Everyone was taking aim. The president appeared visibly uncomfortable during CNN’s town hall on gun issues, with the first several questions coming from Second Amendment activists who challenged Obama’s recent executive orders on firearms. But he earned some cheers and even got feisty with moderator Anderson Cooper over what he called a baseless “conspiracy” that he wants to take away people’s guns, comparing his proposals to car safety seatbelt laws. And a new poll says his proposals have broad support, even if his theatrics were received with decidedly mixed reviews.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Time to take cover. Tehran says a Saudi-led coalition has “deliberately” struck it’s embassy in the Yemen capital of Sanaa, injuring members of staff. The two countries support opposite sides in the Yemen conflict. A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry said the alleged provocation was “a violation of all international conventions that protect diplomatic missions.” The Saudi-led coalition, meanwhile, acknowledged that it carried out heavy strikes in the city last night while targeting Houthi missile launchers, and Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri says he’ll investigate the Iranian claims.
This could be his costliest bluff ever. While many doubt that the Hermit Kingdom tested a true hydrogen bomb as it claims, world leaders are lining up in opposition to what the U.N. has condemned as a “clear threat to international peace.” The Security Council is drawing up a resolution with measures against Pyongyang that could forbid North Korean cargo ships from operating globally and might even thwart the country’s international financial dealings. The U.S., South Korea and Japan, meanwhile, have agreed to work together on a united response.
Investors have rejected Beijing’s soft sell. The CSI 300 index plummeted 7 percent in the first half hour of trading this morning, tripping a newly instituted circuit breaker to shutter the market once more, as it did on Monday. The Chinese currency fell to its lowest level in five years, prompting the introduction of new rules restricting share sales by large shareholders. It’s still unclear whether China will again use state funds to buy up languishing stocks, but world markets are shuddering anyway, with the Dow falling about 300 points as trading opened.
Twelve months ago, the City of Lights was darkened by its first deadly encounter with terrorists for 2015 — sadly not its last. Gunmen stormed the Paris headquarters of the controversial satirical magazine, killing 11 and prompting a global response of “Je Suis Charlie.” The publication defiantly bounced back, working from a top-secret location, and yesterday, to the Vatican’s dismay, published a provocative cover featuring a gun-toting God. Today, France is holding official remembrances, and President Francois Hollande is unveiling plans to bolster anti-terror laws.
The grand jury didn’t believe him. So say prosecutors over the decision to indict Trooper Brian Encinia, who arrested Sandra Bland during a July traffic stop. Her subsequent jail death led to public outrage over possible police abuse. Grand jurors declined to indict Bland’s jailers, but they didn’t buy Encinia’s claim that he pulled her from the car to “conduct a safer traffic investigation.” The trooper, on desk duty since the incident, now faces termination from his job and a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year in jail.
Sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve may lead to deportations. (DW)
Truck bomb near military training center kills at least 15 in Libya. (Al Jazeera)
Calif. governor declares state of emergency over methane gas leak. (AP)
Macy’s plans to close 36 U.S. stores and cut 4,500 jobs. (USA Today)
More Chinese civilian planes land on contested artificial reef. (BBC)
Syria’s government to allow aid into beseiged town of Madaya. (Al Arabiya)
Is it better — and more devout — to live through technology? Lincoln Cannon grew up Mormon, but he’s now at the forefront of the transhumanist movement, based on the idea that we should use science and technology to vault ourselves into better, longer-lasting bodies. Transhumanism, which some contend could mean upgrading ourselves to immortality, is growing in popularity, reportedly appealing to people of faith seeking science they can believe in. While some accuse them of “playing God,” others say it’s an endless attempt to marry one’s religious heritage to science.
They refuse to go with the flow. The Calgary-based company has filed a U.S. federal suit against the Obama administration, arguing that the White House overstepped its authority by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s also filing a grievance under NAFTA and hopes to recover an estimated $15 billion in financial losses connected to the proposed deal. A group of environmental, tribal and land organizations accuse the company of throwing a “tantrum.” But some experts say TransCanada has a case and expect the legal wrangling to last for years.
Are they as big as life? Researchers say that globular clusters — stellar balls 100 light-years across packed with a million stars — are our best hope for finding alien life in the Milky Way. There’s optimism that planets developed within these groupings, which formed roughly 10 billion years ago, and that they might have had enough time to cultivate life forms. This makes them “great places to look for other intelligent civilizations,” said one researcher, and astronomers are currently looking for planets on the outskirts of these clusters.
The fans have awakened. Just 20 days after its release, Episode VII is North America’s top-grossing film ever, surpassing Avatar. Accounting for inflation, Gone With the Wind still reigns supreme as the biggest-ever money-making flick, relegating Star Wars: The Force Awakens to a paltry 21st place. But J.J. Abrams’ star-studded spectacle has its eyes on another record: beating Avatar’s $2.8 billion global gross, which it could easily do if Han Solo and the gang get a warm welcome in China this weekend.
He knocked it out of the park. The Mariners legend earned a record 99.3 percent of votes on his first ballot. Meanwhile, Piazza, who enjoyed stellar years with the Dodgers and Mets, was elected on his fourth try. A player needs 75 percent approval from voting sports writers to qualify, and while steroid-tainted players Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire didn’t pass that hurdle, they did gain votes. Fans of squeaky-clean Griffey, who’s always been too superstitious to visit Cooperstown, can cheer him on there this summer.