What to watch for today
Janet Yellen is confirmed as Fed chair. The US Senate is expected to greenlight Yellen’s nomination as the central bank head. Assuming it does, she’ll take over from Ben Bernanke at the end of the month.
Record low temperatures in the US. An Arctic front could bring the lowest temperatures in 20 years to much of the country, with half the nation at 0 °F (-18 °C) or lower. At the weekend, thousands of flights were canceled, and Disney’s Frozen came back to the top of the box office.
CES kicks off. The Consumer Electronics Show, the industry’s mega-jamboree, formally begins tonight in Las Vegas with keynotes by the heads of Intel and Audi. (Connected cars are going to be one of this year’s big themes).
Over the weekend
Israelis and Palestinians agree on gas, at least. The two sides made no breakthroughs in their latest peace talks, but the Palestinian power utility signed a 20-year, $1.2 billion deal with US-based Noble Energy and its Israeli partners for gas from Israel’s offshore Leviathan gas field.
Fallujah fell into jihadist hands. An al-Qaeda affiliate, ISIL, took control of the city where some of the bloodiest fighting of the Iraq war took place. Iraqi forces said they could kick out the militants in two to three days, but it’s a severe blow to the government of Nouri al-Maliki.
Thais took to the streets again. Demonstrators are planning to ramp up protests this week in a bid to shut down Bangkok on Jan. 13 and topple prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and block an election next month.
Bangladesh held a failed election. Fewer than half the parliamentary seats in the country’s 10th general election were contested because of an opposition boycott, and 18 people died in clashes between police and protesters
Bitcoin bounced above $1,000. The crypto-currency, which had at one point fallen almost 50% from its December record of $1,238 per bitcoin, shot back up on news that online games-maker Zynga would start accepting bitcoin for in-game purchases in some of its games.
Quartz obsession interlude
Matt Phillips translates Fed chairman Ben Bernanke’s parting shot on the US economy. “‘The FOMC’s decision to modestly reduce the pace of asset purchases at its December meeting did not indicate any diminution of its commitment to maintain a highly accommodative monetary policy for as long as needed.’ Translation: Even though the Fed is getting out of the bond-buying business, the Fed Funds rate is going to stay low for quite some time… In short, Bernanke still thinks the economy is pretty weak.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
The US looks worryingly similar to the ancient Roman Republic. The republic’s collapse was heralded by similar political paralysis.
Fiat’s troubles are far from over. CEO Sergio Marchionne swung an amazing deal with the Chrysler acquisition, but the company is still on all kinds of shaky ground.
Africa needs a Marshall Plan. A program of reform, infrastructure-building and industrial development is the only way to contain a vast jobs shortfall in the next few years.
Industrial hemp could be the next energy crop. If only more countries legalized its growth, it would be a great source for biofuels.
Ancient Egypt’s master beer-brewer. Archaeologists have unearthed his tomb.
The US has over 3,000 religiously-named places. Lots named after saints, of course, but also a Bridge of the Gods, a Stairway To Heaven, and six Santa Claus Lanes.
The world leaders with the longest names. The winner: Hery Martial Rajaonarimampianina Rakotoarimanana of Madagascar.