The GOP caved on Obamacare (it will continue) and restrictions on the Environmental Protection Agency, but the White House will lose out on funding for high speed rail projects and preschool development grants. Washington Bible Roll Call notes a few riders, such a a $174,000 death benefit to a House widow. The 1,582-page bill keeps the nation rolling through September and barely meets the Jan. 15 deadline set by previous stop-gap measures after the October government shutdown. Expect legislators to agree to a brief extension in order to keep the government open until the bill can hit the president’s desk later this week.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The two-day referendum would replace the last version, enacted under the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Mohamed . The army sees the new referendum as an approval vote on their move to push out of office, and crack down on the Brotherhood. But the party that won Egypt’s first democratic election is boycotting the vote. The current government is paying close attention to turnout. And peace is far from assured — already at least five people have died in voting-related clashes.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has warned the Syrian opposition they had better turn up for next week’s peace talks in Switzerland if they want the same level of continued support. The rebels plan to vote Friday on whether to attend the talks aimed at resolving Syria’s civil war, with some fearing that their credibility will be undermined by participating in peace negotiations if they don’t lead to tangible results. But without U.S. support, the rebel coalition would have a lot more to worry about than just its credibility.
An American journalist has been expelled from Russia for the first time since the end of the Cold War. David Satter, a former Financial Times correspondent and author of three books on Russia, has been told his presence is “not desirable” and that he is banned from re-entering the country. No further explanation was given, though Satter suspects the ban is a response to his claim that the Federal Security Service orchestrated the 1999 apartment bombings in order to boost Putin’s popularity and justify war in Chechnya. The expulsion is likely to further strain Washington’s relations with the Kremlin.
Source: The Guardian
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has signed a bill outlawing gay marriage, public displays of same-sex relationships and involvement in gay groups. While international leaders denounced the bill and urged Jonathan to reject it, his spokesman said that because a large majority of Nigerians are opposed to same-sex marriage, the president felt the bill was aligned with the people’s beliefs. This is a major blow to Nigeria’s LGBT community and has been condemned by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who compared it to apartheid. It follows similar crackdowns on gay rights in Uganda, India and Russia in recent months, feeding fears of international anti-gay backlash.
Source: Al Jazeera
West Virginia begins to lift restrictions on drinking water. (WSJ)
Family mourns a man shot over a texting dispute in a movie theater. (CNN)
China sentences doctor over baby thefts. (BBC).
Hundreds die in ferry sinking trying to escape South Sudan fighting. (Al Jazeera).
Mexico to deploy federal forces in troubled region. (The Guardian).
Obama administration officials estimate that more than nine million Americans have now signed onto the Affordable Care Act, but figures show that young people are not flocking to the system. In fact, they are relatively unlikely to sign up for the insurance, with 18-34 year olds representing just 24 percent of enrollment. The figures also show that 55 percent of those who signed up in the first three months were aged between 45 and 64. Obama has promised to increase youth outreach, which is good because the system needs more equality between older customers, who tend to be less healthy, and younger ones in order to stem costs.
The Dallas Safari Club has sold a permit to hunt one endangered black rhino in Namibia for $350,000. The club argues that the older male rhino, which can no longer breed, poses a danger to younger males in the herd. By removing him, the safari club claims it will actually improve the black rhino herd’s survival prospects in Namibia. They expected to net closer to $1 million for the permit, but a wave of negative publicity no doubt contributed to the lower price tag. Many have opposed the sale, including TV presenter Bob Barker, who quipped that it was a harsh way to deal with senior citizens. Conservationists say the money could be better spent.
Google may soon know what’s going on in your house. Nest, a home automation company making smart thermostats that use data about your temperature preferences to intuitively adjust home environments, has been purchased for $3.2 billion in cash by the Internet giant. Google’s move reflects a growing trend toward the “Internet of Everything,” with web connectivity being added to a range of devices — from cookware and mattresses to cars — to help automate our lives. It remains to be seen how hot or cool consumers will be to this home invasion.
In the third-largest acquisition in the liquor industry’s history, a Japanese drinks company has acquired Beam Inc., the producers of Jim Beam, Maker’s Mart and Knob Creek bourbons. The $13.6 billion all-cash deal reflects the growing appeal of bourbon internationally after a long period of unpopularity. Beam Inc., which got started in Kentucky in 1795, has struggled to keep up with increased demand. Like many Japanese firms, Suntory seems eager to acquire foreign firms in the face of weak growth at home, and it is certainly well equipped to enhance Beam’s sales and quench the international market’s thirst.
A new study gauging both TV ratings and birth rates suggests that the reality show has prevented 20,000 births. The conservative group Media Research Center had criticized the show for making teenage pregnancy seem cool by elevating participating women to celebrity status. But with social media posts and Internet searches related to contraception spiking sharply during the broadcasts of both ”16 and Pregnant” and its spin-off, ”Teen Mom,” evidence suggests that these shows may have more impact than just time in front of the television.
Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo has won the FIFA Ballon d’Or for 2013, bringing Lionel Messi’s four-year stint as the top prizewinner to a halt. After scoring 69 goals in 59 matches for Real and the Portuguese national team, Ronaldo was named world player of the year for the first time since 2008 by the world’s soccer elite. But Ronaldo has even greater ambitions. After disappointing exits from previous championships, Ronaldo is looking to make history with Portugal at the World Cup in Brazil this summer.