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It’s a plot twist even “Empire” couldn’t come up with. All 16 felony charges against actor Jussie Smollett – who’d been accused of staging a hate crime against himself – were dropped by Chicago prosecutors, in a shock move that angered the city’s mayor and police chief. What’s more, Smollett’s criminal record was wiped clean and records in the case were sealed, all in exchange for Smollett doing some community service and forfeiting his $10,000 bond. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson were livid. They blasted Smollett and the county attorney’s office. Emanuel repeatedly called it a “whitewash of justice.”
Smollett said he’d been vindicated and had “been truthful and consistent” from the start. Emanuel and Johnson still say the whole hate crime claim was a hoax. Even a prosecutor said he still believes Smollett lied, but prosecutors otherwise said little about why the case against the actor was tossed, leading to a host of questions, including these six. Lost track of all the dizzying turns in this story? Click here to recap and follow the latest updates here.
Starting today, if you live in Rockland County, New York, you’re under the age of 18 and you’re not vaccinated, you’re banned from public places. This “extremely unusual” step, which might be the first of its kind in the nation, is part of an effort by county officials to deal with a measles outbreak that started back in October. So far, 153 cases have been confirmed in the county, just north of New York City. Measles is a highly contagious virus that is prevented with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, but county health officials said they’ve met “resistance” from people who might need to be vaccinated.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country is “prepared to do a lot more” after hitting Hamas targets in Gaza. Militants in Gaza fired more than 60 rockets into Israel this week. Israel’s defense forces responded with dozens of airstrikes on targets in Gaza. It’s the sharpest escalation in violence in Israel since the start of the year and comes just weeks after rockets were fired at central Israel for the first time in almost five years. By last night, things seemed to have calmed down, at least temporarily. A senior Hamas official has told CNN that Hamas wants to secure a long-term ceasefire agreement for Gaza, with hope of easing Israel’s blockade, which severely restricts Gazans moving in and out of the coastal strip, as well as controlling the entry of goods.
Juan Guaido faced arrest if he returned to Venezuela. He came home anyway. Guaido, Venezuela’s self-declared interim president, was greeted by raucous crowds, both at the airport in Caracas and at a later rally. Guaido, who’s fighting President Nicolas Maduro for control of the country, had been on a tour of sorts, meeting with the presidents of several South American countries as well as US Vice President Mike Pence. Guaido’s hoping to keep up the pressure on Maduro, who faces intense criticism over Venezuela’s mounting humanitarian crisis. Most Western countries and regional neighbors now recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s leader, but Maduro is hanging on to power because the military remains loyal to him.
4. Australia fires
A Boeing 737 Max 8 plane made an emergency landing yesterday in Florida. There were no passengers on the aircraft, which is part of the fleet that was grounded after two deadly crashes. The plane was being ferried from Orlando to California for short-term storage when pilots reported “a performance issue” with an engine right after takeoff. It’s not clear if the emergency landing was related to suspected problems with the 737 Max 8s’ automated anti-stall system. The global fleet of 737 Max jets was grounded indefinitely after fatal crashes involving the planes in October and this month.
5. Kenya attack
The Arctic community that’s home to the “doomsday vault” may be warming faster than any other town on Earth. Longyearbyen, Norway, is the world’s northernmost town, just 800 miles from the North Pole. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault – where copies of crop seeds are stored in case of global catastrophe – is located there. But the climate in Longyearbyen is heating up faster there than anywhere else, a Norwegian researcher says, because of accelerated Arctic warming: warmer temps reduce ice and snow cover, causing less sunlight to be reflected and more solar energy to be absorbed. So the vault, which was supposed to be an insurance policy of sorts against disasters like climate change, is being threatened by climate change itself.
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It comes way too late to help the Saints, but the NFL has OK’d a rule change that makes pass interference calls reviewable.
Justin Bieber is stepping away from music for a bit to focus on his mental health, saying he’s dealing with “deep rooted issues.”
Can you hear me know?
Got an iPhone? Then you need to check out the massive update that Apple just pushed out to fix some security flaws, like the one affecting your phone’s mic.
Need Oprah to fix your life? The media icon clears the path to your ultimate happiness in her new book.
Meet the Texas teacher who let her grade school students draw on her white dress, which she then wore as a work of art.
That’s what Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, will pay Oklahoma to settle a lawsuit that accused the drugmaker of aggressively marketing the painkiller and helping fuel the opioid epidemic
nearly 10 million
The sales tally for Michelle Obama’s book, “Becoming,” making the former first lady’s memoir one of the most popular books of the decade
“I’m not going anywhere.”
NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz, explaining why the space agency postponed the first all-female spacewalk – which had been set for Friday – because there weren’t enough spacesuits at the International Space Station that fit women.
Get a heartwarming, “Waltons”-style vibe after watching these kids try their grandparents’ fave foods from childhood. (Click to view.)