Tunisians head to the polls today for a presidential runoff election. They’ll choose between the Paris-educated, octogenarian statesman Beji Caid Essebsi, and former human rights activist and interim president Moncef Marzouki, 69. Essebsi, whose political career harks back to the early days of Tunisian independence, leads the anti-Islamist Nidaa Tounes party; Marzouki, on the other hand, is popular in the conservative south. The new constitution will put the victor in charge of security, defense and foreign affairs, but with limited powers to appoint or dismiss senior officials.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They died simply because they were in uniform. A gunman shot and killed two police officers in Brooklyn last night. Suspected shooter Ismaaiyl Brinsley — disgruntled over the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases — reportedly traveled from Baltimore to the Big Apple in a bid to kill authorities. Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot dead in their patrol car, and Brinsley committed suicide as police closed in around him. President Obama condemned the murders and asked Americans to reject violence and “turn to words that heal.”
Naughty or nice? Check those lists twice, because U.S. shoppers can expect significant retail discounts through December 25, along with round-the-clock hours and last-minute deliveries. Across the pond, Black Friday promotions yielded a surprising bump to the U.K. economy in November. Many American and British retailers expect a sales surge next week, so if you’ve been naughty and procrastinated with gift-buying, don’t despair: Nice holiday deals are still to be had.
Just 130 miles — and lots of political discord — separate the two countries, largely cut off from each other since 1961. But this week President Obama signaled U.S. intentions to engage in talks to restore diplomatic relations with Havana. Administration officials believe it’ll be easy enough to convert the American interests section into an embassy in the Cuban capital. But appointing an ambassador and doing away with the trade embargo require congressional support, and the Cuban regime must unravel its rhetoric of hostility in order to become a good neighbor.
Brace yourself for protests. After a comparatively quiet year from anti-abortionists, 2015 is set for a return to traditional GOP agendas. In at least nine states, from Iowa and Arkansas to Wisconsin and New Hampshire, Republican legislators have begun drafting anti-abortion bills. Amid the legal battles is a more worrying war of misinformation: Missouri, for example, is proposing that women seeking abortions be required to watch films that say a 22-week fetus can feel pain — a medical inaccuracy.
American pop culture has long made Kim Jong-un’s Hermit Kingdom a preferred target for ridicule. Team America: World Police, in 2004, and countless memes since, including the now-canceled Seth Rogen flick, The Interview, have taken shots at the reclusive Cold War relic. Joking may seem harmless, but the regime’s human rights abuses and crimes — including mass starvation, arcane punishments and recent cyberattacks — are no laughing matter. North Korea is a serious threat, and that’s no joke.
Four Guantanamo prisoners sent back to Afghanistan. (BBC)
French police shoot, kill suspected knife-wielding radical in Tours. (DW)
U.S. considers putting North Korea on terror list. (BBC)
Cairns mother charged with murder. (SMH)
Muhammad Ali hospitalized with pneumonia. (USA Today)
Is Georgia’s capital — known for segregation and suburbanization — on the verge of a renaissance? Bike-loving architect Ryan Gravel wants to transform the 5.5-million-strong metropolitan area’s defunct railroad tracks with a 22-mile paved looped trail and light-rail trains lining its perimeter. The goal? To get folks out of their cars and onto the path. Some fear the $4.8-billion project, dubbed the Atlanta BeltLine, will lead to gentrification and a yuppie playland, while others hope it’ll rejuvenate city life.
There’s a big catch with Asian carp. They weigh in at 150 pounds and have an appetite for more than plankton. Escaping from catfish farms, where they were introduced to clean up algae, the Asian carp has been devastating the ecosystems of Midwestern rivers for 40 years. By out-breeding and out-eating native species, the fish now makes up 80 percent of the biomass in some U.S. rivers. If native fish are ever to seize the day, these invaders will have to go.
Get thee to an exhibition. Life is moving inexorably onto computer screens, making museums the “abiding material ground” for good, old-fashioned objects. Art critic Martin Gayford and Philippe de Montebello, former director of the Met in New York, appeal for slower and more serious browsing time, encouraging museum goers to reconnect with the past in their new book, Rendez-Vous with Art. Though their attitude may be uncompromising, they hope to get people to “savor the act of seeing” history, rather than simply rushing to the gift shop.
In a Disney-esque plot, dozens of baby elephants are reportedly bound for export to China from their native Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe’s cash-strapped regime is allegedly preparing to engage in the lucrative trade of baby elephants, which are in high demand in countries like China. Baby elephants separated from their mothers live wretched lives, suffering a “fate worse than death,” said one expert. The alleged trade is yet another consequence of Mugabe’s three-decades-long dictatorship and toothless international conventions aimed at protecting wild animals.
Faith and family called him home. University of Colorado football head coach Bill McCartney achieved great success in the early ’90s, so his decision to quit in 1994 — at the peak of his career — came as a surprise. His religious conviction led him to organize Promise Keepers, a male Christian organization. But McCartney’s resignation was more complex: His daughter bore children with two of his players, and his wife suffered from bulimia. So he devoted his life to God and loved ones, and has no regrets. But he remains a controversial figure.