Jihad has hit cyberspace. The Cyber Caliphate, hackers apparently aligned with ISIS, took control of Twitter and YouTube accounts belonging to the U.S. Central Command yesterday. “American soldiers, we are coming, watch your back,” said one tweet. The hackers posted phone numbers of military brass, as well as pro-extremist videos on the military’s YouTube channel. Officials say the attack – which lasted 30 minutes – didn’t compromise classified information or threaten operations. But it did raise concerns about the military’s readiness on the technological front.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They braved strong currents and poor visibility to reclaim what may hold the key to understanding why flight 8501 crashed two weeks ago, claiming 162 lives. The flight data recorder has been recovered, and the other black box — the cockpit voice recorder — has been located but remains on the sea floor. Both will be sent to Jakarta for data analysis, and will hopefully yield answers. Meanwhile, the search continues for the rest of the plane and its passengers.
“Nous sommes tous Charlie,” chanted the million-strong crowd marching through the City of Light yesterday in France’s largest demonstration ever, as more details about the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre came out. The kosher market attacker had been in the U.S. terror database. And the wife of one of the newspaper shooters expressed her horror and sympathy. France deployed 10,000 soldiers across the country in a bid to thwart terror. Meanwhile, White House expressed regret for not sending a high-ranking official to the unity rally.
Will they stay? Friday’s massacre in a Parisian kosher supermarket has shone a spotlight on a scary reality: France’s Jewish community is under threat, and many may leave as a result. Prime Minister Manuel Valls says a mass exodus would be disastrous for France. But Jews are increasingly worried about anti-Semitism and Islamic extremism. And many feel the government — which is deploying thousands of police to Jewish schools this week — hasn’t been doing enough to protect them.
Black gold prices are proving a very slippery slope. The cost of oil dropped below $50 a barrel today to $48.68 — a new six-year low. OPEC could’ve eased up on production to stabilize prices, but members decided in November to continue pumping 30 million barrels a day. Now the world is facing a possible surplus, just as Europe and Asia face economic woes that hurt demand. Analysts are beginning to think the slide will continue throughout much of 2015. Will we see $40 barrels this year?
Who’s watching you? News junkies probably assume it’s the NSA, given its reputation for spying on citizens. But a newly declassified report from 2012 indicates that the FBI is joining their surveillance party. The agencies worked together on warrantless snooping of emails and phone calls since 2008, but in 2009 the FBI began collecting communications for their own purposes. While large portions of the report are redacted, the legible sections indicate that the FBI only worked without warrants when mining communications from non-citizens outside the United States.
It’s ready to flex some muscles. The European Central Bank is giving its 130 biggest financial institutions until the week’s end to agree to higher levels of capital reserves or else appeal those stricter debt-to-equity ratios. Just last week, Spain’s Santander was forced to sell off $8.86 billion in shares to shore up its capital position. Meanwhile, the ECB pivots to another big showdown on Jan. 22, when it’s expected to approve a monstrous bond-buying program to avert a deflationary spiral.
Passenger dies and 84 hospitalized after smoke fills D.C. subway tunnel. (Washington Post)
Rep. Paul Ryan decides against 2016 White House run. (NBC)
Havana makes good on deal with U.S. to release 52 political prisoners. (AFP)
Chinese authorities shoot dead six suspected of trying to detonate bomb. (BBC)
New ISIS concerns have NYPD on high alert. (NY Daily News)
Croatia elects first female president. (DW)
Investigators detain Chinese spy chief Ma Jian in corruption probe. (SCMP)
Interpol wants former Ukraine president for allegedly embezzling. (Reuters)
They’re not being shy about it. The surviving staffers of the satirical magazine have chosen their next cover — a cartoon of the Islamic prophet shedding a tear and holding up a “Je suis Charlie” sign under the poignant words, “All is forgiven.” The new issue comes out Wednesday, exactly one week after 12 people died in a horrific terrorist attack at the magazine. “We will not give in,” said its lawyer, Richard Malka. With financial support pouring in, the magazine will print three million copies, compared to its usual run of 60,000.
It was a good night for idiosyncratic auteurs. Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-the-making coming-of-age saga Boyhood took home Golden Globes for best drama and director, while Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel snatched away best comedy/musical from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman. Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne exploded into Oscar contention with their best-acting wins. And on TV, it was a big night for online giants Netflix and Amazon. The biggest loser and butt of many jokes? Bill Cosby.
