The speed limit along the curve in the Bronx where a Metro-North train derailed early Sunday morning, killing four and injuring more than 60, is 30 mph. But it is preceded by a 70 mph stretch. When engineer Bill Rockefeller tried to apply the brakes, he says they didn’t respond. The locomotive and seven trailing cars slid violently through dirt and gravel toward the Hudson River. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the train’s “black box” was recovered, but investigators expect to be working on the crash for more than a week.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The good news: 4 million more Americans braved crowds and weather to shop over the Thanksgiving weekend than during Black Friday weekend last year. The bad news: Black Friday spending fell by 2.9 percent, an unprecedented occurrence. One reason could be the late Thanksgiving, which forced stores to be more competitive with sales. Another could be online competition. Where traditional retail suffered, tech surged, with online spending for tablets up 90 percent and smart phones jumping 66 percent. Analysts will wait for today’s Cyber Monday figures before sounding any alarm.
Thai protest leaders escalated their demands for a new government Monday, just a day after giving Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra a deadline for stepping down. The protesters accuse the PM of ruling on behalf of her exiled brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who fled the country following a military coup in 2006. They want power returned “to the people,” but exactly how that would happen seems murky. The Shinawatra currently in power has said she isn’t leaving, and Thailand has been politically unstable since the former PM’s ouster. Brace yourselves.
A Chinese unmanned space mission is expected to reach the moon in mid-December. Once there, the six-wheeled rover “Jade Rabbit” — named for an ancient Chinese myth about a goddess keeping a pet rabbit on the moon — will search for natural resources and rare metals. China’s launch comes on the same day that India’s “Mangalyaan” craft left Earth’s orbit for Mars, where it will search for methane. The missions are the most ambitious for both countries and send a clear signal: China and India are ready to enter Earth’s superpower club.
The UN finds evidence of war crimes in Syria, implicating Bashar al-Assad (BBC).
More than 300,000 defy protest ban and demand the resignation of Ukraine leader. (Al Jazeera).
Canada to petition the UN to lay claim to 1.7 million square kilometers of the Arctic sea floor. (CBCNews).
Latin America is the new Boca for U.S. retirees. (CS Monitor).
Rwanda is rethinking how HIV care should work. (The Atlantic).
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s that X-Files box set you impulsively bought at 2 a.m.! Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that his company would deliver packages by drone in the near future, with some deliveries arriving within 30 minutes of purchase. Currently, Amazon’s “octocopters” can carry up to five pounds in a 10-mile radius, but those figures could increase by the time the drones are FAA-approved in a few years. Since 86 percent of Amazon deliveries are less than five pounds, the sky could be full of smiley-faced robots by 2017.
Citizens of Croatia, the European Union’s newest member, approved a referendum to amend the constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Despite the president and others speaking out against it, the predominantly Catholic nation voted 65 to 35 percent to pass the measure. Advocates for gay rights face many obstacles in Eastern Europe, although much progress has been made in the last decade. But the vote shows that the EU still has a lot of work to do if it hopes to harmonize civil rights, as well as markets, throughout Europe.
Hollywood is mourning Paul Walker, the star of the Fast & Furious franchise, who passed away Saturday in a car crash. The accident took place after Walker, 40, hosted an event for his charity Reach Out World Wide, to raise money for victims of Typhoon Haiyan. His friend Roger Rodas, 38, was driving the car, and also perished when the Porsche crashed into a tree and caught fire. As the news spread, numerous celebrities, including Lady Gaga and James Franco, offered their condolences through social media. Walker’s last movie Hours, a Hurricane Katrina drama, is due out Dec. 13.
They lived under lock and key for years. Now three of J.D. Salinger’s unpublished stories have seen the light, online. The reclusive author – who died three years ago at 91 — was a fierce protector of his work. He released only a few texts before his death and ordered the rest of his manuscripts to remain unpublished until 2060. Some fans believe that there is still an undiscovered safe somewhere full of his writings but, for now, they’ll have to satisfy themselves with three intriguing new stories: “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls,” “Birthday Boy” and “Paula.”
Australia is back on top of the rugby food chain after defeating New Zealand and taking the Rugby World Cup on Saturday. The final took place in Manchester and the New Zealanders fought until the bitter end, but Australia won without much trouble 34-2. It would seem the Kangaroos had neither forgiven nor forgotten how the Kiwis stole their championship, for the first time, five years ago. With its 10th World Cup title, Australia can reclaim its hegemony in the international rugby league and New Zealand will have to wait until 2017 to get another chance at the title.