News In Focus: A Look at the World’s Most Interesting Stories


Germany: Immigrants and asylum seekers have been linked to the Cologne sexual attacks on New Year’s Eve, according to local police reports.

According to the New York Times, at least 18 asylum seekers are among 31 people who have been identified so far to have been involved in the incidents where gangs of men staged assaults on young women.

The incident sparked outrage against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s acceptance of refugees.

More than 121 criminal complaints have been filed relating to the mass assaults, including two accounts of rape, reports CNN.

Here’s the network’s report:


Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran on Sunday, and Iranian diplomats were given two days to leave.

Bahrain and Sudan shortly followed suit; Kuwait has recalled its envoy to Iran and the United Arab Emirates has downgraded diplomatic relations. Jordan summoned Iran’s ambassador in Amman on Wednesday. Djibouti, in Africa, is the latest country to cut ties with Tehran.

The diplomatic row began last Friday when Saudi Arabian executed 47 people, most of whom the Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry said were involved in a series of al-Qaida attacks between 2003 and 2006.

Among the executed included the Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Iranian leaders criticized Saudi Arabia and protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Iraq has dispatched its foreign minister to Tehran with an offer to mediate in the feud.

Saudi Arabia also said that it was halting all air traffic to and from Iran, but Iranians would be still be able to visit the kingdom for pilgrimages to Mecca.

Here’s a report by the Wall Street Journal:


North Korea: The U.S. Geological Survey recorded a 5.1 magnitude earthquake about 230 miles northeast of Pyongyang on Wednesday morning. The location is close to a North Korea nuclear test site – and experts believe a detonation caused the seismic activity.

Nevertheless, it’s unclear what type of bomb was detonated, even though North Korea state media announced that the country had successfully detonated a miniaturized hydrogen bomb.

The country described the test as an “act of self-defense” against the U.S.

The United Nations Security Council met in New York to discuss North Korea’s nuclear test and condemned the country for its nuclear test on Wednesday.

South Korea responded with powerful criticisms of Mr. Kim’s leadership and blared K-Pop and other recordings along its border, according to the Wall Street Journal.

So what’s a hydrogen bomb compared to an atomic bomb? PBS NewsHour explains:


Finance: Shanghai’s stock market halted trading after just 30 minutes, when the benchmark Shanghai index had dropped seven percent, according to the Financial Times.

The abrupt closure of the stock market was the second time in four days, when the size of losses triggered the “circuit-breaker” mechanism designed to prevent further panic selling.

The Financial Times explained that the sell-off came after the offshore renminbi fell to the lowest level against the dollar since it was established in 2010.

Meanwhile, official statistics reveal that China’s forex reserves fell US$108 billion in December to US$3.33 trillion from a peak of $3.99 trillion in June 2014.

The New York Times reported that news rippled through global markets, with the oil price falling to a fresh 11-year low beneath US$33 a barrel for Brent crude, the Japan Topix index closing down 2 percent, and European markets posting similar losses in a day of volatile trading. Major market indexes in the United States ended the day down more than two percent.

For more on “The Great Fall,” we go to PBS NewsHour:


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Lead-in image courtesy of EQRoy /