An Islamic militant convicted of making the explosives used in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people has been paroled after serving about half of his original 20-year prison sentence. The parole Wednesday came despite strong objections by Australia, which lost 88 of its citizens in the Indonesian attacks. Hisyam bin Alizein, also known by his alias Umar Patek, was a leading member of the al-Qaida-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah. The group was blamed for the bombings at two nightclubs in Kuta Beach on Oct. 12, 2002. Indonesian authorities say Patek was successfully reformed in prison and will help deradicalize other militants.
As coronavirus cases rose in Shanghai earlier this year and the city’s lockdown stretched from weeks to months, Leah Zhang’s feeling of suffocation grew. Though she could walk around campus freely, she was robbed of weekends spent seeing concerts in the city. She couldn’t stomach the cafeteria food. When her boyfriend told her he would “always trust” Shanghai’s government, she broke up with him. Zhang knows that her experience was hardly unique or even particularly extreme. But it gives a glimpse of how China’s stringent “zero-COVID” policy pushed ordinary people to a breaking point. That led to nationwide protests late last month.
As the Respect for Marriage Act moves toward final passage, much of the attention has been focused on the protection the law gives to same-sex couples. But the bill would also enshrine interracial marriages in federal law. That provision came as a surprise to some interracial couples who believed any legal uncertainty about their right to marry ended in 1967. That's the year the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws banning marriages between people of different races. The Respect for Marriage Act has been picking up steam since June, when the Supreme Court overturned the federal right to an abortion. The ruling sparked concern the high court could potentially overturn other precedent-setting rulings on same-sex and interracial marriages.
This year's White House Christmas ornament gives a nod to former first lady Patricia Nixon. It's in the shape of a gingerbread White House, and Nixon was the first first lady to include a gingerbread house as part of the White House holiday decorations. That tradition now includes construction each year of a hulking gingerbread White House that usually weighs several hundred pounds. The private White House Historical Association sells the annual Christmas ornaments, using the proceeds to help pay for the building's upkeep. First lady Jacqueline Kennedy created the association in 1961 to help preserve the executive mansion. The association’s popular annual Christmas ornament followed in 1981.
A bylaw that allows anyone, regardless of gender, to go topless on Nantucket’s beaches has been approved by the Massachusetts attorney general’s office. In its decision Tuesday, the office said the resort island's Gender Equality on Beaches measure does not conflict with the state constitution. Residents passed the bylaw amendment at a town meeting by a vote of 327-242. It was originally proposed by seventh-generation Nantucket resident Dorothy Stover, who said it was about equity. On its website, the town urged patience during an adjustment period.
Southwest Airlines is bringing back dividends for shareholders. The airline said Wednesday that it will restore the quarterly dividend of 18 cents per share in late January. Southwest suspended dividends after the pandemic devastated the airline business in early 2020. The move comes as air travel rebounds and U.S. airlines return to profitability due to full planes and sharply higher fares than a year ago. Southwest has reported $759 million in profit during the first nine months of this year.
Experts raised concerns over a new policy announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria that heavily limits withdrawals of money in a push for a cashless economy. The central bank limited weekly over-the-counter cash withdrawals to 100,000 naira, which amounts to $225, for individuals, and 500,000 naira, which amounts to $1,124 for corporations. Withdrawals from ATMs and point-of-sale terminals are limited to 20,000 naira, or $45, a day. A partner at Lagos-based SBM Intelligence firm, Tunde Ajileye, says the policy “is not going to drive people to start to try doing electronic transactions. On the contrary, it is going to move people away from the financial institutions.”
Microsoft has agreed to make the hit video game Call of Duty available on Nintendo for 10 years should its $69 billion purchase of game maker Activision Blizzard go through. The announcement Wednesday is an apparent attempt to fend off objections from rival Sony. The blockbuster merger is facing close scrutiny from global regulators. Microsoft, maker of the Xbox game console, faces resistance from Sony, which makes the competing PlayStation console. Sony has raised concerns with antitrust watchdogs about losing access to what it describes as a “must-have” game title. Microsoft President Brad Smith tweeted his thanks to Nintendo, which makes the Switch game console. He said the same deal was also available for Sony.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence won’t practice Wednesday because of a sprained big toe on his left foot. But coach Doug Pederson expects the second-year pro to get on the practice field later in the week and potentially play at Tennessee. Lawrence is wearing a protective shoe on his foot, which got twisted during a sack last Sunday in a 40-14 loss at Detroit. Pederson calls Lawrence “day to day” and says he’s “getting treatment every day and just progressing in the right direction.”
Reducing waste while boosting recycling and reuse, known as the ‘circular economy,’ will be vital for halting the loss of nature by meeting growing demand with fewer resources and will make communities more resilient to climate change by encouraging more sustainable practices on the African continent, organizers of the World Circular Economy Forum said Wednesday. The conference, which brings together climate and economic experts as well businesses and think tanks, is being held in the Rwandan capital Kigali — the first ever in the global south.
From rising home prices to soaring interest rates, it’s a daunting time to be a home buyer. To achieve homeownership, some single buyers are trying a different approach: co-buying with friends or family members. But co-buying isn’t a short-term hack – it’s a lifestyle shift. Before you team up, experts recommend having vulnerable conversations about your finances and long-term goals. If you have patience to navigate the obstacles, co-buying can be a uniquely satisfying way to own a home. Plus, for those who are single, the investment comes with an inflation-proof dividend: companionship.
The supply backlogs of the past two years — and the delays, shortages and outrageous prices that came with them — have improved dramatically since summer. The web of factories, railroads, ports, warehouses and freight yards that link products to customers have nearly regained their pre-pandemic levels. The easing of supply bottlenecks has begun to provide some relief from the inflation that this year reached its highest levels in four decades and has pummeled consumers and businesses. The progress has been modest and so far short-lived. Yet it’s still a glimmer of good news for shoppers in the holiday shopping season.
Every year, some tiny and independent video game developer studios like hold their own with the big leagues by making hit games that achieve commercial success or at least critical acclaim. Ben Esposito's latest, Neon White, is a campy twist on the first-person shooter genre. It's nominated for “Best Indie” and “Best Action” game at Thursday’s Game Awards, an Oscars-like event for the video game industry. How long these “indie” studios can flourish is up for debate as the gaming industry undergoes increasing consolidation. That's symbolized by Xbox-maker Microsoft’s pending $69 billion takeover of giant game publisher Activision Blizzard.
Along with the thousands of books it released in 2022, the publishing industry also offered — not always willingly — some stories about itself. Penguin Random House's effort to buy Simon & Schuster ended up in a closely watched antitrust trial. Some 250 HarperCollins staffers went on strike and members of the publishing community maintained ongoing response on social media. Authors posted their book advances, agents criticized HarperCollins and other publishers and editors shared they year-by-year salaries. Some even used social media to announce they were quitting. Overall, sales were down from the historic high of 2021, but the numbers are still better than before the pandemic.