Thanksgiving: a time when Americans gather to eat an increasingly expensive turkey dinner and debate consumerism, as mega-retailers claw at each other over who’s opening their doors and when for maniacal holiday shoppers. With so much going on, it’s easy to forget that Thanksgiving is grounded in the nation’s history. Louisa May Alcott gives us a taste of how Yanks celebrated nearly 200 years ago, when the fourth Thursday in November was when people began making Xmas presents. Bon appetit!
The Presidential Daily Brief
Could the killings of four rabbis signify the start of a new religious war? That’s what many fear after this week’s attack on a Jerusalem synagogue. It marks an ominous turn in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — homegrown terror. It’s easier for a government to crack down on militant organizations in the tightly controlled Palestinian territories than on random citizens who move with impunity. While Pope Francis and others have urged leaders to make “courageous decisions” to defuse tensions, others fear it may be too late.
It’s not just a beachhead. ISIS’s first North African colony in Darna, Libya, has an actual beach. The flag of the brutal Islamist group now flies from the mosque over the town’s 80,000 inhabitants. The port city has long been a radical stronghold, and Libya’s post-revolutionary chaos created the perfect conditions for ISIS’s arrival. But it wasn’t the only leadership vacuum in the Arab world, and analysts expect the group to find more fertile soil to cultivate, sowing instability far from its bases in Syria and Iraq.
As America basks in the warmth of its newfound energy security, Europe faces a cold, uncertain future. In Portugal, natural gas prices are up 62 percent since 2011, while electricity has surged 26 percent. The rest of Europe is also feeling the pinch, both from prices and tight supplies. Major energy companies are refusing to invest in new infrastructure without long-term price guarantees. While the EU is still reeling from recession, it will need $7.6 trillion in energy investment over the next two decades.
Chinese central bank to stimulate economy, EU may follow. (WSJ)
Obama quietly added year to U.S. combat in Afghanistan. (NYT)
Militants kill 28 in Kenya bus attack. (BBC)
House report casts doubt on Benghazi allegations. (FT)
Cosby wins standing ovation in spite of controversy. (The Guardian)
Silicon Valley is officially on fire. Employment numbers in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties have already surpassed the first tech boom, and $17 billion in venture capital is floating around — over four times the amount in New York. And who’s at the center of it all? A woman named Jana Rich, the Valley’s ultimate power broker and the tech world’s top headhunter with a client list that boasts names like Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin to Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Dick Costolo.
Two teams of astronomers claim to have found the first Earth-like planet in outer space. But who really discovered Gliese 667Cc, which exists in its star’s “habitable zone,” the sweet spot between too much stellar radiation and not enough? The warring European and American teams have sent shock waves throughout the terrestrial community of astronomers. And while the planet may be 22 light-years from Earth, detectable only through tiny “stellar wobbles,” being the first to find such a celestial body is a prize worth fighting for.
Hang together or hang separately, as Ben Franklin advised. That’s the idea behind class-action suits — plaintiffs pool their resources, attract more attention, and draw heftier punitive damages to deter the powerful from harming the weak. But the Supreme Court seems inclined to allow corporations to insulate themselves from such suits through “arbitration agreements” that consumers unwittingly sign, forfeiting their right to pursue a class action. In response, plaintiffs have waged PR campaigns, and eventually the solution may be to take their complaints to the ballot box.
In Patagonia, everything is wilder — the weather, the landscape and the cattle. Cowboys, known as bagualeros, go on a final roundup of “savage cattle” after the family lands have sold. They climb trees to escape ornery males that haven’t been roped in generations, down maté tea to suppress their appetite, and strive to block out the cold. One of them, a 20-something scion, wants to keep the tradition alive by turning his lifestyle into a tourist adventure. But first he’ll have to survive slippery trails, knife-edge cliffs and rampaging bulls.
One of the worst NBA teams is leading a revolution in the way fans enjoy their games — if they can convince them to get off the couch. Arena-goers can see the players’ pregame perspectives through Google Glass, participate in a crowdsourced draft, and even use an app to find bathrooms with the shortest lines. These and “drone selfies” are but a few of the brazen attempts to entice fans away from an increasingly tech-enhanced viewing experience at home. Winning games would help, too.