Good morning. Here are some of the stories we’re following today:
1. Pakistan in mourning after school massacre
The nation is burying its dead from a devastating Taliban school siege Tuesday that left more than 140 people, mostly children. Details from the scene in Peshawar show a military-run school brutalized by violence. Alongside neat rows of chairs in the auditorium, the aisles were streaked with pools of blood and marked by small, bloody footprints. Read more in NEWS.
NBC News producer Mushtaq Yusufzai, who has reported from Peshawar for years, talks about how he discovered that his sons, who go to the school, were found safe:
NBC News Journalist in Peshawar Describes Search for SonsDec. 17, 201400:46
2. Hillary Clinton is early leader for 2016: Poll
Could it be a Clinton vs. Bush redux? A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that 50 percent of voters could see themselves supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016, while 48 percent oppose her. It’s a paper-thin margin, but the numbers don’t look that much better for Jeb Bush, who said Tuesday he’s exploring a presidential bid. Just 31 percent of voters say they could see themselves supporting Bush in 2016, while 57 percent say they couldn't support him. Read more in POLITICS.
3. Obama signs $1.1 trillion spending bill
President Barack Obama signed a bill Tuesday to fund the federal government — averting a shutdown to the one that crippled Washington last year. The legislation — widely referred to as the "Crominbus" for "continuing resolution" and "omnibus" spending bill — funds most government agencies through September. The Department of Homeland Security will be treated differently, getting a funding extension only through Feb. 27, by which time Republicans will control both chambers of Congress. Read more in POLITICS.
4. Prosecutors won’t file charges against Cosby
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday it won’t pursue the case in which a woman claims Bill Cosby sexually assaulted her as an underage teen at the Playboy Mansion in 1974. The prosecutors said the statute of limitations had passed. The woman’s attorney, Gloria Allred, said in a statement that she anticipated the decision by the DA not to file charges against Cosby. Meanwhile, the comedian’s wife and daughter have been defending him against the onslaught of allegations. Read more in NEWS.
5. Theaters pull Sony flick after hacker threats
Hackers are claiming they’ll launch a Sept. 11-style attack in reaction to the release of Sony Pictures’ “The Interview,” starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. Some theaters are pulling the movie out of concern for moviegoers, and the Thursday premiere in New York City was canceled. Rogan and Franco have also decided to stop promoting it. The hackers supposedly oppose the release of the comedy because it portrays the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Read more in POP CULTURE.
6. Plunging ruble puts Putin in a bind
A perfect storm of economic malaise must be making Russian President Vladimir Putin uneasy. Tumbling oil prices, ongoing sanctions and the plummeting value of the country’s currency means Putin will have to contend with a none-too-happy public, observers told NBC News. If the economic mess continues for another year, it could translate into large-scale protests. And at that point, all bets are off, according to one Russia expert. Read more in BUSINESS.
And now this …
Researchers at Caltech have just completed the most accurate models of how galaxies are formed. It's another piece in figuring out the origin of our solar system.