Will it matter? Rather than debating each other on stage, the three Democratic presidential candidates were interviewed separately at Drake University for Fusion TV’s “Brown and Black” forum focusing on issues like race and immigration. Bernie Sanders got big laughs and cheers when he called the White House “public housing,” and talked up his improving numbers, while Hillary Clinton answered questions about “white privilege.” Meanwhile, distant underdog Martin O’Malley unintentionally generated audience chuckles when he vowed to rally just weeks before the Iowa caucuses and win it all.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Ground Control to Major Tom … the glam rock legend has died. His son confirmed that Bowie died “peacefully” and surrounded by family, ending a secret 18-month battle with cancer. The London-born star behind hits like “Space Oddity,” “Life on Mars” and “Ziggy Stardust” just released his latest album, Blackstar, on Friday. Many have taken to social media in disbelief, echoing lyrics like “planet Earth is blue,” with friends and fans tweeting remembrances. Ricky Gervais perhaps best summed up popular sentiments, saying, “I just lost a hero.”
Authorities say about 20 militants have stormed the al-Jawhara shopping center in one of the Iraqi capital’s largely Shia districts. Though ISIS often targets the area, it’s not yet clear who the gunmen — some of whom may be wearing explosive vests, according to security sources — are or what their aim is. Officials say dozens of people may be inside the building and have been taken hostage, and that at least nine have been killed so far in the attack — and that police are now taking a “cautious” approach to prevent more casualties.
No, you haven’t been drugged. The Oscar-winning Milk actor really did interview kingpin Joaquín Guzmán, who tunneled out of a Mexican prison in July and was recaptured on Friday. The Hollywood star met up with “El Chapo” in October for a Rolling Stone article published this weekend. Republican candidate Marco Rubio called it “grotesque,” and some are questioning the magazine’s integrity over an agreement that gave the escapee editorial veto rights. But Mexican authorities say it actually helped them nab Guzmán, who now faces possible deportation to the United States.
They hunger for survival. The 42,000 residents trapped in Madaya — controlled by rebels but under siege by Bashar Assad’s troops — are starving. The United Nations is has sent an aid convoy with food supplies to this town along Lebanon’s border, where hundreds are reportedly suffering from “acute malnutrition.” But at least 28 have already died of hunger-related causes, and another 10 are in need of evacuation. While world powers work to resolve the conflict, many civilians are increasingly putting political thoughts aside … and dreaming of food.
Is it worse than we thought? Investors remain nervous over the health of China’s economy, with riskier assets bearing the brunt. Fears that Beijing is unable to slow the depreciation of its currency and halt economic turmoil saw the Shanghai Composite fall 5.3 percent today, with other Asian markets and oil prices dropping in turn. State-owned banks bought up yuan overnight to try and buoy markets, but with little effect. And despite last week’s strong U.S. jobs report, experts say it’s “difficult to envision a bright outlook for the global economy.”
German police say Cologne gangs attacked foreigners. (DW)
U.S. Supreme Court to hear case on public-sector unions. (Reuters)
Freddie Gray van driver’s trial gets underway. (AP)
Spanish princess goes on trial for fraud. (BBC)
VW chief apologizes to U.S. over emissions scandal. (DW)
They worked for it. Alabama won its fourth College Football Playoff National Championship in seven years and 16th overall, edging No. 1 Clemson 45-40. The combined 85 points are the most ever in a college title game, and each of the Crimson Tide’s last three championships has come at the expense of that year’s top-ranked team. Coach Nick Saban now has five national titles — just one behind all-time leader Paul “Bear” Bryant — and with a number of returning players, odds are he’s already eyeing number six.
It split the nation in two. Ontario’s newly built Nipigon River Bridge — part of a $106 million government project to replace a four-lane span near Thunder Bay — suffered a mechanical error, severing the Trans-Canada Highway and cutting off the nation’s only major roadway between east and west. Engineers are working to determine the exact cause but suspect extreme cold affected a joint, forcing it to rise two feet. Pedestrians can still walk across, if they dare, but it will remain closed to motor traffic indefinitely.
The force is strong with them. The new Star Wars film is swiftly gaining on its all-time worldwide box office rival Avatar — it took in $53 million over its opening this past weekend — which should be a relief for Disney as many worried Chinese audiences might not connect to the film. The Star Wars franchise doesn’t have the same historic hold in Asia that it does with U.S. audiences, but it seems to have succeeded anyway, cementing the international demographic that’s proving increasingly key for blockbusters.
This one’s hard to swallow. The pharmaceutical giant has rung in 2016 with price increases — some as high as 20 percent — on more than 100 drugs, including medications like breast cancer drug Ibrance and Viagra, which made $1.1 billion in 2014. One of the focal points of the U.S. 2016 presidential race is expected to be escalating drug prices. Pfizer’s move could further fuel the political fire against pharmaceutical companies that some claim are profiting most from consumers who can afford it the least.
This ain’t no lie. British researchers surveyed 1,500 people from 15 countries to measure levels of honesty with two studies that gave participants small incentives to deceive. According to the findings, some nationalities are more likely to fib than others. Participants from the U.K. and Japan ranked among the most upright, while those from China, South Korea and India ranked among the least honest. But the home truth, according to the experts, is that folks from nearly every culture lie.
It’s posting record profits. The state-owned postal department’s revenues from cash-on-delivery consignments have more than doubled in the last nine months — a jump that’s attributed mostly to a huge increase in e-commerce deliveries to medium-sized cities and rural areas. Over the last 24 months, it’s tied up with multiple online retailers and set up 57 modern delivery centers to handle e-commerce traffic. Now it’s trying to join the banking business, launching a bank that’s slated to open in March of 2017.
Returning host Ricky Gervais made a few people uncomfortable last night, opening with a joke about Sean Penn before settling into mostly conventional fare. Best drama went to The Revenant and star Leonardo DiCaprio took best actor. But it was also a night for underdogs, with 69-year-old Stallone thanking his “imaginary friend” Rocky as he accepted the trophy for best supporting actor for Creed. Other winners included Lady Gaga, Christian Slater and Ennio Morricone, but Hollywood is mostly buzzing over whether Stallone will enjoy another knockout at the Oscars.
They made themselves at home. All four road teams won their matchups in the opening round of playoffs, an NFL first. On Sunday, the Seahawks and Packers bounced their hosts, the Vikings and Redskins, after watching the Chiefs and Steelers top the Texans and Bengals the day before. Their underdog triumphs will be tested quickly, as all four winners head back on the road next week against a set of formidable opponents. The Chiefs will battle the reigning Patriots while Seattle faces off against the Panthers, who boast the league’s best record.