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What's News: Senate to Vote on Dueling Shutdown Bills; How Businesses Boost Their Glassdoor Ratings; Forgetfulness Might be Helpful
Here’s what we’re watching as the U.S. business day gets under way:
The Supreme Court accepts its first gun case in nearly 10 years.At issue is whether—and to what degree—states and cities can restrict the right to carry guns outside the home.
The court allowed a temporary ban on transgender military service. The move comes as lower-court proceedings continue over the restrictions announced in 2017. Justices also avoided the White House's bid to cancel protections for some young illegal immigrants.
The Senate will vote on dueling bills to end the shutdown. Each proposal pressures members of the opposite political party, but aides from both sides doubt either measure will pass the Thursday votes. Meanwhile, the organization representing thousands of FBI special agents said the the shutdown is hindering federal law-enforcement operations.
U.S. home sales dropped to their lowest level since 2015. Sales fell 6.4% in December, suggesting the weakness in the housing market from last year could persist. Mortgages that helped fuel the housing meltdown a decade ago are making a comeback, as lenders issue loans to buyers with unusual circumstances.
Activist investors urge eBay to explore spinoffs. Elliott Management and Starboard Value have suggested the e-commerce company shed its StubHub ticketing and classified-ads businesses. The moves could again fracture eBay, which split with payment platform PayPal in 2015 after pressure from activist investor Carl Icahn.
Business bigwigs put on a brave face in Davos. Many executives at the World Economic Forum said the global economy has overcome short-term challenges despite the jittery mood created by uncertainty in politics and policy around the world.
Earnings season continues. Procter & Gamble, United Technologies and Comcast are set to post their fourth-quarter results before the bell today, and Ford will report after markets close.
Utilities move to strengthen the grid. Extreme events pose challenges to utilities, as PG&E demonstrated. Bolstering power networks can cost billions of dollars and take years. But some utilities are implementing smaller measures to make their systems safer.
An alleged 1MDB conspirator claims he is a scapegoat. Khadem Al Qubaisi, a jailed former aide to a powerful member of Abu Dhabi's royal family, said he is unfairly being blamed for the United Arab Emirates' role in the multibillion-dollar graft scandal concerning investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
Businesses secretly boost their Glassdoor ratings. Employers, from Elon Musk's SpaceX to mortgage broker Guaranteed Rate, push workers to post positive reviews on the company-ratings site, a Journal investigation found.
The stock market turns into a game for inexperienced investors. Commission-free trading apps like Robinhood and Webull have attracted millions of users who are typically young and new to the markets. Some say the apps can be risky for investors experiencing volatility for the first time.
Mariano Rivera was voted unanimously into the Hall of Fame. The former New York Yankees pitcher was the first unanimous election by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He'll be joined by the one hitter who had his number: Edgar Martínez.
Oscar nominees were announced. "Roma" and "The Favourite" led nominations with 10 each, including best picture. Although most nods went to hits, the more obscure films in the best-director category could better predict the winner.
Forgetfulness might be helpful. Research suggests forgetting enables clearer thinking by eliminating interference from competing thoughts.
Highlights from our technology coverage
Foxconn considers India for iPhone assembly. The move could reduce Apple’s dependence on China for manufacturing and potentially for sales.
Japan Display looks to Taiwan for a bailout. The disappointing performance of Apple’s iPhone XR is rippling through the global supply chain.
Email is the hot new channel for reaching real people. Frustrated and fatigued by social-media challenges, businesses and others looking for an audience are turning to the old standby, Christopher Mims writes.
In India, people use YouTube the way others use Google. The country is in the middle of an unprecedented mobile-video binge, and it is changing the way many technology companies see the evolution of the internet.
Every gadget and app should have a dark mode. Our phones are bright and colorful by design. But there is a way to fight back that’s easier on the eyes—and the phone battery, writes David Pierce.
The Pinkertons still exist and they’re tired of being the bad guys. The detectives, who gained fame as Old West law enforcers, are still around, now as specialists in corporate security and risk management. They aren’t happy about being antagonists in “Red Dead Redemption II.”
Compostables fill the trash. Packaging and products intended to break down in the compost heap after use are becoming increasingly popular amid the backlash against plastic waste. The problem: Most of them must be disposed of at special industrial facilities, which consumers often don't know how to find. This, along with poor labeling about disposal, has led compostables to end up in the trash—and ultimately, landfills.
News From Other Sources
John Paulson mulls shutting his hedge fund. The money manager whose lucrative bets against the U.S. housing market made him a hedge fund industry superstar a decade ago is considering turning his firm into a family office.
via Financial Times
Zimbabwe's president promises probe into brutal crackdown. Emmerson Mnangagwa, who cancelled his appearance at Davos to return early, said he will investigate the deadly violence against civilians by security forces. Protests erupted last week after the price of fuel was hiked by 150%.
via the Independent
Fender launches U.S.-made acoustic guitar. The guitar maker is releasing a $2,000 California-made acoustic guitar—its first production acoustic built in the U.S. in nearly 50 years.
This Day in History
Jan. 23, 1968
North Korea Seizes U.S. Navy Ship
The seizure of a U.S. Naval vessel by North Korea in the Sea of Japan sparked fears that the U.S. could enter another conflict in Asia, on top of the Vietnam War. The capture of the USS Pueblo and its 82 crew members—one was killed during the capture—would last 11 months, after which Pyongyang released the crew members through the DMZ. The Pueblo, which is still held by North Korea and used as a museum ship at the Pyongyang Victorious War Museum, remains a commissioned vessel of the U.S. Navy.