It’s probably not a coincidence. The Hermit Kingdom, where only government employees and the elite enjoy online access, has been suffering connectivity trouble. The problems surfaced just hours after President Obama vowed to exact a “proportional response” over the Sony Pictures cyberattack. An expert suggested the widespread outages — the worst North Korea has suffered in years — were consistent with a denial of service attack. But U.S. officials, one of whom quipped, “I guess accidents can happen,” deny any involvement. Sound familiar?
The Presidential Daily Brief
Merry Christmas Wall Street. The Dow topped 18,000 for the first time Tuesday, following a record rise on Monday. Tech stocks like Intel and Microsoft helped push the bullish market, as the U.S. economy notched its best growth in more than 10 years. Improved corporate earnings along with Federal Reserve officials refusing to rush to raise interest rates helped too. Meanwhile the U.S. GDP grew 5 percent in the third quarter of 2014, besting estimates with a strength not seen since 2003. Bring on the New Year.
Move over, Panama. Nicaragua officially kicked off a $50 billion canal project, built by a Chinese firm, to connect the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and hopefully boost one of South America’s poorest economies. But the plan calls for resettling at least 40 villages, cutting through rainforests and dredging Lake Nicaragua, the nation’s largest water reservoir. Thousands have marched on the capital protesting the canal, a rare sight in a highly controlled nation. As construction begins, some villagers have taken up arms. This may not end well.
He’s still cleaning house, but now he’s eyeing their souls. The pope is fed up with the clergy “amassing material goods,” and he’s accusing them of “spiritual Alzheimer’s disease” for forgetting their connection with God to become slaves to selfish passions. Francis took charge of the Catholic Church in 2013 with a mandate to root out corruption. He’s been working to clean up the Vatican’s act and extending olive branches to formerly forsaken communities. Now the pope is signaling a need for the Curia to improve itself.
A local district attorney has chosen not to charge a former Milwaukee policeman in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man. But federal investigators will review the case of Dontre Hamilton’s death to determine whether ex-cop Christopher Manney’s use of force — he shot Hamilton 14 times — was justified. The incident sparked protests in Wisconsin, and Manney was fired for not following departmental rules leading up to the shooting. He’s appealed his termination, but Hamilton’s family insist Manney should face criminal charges.
The energy boom has hit a new low. First came plummeting petroleum prices. Then the natural gas market collapsed yesterday with mild weather forecasts adding to a supply surplus. Nat gas futures hit a two-year low of $3.12 per million British thermal units. In recent years, the U.S. has been flooded with a glut of gas. One lone wildcat is still drilling like mad, but most producers have halted their rigs — all of which is giving environmentalists a high.
Some theaters will show The Interview on Dec. 25. (NYT)
Australian prime minister says terror attack ‘likely.’ (SMH)
Second pedestrian collision in France spreads fear. (CNN)
NYC mayor seeks balance, calm after cops’ murders. (NYT)
Amnesty: Yazidi females face sexual violence from ISIS. (DW)
Who are you calling dysfunctional? Less than half of U.S. children live in a home with two married, heterosexual parents in their first marriage, new research reveals. In 1960, 73 percent of kids did. Today, a whopping third of children live with an unmarried parent, compared to just nine percent in 1960. Why? Americans are marrying later and more unmarried couples are having kids. Some researchers even blame the trend away from marriage on porn — perhaps not the most family friendly of topics.
Time to raise your glass. A new study explains how the “miracle ingredient” in the fermented juice triggers an ancient evolutionary defense mechanism that protects against genetic damage from aging. Resveratrol, an organic compound found in grapes, may even help safeguard against heart disease and cancer. For years, people have speculated that red wine might be the magic ingredient keeping the French healthy despite their high-fat diets, but now science offers a reason to say “oui” to a few more sips.
This is a bit fishy. Carp are swimming in tubs throughout Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and Croatia as part of a holiday tradition calling for families to adopt a fish several days before preparing it for the Christmas table. The idea is to flush out the digestive tracts of the notorious bottom-feeders, which are believed to bring good luck for the New Year. Some fortunate finned captives end up being released, rather than eaten. Call it a holiday miracle — not a fish story.
One of the most soulful voices in music is gone. The British-born singer, best known for his gritty rendition of the Beatles classic “With a Little Help From My Friends,” has died of lung cancer. He won a Grammy for 1982’s “Up Where We Belong” with Jennifer Warnes, scored another hit with “You Are So Beautiful” and rocked an epic performance at Woodstock. A younger generation might know Cocker best from the opening credits to The Wonder Years.
Sex, drugs and classical music — perhaps an uncommon arrangement, but one that’s orchestrating Netflix’s next hit. The 10-episode series explores shenanigans in the orchestra pit when an ingénue oboist meets a sexy new conductor, played by Gael García Bernal. Part of the appeal comes from the unconventional ensemble holding the baton: Jason Schwartzman and Wes Anderson of Rushmore fame, Roman Coppola and Tony-nominated Alex Timbers. Go for the music, stay for the sex.
One of America’s most famous physicians may not be feeling so well. First Dr. Mehmet Oz was forced to defend himself in front of a Senate subcommittee on deceptive medical claims. Now a new study in the highly regarded British Medical Journal reveals that more than half of the advice from The Dr. Oz Show — much of it involving dietary tips — has no scientific merit. The findings support long-held suspicions that the dubious doc was more interested in marketing products than healing patients.
They made history in more ways than one. The inaugural Miami Beach Bowl was a thriller, with Memphis surviving BYU 55-48 after two sessions of extra time and a sideline-clearing fight. “This is probably the craziest game, most emotional game I’ve ever been a part of,” said Memphis QB Paxton Lynch. He wasn’t joking, especially after throwing four touchdown passes and running for three more to help clinch the Tigers’ first bowl win since 2005, and their first season of double-digit wins since 1938.