Nation and World briefs for December 29

‘Star Wars’ makers have high hopes for China success

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‘Star Wars’ makers have high hopes for China success

SHANGHAI (AP) — The latest “Star Wars” movie broke the $1 billion mark before fans in China could see it, but producers anticipate “The Force Awakens” will play “very, very well” in the world’s second-biggest film market.

The film opens Jan. 9, 2016, in China.

Director J.J. Abrams watched the Chinese premiere in Shanghai with a Chinese audience Sunday night. He told a news conference Monday that he was thrilled to see people “laughing and cheering in exactly the same places that we’ve seen other audiences.”

“It’s a testament to the power of cinema, that it does not matter where you’re from, you can get caught up in a story,” Abrams said.

“The Force Awakens” took 12 days to earn $1 billion worldwide, becoming the fastest movie to achieve such a feat. The previous movie to reach $1 billion the fastest was “Jurassic World,” which did it in 13 days in June — and which had the benefit of record grosses in China.

The Chinese market has become increasingly important for Hollywood as revenues from movie theaters stagnate at home. Some movies have incorporated Chinese characters or stories to try to appeal to the Chinese movie-going audience.

Cruz taps evangelicals, tea partiers to fuel campaign

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — When Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz first ran for U.S. Senate in Texas, the only thing lower than his name recognition was the expectation that he’d win.

Then the state solicitor general, Cruz amassed a coalition anchored by tea party conservatives and evangelicals on his way to defeating a sitting lieutenant governor who entered the primary with the financial and organizational muscle of the GOP establishment.

Now Cruz is trying to take the model nationwide, even as some of his White House rivals, especially Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, compete for the same voters in a scrambled GOP race.

The son of a Southern Baptist preacher, Cruz will continue his efforts this week with a two-day meeting at a remote Texas ranch that began Monday and was expected to bring together about 300 Christian leaders and key financial backers for a fundraiser.

Some are already supporting him, while others are undecided, Cruz said.

‘Tis the season for dreams of brokered political convention

WASHINGTON (AP) — ‘Tis the season — no, not THAT season.

It’s that point in the presidential election cycle when speculation starts swirling that the primaries won’t produce a clear winner and one of the parties’ big nominating conventions will dissolve in chaos.

This time, it’s the Republican side of the race that’s looking particularly unsettled.

After a crazy year in which Donald Trump’s ability to stay on top in a supersized pack has repeatedly confounded the conventional wisdom, the what-if chatter is wilder and louder than usual.

What if no one gets a majority of delegates in the primaries and caucuses? What if Trump leads the delegate count but party elites want to derail his route to the nomination? What if delegates to the Cleveland convention deadlock on multiple votes and then try to turn to someone completely new, perhaps House Speaker Paul Ryan?!?

Pink Sisters mark 100 years of nonstop prayer, seek 100 more

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — For more than 100 years, the cloistered nuns known as the Pink Sisters have worked in shifts to ensure nonstop prayer in Philadelphia’s Chapel of Divine Love.

Now, to address their shrinking numbers and ensure their prayers continue for another century, the Roman Catholic Holy Spirit Adoration sisters have begun quietly reaching out, seeking to grow their order while carefully maintaining their secluded life.

In the last year, they hung a banner outside their chapel and convent as a way to let other people know about their daily public Masses. They’ve granted more interviews with news reporters. And they have begun inviting Catholic women’s organizations and schools to speak to the sisters — with all conversations taking place through the grille in the convent visiting room, of course.

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There’s even a subtle recruitment flier hanging just inside the front door of the chapel. It encourages visitors to ask themselves three questions: Do you love Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament? Do you realize the power of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament? Is Jesus calling you to say ‘yes’ to a life of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament?

“We rarely reached out for vocation promotion before the centennial. But now we want young ladies to see how beautiful the life is and how truer the joy when it is without the trappings of material things,” said Sister Maria Clarissa, 55. “We do our part in addressing these challenges, but at the same time, we leave it to the Lord. He’s the one who calls.”