Can they play nice? Peace in Syria is the only agenda at Vienna talks today, where success will depend upon how well longtime regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran get along. Iranians side with Putin in wanting Assad to stay; Saudis, like Obama, want the Syrian leader gone. An Iranian official has offered hope, noting that his country “does not insist on keeping Assad in power forever,” possibly giving U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a chance to pull all the pieces together for peace — even as the U.S. prepares to send a small commando squad into Syria to fight ISIS.
The Presidential Daily Brief
That policy’s number is up. Chinese couples looking to have more than one child will no longer be subject to fines or forced abortions, thanks to a Communist Party rethink. The one-child policy, aimed at limiting the country’s explosive population rate, has prevented an estimated 400 million births since 1979. Worries over changing demographics and the employment holes of an aging population have now prompted Beijing to let women have two babies, but human rights campaigners say the new rule is still one restriction too many.
This will send a shiver. While the White House says the strained U.S.-Russian relationship is no Cold War, rather worrying military brushes are adding a chill. The Navy scrambled four armed fighter jets in the Pacific this week to intercept Russian planes flying near the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. Officials reassured that it was “standard operating procedure” and resulted in no “significant confrontation.” But sorties of this sort, common during the decades-long political tension with the Soviet Union, are on the rise and signal Putin’s demand for respect on the world stage.
He’s just been granted another get out of jail free card. The famed director, who was convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl in 1977 but fled to Europe to escape jail time, has been the subject of U.S. legal wrangling for decades — but the latest request for his extradition has been rejected. It’s a lucky break for Polanski, since a new conservative government, which was expected to be harder on him than the current one, is just days from taking power.
Blame it on a lack of inventory. American economic growth slowed significantly in the third quarter, down to just 1.5 percent compared to 3.9 percent in the second quarter, with shelf-clearing businesses providing much of the downward pressure. But the good news is that U.S. buyers are still spending, which saw household consumption up 3.2 percent, compared to the last quarter’s 3.6 mark. Healthy consumer spending has helped the U.S. navigate global downturns, but the lack of growth means the economy remains restrained six years after the recession.
U.S. Senate approves two-year budget deal. (The Hill)
Palestinian unrest shifts from Jerusalem to West Bank. (NYT)
Plane’s engine catches fire on runway in Florida. (CNN)
The Hague agrees to hear South China Sea dispute. (DW)
North Korea to hold biggest party congress in years. (AP)
That’s how you do redemption. One year after losing a heartbreaking seven game showdown, the Royals are World Series champions, defeating the Mets in five games, 7-2. The series looked almost certain to return to Kansas City for a game six after New York lead throughout. But they pulled off another shocking rally, pushing the game to extra innings before piling on in the 12th. It was the eighth come from behind victory for the Royals in this year’s postseason and if they can keep the squad intact there’s no reason they shouldn’t be contenders again next season.
Bad news, Big Apple. A “100 percent practical survey,” just in time for Halloween, has assessed 53 U.S. metropolitan areas on living inhabitants’ ability to survive a rogue zombie virus. Cities were ranked based on their likelihood of finding a cure, as well as available food stores, and New York City placed dead last thanks to its high population density. But Boston, with its high concentration of doctors and medical research, is your safest bet when the living dead start feasting on brains.
They’re boldly going where not many women have gone before. The Russians put the first woman in space back in 1963, but in the last 50 years, they’ve only sent four into the cosmos. Now they’ve launched an eight-day isolation experiment in Moscow with six female astronauts to simulate a trip into space and test women’s aptitude ahead of a possible all-female moon mission in 2029. The project director says Russia is committed to closing the gender gap, and construction of the spacecraft is already under way.
It’s a whole new ball game. Real money is flowing into competitive video gaming, an industry expected to rake in $278 million this year thanks to masses tuning in to watch their favorite shoot ’em ups. High-flying gamers looking to break big are beginning to suspect that, like real athletes, they may need agents and a players union. While the industry may still be too unstable for such coordination, many players say they’re being exploited — which means those with the best aim could soon target the status quo.
Was he trying to pick a fight? The former Saturday Night Live cast member says movie martial arts master Steven Seagal — notably a pal of Putin’s — didn’t “play along” well with the cast in 1991. His critique is backed by SNL creator Lorne Michaels, who once reassured Nicholas Cage that he could do no worse than Seagal’s “really hard week.” All of which may inspire Donald Trump, who’s being slammed by critics ahead of his hosting gig on the comedy show next weekend, to come out swinging.
It wasn’t the best seat in the house. The NBA fined the Los Angeles guard $25,000 yesterday for tossing a chair pillow that hit a fan in the second row during the team’s opening night win over Sacramento on Wednesday. The woman suffered eye discomfort from the impact, which Rivers insisted was accidental, but he said she was “very nice about it.” Nonetheless, he promised never to let it happen again and to stay out of trouble with coach and father Doc Rivers, who feigned “disappointment” over his son’s poor aim.