The scene has become all-too-familiar in Washington’s budget drama: talks between the White House and House Republicans collapse, and it’s left to the Senate to craft a bipartisan deal. But the current sticking point has shifted mid-talk, moving from the healthcare law to sequestration. This time, it’s the Senate Democrats’ turn to scupper potential solutions, refusing this weekend to sign any deal to end the shutdown that left the next round of sequestration cuts scheduled for January in place. Is this just a new negotiation ploy or, with GOP approval ratings at their lowest in Gallup’s history after the two-week-old shutdown, have the Democrats decided that it’s time to press their advantage and move the goalposts on a deal beyond the “clean” spending bill originally demanded?
The Presidential Daily Brief
When the Wall Street Journal calls you a “father of modern finance,” you probably deserve to win at some point in your career. Eugene Fama (the aforementioned “father”), Lars Peter Hansen and Robert Shiller share the prize this year. Their work “reshaped portfolio management,” the Journal writes, and led to the popularity of index funds and to doubts about the profitability of short-term market moves. Theirs is the final Nobel prize for 2013. The awards ceremony is December 10 in Oslo, Norway.
Armed gunmen abducted six Red Cross workers and one Red Crescent volunteer in northwest Syria Sunday, but by Monday three workers and the volunteer were released, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross Twitter account. Kidnappings have grown more common in northern Syria, one of the most dangerous areas in the world for aid workers and journalists given the variety of rebel groups wrestling for control. The abduction of the aid workers marred a rare success yesterday in Damascus, a ceasefire between government and rebel forces that will allow several thousand civilians to escape the fighting in one of the city’s most war-ravaged areas.
More than 200,000 teachers in the Mexican state of Oaxaca are set to return to work today after a two-month strike that kept almost 1.3 million children home from school. Led by a radical caucus within Mexico’s national teachers union known as Section 22, the strike had enveloped the country in protests and involved seized buildings and road blockades. Section 22 is at the forefront of a broader movement opposing both President Enrique Peña Nieto’s proposed overhaul of education and his party’s plans to open the state-run oil sector to private investment and pass new taxes favoring the wealthy. But the strike also angered parents across the country, especially in Oaxaca, where illiteracy rates are high, high school graduation rates are low, and schools regularly lose 10 to 20 percent of the school year to union activities.
More than $325 billion has been pledged to Greece in the six years since its collapse, but now the nation is going back to the European well in a bid for a third round of emergency bailout funds. With Germany refusing to write off previous debt, Antonis Samaras, Greece’s fourth PM in as many years, is hoping to convince European ministers in Luxembourg today that a further bailout makes more sense than imposing additional austerity measures on a nation still reeling from previous cuts. Samaras, unlike his predecessors, will be able to point to some encouraging signs, including a budget surplus that is a year ahead of schedule and an economy that is projected to grow in 2014 for the time in seven years.
Iran’s “red line:” shipping enriched uranium out of the country. (Al Jazeera).
At least 115 pilgrims die in a temple stampede in India. (Reuters).
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz wins a straw poll at Values Voters Summit. (Politico).
BuzzFeed plans to go global using crowdsourced translations. (WSJ).
A U.S. government default would be the first major one since Germany in 1933. (Bloomberg).
For the second year in a row, the $5 million Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which offers an additional $200,000 a year for life, goes unclaimed. Committee members say no democratically elected official was worth the dough — and that they refused to lower the bar. The prize was named for a Sudanese telecom tycoon, Mo Ibrahim, and has been awarded only three times since 2007. The foundation also published a ranking of African nations, which this year showed a broadening gap between the nations with the best and worst governments, with a marked decline in lawful rule despite economic gains.
An inhaler that costs $125 in the U.S. is just $7 in Greece. Why? In large part, it comes down to government policies that protect pharmaceutical patents, squash generic competitors, and leave the average asthmatic American breathless with a disproportionately high bill. Despite the fuss about Obamacare increasing the state’s role in healthcare, the Affordable Care Act leaves intact the fundamental reason why inhalers and other prescription drugs cost so much more in the U.S. than in other developed nations: the government’s unwillingness to intervene in a marketplace where price is driven less by true competition than by negotiations among powerful private parties like hospitals, insurers, and drug manufacturers.
The Italian politician has been disgraced many times over but retains an unparalleled gift for political alchemy. His latest trick is to turn a community service bid, accepted in lieu of house arrest as part of a tax fraud conviction, into a chance to burnish his tarnished public image. The former prime minister has had no shortage of service offers, including one from an animal defense organization inviting him to feed kittens in its shelter or become “a dog sitter for old people.” Whatever he chooses to do, many Italians are excited that, after two decades in government, Berlusconi may finally be ready for some public service.
The small town of SeaTac, Wash., may have only 27,000 people, but how they vote on a ballot initiative starting this week may have implications for labor organizing and the fight to raise the minimum wage across the U.S. The proposal would raise the minimum wage within the city limits from $9.19 to $15 an hour, just above a living wage for two adults in the town, and would affect nearby Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, one of the nation’s busiest airports. If the proposition passes, it could signal the beginning of a new, more offense-minded strategy for labor organizers that focuses wage-raising efforts on pushing local policy initiatives rather than persuading state or federal lawmakers.
Last night saw the beginning of the fourth season of AMC’s other hit show, The Walking Dead. Fans recovering from the conclusion of Breaking Bad two weeks ago can fill the void left by chem teacher turned meth cook Walter White with the adventures of sheriff’s deputy and zombie slayer Rick Grimes. Last season, Rick had to lead his rag-tag crew against the evil Governor’s forces as humans proved more dangerous than the undead. This time he’ll have to keep even more vulnerable people safe, but with zombies at the gates and the Governor still out there, who knows how many of Rick’s company will make it to season five.
In the first decade of this century, perhaps no sports fans in the world had a better run than those in New England. But the Patriots’ three Super Bowl rings, the Celtics’ two NBA finals, and the Red Sox’s two World Series championships during those years had already been eclipsed by recent disappointments, including the Red Sox precipitous (and scandalous) fall since 2011. Now, thanks to a walk-off win over the Detroit Tigers in last night’s A.L. Championship series sparked by a David Ortiz grand slam, and the 5-1 Patriots’ last-second victory over the undefeated New Orleans Saints, New Englanders are starting to recall yet another reason why autumn can be such a beautiful season there.