A South Korean court denied Wednesday an arrest warrant for Lee Jae-yong, the Samsung Group executive and heir apparent, over allegations he bribed an associate of South Korean President Park Geun-hye in exchange for political support. Prosecutors requested the arrest warrant Monday on charges of bribery, embezzlement, and perjury. The request comes after Lee was questioned last week about millions of dollars in donations he made to a company run by Choi Soon-sil, the associate whose Rasputin-like relationship with the South Korean president erupted into a political scandal and led to Park’s impeachment. Lee confirmed he made the donations, but denied that they were bribes.
—Senegalese troops moved toward Gambia’s border, threatening to “take action” if Gambian President Yahya Jammeh does not honor his December election defeat and step down. More here
—Global temperatures have hit a record high for a third consecutive year. More here
—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
South Korean Court Rejects Warrant to Arrest Top Samsung Executive
Senegal, Nigeria Send Forces to Gambia Amid Political Crisis
Senegalese troops moved toward Gambia’s border Wednesday, threatening to “take action” if Gambian President Yahya Jammeh does not honor his December election defeat and step down. Nigeria also sent troops to Senegal to support the possible intervention. Although Jammeh, who ruled Gambia for 22 years, originally conceded to Adama Barrow, he later reversed the decision and attributed his loss to voter fraud and foreign interference. Jammeh announced in a televised speech Sunday that he filed an injunction to block Barrow from being sworn in on January 19, and on Tuesday declared a national state of emergency. The move is unlikely to deter Barrow, who has vowed to go ahead with his inauguration Thursday.
UPDATE: Former President George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush Hospitalized in Houston
George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, were both in hospital Wednesday, a spokesman for the former president and first lady said. Jim McGrath, the spokesman, had earlier said the former president had responded well to treatment after being hospitalized Saturday, but he subsequently tweeted that Bush was “admitted to ICU at the Houston Methodist Hospital” where doctors performed a procedure to clear his airways. Bush was sedated at the time, McGrath said. “He is stable and resting comfortably,” he added, and “will remain under observation.” Additionally, McGrath said, the former first lady was hospitalized at the same facility as a “precaution after experiencing fatigue and coughing.” Bush, who served as president from 1988-92, has had several health incidents in recent years—not unusual for a man his age. He was hospitalized in July 2015 in Portland, Maine, after he fell at the family’s summer home in nearby Kennebunkport. Earlier that year, he was hospitalized in Houston for shortness of breath.
Global Temperatures Reach Record High for Third Consecutive Year
Global temperatures have hit a record high for a third consecutive year, U.S government agencies announced Wednesday. The findings, released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, revealed the average global temperature across land and ocean surfaces was 58.69 degrees F (14.82 degrees C)—1.69 degrees F above the 20th century average and 0.07 degrees F higher than last year’s record. It also found that this past December, despite some cooling from La Niña in the latter part of the year, was the third warmest on record. NASA’s own analysis of global temperatures, also released today, reached the same conclusions, noting the planet’s average surface temperature increased largely due to “increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.” Gavin Schmidt, the director for NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, added: “We don't expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear.” The findings come two days before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, who previously said he’s “not a great believer in man-made climate change” and campaigned on the promise to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement.
Iraqi Forces Retake Eastern Mosul From ISIS
Iraqi forces have recaptured eastern Mosul from the Islamic state, Lieutenant General Talib Shaghati, the head of Iraq's counterterrorism service, said Wednesday. The retaking of areas east of the Tigris, which divides Mosul, is a major victory for the Iraqi military, which, backed by Kurdish peshmerga, Shia militia, Sunni fighters, and U.S. forces, launched its operation to recapture Mosul last October. Iraq’s second-largest city, which was captured by ISIS in June 2014, is the militant group’s biggest asset in Iraq. Although ISIS appears to have the capacity to stage terrorist attacks at will across Iraq, Syria, the rest of the region, and indeed the West, the group has been severely pushed back in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq. ISIS still controls areas west of the Tigris.