The Fed continues tapering their bond-buying – trimming purchases to $65 billion a month in February – a sign of their faith in a recovering economy, as Ben Bernanke takes leave of the Federal Reserve. He will be gone but definitely not forgotten, as his successor, Janet Yellen, inherits a huge balance sheet and an economy still in recovery. Long live the Bernanke era.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The North might mock, but cities unaccustomed to ice and snow lacked the tools to make even a few inches passable. Accidents snarled highways as police logged 189 accidents in less than 24 hours in the Birmingham, Ala., area alone. Motorists spent the night in their car In Georgia, students spent the night at schools after gridlock trapped their buses. Frantic callers overwhelmed mobile networks. Alabama and Georgia declared states of emergency, and urged residents to stay off the roads. The ice may need another day, at least, to fully clear.
The president addressed the nation last night and promised to bypass Congress if necessary to make 2014 a “year of action.” He said he would “take steps without legislation” to expand opportunities for upward mobility and reduce economic inequality. Obama called on Congress to help him to finally close Guantanamo Bay and said he would veto any sanctions that put Syrian peace talks at risk. With just three years left on the clock, low approval ratings and the 2016 campaign set to eclipse his presidency, Obama looks determined to get things done, even if it means sidestepping a Republican-strong Congress.
Following months of protests and yesterday’s resignation of the prime minister and cabinet, Ukraine’s parliament is set to debate whether to release detained demonstrators. Protests erupted in November when President Viktor Yanukovych pulled out of a trade deal with the EU. Yanukovych says amnesties should be rewarded with protesters vacating public buildings, but the opposition is proving defiant and has ruled out any back steps while calling for early elections. While U.S. leaders expressed hope for a compromise, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the West to stop meddling in Ukrainian affairs.
UNESCO’s report on global education paints a grim picture of youth literacy rates, noting that one in four children in poor countries can’t read, and 57 million have no access to formal education. The learning crisis, which costs governments $129 billion annually, is particularly bad in West Africa and Pakistan. The UN is responding by calling for the recruitment of 5.2 million teachers by next year. If the current trend is not reversed, it be 2072 before all young women in developing countries could read.
Source: Al Jazeera
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth is in financial trouble, or so one might think after reading the report from the UK’s Public Accounts Committee. It shows that the royal household’s reserves are down to the historically low amount of $1.6 million after overspending $3.8 million on last year’s budget. The queen’s personal net worth is still estimated at around $500 million, including her extensive property. So while the royals may need to rein in spending, they don’t need to pawn the crown jewels just yet.
UN authorizes ability to use force in CAR. (CNN).
Snow, ice blanket southern U.S. halting flights. (USA Today).
Ex-army chief Ratko Mladic claims he is victim of ‘satanic’ court. (The Telegraph).
Term limits set aside for Ortega in Nicaragua. (BBC).
Egypt puts Morsi in soundproof cage in trial. (NYT).
New research is challenging the notion that cognitive ability declines with age. Delayed recall in memory tests by older generations has long been used as evidence for such decline. But work by German linguist Michael Ramscar suggests that those with aging grey matter simply require a bit longer to sift through their data-packed minds. There’s no doubt that brains, like all other body parts, deteriorate with age and slow our responses, but it’s not because the information has gone; it’s because we have to rummage around a bit more to find it.
Source: National Geographic
Kentucky Fried Chicken was just starting to recover from a sales slump but now faces a major setback in the run-up to the usually lucrative Chinese New Year. The latest avian influenza outbreak has infected 96 people and killed 19, forcing cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong to ban live poultry sales. Although KFC is by no means traditional fare in China, the Colonel’s chicken has become increasingly popular, with more than 4,400 outlets in the country. Depending on the length of the ban and outbreak, however, KFC is not likely to see sales soar anytime soon.
NASA is working on tackling problems astronauts face with space travel in the hopes of solving them before its first manned mission to Mars in the 2030s. For years, scientists have studied the brittle bone phenomenon astronauts sometimes face after returning to Earth, but only recently have researchers uncovered the “squashed eyeball” effect leading to farsightedness. The biggest issue is the radiation astronauts are exposed to outside the Earth’s atmosphere that increases their likelihood of developing cancer. With more than a decade to study these ailments, reaching the Red Planet will require ingenuity to keep the brave few intact upon arrival.
Influential metal band Motley Crue are calling time on their 33-year career with one final tour for their fans. For those wanting to witness their final metallic waltz, there is good news. They will be playing 72 goodbye concerts worldwide, enabling tens of thousands of fans to see them off into retirement. The group came together for the first time in 1981, but with lead guitarist Mick Mars about to hit 63, the band have deemed it time to don their leather pants for the last time.
This year’s Super Bowl tickets were expected to be the most expensive ever, but, according to NFL Ticket Exchange, prices are plummeting. With fans often spending as much as $3,000 for a seat, this year’s $1,500 price tag on ticket resales indicate lower demand. Some blame the cold weather, particularly in New Jersey where the game is being played, for keeping fans at home. But ticket broker Lance Patania says it’s because “the teams are not sexy,” suggesting that Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos don’t have huge fan bases. Let’s hope fans get in the mood before Sunday’s kick-off.