The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Officials: Russia Hacked Vermont Utility Computer

    The plot thickens. Local officials told federal security agencies that the code involved with Grizzly Steppe, the Russian hacking operation designed to disrupt the U.S. election, was also detected in a computer belonging to state utility Burlington Electric. A Vermont public service commissioner said the code was on a laptop not connected to the operation of the grid, which was not disrupted. It’s unclear what the Russians’ intentions were, but the incident underscored the vulnerability of America’s critical electrical infrastructure and heightened the stakes of the countries’ diplomatic standoff.

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    Cease-fire in Syria Holds in First Hours

    It began at midnight. Though the truce brokered by Russia and Turkey has already been marred by a few violent clashes, rebels and government forces are reportedly largely holding their fire. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a watchdog group, blamed the flare-ups on small armed bands reluctant to give up on the country’s civil war, which has killed an estimated 300,000 people in five years. Peace talks are slated to begin in Kazakhstan next month, but experts caution that previous cease-fires this year have swiftly disintegrated.

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    New York City Beefs Up New Year’s Security

    They’re resolved to keep everyone safe. With Berlin’s recent truck attack on a Christmas market on everyone’s mind, the NYPD’s protecting against copycats with 65 sand-filled garbage trucks serving as barriers around crowded areas and thousands of officers set to patrol. Police say there’s been no specific threat, but that 2 million people are expected at Times Square festivities. Meanwhile, Australian police arrested a man when he got off a flight from London and charged him with making threats against Sydney’s New Year’s celebrations via social media.

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    India Hits Final Day of Rupee Grace Period

    Soon it’ll just be a lot of worthless paper. India’s government, hoping to cut down on counterfeiting and undeclared money, banned 500 and 1,000 rupee notes — 86 percent of the country’s cash — last month. The final date for spending the notes has passed, and today’s the last day to take discontinued notes to banks before they’ll be totally valueless. Some Indians abroad will have another three months to exchange the discontinued notes, but Parliament’s now working on making it a criminal offense to own any after April 1.

  5. Serena Williams’ Next Partnership, a New Year’s Comet and the PDB Quiz

    Know This: A Donald Trump inauguration “Deploraball” has caused a schism among his supporters after it disinvited an organizer for making anti-Semitic comments. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and tennis great Serena Williams have announced their engagement. And a comet, visible through binoculars, will zip by tomorrow night.

    Try This: Feeling presidential after a week of briefings? Prove it with the PDB quiz.

    Talk to Us:  We want your feedback on the PDB — what you think we’re doing right and what we should be doing differently. Send us an email at


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    The Year Will Last One Second Longer Than Usual

    Of course it’s this year. Come New Year’s Eve, 2016 will linger for one extra second to make sure our clocks align with Earth’s rotation. Because each day actually takes 86,400.002 seconds, we add an extra “leap” second every so often. It won’t interfere with the ball drop in the U.S., as it will occur at 6:59:59 p.m. Eastern. And scientists can’t yet tell when the next one will be needed, because Earth’s rotation goes through subtle changes based on factors such as tides and melting glaciers.

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    Amazon’s Flying Drone Warehouse Plan

    Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane … it’s a warehouse? That’s the dream for Amazon, which has been awarded a patent for airborne fulfillment centers. AFCs would be floating depots resembling blimps, staffed by an army of drones that would pick up merchandise and deliver it to people’s homes from 45,000 feet. It’s not clear if these now-patented sky mall dreams will ever come to pass, but Amazon, which recently completed its first drone delivery in the U.K., certainly has eyes on the sky.

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    First Intersex Birth Certificate Issued in US

    It’s official. Sara Kelly Keenan, 55, has been issued an official New York birth certificate listing her gender as “intersex” rather than male or female. Experts estimate 1 baby in 1,500 can’t be classed as completely male or female at birth. Keenan, who was born with female genitalia and male genes, is also the second U.S. citizen to change her official gender to non-binary. She hopes this will lead to more flexibility on other government documents and says it’s “empowering” to have the word on her official paperwork.

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    Facebook Videos Are Bringing Back Arts and Crafts

    When was the last time you decorated a cake? That’s a question many Facebook users have asked themselves since the advent of the social media giant’s avalanche of crafting videos. Facebook’s biggest video feature, Live, has been a curious flop: It’s used by corporations, but less so by individuals. Crafting videos, however, have been a surprising hit. These short how-to clips guide viewers in simple projects — or more likely let them relax and craft vicariously — and offer a soothing, hands-on break from scrolling newsfeeds.

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    Cristiano Ronaldo Turned Down $106M From Chinese Club

    It would have been unprecedented. According to his agent, the soccer superstar chose to stay with Real Madrid despite an unnamed Chinese Super League club offering $106 million per year with a $317 million transfer fee — both record figures. Coming off his fourth world player of the year award, Ronaldo is hardly starving, but the deal would have dwarfed his $18 million salary. Agent Jorge Mendes dropped the news just after former Manchester United teammate Carlos Tevez signed with Shanghai Shenua — for a mere $14 million.