For many, it was a tragic holiday. A twister with winds topping 200 mph ravaged a Dallas suburb, killing at least 11 people over Saturday night, while midwestern flooding killed 12, adding to a weekend total of more than 40 U.S. weather fatalities. After record Christmas warmth on the East Coast, today “crippling” snowstorms hit areas of western and northern Texas, along with Oklahoma and New Mexico. But the worst-hit area was the 40-mile swath of devastation through Garland, Texas, where city’s mayor said rescue workers continue to check damaged homes and cars for tornado victims.
The Presidential Daily Brief
It’s a whole new world. Next week will see the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community, which will attempt to integrate the economies of 10 Southeast Asian countries — and liberalize trade rules to stimulate commerce among those nations, worth $241.7 billion in 2013. In addition, California will get revamped Medicare rules that encourage end-of-life planning, and Russia’s punitive trade tariffs on Ukraine — meant to be a punishment for signing a trade agreement with the EU — will start to put the squeeze on both economies.
They were the weakest link. In June 2014, an unfit Iraqi military surrendered Mosul and a city’s worth of American-made weapons and vehicles of war to a nascent terror “state.” Now, renewed by U.S. advisors and Western air power, Baghdad’s reorganized forces have slogged their way into the ISIS stronghold of Ramadi. Iraqi commanders say they’ve taken the town’s government center and the militants have fled, and promise to retake Mosul next. Meanwhile, ISIS’s leader boasts in a new recording that the movement thrives in battle, but loss of population is expected to erode its influence.
Most U.S. prison guards don’t carry guns. But in the Silver State, shotguns loaded with birdshot are readily available to restore order — or destroy it. Shootings have injured at least 22 inmates in 2015 and killed one restrained prisoner as live rounds were fired on average every 10 days over the past three years. Nevada officials partly blame low staffing, and they’ve made leadership changes as shooting lawsuits have mounted. And the state legislature has approved hiring 100 more guards — a fifth of what’s recommended — but they’re still armed.
Opponents say her win was a fluke. But Rachel Notley, 51, says she’ll be sticking around as premier of Alberta, navigating the shifting sands of an oil-rich province when crude prices have just hit an 11-year low. OPEC — of which Canada isn’t a member — has agreed to keep oil supply high despite plummeting demand, driving prices to just $37 a barrel. The cartel is predicting it’ll double by 2020, but Notley promises emissions caps and taxes nonetheless, dragging northern oil barons into a greener future.
Troubled Chicago police have new shooting death to explain. (USA Today)
Four South American countries hit by ‘worst flooding in 50 years.’ (BBC)
Ansar Dine extremists in northern Mali kill at least 15 Tuaregs. (ABC)
Fatal San Diego cliff fall blamed on electronic device distraction. (CNN)
Peyton Manning calls documentary doping charge ‘complete garbage’ (CBS)
Who said she’s white? Not author J.K. Rowling, who lauded the decision to cast Noma Dumezweni in the upcoming stage production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Rowling reminded fans the character was only ever described as having brown eyes and frizzy hair. Actress Emma Watson, who played the young wizard in all eight Potter films, also lent her support. And while there has been some social media uproar, the loudest voices have been from fans themselves, many of whom are thrilled at the chance to see their magical world expand.
Take a deep breath. In August, British health officials said e-cigs were not only safer than traditional cigarettes — they’re also a public health breakthrough for helping smokers quit and eliminating tobacco’s worst poisons. But that message is lost in America, where vaping is regarded as a setback after years of progress in banning public smoking and cajoling people to quit. Invented in 2003 as a safer alternative, it has proven to be just that — but advocates fear the new vice might be prevented from saving millions of lives.
It’s the end of 2015, but there’s still no Mr. Fusion to power the flux capacitor. Is cold fusion nonsense, as official sciencedom proclaims, or the victim of irrational fear? The biggest worry for some fusion boosters is not being vaporized, but losing face in the scientific community. At a time when climate change threatens man’s very survival, low-energy nuclear reaction (LENR) research is beginning to look promising. But the field has been relegated to fringe science when the planet’s best and brightest could be on the case.
Is the empire on the rise? The Great British Baking Show, as it’s known in the U.S., is the latest U.K. TV program to find acclaim stateside, with viewers gravitating toward the competition for its cheery atmosphere, low stakes and marked lack of shouting or dramatic music. But the show’s diverse contestants, including the beloved hijab-clad Nadiya, both incense some British conservatives, who tweaked the BBC for political correctness, and encourage an expanded view of Britishness, beyond crumpets and croquet, that could warm hearts around the globe.
He wants to get liberalism into a half-nelson. Jim Jordan is a two-time NCAA wrestling champion — but now the Ohio congressman is better known for his powerslams as leader of the House’s Freedom Caucus. Values from the sport, like individual responsibility, have made him a star and a scourge on Capitol Hill after fights with John Boehner, Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood. The question is whether his old-school values have a place in a country where wrestling — and the Tea Party — are running short of fans.