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The 10-Point: My Guide to the Day's Top News

The Wall Street Journal
Good morning,
Questions and Allegations
Sen. Jeff Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for U.S. attorney general, forcefully rejected accusations that he has racist views and departed from several of Mr. Trump’s campaign stances during a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday. Mr. Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, said he doesn’t support a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., as Mr. Trump once proposed, and noted that the use of waterboarding, which Mr. Trump has also advocated, is illegal under current law. Meanwhile, we report that U.S. intelligence agencies and the FBI have spent months trying to substantiate explosive claims, compiled by a former Western intelligence official, that Russian government operatives engaged in an extensive conspiracy with advisers to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign and employees of his company. The unverified allegations—including a claim Russia has material that could be used to blackmail Mr. Trump—were deemed significant enough to brief the president-elect. Russia on Wednesday denied it has compromising material on Mr. Trump, saying the allegations are an “absolute fabrication” and an attempt to damage U.S.-Russian relations.

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The Price of Emissions
Volkswagen, in a historic settlement, is expected as early as Wednesday to agree to plead guilty to criminal wrongdoing and pay a $4.3 billion penalty to resolve a U.S. Justice Department probe of the German auto giant’s diesel-emissions cheating. Volkswagen, which Tuesday claimed the throne as the world’s biggest car maker by sales, admitted in 2015 that it had rigged nearly 11 million diesel vehicles world-wide to cheat on emissions tests. The auto giant has already agreed to pay up to $17.5 billion to address civil claims with consumers, regulators, dealers and state attorneys general in the U.S. Now Volkswagen is expected to plead guilty to charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S., commit wire fraud and violate the Clean Air Act; obstruction of justice; and violating import rules.
Loan Bubbles
America’s fastest-growing loan category has eerie echoes of the subprime crisis. With government help, energy-conscious home-improvement loans are growing rapidly across the U.S. Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, loans are set up by local governments and designed to encourage homeowners to buy energy-efficient solar panels, window insulation and air-conditioning units. As the loans spread, so do problems that are reminiscent of subprime mortgages. We report that plumbers and repairmen essentially function as loan brokers but have scant training and oversight. Creditworthiness matters little to lenders, because loans are based on the value of a homeowner’s property. And loan growth is fueled partly by investor appetite for bonds created from PACE loans, especially among mutual funds and insurers.
Final Sale
Are you old school about your powder detergent? Or nostalgic for grilled cheese made with cellophaned slices? Grocery store aisles are dotted with staples that are falling out of favor as consumer habits change and new versions arrive. More people are eating butter instead of margarine amid renewed enthusiasm for the naturalness—and taste—of full-fat dairy products, and coffee drinkers seeking convenience in recent years have turned to single-serve coffee pods. Sales of powder detergent and frozen juice concentrate are down 47% and 37%, respectively, since 2011. Often it is lucrative for product and food makers to sway consumers toward the latest iterations of their products. If you are a devoted user of a dwindling product, experts advise monitoring local store shelves for clues on when to start stockpiling.
TODAY'S VIDEO
Obama Says Farewell
That Was Painless
In a farewell address to a hall filled with the activists who helped him become the first black American president, Barack Obama on Tuesday urged all Americans to unite to protect the nation’s democracy.
TOP STORIES
U.S.

Ranchers, Government Find Common Ground in Fight to Restrict Wild Horses

Rex Tillerson May Make Unusual Tax Argument
WORLD

Germany Sets Plan to Rein In Extremists

Iran Leader Faces Test After Ally’s Death
BUSINESS

Snapchat Parent Moves to Book Revenue Where It Is Earned

GM Says 2017 Earnings Should Top Its Expectations for 2016
MARKETS

‘The Mooch’ Earns the Ear of Donald Trump

The Wall Street Trader Behind SoftBank’s $100 Billion Fund
NUMBER OF THE DAY
$2.1 billion
The value of assets Valeant Pharmaceuticals has reached deals to sell, in the struggling drug company’s biggest moves yet to refocus around its consumer offerings and pare its heavy debt load. The Canadian company agreed to sell three skin-care brands and its Dendreon cancer business.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
This is a very hollow victory, because my sister’s still gone.
Melvin Graham, brother of victim Cynthia Hurd, on a federal jury sentencing Dylann Roof to death Tuesday for the 2015 killing of nine black worshipers at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
TODAY'S QUESTION
Going back to our video above, what are your thoughts on Mr. Obama’s legacy? Send your comments, which we may edit before publication, to 10point@wsj.com. Please include your name and location.
—Compiled by Margaret Rawson
READER RESPONSE
Responding to yesterday’s question on tensions with Russia over Syria’s crowded skies, Mike Furlong of Alabama said: “The U.S. and Russia will undoubtedly run into each other over Syria, and some kind of conflict-driven incident is bound to occur. While both sides are likely to blame the other, I suspect the incident will be ‘planned’ by the Russians in an effort to assess American resolve to fly over Syria or face them down in those skies. I expect this will happen after Mr. Trump assumes the presidency because what he would do in response is an unknown and would pose a real challenge to his stated beliefs about Russia.” And Jan Rogers Kniffen of Connecticut shared: “It is a matter of when, not if, an American fighter and a Russian fighter occupy the same space at the same time, or the ordnance from one of our planes or one of theirs occupies the space of the other. In either scenario somebody dies, and a whole lot of expensive equipment falls out of the sky, tensions go off the chart, the stock market falls, allies all along the Russian border start hyperventilating, and the U.S. government, who knows this could have been prevented with ‘minimal’ cooperation from the Russians, sits on its hands and frets. What other choice does it have? For the most powerful country in the world we are a far cry from when the Roman Legions insured that ‘a Roman citizen could walk without fear of molestation anywhere in the world.’ That could be us, it isn’t.”

This daily briefing is named "The 10-Point" after the nickname conferred by the editors of The Wall Street Journal on the lead column of the legendary "What's News" digest of top stories. Technically, "10-point" referred to the size of the typeface. The type is smaller now but the name lives on.

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