Experience trumped outsiders last night. After pointed barbs between the candidates, Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio scored big cheers by taking aim at CNBC’s debate moderators, with Cruz declaring “this is not a cage match.” Nearly every candidate squeezed in a zinger at the expense of their visibly shaken moderators. But pundits clapped loudest for Florida Senator Rubio, calling it the strongest night of his campaign, compared to Ben “Quiet Man” Carson, a somewhat understated Donald Trump and a lackluster Jeb Bush — all signs that political fortunes may be turning as volatility flares.
The Presidential Daily Brief
”What a relief it would be to the American people if we finally got our act together,” the Wisconsin congressman said in a floor speech after he was elected the new leader of the House of Representatives. At 45, Ryan’s the youngest speaker in 140 years, and he’ll need to balance the needs of a party going into a tough election season with the demands of the outspoken Freedom Caucus, which rebelled against previous speaker John Boehner. So far he’s placating the hardliners with promises to let low-ranking members have more power to write bills.
That policy’s number is up. Chinese couples looking to have more than one child will no longer be subject to fines or forced abortions, thanks to a Communist Party rethink. The one-child policy, aimed at limiting the country’s explosive birth rate, has been around since 1979 and prevented an estimated 400 million births. But worries over changing demographics — fresh blood is needed to fill employment holes left by an aging population — saw social scientists champion change, which means women will be permitted to have exactly twice as many babies: 2.
It’ll be a devil of a time. The U.S. secretary of state is heading to Vienna for talks about Syria, where he says foreign leaders must “chart a course out of hell.” Today’s talks see Russia, the U.S., France, Germany, Britain, Saudi Arabia and notably Iran, among others, come together to discuss President Bashar al-Assad’s fate and how to best end the Syrian civil war. At the talks, Saudi Arabia is insisting that Iran accept Assad’s exit, no matter what the eventual solution.
Ho ho ho. While the Federal Reserve meeting yesterday resulted in no change to short-term interest rates, investors have been put on alert just in time for the holidays. Central bankers kept their benchmark near zero but explicitly warned that they’ll consider a lift at their final 2015 meeting in December. Many analysts, citing global economic concerns and low inflation, had predicted that a hike would have to wait until next year. But the Fed eased its warning about international woes hurting the U.S. economy, meaning Santa may deliver higher rates.
Ladies are standing a bit taller there today. Long-time women’s rights campaigner Bidhya Devi Bhandari has been elected the Himalayan nation’s first female president. The Communist Party’s deputy leader, 54, lobbied hard for the new constitution, adopted last month, which requires that either the president or vice president be a woman. The new framework also demands that a third of Nepal’s lawmakers be female. Heralding the 327-214 parliamentary vote in her favor, Bhandari says her ascension is the first step toward ensuring Nepal’s new guarantee of equality.
Human rights group alleges that Australia paid people-smugglers. (The Guardian)
Royal pain: Mets lose Game Two to Kansas City, 7-1. (USA Today)
Rwanda debates constitutional change for third presidential term. (Reuters)
U.S. House approves budget deal. (The Hill)
UN: North Koreans being sent abroad into forced labor. (BBC)
Modern-day vigilantes are after their hoods. The Anonymous collective of hackers says it will release the identities and contact information of 1,000 alleged members of the Ku Klux Klan. They purportedly shut down the Klansmen’s websites after the shooting death of Michael Brown last year, when the KKK threatened “lethal force” against protesters. Anonymous also falsely accused a police officer who had never been to Ferguson, Missouri, of shooting Brown. But now they’re threatening to release the names of hundreds they claim are white supremacists next month.
It’s cooking with gas. The European Rosetta spacecraft has found oxygen molecules in the cloud surrounding a comet. Since most of Earth’s oxygen arises from biological processes, it was assumed it couldn’t hitch rides on debris from the birth of our solar system. But this finding suggests a gentler process that enabled the comets to retain their oxygen, and forces physicists to consider that it may be time to rethink their standard wisdom about the system’s formation. Others, meanwhile, wonder whether comets can produce biosignatures of life all by themselves.
They don’t want a fight. Earlier this week, the celebrated tech and cultural festival caused an uproar when it decided to cancel two discussion panels on harassment and abuse in gaming. SXSW was widely seen as kowtowing to powerful tech geeks in the Gamergate controversy who resent claims that games demean women. That resulting backlash, combined with threats by Buzzfeed and Vox to pull out, seems to have kicked the festival into damage control mode. Now organizers are talking about reinstating a panel and possibly holding a day-long discussion on harassment.
They lost that magic feeling. The kid wizard is returning in the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at London’s Palace Theatre, and devotees had to pre-register online and wait in a “pre-queue” for hours yesterday for a chance to buy priority booking seats. But this caused a virtual pileup of more than 18,000, many of whom experienced technical hiccups. Those preview seats quickly sold out — resellers are flogging them for 10 times the original price — so fans should probably grab their wands to conjure up seats as general ticket sales begin tomorrow.
If he loses, he can’t blame his genes. Stanford’s star running back, the son of three-time Super Bowl champ Ed McCaffrey, is climbing the ranks of college football. His famous dad’s shadow is omnipresent, adding pressure on him and his three brothers to excel. But the 19-year-old with the blond haired, blue-eyed “All-American” look has been supplementing this genetic advantage with old-fashioned hard work — a strategy that just saw Sports Illustrated rank him as No. 5 on their ”Heisman Watch” list.