What We're Following This Morning

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The Republican debate: My colleagues called last night’s debate in Las Vegas “fragmented and fractious.” They noted that it had the “feel of a Chekhov play—a cast of characters together on the same stage, but each involved in their own, only occasionally interlocking, conflicts.”

Freddie Gray trial: The jurors in the trial of Officer William Porter were deadlocked yesterday, and the judge told them to continue deliberations. They resume work today. Porter is one of six officers charged in the death of Gray, the 25-year-old black man who died from injuries sustained while in police custody.

An eye on interest rates: The Federal Reserve is expected to raise them today after a two-day meeting. It would be the first time rates are being raised in nearly a decade.

Use of the death penalty falls: This year’s 28 executions were the lowest number since 1991, according to a report released today by the Death Penalty Information Center. As of December 15, according to the report, 14 states and the federal government imposed 49 new death sentences this year, the lowest number since the early 1970s when the U.S. Supreme Court halted the death penalty. Update: More here

A Japanese law upheld: The country’s supreme court has upheld a law that says married couples must have the same last name. The law, which dates to the 19th century, had been challenged by groups that said it was discriminatory toward women. Update: More here

The reviews awaken: My colleague Christopher Orr calls the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, “completely derivative, but … a delight nonetheless.” Over at The New York Times, critic Manohla Dargis says “it’s good!” As of this morning, the movie has a 99 percent favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie-rating website.