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Saudi-Iran Fissure, China's Stock Plunge, Star Wars In Ice

SAUDI ARABIA CUTS DIPLOMACY WITH IRAN

In a development that global leaders warn is particularly troublesome for the future of the Mideast, Saudi Arabia has cut diplomatic ties with Iran after its embassy in Tehran was attacked yesterday by Iranian protesters upset by the Saudi execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Iran is accusing its nemesis of using the embassy attack as a pretext for prolonging tensions between the two countries, Reuters reports. Iranian diplomats were given 48 hours to leave Riyadh, Al Jazeera reports, and Saudi diplomats were likewise recalled from Tehran.

  • Meanwhile, Bahrain also cut all diplomatic ties with Iran today, the BBC reports.
  • Fears of sectarian violence are rising in the region following Saturday's execution of al-Nimr and 46 other people convicted of terror-related offenses.
  • The White House has urged both countries to explore diplomatic steps, expressing fears that the abrupt escalation of tension between Riyadh and Tehran could affect the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, The Washington Postreports.

CHARLIE HEBDO'S SPECIAL EDITION

"One year later, the assassin is still on the run," this week's special edition of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo reads, as it depicts a fugitive, bloodstained God figure carrying a Kalashnikov. The issue marks the Jan. 7 anniversary of the deadly terror attack on Charlie Hebdo"s newsroom in Paris. Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen claimed last year's horrific murders of eight staff members at the hands of two gunmen, saying it was retaliation for the publication of caricatures depicting the Prophet Mohammed. See the cover image in Le Blog.


INDIA AIR BASE SIEGE ENTERS THIRD DAY

Heavily armed gunmen inside an air base in the Indian town of Pathankot, near the Pakistan border, exchanged gunfire today with the Indian military, The Times of India reports. An unclear number of armed men entered the military air base early Saturday, wearing Indian uniforms, before launching an attack. At least five of the attackers and seven Indian soldiers have been killed so far. According to The Hindu, at least two gunmen were still holed up in the building this morning. Indian officials pledged to kill any of the remaining men. Al Jazeera quoted Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi as saying that the attackers had been cornered and were soon to be "neutralized."


7%

Chinese stock markets plunged by 7% today, the first day of trading in the new year, as the country's economy continues to struggle, the Financial Times reports. The drop is being attributed to weak factory activity and a weak currency, and it forced Chinese authorities to halt trading for the rest of the day for the first time. So-called "circuit breakers," designed to curb volatility, were also introduced into Chinese markets today.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

The pursuit of happiness has been the endeavor of all people since the dawn of time. But can work, the central value of modern civilization, be the answer? "Nowadays, work is considered a personal development and self-fulfillment tool," journalist Amanda Castillo writes for Le Temps. "It's intrinsically linked to our sense of identity — after all, don't we say ‘I'm a lawyer, doctor or architect' and not ‘I work as a lawyer, doctor or architect'? Some consider it the pivotal point around which our self-construction is organized. The most insistent question that is asked when meeting someone isn't about hobbies or favorite books, but about what that person ‘does for a living.' But must a life necessarily include a job to be fully meaningful?"

Read the full article, Can Work Make Us Happy?


SOUTH ASIA QUAKE KILLS 9

A magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck South Asia early today, killing at least nine people and injuring more than 200, Channel News Asia reports. The quake struck 29 kilometers west of Imphal, the capital of India's Manipur state, near the border with Myanmar. Search and rescue efforts are underway but are hampered by severed power supplies and telecommunication links.


ON THIS DAY


Jan. 4 marks the anniversary of the New York Stock Exchange's opening, the Spirit rover's landing on Mars and the death of Albert Camus. All that and more in today's shot of history.


SWEDEN REINTRODUCES BORDER CONTROL

Swedish authorities reintroduced identification controls at its border with Denmark today in a move to stem the influx of refugees, the AFP reports. It's the first time in half a century that Sweden is demanding photo identification at its border, and the move is seen as a huge blow to Europe's open-border Schengen Area. In November, Swedish authorities began monitoring trains and ferries to stop asylum seekers who lacked appropriate travel documents.


MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD



VERBATIM

"We will be here for as long as it takes," Ryan Payne, a U.S. army veteran and part of an armed militia occupying an Oregon national wildlife refuge, told Oregon Public Broadcasting Saturday. The group of activists commandeered the refuge in support of two local ranchers who were to begin a prison sentence today for arson, after fires they set on their property reached federal lands. Defining the group's move as an act of liberation, Payne added that "people have talked about returning land to the people for a long time," according to The New York Times. "Finally, someone is making an effort in that direction."


SNAPSHOT

Photo: Wiktor Dabkowski/ZUMA

Thirty artists from 12 different countries have recreated the Star Wars universe for this year's International Ice Sculpture Festival in Liège, Belgium, which lasts until Jan. 31.

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Future

Injecting Feminism Into Science Is A Good Thing — For Science

Feminists have generated a set of tools to make science less biased and more robust. Why don’t more scientists use it?

As objective as any man

Anto Magzan/ZUMA
Rachel E. Gross

-Essay-

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a mystery played out across news headlines: Men, it seemed, were dying of infection at twice the rate of women. To explain this alarming disparity, researchers looked to innate biological differences between the sexes — for instance, protective levels of sex hormones, or distinct male-female immune responses. Some even went so far as to test the possibility of treating infected men with estrogen injections.

This focus on biological sex differences turned out to be woefully inadequate, as a group of Harvard-affiliated researchers pointed out earlier this year. By analyzing more than a year of sex-disaggregated COVID-19 data, they showed that the gender gap was more fully explained by social factors like mask-wearing and distancing behaviors (less common among men) and testing rates (higher among pregnant women and health workers, who were largely female).

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