No photos, please. The drone reportedly captured images of the warship, currently in the region for strikes against ISIS. Iran’s navy commander bragged about capturing “accurate footage” of “foreign forces” and claims an undetected Iranian submarine was also nearby at the time. Earlier, the U.S. said an Iranian drone had flown over the USS Harry S. Truman, calling it “abnormal and unprofessional,” but saying it posed no actual threat. However, they have not confirmed if this was the same incident. Regardless, it’s the latest in a series of tense naval moments in recent weeks between the two nations.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Are we there yet? Voters primed for the 2016 election tuned in to two political reality shows last night. In the Fox News debate — the last before next week’s caucuses — Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio took potshots from challengers, all of whom drilled down on policy. Meanwhile, no-show Donald Trump held his own party, raising $6 million for veterans. OZY’s Nick Fouriezos, who attended the fundraiser, says the billionaire shocked everyone again — not with something he said, but by stealing the spotlight for a worthy cause.
They needed that. Japan’s central bank today heeded global market volatility and introduced its first-ever negative interest rate of -0.1 percent, following Europe’s lead. The world’s third-largest economy has been stagnating and is now beset by stock dips constituting a bear market, according to OZY’s Simon Constable. The yen predictably dipped against the dollar, which helped the Dow end nearly 400 points up by the end of trading, despite disappointing new U.S. economic data on 2015’s last quarter. But 2016 doesn’t look much better — this was the Dow’s worst January since 2009.
Violence against asylum-seeker housing in Deutschland increased five-fold last year, compared to 2014. The nearly 1,000 attacks included everything from arson to rude graffiti, with North Rhine-Westphalia — which notably houses the most refugees — worse than other regions. The news surfaces just hours after a hand grenade was thrown at a migrant hostel in Baden-Wuerttemberg overnight. Luckily the device did not detonate. But the attacks rates, combined with the fact that perpetrators didn’t appear to be part of a nationalist network and were instead locally driven, is downright explosive.
It was a Christmas Day disaster: A gypsum mine in China’s Shandong province left one dead and 17 missing. Eight of the 17 were soon rescued, and now another four are back on the surface after 5 weeks underground, according to Chinese state media. The four were detected on infrared cameras five days after the mine collapsed, and rescuers have been drilling since then. The fate of the other missing miners is still unknown — which may draw attention to mining regulations in China, considered to have the deadliest mines in the world.
It’s hard to win if you don’t play. The main group opposing Bashar Assad’s regime is now likely to attend U.N.-sponsored peace negotiations in Geneva. They had been threatening to boycott unless something was first done to help civilians living under bombardment. They want a lifting of sieges, a halt to airstrikes and the release of some prisoners and reportedly received “assurances” from the U.N. over their concerns.. Assad’s delegation is expected to arrive today while talks between the oppositon and U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, could begin on Sunday.
It’ll take an Olympic effort. Some 1.5 million Brazilians are believed to have contracted the mosquito-borne virus, which has resulted in thousands of babies born with birth defects like abnormal brain development and microcephaly. Health officials believe the virus first landed in Brazil — perhaps from Polynesia — with 2014 World Cup tourists. Now, with 500,000 people, including 200,000 Americans, planning to attend the Rio Games this summer, some fear Zika — which WHO says is already spreading “explosively” — could soon have a global reach.
Facebook and Instagram ban private gun sales (The Verge)
FBI releases video of Oregon protester’s shooting death. (USA Today)
Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner dies at age 74. (NYT)
North Korea may be planning space launch. (DW)
One of three escaped California prisoners has been caught, authorities say. (Buzzfeed)
U.S. economy barely grew as 2016 closed, but rebound is expected. (NYT)
Man arrested with guns near Disneyland Paris claims he was moving house. (The Local)
Open borders, open minds. That’s the idea behind political tourism, where people vacation to geopolitical hotbeds in an attempt to boost economies and build mutual understanding — not to mention enviable Instagram accounts. Political tour companies are seeing business boom, and while putting camera-wielding innocents in politically charged environments could also spell disaster, OZY’s Laura Secorun Palet points out that traditional diplomacy often seems to put things in reverse. With even North Korea hoping to double its visitor numbers, perhaps soft diplomacy is the key to a peaceful future.
This will blow your mind. Scientists have long suspected that the debilitating brain disorder runs in families, but researchers have now proven it. They’ve found a genetic stamp that affects a developmental process called synaptic pruning. In early childhood, the brain streamlines itself by cutting unnecessary neurons and synapses — but in schizophrenic patients, that pruning doesn’t know where to stop. This discovery is just a first step, but one that could lead to more effective treatments and diagnoses for the one in 100 Americans estimated to have the disease.
They failed to deliver. The Seattle-based company saw shares drop 13 percent after missing revenue expectations for the fourth quarter. Despite record net sales of $35.7 billion, up 22 percent from last year, analysts balked at diluted earnings of $1.00 per share. The numbers were contrasted by surprisingly strong earnings for Microsoft, which saw shares jump 5 percent. But the online retail giant pointed to other areas of growth, including Prime memberships and streaming video, arguing that even if it didn’t meet expectations, its future is brighter than ever.
Is it off-color? The Internet has erupted over news that the white English actor of American Horror Story fame will play the King of Pop in the TV movie Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon. Fans have unearthed a 1993 interview where Jackson insists he wouldn’t want to be portrayed by a white actor despite the vitiligo that lightened his skin. Fiennes was “shocked” to get the part, but notes that Jackson “was probably closer to my color than his original color,” adding that the show is a tongue-in-cheek comedy.
They’ll net some criticism. The league announced this year’s All-Star reserves, chosen by NBA coaches, and notably absent were Dirk Nowitzki and Damian Lillard from the Western Conference and Kevin Love and Al Horford in the East. While the game itself isn’t very important, it can mean big money for players. But Golden State Warriors fans are celebrating: Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will join Stephen Curry— the reigning champs are the only team to send three players — for tipoff on Feb. 14 in Toronto.