“Yes, we did. Yes, we can.” President Barack Obama’s farewell address to the nation in his hometown of Chicago ended with a twist on his campaign slogan after recounting two terms of accomplishments while acknowledging that “for every two steps forward, it often feels like we take one step back.” Obama promised to deliver a smooth transition to Donald Trump, and urged unity and more participation in democracy. “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet,” the outgoing president said, ”try to talk with one in real life.”
The Presidential Daily Brief
The plot thickens. Even as a bipartisan group of senators proposed new sanctions on Russia, intelligence chiefs shared unconfirmed information with President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump indicating that the Kremlin has a blackmail-worthy dossier about Trump’s personal life and finances. The classified allegations came in part from a “reliable” former British intelligence agent and have been circulating in Washington for months. Russia denies the claims, while Trump, who’s scheduled to hold a rare press conference on his finances today, dismissed them on Twitter as “a total political witch hunt.”
He showed no remorse. Dylann Roof, 22, told federal jurors, “I still feel like I had to do it,” referring to his racially motivated 2015 massacre at Emanuel AME Church that left nine people dead. It took the jury about three hours to decide that Roof, convicted of 33 charges last month, should be executed — the first-ever death sentence for a federal hate crime. The decision was met with misgivings by some victims’ relatives and attack survivors who oppose the death penalty and say they offer Roof forgiveness.
The hearings are underway. The first confirmation hearings of Donald Trump’s picks for top jobs have given a window into the upcoming administration. Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions recommited to upholding the law, including protecting the civil rights of marginalized communities he’s previously challenged. Protestors disrupted Sessions’ hearing during the day – some of them wearing Klu Klux Klan robes. Meanwhile, Homeland Security nominee John Kelly said that a border wall won’t be the administration’s first go-to for stopping immigration.
Like father, like son-in-law. After much speculation, President-elect Donald Trump has appointed his daughter Ivanka’s husband as an unpaid West Wing adviser — the first family member to land such a position. Kushner, 35, and his wife will both divest from their holdings and resign from their jobs, putting pressure on the president-elect’s own conflicts, which he promised to address this week. Though Kushner’s role doesn’t require Senate confirmation, it’s sparking a battle in the legal community over whether it violates decades-old nepotism laws.
It’s officially a nation in mourning. Hundreds of thousands attended the memorial for former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who led Iran from 1989 to 1997 and died of a heart attack Sunday at age 82. In his final years, Rafsanjani was a hugely influential supporter of moderates and reformists, promoting artistic freedom and tolerance, and he was known to forge compromises between those who would modernize Iran and its conservative hardliners. Many worry that his ally, President Hassan Rouhani, will struggle in May elections without Rafsanjani’s support.
They’ve spent years railing against it. But last night, Republican leaders introduced a measure to extend the deadline for writing legislation to repeal President Obama’s signature health care law until March 3. At least three GOP legislators, enough to keep repeal from passing with a simple majority, say they won’t vote to revoke the law until a workable replacement’s on the table. A replacement law will require a two-thirds majority vote — and many doubt eight Democratic senators will jump the aisle for what’s likely to be an unpopular move.
Change your name, change your fate. The internet pioneer agreed to sell its core business to Verizon last year for $4.8 billion, though revelations about two major data breaches could still derail the deal. If it goes through, the remaining company will get a makeover: CEO Marissa Mayer, who helmed Yahoo through recent difficult years, will resign from the board, along with five other directors, including founder David Filo. The company will be renamed Altaba, a combination of “Alibaba,” the Chinese retail giant in which Yahoo has a stake, and “alternate.”
Know This: Clare Hollingworth, journalist who broke news that World War II had started, dies at age 105. Afghan Taliban have taken responsibility for two explosions in their nation’s capital that killed 21 people. Sen. Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, will face questions about his record of racist remarks at a confirmation hearing today. Ultranationalist French politician Marine Le Pen says no French bank will agree to meet with her about financing her campaign. And though Brazil prides itself on relaxed racial relations, investigators say they’ve uncovered a bizarre neo-Nazi plot to recruit fighters in Ukraine.
Remember This Number: 48. That’s how many teams will be in the World Cup within ten years, as part of a just-approved expansion from the current 32-team system.
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The rematch was worth the wait. Deshaun Watson hit Hunter Renfrow for the game-winning touchdown with one second left on the clock for a 35-31 CFP victory, shocking previously undefeated Alabama and denying coach Nick Saban a record-tying fifth championship ring. The Crimson Tide took the lead with only two minutes remaining, hoping to repeat last year’s performance. But Watson and his fleet of sure-handed receivers forced a thrilling final drive, earning the Tigers their second title in school history and first since 1981.
He still surprises even from beyond the grave. David Bowie’s former collaborator, Pulitzer-winning novelist Michael Cunningham, has revealed one last project from the star: an unfinished musical. The year-long collaboration involved aliens, mariachi bands, the poet Emma Lazarus, and imaginary unrecorded Bob Dylan songs uncovered in the future. Though never completed, their collaboration may have inspired Bowie’s very different musical, Lazarus. But as the rock star, who died one year ago today, goes up for his final accolades at this year’s Grammys, some fans remain curious about this lost production.
Zuckerberg’s not going to Like this. A German official has proposed fining the social media behemoth $530,000 each time it fails to swiftly delete false stories and hate messages. Germany is undertaking a wide-ranging effort to avoid hacking and misinformation as Angela Merkel seeks re-election this year. But experts say Russia might already have stolen the damaging information it needs and — in a re-run of what intelligence leaders believe happened in the U.S. — could be biding its time for a politically sensitive release.
Houston, we have a problem. Scientists have long subscribed to the Big Splat moon formation theory: 4.5 billion years ago, Earth and a much smaller planet collided, scattering debris that eventually formed our moon. But now Israeli researchers are proposing a different idea. After simulating hundreds of cosmic impacts, they suggest Earth once had multiple moons, like Jupiter, created from a series of smaller collisions. Those moons could have smashed into each other to form today’s moon — which, scientists say, will eventually break its orbit and leave us.
Let’s play myth-busters. Despite popular depictions of Generation X slackers and hubristic social media-obsessed Millennials, Baby Boomers do not have a monopoly on the quasi-religious notion of the Protestant work ethic. A survey of 77 studies shows that measures of 105 different kinds of work ethic have remained consistent for decades. The more flexible nature of today’s always-connected workplaces likely contributes to the cultural disconnect, but elders have long depicted younger generations as entitled brats — and they tend to turn out just fine.