Earth’s strongest storm in decades hit the Philippines early Friday morning. Few buildings are built to withstand the 195 mph winds, and reports of damage, casualties, and communication outages continue to surface. In 2012, the Philippines suffered more from natural disasters than any other country on earth, with 2,000 deaths. Haiyan, which is the 24th cyclone to hit the Philippines this year, will continue towards South China, Laos and Vietnam over the weekend.
The Presidential Daily Brief
One hand giveth, and the other taketh away. American employers added more than 200,000 jobs in October, about 80,000 more than anticipated, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the labor gurus updated the September numbers to include some 10,000 more jobs than previously thought. But unemployment also edged up, apparently tied to the government shutdown last month. Overall, market watchers see more good than bad as the economy inches toward the holiday retail job boost.
A rule a generation in the making, according to the New York Times, details how health insurers must treat mental health the same as physical health. For example, insurers can no longer limit mental health visits to a specific number if a diagnosis calls for longer treatment. The announcement is the final step in implementing a 2008 mental health care law. Insurers warned that overall coverage costs would rise, but advocates for the estimated 26 percent of U.S. adults who have a mental illness are cheering.
President Obama apologized yesterday to Americans who are losing their health care plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act. The administration had said that insurance cancellations were not necessary under the ACA, but in reality a certain number of minimal cover policies must be phased out to meet the new regulations. The president also says he’s confident that Healthcare.gov will be much improved by the end of the month, but based on the Web site’s functionality so far, Americans may take that with a pinch of salt.
Ireland will return to the bond markets in 2014, as the first of the stricken Eurozone economies to exit its bailout program. On Thursday, Dublin received the results of a review by its creditors, confirming that the targets attached to the 2010 Irish bailout have been met. Six years after its banking sector collapsed due to a property market crash, Ireland is expected to experience 2 percent growth in 2014. The news will reassure Brussels policy-makers that the strong dose of austerity that has been administered to sickly Eurozone economies may be having at least some positive effect.
In a rare show of bipartisanship, the U.S. Senate has approved a bill banning discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of sexuality. The Employment Nondiscrimination Act was passed by 64 votes to 32, with ten Republicans crossing the floor to vote in favor. Passage of the measure through the House is far from certain. GOP members, including Speaker John Boehner, argue that it restricts the religious freedom of employers whose employment practices are dictated by their beliefs. The Senate vote comes on the heels of Illinois’s decision to legalize same sex marriage earlier in the week.
West and Iran near breakthrough nuclear agreement in Geneva. (NYT).
”60 Minutes” weighs correcting key source’s account of Benghazi attack. (Politico).
Saudi Arabia to spend millions to train new rebel force in Syria. (The Guardian).
Jimmy Carter’s grandson to run for governor of Georgia. (ABC News).
”Star Wars: Episode VII” release set for December 2015. (USA Today).
Telecom companies aren’t only working with the NSA, and they aren’t just cooperating out of legal obligation. The CIA pays telecom giant AT&T $10 million a year for cooperation with U.S. security investigations. Company reps and intelligence officials emphasized that AT&T only reveals data about foreign users who access the firm’s network, and CIA personnel do not have direct access to the company’s database. But the deep level of collaboration between telecom companies and U.S. spy agencies continues to raise new ethical questions, and demands are increasing for a legislative response.
Reaching for a cell phone when something big happens is now second nature, and physicists are tapping into that to get a wider picture of astrological phenomena. Last year, a 12,000-ton meteor burst into a fireball over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk and was caught on video by hundreds of people, many of whom went straight to YouTube. These videos have given scientists an unprecedented 360-degree view of the biggest meteor explosion in more than century, and can be used to determine the size, speed and trajectory of the space rock. Thanks to YouTubers in Chelyabinsk, it may be possible to predict the next major meteor impact.
Milton Keynes, a large British town just north of London, will see driverless cars zipping around at top speeds of 12 mph by 2015. This initiative, which involves building small “pods” that will travel on designated paths around the town, is part of a wider $120 million government scheme to develop low-emission transportation across the U.K. Milton Keynes is no Google — the company claims to have logged 300,000 accident-free miles in driverless cars. Yet the British burg could pave the way for a viable alternative to carpooling and public transit.
Marvel has announced a new comic series featuring teenage superhero Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American girl from a conservative Muslim family living in Jersey City. Khan is a significant step in the recent diversification of comics, especially after Batwoman writers stepped down after DC Comics editors refused to allow their lesbian title character to get married. According to Ms. Marvel writers, Kamala is an ordinary girl whose storyline revolves just as much around her mother’s paranoia about boys as it does fighting crime. Ms. Marvel is set for a February release.
Several players are defending Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, whom the league suspended following allegations that he bullied teammate Jonathan Martin. New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle denounced bullying but said the massive Martin ”should be able to stand up for himself.” But a broader culture of bullying exists in the league, as evidenced by the video of the Giants Jason Pierre-Paul throwing teammate Prince Amukamara into a tub of freezing water. With Martin’s lawyer stating that the player endured not only hazing but a “malicious physical attack,” will the NFL be tough enough to tackle a broader culture of harassment among players?