition. (BBC)
Death toll in Congo ferry disaster may exceed 100. (Reuters)
One of the world’s last white rhinos dies in captivity. (UPI)
Bill Cosby breaks silence, but not about assault accusations. (NY Post)
Dick Cheney is once again talking torture. He maintains that the infamous Senate report on CIA interrogations is unfair, and that torture is an appropriate and effective technique for obtaining intelligence. But now he’s waffling on some points: In a Sunday Fox News interview, Cheney said he and President Bush were fully briefed on methods in the report, but later admitted that at least one horrifying technique used by the CIA wasn’t on their approved list. Nonetheless, he’d “do it again in a minute.”
Should I stay or escargot? A newly discovered species of purple-blooded deep-sea snail thrives in the dark, acidic environment near hydrothermal vents. With its extreme habitat and its spiky “hair,” scientists couldn’t resist naming the critter after punk legend Joe Strummer. Alviconcha strummeri joins horsefly Scaptia beyonceae and trapdoor spider Aptostichus angelinajolieae in the pantheon of critters named for famous people. Joe’s marine mollusk doesn’t exactly “Rock the Casbah,” but one of the scientists hopes the name “gets people excited about science.”
Be competitive 24-7 — and bankrupt in 60 minutes! That’s how some British retailers are feeling after choosing to “auto-optimize” prices with Amazon’s RepricerExpress tool. An hourlong glitch Friday caused hundreds of items to be listed for one British penny, so independent sellers saw inventory fly off the shelves for nearly nothing. “I have lost about £20,000 overnight,” said one. Amazon managed to cancel some orders that hadn’t been processed, but it’s not clear who will foot the bill for the blunder.
This is the film to watch. Reviewers can’t get enough of Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white drama about a young Polish woman who discovers, before taking her vows to become a nun, that she’s Jewish. Ida swept the European Film Awards this weekend, winning best picture, director, screenplay and even a vote of moviegoers. “We made a black-and-white movie with a camera that doesn’t move,” said the idiosyncratic Pawlikowski. Luckily, the foreign-language Oscar-contender is now streaming on Amazon.
The Black Mamba can retire contentedly. He scored 26 points Sunday, leading L.A.’s victory over Minnesota and escaping the shadow of His Airness — Bryant’s idol since his 1996 NBA debut at the tender age of 18 — with a second-quarter free-throw. Coach Phil Jackson says Kobe was “hell bent on surpassing Jordan as the greatest player in the game,” but Bryant insists beating Mike’s 32,292 career points was “not a big deal.” Maybe not, knowing Laker legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record is still 6,000 points away.