They spy a problem. Top U.S. intel experts today hit back at the president-elect’s skepticism over Russian hacking interference in the American political system, saying they’re more resolute than before of their findings. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that while he welcomed healthy skepticism, he was concerned by disparagement of U.S. intelligence. All this comes after Trump — falsely, according to U.S. officials — said spy agencies delayed his briefing to strengthen their case that Russia hacked Democrats during the election and amid rumors that he’s looking to restructure intelligence agencies.
The Presidential Daily Brief
“It’s sickening,” said Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson, describing the Facebook Live video that led authorities to arrest two men and two women suspected of kidnapping, taunting and torturing a mentally disabled man. The victim, who is white, was beaten, cut, and forced at knife-point by his Black assailants to say derogatory things about Donald Trump and white people. The footage was reportedly viewed by about 16,000 people on Facebook. Now the victim has been released from the hospital, while authorities investigate whether the assault qualifies as a hate crime.
They know what they don’t want. Yesterday, Vice President-elect Mike Pence met with Republicans determined to get rid of President Obama’s signature health care law. They discussed potential replacements, but haven’t coalesced around a single plan. Meanwhile, Obama strategized with Democrats, who’ve vowed resistance, on how to avoid total repeal. It looks likely that the GOP will aim for a deferred repeal, giving them several years to come up with a viable replacement — and avoid backlash from voters who may lose coverage without the Affordable Care Act.
It’s been a week of ups and downs. Two days ago, the yuan was at a record low. But in its biggest-ever two-day gain, China’s currency jumped 2.6 percent, pushing the dollar down, after strong economic data on the country’s service sector was released. But many worry the rally’s supported by burning through China’s foreign exchange reserves, currently hovering around $3 trillion. Some estimate that if they fall below $2.8 trillion, it could lead to currency devaluation in China and around the world, as other emerging economies follow suit.
Know This: Millions in Damascus, Syria, have struggled to get drinking water for nearly two weeks, as opposition forces control the region supplying their water. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a legal pardon for a soldier convicted of shooting and killing a wounded Palestinian. And more than 100 people were injured when a New York City train derailed in Brooklyn yesterday.
Remember This Number: 467 pounds. That was the weight of a bluefin tuna sold for more than $636,000 yesterday in Tokyo, despite ongoing warnings about overfishing.
Talk to Us: We want your feedback on the Presidential Daily Brief — what you think we’re doing right and what we should be doing differently. Send us an email at email@example.com.
The hunt is on. For a decade, astronomers have been trying to discover more about Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), mysteriously energetic deep space radio waves that last just a few milliseconds. After isolating FRB 121102, the only one known to repeat, researchers were able to track it and isolate the source: a dwarf galaxy three billion light years from Earth. It’s still not clear what’s causing these regular pulses — or if there even is a single cause — but pinpointing the neighborhood of origin will allow for more focused study.
He’s breaking with tradition. Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s former Anglican archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize-winning anti-apartheid activist, has lived with prostate cancer for decades. The 85-year-old has mostly retired from public life, but has emerged with a new mission to change South African law: He’s released a video arguing that assisted death should be legal, citing Christianity’s respect for the sanctity of life as support for the cause. Euthanasia activists are applauding his decision, even as some of Tutu’s Christian followers express trepidation about it.
Lust your techie heart out. Personal robots, artificial intelligence, 5G cellular speeds, Ultra HD TVs and — perfect for the age of Star Wars revivals — holograms are expected to capture the imagination of 170,000 attendees and media at CES this week in Las Vegas. Highly anticipated presentations from the likes of Nissan and Faraday Future are expected to focus on ongoing trends like autonomous cars, augmented reality and smart fridges — but they’ll also take you into a fantasy world of glass dashboards and smart hairbrushes.
They don’t want to hear it. Yiannopoulos, a major figure in America’s white nationalist movement who was booted off Twitter for vicious trolling, recently landed a $250,000 book deal with Simon & Schuster. The announcement was met with dismay from the company’s U.K. division, which refused to publish the book. Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones, who was blasted with racist hatred online after Yiannopoulos allegedly encouraged fans to harass her, chided Simon & Schuster for providing a platform for hate, while other writers said they were reconsidering their relationship with the publisher.
It wasn’t a permanent fall. Junior guard Grayson Allen returned to the starting lineup last night before a supportive home crowd after his “indefinite” suspension for tripping opposing players lasted just one game — a loss to Virginia Tech. The No. 8 Blue Devils pounded Georgia Tech 110-57, with super-freshman Harry Giles coming into his own. Though supremely talented, Duke has a cloudy future as legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski leaves the bench for back surgery. Top assistant Jeff Capel takes over with Krzyzewski’s return date unknown.