Welcome back, Wall Street. Traders and investors returned to work today greeted by tumbling oil prices and renewed worries about the health of the global economy. The Dow dropped 331 points, or 1.9 percent, posting its biggest loss since October. Crude oil sank below $50 a barrel for the first time since April 2009. Meanwhile, Greece’s political future looked uncertain, and the euro dropped to a nine-year low. Expect more volatility as oil prices head to $40 a barrel and change.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They snubbed him again. Sunday’s funeral for Officer Wenjian Liu, the second policeman killed in last month’s attack, saw his colleagues publicly humiliate Mayor Bill de Blasio, though the police commissioner had urged them to show respect. Hundreds turned their backs as the mayor spoke — as they did at the funeral of Officer Rafael Ramos — protesting perceived lack of support for the NYPD. The reproach came despite the mayor’s talks with the police union, and sent a clear message that NYC’s finest are still fed up.
They can’t just draw names from a hat. Today a federal court will begin weaving through a 1,200-strong pool to find jurors with no emotional attachments to the case. The jury must decide whether Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is guilty of bombing the Boston Marathon finish line in April 2013, killing three and injuring 260. And if so, whether he should face the death penalty. Victims have been waiting nearly two years for justice, and testimony is finally expected to begin next month.
He wants everyone to make up. French President Francois Hollande says U.S. and European sanctions against Russia should be lifted if Ukraine peace talks lead to progress. Negotiations are set for January 15 between Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. “[Putin] must know where to stop, and it has been costly for him,” Hollande said. France would also gain, as it would allow for the delivery of two “Mistral-class” warships to Russia — on hold since fighting broke out — to complete a $1.5 billion deal.
They’re back on the hunt. Underwater sonar has been deployed in the search for flight QZ8501, and a Navy captain believes they may have located the tail portion of the plane. But in a shocking turn, Indonesia officials say the flight operated illegally, without a permit to fly Surabaya to Singapore on a Sunday. AirAsia flights on that route have been grounded. An airport operator and control tower officials have been suspended, as the investigation continues.
Lithuania must be smarting. It became the eurozone’s 19th member last week, just as the currency fell to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar since 2006. Priced at $1.1861, the euro is being pressured by the likelihood that the European Central Bank will pump more money into the economy to steer clear of deflation. The dollar also surged against British, Canadian, Australian and Swiss currencies. So while Lithuanians may need to sit tight for a while, Americans should be making travel plans, pronto.
The border is tightening, and folks trying to flee Syria into Lebanon face new visa restrictions as of today. Beirut wants to limit the number of war refugees — already numbering over a million — spilling across the frontier. Those seeking entry must now state why they’re coming and be approved for a visa. Lebanese officials claim it’s merely a way to better track refugees. But fears are rising about the fate of asylum seekers, as well as the status of thousands of Syrians already residing in Lebanon.
Two prospects from the U.S. Ski Team killed in avalanche. (AP)
Alexei Navalny cuts off monitoring tag. (The Guardian)
Huge ship beached off England coast to prevent capsizing. (NYT)
Son reportedly kills father, a hedge-fund manager in NYC. (The Telegraph)
Australian crews struggle to battle bushfire. (Bloomberg)
Taiwan’s ex-president to be released on parole. (BBC)
Berlin wants Athens to stay in eurozone. (DW)
China names Communist Party factions. (SCMP)
Angelenos have heard this one before. But none of the earlier proposals over the last 20 years has had the backing of a league owner who could seriously bring a team back to the City of Angles — until now. A group of developers that includes Rams owner Stan Kroenke is seeking to build an 80,000-seat NFL stadium in Inglewood. Kroenke purchased 60 acres of land in the city last year, a promising lead that could result in a Rams homecoming as soon as 2016.
Every stone in the Holy Land seems to hold a story, even the floor of an abandoned building. The city’s Tower of David Museum is taking over a shuttered space that served as a prison for both the Ottomans and the Brits. Archaeologists vetting the building found sections believed to be part of a palace where, according to the New Testament, Jesus stood trial. There’s no word on resurrections, though. Or if any initials carved in stone include “JC.”
Technophobes are flocking to Green Bank, West Virginia. The tiny town sits within the National Radio Quiet Zone, where wireless Internet, cell phones and radios don’t work — as required by law. The government created the 13,000-square-mile zone to operate huge radio telescopes without interference from electromagnetic signals. But it’s attracting more than astronomers: “Electrosensitives,” who say their health suffers from modern gadgets, are moving in. And their requests for fluorescent-free lighting are making new kinds of waves with the locals.
He’s been a mystery for millennia. Almost nothing is known about the true identity of the poet credited with writing two of the western world’s greatest epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Theories include a blind rhapsodist, a composite of several poets or even a female author. But historian Adam Nicolson proffers an intriguing idea: “Homer” wasn’t a person at all, but the result of spoken tradition and a shared culture — which could mean the classic works are a thousand years older than previously believed.
These are not good odds. Researchers have found that 41 percent of teens who live with a gun in the home have easy access to it. And 41 percent of teens – coincidentally the same figure – have had suicidal thoughts or mental health issues. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for American teenagers, and earlier studies have shown that not having a gun in the house lowers the risk of teen suicide. So, parents, either drop the arms or lock them up.
Future generations may view indoor retail centers with as much suspicion as rotary telephones. These erstwhile teenage hangouts are suffering 40 percent vacancy rates and appear to be on the way out. While the obvious culprit is Internet shopping, data suggests that less than 10 percent of retail sales take place online. But that statistic includes grocery and car dealership trade, and when stripped of food and automotive sales, the Internet figures soar. Shoppers reaching for the mouse rather than the car keys really are killing American malls.
“You beat cancer by how you live,” he once said. Mixed martial arts training and broadcasting daily on national television aren’t usually part of a cancer patient’s routine, but they were for 22-year ESPN veteran Scott, who passed away yesterday. He was known, and universally loved, not just for gritty determination but also for popularizing some of our favorite sports phrases, including “Boo-yah!” and “as cool as the other side of the pillow.” Scott was indeed that cool.
Musical theater’s equivalent of the pope has a plan for getting bums on seats in British churches, where attendance has been dwindling for decades: Wi-Fi. Andrew Lloyd Webber — of Cats and Phantom of the Opera fame — believes religious hubs will thrive once they install Internet connectivity, and he says the government may be willing to foot the bill. By modernizing ecclesiastical technology, Lloyd Webber hopes the church can once again become the social and financial center of village life.