Will the majority rule? The Supreme Court is considering, for the second time, the case of Abigail Fisher, a white woman who claims she was rejected by the University of Texas based on her race. Justice Antonin Scalia stole headlines with controversial remarks about how some African-American students might benefit from “slower” classes. Justice Anthony Kennedy will likely cast the deciding vote — but with Justice Elena Kagan recused from the case, a 4-4 split is possible — and a clear ruling could doom affirmative action in higher education.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Today he might be Dear Mis-leader. According to official state news, North Korea’s supreme ruler boasted of his country’s military capabilities, saying it’s ”ready to detonate a self-reliant A-bomb and H-bomb to reliably defend its sovereignty.” Though there’s no evidence that the Hermit Kingdom controls a hydrogen bomb — which is more advanced and more powerful than an atomic bomb — they’re known to have tested nuclear weapons before. Even if it’s all talk, Kim’s claim highlights how little we know about North Korea’s strike capability.
He’s not inspiring confidence. In a shock move, President Jacob Zuma fired Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene after credit rating firms nudged the country nearer to junk bond status. The firing didn’t help things, shaking up investor confidence and pushing the South African rand to a record low. Though Zuma’s named a replacement — relatively unknown MP David van Rooyen — analysts think the timing may have been disastrous, scaring away international investment before the expected U.S. Fed rate rise. If the country hits junk status, it could easily drop into recession.
It’s a race to the top … and the bottom. Pew Research Center findings reveal that for the first time in 40 years the middle class makes up just half of the population of the United States. Since the late 1960s, when the middle class comprised 61 percent of the nation, Americans have been zooming toward upper and lower income brackets. While more people are prosperous than ever before, the wealth gap between rich and middle class has more than doubled, leading economists to seek solutions to rising inequalities.
Pentagon proposes new overseas bases to fight ISIS. (NYT)
Argentina’s new president Mauricio Macri takes power. (Washington Post)
Trump sees surge in polls after anti-Muslim comments. (MSNBC)
World’s first dengue fever vaccine approved by Mexico. (BBC)
COP21 negotiations stall as Paris tries for climate deal. (DW)
FBI: San Bernardino suspects were radicalized before they met. (WSJ) sub
It’s a whole new doggie style. Cornell researchers, having successfully joined egg and sperm to create beagle embryos, have given birth to canine IVF. Nineteen embryos were transplanted into a canine mother, leading to the first-ever IVF dog births of seven adorable pups via cesarean section in July. While IVF has long been successful in other animals, dogs presented unique reproductive challenges. Scientists now hope the breakthrough will inform future research on disease and help give endangered canid species more than a dog’s chance at survival.
Crust punk isn’t exactly his genre. But Matt Jacobson, who’s headed heavy metal label Relapse for 25 years, has a side business that’s both: a tiny pizza empire in Portland, Oregon. Sizzle Pie — which was inspired by New York-style pizzerias but is oh-so-Portland in that the pies come vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free — is an expanding franchise in the Rose City. And Jacobson’s using the marketing tricks he learned promoting metal bands to build his pizza place into a $1 million juggernaut of a business.
It’d have trouble tooting its own horn. Luckily, scientists are happy to trumpet the importance of Hualianceratops wucaiwanensis, a newly discovered ancestor of Triceratops. Fossils found in China’s Shishugou Formation reveal the bipedal herbivore was only the size of a dog, and while it had the genetic foundation for horns, the species hadn’t yet developed the real thing. Paleontologists studying the new discovery say the 160-million-year-old bones shake up the horned dinosaur family tree and reveal a more diverse ceratopsian population than previously believed.
There are no front-runners. Nominees for the Screen Actors Guild Awards are usually a reliable predictor of who’ll shine at the Oscars. But Wednesday’s nominations saw expected favorite The Martian get shut out, while Bryan Cranston vehicle Trumbo is unexpectedly in the running for three awards. The Golden Globes, however, swung toward Cate Blanchett drama Carol, which got five nominations, and showed Best Picture and Best Director love to Mad Max: Fury Road — which could mean the feminist action film gets traction for Oscar nods as well.
Sometimes you get a second chance … or a third. Cleveland quarterback Johnny Manziel, who has a history of alcohol abuse — and of lying to team officials about it — was demoted indefinitely after video surfaced of him partying during the team’s November bye week. But starter Josh McCown got injured and replacement Austin Davis isn’t performing. Now coach Mike Pettine has no choice: He says he’ll keep the 23-year-old on a short leash and trust that he’ll step up both on and off the field.