December 18, 2015

Top News Stories –

Star Wars film breaks opening night box office record –
The new Star Wars film has set a new opening night box office record in the US and Canada, industry experts said. Star Wars: The Force Awakens made $57m (£38m) on Thursday night, beating the previous record of $43.5m held by Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in 2011. Analysts say the space saga could become the biggest selling movie of all time. The film also set a new opening day box office record in the UK and Ireland. The £9.64m tally beat the previous best of £9.48m set by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Midnight screenings on Thursday morning accounted for £2.4m of ticket sales. Rentrak’s Paul Dergarabedian, one of Hollywood’s best-known box office analysts, said the film’s opening night performance in the US and Canada “portends a massive and potentially record-breaking opening day and weekend for the film”. [BBC]

The $70m cost of Uber Force One: Price of private flights for Obama and family –
Barack Obama’s eighth consecutive Christmas vacation to Hawaii starts Friday just as a new report shows the total cost of his vacations has now exceeded $70 million to U.S. taxpayers. The costs are being savaged by a critical conservative group, which says Obama is treating Air Force One, which costs $206,000/hour to run, ‘like an Uber ride’ ahead of his next jaunt to his home state,’ says Tom Fitton, president of the Judicial Watch pressure group. Fly-time alone will set taxpayers back somewhere in the region of $3.5 million as Obama, the First Lady, Sasha and Malia and their two dogs jet off for around two weeks. The total cost of Obama’s vacations since taking office in January 2009 has now hit $70.5 million, according to a new report. Yet he still has not taken anywhere near the total number of vacations or days off as his predecessor, George W. Bush, the report shows. [Daily Mail]
Barack_Obama_meets_his_staff_in_Air_Force_One_Conference_RoomBarack Obama on Air Force One

Iceland grapples with volcano-naming responsibility –
Authorities in Iceland have decided on a name for a volcano a year after it started erupting. Council members in the rural district of Skutustadahreppur, which boasts a population of 371, took on the hefty responsibility to officially name the lava field known conversationally to locals as Holuhraun, the Iceland Review news website reports. After considering four names for the volcano – Flaedahraun, Holuhraun, Nornahraun and Urdarbruni – the vote was carried to officially use the name Holuhraun, despite only getting the backing of two of the five council members, Icelandic newspaper Visir said. [BBC]

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  • In the United States, a group of hospitals, 32 in 15 states, agree to pay a total of $28 million to settle charges they submitted false claims to Medicare for a type of spinal fracture treatment. This is the latest settlement stemming from a decade-oldwhistleblower lawsuit about alleged inappropriate billing for kyphoplasty. More than 130 hospitals have paid about $105 million to settle billing claims from this spinal procedure. (Reuters) (The Arizona Republic)
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