One of the most eloquent orators in politics is gone. The three-term New York governor known for some of the most moving speeches of the 20th century died today, hours after his eldest son, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was sworn into a second term. He personified the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, opposing Ronald Reagan’s view of America in a thrilling speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention. But Cuomo may be most remembered for flirtations with a White House run that never came to be.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The bull market is still charging. Despite yesterday’s 160-point retreat, the Dow closed out the year up 7.5 percent, while the S&P finished up 11.4 percent and the Nasdaq climbed 13.4 percent. Investors shrugged off economic worries to put U.S. and Chinese stocks on the year’s list of top performers. Meanwhile, oil prices plunged 46 percent in their biggest drop since 2008. With the U.S. recovery still young, a seventh straight year of gains in 2015 seems more than plausible.
From the shores of Brazil’s Copacabana beach to the tiled roofs of Moscow’s Red Square, revelers bid farewell to 2014 with fireworks and flair. But some celebrations were also tinged with tragedy. A New Year’s stampede killed 36 in Shanghai, and Indonesia paid tribute to those lost on Flight QZ8501. Vladimir Putin reminded President Obama of their responsibility to maintain “international stability.” And in the wake of the Peshawar school massacre, Pakistanis — like many people throughout the world — prayed for a peaceful 2015.
Will he be the third President Bush? The former Florida governor has resigned his corporate and non-profit board memberships, effective today. Aides say it’s so he can focus on a return to politics and a “potential” run for the presidency. Bush plans to set up a political action committee this month to test the waters among potential donors. Republicans, meanwhile, will begin assessing whether Bush — considered liberal on social issues like immigration — is the right candidate for the job.
They’re ringing in raises today. Across America, new laws are requiring employers to pay more per hour to three million workers who earn the least. Twenty-nine states will now exceed the federal minimum wage of $7.25, which hasn’t budged since 2007. Washington offers the highest statewide minimum wage at $9.47, followed by Oregon at $9.25. Activists say the pay boosts don’t go nearly far enough. New Jersey’s minimum wage rises just 13 cents to $8.38. No one’s breaking out the bubbly for that.
President Mahmoud Abbas didn’t lick his wounds for long after the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday rejected a resolution to end Israeli occupation. Yesterday he initiated a request for the Palestinian Authority to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague, forging a new trail for pursuing international justice. Many expect this will lead to war crimes charges against Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is holding urgent talks to gauge a response, and Washington condemned it as an “escalatory step” by the Palestinians.
He saw no point in killing them. Outgoing Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley — who is mulling a presidential run in 2016 — has commuted the sentences of four death-row inmates to life without parole. The state abolished the death penalty back in 2012, and O’Malley, who leaves office next month, decided that executing the final death-row inmates would “not serve the public good.” Opponents of capital punishment applauded the news, but a woman whose relatives were killed by one of the inmates was “devastated” by the move.
Afghanistan is taking the helm. President Ashraf Ghani marked the end of 13 years of NATO combat operations, congratulating Afghan forces for their new responsibility in protecting the nation. The formal transition comes just hours after a rocket attack — purportedly launched by the Army against Taliban militants — killed 20 at a wedding in southern Helmand province. Some 13,000 foreign troops will remain to help with training efforts, but the 350,000-strong Afghan military must now take on the Taliban alone.
Thomas Piketty won’t accept France’s highest honor. (BBC)
Shanghai stunned over New Year’s Eve stampede that killed 36. (The Guardian)
Egyptian court cancels journalists’ jail sentences, orders retrial. (Al Jazeera)
Poor weather slows salvage efforts in AirAsia crash. (BBC)
Pope Francis calls for end of slavery. (The Globe and Mail)
North Korean leader says he’s open to talks with South. (The Guardian)
OZY looks at the year ahead by introducing you to under-the-radar faces and trends. The working world is changing, from reinvented unions and declining vacation times to tomato-pickers organizing against fast-food giants. There are new libertarians in the world of politics and an economy focused on new skills — as well as one that’s going circular. Silicon Valley’s blowing up (in a good way) with new power players, as well as new gigs. In the EU, Euroskepticism is on the rise, and in India, a full-blown sexual revolution is under way. This year promises great shifts in technology, transportation, arts, culture and sports, and we’ll help you stay on top of them all.
Will Dominica put its money on bitcoin? This year, the 72,000-strong nation of the Lesser Antilles is set to become the world’s largest and highest-density bitcoin community. On March 14, every citizen will wake up to $10 worth of bitcoins, courtesy of a group of service providers looking to test whether the digital currency could help boost global trade in developing nations. They hope it will become the island’s preferred payment method, spurring entrepreneurship by cutting out the bureaucracy and remittance fees of conventional banks.
Turkish Airlines is going places. It serves more countries than any other, and it’s the world’s fastest-growing carrier. The man at the helm? A soft-spoken professor with a penchant for risk-taking whose “aggressive” growth strategy has seen profits jump 90 percent since 2013. Temel Kotil has big plans: In 2023, the year he predicts his airline will become the largest in the world, he plans to build the biggest-ever airport — serving 150 million passengers annually — in its hub of Istanbul.
Silicon Valley isn’t known for architecture. So what is Rem Koolhaas, the most important architect of his generation, doing there? The Harvard professor says he wants to understand whether the changes to come — smarter cities, intelligent refrigerators, driverless cars — are “desirable or scary.” The verdict? “I don’t know,” Koolhaas says, perhaps being coy. He seems worried that as tech gets smarter, humans will become meeker and less free without even realizing it. Maybe he has designs on bringing change to the world’s tech capital.
She may seem like an average 17-year-old girl from the Houston suburbs. But Simone Biles is one of the most remarkable athletes in America, and she stands to be the superstar of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. She won four gold medals at the 2014 World Championships before sitting down with OZY to discuss her future. Her stunning floor performance will leave you breathless and excited to see what she does in the years ahead.