They’re charting a peaceful future. The U.N. Security Council’s permanent members have agreed to the text of a draft solution for the Syrian peace process following meetings between world leaders hellbent on securing a ceasefire. Now the 15-member council must mull the resolution, which they’re expected to adopt later today.
The Presidential Daily Brief
It just needs the president’s signature. American lawmakers sent Obama a bipartisan $1.1 trillion spending bill today, avoiding a government shutdown. The deal, passed by a 65-33 Senate vote, also provides for $680 billion in tax cuts over the next 10 years. Democrats won some spending boosts, while the GOP relished military funding hikes and an end to the ban on U.S. oil exports. With apparently warm seasons greetings floating across the aisle, the measure heads now to the White House, where Obama is expected to sign it into law later today.
They weren’t alone. Enrique Marquez has been arrested and charged with multiple counts, including conspiracy to support terrorists. The 24-year-old purchased two rifles that were used by Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik in their Dec. 2 shooting attack that left 14 dead. He’s also accused of plotting earlier attacks on a crowded freeway and a community college that never came to fruition. FBI officials say Marquez and Farook learned to make pipe bombs from al-Qaida’s Inspire magazine, stoking fears about terrorist propaganda encouraging homegrown killers.
But it’s going to be a long, hard slog. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is pushing to renegotiate his country’s relationship to the European Union, offering proposals that include a four-year delay of benefits for citizens of other EU countries who reside in Britain. However, his propositions involve changing the EU’s treaty, so Cameron is running up against serious opposition. At the Brussels summit yesterday, though, German Chancellor Angela Merkel indicated some wiggle room, saying the leaders “all want a compromise.” The bloc has until February to draft a deal.
They shouldn’t have looked. Bernie Sanders’ team has fired a staffer for viewing rival Hillary Clinton’s private campaign data after a mistake by a third-party vendor accidentally gave them access. But four separate user accounts associated with Sanders’ campaign looked at the Clinton data, so the Democratic National Committee, who blamed tech company NGP VAN for the glitch, is banning the Vermont senator’s team from its vast voter databases. This could be a crippling blow to Sanders’ hopes for the presidency and his campaign has filed a lawsuit to regain access.
They’re heading for the hills. Mutual funds and those that deal in high-quality bonds saw investors pull $5.1 billion this week — the highest figure recorded since the industry began tracking in 1992 — which heightened fears that recent rising leverage has left companies deeply in debt. Some investors say they’re focusing on having as much liquidity as possible as a safety measure against potential defaults in the coming year, driven by a suspicion that many industries may see a slide from the drop in oil and other commodity prices.
Obama commutes sentences of 95 drug offenders. (Washington Post)
Niger government foils pre-election coup attempt. (Bloomberg)
China issues second pollution red alert. (BBC)
Senate passes $1.1 trillion appropriations bill to avert shutdown. (Washington Post)
U.N. backs resolution to block ISIS financial dealings. (FT) sub
Backlash against Islamic calligraphy homework closes Virginia schools. (CNN)
Mother Teresa to be granted sainthood. (DW)
Predictable this was. When the latest Star Wars movie arrived in theaters this week, it had already broken the American advance sales record with over $100 million in presales. Around the world, the film took in $14.1 million in its first night. Early reviews have been largely positive for Disney’s $4 billion acquisition — but now the fans will decide if the Force is strong enough with J.J. Abrams. Meanwhile, theater owners are playing it safe, upping security by screening costumed moviegoers amid fears that huge crowds could draw troublemakers.
He’s getting a taste of his own medicine. Christmas came early for the Twitterati when the infamous pharma chief was arrested yesterday on fraud charges, accused of running his company “like a Ponzi scheme.” Shkreli drew almost universal ire when his Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the cost of a Daraprim pill — needed by AIDS and cancer patients — from $13.50 to $750 in September. Shkreli seemed to be enjoying his villainous status, but looked less smug doing his perp walk. He pleaded not guilty before being released on a $5 million bond, and is resigning as Turing’s CEO.
Can Republicans rise from the ashes in Phoenix? The GOP has long had the Grand Canyon State locked down, but with demographic and political tides turning, a lack of connection with Latino voters could mean Republicans lose control. In the past, the party could overlook Latinos, who make up 30 percent of the population, because many didn’t turn out to vote. For now, Republicans hold majorities in both the state senate and house — but if they don’t reform their immigration policy, many predict Arizona will be blue by 2025.
This is one melting pot we can do without. New research shows that the world’s largest island’s ice sheet melted twice as quickly between 2003 and 2010 as it did from 1900 to 1983. The land mass between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans has lost nine billion metric tons of ice in the last century. While earlier work relied on mathematical modeling, this study used 3-D and historical photos to trace the decline of ice over time, providing a glimpse into the past and a benchmark for measuring Greenland’s icy future.
He should know. The King was feeling generous before his Cavaliers squared off with Kevin Durant’s Thunder Thursday, declaring that “Durantula” could break the NBA’s all-time scoring record and labeling him “up there” with the greatest to play the game. Though Cleveland edged out their rivals on the court 104-100 last night, Oklahoma City has come out on top in 10 of its last 13 games. Durant says they’ll “keep getting better” … starting with learning from the loss to LeBron and his squad.