It wasn’t the weather. An Airbus traveling from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore last December crashed because of a chronically faulty component and the crew’s response, investigators say. When the plane’s rudder system malfunctioned — as it had done 23 times in 2014 — the pilots responded by resetting it. That caused the autopilot to disengage and the engine to stall. After waiting nearly a year for answers, loved ones of the 162 killed will now be demanding to know why the plane wasn’t properly maintained, and why its pilots weren’t better trained.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Prove it! President Erdogan didn’t mince words in response to the Russian leader’s accusation that Turkey shot down the Su-24 last week to protect ISIS-held oil supplies to its borders. Moscow — which approved extensive sanctions on Turkey today — insists the warplane was in Syrian airspace, but Ankara, backed by the U.S. State Department, says it violated Turkish territory. Erdogan ihas vowed to resign if Russia can produce evidence for their allegations — and meanwhile, NATO has promised to send aircraft and missiles to back up Ankara’s defenses.
Meet Trump the Tolerant. “There was great love in the room,” he said about his meeting with Black religious leaders yesterday. The group assembled for a two-and-a-half-hour discussion, initially billed as a festival of endorsements but toned down — amid backlash — to a private get-together. The group saw Trump focus on economic growth and job creation, generating “lots of good ideas” and endorsements, he said. While many remain critical, some now wonder just how far Trump will go to build bridges toward the White House.
They’ve driven right off a cliff. Though the auto industry had a strong month, Volkswagen’s year-on-year sales for November fell 25 percent in the wake of its emissions cheating scandal. U.S. dealers have been given a stop-sale order on the diesel vehicles until the company can come up with a fix — and they’ve had to take subsidies from Volkswagen to help them survive the hit. Meanwhile, the company’s international reputation is still imploding, with a just-announced recall of 324,000 cars in India and a looming $12 million fine from South Korea over the tampering scandal.
They’re joining the club. China enjoyed a boost yesterday, with the International Monetary Fund adding the yuan to its list of currencies — dollar, euro, pound and yen — comprising its Special Drawing Rights. The promotion, which takes effect next October, saw the international organization weight the yuan higher than the yen or pound, meaning the Chinese currency is considered stable enough for international assets. This will mean added pressure for Beijing to liberalize further, and any failure to be transparent or institute financial reforms could see it blacklisted instead.
Obama says Paris summit could be ‘turning point’ for planet. (Washington Post)
Germany’s cabinet approves Syrian anti-ISIS mission. (DW)
U.S. creditors tightening belts ahead of Fed decision. (FT) sub
Chicago fires police superintendent over teen’s shooting. (NYT)
Second civilian becomes president of Burkina Faso after historic vote. (Al Jazeera)
Japanese fleet sets off for whale hunt. (AFP)
Mayor of Juneau, Alaska found dead. (CNN)
This will get a lot of likes. The Facebook founder and wife Dr. Priscilla Chan have penned a letter to their newborn daughter Max — born last week — pledging to “leave the world a better place” for her generation by donating 99 percent of their company stock, currently about $45 billion, to charity throughout their lives. Just days after announcing a new green tech investment fund with Bill Gates, the couple also launched the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation, which will focus on “personalized learning,” curing disease and community building.
They’re giving peace a sporting chance. Central Colombia, a favorite recruiting ground for paramilitary groups, is trying to turn itself around, tackling its once sky-high homicide rate and ushering in kid-friendly spaces for skateboards and BMX bikes — anything to keep teens away from guns. State-run athletics leagues are offering an alternative to drugs and violence, and while recreation won’t be the cure-all — a boost for the arts will also help — Colombian officials hope it can score some points for the region’s recovery.
We’re not of two minds after all. An extensive new study finds that there’s no significant cognitive difference between male and female brains. A scan of 1,400 brains showed that only 6 percent had strong gender-specific characteristics, while 35 percent offered “substantial variability.” The study’s lead scientist says the findings should dispel notions that either sex has distinct cerebral advantages over the other. They could, she says, even change the way we look at gender-based education and the “meaning of sex/gender as a social category.”
Hold the phone! The Canadian telecom giant is shutting down operations in Pakistan after the country requested “back door” access to its servers. Blackberry says Islamabad demanded unfettered access to user emails and private messages for security reasons. The Ontario-based firm refused to comply, calling it an invasion of privacy, and will now have to leave the country by Dec. 30. Blackberry negotiated its way past similar demands in India, but bargaining didn’t work this time, leaving the 5,000 Pakistani companies it serves having to make a few calls.
The popular adult actor, known for his boy-next-door charm and eagerness to participate in conversations about feminism, is under fire after ex-girlfriend and fellow adult industry star Stoya accused him of rape via Twitter. Deen has denied everything, calling Stoya’s remarks defamatory. But two other women, including another former co-star, have since come forward with claims of sexual assault. There may never be legal action over the accusations, but taking the conversation public could help put to bed any misunderstandings about sex workers and consent.
He’s ready to step back up to the plate. After a historic* career shadowed by scandal, baseball’s HR king — whose career 1.051 OPS ranks fourth of all time — is discussing a deal to join the Miami Marlins as a hitting coach. The 51-year-old retired in 2007 amid controversy over his use of performance-enhancing drugs, but he was undeniably one of MLB’s greatest hitters even before the BALCO years. Sure, some are crying foul, but the Marlins hope Bonds can help them drive home a stronger offense.