It’s a bipartisan effort. Senators Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Mark Warner, D-Va., announced today that their Senate Intelligence Committee will delve into ”links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns,” as part of their hacking investigation. Burr had said campaigns were beyond his purview, but with Washington agog at unconfirmed reports of collaboration between Trump Tower and Moscow, the senators revealed a broad cross-aisle cooperation. The announcement came hours after House Democrats aired frustrations with FBI Director James Comey following a classified briefing on the Russia hack.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Comey’s in the crosshairs again. An independent government watchdog will take a look at how FBI Director James Comey handled Hillary Clinton’s email case and whether there were improper leaks. Clinton’s team has blamed Comey’s public revival of the case in late October for her loss to Donald Trump. Asked yesterday if the FBI was also investigating possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Comey said, “I would never comment on investigations.” Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said members of Congress and the public requested the review.
It’s no small feat. In its final days, the Obama administration is rescinding the “wet foot, dry foot” immigration policy in place since 1995 that allowed any Cuban who could reach U.S. soil to remain in the country. The Castro regime has long sought the shift, which will be controversial among Cuban-Americans. Incoming President Donald Trump, who has been critical of Obama for renewing diplomatic ties with Cuba, can undo the order — though it would be politically difficult for him to establish a more liberal immigration policy.
Is it all sound and fury? Secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson said during confirmation hearings that Beijing shouldn’t be allowed access to man-made islands in the South China Sea. Two state-run papers in the People’s Republic responded with harsh editorials condemning his words and threatening military conflict should the U.S. attempt such an incursion. China’s territorial claims are contested by five other nations and by Taiwan. Though the Obama administration stayed relatively neutral, many wonder if the Trump White House will be more hawkish and inflammatory.
It’s a pileup. The same week Volkswagen agreed to pay $4.3 billion in criminal penalties on similar charges, the EPA alleged that Fiat Chrysler used illegal software that let 104,000 diesel vehicles pass emissions tests. The company vehemently denied the accusation, complaining that the EPA believes all carmakers “belong to a class of criminals.” The agency says it’s still investigating the intention of the software, and is asking the company for evidence that their actions weren’t illegal. If found guilty, Fiat could be liable for a $4.6 billion fine.
Know This: The House of Representatives voted today to begin formalizing a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Barack Obama surprised a tearful Joe Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And police in El Salvador say the country has gone a rare 24 hours without a single murder.
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Bias is everywhere. In a recent study, researchers gave 70 elementary teachers dossiers on different fictional male schoolchildren of various races to see whether they’d be recommended for gifted programs or special education testing. The teachers tended to suggest special ed for white boys based on academic challenges, but Black and Latino children were chosen for behavioral problems. And white kids with high academic performance were more often sent on the gifted track, indicating that even teachers who profess colorblindness have unspoken racial expectations — which can have a lasting effect on children’s futures.
It sees you when you’re sleeping… Gadgets like Fitbits and heart rate monitors aren’t just keeping track of vitals — they’re quickly gaining the power to let wearers know when they’re sick. A recent study shows that information captured by wearable consumer tech can be accurate enough to identify early signs of conditions from Lyme disease to autoimmune disorders to cancer. Some worry about false positives and hypochondria overwhelming doctors, but others envision a world where the uninsured can use a cheap device to know when they have a doctor-worthy issue.
You can pack a lot of rage into a tiny, furry body. Yale researchers have discovered a “kill switch” in mice that turns the normally shy critters into ultra-aggressive hunters. When scientists used lasers to activate specific neurons in the amygdala — the same part of the brain responsible for fear — lab mice reacted instantly with “very efficient” hunting behavior, attacking prey and even inanimate objects. The findings may offer clues to how animals evolved as predators, while raising questions about the neural connection between fear and aggression.
Follow the money. Tax records show that Philip Anschutz’s foundation has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars since 2011 — and as recently as 2015 — to Alliance Defending Freedom, National Christian Foundation and Family Research Council: groups that fought same-sex marriage and consider homosexuality a sin. The billionaire, whose company owns California music festival Coachella, dismissed allegations of bias as “garbage.” Fans are now petitioning festival headliners Beyoncé, Radiohead and Kendrick Lamar to donate their Coachella earnings to the Human Rights Campaign or other pro-LGBT groups.
He’s been called a “prodigy.” The former Washington offensive coordinator will become the youngest NFL head coach since the Cleveland Browns hired a 27-year-old … in 1938. McVay has spent the past three seasons shaping QB Kirk Cousins and the Redskins’ explosive offense, and the Rams hope he can do the same with No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff. Meanwhile, the Chargers, who officially announced they’re joining the Rams in Los Angeles, hired former Buffalo offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn as their next head man.