Let’s make a deal

debate(image: PA/BBC)

Not a game show, but Thursday night’s opposition leaders’ debate, which saw Labour leader Ed Miliband clash with the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon over a possible post-election coalition.

(Sky News)

sturgeon(image: The Times/Tomorrow’s Papers Today)

Elsewhere during the 90 minutes, UKIP’s Nigel Farage – whose party was earlier given a million pound-plus donation by the owner of the Daily Express – wasn’t too enamored of the studio audience.

(Sky News)

The Spectator‘s live-blog is here.

BuzzFeed rounds up some of Twitter’s best reactions, although this was the message Ed Miliband most obviously wanted to get across.

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* POLITICS * A congressional deal paving the way for a “fast-track” authorization on an Asian trade agreement is poised to set some Democrats on a collision course with the White House. Politico reports:

Many Democrats still feel the burn, 20 years later, of lost manufacturing jobs from the North American Free Trade Agreement — pushed through by former President Bill Clinton — and they fear another Democratic president is on the verge of turning his back on working-class Americans by negotiating a trade deal that would send jobs overseas.

One of the trade agreement’s congressional critics, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, said he would make a decision on whether to mount a Presidential campaign “within a couple of weeks.” On Wednesday, he told Bloomberg that he did not believe Hillary Clinton was “prepared to take on the billionaire class” to address income inequality.

Mrs Clinton, meanwhile, appeared to side with progressives over Thursday’s “Fight for $15” campaign by fast-food workers and others seeking a $15-an-hour minimum wage, tweeting this on Wednesday night:

The political standoff over the confirmation of Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch escalated on Thursday after Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid told MSNBC that he was working on forcing a simple majority vote on the issue.

In Kansas, Gov Sam Brownback signed a controversial bill curtailing welfare eligibility and restricting what welfare recipients can spend benefits on. Philip Bump at The Washington Post writes that participation in the state’s TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) had already dropped in recent years.

***

* WORLD *  As European economists appear increasingly pessimistic that Greece will be able to avoid a debt “abyss” the Washington Post reports that the impasse between Germany and Greece was on full display in Washington on Thursday, as the two countries’ finance ministers spoke at an event at the Brookings Institution.

While that prospect [Greece leaving the Euro Zone] provoked more alarm five years ago, many banks have already written down the value of loans to Greece, and economists think the rest of Europe is more insulated against a “Grexit,” should one occur.

One IMF official in Washington this week even seemed to suggest that now would be a good time for it.

 

As the situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is taking advantage of the chaos, reports the BBC (who also have a helpful ‘who’s fighting who?’ guide).

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual marathon televised call-in show. As The Independent puts it: “He’s a terrible marriage counsellor, doesn’t want a clone and blames the US for the rise of ISIS – What we learned from Putin’s Q&A.”

putin(image: Reuters/Quartz)

 ***

* BUSINESS * The share price of online crafts marketplace Etsy almost doubled on its stock exchange debut following a successful IPO, valuing the company at more than $3bn.

Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Blackstone all posted what the Wall Street Journal called “blowout” earnings. The New York Times rounds up the firm-by-firm picture across the financial sector, saying that the quarter “was uneven across Wall Street, with some banks posting improved trading results and others struggling, as low interest rates dragged on their retail deposits and debt holdings.

 ***

* MEDIA * Sony reacted angrily after WikiLeaks posted a searchable archive of emails and other documents that were hacked from the studio last year. The New York Times reports:

In adopting and indexing the material, WikiLeaks said it meant to ensure its continued availability in the face of a legal and public relations effort by Sony to push users away from the material. David Boies, representing Sony, sent letters warning news organizations against possessing or publishing stolen company material.

 

Time magazine released its 2015 list of the World’s Most Influential People, with an inspired bit of commissioning in the “Leaders” section…

***

* CULTURE * You’ve already seen it, so you already know.

A first trailer for the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, was released. Wired reports from the Celebration panel in Anaheim.

When [JJ] Abrams and [Kathleen] Kennedy introduced two of the droid makers for the new movie, the moment felt like it was losing some of its energy…until a working R2-D2 rolled out, beeping and whistling. It was like seeing an old friend—and for a punchline, the new droid character BB8 rolled out, too, which seems impossible. It’s a dome-like head on a multidirectional ball, but it works in real life. “If it were CG, it’d be a lot easier,” Abrams admitted.

 

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and his guests analyzed the trailer frame by frame, a la Mystery Science Theater.

All Nippon Airways is also getting in on the wave, with this R2D2-painted plane.

(ANA)

***

* SPORTS * Finally, It seems that Friday is – finally – the day.

Keith Olbermann explains the dilemma.

So If only they’d brought him up on opening day, the Cubs would be in first right now… oh, wait..

 

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