It has been 78 years since a hurricane formed in the Atlantic Ocean during the month of January — a drought that came to an end on Thursday with the "unheard of" formation of Hurricane Alex. The storm has peak winds of 85 miles per hour, just short of the strength of the 1938 January hurricane, The Washington Post reports.
"Remarkably, Alex has undergone the transformation into a hurricane. A distinct eye is present, embedded within a fairly symmetric mass of deep convection," the National Hurricane Center marveled during its 10 a.m. discussion on Thursday.
— Alex Lamers (@AlexJLamers) January 14, 2016
— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) January 14, 2016
Alex is located 490 miles south of the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal, and tracking in that direction. The Weather Channel's Jonathan Erdman points out that only 10 hurricanes have ever tracked within 200 miles of the Azores, and all of them occurred in August or September. The government of the Azores has issued hurricane warnings as a precaution. Jeva Lange
Three women have come forward to accuse actor Dustin Hoffman of sexual misconduct, including one who said he exposed himself to her when she was in high school, Variety reports.
Cori Thomas said in 1980, she spent an afternoon with Hoffman and his daughter, her classmate Karina, in New York City. Instead of picking her up at a restaurant, Hoffman changed the plans and told the restaurant to tell Thomas' parents to pick her up at his hotel room. Karina left and Hoffman decided to take a shower, coming out in a towel and then dropping it. "It was the first time I had ever seen a naked man," Thomas, who was 16 at the time, said. "I was mortified." Thomas said he asked her to massage his feet, which she did because she "didn't know that I could say no," and he made suggestive comments, which she ignored.
Two other women told Variety Hoffman sexually assaulted them while filming 1987's Ishtar. Melissa Kester said her boyfriend at the time was working on the movie's music, and brought her to the recording studio several times. During one visit, Hoffman called her into the recording booth, Kester said, and he "just stuck his fingers down my pants. He put his fingers inside me. I didn't know what to do." Variety also spoke to a woman who was an extra in Ishtar, who shared a similar story. While shooting in New York City, Hoffman offered her a ride home with several other people, the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said. In the back of the station wagon, Hoffman "just took his hand and stuck his fingers right up inside of me," she said. "I didn't know what to do." He asked her to go to his hotel room, and there, they had intercourse.
The woman told Variety she considered the station wagon incident non-consensual, and when asked if the hotel encounter was, she said, "I don't know." Hoffman's attorney, Mark A. Neubauer, called the accusations "defamatory falsehoods." Earlier this year, Anna Graham Hunter accused Hoffman of groping her in 1985, while she was a teenager. Catherine Garcia
In July 2015, British music publicist Rob Goldstone suggested in an email his client, Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, would be able to set up a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Washington Post reports.
The Post obtained the email Goldstone sent to Trump's personal assistant Rhona Graff one month after he announced he was running for president, which asked if Trump would be able to attend a birthday party later in the year for the pop star's father, Aras Agalarov, and contained the line, "Maybe he would welcome a meeting with President Putin." There is no indication that Graff or Trump followed up on the offer, the Post reports, although Trump did send a birthday note to Agalarov. Agalarov licensed the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant in 2013, bringing it to Moscow, and while in Russia, Trump appeared in one of Emin Agalarov's music videos.
Goldstone is the same publicist who arranged a meeting in June 2016 at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked Russian attorney, with Trump Jr. told he'd be receiving compromising information on Hillary Clinton. Read more about Goldstone's first overture at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) could complicate things for the Republicans as they try to pass their tax overhaul, having told reporters on Thursday he won't support the legislation unless it increases the refundable portion of the child tax credit.
Senate and House Republicans say they have reached an agreement on a tax bill, which lowers the corporate tax rate to 21 percent and top individual tax rate from 39.6 to 37 percent, and are just ironing out the final details. As it stands now, the bill sets the child tax credit at $2,000 per child, and Rubio wants it to be refundable against both payroll and income taxes. He "can't in good conscience support" the legislation unless this happens, Rubio said, adding, "There's a way to do it, and we'll be very reasonable." Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has said he agrees with Rubio on the child tax credit issue.
