Fed raises key rate by half-point and signals more to come
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve reinforced its inflation fight Wednesday by raising its key interest rate for the seventh time this year and signaling more hikes to come. But it announced a smaller hike than it had in its past four meetings at a time when inflation is showing signs of easing.
The Fed made clear, in a statement and a news conference by Chair Jerome Powell, that it thinks sharply higher rates are still needed to fully tame the worst inflation bout to strike the economy in four decades.
The central bank boosted its benchmark rate a half-point to a range of 4.25% to 4.5%, its highest level in 15 years. Though lower than its previous three-quarter-point hikes, the latest move will further increase the costs of many consumer and business loans and the risk of a recession.
More surprisingly, the policymakers forecast that their key short-term rate will reach a range of 5% to 5.25% by the end of 2023. That suggests that the Fed is poised to raise its rate by an additional three-quarters of a point and leave it there through next year. Some economists had expected that the Fed would project only an additional half-point increase.
The latest rate hike was announced one day after an encouraging report showed that inflation in the United States slowed in November for a fifth straight month. The year-over-year increase of 7.1%, though still high, was sharply below a recent peak of 9.1% in June.
Twitter changes rules over account tracking Elon Musk’s jet
Twitter on Wednesday suspended an account that used publicly available flight data to track Elon Musk’s private jet, despite a pledge by the social media platform’s new owner to keep it up because of his free speech principles.
Then, hours later, Musk brought back the jet-tracking account after imposing new conditions on all of Twitter’s users — no more sharing of anyone’s current location.
But shortly afterward, the account was suspended again. That came after Musk tweeted that a “crazy stalker” attacked a car in Los Angeles carrying his young son.
He also threatened legal action against Jack Sweeney, the 20-year-old college sophomore and programmer who started the @elonjet flight-tracking account, and “organizations who supported harm to my family.” It’s not clear what legal action Musk could take against Sweeney for an account that automatically posted public flight information.
Before Wednesday, the account had more than 526,000 followers.
Diplomats: UN blocks Myanmar military from taking UN seat
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A key U.N. committee has again blocked Myanmar’s military junta from taking the country’s seat at the United Nations, two well-informed U.N. diplomats said Wednesday.
The General Assembly’s credentials committee met Monday and deferred action on the junta’s request, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity before a formal announcement likely later this week.
The decision means that Kyaw Moe Tun, who was Myanmar’s ambassador at the United Nations when the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, 2021, will remain on the job.
Last December, Myanmar’s military rulers also failed in their effort to replace Tun, who remains a supporter of the previous government and the opposition National Unity Government, which opposes the junta.
Chris Gunness, director of the London-based Myanmar Accountability Project, welcomed the credentials committee’s move, saying it has “great diplomatic and symbolic significance, at a time when the illegal coup leaders are attempting to gain international recognition.”
France celebrates WCup victory, fans cheer Morocco team
PARIS (AP) — Crowds in Paris and other French cities erupted in shouts of joy as France advanced to the World Cup final Wednesday, while disappointed Morocco fans mingled with the exuberant supporters of the winning team, paying tribute to the African country’s unprecedented achievement.
Football fans streamed to the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, shooting off firecrackers and red flares, to an unending chorus of honking cars.
On the famous avenue, many were brandishing French flags and singing “we are in the final.”
Some Moroccan fans, wrapped in the North African country’s flag, also cheered their team in the streets of the French capital.
France beat Morocco 2-0 to reach the World Cup final against Argentina, in a historic match between the defending champion and Africa’s first ever semifinalist.
US sues Arizona over shipping containers on Mexico border
PHOENIX (AP) — The U.S. government sued Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and the state Wednesday over the placement of shipping containers as a barrier on the border with Mexico, saying it is trespassing on federal lands.
The complaint filed in U.S. District Court comes three weeks before the Republican governor steps aside for Democratic Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs, who has said she opposes the construction.
Ducey told U.S. officials earlier this week that Arizona is ready to help remove the containers, which he says were placed as a temporary barrier. But he wants the U.S. government to say when it will fill any remaining gaps in the permanent border wall as it announced it would a year ago.
The U.S. “owes it to Arizonans and all Americans to release a timeline,” he wrote in a Tuesday letter, responding to news of the pending federal complaint.
Border security was a focus of Donald Trump’s presidency and remains a key issue for Republican politicians.
3 dead in Louisiana as US storm spawns Southern tornadoes
KEITHVILLE, La. (AP) — A vast and volatile storm system ripping across the U.S. killed at least three people in Louisiana, spinning up tornadoes that battered the state from north to south, including the New Orleans area where memories of 2021’s Hurricane Ida and a tornado in March linger.
Elsewhere, the huge system hurled blizzard-like conditions at the Great Plains.
Several injuries were reported around Louisiana by authorities, and more than 40,000 power outages statewide as of Wednesday night.
The punishing storms barreled eastward Wednesday after killing a mother and son in the northwestern part of the state a day earlier. The system spun off a suspected tornado that killed a woman Wednesday in southeast Louisiana’s St. Charles Parish and another that pummeled parts of New Orleans and neighboring Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes — including areas badly damaged by a March tornado.
A tornado struck New Iberia, Louisiana, slightly injuring five people and smashing out windows of a multistory building at Iberia Medical Center, the hospital said. As night drew on, tornado threats eased in Mississippi, although some counties in Florida and Alabama remained under a severe weather threat.
An 84-year-old filmmaker looks into a donkey’s soul in ‘EO’
It was the eyes that did it. Filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski had decided some years ago that his next film was going to be about an animal. He and his wife and co-writer, Ewa Piaskowska, had been getting bored of traditional movie structure and dialogue and wanted to do something different.
