10 things you need to know today: January 12, 2020

Tim O'Donnell

1.

Protesters gathered in Iran on Saturday and Sunday, calling for the resignation of the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after Tehran admitted to shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet carrying 176 people this week. Iran initially denied involvement in the incident, but later said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, fearing retaliation from the U.S. for a strike against an American military base in Iraq, mistook the plane for hostile aircraft. A candlelit vigil in Tehran for the victims Saturday evening morphed into a protest with hundreds of people chanting criticisms of Iran's leaders before police broke up the gathering with tear gas. Iranian security forces deployed in large numbers in Tehran on Sunday, patrolling the city on motorbikes and stationing at various landmarks in anticipation of more protests. [The Associated Press, NBC News]

2.

The United States is planning to expel more than a dozen members of Saudi Arabia's military who are training at U.S. military installations, multiple sources told CNN. The decision was reportedly reached after an FBI investigation following a shooting last month at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida, in which a member of the Saudi Royal Air Force killed three U.S. service members on the base. The Saudis who are expected to be expelled aren't accused of aiding in the shooting, which has been treated by law enforcement as a terrorist incident, but some are reportedly believed to have connections to extremist movements. Others were reportedly found to possess child pornography. The Saudi government has reportedly been cooperative in the investigation. [CNN, The Washington Post]

3.

Puerto Rico suffered another earthquake Saturday, this one registering at a magnitude of 5.9 at a shallow depth of three miles, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake caused more damage on the island's southern coast, which has recently experienced multiple earthquakes that have destroyed homes and schools. Power outages were reported across much of southern Puerto Rico, and crews are checking for damage at power plants, The Associated Press reports. So far, there have been no reports of injuries. Thousands of people remain in shelters as a result of the previous earthquakes. Aftershocks are expected in the next week, but there's only a 3 percent chance any will be greater than a 6.4 magnitude. [The Associated Press, USA Today]

4.

A barrage of extreme weather in the United States, such as tornadoes, floods, and severe storms — including a massive winter storm that stretched from Texas to Michigan — has resulted in 10 deaths and left hundreds of thousands without power. Travel was disrupted, as well, with more than 1,000 flights canceled. The winter storm is considered one of the stronger systems in recent years. It is expected to roll over the Carolinas on Sunday before heading off the coast by the afternoon. A tornado in Louisiana, reportedly strong enough to flatten entire trailer homes with its possibly 135 mph winds, killed two people. [The New York Times, Reuters]

5.

A "conditional" ceasefire between the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord in Libya and the rebel Libyan National Army led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar began Sunday after the warring factions faced pressure from their respective supporters, Turkey and Russia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Istanbul last week and called for the sides to put down their arms. But the GNA and Haftar's forces have already accused the other of breaching the agreement within minutes. The GNA warned it would respond forcefully if the LNA acted aggressively again. Haftar launched an attack on Libya's capital, Tripoli, in April, but has been unable to seize control. [BBC, Deutsche Welle]

6.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for planting a roadside bomb that killed two U.S. soldiers and injured two more Saturday after their vehicle struck it. The Pentagon confirmed the deaths, but did not identify the service members, keeping in line with the department's policy. The attack comes amid stalled peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban. Even with intermittent negotiations geared toward finding a peaceful resolution to the U.S.'s longest-running war, 23 U.S. soldiers were killed in Afghanistan last year alone. President Trump announced in December that he ordered the military to begin withdrawing around 7,000 of the 12,000 U.S. troops stationed in the country in the coming months. [NPR, Business Insider]

7.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday called for a government inquiry into the response to the country's devastating bushfires. At least 28 people have been killed in the fires, including a firefighter who died overnight in the state of Victoria. Morrison has been criticized for how he and his government have handled the situation, and he conceded Sunday that there were things he "could have handled on the ground much better." He added the government now has a "new appetite" to take on a more direct role in the response. Still, people were left unsatisfied with his recent comments, as some were holding out hope that he would shift his government's climate policies — which many Australians consider to be weak — more dramatically. [The New York Times, BBC]

8.

In one of the most extensive studies so far on the views of the 2020 presidential race among black voters conducted by The Washington Post and non-partisan research firm Ipsos, former Vice President Joe Biden is holding on to a commanding lead over the rest of the Democratic field. Biden picked up 48 percent of the vote in the survey, which amounts to a 28-point lead over his closest competitor, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). In the South, which could be a key region for picking up delegates in the primaries, Biden's doing even better at 53 percent. The notable exception to Biden's dominance is age; black voters between 18 and 34 support Sanders at 42 percent. [The Washington Post]

9.

Saudi Arabia's state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco said Sunday it had exercised its "greenshoe option" — which allows companies to issue more shares in an initial public offering when demand is high — to sell an additional 450 shares. That raises the size of the oil giant's IPO to $29.4 billion, breaking its previous record set in December after initially raising $25.6 billion by selling 3 billion shares. Investors were allocated the additional shares during book-building Aramco said. Aramco's shares have been volatile recently as a result of the heightened tensions between the United States and Saudi Arabia's biggest rival for regional power, Iran. They dipped to their lowest point Wednesday since trading began on Dec. 11, but rebounded slightly Thursday. [Reuters]

10.

One week after stunning the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, the Tennessee Titans defeated the NFL's best regular season team, the Baltimore Ravens, 28-12 on the road in the AFC's divisional round. Ravens quarterback and likely MVP Lamar Jackson wound up with some gaudy numbers by the end of the game, but it was one of his shakier performances this season, and Tennessee's defense was in control throughout. Running back Derrick Henry was the hero for Tennessee, carrying the ball 30 times for 195 yards. Also on Saturday, the San Francisco 49ers dispatched the Minnesota Vikings, 27-10, to advance to the NFC championship where they'll host the winner of Sunday's clash between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. Tennessee will play the winner of Sunday's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans for the AFC title. [ESPN]

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