Panic broke out minutes before the clock struck midnight. A stampede along the city’s famous Bund waterfront killed at least 35 people and injured 42 — the vast majority of them students. Authorities don’t know what set off the alarm, but some 300,000 revelers had poured into the area for New Year’s Eve celebrations. Photos on social media showed unconscious partygoers in Chen Yi Square receiving CPR. The city canceled the Bund’s annual laser show this year in hopes of dispersing huge crowds.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They’re trying to make nice. In a New Year’s message, Russia’s president called for more “equality and mutual respect” between the superpowers. Meanwhile, Obama has quietly charged Secretary of State Kerry with resetting the icy relationship. While no one expects a budding bromance, the outreach could ease tensions that critics call dangerous to international stability. Nursing a battered economy, Putin may be game to play along — though he isn’t budging on Crimea, praising its “return home” in his year-end address.
Authorities are collecting DNA samples from next of kin to identify the seven bodies recovered from AirAsia QZ8501. At least one victim was reportedly wearing a life vest, raising questions about how much the 162 passengers knew before their Airbus crashed near Borneo on Sunday. Families’ painful waits continue for a fourth day as Indonesia plans a memorial service, rather than New Year’s celebrations. President Joko Widodo has promised an extensive search — currently hampered by stormy seas — to recover victims’ bodies.
It’s already next year Down Under. Sydney launched the city’s typically epic fireworks show with a tropical theme and 1.5 million revelers. Another million are expected in New York’s Times Square this evening as temperatures dip below freezing. Other municipalities approach the New Year revelry creatively. Flagstaff, Arizona marks the year change by dropping a massive pinecone, and in one Michigan town, a giant meat-filled pastry replica will fall. Here’s to a healthy, happy and tasty year for us all.
A dangerous job got a little more dangerous this year. Fifty officers died in shootings in 2014, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund found. That’s up from 32 last year. Taking the long view, cops are still safer now than almost ever before, with far fewer deaths while on patrol. One notable change: more ambushes. People are angry with the government, and police are viewed as high-profile government representatives. Experts worry that deadly public attacks like those in Brooklyn and Las Vegas will only increase.
Time to wash your hands. This year’s flu shot, while useful, isn’t getting the job done, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already declared an epidemic. Thousands have been hospitalized across the U.S., with hot spots in the Southeast, New Jersey and Midwest. Fifteen children have died, raising a red flag about the H3N2 strain being particularly dangerous for kids. Doctors normally expect flu season to peak in January or February, so there’s still time to stock up on tissues and soap.
After months of gloomy figures, Venezuela’s economy — which contracted every quarter this year — is officially in recession. President Nicolás Maduro has lambasted political opponents and street protesters for hurting the economy. But oil, which accounts for 90 percent of the country’s exports, is the real culprit: Crude prices have plummeted nearly 50 percent this year. Maduro is confident that he can reform currency controls and revive the economy in 2015, but critics are skeptical about his plan for a “great economic transformation.”
Membership has its privileges. Lithuania officially adopts the euro on Thursday, and the timing couldn’t be better. The change comes just as the collapsing ruble and economic sanctions have cut commerce. The new currency will also help the small nation dislodge itself from Moscow’s grip, which grows firmer every day. There’s a mixed response to joining the 18-member economic and monetary union, though, with critics worried about high costs and rising prices. But at least it provides shelter from a growling Russian bear.
Gov. Martin O’Malley gives life sentences to state’s last four death-row inmates. (NBC)
700-strong ’migrant’ cargo ship docks in Italy. (BBC)
Edmonton mass murder a case of ‘extreme domestic violence.’ (CBC)
Greek parliament formerly dissolves, presidential election set. (DW)
Five Guantanamo Bay detainees sent to Kazakhstan. (NYT)
Two-year-old boy shoots, kills mom in Wal-Mart. (AP)
It’s back to old-fashioned warfare. Cyberattacks will give way to balloon drops if one activist gets his way. Park Sang-hak, a North Korean defector, plans to float 100,000 DVDs and USBs of The Interview into the Hermit Kingdom. He hopes the dictatorship will crumble once “idolization of leader Kim breaks down.” Park’s airdrops could take off in January, but he may want to attach DVD players, or tech-deprived North Koreans will have no way to watch the forbidden flick.
Don’t take a selfie with a tiger. It’s against New York state law as of February. There’s always a host of regulations that kick in as the calendar rolls over. California alone welcomes 931 new rules, like one giving livestock more room to roam. The biggest trend may be a rising minimum wage across more than a dozen states, from Ohio to Arkansas. Here’s to a more profitable year for everyone.
Suicides aren’t usually covered by the media, but Leelah Alcorn’s last words have gone viral. Alcorn struggled to be herself in a Midwest school and with her conservative Christian parents. Her last act was a posthumous blog post documenting her hopelessness. A local Cincinnati city councilman has taken up her cause. Advocates say 2014 saw trans people “liberated,” but Alcorn’s death shows there’s still so much more to do. If there’s one last lesson this year, let it be that there’s always help.
The deadly virus often spreads from animals to humans, so researchers went back to the Guinean village where the 2014 outbreak began and studied potential transmission points. They ruled out most creatures. But suspicions have fallen on free-tailed insectivorous bats — often hunted and roasted like marshmallows by village children. The bats lived in a tree near where the two-year-old boy, the first Ebola case, lived and died. More sampling must now be done to connect the bats to the disease.
His crime? Trying to help people save on flights. Skiplagged helps people find “hidden city” tickets. If you want to fly to Los Angeles, for example, the cheapest flight might be to Portland with a layover in the City of Angels. You simply hop off where you like. It isn’t illegal, but airlines hate it and sometimes void the tickets — or sue. United and Orbitz are banding together to seek $75,000 in damages from founder Aktarer Zaman, who’s raising money for his legal defense.
This is a Year in Review we can get behind. The White House released its yearly roundup of presidential photographs, and it reveals that Obama is good at giving face time to kids. Official White House photographer Pete Souza captured shots of an aspiring doctor checking the president’s heart, a young boy face-planting into an Oval Office sofa — and, of course, that viral shot of the commander in chief in a sparkling tiara. Looks like Mr. President has a lock on the youth vote.
The clock may be ticking on the Cavaliers reign of King James — again. Word on the sidelines is that the superstar isn’t jelling so well with his coach or new team, aka his old team. “He won’t hesitate” to bolt if it’s the right business decision, wrote one Cleveland columnist. It doesn’t help that the Cavs suffered a 23-point shellacking by the Pistons and have lost 12 of 30 games. But maybe LeBron, who turned 30 yesterday, is merely feeling his age.