America will respond “at a place and time” of its choosing. President Obama said Friday that the U.S. would take “proportional” action against North Korea for its devastating cyberattack of Sony. He also criticized the studio for giving into intimidation by canceling “The Interview,” saying dictators should not be able to “impose censorship.” In a new message, the hackers called Sony’s decision “very wise.” The president’s remarks came after the FBI released extensive evidence that the rogue government organized the computer breach.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Apparently, cash registers aren’t super safe at the office superstore. The biggest U.S. retailer of office supplies acknowledged Friday that criminals hacked into point-of-sale systems at 115 of its stores. Data on 1.16 million payment cards — names, numbers, expiration dates and verification codes — may have been stolen in a series of breaches from July to September. The chain is the latest national retailer to get stung by hackers. It almost pays to use cash these days.
Kurdish forces in Iraq have reportedly broken the siege of Mount Sinjar, where thousands of Yazidis have been trapped for months. Meanwhile, the Pentagon says three senior ISIS leaders have been killed in targeted attacks since mid-November, including the head of the group’s military operations in Iraq and the right-hand man to leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The U.S. hopes to weaken the extremists’ command infrastructure before local forces make a push to take back Mosul, the largest ISIS stronghold in Iraq.
It’s getting less funny by the minute. The U.S. believes that North Korea was “centrally involved” in the Sony hack and have vowed to respond. Meanwhile, on the heels of Sony’s cancellation of its Hermit Kingdom spoof, The Interview, Paramount has refused to allow theaters to replace it with 2004’s Team America: World Police, which pokes fun at an effeminate Kim Jong-il. Filmmakers fear the episode will have a long-term chilling effect on provocative cinema.
They ranged in age from 18 months to 15 years. Seven were siblings, and it was their oldest brother, age 20, who found them at home. A woman thought to be the children’s mother suffered serious injuries. Their neighborhood outside Cairns is described as an area often riddled with crime, but nothing like this. This week that began with a deadly hostage taking in Sydney, and ends with so many children gone, has left the nation reeling.
Americans may have stopped panicking over Ebola, but West Africans don’t have that luxury. Yesterday the disease claimed Dr. Victor Willoughby, one of Sierra Leone’s top physicians. A potentially life-saving dose of the experimental drug ZMAb had arrived for him hours before, but couldn’t be administered in time. The death toll for this Ebola outbreak now stands just below 7,000, which includes more than 350 health workers, prompting questions about the future of medical services in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Are the floodgates opening? If the historic thawing of relations leads to lifting the decades-old embargo, American exports to Cuba could reach $4.3 billion a year while Cuban imports to the U.S. could total $5.8 billion, according to one study. Expect plenty of demand for two of Cuba’s most prized products — cigars and rum — as well as more trade disputes. The travel industry is already lighting up at the idea of American tourists descending on the isolated island nation.
The nautical apparition appeared a record five miles beneath the ocean surface. A marine science expedition into the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, the deepest water spot in the world, returned with video of the eerie creature. It’s hard to live down there, with so much pressure from the miles of water above, and temperatures so near freezing. But some scavengers manage. The scientists are there for a week, studying the “inverted island” of life in the depths. The scavengers’ favorite treat? Chicken.
Footage shows NFL couple in cuffs, kissing after elevator punch. (ABC)
Parents of James Holmes hopes son will be spared death penalty. (USA Today)
Former Penn State football coach won’t get back $4,900-a-month pension. (CBS News)
The Islamic State issues rules governing rape. (Haaretz)
Celebrities see off Steven Colbert. (ABC)
Putin shirks blame for ruble collapse. (WP)
Neighboring states challenge Colorado marijuana law. (The Guardian)
Review calls for Secret Service reform. (CNN)
It’s a long way from London. The decorated Olympian received a suspended jail sentence, allowing him to serve probation for a year and a half. With his mother and sisters in the courtroom, a contrite Phelps admitted that he “made a bad mistake” and said he looked forward to a “much brighter future” as he seeks sobriety. The gold medalist is getting intensive therapy and attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, even as he keeps training for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Seems we’ll never know. The first season of the biggest podcast in history ended where it began — with reams of conflicting evidence on Adnan Syed, who is serving a life sentence for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Fans got what they dreaded (but expected) from creator and host Sarah Koenig: more tortured ambivalence. The show did expose gaping holes in the U.S. justice system and raised big questions about journalists turning old murders into high drama.
Are we looking at Cool Runnings 2? This weekend, American Elana Meyers Taylor and Canadian Kallie Humphries will become the first women to compete in the four-man bobsled race at a World Cup event in Calgary, Canada. There’s no four-woman event, but when a last-minute rule change made the race gender-neutral, Meyers Taylor and Humphreys both qualified to pilot for their countries against and alongside men. Come Saturday, they’ll be smashing the ice ceiling at 85 mph.
No creature is more interesting than the human in her natural habitat. Take the top image from National Geographic’s roundup of 2014’s best photographs: A young woman stares into the eerie glow of her smartphone, oblivious to the packed humanity on a subway train and her own tech addiction. “She’s a node flickering on the social web,” explains Hong Kong resident Brian Yen of his $10,000 grand-prize winner. Culled from 9,200 photographs worldwide, the top shots will be published in the magazine.
Talk about a catch. Dallas has added all-star point guard Rajon Rondo, lauded for his incomparable court vision and passing ability, to what is already the most efficient offense in the league. The trade with the Celtics — in which Boston got two future draft picks along with Jameer Nelson, Brandan Wright and Jae Crowder — pairs Rondo with a lethal pick-and-roll offense featuring renowned big men Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler, as well as Monta Ellis, a serious scoring threat.
What’s faster than Amazon Prime? The retail giant’s Prime Now service promises one-hour delivery to New York City zip codes for a $7.99 delivery fee, and if you can wait two whole hours, for no fee at all. Other companies, including Google, have attempted the same, though eBay abandoned its same-day service last month. Amazon seems more likely to succeed — it’s spent years developing a vast delivery infrastructure and the loyalty of Prime customers — so expect the service to expand rapidly to other cities.