”We still have no answers,” said Geneva Reed-Veal after a Texas grand jury declined to indict anyone in her daughter’s death in police custody. Sandra Bland was arrested at a routine traffic stop and found hanged with a garbage bag in her Houston-area jail cell three days later. It’s been ruled a suicide, but suspicions — stoked by a video of her arrest — have attracted scrutiny from the Black Lives Matter movement. Bland’s survivors say they’re disappointed, and their wrongful-death lawsuit against Waller County goes to trial Jan. 23.
The Presidential Daily Brief
It’s hardly kosher. In another of a continuing series of Trumpisms, the Donald fell to the level of “degrading language” that doesn’t merit a response, according to a Clinton spokesperson. At a Michigan Rally last night, Trump said Mrs. Clinton “got schlonged” by Obama in the 2008 primaries. Trump’s used the common Yiddishism meaning “penis” — converted to a verb — before, so while it may have spawned outrage, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone following a campaign that’s sure to top itself any day now.
They’re heading for the city’s heart. The capital of Anbar province, only 60 miles from Baghdad, fell to ISIS in May, and the inability to recapture it has been a major embarrassment for Iraqi forces. Now government troops are reportedly storming the city center, fighting an estimated 250 to 300 ISIS fighters. If Iraqi forces retake it, Ramadi will be another in a series of military defeats for ISIS, which has lost an estimated 14 percent of its “caliphate” in the last year as its limited fighting force stretches thin.
Compassion saved them. When 10 al Shebaab militants stormed a bus, Muslims among the 100 passengers reportedly shielded their Christian fellow travelers. The terror group is known for singling out Christians during brutal attacks, just as they did Monday, ordering passengers to leave the vehicle and separate according to their faith. But the mostly female passengers stood together, some saying they gave headscarves to Christians to wear. One man who tried to run was killed, but the others survived. “We are all Kenyans,” said the nation’s interior minister, pledging to hunt the assailants down.
They knew there’d be consequences. Talks collapsed yesterday between Russia, the EU and Ukraine, after a failed attempt to reconcile Putin to a massive trade deal between Ukraine and the EU, part of a larger agreement that sparked Kiev’s 2014 Euromaidan revolution. The EU immediately extended its economic sanctions against Russia, but Putin’s retaliation will hit Ukraine hardest: Harsh tariffs on Ukrainian products that are sold in Russia and a ban on Ukrainian food imports, starting Jan. 1 — the day the EU-Ukraine trade deal goes into effect.
They’re getting an F — and a whole lot of money. Since 2001, only 17 colleges have lost access to federal student aid by exceeding the government limit of 30 percent of student borrowers defaulting for three years running. But half of loan recipients from 108 four-year schools receiving $10 billion in annual aid haven’t started paying their debts. While the government is trying to counsel institutions that are struggling, many wonder if they should just be closed, even if it could further reduce opportunities for minority students.
Six killed in Afghan motorcycle attack confirmed to be U.S. troops. (AP)
Lindsey Graham drops out of presidential campaign. (NYT)
Air crash on outskirts of New Delhi kills 10. (Reuters)
Muslims protect Christians in Kenyan bus attack. (CNN)
Ford and Google reportedly to team up to make autonomous cars. (USA Today)
Change is coming, drop by drop. For 32 years, federal rules have prohibited men who have sex with men from giving blood in America, fearing such donations are more likely to be infected with HIV. Yesterday, that ended — sort of. For gay donors to qualify, they must remain abstinent for 12 months. Some harshly criticized targeting orientation, rather than risky behavior like unprotected sex, while the FDA pointed out that many other countries, including the U.K. and France, require such waiting periods. Still, LGBT advocates are vowing to fight the restriction.
It’s an industry with some muscle behind it. As Brazil’s beauty ideal gets more and more ripped, the vitamin and supplement market is booming, growing 11 percent yearly as Brazilians go after the best protein powders and muscle milks. As Brazilian urban life grows increasingly stressful and fast-paced, researchers say, many are trying to stay healthy (read: juiced) with supplements and powders, often imported from the U.S. Judging from the rampant smuggling to keep up with demand, Brazilians don’t seem likely to let go of their muscly dreams anytime soon.
He nailed it. Elon Musk’s private space cargo company reversed a string of industry failures by successfully retrieving a first-stage rocket booster after launching 11 communications satellites into orbit. Getting the payload off the ground — and showing the world SpaceX had overcome technical setbacks that plagued missions earlier this year — was step one. But the successful vertical landing of the booster, a technical achievement, also means they can re-use it — which brings Musk one step closer to his larger vision of making space travel more cost-effective.
It could be a fatal hit. Two of this year’s expected Oscar contenders, The Revenant and Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, which also saw its script leaked before production began, were illegally posted online before their scheduled Christmas Day releases. Within 24 hours, they were downloaded to 739,580 and 569,153 IP addresses, respectively. Several other awards season contenders were uploaded as well, allegedly by the pirating group Hive-CM8, including Creed, Joy, and Room. Now studios are hoping the bootleg bonanza doesn’t cripple the box office prospects of their prestige films.
He’s been benched. The Giants wide receiver was suspended for one game following three rough hits against the Carolina Panthers. It’s the third time the NFL has fined or suspended the 23-year-old for unnecessary roughness during his two-year career. He blamed provocation by practice squad player Marcus Ball, who allegedly swung a bat threateningly toward Beckham in what the Panthers say was a pre-game ritual. But the league is clamping down as debilitating head injuries attract more attention, so Beckham’s promised appeal may not make it to first base.