He’s made his choice. The billionaire president-elect has nominated Rex Tillerson for the top diplomatic post, ending a drawn-out deliberation over candidates that included Mitt Romney, David Petraeus, and Rudy Giuliani. Tillerson has already come under fire for his oil company’s investments in Russia and his personal relationship with Vladimir Putin — and he’s expected to face a challenging Senate confirmation. This news comes at a precarious time: GOP leaders have now joined a bipartisan push to investigate allegations that Russia hacked the U.S. election.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The reports are harrowing. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed “grave concern” over reports of atrocities against civilians as the battle for Aleppo rages. After a bitter four-year fight with rebels, the Syrian army is poised to retake the city. But an estimated 100,000 civilians are trapped in the crossfire, and government forces have reportedly executed dozens of people with alleged ties to rebels. Turkey and Russia have now negotiated a cease-fire for rebel fighters and civilians to leave Aleppo — but it’s unclear whether this will halt hostilities.
Authorities called it a viable threat. A Lufthansa Airlines flight from Houston to Frankfurt, Germany, was diverted to New York City as a precaution when the airline received a bomb threat from an anonymous phone call and informed the pilot. After landing safely at JFK International Airport, the flight’s 530 passengers were evacuated and shuttled to an unknown location, and a search of the plane was negative. The Port Authority said similar threats were made over the weekend against other flights, but no explosive devices have been found.
It’s a dogfight. Lockheed Martin shares were down 2.5 percent after President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that the U.S. could be saving “billions” in defense spending on the aerospace company’s F-35 fighter jets. Bipartisan lawmakers have previously criticized the Pentagon’s budget for the F-35 program, which had reached nearly $340 billion by December 2014. The renewed scrutiny comes as the planes begin to replace older models in American and foreign militaries, with the first shipment of a $5 billion order arriving in Israel yesterday.
Know This: Mozart has beaten out Beyoncé and Drake as the music artist to sell the most CDs this year. A NASA scientist warns that Earth isn’t prepared for a potential asteroid strike. And thousands of former NFL players with brain injuries are set to receive payments after the Supreme Court upheld a $1 billion settlement case.
Read This: Bob Dylan was silent for weeks after he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Now he’s finally delivered a subversive acceptance speech.
Watch This: Facebook is launching its long-anticipated immersive Live 360 in conjunction with National Geographic. Their first broadcast is today: You can tune in to watch scientists emerging from 80 days of isolation in a mock Mars landscape.
The TV dad took his final bow. The Canadian star of 1980s sitcom Growing Pains died Tuesday of a heart attack while playing hockey. After his role as the Seaver family patriarch, Thicke hosted game shows Pictionary and Three’s a Crowd. He also wrote the theme songs for Diff’rent Strokes, Wheel of Fortune and Growing Pains. More recently, Thicke appeared in the Netflix reboot Fuller House, now in its second season. His son, singer Robin Thicke, reportedly rushed to be by his father’s side in his final hours.
The future is faster. Internet access is notoriously limited and laborious on the island of Cuba, but yesterday Google signed a deal with the country’s government to give existing users faster connections to their sites, including YouTube and Gmail, by storing cached data on local servers. Less than a third of Cubans were online in 2015, and the island has one of the lowest web access rates in the world. While relations with the U.S. have been thawing after decades of hostility, President-elect Donald Trump could throw that relationship into chaos.
They’re definitely not building a wall. As the European experiment teeters in the face of nationalism, African countries are moving in the opposite direction, toward freer flow of people and products among 54 nations and a billion citizens. Intracontinental trade may mitigate the economic fallout of a possible U.S.-China trade war and slumping commodities prices. Past pan-African movements have fizzled, partly because they were based on Western-driven notions of politics and human rights. But instead of punishing dictators, this Chinese-inspired movement is about cold hard cash.
The votes are in. Some clear favorites dominate this year’s Golden Globes nominations — plus a few surprises. Oscar favorites Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, and La La Land top the film nominations, with comic book blockbuster Deadpool sneaking in as a contender. Meanwhile, popular ongoing TV series got fewer nods, with Game of Thrones facing more of a challenge from new shows like This is Us and Stranger Things. Jimmy Fallon’s set to emcee the Jan. 8 awards ceremony, which will feature a lifetime achievement award for Meryl Streep.
These creatures could unlock a lingering mystery of biology. Whales have faced some of the biggest evolutionary challenges on the planet, but scientists have long wondered exactly how they adapted so dramatically. Now, paleontologists are studying barnacles that piggyback on the giants of the deep to figure out migration patterns, which could help them understand how evolution happens. Atoms in fossilized barnacle shells show where prehistoric marine mammals — and their passengers — swam, which might help researchers chart how whales have honed their migration survival skills over the millennia.
Can it be done? The shoe company’s unveiled a project with a seemingly impossible goal: running a marathon in under two hours. The Breaking2 campaign has gathered scientists and coaches to design the perfect conditions for smashing the milestone, but it won’t be easy. The current world record, set by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014, stands at 2 hours, 2 minutes, 57 seconds. Many question whether the feat is even physically possible without performance-enhancing drugs. Some scientists say yes — and Nike’s out to fund that possibility.