They’re steaming ahead. Despite some reservations expressed by members of the Federal Open Market Committee over the last few months, they unanimously voted to increase the target funds rate, seven years to the day after the Federal Reserve took it down to zero as a response to the financial crisis. Documents released with the announcement indicate that the Fed thinks the economy will keep gradually improving, and policy makers signaled a gradual rate hike, likely four more quarter-point increases — which would still put the interest rate below 1.5 by the end of 2016.
The Presidential Daily Brief
After three days, they’ve got no answers. Judge Barry G. Williams has declared a mistrial in the case of Baltimore officer William G. Porter, who was one of six officers charged with involuntary manslaughter over the April death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody. Though the jury deliberated for more than 16 hours — and was sent back to chambers yesterday by the judge, who ordered them to take more time — they couldn’t agree unanimously. Now prosecutors must decide whether to retry, as Baltimore prepares for possible unrest over the non-verdict.
So much for a holiday truce. Presidential hopefuls gathered in Las Vegas last night for their fifth rhetorical showdown, tackling immigration, terror and the battle against ISIS. Jeb Bush stood firm against front-runner Donald Trump over his proposal to bar Muslims from entering the United States, while sparks flew between junior senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. The Texas politician held his ground, albeit with a little less fire than previous debates, while his Florida-based colleague flexed his foreign policy know-how — performances that should serve both well.
Strength in unity: That’s the message from the bloc as it proposes a new border and coast guard agency to face the rising tide of refugees from around the globe. Moving ahead with “more unity, decisiveness and resolve,” the European Commission hopes to bolster border security while maintaining free movement within the Schengen zone. If approved by the European Parliament, the new patrol force — costing a whopping $354 million by 2020 — will feature a 1,500-strong rapid reaction unit and will expel migrants who don’t qualify for asylum.
He wants to rule the Internet. China is calling on world leaders to develop a global “governance system” that respects the wishes of all concerned while allowing nations to set their own Web restrictions. Speaking at the World Internet Conference in Zhejiang province, Xi said “multilateral, democratic and transparent” rules would help fight online crime and cyberterrorism. Chinese authorities are renowned for heavy Internet censorship, and many fear Xi’s declaration — labeled an “all-out assault on Internet freedoms” by critics — is a sure sign that Beijing is planning further clampdowns.
They’re staying open for business. Congressional leaders reached a tentative deal last night on a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund federal agencies through 2016, with House Speaker Paul Ryan making a strong case to compromise now and “start fresh” next year. The deal would also extend business-friendly tax breaks and lift heavy restrictions on U.S. crude oil exports. Government funding is set to expire at midnight tonight, but lawmakers, Ryan says, will pass an extension today ahead of House and Senate votes on the legislation later this week.
Canadian Pastor Faces Life Sentence in North Korea, UN Says Tehran Violated Security Council Resolution
North Korea sentences Canadian pastor to life in prison. (BBC)
Iran could face new sanctions over missile test. (Al Jazeera)
Malala Yousafzai takes aim at Trump’s comments for being ‘full of hatred.’ (AFP)
L.A. schools reopen after terrorism threat. (USA today)
No evidence that San Bernardino couple were part of terrorist cell, says FBI head. (Reuters)
Ferguson reportedly close to a deal to overhaul police force. (NYT)
En garde! GOP candidate Ted Cruz is head over heels for the classic 1987 adventure flick, quoting lines and acting out scenes on the campaign trail. Memes of the Texas senator’s face superimposed on Patinkin’s character, swordsman Inigo Montoya, are growing in popularity. But the beloved actor is sharpening his blade, saying Cruz “is not putting forth ideas that are at the heart” of the movie. Patinkin says the senator is exploiting fears about immigrants and Muslims, and he’d like to see him creating “hope, optimism and love” instead.
Six million Egyptians were infected with hepatitis C as the country battled schistosomiasis, a water-borne parasitic disease. The deadly virus has since spread to 10 percent of the population, but an experiment is underway to deliver much-needed meds to fight the disease. Pharmaceutical firms are selling drugs like sofosbuvir at a fraction of the usual cost in Egypt, carefully limiting distribution to protect earnings in the West. So far, tens of thousands have gained access to otherwise unaffordable treatments, giving hope to poor and ailing communities worldwide.
They’re hoofing their way to a whole new market. Though pets have long been tracked by technology, apps to monitor the health of herds of cattle have taken a bit longer. Now they’re horning in on a market that used to be dominated by human instinct … and plagued by human error. Livestock electronics are the largest part of the $1.1 billion animal wearables market. Monitoring everything from fertility cycles to feed problems, they could take a huge nibble out of the $5 billion lost every year to untimely livestock deaths.
They’re taking high-tech to new depths. After helping launch private space flights, a group led by Peter Diamandis is looking to inspire greater understanding of the watery unknown. The “treasure hunt” includes mapping and capturing high-definition images of specific objects. Noting that 95 percent of the world’s deep seas remain unexplored, the entrepreneurial engineer — backed by Shell and NOAA — is offering the bounty to anyone who can devise new technologies, likely robots, to help advance searches for food, energy and economic security below the waves.
They hit it home. Four of baseball’s young leaders and Cuban natives visited the once-unwelcoming island as part of MLB’s goodwill tour to improve relations. All-Star Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig and 2014 AL Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu joined Brayan Pena and Alexei Ramirez as they were warmly greeted by fans and family members alike at Havana’s Hotel Nacional. League officials say they’re confident the talks will lead to preseason — and possibly even regular season — games being held in Cuba in 2016.