5 things to know for December 31: Wildfires, Nissan, Russia call, opioids

Snow and freezing rain continue to fall over New England and the Great Lakes on New Year's Eve. Ivan Cabrera has the details on if it will last into the new decade.

Posted: Dec 31, 2019 5:20 PM
Updated: Dec 31, 2019 5:20 PM

Well, it's the last 5 Things newsletter of 2019. Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve, and we'll drop something special in your inbox tomorrow to kick off 2020.

Here's what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and Out the Door.

(You can also get "5 Things You Need to Know Today" delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)

1. Australia fires

About 4,000 people were trapped on a beach in southeast Australia earlier today as wildfires swept across the region. Residents and tourists in Mallacoota, in the state of Victoria, gathered on the shore under a soot-blackened sky as part of a previously agreed-upon evacuation plan. Conditions on the beach got so bad, some people fled to the sea on their boats. As the day wore on, a change in weather patterns gave evacuees some reprieve, and some people were able to return to their homes. However, the situation in the town is still dangerous. Elsewhere in the region, officials are worried for isolated neighborhoods where supplies and evacuation opportunities are scarce. Weather conditions are supposed to improve over the next 24 hours, but may worsen again by Friday, meaning no end in sight for the scourge of wildfires that have plagued Australia for weeks.

2. Nissan

The saga of embattled former Nissan head Carlos Ghosn has taken an unexpected turn. The fallen auto titan appears to have fled Japan and has holed up in Lebanon. Ghosn was due to face trial in Japan for a litany of charges involving alleged mismanagement of Nissan's money. The move has surprised pretty much everyone, including Ghosn's lawyers and the French government (Ghosn holds both French and Lebanese citizenship). Ghosn says he isn't avoiding trial, as it may appear he's doing, but rather escaping what he calls a rigged and discriminatory Japanese justice system. Ghosn was first detained in Japan in November 2018 and has been out on bail since a second jail stint this April. The Lebanese government has said it will support Ghosn in his attempts to seek a fair trial.

3. Russia

We're learning more about a mysterious weekend call between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian government was the first to break the news about the call when it published a statement and readout saying the two leaders discussed items of mutual interest, and Putin thanked Trump for information provided by the US that helped foil a terrorist attack in St. Petersburg. It took the White House a full 24 hours -- until yesterday -- to confirm the call. It doesn't seem like that big of a deal on its surface, but keep in mind the entire impeachment issue revolves around President Trump's calls with foreign leaders. It's kind of a sore spot. However, Putin appears to have nothing but warm feelings for Trump right now: In a holiday message, the Russian leader invited Trump to Moscow in the coming year and voiced his hope that the two countries could work on their relationship.

4. Opioids

A pair of new studies have revealed worrying trends in the ongoing opioid epidemic. One study found that closing an automotive plant in a given American county has been associated with 85% higher opioid overdose death rates in that county after five years. That shows a strong link between economic hardship, feelings of depression and fatal drug use. Another study casts doubt on the success of the Food and Drug Administration's attempts to curb the crisis. In 2012, the FDA implemented new strategies, including safe prescribing education, medication guides and requirements for companies to report prescriber behavior and patient safety. However, researchers found that, five years after the plan was put into motion, the FDA couldn't find any evidence to determine whether it worked or not.

5. Tik Tok

The US Army has banned members from using the popular video app Tik Tok on government-owned phones, citing national security concerns. The app is used to create and share short videos, usually set to music, that can rack up millions upon millions of views. It's also owned by a Chinese company, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have called for stricter regulations among concerns the app could be used to collect American citizens' personal data. (Tik Tok agreed to pay millions in fines to the US in early 2019 to settle allegations it collected personal information from users under the age of 13.) The Navy enacted a similar Tik Tok ban in mid-December.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

People are talking about these. Read up. Join in.

Why do we get hangovers, and how can we fight them? 

You may want to just... file this one away for tomorrow morning.

Ford says reservations for its first edition electric Mustang are full

Sorry, you're going to have to wait to get first dibs on the next fancy car.

A 12-year-old got a magnifying glass for Christmas -- and promptly set his front yard on fire

And everyone learned a very important science lesson that day.

A dating app blocked Sharon Stone because users thought her profile was fake 

Can you blame them for thinking it was too good to be true?

Trump and Obama tied for the most admired men this year, according to new poll

Go ahead and bring this fact up at your late holiday family gathering and see what happens.

