Firefighters hose down trees as they battle against bushfires around the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales on December 31, 2019. - Thousands of holidaymakers and locals were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeast Australia on December 31, as blazes ripped through popular tourist areas leaving no escape by land. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP) (Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)
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(CNN) —  

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1. Election 2020

About 4,000 people were trapped on a beach in southeast Australia earlier today as wildfires swept across the region. Residents and tourists in Mallacoota, in the state of Victoria, gathered on the shore under a soot-blackened sky as part of a previously agreed-upon evacuation plan. Conditions on the beach got so bad, some people fled to the sea on their boats. As the day wore on, a change in weather patterns gave evacuees some reprieve, and some people were able to return to their homes. However, the situation in the town is still dangerous. Elsewhere in the region, officials are worried for isolated neighborhoods where supplies and evacuation opportunities are scarce. Weather conditions are supposed to improve over the next 24 hours, but may worsen again by Friday, meaning no end in sight for the scourge of wildfires that have plagued Australia for weeks. 

01:47 - Source: CNN
Wildfires surrounding Australian beach turn sky red

2. Coronavirus 

The saga of embattled former Nissan head Carlos Ghosn has taken an unexpected turn. The fallen auto titan appears to have fled Japan and has holed up in Lebanon. Ghosn was due to face trial in Japan for a litany of charges involving alleged mismanagement of Nissan’s money. The move has surprised pretty much everyone, including Ghosn’s lawyers and the French government (Ghosn holds both French and Lebanese citizenship). Ghosn says he isn’t avoiding trial, as it may appear he’s doing, but rather escaping what he calls a rigged and discriminatory Japanese justice system. Ghosn was first detained in Japan in November 2018 and has been out on bail since a second jail stint this April. The Lebanese government has said it will support Ghosn in his attempts to seek a fair trial. 

01:42 - Source: CNN
Ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn says he's left Japan

3. UK Economy 

We’re learning more about a mysterious weekend call between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian government was the first to break the news about the call when it published a statement and readout saying the two leaders discussed items of mutual interest, and Putin thanked Trump for information provided by the US that helped foil a terrorist attack in St. Petersburg. It took the White House a full 24 hours – until yesterday – to confirm the call. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal on its surface, but keep in mind the entire impeachment issue revolves around President Trump’s calls with foreign leaders. It’s kind of a sore spot. However, Putin appears to have nothing but warm feelings for Trump right now: In a holiday message, the Russian leader invited Trump to Moscow in the coming year and voiced his hope that the two countries could work on their relationship. 

02:49 - Source: CNN
Kremlin says Putin invited Trump to Moscow in weekend call

4. Greece elections

A pair of new studies have revealed worrying trends in the ongoing opioid epidemic. One study found that closing an automotive plant in a given American county has been associated with 85% higher opioid overdose death rates in that county after five years. That shows a strong link between economic hardship, feelings of depression and fatal drug use. Another study casts doubt on the success of the Food and Drug Administration’s attempts to curb the crisis. In 2012, the FDA implemented new strategies, including safe prescribing education, medication guides and requirements for companies to report prescriber behavior and patient safety. However, researchers found that, five years after the plan was put into motion, the FDA couldn’t find any evidence to determine whether it worked or not.

00:55 - Source: CNN
Why are opioids so addictive?

5. Football 

The US Army has banned members from using the popular video app Tik Tok on government-owned phones, citing national security concerns. The app is used to create and share short videos, usually set to music, that can rack up millions upon millions of views. It’s also owned by a Chinese company, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have called for stricter regulations among concerns the app could be used to collect American citizens’ personal data. (Tik Tok agreed to pay millions in fines to the US in early 2019 to settle allegations it collected personal information from users under the age of 13.) The Navy enacted a similar Tik Tok ban in mid-December.

JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images

BREAKFAST BROWSE

’Sonic the Hedgehog’ raced to the best opening ever for a video game movie 

Why do we get hangovers, and how can we fight them? 

You may want to just… file this one away for tomorrow morning.

Ford says reservations for its first edition electric Mustang are full

Sorry, you’re going to have to wait to get first dibs on the next fancy car.

A 12-year-old got a magnifying glass for Christmas – and promptly set his front yard on fire

And everyone learned a very important science lesson that day

A dating app blocked Sharon Stone because users thought her profile was fake 

Can you blame them for thinking it was too good to be true? 

Trump and Obama tied for the most admired men this year, according to new poll

Go ahead and bring this fact up at your late holiday family gathering and see what happens

TODAY’S NUMBER

8.4 million soccer fields

That’s how much area, roughly, the Amazon rainforest has lost this decade due to deforestation

TODAY’S QUOTE

“I love him very much, and I’m not going to take lectures on family values from the likes of Rush Limbaugh.”

“Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek, who says people’s support, stories and well-wishes have kept him strong during his battle with late-stage pancreatic cancer.

TODAY’S WEATHER

01:39 - Source: CNN
Winter weather may dampen New Year's Eve plans in the North

AND FINALLY

And that’s the gospel truth

Everybody, sing along! And since “Auld Lang Syne” is a thoroughly Scottish work, the bagpipes are just a nice culturally accurate touch. (Click here to view