Severe rains, high winds and tornadoes blasted the nation from the Ozarks to the Appalachian Mountains, killing eight people and injuring 40 by the latest count. Among the dead in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas was a 7-year-old boy in Marshall County, Miss., who was with his family in a car when a tornado came through. Storms are also expected to hit Kentucky, Alabama, Indiana and Missouri today. Meanwhile, forecasters are predicting one of the warmest Yuletides on record, so few Americans are likely to see a white Christmas.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They’re not welcome. Sources have reportedly let on that a wave of arrests are planned for many of the 100,000 or so illegal immigrants who have streamed across America’s southwestern border over the past year. The policy is aimed at those who’ve received deportation orders from a judge, including children. Sure to attract attention on the campaign trail — with Republicans favoring aggressive enforcement and Democrats taking a softer stance — the raids could begin as early as next month, and it’s expected that those caught in the dragnet will number in the hundreds.
They’ve won — he says. President Muhammadu Buhari says his forces have the Islamic extremists on the run and have “technically won the war,” with the group confined to its home base of Borno state. But while Boko Haram may not be confronting the nation’s military directly, as it has often done during the six-year conflict, it can still wreak other havoc with improvised explosives. And in a recent 24-hour period, such attacks reportedly killed seven, making it likely that Buhari will have to extend his Dec. 31 deadline to defeat the militants.
Let bygones be bygones. American firms are champing at the bit to do business with Iran, set to emerge from more than three decades of sanctions to be lifted per last summer’s nuclear agreement. The potential is huge: The Islamic Republic’s market for electronics totaled $9.5 billion in 2014 and is expected to climb to $13 billion in four years. And then there’s petroleum, with General Electric’s oil services unit already investigating opportunities. A trade ban with some exceptions is still in place, but some in Congress predict relief could begin as early as January.
Syria says it’s willing to enter talks with rebel groups. (CNN)
Saudis investigate cause of hospital fire that killed dozens. (AP)
Americans in Beijing warned of holiday terror threat. (LA Times)
Tehran hostages win federal compensation 36 years later. (NYT)
Burmese men get death sentence in British tourists’ murders. (Reuters)
There’s an actual war on Christmas. Even with virtually no native Christians in Somalia, the government declared Santa a threat to the Islamic faith, as well as inspiration for terrorists. The move echoes bans on celebrations in Brunei and Tajikistan, and Somalian security forces have orders to break up public festivities. One major worry is inciting al Shabaab, which killed four in an attack on a Christmas party at Mogadishu’s African Union peacekeeping base last year. However, troops and others at that compound are still allowed to quietly make merry.
You’re not seeing double. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more twins were born in the U.S. last year than ever before. The actual numbers are still slim: 33.9 twins per 1,000 births, but that’s twice as many as in 1980. However, the numbers of triplets and other multiples have been declining. Experts attribute the twinning toll to increased use of fertility drugs — and older moms, who are more prone to bonus births, pointing to a growing trend of parents putting off multiplication until later in life.
It’s booming at both ends. The business of making candles bearing religious significance — like the image of the Virgin Mary — is on fire in Mexico, and not just for believers. The $21 million industry sells a lot of its candles to the 80 percent of Mexicans who identify as Catholic, of course, but they’re also hugely popular with atheist hipsters, lovers of kitsch and devotees of Mexican art. While Catholicism’s numbers are tapering off in the U.S. and Mexico, it’s unlikely to snuff out the business of waxen worship anytime soon.
The holdout is over. After years of denials, the Beatles are joining the modern music revolution — late, as always — by allowing 224 of their songs to appear on nine streaming services. The band’s controlling financial interests have opted not to sign an exclusive deal with one service, allowing their music to debut on all major platforms, including Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon Prime. While it’s great news for fans, it’s a letdown for Fab Four cover bands like “Here Comes the Sun,” who have reportedly chalked up thousands in royalties — and may now lose their golden ticket.
Score 28,609 for German productivity. The Dallas power forward is having another stellar year at age 37, when most of his aging contemporaries are in decline. Now he’s passed Shaquille O’Neal, one of basketball’s most dominant scoring machines, and moved into sixth place on the all-time list. During his team’s 119-118 overtime win against the Brooklyn Nets last night, Dirk surpassed Shaq’s 28,596 points with a signature midrange jumper. The next target is fifth-place legend Wilt Chamberlin, who has 31,419 points — within reach, if the Würzburg native plays another exceptional season.