Iranian officials have detained 10 American sailors after two small U.S. naval vessels in the Gulf experienced mechanical problems en route to Bahrain from Kuwait. American diplomats said they lost contact with the crew and subsequently heard from Tehran that the Americans were safe and in their custody. Iran also assured that the “sailors will promptly be allowed to continue their journey,” potentially as early as Wednesday morning. Sec. of State John Kerry, who has reportedly formed a strong partnership with his Iranian counterpart, is on the case to ensure their safe passage.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Try to stay upbeat. OZY’s own Nick Fouriezos was at Obama’s last State of the Union, where the president touted his successes and outlined an ambitious plan for the future: fight ISIS, reform U.S. prisons and cure cancer. But he also acknowledged that he regretted how the “rancor” of partisanship has gotten worse under his leadership. His critics point to divisive decisions on issues ranging from immigration to foreign policy. Yet in a final Whitman-esque call for unity, Obama waxed poetic about how America should reject fear and remain optimistic about the future.
Have they struck again? A huge blast struck Sultanahmet Square this morning in the city’s downtown, home to many popular tourist attractions. The explosion killed at least 10 people — nine of them German tourists — and wounded 15. Turkish officials say the attacker was a Syrian suicide bomber they believe was a member of ISIS. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called German Chancellor Angela Merkel to offer his condolences and has promised to punish anyone linked to the bombing. But his nation must also grapple with the impact this will have on its tourist trade, a substantial proportion of which is generated by German visitors.
They want the borders closed. It seems that the spate of sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve was the flash point for anti-immigrant sentiment in Germany. On Monday night 200 people rioted in Leipzig, breaking windows and holding signs emblazoned with racist slogans, while another 2,000 marched peacefully to protest Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy toward refugees fleeing famine and poverty in the Middle East. Germany has already begun turning away some migrants, but this will put even more pressure on Merkel to change her stance.
Will it matter? Rather than debating each other on stage, the three Democratic U.S. presidential candidates were interviewed separately at Drake University for Fusion TV’s “Brown and Black” forum on issues like race and immigration. Bernie Sanders got big laughs and cheers when he called the White House “public housing” and talked up his improving numbers, while Hillary Clinton answered questions about her experience with “white privilege.” Meanwhile, distant underdog Martin O’Malley says he could still pull an upset victory — and Clinton herself admitted that “anybody can win.”
It’s a matter of supply and demand. The price of a barrel of crude fell more than 5 percent yesterday, hovering at a 12-year low of just above $30 in late trading. The plunge comes thanks to an ongoing market glut that’s been exacerbated by China’s massive economic and industrial slowdown. Many industry analysts expect the price to fall still further, even into the $20 range — a level that could trigger bankruptcy for as much as a third of the American oil and gas industry by mid-2017.
Joe Biden says Obama offered financial assistance during son’s cancer battle. (CNN)
Rand Paul to skip GOP undercard debate Thursday. (CNN)
Fans gather to pay tribute to David Bowie. (BBC)
Rolling strikes close more than half of Detroit schools. (Washington Post)
Iraqi PM vows to step up fight against ISIS after mall attack kills 18. (NYT)
Putin says sheltering Assad would be easier than sheltering Edward Snowden. (Bloomberg)
Your own private hideaway, complete with grotto and zoo license. America’s new most expensive house for sale is none other than Hugh Hefner’s iconic abode, which sits on five acres in one of L.A.’s swankiest neighborhoods. There are drawbacks to dropping $200 million on the 29-room mansion, though. Former Playboy Bunnies who lived there say the house hasn’t been updated much since the ’80s. The property also comes with a roommate: Hef, 89, is reportedly making his continued residence in his “creative center” a condition of the sale.
They’re putting their money where their morals are. Europe’s anti-establishment set have latched onto bitcoin, buoying the cryptocurrency in Spain for reasons partly ideological and partly practical. While the Continent’s bitcoiners see an opportunity to get in on the ground floor, they also see a way of sticking it to the man — especially in a bloc where the euro has been a contentious issue. Though some worry the user base can’t grow much more, dozens of bitcoin tellers are planned for Spain, Greece, France and Italy by the end of 2016.
Go ahead and order dessert. University of Montreal scientists have discovered an enzyme in mammals that prevents absorption of excessive sugar — meaning that it could stop sugar from being turned into fat and avert associated cell damage. The enzyme, G3PP, works by turning glucose into glycerol, which then exits the body through urine. The team is now developing drugs to stimulate greater production of G3PP, which could one day treat conditions like type 2 diabetes — and go a long way toward enabling that wistful walk past your local bakery.
New year, new romance. Media mogul Murdoch, 84, and former supermodel Hall, 59, announced via a small classified item in one of his British newspapers that they’re engaged after four months of dating. It’s the Australian billionaire’s fourth marriage — he split with his last wife, Wendy Deng, in 2013 — and Hall’s first: Her 22-year relationship with Mick Jagger ended in 1999. The couple reportedly got engaged in L.A. over the weekend and haven’t made any nuptial plans yet, but a representative says they’re “excited about their future.”
They worked for it. Alabama won its fourth College Football Playoff National Championship in seven years and 16th overall, edging No. 1 Clemson 45-40. The combined 85 points are the most ever in a college title game, and each of the Crimson Tide’s last three championships has come at the expense of that year’s top-ranked team. Coach Nick Saban now has five national titles — just one behind all-time leader Paul “Bear” Bryant — and with a number of returning players, odds are he’s already eyeing number six.