War Crimes Trial, Costa Concordia, and the World's Most Beautiful Libraries Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Friday, Jan. 14, and we're covering a landmark war crimes conviction, the anniversary of a cruise ship crash, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

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Syrian War Crimes Conviction 

Former Syrian intelligence officer Anwar Raslan was sentenced to life in prison yesterday in a landmark ruling by a German court for war crimes committed against humanity. Raslan, 58, is the first person to be criminally convicted over a state-led torture program under President Bashar al-Assad during the ongoing Syrian civil war, which began in 2011.


Raslan was charged with 4,000 counts of torture, 58 murders, and numerous counts of rape and sexual assault while overseeing a detention facility in Damascus from 2011-12. He is the highest-ranking former government official to be tried for such crimes in a foreign criminal court. Germany applies the concept of “universal jurisdiction," allowing a national court to prosecute individuals for serious international crimes against all humankind (see 101). 


Raslan fled Syria in 2012 and gained asylum in Germany in 2014. He was arrested in 2019 after Germany uncovered his involvement in the Syrian war. 

Oathkeepers Arrest

Federal officials arrested Stewart Rhodes, leader of the antigovernment Oath Keepers militia group, in connection with the Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol. The 56-year-old Rhodes, who was arrested outside Dallas by the FBI, faces charges of seditious conspiracy, among other counts. 


While more than 700 people face charges linked to activities from the day, the majority relate to disorderly conduct and entry of a restricted building. Within the larger crowd, officials allege a number of militia and far-right groups carried out a premeditated attack on the Capitol that included mapping out entry points and how to navigate the complex's underground tunnels. The charge of seditious conspiracy carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.


Ten other members of the group were also arrested and face similar charges. See background on Stewart here

Costa Concordia Anniversary 

Italy yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the Costa Concordia shipwreck with a memorial ceremony honoring the 32 victims. The cruise ship partially capsized near the island of Giglio Jan. 13, 2012, after the ship’s captain got too close to the island while performing a sail-by salute and hit a reef. The ship then began taking on water, resulting in power loss on board. The captain, Francesco Schettino, delayed the evacuation order, causing chaos as more than 4,000 passengers and crew tried to evacuate the ship.


The wreck recovery was one of the most expensive in history—nearly $2B, more than three times the cost to build the ship. Schettino is serving a 16-year prison sentence for manslaughter, causing the shipwreck, and abandoning the ship while many passengers were still on board.


See stories from survivors here and photos of the wreck here.

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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> Prince Andrew stripped of military titles and royal patronages by his mother Queen Elizabeth II amid sexual assault lawsuit (More)


US university undergraduate enrollment has dropped by 6.6% since 2019, the biggest two-year decline in more than 50 years (More)


> NFL postseason kicks off tomorrow with the Wild Card matchups; see full preview (More) | See playoff bracket (More) | NFL TV ratings rise 10% over 2020 (More)

From our partners: We aren't given many 21-month grace periods. Oil checks, doctor appointments, Tax Day ... time speeds by between them. But The Ascent found a new credit card offering 0% intro APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers—possibly the longest we've ever seen to avoid interest charges. Learn more about this five-star card today.

Science & Technology

> Global average temperatures hit 58.5 degrees Fahrenheit in 2021, the sixth-hottest on record dating back to 1880 and 1.5 degrees above last century's average (More) | How greenhouse gases work (More)


> Scientists identify first known organism capable of producing oxygen and nitrogen in the dark; the deep sea discovery impacts the understanding of the ocean's nutrient cycle (More)


> Largest fish breeding ground ever observed found on the floor of Antarctica's Weddell Sea; an estimated 60 million active nests stretch across 90 square miles of seafloor (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets (S&P 500 -1.4%, Dow -0.5%, Nasdaq -2.5%) dragged down by technology stocks (More)


> Student loan servicer Navient announces settlement; will cancel $1.7B in student loans it allegedly made to over 60,000 borrowers who were unlikely to have the ability to repay the loans (More)


> An over $3B class-action lawsuit filed in the UK against Meta (Facebook) alleges the company abused its dominance of social media market (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> Supreme Court blocks Biden administration's vaccine mandate for large employers, will allow mandate at federally funded healthcare centers (More) | See current US COVID-19 stats (More)


> Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) rejects tweaking filibuster to pass voting rights bill (More) | Republican National Committee to require candidates to not participate in election debates hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates, saying the group ignored reform suggestions (More)


> Major East Coast storm expected to bring winter weather stretching from Georgia through the US Northeast over the holiday weekend (More)



The Future of Rum Isle

NYT | Stephen Castle. A tiny island off the Scottish coast—population roughly 40—has appealed to a number of families deciding on their post-pandemic future. (Read, paywall)

The Beginning of the End of Poverty

Our World in Data | Max Roser. The percentage of the global population living in extreme poverty has dropped from 75% to under 10% in two centuries. What will it take to keep making progress? (Read)

Swapping and Trading

Guardian | Emma Beddington. On the rise of "buy nothing" groups, where everything and anything can be reused. (Read)



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Comprehending the scale of the universe. (w/video)


Inside the world's most beautiful libraries.


One-third of our waking day is spent staring at our phones.


"Baby Shark" passes 10 billion YouTube views.


When the coronavirus extends your blind date.


A World War II letter finally makes it home.


That feeling in your ear? It may be a cockroach


Spinning ice disk forms in Maine river.


Clickbait: Scotland aims to pardon hundreds of witches


Historybook: RIP astronomer Edmond Halley (1742); RIP “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” author Lewis Carroll (1898); HBD actress Faye Dunaway (1941); Franklin D. Roosevelt is first president to travel on official business by airplane in office (1943); NBC’s “Today” debuts (1952).


"All that is really worth the doing is what we do for others."

-  Lewis Carroll

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