This could be a royal mess. Convicted terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui has accused more than 12 Saudi officials, including Prince Turki al-Faisal and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, of making donations to al-Qaida. The claim was made in a deposition for a lawsuit by 9/11 survivors against Saudi Arabia. The kingdom called Moussaoui a “deranged criminal” and denied the allegations. But the accusations rekindle questions that have long circulated about Saudi intentions and could lead to a closer look at possible links between the royals and terror.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Dual diplomatic efforts attack the Ukraine crisis today. The U.S. secretary of state has on offer of $16 million in humanitarian aid, and talks focus on the U.S. possibly lending arms to the fight against the Russian-backed rebels. Meanwhile the French and German leaders are shuttling between Moscow and Kiev today and tomorrow with a peace plan, seen as a last-ditch effort to stop the escalation before diplomatic deadlines pass — and the whole thing gets worse.
The victory was decisive. The militants who have terrorized parts of Africa, killing thousands, burning villages and taking hostages, were kicked out of a Nigerian town they’d occupied for months. Thank you, Chadian troops. But talk of this being a “game changer” seems maybe too soon, as news comes of attacks on a nearby town, on the other side of Cameroonian border, with a mosque burned and bodies everywhere — at least 90 killed, another 500 wounded. One step forward, one step back.
That road led straight to the big house. A jury took just over three hours to convict Ross Ulbricht on all seven counts linked to operating an online black market bazaar selling heroin, cocaine and other drugs. Portrayed as a digital kingpin who earned $18 million in bitcoins from the illicit trade, Ulbricht, 30, faces life behind bars. Drug marketplaces like Agora and Evolution continue to thrive on the darknet, but they’ve now been warned that they’re not shrouded in protection.
The scale of it is sickening. Health insurance giant Anthem said yesterday that hackers had compromised a database containing personal information on 80 million customers and employees, making it the largest known security lapse in health care history. The breach exposed names, birth dates, addresses and Social Security numbers, but probably not medical records or credit card data. Anthem is winning praise for quickly notifying the FBI of the hack, and authorities hope this signals a new trend in prompt disclosures.
Temperatures are dropping east of Germany. The Western alliance is planning its biggest defensive reinforcement since the Cold War, thanks to renewed fighting in Ukraine. With an eye on Putin, defense ministers meeting in Brussels today are expected to announce measures like an expanded rapid response force to help NATO deter military aggression. They’ll also discuss whether Moscow has lowered its threshold for using nuclear weapons amid rising concern that the Crimean conflict could spill over into the Baltic states or other NATO countries.
Electronics retailer to sell or close its remaining 4,000 stores. (Bloomberg)
Five babies at daycare center diagnosed with measles. (Chicago Tribune)
Pfizer to buy Hospira in $15.2 billion deal. (NYT)
Markets volatiles after ECB’s tough stance over Greece. (FT) sub
Teams search for missing passengers from Taiwan plane crash. (BBC)
Jordan pledges to bolster ISIS assault. (Al Jazeera)
BT Group set to buy EE for $19 billion. (WSJ) sub
It’s not a Hollywood ending. Following an embarrassing breach of the studio’s computers, purportedly prompted by the North Korean farce The Interview, Amy Pascal is resigning as co-chairwoman of Sony Pictures. The hacking scandal exposed an e-mail exchange in which she made racially-tinged jokes about President Obama’s movie habits, and another with producer Scott Rudin that prompted him to call Angelina Jolie a “minimally talented spoiled brat.” After that, Pascal’s departure was a predictable plot twist.
They deserve a metal of honor. South Korean researchers say they’ve made one of the biggest metallurgy breakthroughs in decades by developing an ultra-strong, lightweight aluminum-steel alloy that can match the best titanium alloys — at one tenth the cost. The material scientists managed to make the steel lighter and more flexible without making it brittle. It could prove useful to both aircraft and automotive engineering, giving cars an extra mile per gallon of gas. Now that’s driving innovation.
“No glove, no love” should be their motto. Walloped by collapsing oil prices and record inflation, Venezuela is facing severe shortages of basic goods ranging from sugar to contraceptives. With a 36-pack of Trojans selling for $755, many are having to say “no gracias” in the bedroom. While some complain of having to wait in line, even for sex, plenty are not abstaining. And in a country where abortion is illegal and HIV rates are high, this may be where the rubber meets the road.
His memory reportedly tanked. The NBC Nightly News anchor has admitted that he was never aboard a helicopter that was shot down during the Iraq invasion in 2003, despite having repeated the tale for years, including during Friday night’s broadcast. “Sorry dude, I don’t remember you being on my aircraft,” said one crew member, pointing to the falsehood. Williams apologized and said he wasn’t “trying to steal anyone’s valor.” He may not have gotten any flak in Iraq, but he’s getting plenty now.
They’re taking themselves out of the game. The Orange voluntarily removed their team from postseason eligibility while the NCAA investigates alleged policy violations. The decision keeps the men’s college basketball team — currently sporting a 15-7 record — out of this year’s NCAA, ACC and NIT tournaments, regardless of how well it performs. If the NCAA completes its investigation and deems a one-year ban sufficient, the team would be eligible for next year’s postseason when it will welcome its highest-regarded recruitment class in 39 years.
They’re back in business. The tech companies reached an agreement to make Twitter’s “fire hose” stream of data from 284 million users instantly searchable within the next few months. No advertising revenue is included in the deal, but Twitter is expected to receive data-licensing earnings from the search giant, as it did in a similar arrangement from 2009-2011. This should offer a big boost for Twitter’s stagnating growth, and it’s another indication that the Google+ social platform is a diminishing priority.