There’s a special on raises. America’s largest private employer will start paying all U.S. workers at least $9 an hour by April and $10 in 2016. The change increases pay for a half million employees or 40 percent of its workforce. The move helps counter a deep perception of Walmart as one of America’s most-hated retailers, and will boost morale and attract higher-performing workers. With the job market tightening, other large employers such as McDonald’s may be forced to go the Walmart way.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They wanted six more months. The Greeks proposed an assistance package as an alternative to renewing the controversial austerity measures tied to a eurozone loan. The European Commission called it a “positive” request, but the Germans disagreed — signaling not only a split with Athens, but a rift between Brussels and Berlin. A vote for Greece’s plan has to be unanimous. The markets responded with a downturn. As goes Greece, so goes the union.
It’s déjà vu, North African style. The U.N. instituted an arms embargo against Libya in 2011, during the doomed reign of Moammar Gadhafi. Now Egypt and Libya are asking that it be removed, so Libya’s threatened government can arm itself against ISIS and its allies. Jordan also offered support, circulating a resolution to Security Council members. But Libya remains divided and unstable, and the U.N. must mediate between its two factions, seeking a unified government. Western allies also have reservations about weapons falling into the hands of rival militias.
The people want answers. Hundreds of thousands of Argentines protested the handling of the investigation into the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, whose body was found next to a gun in his apartment on Jan. 18. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said his death — just before he planned to accuse her and other officials of covering up Iranian involvement in a 1994 terror attack — was staged, like the protest, to harm her government. Ignoring suspicion, she says she won’t resign and will complete her term in December.
Drugs may be no help. A Los Angeles hospital says more than 175 patients have been exposed to a deadly strain of bacteria that may have already killed two others. The exposure likely resulted from equipment that’s difficult to sterilize. Last month, a Seattle hospital revealed 32 patients were infected the same way between 2012 and 2014. The bacteria is 50 percent fatal once it infects the blood, and resistant to antibiotics. Health officials have offered screening kits to exposed patients. And are hopefully cleaning their tools.
They’re more cautious than optimistic. In minutes from their January meeting, released on Wednesday, Federal Reserve officials appeared more inclined to keep interest rates near zero for longer than they’d previously expressed. Many central bankers openly worry that a “premature” rate hike would derail the U.S. recovery, pointing to low inflation, slow wage growth and the shrinking oil industry. Despite the yellow flags, the Fed is still likely to raise the benchmark rate this year. Even anticipation of the move, some say, is something of drag.
It’s time to talk about religion and extremism. The president said that while the U.S. is not at war with Islam, it is “at war with people who have perverted Islam.” During his summit on extremist violence Wednesday, he asked Muslims to “speak up” against violent Islamist movements — an idea that could anger those who feel their faith puts their loyalties into question. “Folks are understandably sensitive,” Obama said of such issues, “but we have to talk about them honestly and clearly.”
Firm’s encryption keys may have been stolen by U.S. and U.K. spies. (FT) sub
Feyenoord fans arrested over violence before Roma match. (Reuters)
Lawsuit claims Apple improperly poached engineers. (Reuters)
ECB minutes reveal concerns over low inflation. (WSJ) sub
Israeli election focuses on spending by prime minister and wife. (USA Today)
Ukraine asks for international peacekeepers. (Washington Post)
Qatar recalls Cairo envoy after accusation of terror support. (AP)
Eddie Murphy said to refuse Cosby spoof on ‘SNL’ special. (NYDN)
He’s not done yet. The former New York City mayor sparked an uproar after challenging the president’s patriotism on Wednesday night, saying, “I do not believe that the president loves America.” But defending himself against accusations of race-baiting, the 2007 presidential candidate said his remarks couldn’t have been racist since Obama has “a white mother.” Ironically, Giuliani’s strange rhetoric gives Jeb Bush a prime opportunity. By repudiating his remarks, one political writer says, Bush could come out as “the adult in the Republican field.”
No tiny spliffs were involved. Yale University researchers injected mice with the active chemicals in cannabis and discovered that pot essentially hijacks the brain’s circuitry to amplify hunger. Neuron clusters in the hypothalamus that normally discharge chemicals to signal that you’re full switch to producing endorphins instead, making you giddy and unaware that you’ve had dinner. The research could lead to ways to prevent overeating or help chemotherapy patients regain their appetites. That would give scientists a real high.
Web-shaming is the new stoning. Instead of rocks, we collectively throw barbs and even threats when some impulsive faux pas splashes across social media — before we move on to the next outrage. But there’s growing awareness that this transitory behavior can have devastating permanent effects. One woman who was fired after a Facebook photo firestorm barely left her house for a year. What to do? Employers can forgive minor online gaffes, and we can all look into the mirror before casting the next stone.
Oh, the things you’ll publish when you’re dead. In July, Random House will release a new book from the king of nonsense rhymes from manuscripts his widow found while remodeling her home. Theodor Geisel likely wrote What Pet Should I Get? — starring the siblings from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish — between 1958 and 1962. Two more new books will follow. With work in the attic and a fabulous name, you’ll cheat the Grim Reaper and stay in the game.
A 15-month-old class-action suit against the NHL is back on center ice after 29 former players joined more than 40 other plaintiffs, alleging the league ignored long-term effects of concussions. On Sunday, 35-year-old Steve Montador, a retired player with a history of concussions, was found dead in his home. He had also planned to join the suit. The litigation is similar to a 2013 NFL case settled for $765 million. While the hockey league denies culpability, a judge’s ruling is expected soon.
They’re not sexy, just world-changing. Elon Musk has innovated cars and rockets, but his next breakthrough is a little less dramatic: Home batteries — that is, batteries to power your home — which would likely sit unnoticed in the basement. They’ll do something revolutionary, though, storing energy that was hitherto limited by generation capacity. That could radically improve electricity conservation, making solar power more viable, and even help consumers leave the grid. Yet when they launch in about six months, it may only be experts getting charged up.