1.6 BILLION POWERBALL WINNING NUMBERS ANNOUNCED—
The winning numbers for the largest jackpot in North American history were revealed on Wednesday, Jan. 13. The first drawing for the historic Powerball was held on Nov. 7. There was no winning ticket. Drawings continued every few days after the original, with none yielding winners. As time went on and word spread, more Americans joined in as the statistical chances of winning increased, causing the jackpot to skyrocket to $1.6 billion. Winning tickets were announced shortly after over two months after the original drawing. The prize will be divided among the three winners who beat the 1 in 292 million odds. Each ticket is worth either a $328 million lump sum or a $533 million 30-year annuity. Winning tickets were purchased in California, Tennessee and Florida. Munford, Tenn. couple John and Lisa Robinson were the first winners to emerge. The couple opted for the lump sum payment. Winners from California and Florida have yet to reveal their choice.
ALAN RICKMAN DIES JAN. 14—
Actor Alan Rickman died on Thursday, Jan. 14 at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer. The actor was well known for portraying villainous characters, most notably Hans Gruber in “Die Hard” (1988) and Professor Snape in the “Harry Potter” series (2001-2011). His other films include “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (2007), “Alice in Wonderland” (2010) and “Lee Daniel’s The Butler” (2013). Rickman launched his acting career in 1978 at the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 2001, the actor began his decade-long performance as Professor Severus Snape. J.K. Rowling tweeted Thursday that, “He was a magnificent actor & a wonderful man.” Fellow “Harry Potter” actor Daniel Radcliffe wrote that; “Alan Rickman is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors I will ever work with.” Rickman is survived by his wife, Rima Horton. According to IMDb.com, Rickman will make a final on-screen debut as the voice of the Blue Caterpillar in the sequel, “Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass.”
FIRST ZIKA VIRUS CASE IN THE U.S.—
On Friday, Jan. 15, the first U.S. case of brain damage linked to the Zika Virus was reported in Oahu, Hawaii. The baby was born with microcephaly, which is an unusually small brain caused by incomplete brain development. Officials speculate that the mother became infected with the virus while living in Brazil during her pregnancy. The virus, carried primarily by yellow fever mosquitos, can be passed from mother to fetus and is most dangerous during early pregnancy. The Zika virus is highly concentrated in Latin America. However, it has begun making its way toward the Northern Hemisphere. Epidemiologists attribute this migration to climate change, as the mosquitos thrive in warmer weather. On Friday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned pregnant women to consider postponing travel plans to Latin America. All of those traveling to Zika-infested areas are urged to take serious precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
28 KILLED AND 56 INJURED IN BURKINA FASO—
On Friday, Jan. 15, at least 28 people were killed and 56 were injured in the West African city of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou. After explosions were set off outside a café Friday evening, the four attackers seized over 100 hostages and moved them inside the adjacent Splendid Hotel. Witnesses described the sound of screaming and gunfire. Security forces freed 126 hostages early Saturday morning. Among the deceased were two French nationals, six Canadian citizens and one nine-year-old girl. The luxury hotel was a target due to its association with Western diplomats. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AIQM) claimed responsibility for the attack. The same jihadist group was responsible for a similar attack in November on a luxury hotel in neighboring Mali which left 21 dead. AIQM is led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar and rivals the Islamic State (ISIS).
TAIWAN ELECTS FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT-
Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was elected as Taiwan’s first female president on Saturday, Jan. 16. Tsai won the presidency with 56.1 percent of the vote. For the last eight years, Taiwan has been governed under the pro-China alliance Kuomintang (KMT) or Nationalist Party. The election marks the first time that the KMT lost control over Taiwan’s legislature. The DPP now holds 68 of 113 seats. The election of a DPP candidate indicates many people’s desire to depart from Chinese influence. Taiwan’s strides towards independence and democracy have threatened ties with China, which considers Taiwan a key piece of its territory.
U.S LIFTS SANCTIONS ON IRAN, U.S. PRISONERS RELEASED—
On Saturday, Jan. 16, President Barack Obama signed an executive order lifting U.S. sanctions on Iran. Iran is now in compliance with the U.S. after dismantling significant sections of their nuclear program, which included shipping out 98 percent of their uranium. As a result of the lifted sanctions, Iran can now participate in the world economy. The announcement came hours after Iran’s release of five U.S. prisoners as part of a prisoner swap. One of the released prisoners was Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian who had been detained on espionage charges since July 2014. The prisoner swap and nuclear negotiations are loosely related due to recently forged diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran.