Smoke has darkened the Sydney skies as fires swallow parts of New South Wales. Officials estimate that dozens, if not hundreds, of homes have been burned, and only a miracle will prevent deaths. Schools were evacuated, traffic jams ensued, and some train service and roads closed. Take a look at the photos that have emerged — they are haunting.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Scientists fear they’ve lost three weeks of global warming data, or worry sensitive patients will no longer trust them. Visiting tourists might appreciate the opening of parks and monuments, but international businesses are just starting to tally the impact. And as one columnist reminds us, the next potential crisis is only 90 days away, as the parties essentially pushed the deadline back without addressing many of the big issues that forced the standoff in the first place.
The latest $100 million settlement for JP Morgan for its London Whale blunder brings the firm’s regulatory fines to more than $1 billion, bitter medicine for a bank that lost $6 billion on the trades themselves. The settlement is a first for the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which had not previously used its Dodd-Frank powers to battle market manipulation. Federal regulators have a strong tradition of letting banks elide discussions of blame, letting them neither admit nor deny wrongdoing. But JP Morgan’s admission in this case that its traders acted recklessly in placing derivative bets — but not that this conduct violated the law — may signal a sea change in regulators’ tactics, and sympathies, in future cases.
Hours before U.S. borrowing authority was set to expire, the House approved a bipartisan deal brokered by Senate leaders to end the government shutdown and save the U.S. (and the world) from falling off the fiscal cliff. The deal will fund the government through Jan. 15, raise the debt limit through Feb. 7, and provide back pay to furloughed federal workers. President Obama signed it at 12:30 a.m. Top Republicans admit that the deal marks a loss for them. The House GOP drove Congressional approval ratings lower than Wall Street, hipsters, and cockroaches — and helped take a $24 billion bite out of the U.S. economy. A major victory for the President, or simply an agreement to live and fight another day?
The recently completed round of nuclear talks in Geneva shows promise of defusing a decade-long standoff between Iran and the West. Having shown a willingness to decrease uranium enrichment and allow snap inspections of nuclear sites, Iran and its new president, Hassan Rouhani, appear eager to end the country’s global isolation. These steps are more concrete and conciliatory than anything proposed under former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and are an encouraging sign of progress — as is the announcement that all parties will be continuing the discussion at another summit in early November.
The new senator from New Jersey is the first African-American to be elected to the Senate since Barack Obama. But that’s not all he has in common with the former junior senator from Illinois. Booker is also an intellectual heavyweight and a charismatic politician who Democrats hope can help provide a counterbalance to the young media-hounds of the GOP: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul. The Newark mayor is also suspected of having ambitions of higher office — and you would have to be pretty ambitious to want to join the Senate right now.
U.N. to elect Nigeria, Chad, Saudi Arabia, Lithuania and Chile as new members to U.N. Security Council. (ABC News).
Lao Airlines plane crash kills 49. (CNN).
Large wildfires erupt around Sydney. (USA Today).
Apple cuts iPhone 5C orders. (WSJ).
IBM reports falling sales for the sixth consecutive quarter. (BBC).
The Kenyan government is embarking on an ambitious new program to curb rhino poaching. More than a thousand rhinos will have microchips implanted in their horns, which will enable authorities to track down poached horns on the black market. The price of horns has skyrocketed in recent years as many African cultures continue to prize the horns for their perceived medicinal value while supplies have dwindled. This summer a rare white rhino was killed in one of Kenya’s most secure wildlife reserves, prompting authorities to step up the anti-poaching measures.
Billionaire investor and eccentric NBA owner Mark Cuban loves to win. And yesterday he chalked up yet another major victory when a federal jury acquitted him on charges of insider trading relating to a 2004 phone call in which Cuban was allegedly informed by a Mamma.com owner of plans to conduct a private offering of stock. The decision marks a significant defeat for the Securities and Exchange Commission, which hoped to flex its muscles by holding a major figure to account at trial. Cuban may be the latest billionaire white-collar defendant to escape the SEC’s grasp, but as OZY’s Libby Longino writes, perhaps the question we should really be asking is why are they almost all men?
Can’t put down that chocolaty creamy goodness? Maybe it’s not just about willpower. A recent study on lab rats has confirmed that pleasure centers inside the brain respond to Oreo cookies in the same way as they do to drugs like cocaine and morphine. In fact, whether you twist, lick, and dunk or not, even more brain cells are activated by the ingestion of the 101-year-old cookie — now one of Kraft Foods’ billion-dollar global brands — than the intake of addictive drugs. And, yes, it turns out that even the rats prefer to eat the creamy middles of the cookies first.
How can you put a price on a formaldehyde-preserved shark, a diamond-encrusted skull or a 20-foot anatomy set? If you’re British artist Damien Hirst, try adding nine figures to the left of the decimal point. Hirst topped Wealth-X’s recent list of the world’s richest artists with a staggering $350 million in net worth, well ahead of second-place finishers, American painter and sculptor Jasper Johns and Welsh portrait artist Andrew Vicari. The uber-rich Hirst is taking an increasingly out-sized role in Britain’s art scene, which has many fearing that the swashbuckling animal-pickler is sending the wrong message to young people about what it takes, and what it means, to be a successful artist. As OZY’s Eugene S. Robinson explains, not everyone can be a David Hockney when it comes to art, fortune and public service.
After bitter losses to Portugal in the qualifying rounds for World Cup 2010 and Euro Cup 2012, Bosnia-Herzegovina have finally earned a place at soccer’s premier tournament in Brazil next year. The country suffered a bitter civil war in the early 1990s, but many local politicians are hailing last night’s 1-0 victory against Lithuania as the most significant event since independence. Although the scars of war are still evident (with another mass grave having been uncovered this week) and Bosnia’s people remain divided, the prospect of the nation’s first World Cup appearance provides more than a little hope for Bosnians looking toward a less divisive and more optimistic future.
Source: The Guardian