President Obama made a rare Sunday night address to the nation, hitting the following themes:
-He unambiguously called the attacks in San Bernadino “an act of terrorism,” said the war on terror is entering a new phase of less complicated attacks, and used “extremist ideology” and Muslim in the same sentence, if not the same phrase.
-He said “we will destroy ISIL,” but said we should not get drawn into a “long and costly ground war,” saying we will win instead “by being strong, smart, resilient and relentless.”
-He made a plea to avoid demonizing Muslims and Islam, saying we “must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.”
-He called for prohibiting people on terror watch lists from buying guns, and called for a ban on assault weapons.
Two quick observations:
-Many middle east experts believe ISIL cannot be defeated without troops on the ground. Even if the U.S. is determined to avoid any significant participation in a ground war, ruling it out weakens the message of determination.
-The September 11 attacks united us a nation, at least for a while. The San Bernadino attacks seem to be having the opposite effect, exacerbating the political fault lines on religion and guns.
More news below.
• Saudi-Iran rivalry heats up
With Iran looking to pump more crude into a market already saturated with excess supply as nuclear-related sanctions are lifted, observers are keeping an eye on the intensifying battle among OPEC members for market share. Excess crude is why oil prices have languished at almost seven-year lows near $40 a barrel. Disagreements erupted at an OPEC meeting last week, with the group finding it hard to close ranks due to deep regional differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
• Gun sales spike in the U.S.
Gun sales have spiked in the United States for weeks, especially following the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., which left 14 people dead last Wednesday. Because politicians tend to talk about ways to restrict gun rights after these events occur, “there is a natural rush to gun stores to purchase guns and ammunition,” explains Gun Owners of America spokesman Sam Paredes. As Fortune recently reported, gun sales were also big business on Black Friday this year.
• A big victory for France’s far right
Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front (FN) pulled its best-ever national score on Sunday, securing an estimated 27-30% of the national vote and nearly tripling its haul at the previous regional vote in 2010. What does this mean? While FN has never governed a region, it now leads in no fewer than six out of 13 contexts after the first round. Le Pain called the victory for those who wanted to keep the country “authentically French” – with worries about refugees and border concerns helping prop up the party in voters’ minds.
• China luxury market poised for rebound
A well respected economist – Chang Lin at Capital Economics’ China – says the recovery of sales of jewelry, catering for gala banquets and better sales of a high-end liquor brand indicate the luxury market in the region is finally rebounding. That slice of the market had been hurt since 2012, following a now three-year anti-corruption campaign that led some high-level buyers to pull back on spending. That campaign led some luxury buyers to go overseas to purchase their favored goods abroad, with the U.S. and Hong Kong as the top destinations to benefit from that shift in shopping.
• GE pulls appliance deal
Shares of Electrolux AB tumbled by the most in more than four years after General Electric withdrew plans to sell its appliance business to the Swedish manufacturer for about $3.3 billion. Electrolux needed to the GE deal to gain scale in the key U.S. market, though antitrust regulators in the states claimed the combined company and rival Whirlpool would be overly dominate in the U.S. cooking-appliance market. “We’re disappointed and regret GE has taken this decision,” Electrolux Chief Executive Officer Keith McLoughlin said on a conference call. GE has requested to be paid a $175 million break up fee.
Around the Water Cooler
• Can social-media monitor terrorists?
Last week, Facebook removed a profile page used by one of the two people suspected of killing 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., because the page posted videos that supported terrorism or glorified violence. The move highlights the growing pressure Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and others face to monitor, and sometimes remove, violent content and propaganda from terror groups. Those companies already employ technology to scan for images related to child sexual exploitation, using data of known images. The problem? There is no similar database for terror-related images.
Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
• Turing CEO hits back
There is almost no doubt that Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli is one of the most controversial figures to emerge in the business world in 2015. He and his company were the subject of a September New York Times story that focused on the decision by Turing to drastically raise the price of a 62-year-old drug from $13.50 a pill to $750 – a decision that has led to derision on Wall Street and Washington. Shkreli goes to the NYT to defend himself, in a sweeping profile that looks into his humble roots, failed bet as a hedge fund manager, ouster from biopharmaceutical firm Retrophin and other notable twists and turns throughout his professional career.
New York Times (subscription required)
5 things to know this week
Retail Sales, Federal Funding, and Staples — 5 Things to Know for the Week Ahead. This week’s story can be found here.