What to watch for today
The UN General Assembly continues. US president Barack Obama and Cuban president Raúl Castro are scheduled to talk on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders in New York. Obama will also meet with Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, and will host an anti-ISIL summit.
Nepal feuds with India. Nepal is accusing its neighbor and largest trading partner of a material blockade in a dispute over its new constitution, and Nepal’s cable federation plans to block all Indian television channels in retaliation. India insists it is not intentionally blocking trucks full of fuel, food, and building materials that are waiting to cross the Nepali border.
Tesla unveils its all-electric SUV. Elon Musk’s company is finally rolling out its Model X luxury sport utility vehicle, which has been pre-ordered by more than 20,000 customers since it was announced in 2012. The crossover is supposed to show that the automaker isn’t “just a one-trick pony.”
Costco reports earnings. The wholesale retailer’s sales have hit a rough patch recently, and analysts expect fourth-quarter revenue to fall short of estimates. However, Costco’s business model, with its membership fees and low costs, keeps its earnings somewhat insulated.
US lawmakers discuss Puerto Rico’s cash problems. The Senate finance committee is holding hearings about establishing a federal financial control board or allowing bankruptcy for the US territory, which has $71 billion of outstanding debt.
While you were sleeping
Shell called it quits on Arctic off-shore drilling. After eight years and $7 billion of work, including some humiliating seafaring blunders and intense criticism from environmental groups, Shell has abandoned a high-stakes quest to find oil in the Arctic sea near Alaska. The Dutch oil giant will take a $4.1 billion writedown and will have to look elsewhere to bolster its dwindling reserves.
German prosecutors targeted Martin Winterkorn. The disgraced former CEO of Volkswagen is being investigated for fraud in the wake of the automaker’s emissions cheating scandal. Observers say the company’s culture under Winterkorn, a notoriously detail-oriented manager who instilled an intense pressure to raise sales, may have contributed to VW’s predicament.
Obama and Putin clashed over Syria at the UN general assembly. The US president criticized Russia for its support of the Assad regime. Putin, for his part, proposed forming an international coalition against Islamic extremists, and said it would be an “enormous mistake” not to work with Bashar al-Assad.
The Taliban took over its first major city in 14 years. The group’s attack on Kunduz, a provincial capital in northern Afghanistan, started with militants storming a hospital and then seizing government offices, setting fire to UN buildings, and releasing hundreds of prisoners. The local government downplayed the extent of the invasion for most of the day before finally admitting that the city had fallen.
NASA said there’s liquid water flowing on Mars. Researchers have concluded that the dark streaks that can be seen descending along the slopes of craters and canyons are made up of hydrated salts that absorb liquid water during the planet’s summer months. The amounts of water are small, but raise the tantalizing possibility that the planet could be supporting Martian microbes.
It’s ugly out there for commodity companies. Mining giant Glencore’s stock fell more than 20% to an all-time low on concerns it may be unable to keep up with its debt payments due to depressed commodity prices. Separately, aluminum giant Alcoa said it would split into two companies, separating its growing high-end business from its low-end smelting unit, which has been punished by a global surplus.
Quartz obsession interlude
Steve Levine on why the US should give Russia a free rein in Syria. “As long as US strategic interests are met, Washington probably shouldn’t care if Russian actions—or those of China or Iran—help, or even are primary, in achieving American objectives. If the aim is to stabilize Syria and, if possible, Iraq, it shouldn’t matter that Putin has swooped in at the last minute to prop up Assad, and bolster his regime against ISIL.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Tech unicorns are the worst. They are emblematic of a Silicon Valley culture that relies on short cuts instead of persistence.
District attorneys are to blame for the US prison problem. Even as crime rates have fallen, they are prosecuting more people.
If you’re under fire in the media, don’t fire back. Pharmaceutical investor Martin Shkreli should have responded with action and transparency.
Iran has a human rights scandal that no one talks about. President Rouhani’s silence furthers abuse against the Baha’i religious minority.
China has no grounds to criticize the US for Syria’s civil war. Beijing played a leading role in arming Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Netflix invented a “Netflix and chill” button. One click dims the lights, silences your phone, and orders takeaway food.
Gender inequality costs the world $28 trillion. That’s the difference between the percentage of women in the world and their underrepresentation in the global GDP.
Norway’s doctors still use floppy disks. Switching to electronic records is less secure and more prone to error.
Scientists spotted a glowing sea turtle in the wild. It’s the first known reptile capable of biofluorescence.