Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that a Cleveland police officer used excessive force in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. As a result of the federal probe, the city has agreed to independent oversight of its use-of-force policies. Holder’s announcement comes just a day after a grand jury decided not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. The AG also promised to look into the case of the unarmed 43-year-old black man who died in July after yelling “I can’t breathe.”
The Presidential Daily Brief
No one wants to see women victimized. New Pentagon data released today shows a rise in sexual assault cases — but mostly, wonks say, because more women are speaking out, not because of a rise in assaults. While that might be an improvement, the military still struggles with retaliation. Those who do speak out often face both social and professional backlash, and the Defense Department struggles to keep that in check.
Terrance Wise worked 16-hour days, but that still wasn’t enough to keep his family from losing their apartment. If the Burger King where he works can take in $1,200 in an hour, why is the payroll only $60, he asks. Wise has emerged as one of the leaders of a movement agitating for $15 an hour nationwide. Business reps say such requirements would force small restaurants and shops to close. But employees want action, and strikes are planned in 150 cities this afternoon.
Assume a stiff upper lip — that’s the Russian leader’s advice for dealing with economic woes. Putin made his annual parliamentary address today, urging the nation to be self-reliant through the downturn and blaming the West’s Ukraine “tragedy.” Russia is reeling due to drops in oil prices and Western sanctions. He also warned against attempts to breakup of Russia. “We will be sovereign, or we will dissolve in the world,” Putin warned. And, as if on cue, violence erupted in Chechnya.
Israel has suffered its worst-ever oil spill, with a pipeline leak flooding the Evrona nature reserve. Scores of people have reportedly been taken to the hospital for breathing trouble. The leak occurred in a new section of pipeline near Eilat. The leak has stopped, and rescue and maintenance crews are on the scene. A lack of rain has helped stem the tide, but officials fear it will still require months — if not years — of cleanup.
Has the president overstepped? Texas and 16 other states are suing the federal government over Obama’s new legislation aimed at allowing five million erstwhile illegal immigrants to stay put. The states, which fear the move will “exacerbate the humanitarian crisis” along America’s southern border, claim that immigration reform is outside the president’s remit. The White House rejects this, saying Obama is well within his provided powers. But next week’s House vote on Homeland Security funding could force the administration to take a step back.
The U.S. may have new targets in Moammar Gadhafi’s old backyard. American defense officials are keeping an eye on militant training sites in Libya, where some groups have recently aligned with ISIS. It’s unclear how strong that allegiance is and how many camps are in place. General David Rodriguez believes the facilities are in the early stages of development — mainly used for training and logistics support. The Pentagon is not yet targeting the camps with airstrikes, but they’re now on the radar.
Cautious optimism is the order of the day. Ahead of its Dec. 16-17 monetary meeting, the Federal Reserve offers some holiday cheer: Hiring is picking up nearly everywhere. Consumers are pocketing disposable cash as gas prices plummet. Sales of autos and appliances are brisk in many regions. A shortage of skilled workers is lifting salaries in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, although overall wage growth is standing still. Just don’t expect Saudi princes to dole out billions like before.
NASA delays launch of unmanned Orion spacecraft. (NPR)
Militants in Yemen threaten to kill U.S. journalist. (NYT)
Obama: Xi Jinping’s quick consolidation of power worries neighbors. (SCMP)
Lawyer urges Cosby to waive statute of limitations, allow court cases. (BBC)
Court stays execution of ‘delusional’ Texas inmate. (TIME)
They’re not inanimate objects, but they’re not humans either. That’s the opinion of a New York appeals court that rejected a landmark bid this morning to extend “legal personhood” to chimpanzees. Attorney Steven Wise attempted to secure writ of habeas corpus for a chimp named Tommy, who is locked up alone in a warehouse. The court said animals don’t have the right to liberty because they cannot bear legal responsibility or be accountable for their actions. Wise was undeterred — he’s appealing to New York’s highest court and possibly beyond.
Orwell would’ve loved this one. Russian gunmaker Kalashnikov is rebranding its signature assault rifle — favored by guerrillas and revolutionaries — as a symbol of calm, reliability and technological efficiency. Think Apple, says a company exec. The firm unveiled its new logo at a slick event in Moscow, where models passed out prototypes of the AK-47’s iconic curved ammo clips. Sales have reportedly doubled to 140,000 since last year, despite post-Crimea sanctions preventing the “weapons of peace” from reaching the U.S. market.
It’s a head-scratcher. The University of Texas at Austin scrambled yesterday to account for a collection of brains that disappeared from one of its research centers. Preserved in jars of formaldehyde, the organs were taken from autopsies of mentally ill patients. It was rumored and later debunked that the Austin clock-tower sniper was among them. UT officials finally said the missing parts ended up as biological waste. But skeptics wonder if that explanation is merely a head fake.
Within days of one other, the annual lists of the top tomes worth reading this year began flooding the Web. The Gray Lady made her majestic picks. So did editors at NPR, Amazon and Goodreads. Some names will be familiar to lovers of literature — Lorrie Moore, Colm Toibin and Richard Ford, among them. But Chinese-American novelist Celeste Ng, who snagged Amazon’s book of the year, may be the most-acclaimed writer you’ve never heard of.
Time for an upgrade. The Korean rapping sensation, as of last night, has danced across screens 2.1 billion times worldwide. But YouTube missed a beat. When the video-sharing service set up its counter years ago, it never imagined a clip could top the 32-bit integer mark, so PSY’s count faltered at its maximum value: 2,147,483,647. Thanks to fast-thinking coders, the dial is spinning again, and the record-breaking hit can now gallop all the way up to 9,223,372,036,854,775,807 views.
The first-ever Flotrack Beer Mile World Championships were held yesterday in Austin, Texas, with participants chugging a 12-ouncer before each quarter-mile lap. Anyone who tossed their cookies had to keep running. It may sound like a crazy college party, and the Beer Mile indeed harks back to campus hijinks. But real competitors — including Lance Armstrong, who bowed out of last month’s qualifier — train hard to drain their Buds and finish first. The world record is a sobering 4:57 mile.