Three coups, years of military rule — not to mention 12 political parties — and yet Pakistan has managed to keep the proverbial lights on in the capital. Leaders of South American republics, long lectured by the U.S. about finances, just shake their heads, as the D.C. monetary stalemate lingers. The impacts are starting to turn up like a trove of bad pennies — President Obama cuts short an Asia trip, immigration courts stutter and government-backed home purchases may halt. Beltway residents can at least get a break at local watering holes, for what some say could be weeks of closures. We’ll meet you at Jaleo.
The Presidential Daily Brief
For the first time in its history, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will attempt to destroy a state’s chemical weapons during an ongoing, armed conflict. The U.N.-backed experts have crossed the border into Syrian border and will start searching to uncover and dismantle chemical weapons within the country. Bashar al-Assad’s regime has informed the investigators that seven of 19 weapons sites are in conflict zones. The U.S.-Russia agreement reached last week specifies that Syria must be free of chemical weapons by the end of November, although a cease to the fighting remains out of sight. But, as Lina Khatib argues on OZY, if there is a post-Assad world in Syria’s near future, there are several prominent women in the opposition’s ranks who could take the troubled nation’s reins.
You’d expect a mega-hit like Grand Theft Auto V’s new online multiplayer video game to be overwhelmed, but a bureaucratic system for healthcare? Turns out Obamacare, too, saw unexpectedly high number of visitors, resulting in technical problems that plagued the launch of America’s new online healthcare insurance marketplaces. Insurance seekers faced error screens and long delays as they attempted to compare coverage options on the government’s healthcare.gov website. Although the launch of the ambitious and controversial program could have gone more smoothly for the administration, the high traffic bodes well for Obama’s bet that Americans are eager to find affordable healthcare options — it’s now just a question of whether they will find what they are looking for.
Benjamin Netanyahu has labeled the historic phone call between Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani a cunning ploy aimed at distracting the world from Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Speaking at the United Nations, the Israeli PM called Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and reminded his audience that the current Iranian president had “masterminded” a strategy that allowed Iran to develop nuclear capabilities in the 2000s while Rouhani served as its chief negotiator. Iran fired back, with one diplomat calling Bibi “the most isolated man at the U.N.” While last week offered a glimmer of hope for the Middle East, it seems we’re back to reality as far as Israel and Iran are concerned.
Lance Armstrong hands over his Olympic medal to the IOC. (Yahoo).
Best-selling author Tom Clancy dies at 66. (USA Today).
Bail for some, court appearances for another, in the Greek case against Golden Dawn. (The Independent).
Months of sectarian violence in Iraq could lead to civil war. (Time).
Mall attack will cost Kenya $200 million in tourism revenue. (USA Today).
YouTube will host its own music awards show on November 3. (LA Times).
Jordan says that in his prime he could have beaten LeBron one-on-one. (USA Today).
In an abrupt about-face, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi retreated from a bid to topple Italy’s coalition after members of his own People of Freedom Party declared they would defy Berlusconi and support the government. Prime Minister Enrico Letta kept his post after a 45-minute speech. The vote is a major turnabout for the former prime minister, who had previously called for a no-confidence vote and wanted the resignation of five cabinet members. Maybe, finally, Berlusconi could be out of Italian politics for good, especially if Italy’s senate votes to expel him after his recent tax fraud conviction.
Billionaire investor and corporate raider Carl Icahn, who now holds about $2 billion in Apple stock, is pushing the company’s CEO, Tim Cook, to consider a $150 billion buyback. Although the company approved a possible $60 billion buyback scheme last year, cash-flush Apple’s investors are looking for even more. Apple is currently valued at $433 billion and had $146.6 billion in the bank as of June 2013. Although Cook is still considering the idea, those shareholders who gambled on Apple in the days of yore, or who just increased their stake last month like Icahn, could get a huge payout if the company agrees to buy back a few more shares.
Two bachelor’s degrees and one master’s got Spaniard Benjamin Serra Bosch no further than slugging coffee and bathroom supplies in London. He took to Twitter (of course) and has become the voice of a generation of young Spaniards struggling to stay afloat. It’s so bad on the Iberian Peninsula that the mayor of a town with a 50 percent unemployment rate holds a lottery for vacant municipal positions — for a handful of month-long cleaning jobs, 500 people applied. Joblessness rates have slowed, but with more than 26 percent of the country still unemployed, Spain still has a long way to go.
President Obama doesn’t think whistle-blower Edward Snowden is any sort of patriot, but the European Parliament thinks he’s a good enough citizen of the world to be a finalist for its top humanitarian award. The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded annually to “exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression.” If it’s any salve to American pride, the smart money is not on Snowden but rather a less controversial finalist, Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani activist who survived a Taliban assassination attempt. In a stroke of irony, at least in European eyes, the NSA’s surveillance tactics have landed them in the oppressive, fanatical company of the bad guys they sought to catch.
With a good claim to being America’s best and best-known novelist, maybe Jonathan Franzen should stick to novels. His latest work, The Kraus Project, based loosely on the work of now-obscure Viennese intellectual and journalist Karl Kraus, combines translation, scholarship, and autobiographical meanderings with Franzen’s signature brand of technophobic, neo-Luddite Bad News About The World Today. Everything from Gawker to Salman Rushdie’s Twitter habits comes in for sour censure from the writer who famously eschews social media. As Dwight Garner muses in The New York Times, watching Franzen “lean down and mess with Gawker, or with the Twitterati, is like watching a hedgehog stop to lecture a field full of foxes… and being eaten in the process, his ribs used as toothpicks.”
The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates won a playoff baseball game 21 years ago, Bill Clinton, Ross Perot and George H.W. Bush had just participated in the first three-way U.S. presidential debate and CDs had just eclipsed cassette tapes. Pirates fans who had reveled in Pittsburgh’s dynastic “We Are Family” glories of the 1970s may have been devastated when Sid Bream and the Atlanta Braves ran them out of the playoffs in 1992, but they could not have imagined that it would take them more than two decades to find their way back. Last night a crowd of more than 40,000 screaming fanatics welcomed the return of their beloved “Bucs” to the post-season. Two Russell Martin homeruns and a dominating pitching performance by Francisco Liriano bested the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Wild Card Game. They’ll attempt to make the St. Louis Cardinals walk the plank on Thursday.