They didn’t know which animal to choose, though. Cats and dogs were out. That’s been overdone, they thought. Then they came upon the donkey, an intelligent, stoic creature with historic significance in not only religion but cinema as well, most famously in Robert Bresson’s 1966 masterpiece “Au Hasard Balthazar.” But it was those massive, expressive eyes that convinced them they’d found a star who could hold the frame.
The resulting film, “ EO,” is the story of a circus donkey who is taken from his owner and begins a long, spiritual journey through the modern Polish and Italian countrysides, encountering humans both kind and cruel. Eo doesn’t talk, but he does dream and you can’t help but feel his burdens, his loneliness and his hope. It is, they said, a love letter to animals and it’s currently playing in theaters nationwide.
“We wanted this film to be more of an experience than a traditional feature film,” Piaskowska said in a recent interview with Skolimowski by her side. “We were very conscious of the fact that we wanted to speak to the viewer through emotions mostly because our hero is devoid of any words. The idea was from the very beginning that we don’t want to tell the story about the donkey, but that we want the audience to feel like it is a donkey.”
Skolimowski, who is 84 and has been making films since 1960, has received wide praise for the film in what has been a whirlwind year. After a very long production that began in 2020 and was delayed several times because of the pandemic, they finally wrapped in March and two months later were at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the jury prize. Since then “EO” has been selected to represent Poland at the Oscars, picked up several prestigious critics’ group awards and was named the best film of the year by Manohla Dargis of The New York Times.
Trump Org. was secretly held in contempt for hindering probe
NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s company impeded a grand jury investigation last year by repeatedly failing to turn over evidence in a timely fashion, leading to a secret contempt finding and a $4,000 fine, according to court records made public Tuesday.
The Trump Organization was found to have been “willfully disobeying” four grand jury subpoenas and three court orders, to the detriment of Manhattan prosecutors who were left ill-prepared to question witnesses, Judge Juan Manuel Merchan ruled.
The subpoenas, issued in March, April, May and June 2021, preceded the Trump Organization’s July 2021 indictment on criminal tax fraud charges for helping executives avoid taxes on company-paid perks. The company was convicted this month and faces a fine of up to $1.6 million.
The $4,000 contempt fine was the maximum allowable by law.
It’s yet another kerfuffle involving Trump and allegations of mishandling or withholding records. In April, a judge held Trump in contempt and fined him $110,000 for being slow to respond to a civil subpoena issued by New York’s attorney general. The former president has also been under investigation for storing classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Peru’s new government declares police state amid protests
LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru’s new government declared a national emergency Wednesday as it struggled to calm violent protests over President Pedro Castillo’s ouster, suspending the rights of “personal security and freedom” across the Andean nation for 30 days.
Acts of vandalism, violence and highway blockades as thousands of Peruvians are in the streets “require a forceful and authoritative response from the government,” Defense Minister Luis Otarola Peñaranda said.
The declaration suspends the rights of assembly and freedom of movement and empowers the police, supported by the military, to search people’s homes without permission or judicial order. Otarola said it had not been determined whether a nightly curfew would be imposed.
Peru has been wracked by nearly a week of political crisis and unrest that have undermined stability.
The troubles have “been increasing in such magnitude that the very idea of order, the very idea of authorities that can govern the country in some way is called into question,” said Jorge Aragón, a political science professor at Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.
God of War, Wordle lead a bumpy year in video games
It’s been a bumpy year for video games, in part thanks to the ongoing repercussions of the pandemic. Some major releases got delayed (2023 could be a doozy), but enough crossed the finish line to keep gamers happy. Indie developers held up their end, delivering innovative challenges and fascinating stories. Here are the games we enjoyed the most in 2022:
1. God of War: Ragnarök: The latest chapter in the saga of surly Spartan warrior Kratos delivers everything you could ask for in a AAA Sony PlayStation blockbuster. There’s bone-crushing combat against awe-inspiring mythical monsters. There are clever environmental puzzles to solve when you need a break from the mayhem. There’s a surprisingly moving story about fatherhood, regret and the battle between fate and free will. And there’s the year’s best voice performance, by Richard Schiff (Toby from “The West Wing”!) as a droll, manipulative Odin. Epic in every way.
2. Wordle: On the other end of the spectrum is this simple yet seductive word and logic game that you can play in a few minutes while you’re eating breakfast. Created by software engineer Josh Wardle for his partner’s amusement, Wordle became a phenomenon when he added the ability for players to share their successes (and failures) on social media. Some fans groused when Wardle sold his creation to The New York Times for a reported seven-figure payday, but it remains a tasty daily snack for language lovers.
3. Horizon: Forbidden West: Back to the epic. Sony’s other big release of 2022 is this sprawling postapocalyptic adventure. In 2017’s “Horizon: Zero Dawn,” fearless heroine Aloy discovered why civilization collapsed; now she has to stop a mysterious enemy from wiping out humanity for good. The result is a spirited journey across an often breathtaking American West, where the robotic buffalo roam while our descendants patiently try to rebuild culture from the mess we’ve created.
4. Pentiment: It’s not often that you see a video game in which a major plot point revolves around Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. But such is life in 16th century Germany, the setting of this thought-provoking whodunit. It starts with a murder in an abbey, and your choices as you investigate the crime have irreversible effects on the people in the surrounding village as the decades go by. It’s a provocative examination of faith, history and unforeseen consequences, told with beautiful graphics that evoke the manuscripts and woodcuts of the medieval era.
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