BOKO HARAM TORCHES VILLAGE
Islamist terrorists from Boko Haram razed a small village in northwestern Nigeria, bombing and setting fire to huts in a horrific attack that killed at least 86 people, officials say. A survivor hidden in a tree told AP journalists he could hear children screaming as they burned to death. The six-year Islamic uprising has killed about 20,000 people and driven 2.5 million from their homes. See today's front page of Nigerian newspaper Daily Trust here.
CRUCIAL IOWA CAUCUS TODAY
All-important Iowa voters caucus today in the first presidential primary, a crucial and unique early contest that The New York Times calls "The Cornfield Crucible." (Here's how it works.) The latest polls suggest that the respective frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both have narrow leads over their closest rivals in this overwhelmingly white and mostly rural state.
- Today's caucuses follow a series of financial disclosure reports. Among the notable figures: Donald Trump loaned his campaign nearly $11 million ($325,700 of which was spent on his signature red hats). Billionaire George Soros spent $7 million to support Hillary Clinton. And Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders raised $20 million in January, with an average donation of $27.
"I urge all parties to put the people of Syria at the heart of their discussions, and above partisan interests," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday, as the Saudi-backed opposition group Higher Negotiation Committee met with a UN mediator for the first time to find a potential way out of the Syrian crisis. The UN is hoping to create a six-month negotiation process toward a broad ceasefire agreement and a political transition, Reuters reports.
- While representatives were gathered in Geneva, ISIS bombers killed at least 71 people and wounded at least 100 more in an attack on a southern Damascus Shia shrine.
UK SCIENTISTS CAN MODIFY EMBRYOS
Scientists in Britain have received the go-ahead to modify human embryos, an ethically controversial practice that researchers say could help them understand "the crucial process of embryo development" and the "causes of infertility, miscarriage and some genetic diseases," The Daily Telegraph reports. The experiments on "leftover embryos from IVF clinics" will take place at a London institute.
More than 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children have disappeared after reaching Europe over the past two years, the EU's police agency Europol said yesterday, confirming a report published in The Observer. According to the newspaper, Europol has evidence that at least some of these children have been sexually exploited, raising fears that they are targets of criminal gangs. Save the Children estimates that 26,000 unaccompanied children entered Europe last year.
- Chinese artist Ai Weiwei posed for a series of photographs to recreate the "haunting" image of Alan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian child whose body washed up on a Turkish beach in September. Read more from The Washington Post.
A European program has been researching how the pharmaceutical industry could use the peptides found in venomous creatures for new therapeutic medicines, Vahé Ter Minassian reports for Le Monde. "Of course, because of the high production costs, the complexity of the manufacturing processes and the immune problems that they pose, peptide drugs are still rare on the market. In 2010, there were barely 60, and only five of them came from animals. But a researcher explains that using biotechnologies â€˜could change the situation.' Especially when it seems worthwhile. Extracted from the saliva of a Mexican lizard called the Gila monster, Byetta is prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes and is among the pharmaceutical industry's best sellers, with sales of more than $1 billion."
Read the full article, Venom To Cure Disease, On The Frontier Of Modern Snake Medicine.
ATTEMPTED RESCUE FOR ADRIFT CARGO SHIP
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A French rescue team has launched a final attempt to save a listing cargo ship whose 22-member crew was evacuated last week. Loaded with 300 tons of fuel, the ship has been unmanned and adrift for five days, as severe weather conditions have made it impossible to tow the 538-foot Modern Express, Le Parisien reports. If the rescue attempt fails, the ship is expected to hit the French coast between tonight and tomorrow morning, though the potential ecological impact is believed to be limited.
CHINA FACTORY ACTIVITY SHRINKING
China's manufacturing sector shrank at its fastest pace since 2012, another sign that the world's second-largest economy is slowing. The news suggests that Chinese demand for oil will decrease, adding more pressure on a market that's already burdened by large surpluses. Oil prices and Asian shares tumbled after the survey was published.
ON THIS DAY
A couple of extremes for today's shot of history: the end of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's exile from Iran and Janet Jackson's infamous Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction.
FRANCE TO END C.A.R. OPERATION IN 2016
France is planning to end its military operation in the Central African Republic this year, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Le Figaro yesterday. The operation was launched in December 2013 after an Islamist group overthrew president François Bozizé. The political transition is expected to end this year with a presidential and legislative elections next month.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
FAREWELL BENOIT VIOLIER
Benoit Violier, a 44-year-old Swiss chef whose restaurant was recently named the best in the world, has been found dead, hours before he was due to attend the unveiling of the new Michelin guide in Paris. Police believe he took his own life.
NOBEL PEACE PRIZE FOR GREECE?
Should the residents of Greece's islands in the Aegean Sea receive the next Nobel Peace Prize for their "Christ-like behavior" towards Syrian refugees? More than 630,000 people think so. See the petition here.