Conservatives rejoice. The nation’s top justices have ruled that same-sex marriages in Utah can’t continue while appeals travel through the court system. There were no dissents. While no hearing has been set on the Utah appeals, the time line likely means that the current Supreme Court term won’t address the issue of the power of states to allow gay marriage — the major constitutional question that looms over the debate.
The Presidential Daily Brief
A comatose sports hero and hospitalized prime minister are just two of the latest victims in an usually rough winter on the mountains. Between Christmas and New Year’s alone, avalanches claimed 18 lives. Several experts blame a weak snow layer coupled with skiers growing increasingly more adventurous. German PM Merkel faces three weeks of bed rest for a broken pelvis.
In elections marked by an opposition boycott and at least 19 deaths, Bangladesh’s ruling party sailed to victory. The Awami League won 105 of the 300 parliamentary seats, with 153 of their races uncontested owing to a boycott by the main opposition group, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Voter turnout was approximately 22 percent, 400 polling stations were forced to close because of violence, and international observers declined to monitor the election. These factors, according to the BNP, demonstrate the people’s rejection of the flawed electoral process. Under such conditions, the Awami League’s mandate is weakened, and few believe it and the BNP will be able to find much common ground.
Residents of the Midwest, Northeast and Southern U.S. have been warned that record-breaking cold temperatures could cause illness, injury or even death if adequate precautions are not taken. The incoming polar vortex could drive temperatures as low as 60 or 70 degrees below zero. Schools have closed as it’s considered to be too cold for children to safely commute. There is also a high risk of flight delays or cancellations. But every polar vortex has a silver lining — retailers of warm clothing and firewood will be shivering all the way to the bank.
Peace talks between South Sudan’s two conflicting factions began in Ethiopia on Sunday, despite renewed violence at home. There was gunfire in the capital Juba, as well as fierce fighting in the city of Bor, where a senior general was killed. Violent clashes between the Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups have raged for weeks. Representatives of President Kiir and his opponent and former vice president, Riek Machar, are meeting in Addis Ababa to try and find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
JPMorgan Chase is expected to reach a deal over accusations that it ignored signs of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. It will also face a “deferred prosecution agreement,” which will suspend criminal indictment provided that the bank accepts the government’s facts and amends its behavior. JPMorgan Chase was Madoff’s bank for more than two decades, and the threat of criminal action has been hanging over the company since Madoff was arrested five years ago. This latest resolution will bring the bank’s total government settlement payments over the last year to $20 billion.
Residents flee Fallujah bombardment as Iraqi government admits it has lost control of the city. (BBC).
German Chancellor Angela Merkel fractures pelvis in skiing accident. (BBC).
UN condemns Israel’s open-ended detention law as African migrants march in protest. (The Guardian).
Iran may have a role in Syrian peace, says Kerry. (NYT).
Liz Cheney plans to abandon U.S. Senate bid. (Politico).
Afghan hospitals registered a 50 percent increase in severe malnutrition among children between 2012 and 2013. While good statistics are difficult to find, and the increased number of patients may partly reflect increased awareness, a persistent child hunger crisis clearly remains. The problem is more perplexing because it cannot be explained by specific food shortages, and the parents of affected children are not malnourished themselves. In addition to war and refugee displacement, doctors point to a variety of other explanations, including a lack of breastfeeding and the diarrhea that results from mixing powdered milk with unsanitary water.
Joseph Carey Merrick — best known by John Hurt’s portrayal of him in “The Elephant Man” — died 124 years ago from a combination of Proteus Syndrome and tumor complications that left him badly deformed. Over a century later, scientists still have questions about his condition. Researchers and documentary makers have been given permission to examine Merrick’s remains, which he left to science at Queen Mary University of London. They believe their findings could not only help people with disorders like Merrick’s, but also unlock some clues about the causes of cancer.
A U.S. federal judge has ruled against graduate student Pascal Abidor and fellow plaintiffs in a lawsuit testing the U.S. government’s legal reach over its citizens’ electronic data. Abidor, who holds American and French passports, had his laptop seized, searched, and held for 11 days after border agents removed him from a train traveling from Canada to New York in 2010. The judge maintained that border agents are allowed to search travelers’ electronic data without a warrant or even “reasonable suspicion,” in part because such searches are extremely rare. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the plaintiffs, is considering an appeal.
Broadway’s spidey senses were tingling when U2 and “Lion King” director Julie Taymor teamed up to create “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark,” a musical about Peter Parker’s transformation into a spandex-clad legend. But three years and $75 million later, “Spider-Man” has earned the legacy of Broadway’s most expensive musical — and one of its biggest flops. After creative squabbles, injuries, delayed openings, and technical faults, the show only received mediocre reviews at best. “Spider-Man” is currently looking at a $60 million loss — though this may change if the show runs in other cities.
This year’s college football giants are about as perfect as they come — Florida State arrives in Pasadena tonight for the Final BCS Championship game with a 13-0 record to face off against Auburn, which stands at 12-1. Auburn had the rockier season, scrambling gamely back from their loss to Louisiana State to wow crowds with what has become their trademark last-minute wins. Florida State has neatly bulldozed all its opponents and oozes the confidence to win by their usual wide margin. If Auburn can pull off another underdog miracle, however, they will be the first college football team ever to win three consecutive games against Top 5 teams.