The tables were turned. After pointed barbs between the candidates, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio scored big cheers from the audience by aiming the rhetorical crosshairs at CNBC’s debate moderators, with Cruz declaring, “this is not a cage match.” He also offered to buy co-host Carl Quintanilla one of Colorado’s “famous” pot brownies. Nearly every candidate eventually squeezed in a zinger at the expense of their visibly jolted moderators, including a mostly understated Donald Trump. But Rubio also managed to ding former mentor Jeb Bush, showing how their respective political fortunes have flipped in recent weeks.
The Presidential Daily Brief
It was a busy day. GOP leaders got some significant help from Democratic lawmakers to pass a two-year budget over objections from more hardline conservatives. The deal, a parting victory for John Boehner, should easily pass the Senate and raises spending limits for both domestic and military programs avoiding debt defaults or government shutdowns until President Obama is out of office. The vote comes on the same day Republicans nominated Paul Ryan for House Speaker. The Wisconsin policy wonk said he objected to the budget deal process but voted for it anyway, calling it a way to move forward.
America may notch up its fight against the jihadis. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday of proposed plans for “direct action on the ground” against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, with concentrated efforts in Raqqa and Ramadi. The White House assured it has “no intention of long term ground combat,” but will make a decision as early as this week over the proposed policy shift. This, combined with Iran’s now-accepted invitation to attend talks on Syria, seems to signal increased American awareness of the need to do more.
They have the right to remain silent. Defense officials confirmed reports that a U.S. Navy destroyer navigated into the 12-mile disputed zone near artificial islands in the South China Sea, challenging Beijing’s territorial claims. But they’re not saying much else about the maneuver, which aimed to shore up alliances with countries angered by China’s aggression. Washington says it was merely exercising its right to move in international waters, but Chinese officials have spoken up loudly, labeling the move a provocation and threatening to “firmly react.”
It’s going to be a fight every step of the way. The company behind the B-2 bomber beat out a team composed of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, two of the biggest weapons contractors for the Pentagon, for a project that some say could cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years and set the U.S.’s course for the next generation of warplanes. Now Congress will have to battle it out, lobbyists on every side, for the jobs and funding that accompany such contracts — which some hope will shore up U.S. defenses against potential rivals China and Russia.
Earnings are in reverse. The German automotive giant — reeling from its emissions-cheating scandal — issued a full-year profit warning today, noting a $1.9 billion third-quarter net loss, compared to last year’s $3.2 billion profit. It advised investors that profits will be “down significantly” as the firm pays to crawl out of a deep pothole of costs for its global recall of 11 million cars. But it still forecasted as much as a 4 percent rise in sales revenue, driving up VW shares in early trading.
Cold weather isn’t stemming the flow. Despite hopes that falling temperatures might keep Europe-bound migrants in the south, an uptick in Syrian fighting is driving numbers north. Small Balkan states like Slovenia are bearing the brunt, thanks to Hungary shutting its borders. Officials thought they’d see 2,500 refugees a day, but 10,000 are coming through, overwhelming the mountainous enclave. Slovenia’s warning that it may be forced to build its own fence to keep the masses at bay — and Austria’s announcement that it’ll be fencing off its Slovenia border won’t help matters.
Fed leaves interest rates near zero, hints at future hikes (USA Today)
Hastert pleads guilty to hush-money charges, could face prison time. (Chicago Tribune)
UN overwhelmingly rejects U.S. embargo of Cuba. (CNN)
President Ouattara wins by a landslide in Ivory Coast. (Al Jazeera)
Apple profits rise by 31 percent. (FT) sub
South Asian earthquake survivors risk exposure in freezing temps. (Time)
Officer in South Carolina arrest video fired. (CNN)
This dominatrix knows how to provide the most satisfying form of release. With a bit of discipline, Tax Domme boss Lori St. Kitts ensures that porn stars and escorts pay their taxes by whipping their accounts into shape and tying up thorny questions of illegality, while beating back discrimination against the industry. Accountants who specialize in sex work are tightly bound to a whole subset of laws most would tremble to touch, but they provide the relief of being on the right side of the bed … with the IRS.
Have they found a cure for competition? Walgreens Boots Alliance plans to buy their rival for $9.4 billion in cash and $7.8 billion in debt. The deal would merge America’s second- and third-largest drug chains for a combined $100 billion in annual sales and nearly 13,000 stores to challenge market leader CVS. Rumors of the deal — which would see the acquired stores revamped to focus on health and beauty — sent Rite Aid stocks upward, but speculation of antitrust scrutiny saw those gains drop in after-hours trading.
Does a bear poop in the woods? Hopefully. A new study finds that animal feces are key to maintaining balance in the natural world. Creatures migrating by both land and sea disperse nutrients over great distances via their poop. But the ongoing threat of extinction for many species, especially larger mammals, could harm more than we realize if their excrement is no longer around to enrich the environment. Revitalizing whale populations, for example, could boost the oceans’ carbon dioxide-absorbing ability, which would be great for mankind and beast alike.
Can they obtain Mop Top perfection? Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson know how to make the girls scream … and the charts sizzle. Their new single “Perfect” hit the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart at No. 10 for the band’s fifth top-10 start, making history by overtaking the Beatles’ record. Following the August success of “Drag Me Down,” the British lads — currently on tour in their homeland — look set to make good on Styles’ claim that they are more famous than the original Fab Four.
Last night’s whopping 14-inning contest — the longest Game 1 in World Series history — saw K.C. finally put away New York 5-4 after five hours and nine minutes. The teams matched runs and expert pitching throughout, but after Alex Gordon tied it with a homer in the ninth, neither side could break the deadlock, dragging out the drama for five more rounds before Eric Hosmer’s sacrifice fly clinched it. The Mets hope to even the score when they take the field in Kansas City again tonight.