TODAY'S NUMBER

8.4 million soccer fields

That's how much area, roughly, the Amazon rainforest has lost this decade due to deforestation.

TODAY'S QUOTE

"People all over America and abroad have decided they want to let me know now, while I'm alive, about the impact that I've been having on their existence. They have come out and they have told me, and my gosh, it makes me feel so good."

"Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek, who says people's support, stories and well-wishes have kept him strong during his battle with late-stage pancreatic cancer.

TODAY'S WEATHER

AND FINALLY

Should auld acquaintance be forgot...

Everybody, sing along! And since "Auld Lang Syne" is a thoroughly Scottish work, the bagpipes are just a nice culturally accurate touch. (Click here to view)

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 895229

Reported Deaths: 9462
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1749772017
Ramsey722701040
Dakota66032572
Anoka62513568
Washington39357355
Stearns32821275
St. Louis28761399
Wright25354211
Scott25329181
Olmsted21750127
Sherburne18478126
Carver1629166
Clay11923103
Blue Earth1126366
Rice11234138
Crow Wing11003122
Chisago974676
Kandiyohi9660106
Otter Tail9611126
Benton8815124
Beltrami801794
Goodhue786596
Douglas7689100
Itasca752796
Mower721349
Winona702756
McLeod694483
Isanti681383
Steele669431
Morrison663479
Becker620873
Polk591684
Freeborn550846
Carlton529474
Nobles521654
Lyon518761
Mille Lacs516573
Nicollet510960
Pine500641
Cass491252
Todd483642
Brown465057
Le Sueur445933
Meeker422357
Martin378143
Wabasha366010
Waseca365132
Dodge351511
Hubbard349848
Roseau307931
Fillmore299115
Wadena298239
Redwood277845
Houston266817
Renville264151
Faribault253032
Pennington247529
Sibley246917
Kanabec241536
Cottonwood225032
Chippewa216342
Aitkin215850
Pope203210
Watonwan194920
Yellow Medicine185423
Rock174728
Swift169322
Koochiching168123
Stevens164511
Jackson159216
Clearwater155720
Marshall151122
Murray150911
Pipestone148329
Lake129824
Lac qui Parle120025
Wilkin119416
Mahnomen104714
Norman10389
Grant9719
Big Stone9365
Lincoln8705
Kittson71523
Red Lake70710
Traverse5996
Unassigned572124
Lake of the Woods5235
Cook3020

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 516453

Reported Deaths: 7289
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk80319799
Linn32142424
Scott26637292
Black Hawk21974378
Woodbury20490258
Johnson19778105
Dubuque18515241
Pottawattamie15890213
Dallas15320113
Story1380258
Warren8450104
Cerro Gordo7964123
Clinton7725114
Webster7326122
Des Moines7098105
Marshall669093
Muscatine6645117
Wapello6441144
Jasper619591
Sioux610177
Lee5908105
Marion557897
Buena Vista502149
Plymouth488388
Henry418655
Benton404859
Jones404862
Bremer395372
Washington391463
Boone389739
Carroll367755
Mahaska365365
Crawford353747
Dickinson314655
Jackson307747
Buchanan305741
Clay295536
Delaware294654
Kossuth289077
Fayette286353
Hardin284353
Tama279777
Page272533
Wright266149
Cedar265527
Hamilton259857
Winneshiek258143
Floyd255449
Clayton244459
Poweshiek237243
Madison234525
Harrison234379
Cass233466
Butler232744
Iowa229634
Jefferson223043
Mills220930
Winnebago215938
Hancock214639
Cherokee211347
Lyon206142
Appanoose205357
Allamakee203955
Calhoun196919
Shelby196442
Union191141
Humboldt185130
Grundy183637
Franklin183029
Mitchell182043
Chickasaw178922
Emmet178246
Louisa176953
Sac171026
Guthrie168137
Montgomery161745
Clarke160829
Keokuk150839
Palo Alto150532
Howard146824
Monroe142739
Ida130141
Greene127517
Davis124625
Lucas124426
Monona122939
Worth12139
Pocahontas120724
Adair114337
Osceola104818
Decatur101913
Taylor98514
Fremont95913
Van Buren93222
Wayne84525
Ringgold76729
Audubon74917
Adams5748
Unassigned480
Rochester
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 40° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 24°
Mason City
Clear
31° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 20°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 23°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 21°
Charles City
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 23°
Mild heading into the weekend
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