The European Space Agency made history yesterday by landing the first man-made probe on a comet. ESA and NASA scientists embarked on a grueling, hours-long operation, dropping Rosetta’s Philae lander on the rubber-duck-shaped Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Philae’s first attempt to stabilize by thrusting screw’s into the comet’s surface failed, but scientists happily reported today that the probe is now secure. It has already begun sending images to Earth, offering a glimpse of the cosmic wonder.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They may have wanted a white Christmas, but this is too early. An Arctic blast has descended across much of the U.S. — with northern Michigan digging out from under three feet of snow, and parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota seeing more than a foot of powder. The frigid winds are plaguing much of the central northern states. And while the East Coast will escape the brunt of the colder air, the Midwest will remain positively icy with below-freezing temps for the next two weeks.
Moscow seems to be at it again. The Western alliance says it has witnessed Russian combat troops and supplies, including artillery and air defense systems, entering Ukraine. Putin has denied similar allegations in the past, but tensions have flared since pro-separatists held unauthorized elections earlier this month. Analysts says fighting is worsening by the day, noting that the ceasefire is dead. The rebels, meanwhile, admit they’re getting a bit of help from Russian “volunteers.”
European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker says he did not help secure back-room tax deals for more than 300 global firms while at the helm in Luxembourg. Juncker served as the grand duchy’s prime minister for nearly two decades, during which time the nation — 1/17th the size of London — became second only to Qatar in terms of citizen wealth. An investigative report questioned the “sweetheart” deals. Despite today’s denial, calls for his resignation have begun.
Xi Jinping, leader of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has agreed for the first time to cap emissions by 2030. China also promised to increase its share of non-fossil fuels to 20 percent of its energy use by 2030, meaning it will need to make a huge investment in zero-emission technologies. President Obama, meanwhile, has vowed to reduce 2005 emissions levels up to 28 percent by 2025. Administration officials hailed the climate agreement as a “historic step” forward, but Republicans are less convinced the plan will work.
Last week’s votes are still being counted, but the political world has already moved on to 2016. Jim Messina, President Obama’s 2012 campaign manager and one-time White House Deputy Chief of Staff, talked exclusively to OZY co-founder Carlos Watson about the next presidential race. The press-shy, behind-the-scenes operative is backing a potential Hillary Clinton bid and wouldn’t mind seeing her run against Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. But he’s less enthusiastic about certain battleground-state governors stepping up to the plate.
Perfect timing, Putin. The Russians are planning to build eight new reactors in Iran for the “peaceful use” of atomic energy. The announcement comes less than two weeks before Iranian negotiations with Western powers over nuclear development expire. Russia says its plans — which stem from a 1995 agreement — should benefit the talks. But Germany’s foreign minister sees this as a “make-or-break moment” — if there’s no agreement by November 24, it might take years to get everyone back to the table.
The U.S. president has thrown his weight behind a free and open Web, but Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler wants to compromise and “split the baby.” The former telecom lobbyist has proposed limiting the ability of service providers to charge firms like Netflix to reach their customers. But critics argue that his approach would result in murky, ineffective rules and give providers too much leeway to favor some services over others. Worried Web purists went so far as to descend on Wheeler’s house.
U.S. Supreme Court lifts stay on gay marriages in Kansas. (NYT)
Six banks fined $4.3 billion for global currency scheme. (USA Today)
Two window washers rescued from 1 World Trade Center. (NYT)
GOP challenger appears to win Alaska Senate race. (NBC)
Indians protest deaths of 13 women following sterilizations. (BBC)
Palestinian leader accuses Israelis of sparking ‘religious war.’ (Al Jazeera)
Sugarhill Gang rapper Big Bank Hank dies at age 57. (NBC)
Optimism arises for release of American Alan Gross from Cuba. (DW)
Joseph Smith was busier than we thought. He had as many as 40 wives — some of whom were also married to his friends — and one as young as 14. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints revealed the surprising information as part of its quest to be more transparent amid mounting controversies linked to the faith. The church asserts that plural marriage is no longer practiced. But in the early days of Mormonism an angel apparently told Smith — three times, in case he hadn’t gotten the message — to say “I do. I do. I do.”
Slim is no longer in, and you can thank Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and especially Nicki Minaj, whose homage to booty has been viewed on YouTube a staggering 293 million times. In pursuit of more prominent posteriors, women are trying out padded panties, rear-targeting workouts and, of course, butt lifts. Many are trying to emulate the Instagramed figures of their favorite celebs. The skinny? According to one professor, large hips and buttocks may satiate a psychological need for “security and reassurance” in an uncertain economy.
The parents of the Missouri teen shot dead by a cop have turned to a higher authority, testifying before the U.N. Committee Against Torture in Switzerland. Supporting organizations say the killing violated conventions against cruel and inhuman punishment, and they’re demanding an investigation into “systemic police brutality” in America. Meanwhile, as a St. Louis grand jury weighs whether to indict the officer who killed Michael Brown, Gov. Jay Nixon warns that any violence after the decision will not be tolerated.
After the platinum-selling star pulled her songs from the streaming service over her distaste for its business model, CEO Daniel Ek went on the offensive. The tech exec said Tuesday that the company fully compensates artists for their music, to the tune of $2 billion in royalties. Swift should be more worried about Web pirates who pay nothing, Ek suggested, noting that fees for a singer at her level would “exceed $6 million.” Meanwhile, Swift’s new album, “1989,” sold nearly 1.3 million copies in its first week.
They decided it wasn’t worth the risk. The North African country refused to host January’s African Cup of Nations and has been banned from competing in it as payback. For months, the kingdom begged for a postponement due to an outbreak of the deadly virus. But the Confederation of African Football — which stands to lose millions — rejected both the proposal and Morocco’s participation. They must now quickly find a new venue, which won’t be easy. South Africa and Sudan have already given it the boot.