The Canucks are throwing in the towel. In a stunning move meant to tame the effects of the collapse in crude prices, the Bank of Canada today cut its key interest rate from 1 to 0.75 percent. A big oil exporter, Canada becomes the first Group of Seven country to slash rates in response to the threat of deflation brought on by cheaper oil. It may not be the last. The slumping global economy is forcing central banks from the eurozone to Japan to take drastic measures.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Time to prime the pump. Today the European Central Bank is expected to tackle eurozone deflation by launching a much-anticipated but controversial $580 billion bond-buying program. To overcome fierce German opposition, ECB president Mario Draghi will probably require that bonds stay with individual central banks, rather than being shared across the eurozone. That would limit risk, though critics fear it could water down the effects of quantitative easing. But the most pessimistic observers wonder whether the plan will work at all.
It’s a diss of presidential proportions. Without consulting the White House, House Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak about Iran in front of a joint session of Congress. It’s a stunning affront to President Obama as he seeks to close a nuclear deal with the Islamic state — a plan which Netanyahu has fiercely opposed. Boehner’s move highlights the parties’ sharp divisions on the Iranian question. It also underscores a personality clash that sets up the tenor for Obama’s remaining years.
Don’t pop the champagne yet, but things are looking up. New construction, a key economic indicator, rose more than expected, equaling pre-recession levels. Not everyone shares the optimism — the National Association of Home Builders’ confidence level ticked down a tad. Much of the buying stems from older homeowners looking to move on, while a cash crunch keeps a lot of renters’ hands tied. If the market is really going to take off, the industry will have to find some funding for the younger set.
In last night’s address, the president seized credit for the economic recovery and asked the nation to “turn the page” and focus on the gap between rich and poor. He proposed tax hikes for the wealthy, crackdowns on companies that keep profits overseas and free community college. He also showed an aggressive side, standing up to a Russian bully and seeking authorization to use force against ISIS. Obama’s agenda sets the stage for 2016, but it’s already sparking fierce fights with a Republican-controlled Congress.
“We’re getting to work,” Sen. Joni Ernst said last night in the Republican response to Obama’s State of the Union. While some conservatives accused the president of inciting class warfare with his focus on taxing the rich, the Iowan senator remained upbeat in her 10-minute rebuttal. She detailed the GOP’s plan for bringing change to Washington by promising a simpler tax code, a green light for the Keystone XL pipeline and staunch opposition to Obama’s tax-and-spend plans.
Change may be coming. Houthi rebels have taken control of President Hadi’s palace, putting the leadership of a crucial American ally in the Middle East in jeopardy. The Houthis — Shia fighters opposed to both al Qaida’s growing presence in Yemen and America’s influence over Hadi’s government — have been tightening their grip in recent months. They claim they don’t plan to depose the president, but if their demands for political change aren’t heard, “all necessary measures will be open.”
Will 2016 finally be his year? Will he dare face off against the seemingly anointed one (at least for Democrats), former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? Could a third time gunning for his party’s presidential nomination be the charm? The vice president himself fed the speculation after his boss’ State of the Union Speech. “Yes, there’s a chance,” he says. And then praises Clinton. Biden goes on to say he has until the summer to make up his mind. Iowa’s waiting, Joe.
Justice Dept. recommends no civil charges be brought against Darren Wilson. (NYT)
Kurds have ejected militants from large area in northern Iraq. (Washington Post)
Havana welcomes highest-ranking U.S. diplomat in nearly 40 years. (NBC)
Pharrell, Al Gore bringing back climate-change benefit. (Rolling Stone)
Suspected terrorist stabs nine on Tel Aviv bus. (Jerusalem Post)
Unions call for workers’ charter at Davos. (The Guardian)
Malian hero of Paris attack gets French citizenship. (France24)
Four officials to be fired after deadly Shanghai stampede. (SCMP)
Off-duty cop shoots, kills Brazilian pro surfer. (BBC)
Mister Softee wants to be relevant again. Under new CEO Satya Nadella, the tech giant today unveiled HoloLens, a virtual-reality headset that superimposes 3D objects onto the real world. It’s the company’s most ambitious project in years and the shiny centerpiece of its new Windows 10 operating system, which comes with a bevy of other cool tools: a Siri-like virtual assistant, a new browser that allows on-screen note-taking and Xbox One streaming, among them. It’s enough to make Apple look boring.
Go ahead, have a drink — up to seven times a week. A study of nearly 15,000 men and women clears up conflicting data from earlier research by concluding that tossing back a beverage once a day reduces the risk of heart failure by 20 percent in men and by 16 percent in women. The findings suggest that some drinking may be better than none at all. But don’t go all Hemingway: A “moderate” amount means just a small glass of wine or half-pint of beer.
They let “Freedom Fries” pass, but now the City of Light is blazing mad. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says the city is planning legal action after the American network “insulted” it by airing segments claiming that certain neighborhoods were “no-go zones” for non-Muslims. An exec at Fox News, which has apologized profusely for the discredited information, called the threat “misplaced.” Paris has seen tourism drop since the Charlie Hebdo attack. But not everyone buys the validity or wisdom of such a suit.
James Patterson’s new novel is set to explode — literally. Sales of Private Vegas will launch with a single copy going for $294,038, which includes a five-course dinner with the bestselling author and a SWAT team to come blow up the thriller. Another 1,000 readers will get an iPad app where each page disappears as they turn it, with the entire book vanishing within 24 hours. A former adman, Patterson’s looking to blast the publishing world’s comfort zone to smithereens.
We’re making progress, but it’s still pretty bad. The Web’s most popular passwords remain “123456” and “password,” but luckily last year’s top 25 security phrases represented only 2.2 percent of exposed passwords, the lowest level in recent memory. High-profile cyber breaches might have something to do with the improved online common sense. But the best protection against hackers is to employ long passphrases and pepper them with symbols ($#%@). Whatever you do, avoid dictionary words, birthdates and cute demands like “letmein.”
Fans are a bit deflated too. The league says all but one of New England’s balls were well under NFL regulations following Sunday’s victory over the Colts. An investigation revealed that the footballs — inspected and approved by a referee 135 minutes before the game — were found to be inflated by two pounds per square inch of air less than they should’ve been. The league must now figure out whether the Patriots did anything underhanded to get a grip on their Super Bowl slot.