In a case with echoes of Ferguson, a grand jury voted not to bring criminal charges against Daniel Pantaleo, the white police officer who restrained an unarmed black man with a fatal chokehold. The medical examiner later classified Eric Garner’s death as a homicide. The verdict sparked a ”die-in” at Grand Central Terminal and other angry protests, prompting dozens of arrests. It also won’t be the last word on the incident. Attorney general Eric Holder said the Justice Department is launching an investigation.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They wanted a big deal. Instead, all they managed was a few more weeks. Tax breaks set to expire this year were the impetus for Congressional attempts to work out a lasting plan. The sticking points: tax breaks for the poor, and Obama’s immigration actions. Now, everyone loses. The Democrats lost their shot at expanding breaks before they cede control of the Senate, and the GOP will have to deal with it all again next year.
It’s getting crowded in the skies above Iraq. Iranian officials have reportedly sent in F-4 Phantom fighter jets to bomb ISIS targets in Iraq’s Diyala province, according to a U.S. defense official. The strikes weren’t coordinated with the U.S. effort to quash the Islamist militants, and they coincide with a summit in Brussels between members of the U.S.-led coalition. Washington fears Iranian intervention could further stoke sectarian rifts in Iraq between the Shiite government’s supporters and the Sunni minority.
He’s served as the Pentagon’s No. 2, holds degrees in physics and medieval history from Yale, and is considered among the “brightest minds” in the national security world. Meet Ashton Carter, the man reportedly tipped to become the next defense secretary. Carter is relatively unknown on the international political stage, having served most of his career behind the scenes. But that might serve him well in confirmation hearings — ranking Republicans don’t see any major impediments to his appointment.
Scott Panetti earned a rare last-minute reprieve, 12 hours before he was scheduled to receive a lethal injection. The Texan’s defense was that he’s too delusional to face the death penalty. Panetti killed his estranged wife’s parents 22 years ago, and was sentenced in 1995. He defended himself in court, and his witness list included the pope and Jesus Christ. It’s not clear how long the stay will last, or if the state of Texas will fight to keep Panetti on death row.
He acted tough even in defeat. The Russian president blamed Crimean politics for his decision to tank the $50-billion project, which would have brought natural gas to southeastern Europe via the Black Sea, rather than through Ukraine. The surprise move angered Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary, which depend almost entirely on Russian gas. EU officials viewed Putin’s about-face as a diplomatic victory. But now they must work to plug the supply gap as Gazprom diverts its pipe through Turkey instead.
Six billion dollars, to be exact. That’s how much President Obama is asking Congress to approve to fight the deadly virus, noting that “we cannot let down our guard even for a minute.” A Boston hospital has admitted a new patient for testing, and in Africa, where more than 6,000 have died, the epidemic is still raging. Some experts say the international response has been inadequate. The six billion dollar question? Whether Congress will set aside partisan politics to approve the funding.
Officer who fatally shot 12-year-old judged unfit for duty by police in 2012. (The Guardian)
Texas leads lawsuit challenging president’s immigration plan. (NYT)
Federal appeals court stays execution of mentally ill man. (NYT)
Bill Cosby faces new molestation allegations, lawsuit. (USA Today)
Attack on UN convoy near Mogadishu kills at least four. (CNN)
Ukraine nuclear power accident doesn’t pose a threat. (Reuters)
Rolling Stones saxophonist Bobby Keys, 70, dies. (The Guardian)
Far-right party pushes Sweden’s government toward collapse. (DW)
They dug up some royal gossip. Scientists have confirmed that a body discovered two years ago under a parking lot in central England is indeed Richard III. But genetic material from the hunchbacked remains shows a break in the male lineage, indicating that one of the king’s aristocratic relatives indulged in a fling and produced an illegitimate heir. In theory, the revelation casts doubt on many claims to the throne. But don’t expect Her Majesty to step down anytime soon.
Southern California faces a problem it hasn’t seen in a while — potential flooding due to too much water. In an area that’s been parched for years, six hours of water fell like manna from the sky — sorta. The storms, which dumped up to 4.5 inches in some areas, have lead to mudslide alerts and evacuations. Experts caution that one day’s rain alone won’t negate years of parched earth, but they’ll take it.
Marriage vows are for keeps these days. The oft cited number that half of all American marriages fail isn’t true anymore. Yes, the stats reflect reality for the 1970s and 1980s, but couples wed in the 2000s appear on track for better results. Among the reasons: marrying later, having more education, and having different expectations than couples living through the turmoil of the sexual revolution. While there may remain a host of personal reasons not to marry, fear of soaring divorce rates shouldn’t be among them.
In a throwback to the Apollo missions of the 1960s and ’70s, NASA is set for a landmark launch of a deep-space capsule that will ultimately carry humans to the Red Planet. The unmanned Orion spacecraft is scheduled to take off Thursday morning from Cape Canaveral for two laps around Earth at a distance of 3,600 miles, before splashing down in the Pacific four-and-a-half hours later. Don’t count on astronauts riding Orion to Mars until the 2030s.
This should wake you up. Fourteen caffeine addicts can enjoy “Starbucks for Life” — all they have to do is find the golden ticket. In true Willy Wonka fashion, the Seattle-based coffee giant is looking to jolt holiday sales by issuing 14 prize cards made of hammered 10-karat gold. To play, customers need to make a purchase with a gift card or mobile app, then enter the receipt’s sweepstakes code online. And “for life” really means just 30 years, but lovers of the brew are unlikely to jitter over the fine print.
Pull out those hot pants. HBO’s upcoming series, set in the manic music scene of 1970s New York, stars Bobby Cannavale as a record company president and Olivia Wilde as his bohemian wife. The cast also features Ray Romano and, continuing his unlikely comeback, Andrew Dice Clay. But the biggest stars are behind the scenes. Martin Scorsese reunites with his Boardwalk Empire collaborator, Terence Winter, who will write and lead production. And co-producer Mick Jagger can lend authenticity with his own ’70s flashbacks.
It didn’t make the cut. The University of Alabama-Birmingham has decided to give up on football — the first Division I school to do so in two decades — citing the financial burden of maintaining even an average team. The “arms race” to recruit top talent with bigger and better facilities has caused a widening between the haves and have-nots, forcing the rethink. The UAB community has protested, but it looks like no amount of signage will boost the university’s bottom line.