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Hillary Clinton hypothetical front-runner by 2%, but 40% of voters would prefer a republican, vs. 38% a democrat. After 6-year study, NY governor Cuomo's administration bans fracking in the state, opening itself to developer lawsuits. Following retaliatory Sony hack and ensuing threats, top movie theaters cancel Christmas-day release of movie "The Interview". Tobacco use decreases among US teens, replaced by e-cigarettes, not FDA-regulated, and 90% of which come from China. Travel industry's ears perk up as Obama normalizes relations with Cuba; 5-year American prisoner just released. LAPD now largest police force equipped with body cams, a national trend that accelerates with every Ferguson. US malls struggles against online shopping; top malls doing fine, up to 15% of mid-level malls will probably close over next decade. US current account deficit increases by $100 billion, despite decrease in trade deficit, mostly due to less fines collected by US gov from foreign institutions. NYT sheds employees while hiring new ones to focus efforts on the paper's future online. US reject Manila request to send murder-accused marine to Philippines for trial. New FDA rules: restaurant chains with 20+ outlets must include calorie count on alcoholic drinks (and more) by next September; wine and bar drinks exempt. Obama protects Alaska's Bristol Bay, world's biggest sockeye salmon fishery, from oil and gas development, to delight of fishermen and conservationists. Rushed end of lame duck session as Senate extends tax breaks and clears some presidential nominations. 14 charged in 2012 meningitis outbreak from tainted steroids, killing 64 people.

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Dish to add Netflix app to its second-generation Hopper set-top boxes (Netflix subscription still necessary). Wealth gap highest ever, with middle class wages and net wealth stagnation. Savings rates and homes haven't gone up like stocks did, which helps explain the trend. Widely predicted that US Federal Reserve is getting closer every day to the first interest rates increase in over 8 years. Medicaid expansion for poor Americans under Obamacare (9 million new enrollees) nets private insurers extra $9.6 million. US residential mortgage applications down despite rates lowest since mid-2013. Tesla sales forecast revised down by 40%, not helped by lower gas prices.

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Science & Tech News Science and Tech News

2014 sees new wave of tech disruptions: 3D printing and robotics, Bitcoin and crowdfunding, Apple's HealthKit, robotic surgeons, and drop in genome sequencing prices, fracking, grid parity, and the disappearance of landline. 2015 to see even bigger transformations of existing industries. Despite regular (and tired) claims that "email is dead", small business should keep low-cost email marketing a top priority. Feeling an emerging trend, over a third of Google Ventures' 2014 investments went into health and life sciences. 3D-printed tumor replicas help docs fight cancer by better targeting the real thing. $3,000 3D-printed dress flows like fabric, built from interlocking plastic parts; custom software created to push the tech's limit. Google mulls warning users about visiting unencrypted sites (non-HTTPS); already uses HTTPS out of 200 factors to boost ranking. A look inside AirBnB's luxurious call center in Portland, OR: open space, couches, wood appointments and exposed bricks! At 9.5% market share, Nokia stays second largest mobile phone maker by unit sold. #AskACop trending Twitter hashtag illustrates tensions from events like Ferguson - mostly used to gripe, rather than asking. 18% of Europeans have never used the internet, down from 43% in 2006: Iceland is top user, and Romania the most offline. Blackberry seeks differentiation and a rebound by launching "the Classic", a brand new phone with a physical keyboard. Using copyright law, Sony achieves aim: Reddit users banned for sharing documents stolen during the hack. Europeans willing to give up lots to keep mobile internet access: fast food, newspapers, chocolate, alcohol and books top the list.

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Russia Special
Rush to buy big-ticket items before expected price rises (interest rates from 10.5% to 17% in under a week); Apple stops online sales in the country; weekend-like crowd in mid-week after Ikea announces higher prices for next day; fear of 1998-like crisis sends people withdrawing their cash; Russian economy to shrink by up to 5% next year, based on oil prices; western sanctions from involvement in Ukraine play limited role. (AP)

Increasingly common past-due payments for variable-rate borrowers: interest rates go from 5.5% to 17% in single year. (IBT).

Unlike some OPEC members, Russia can't ride out the storm of low gas prices - so it keeps pumping. It needs $100/barrel oil to meet its current budget; oil is currently at $55, and downtrending. (Reuters).

Russians panic-buy dollars as ruble falls further 10% & food prices rise 25%. (BI).

Russia brain-drain keeps increasing, with serious spike after April 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. (BI).
National Geographic Photo Contest: 2014 winners and awesome picture showcase. Syria: over 230 bodies, mostly civilians, found in an ISIS mass grave. Iraqi Kurdish major op to retake ISIS-held town of Sinjar, near Syrian border. Europe removes Hamas from terror blacklist, but maintains funding restrictions. Church of England appoints first female bishop, reverend and mom Libby Lane. France, largest European exporter of jihadis, thwarted 5 terror attacks and dismantled various networks; One third of would-be jihadis are recent Islam converts. Japan Potatogate: with potato shortage from dockworkers/ship-lines disputes on the US west coast, McDonald's Japan officially started rationing french-fries. China secures $3.1 billion deal to build high-speed railway between Belgrade and Budapest - travel time cut over half. Pakistan lifts ban on death penalty moratorium as nation morns Taliban attack on school; 132 kids and 13 adults killed.

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