This are looking up. Asian shares fell again today, and investors expressed jitters as they awaited the European Central Bank’s next move. But the ECB decided to hold its main interest rate — a record low 0.05 percent — and president Mario Draghi said he plans to review the bank’s policy stance with an eye toward injecting more stimulus. This helped boost European shares, oil prices rose by 5 percent, and the Dow closed up 115.94 points.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Who spiked Alexander Litvinenko’s tea with radioactive polonium? Since the ex-spy died mysteriously in London in 2006, it’s been an open question. Finally, an inquiry has come back with 328 pages of answers that boil down to this: Probably someone acting under the auspices of Vladimir Putin. The report says the Russian president “probably” approved the poisoning due to a long-running personal feud, though two other men actually carried it out. Many expect the finding to spur public outrage — and calls for further sanctions against Russia.
It’s lonely at the top. After weeks of leading most Iowa polls, Ted Cruz is surrounded by critics. Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, the 1996 nominee, says the party would suffer “wholesale losses” with Cruz atop the ticket. The day before, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad cast shade on the Texas senator, and Sarah Palin backed his biggest rival, Donald Trump. OZY’s Nick Fouriezos, reporting from Iowa, says Cruz will likely accuse the “Washington cartel” of trying to torpedo his candidacy — and in this anti-establishment election, his fans might agree.
Is there even a trickle of hope for him? Gov. Rick Snyder released 274 pages of emails relating to the ongoing catastrophe of lead-contaminated water in Flint, Michigan. If he thought the attempt at transparency would staunch the flood of criticism, he was mistaken: The emails indicate that the state knew the contaminated water was a problem, but hoped to shift responsibility to city officials. Now residents who say they were charged for poisoned water want Snyder’s resignation on top of the $28 million in new emergency funds.
They had to wait for the clock to strike twelve. At 12:01 a.m., UK Chancellor George Osborne formally tapped International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde to serve a second five-year term — despite the fact that she’s been asked to defend herself in French court over alleged negligence during her time as France’s finance minister. OZY’s Steven Butler reports that Lagarde has tried to give emerging economies more voice in the IMF — but some are questioning how far the fund can go on that front with a European in the driver’s seat.
Al Shabaab suicide bombers, gunmen target beach restaurants in Mogadishu, killing 5. (CNN)
Lleyton Hewitt retires following single’s loss in Australian Open. (BBC)
Oregon governor calls on federal officials to end activist occupation. (CNN)
Washington, D.C., braces for anticipated massive blizzard. (Washington Post)
Communists in Vietnam meet to select new national leaders. (AP)
ISIS releases 270 civilian captives. (Christian Science Monitor)
Pakistan observes nationwide day of mourning after university attack kills 21. (ABC)
Why bother? Getting to the U.S. can be arduous, dangerous and pointless for migrants from increasingly violent countries like Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — and many are looking elsewhere, to destinations that offer a quicker, easier path to citizenship. As drug cartels and gangs squabble over turf, those looking to escape will take the closest, easiest option — Costa Rica, for example, or Nicaragua, where hundreds are finding solace. Of course, in 2014 the U.S. still received 40,000 asylum applications from those countries, so not everyone will be deterred.
They’re sharing the wealth. The mega-retailer said it’s moving up annual raises to Feb. 20 and boosting its minimum wage in what’s widely seen as a bid to reduce turnover. The changes, which include a previously announced $10 minimum wage and 2 percent raises for longtime employees, will affect more than a million workers — and are good news after last week’s announcement that Wal-Mart will be closing 269 stores. Labor advocates call the raises a good start, but say the retail giant could still be doing more.
Pluto’s going to be pissed. Caltech astronomers have based their theory on the behavior of distant Kuiper Belt objects that seem to be feeling the gravitational pull of ice giant Planet X — or “Fatty,” as it’s affectionately known in the lab. Nobody’s seen this mysterious planet, located at the solar system’s outer limits, because researchers believe it could take 20,000 years to complete its eccentric orbit. While many scientists say the evidence is strong, they’re holding out for an actual sighting of Planet X before updating any textbooks.
Stop her if you’ve heard this one before. A new video claims the actress and comedian, 34, lifted material from other stand-ups without permission. Swearing “on her life” that the allegations are false, the Trainwreck star said she’d take a polygraph to make her case. She accused fellow comedian Tammy Pescatelli of being “upset by success” and stirring up the allegations out of jealousy. However, Schumer was also accused of lifting material back in October — meaning that even if this claim isn’t true she risks being labeled a punchline plagiarist.
She’s turning heads. Buffalo’s new special teams quality control coach Kathryn Smith is the first woman the league’s ever hired full-time for a coaching position. Smith is coming off 12 years with the New York Jets, most recently as an administrative assistant to coach Rex Ryan. He praised his outgoing protégé, and the progress of the sport overall when it comes to gender equality, citing the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs hiring a female assistant last summer and calling Smith’s hire “exciting” for the Bills and the entire league.