“Don’t let it out of this room.” Donald Trump jokingly asked a raucous victory rally in Cincinnati to keep it a secret that he’s chosen Mattis, who led U.S. Central Command until 2013, to head the Pentagon. The appointment will require Congress to reverse a law blocking defense secretaries from having been on active duty in the past seven years. Mattis has been sharply critical of Iran — and he’s said “political Islam” is America’s greatest threat — but doesn’t favor tearing up the Obama administration’s nuclear deal.
The Presidential Daily Brief
It’s finally done. Two months after voters rejected an agreement to settle the South American nation’s five-decade guerrilla war, Colombia’s Congress backed a modified deal that will lead to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, laying down arms and entering politics. President Juan Manuel Santos asked lawmakers rather than voters to approve the new deal, which ends a war that’s killed over 220,000 people. The revised deal includes new concessions for the government, but the rebels will still be allowed to form a political party.
Mo’ money, mo’ problems. The president-elect announced via Twitter that to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest, he’ll “leave” his business and focus on governance, without offering details. As he assembles the richest cabinet in modern history, Trump has yet to fully address the rampant conflicts of interest involved in his empire — even if his children run it. The Office of Government Ethics praised the move in Trump’s own style on Twitter, noting that only full divestiture — which he hasn’t yet promised — would resolve the issue.
Has the U.S. been sidelined? Multiple rebel groups in Aleppo have reportedly been participating in Ankara-based talks with Russian forces that support Bashar Assad’s government. Some experts are blaming America’s exclusion on President Obama’s reluctance to engage in Syria’s civil war, and others think rebels have a good chance of striking a deal with Moscow, which would rather discourage future rebellion than maintain long-term military control. Meanwhile, a U.N. official called on world partners to help Aleppo’s starving civilians before the city becomes “one giant graveyard.”
It was running on empty. Authorities investigating the crash of a chartered plane carrying 77 people, including Brazil’s Chapecoense soccer team, say initial inspections indicate the plane was entirely out of fuel when it went down in the mountains near Medellin, Colombia. That, along with the fact that the plane didn’t catch fire on impact, backs up a leaked tape of the pilot pleading to land due to a “fuel problem.” While the crash’s six survivors recover, the investigation turns to why the plane wasn’t sufficiently fueled at takeoff.
Know This: Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz is stepping down. French President François Hollande will not seek reelection. The North Carolina police officer who shot Keith Scott won’t face charges. OPEC’s agreed to cut supply by 1.2 million barrels per day. And Australian high school students have replicated the active ingredient in Daraprim, the drug Martin Shkreli jacked up to $750 per dose, in a school lab for about $1.48.
Watch This: A man scampered off after snatching a bucket of gold flakes worth $1.6 million from the back of an armored truck in New York. The theft was caught on video, but the perpetrator and his pot of gold remain at large.
Read This: “As I am talking to you, Prime Minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long. Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people.” That’s what Donald Trump told Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif via phone, according to the Pakistani government, though it’s not clear if these are exact quotes from the president-elect.
Meteors are his métier. Lindley Johnson retired after decades in the Air Force to take on a new job: NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer. When meteors are headed for Earth, he’s the guy who tracks them. It’s a field that’s gained interest and had its funding doubled in recent years in the U.S., which he estimates is responsible for 95 percent of asteroid tracking across the globe. And if they do find one? There are now multiple deflection projects in the works that could save the planet.
Call it Jihad 3.0. The militant group took Iraq and Syria by storm as a fully formed army in 2014. Now they’re getting pummeled on the battlefield and have to respond as insurgents. Some contend the next phase for ISIS will be online: A virtual caliphate encouraging attacks around the world. Though its physical losses are having an online impact — the group’s propaganda output has declined, along with its recruiting power — many are worried that the estimated 1,900 ISIS fighters back in Europe will stay connected.
This city’s heading back to its roots. During Prohibition, “Whiskeytown” supplied as much as 75 percent of the thirsty nation’s illegal alcohol, as rum-runners transported bootleg booze across the border waters from Canada. Today the city’s reviving its 1920s image with a modern twist as America’s newest whiskey capital. Detroit’s distilling laws have moved into the 21st century, allowing small whiskey vendors to mass-produce. Taking their cues from Michigan’s recent craft beer renaissance, small-batch distillers hope to boost the spirits of Motor City’s recovering economy.
Get your binge on. In a move that coincides both with Amazon Video’s global rollout and with a whole lot of people traveling without Wi-Fi on their way home for the holidays, Netflix has introduced a download option for phones and tablets that lets subscribers watch their original content (and a portion of other offerings) offline. While licensing can be complex, it’s a plan that could boost Netflix’s usefulness in emerging markets that lack widespread, reliable internet — a key move as the company’s U.S. growth has slowed.
This union has power hitters. Just hours from the deadline, MLB players and owners struck a five-year collective bargaining agreement, extending the period of harmony that began after the 1994-95 strike. Baseball’s luxury tax — instituted in lieu of a salary cap — will rise from $189 million per team to $210 million in 2021, with stiffer penalties for teams that far exceed the limit. Teams signing a major free agent will no longer have to give up a draft pick unless they cross the luxury tax threshold.