HERE ARE THE TOP STORIES
Saudi Arabia is breaking diplomatic ties with Iran and has given Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the country.
The announcement comes after the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric by Saudi Arabia. Protests began in Iran after Saudi Arabia announced Saturday morning that it had executed 47 people, including Shiite cleric Nimr Baqer al-Nimr, BuzzFeed News’ Tamerra Griffin and Alicia Melville-Smith write.
“The execution has sent shock waves across a region already rattled by sectarian warfare between Sunni and Shiite Muslims,” BuzzFeed News’ Borzou Daragahi reports.
About 400 people took to the streets of Iranian capital Tehran and ransacked the Saudi Arabian Embassy there.
Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Sudan have joined Saudi Arabia in severing or downgrading diplomatic ties with Iran.
Iran’s move to cut ties is bad for the region and could lead to more war, more refugees, and more jihadis as prospects for easing the Middle East’s various wars and taking on ISIS diminish.
The two countries have been at odds for a long time, but Saudi Arabia’s execution of Nimr “kicked off a new round of sparring between them that analysts say could mark a dangerous shift in an already volatile region,” CNN reports.
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WE’RE KEEPING AN EYE ON
A group of militia members took over a federal building in Oregon as part of a demonstration against the U.S. government.
The militia members broke into the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in a remote region of rural southeastern Oregon on Saturday.
“The apparent goal of the takeover is ultimately to induce the federal government to turn over government-owned land to local ranchers, loggers, and miners for their use,” Vox reports.
And a little extra.
This conflict has been simmering for a while. Saturday's events are part of ongoing tensions between the federal government and rural Western ranchers, militia members, and patriot groups, BuzzFeed News' Jim Dalrymple II and Alicia Melville-Smith write.
The takeover followed a protest in support of two local ranchers — Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven Hammond — who were convicted of arson and sentenced to five years in prison each for setting federal land on fire. The Hammonds are scheduled to report to federal prison today.
The Bundy family is Mormon. Mormonism has a long, complicated history of conflict with the federal government, and that history is deeply informing the actions of the militia members and ranchers who took over the government building Saturday.
President Obama is expected to take executive action on gun control this year.
As part of taking care of “unfinished business” during his last year in office, President Obama is looking at measures that can be taken against the "epidemic of gun violence," he said in his weekly address on Friday.
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THIS?
Warren Buffet’s company wants to sell you a mobile home. (Note to minority buyers: You pay extra.)
Clayton Homes is controlled by Warren Buffett, one of world’s richest men, but its methods hardly match Buffett’s honest, folksy image: Clayton systematically pursues unwitting minority home buyers and baits them into costly subprime loans, many of which are doomed to fail, an investigation by BuzzFeed News and the Seattle Times has found.
“Clayton’s predatory practices have damaged minority communities — from rural black enclaves in the Louisiana Delta, across Spanish-speaking swaths of Texas, to Native American reservations in the Southwest. Many customers end up losing their homes, thousands of dollars in down payments, or even land they’d owned outright,” BuzzFeed News’ Daniel Wagner and the Seattle Times’ Mike Baker write.
We talked with Wagner and Baker about the story.
Warren Buffett is one of the world's richest men. What's he got to do with mobile homes?
He bought Clayton Homes more than a decade ago, and built the company into a giant that dominates the industry in making, selling, and financing mobile homes. It’s by far the biggest mobile home company in America.
How is race a factor?
Clayton goes hard after black, Latino, and Native American customers with targeted advertisements and special deals. But we found that the company charges people of color much more than it charges white people. And when customers of color fall behind on payments, collection agents have come at them with all kinds of racial stereotypes.
How does Buffett's company explain these statistics?
They really haven’t. Earlier this year, Buffett said he makes “no apologies whatsoever” for Clayton’s lending terms, but no one from Clayton would speak with us about our story.
Did you present them with your findings? How did they respond?
We tried! We sent them a list of dozens of detailed questions, which they ignored. Then we sent them an extensive summary of our findings along with an invitation to comment. One of us even hand-delivered a copy to Buffett's office in Omaha. No response.
Quick things to know:
At least nine people were killed after a magnitude-6.7 earthquake hit India near its border with Myanmar and Bangladesh. (BuzzFeed News)
Oregon and California are allowing over-the-counter birth control in 2016. (BuzzFeed News)
ISIS released a video “message to David Cameron” featuring a British-accented militant. In the propaganda video, militants claimed they executed five British “spies.” (BuzzFeed News)
President Obama declared a state of emergency Saturday in Missouri, where at least 15 people have been killed after flooding devastated the area. (BuzzFeed News)
A 2-year-old boy has become the first known victim of the refugee crisis in 2016. (BuzzFeed News)
In a move to stem the flow of refugees, Sweden will impose ID checks on all travelers from Denmark for the first time since the 1950s. . (The Guardian)
Here are the new TV shows and movies to get excited about in 2016. (BuzzFeed)
And while we were away:
Bill Cosby was charged in a 2004 sexual assault case. Many other claims against him are too old to prosecute. (BuzzFeed News)
A grand jury declined to charge Cleveland officers in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014. (BuzzFeed News)
Grammy Award-winner Natalie Cole, known for hit songs such as “This Will Be” and “Unforgettable,” has died. She was 65. (BuzzFeed News)
Brussels canceled its New Year’s Eve fireworks due to an extremist threat. And other major European cities took security measures as well. (BuzzFeed News)
Guinea was declared Ebola-free for the first time since 2013, according to the World Health Organization. (BuzzFeed News)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens shattered box office records, making $1 billion worldwide faster than any other film in history. (BuzzFeed News)
Happy New Year!
Let’s start 2016 off right. BuzzFeed Life has compiled tips, tricks, and tools to help you ~improve~ your daily life. If you’re looking for some new ways to eat healthy foods, BuzzFeed Life’s Christine Byrne has seven ways to do just that. For a new exercise routine, you don’t have to hurry to your nearest gym. BuzzFeed’s Sally Tamarkin and Justine Zwiebel present you with six cardio workouts you can do anywhere. And if you’ve vowed to spend less money in the new year, BuzzFeed’s Christina Lan has 14 little tricks that will help you save cash. You’ll be rolling in dough in no time.
This letter was edited and brought to you by Claire Moses and Brianne O’Brien. You can always reach us here.