The GOP can only afford to lose two votes in the Senate, but several GOP aides and lawmakers told Politico they believe Rubio will come around before a final vote, which they hope happens next week. "The goal is to get a $2,000 per child tax credit with a significant portion of that to be refundable," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. "I think Sen. Rubio would like to see us do a little more and we're trying to work with him." Catherine Garcia
A firefighter from San Diego died Thursday while fighting the Thomas Fire in Southern California, the state's fourth-largest fire in modern history.
He's been identified as Cal Fire San Diego Unit Fire Apparatus Engineer Cory Iverson, 32, a married father of two. The Thomas Fire started Dec. 4 in Santa Paula, and quickly spread to the southwest and northwest. It is now at 242,500 acres, having moved from Ventura County to Santa Barbara County, and has destroyed more than 900 homes. It's been fueled by dry winds, which have died down for now but are expected to kick back up starting Friday.
The fire is only 30 percent contained, and fire officials said they do not expect it to be fully out until Jan. 7. Fire behavior analyst Tom Chavez told the Los Angeles Times the blaze is "60 miles long and 40 miles wide. There's a lot of fire out there." Catherine Garcia
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is adamant that war with North Korea is becoming more likely every day. "If nothing changes, [President] Trump's gonna have to use the military option, because time is running out," Graham told The Atlantic on Thursday. He additionally said he thinks there is a 30 percent chance that the U.S. launches a preemptive strike on North Korea — and that the odds would spike to 70 percent if North Korea conducts another missile test.
To his credit, Graham — who has become a frequent golfing partner of the president's — is sober about the consequences of war on the Korean peninsula. Graham told The Atlantic that conflict with North Korea would be an "all-out war" that would necessitate regime change and the removal of nuclear weapons. "There is no surgical strike option," he said. "I am literally willing to put hundreds of thousands of people at risk, knowing that millions and millions of people will be at risk if we don't [stop North Korea]."
Still, Graham believes that there is hope for a peaceful solution to the nuclear crisis, if China removes Kim Jong Un from power or cuts off North Korea's economy and access to oil. The senator also supported negotiating with North Korea "without a whole lot of preconditions," which was suggested by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, though the White House shot down the idea Wednesday.
"I'm not taking anything off the table to avoid a war," Graham said. "When they write the history of the times, I don't want them to say, 'Hey, Lindsey Graham wouldn't even talk to that guy.'" Read more on Graham's North Korea concerns at The Atlantic. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Buying chips from a vending machine is so 2017. In 2018, buying a car with the push of a button is where it's at.
Alibaba, a massive online retailer often referred to as the "Amazon of China," unveiled a video concept of its "Auto Vending Machine" on Wednesday. It's an attempt to simplify car buying, letting users browse, test drive and buy a car in a matter of minutes.
Oh, and it's also shaped like a cat.
The car-buying process starts with Alibaba's Taobao app. When customers spot a car they like on the street, they scan it on the app, customize the vehicle's color, and pick it up at their nearest vending machine for a test drive, per TechCrunch. After test driving for three days, shoppers can either buy the car or test something else.
This video breaks down the process:
Alibaba will open its first two test-drive centers in China next month, and aims to install more across the country in 2018. Who knows what wallet-altering decisions you’ll be able to make on a whim next? Kathryn Krawczyk
A group of 3,000 golden retrievers from across the U.S. are taking "good dog" to a whole new level. Their checkups could help scientists beat canine cancer.
These golden retrievers are enrolled in the Morris Animal Foundation's Golden Retriever Lifetime study, the U.S.'s largest veterinary study ever. It researches what increases the risk of dogs developing cancer and other health problems, and ultimately aims to help dogs live longer, healthier lives.
More than half of golden retrievers end up with cancer, the foundation reports, so that's why they're the specified subjects in this study.
These good dogs need a little human help to make a difference, though. Dog owners keep track of what their pups eat, when they sleep, if they spend time on a lawn with pesticides, and more. They also have to take their dogs for annual checkups, collecting and shipping off hair and body fluid specimen to be studied.
No big health discoveries have come out of the study since it started in 2012, The Washington Post notes. But the research has uncovered that about a quarter of the retrievers frequently eat grass, 39 percent swim weekly — and 100 percent of them are adorable. Kathryn Krawczyk