Today’s anniversary marks the loss of a staggering 300,000 lives. But the Caribbean nation of 10 million is alive and kicking. The Oloffson Hotel in Port-au-Prince, which briefly shut down its live music nights after the quake, is once again one of the capital’s most rocking joints. And in the streets, anti-government protesters are calling for a change of regime. Amid quake-induced hardships and poverty, Haiti’s mass mobilization is giving the island nation renewed hope.
Welcome to Washington’s cyberweek. A flurry of bills and projects will be announced this week, in advance of the annual State of the Union address and on the heels of some major issues (see: Sony hack). The measures would require firms to notify consumers of breaches faster, prohibit using student info for commercial purposes and make credit reports more accessible. Big Internet security thinkers say it doesn’t go far enough. Look for more details over the coming days, as well as Congressional plans of their own.
The secretary heads north. Terrorism attacks present a real concern to both nations, and the U.S. and its money wants some assurances. Meanwhile the Pakistanis are fretting over perceived “India aggression” as tensions between the neighbors remain high. News of the top-level talks come as a Peshawar school where more than 150 students and teachers were massacred last month reopened. Children clung tightly to their parents’ hands. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere for the nations trying to work together, too.
Elon Musk says it’s humankind’s greatest threat. James Cameron gave warning in the Terminator films. And now artificial intelligence experts are calling on their own colleagues to ensure we don’t lose control of technology that could potentially enslave or destroy the entire human race. They are signing an open letter from the Future of Life Institute calling for more supervision of super-intelligent machines, particularly autonomous weapons. Signees include Musk, Stephen Hawking and the founders of Google’s DeepMind. Listen now or welcome our new robot overlords later.
We thought the Israelis had ended these prospects by bombing the last plant in 2007. But it appears that Assad hasn’t given up. His country is known to possess enough uranium for a handful of bombs, and there’s reportedly an underground facility developing them. Syria denies the allegations, but the area around Qusayr has risen to the top of suspected locations. If the nation wracked by civil war does get the bomb, it could upset the balance of power in an increasingly unstable Middle East.
Know when to fold ’em. There’s a new hand at the table, and it claims to be unbeatable. Computer program Cepheus, co-designed by a Finnish software developer and University of Alberta researchers, has “solved” poker, specifically a version called heads-up limit Texas Hold ’em. The trick to trouncing all human challengers? Its makers have managed to compress the huge amount of data required for complex poker strategy into Cepheus’ ultra-smart brain, which could have big implications for logic programs of the future.
Anita Ekberg, best known for the 1960 Federico Fellini flick La Dolce Vita , died yesterday in Rome. Famed for her fully clothed on-screen frolic through the Trevi Fountain, Ekberg got her start as Miss Sweden in 1951. She set off for Hollywood shortly thereafter. The sexy star — who used her first paycheck to buy a mink stole — also appeared in three other Fellini films, was romantically linked to Frank Sinatra, and once threatened paparazzi with a bow and arrow.
Ever felt panic at the thought of losing your phone? A new study suggests that smartphone separation affects performance. “We experience a lessening of self and a damaging physiological state,” says the study’s lead author, Russell Clayton. He had 40 study participants solve a puzzle — once while holding their iPhones and once without them. The phone-less suffered increased blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety. So do we need to wean ourselves from our phones? Nah, it might do more harm than good.
He’s filling those shoes nicely. Colts QB Andrew Luck came out on top in a hard-fought battle against his predecessor, the seemingly immortal Peyton Manning, to beat the Denver Broncos 24-13 yesterday. Joining Indianapolis in the next round are the Packers and their hobbled star, Aaron Rodgers, who orchestrated a 26-21 comeback against the Cowboys. The Colts will face the New England Patriots for the AFC title, while Green Bay is matched up against red-hot reigning champs Seattle Seahawks for the NFC belt.
We’re approaching a deadly tipping point: Guns will likely kill more young Americans this year than car crashes. Using CDC data, the Center for American Progress estimates that 6,040 people aged 15 to 24 will die from gunshot wounds in 2015, while 5,864 will die in automobile accidents. New laws and car safety features have sharply cut the number of fatal crashes, but the same vigilance is lacking for gun safety, advocates say. One possible solution? Password-protected weapons could safeguard against accidental shootings and gun theft.