And yet he’s a fan of mass consumption. During a midnight service at the Vatican on Christmas Eve, His Holiness called on the faithful to “act soberly” despite what he called the world’s obsession with hedonism and materialism, and to learn from the example of Jesus’s simple lifestyle. Ten thousand people squeezed through security checks to see the Pope speak at St. Peter’s Basilica — and today he’s taken to the Vatican’s balcony to address the crises in Syria and Yemen and the “martyrs” of terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, urging peace in the spirit of Christmas.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They want justice, peace, and goodwill toward men. In an echo of a much-larger Black Friday protest on the same street, hundreds took to the city’s Michigan Avenue thoroughfare to demand Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s resignation over the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014. The shooter, Jason Van Dyke, wasn’t indicted until earlier this month, in the wake of massive protests after video of the incident was released. Emanuel, vacationing in Cuba, says he won’t resign — but Black Lives Matter activists are hoping to put the pressure on.
They were just stocking up for the holiday. As many as 100 people are estimated to have burned to death in Nnewi, Nigeria, after a butane gas tank truck caught fire and caused an explosion at an industrial gas plant. The small, largely Christian community saw the fire rage for hours, charring the bodies of those who’d been waiting to obtain gas for their stoves before Christmas dinner. Now authorities will have to investigate whether the truck was — as some witnesses reported — unloading its gas dangerously fast when it caught fire.
They’re going public. After a dismal year — new tech and Internet IPOs raised only $9.5 billion in 2015 after collectively snagging $40.8 billion in 2014 — the tech world is coming out of hibernation. Four major startups are planning IPOs after the first of January: Twilio, Nutanix, Coupa Software and Okta, all valued at over $1 billion. Their confidence in the IPO model is likely to be monitored closely by more than 130 similarly valued private companies, who could take the plunge in 2016 as well.
Captured papers show ISIS endorsing organ theft. (Reuters)
Cop kills gunman in North Carolina shopping mall fight. (ABC)
Christmas Eve storms ravage South, Midwest. (USA Today)
Syrian rebels reportedly make safe passage deal. (Al Jazeera)
Officials warn about rise of ‘winter vomiting disease.’ (SF Gate)
The list is made — and double-checked. Heavy storms currently buffeting the U.S. have delayed both packages and people from getting home for the holidays, but now it’s time for present-opening, family friction and discussions of faith, in all its dimensions. Start with the story of Baltimore pastor Brad Braxton trying to lead his congregation through a new era of racist violence. But for the cynics among us, there’s a look back at how Jesus was re-imagined as a capitalist symbol way back in 1925.
Santa hit a detour. The packaging service says it’s making holiday deliveries to areas hit with severe weather that’s delayed Christmas Eve arrivals. The holdup caused a small uproar across social media from customers who had paid extra for rush service. A company spokesperson said unusually high last-minute demand had also pushed back the delivery times of some packages. Counters at FedEx express stations will remain open from 9am-1pm and drivers are reportedly placing an emphasis on early deliveries to residential neighborhoods — lest kids worry they made St. Nick’s naughty list.
Your holiday lights have some competition. It’s the first time a full moon has landed on Christmas since 1977 and astronomers say it won’t happen again until 2034. NASA used the moment to remind everyone of their ongoing research, such as the lunar probe that’s been orbiting since 2009. More casual observers can take a gander at peak viewing hours, around 6 a.m. Eastern Time, but it’s expected to be visible for several hours after and the following evening will offer a near-full moon as well.
Call it a role reversal. California Gov. Jerry Brown has pardoned the Oscar-nominated actor and 90 others in a Christmas Eve ritual. In 1996, Downey was sentenced for drug possession after police found cocaine, heroin and a pistol inside his vehicle. Now Brown says he applauds the 50-year-old for “exemplary behavior” in the years after his convictions. The pardon is largely ceremonial for Downey, who doesn’t have trouble finding work these days — but it didn’t stop the Iron Man actor from posting a celebratory, animated GIF of himself on Twitter.
He’s redistricting. The suddenly famous second baseman who helped take the Metropolitans back to the World Series has signed a three-year, $37.5 million contract with the rival Nationals. Murphy, 30, set an MLB record with home runs in six consecutive playoff games this year, but rejected a one-year qualifying offer from New York. The signing intensifies an already strong rivalry: The Mets finished seven games ahead of the Nats last season to win the National League East Division, so the blazing bat D.C. is banking on should come in handy.