Texas Longhorn, $131 million net worth, is the nation's wealthiest college football team. Singer Joe Cocker dies at 70, 18 months after his last concert and Europe tour. North Korea's internet goes dark (denial of service attack), possible US retaliation promised in Obama's last speech. Vigil last night for slain NYPD officers at hands of Mike Brown supporter; tensions between police and mayor Bill de Blasio. For first time, Mexicans make up less than half illegal immigrants caught by border agents (still largest single national group). 2016: politics outsider and retired pediatric neurosurgeon, controversial Ben Carson attracts strong grassroots support. Conflict of interest and discord at FAA on drone-flying authorizations, a tool deep-pocketed Hollywood increasingly uses. US gas prices keep falling, with average of $2.47, lowest at $2.06 in Tulsa, OK, and highest at $2.82 in Long Island, NY. No charges filed against Milwaukee police officer shooting of unarmed black man. Political humor: is Santa a Republican or a Democrat? Eleven pundits weigh in. Satin Dolls, NJ strip club used for the "Bada Bing" in HBO's "The Sopranos", was robbed $30,000 by two men armed with shotguns.
Basel Committee wants global standards to assess risk and lending-banks' health. Russian central bank bails out first bank, a mid-sized lender, as confidence falters. Saudi oil minister steadfast: country won't cut oil production, regardless of price. Early numbers (1.7% market share in 40 days) show Apple Pay's a game changer. Record number of Russians buy UK investor visas ($1.6m+) as homeland economy sinks. DOJ slaps highest-ever foreign bribery fine on French conglomerate Alstom. NY ad agency Grey reorganizes offices to appeal to Gen X workers ("millennials"). Belarus tries to lucratively play its role as bridge between Russia and the West. "Cloud [floating] City" could allow human colonies on Venus, closer to us than Mars. China's the world's largest smartphone market; India to pass #2 US by 2016. South Korea lowers 2015 growth forecasts, despite US recovery and falling oil prices. Fox News / Business pulled from Dish Network after Fox fee increase. Tumbling oil prices push Venezuela ever closer to default: current price of ~$57/barrel way below the $85/barrel needed. Despite selling $90bn of foreign currency reserves (out of $450bn), Russia can't bring ruble back up: "
Reserves can't make up for poor fundamentals", says Harvard economist.
In collaboration with Boeing, the struggling Canadian BlackBerry manufacturer RIM may have found a new niche: self-destructing smartphone for governments and other security-sensitive organizations, featuring tamper-proof case and biometric scanners, and an enterprise service to remotely wipe any BlackBerry or Android device. News increasingly consumed online, with customizable formats and niche topics. Israel startups fastest to get acquired, raising concerns that full potential is never reached. WikiLeaks posts CIA tips for secret agents on the go; disappointingly commonsensical. Pirate Bay file sharing site shows first signs of life since being shutdown by Swedish authorities on December 9. Romance: number of bacterias exchanged by French kiss 8 times higher than previously thought, and it's good for your health. The best innovations of 2014: cancer-detecting pills, compact nuclear fusion reactor, the HP Sprout, and more. Over half-a-billion people use a smartphone in China: mobile advertising growth takes over TV. Western and domestic brands creatively leverage apps + viral marketing. US cybersecurity firm finds malware, likely Chinese, infecting Afghan government websites: there is currently no known antivirus protection available. 3D-printed functional polymers change color / shape / composition under stretching / light / heat; promising medical applications. Sony hack draws blueprint for entities intent on silencing organizations through cyber-warfare, should be a wake-up call for all. One week before CES, Samsung launches 34-inch curved-screen TV, ultra-wide quad high def for a more immersive experience. Geek fun: Santa's sleigh redesigned for high-altitude, aerodynamic efficiency. Data visualization: entire world population mapped as peaks and valleys, Asia peaks.
Portrait: Xu Lin, head of China's unofficial propaganda tool, aka "Confucius Institutes". Fascinating, frightening, and creepy. Argentina: Chivilcoy town first in the world to ban beauty contests, viewing them as sexist and endangering women's welfare. Germany: meet Krampus, the anti-Santa who comes to punish and give nightmares to misbehaving kids around Christmas time. Princess Christina of Spain and her husband -former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin- face trial for tax fraud. Belarus government blocks access to online stores and news sites to prevent panic from falling currency, and prevent people from dumping cash savings into purchases. China detains 30,000 people following two month long porn and gambling sting. Except for state lottery, gambling has been illegal since 1949 (Communist Revolution). In pictures: Business Insider's look at life in North Korea (Sam Gellman photographs). Israeli drone shot down while flying over Syria, near the Golan Heights. China: fueled in part by nationalism, Dalian Wanda takes on western Disney Worlds by creating Chinese-culture theme parks. Egypt: 26 men tried for debauchery; alleged homosexual activities in Cairo hammam (public bathhouse) exposed in police raid. Italy: as precaution, following quakes in Tuscany, Microangelo's David to get earthquake-proof pedestal. Pakistan: four more Islamists arrested and hanged in connection with the school massacre (145 dead, 132 of them kids). Near Tours, France: knife-wielding cop attacker shouting "
Allahu Akbar", shot dead, was a recent convert to Islam. Dijon, France: 11 injured -2 seriously- when driver, recent Islam convert, slams his car onto passersby, shouting "
Allahu Akbar". Argentina: court grants basic rights to Buenos Aires zoo orangutan, arguing she is "illegally detained" - will be released. Turkey: record fine (~$175,000) by RTUK to game show displaying men dancing with women other than their wife. Tunisia: former minister Beji Caid Essebsi, 88, becomes president in runoff election. After hack, South Korea holds cyberattack drills to test its nuclear power plants. After ending ISIS siege, Kurdish fighters about to completely retake town of Sinjar, in north western Iraq. Next step, Mosul. Mexico's Catholic Church calls out president Pena Nieto's inertia; it took the government 10 days to intervene after 43 students were kidnapped by police last September.