10 things you need to know today: December 17, 2015

The Fed announces first interest rate hike since 2006, judge declares mistrial in Freddie Gray case, and more

Yellen's big day.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

1. The Fed raises interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade

The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it would raise its benchmark short-term interest rate for the first time since early 2006, citing the ongoing economic recovery from the Great Recession. Global stocks rose Thursday on the news. Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said the decision recognizes progress in "restoring jobs, raising incomes, and easing the economic hardships that have been endured by millions of ordinary Americans." The quarter-point increase to a range of 0.25 percent to 0.50 percent, was expected, and small enough to be seen as an indication that the Fed will nudge rates up slowly, to avoid disrupting the recovery.

The New York Times Reuters

2. Judge declares mistrial in first Freddie Gray case

Protesters gathered outside a Baltimore courthouse on Wednesday after a judge declared a mistrial in the case against the first of six officers charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray in April. Gray's family urged calm. Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury in the back of a police van and died in custody. Officer William Porter faced several charges, including second-degree assault and involuntary manslaughter, for failing to secure Gray in a seat belt and call a medic. It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors would pursue a retrial.

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ABC News

3. Infamous drug CEO reportedly arrested over securities fraud

Martin Shkreli, the 32-year-old CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals who gained infamy for raising the price of a life-saving drug to $750 a dose, from $13.50, has been arrested on suspicion of siphoning shares from a biotech firm he founded to pay for unrelated debts, Bloomberg reported Thursday. Shkreli was ousted from the firm, Retrophin Inc., in 2014, and the board has sued him, accusing him of misappropriating money from Retrophin to pay off investors in his defunct hedge fund, MSMB Capital Management. The Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to file a civil suit against Shkreli that hews closely to the federal criminal case.


4. Defense secretary used personal email for official business

Defense Secretary Ash Carter used a personal email account for some of his government business in his first months on the job, The New York Times reported late Wednesday. Carter continued using the account for at least two months after the eruption of a controversy over Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email account when she was secretary of state, White House and Defense Department officials told the Times. A spokesman said Carter had determined that using private email, even for routine matters, "was a mistake," so he stopped using it.

The New York Times

5. ObamaCare deadline extended to accommodate last-minute rush

The federal government has extended the deadline for signing up for health insurance taking effect Jan. 1 under the Affordable Care Act, citing overwhelming demand. The original deadline was midnight Tuesday, but now Americans have until 11:59 p.m. Thursday to enroll and avoid rising penalties for going without coverage. HealthCare.gov, which handles sign-ups for 38 states, said about one million had left contact information over the last few days, and that the extra 48 hours would give them all time to enroll.

Chicago Tribune HealthDay News

6. Homeland Security Department issues first alert with new National Terrorism Advisory System

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued the first alert using the updated National Terrorism Advisory System on Wednesday, warning of "self-radicalized actors who could strike with little or no notice." The bulletin, which is not based on any specific threat, will be in effect for six months, or until otherwise updated. The statement said a particular concern was "terrorist-inspired individuals and homegrown violent extremists" targeting public events or places, like in the recent San Bernardino and Paris attacks.

USA Today

7. Ceasefire violations threaten Yemen peace talks

Renewed fighting in Yemen on Wednesday left at least 42 people dead, violating a day-old ceasefire and undermining peace talks in Switzerland. The U.N. brokered talks between the internationally recognized government, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition, and Shiite Houthi rebels began Tuesday. A prisoner swap planned as a show of good faith was delayed when armed tribesmen blocked the road to the exchange point. A high-profile rebel official in the capital, Sanaa, said Wednesday the talks would not be able to continue if the violence did not stop.

CBS News Reuters

8. U.S. moves ahead with $1.8 billion arms sale to Taiwan over China's objections

The Obama administration on Wednesday authorized $1.8 billion in arms sales to Taiwan, the first such major transaction in four years. The package includes two frigates, anti-tank missiles, amphibious assault vehicles, and other equipment. China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province, reacted angrily, summoning the U.S. charge d'affaires in Beijing and vowing to impose sanctions against companies producing the weapons. The friction came as tensions were already high over China's territorial claims over contested South China Sea waters.


9. Arrest warrant issued for "affluenza" teen

Texas authorities have issued an arrest warrant for a teenager who avoided jail time for four drunken-driving deaths and recently failed to check in with his probation officer. After a party two years ago, the teen, Ethan Couch, plowed into a group of people helping a stranded motorist. The case made national headlines after his lawyers argued that he suffered from "affluenza" — his affluent upbringing left him unable to act responsibly. He was sentenced to 10 years' probation, and ordered not to drive, drink, or use drugs. He could be sent to jail if he is found in violation.

ABC News

10. U.S. and Cuba close to deal on resuming commercial flights

U.S. and Cuban officials said Wednesday they were nearing a deal on restoring regular commercial flights between the two countries. It would potentially be the biggest step yet toward tightening economic ties since the former Cold War foes began normalizing relations last year. The two sides are still negotiating, but an announcement could come within days, with flights possibly resuming within months. Now, travelers have to take expensive charter flights. Major U.S. airlines like Delta, United, American, JetBlue, and Southwest have all said they are interested in providing regular flights.

The Associated Press

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