They’re breathing easier in Athens. Under stricter conditions demanded by Germany, eurozone finance ministers will extend Greece’s bailout borrowing for four months, pulling the country back from the brink of financial chaos. The new accord requires the anti-austerity leadership to lay out Monday which reforms it intends to adopt. Greece can now tap more of its $273 billion package while it hammers out longer-term solutions. After all, an emergency loan doesn’t do much to solve its endemic problems of corruption and tax evasion.
The Presidential Daily Brief
This year hasn’t been easy for national health insurance. First, officials found errors in tax credit statements, which impacts how much people owe, or get back, from signing up last year. They’ve extended the deadline for this year through April, bowing to Democrats who complained that the holidays plus tax season didn’t give people time to meet the original deadline earlier this month. So far, the sign-ups are on par with White House estimates for 2015, and they don’t predict having another extension next year.
It’s all about logistics. Kurdish fighters backed by the West appear to have gained control of a highway in northern Iraq, striking a blow to ISIS. Though the battles were small, the prize is huge: The road they’ve captured is the main supply route between the militants’ major outposts in Iraq and Syria. The disruption makes it harder for ISIS to shuttle money, weapons, supplies and soldiers between its key cities of Raqqa and Mosul. It could also damage the so-called caliphate’s reputation and recruitment efforts.
They just never left. Three months ago, the U.S. Department of State disclosed that its unclassified email system had been infiltrated by outsiders, with Russia suspected. But sources report that the hackers still haven’t been evicted, and evidence shows they adjust their malware to bypass new defenses. Some might say it’s apropos for a government proficient at invading the systems of others. What now? Cybersecurity officials think the best strategy is sharing threat information, so that more people can find ways to combat the attacks.
He’s not done yet. The former New York City mayor sparked an uproar after challenging the president’s patriotism this week, 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, Rudolph 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.”
“Save money, live better” has a new meaning. Faced with a tightening labor market and terrible turnover, the retail giant plans to pay workers at least $9 an hour by April, plus another dollar an hour next year. About 40 percent of Wal-Mart’s 1.3 million employees — and its unhappy image — will benefit, but there’s still a monumental gap between the boardroom and the sales floor. The move may also prod other chains’ payrolls, so even McDonald’s “associates” might end up “lovin’ it.”
Justice Dept. to seek emergency stay to allow immigration action. (Reuters)
Erroneous tax information sent to 800,000 health care customers. (AP)
U.S. stocks rally to close at highs after Greece bailout deal. (CNBC)
Boxing greats Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao to fight. (ESPN)
First gay couple weds in Texas. (Houston Chronicle)
Las Vegas police arrest suspect in road-rage killing. (AP)
Thailand bans foreigners from hiring surrogates. (ABC)
Mali signs ceasefire with rebels. (BBC)
YouTube launches new app just for kids. (CNN)
Don’t cry for him, Falkland Islands — the truth is he never met you. Like disgraced anchor Brian Williams, Bill O’Reilly has been touting imaginary battlefield experience. ”I’ve been there,” he’s often said, setting himself apart from “other bloviators.” In this case “there” is the 1982 Falklands war — but in the days before media embeds, only British journalists aboard military ships got close. O’Reilly’s own memoir claims he arrived in Buenos Aires, 1,200 miles away from action, as the war ended. Hearing this, will fans keep their distance?
Could there be a vacuumbnb.com? NASA says it’s planning a serious overhaul of the International Space Station to install docking ports that will accommodate private space flights. SpaceX and Boeing have both announced plans to go into orbit beginning in 2017, and NASA has signed multibillion dollar contracts with both companies to transport astronauts to the space station in place of NASA’s retired shuttle fleet. The ISS renovations should be finished before 2016, but the question remains: Is there an off-season in space?
There are always more barriers. Jami and Krista Contreras selected a pediatrician based in part on her holistic approach to medicine, and showed up in the waiting room for their baby daughter’s first checkup. But the physician, who’d previously met the moms at a prenatal appointment, sent a colleague to inform them that after “much prayer” she couldn’t see their child. They aren’t suing, because Michigan laws don’t protect against such discrimination, but the incident raises questions about the ethics of doctors rejecting patients they find disagreeable.
Nate Silver, watch your back. Harvard senior Ben Zauzmer says he’s developed an algorithm to handicap the Academy Awards with 75 percent accuracy. Crunching data from 20 years of Oscars, the applied math major is calling the top prizes for Birdman and its director, and statuettes for Eddie Redmayne, Julianne Moore, J. K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette. Silver’s site offers nearly identical picks. If all goes well Sunday night, both prognosticators should be shoo-ins for 2016.
The music just stopped. A multimillion-dollar flurry of deals has moved players hither and yon, with 2004 MVP Kevin Garnett returning to Minnesota from Brooklyn and Phoenix trading All-NBA point guard Goran Dragic to Miami. The 38-year-old Garnett, who spent his first 12 years with the Timberwolves and won a championship with the Celtics, will be replaced by a younger Thaddeus Young, while Dragic will get his wish and move south. Now that the musical chairs are filled, the game can resume.