Are they bluffing? While South Korea, the U.S. and other countries doubt that the Hermit Kingdom created a true hydrogen bomb — a more advanced nuclear weapon than an atomic bomb — Pyongyang’s boast on state TV last night followed a magnitude-5.1 earthquake near the site of previous nuclear tests. Officials in Seoul believe the seismological activity was more akin to an atomic blast, but the U.S. plans to use “sniffer” planes to evaluate the claim. The U.N., meanwhile, has condemned the provocation as a “clear threat to international peace” and is vowing to take measures against North Korea.
The Presidential Daily Brief
At least he’s not saying Cruz was born in Kenya. GOP front-runner Donald Trump has begun questioning the Texan’s eligibility to serve as president. Cruz was born in Canada, but gained citizenship at birth through his American mother. Most constitutional scholars say it’s not an issue, but Trump said he’d “hate to see” Cruz tied up with legal wrangling. A Trump presidency, meanwhile, could face a different foreign policy hiccup: On Jan. 18 Britain’s parliament will debate a wildly popular petition to ban him from the U.K. over anti-Muslim statements.
They’re taking back the night. Hundreds are protesting in Cologne after a series of as many as 90 seemingly calculated sexual assaults took place in the city’s downtown on New Year’s Eve. Police initially dismissed the incidents, but now are investigating surveillance footage to identify the group of reportedly North African men who perpetrated the attacks. Meanwhile, many worry that this will further stoke anti-refugee sentiment in Germany, which saw an influx of more than a million migrants in 2015, though there’s no evidence that refugees were involved.
They’re scaling back. The tech giant is reportedly cutting down on iPhone production after a good year that nonetheless saw only minor upgrades in hardware, which many predicted would decrease demand for new phones. Now Foxconn, the factory group that assembles iPhones, has allegedly been given more than $12 million in state subsidies in an effort to stem potential layoffs. Apple’s stock slid 13 percent in the last month, and many believe the slump in demand will further slow China’s already sluggish economy.
Two Michigan counties in state of emergency over drinking water. (USA Today)
French composer, conductor Pierre Boulez dies at age 90. (France24)
Obama sheds public tears during gun restriction speech. (NYT)
Armed standoff at Oregon wildlife refuge continues. (AP)
FBI probes San Bernardino couple’s whereabouts just after mass shooting. (LA Times)
Philippine WWII “comfort women” seek compensation from Japan. (Reuters)
British-accented ISIS militant in video is likely former “moon bounce” salesman. (NPR)
Talk about an education in politics. While many presidential wannabes have degrees in predictable subjects (ahem, law), nearly half this season have bucked the trend: Mike Huckabee studied religion, Jeb Bush is a Latin American studies wonk and Carly Fiorina cut her teeth on medieval history and philosophy. But no major is stranger than that of ex-candidate Lincoln Chafee, the Rhode Island governor who studied … horseshoeing. His skill even earned him a shoutout in equine magazine Hoofcare & Lameness — though he’s so far failed to nail national politics.
They’re betting you’ve got a lot more to say. After several dismal quarters that have seen little expansion of Twitter’s user base, the microblogging giant is switching up its service: It’s already expanded the character limit for direct messages and now it’s testing a variation where only 140 characters of a tweet are displayed but users can click to see the rest. Reports say the new feature may roll out around the end of March — once Twitter figures out how to deal with spammers and bots abusing it.
Call it interstellar indigestion. Scientists using NASA’s Chandra X-ray telescope say they watched a supermassive black hole 27 million light-years away from our Milky Way “burp” out a huge blast of energy. This could help explain why stars almost never form near the centers of galaxies, the spots where black holes are most common. The outward blast is believed to function as a cosmic “snowplow,” pushing away the dust and gas that eventually form stars, so this discovery could help explain the geography of the early universe.
This drama proved deadly. Police have found three bodies in the search for former EastEnders actress Sian Blake, 43, and her two young sons. The grim discovery was made in the yard of her family home in Kent, England. Blake, who played Frankie Pierre in the hugely popular British soap opera in the 1990s, was last seen on Dec. 13. Authorities, under fire for apparently missing clues earlier in their search, are now looking for the children’s father and Blake’s boyfriend, Arthur Simpson-Kent, who has also disappeared.
If she vetoed replicas of Princess Diana’s engagement ring, imagine how overshadowed Kate Middleton’s gonna feel by this rock. Gem experts in Sri Lanka say they’ve unearthed the world’s largest-ever blue star sapphire. Found in the southern city of Ratnapura, aka the “city of gems,” the stone weighs in at a whopping 1,404.49 carats, edging out the previous record holder’s 1,395 carats. The gem’s owner named it “The Star of Adam” after an Islamic legend and believes his prized possession could be worth as much as $175 million at auction.
They’re calling foul. The first basemen for the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies both filed defamation lawsuits against the network for naming them — and other athletes, including Peyton Manning — as users of human growth hormone. They claim the reports are unsubstantiated and relied on a source that later recanted his story. Al-Jazeera did not respond, but the journalist involved said she stands by her reporting. Meanwhile, Manning says he’ll wait until after the season to decide whether to file a suit of his own.