Good morning. As parts of the Southern U.S. experience their coldest temperatures in recent years, Florida residents were given an especially peculiar forecast. The Miami National Weather Service tweeted an alert for South Floridians to be on the lookout for iguanas falling from the trees due to the cold weather.
“Oh yes, the past can hurt. But you can either run from it, or learn from it.”
– Rafiki, The Lion King
Bezos & Saudi Arabia
Yesterday afternoon, two independent United Nations experts called for a further investigation into the alleged hacking of Washington Post owner and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ phone.
What do we know?
U.N. officials Agnes Callamard and David Kaye released a joint statement after reviewing a forensic audit of the phone, which was commissioned by Bezos himself and conducted by FTI Consulting. The analysis concluded with “medium to high confidence” that the phone was hacked via a WhatsApp account associated with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The two officials said the alleged hack began after Bezos and bin Salman exchanged friendly WhatsApp messages after a meeting in L.A. in the spring of 2018. Prince Mohammed purportedly sent Bezos a touristic MP4 video file that was used to install spyware that exfiltrated large amounts of data from the phone for months.
In October 2018, Washington Post columnist Jamaal Khashoggi was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi was a high-profile critic of Prince Mohammed, and the CIA concluded it was likely the crown prince ordered his execution.
Where do we go from here? Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan has dismissed the allegations as “absurd” and “absolutely silly.” Saudi Arabia’s U.S. embassy also rejected the U.N. statement on Twitter and called for an investigation into the claims.
So… what are people saying?
The Guardian view on Jeff Bezos and Saudi Arabia: with friends like these…
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Impeachment Opening Arguments
House impeachment managers began the first of three days of opening arguments Wednesday. The Democratic lawyers have 24 hours in total to present their case against President Trump, after which the president’s counsel has 24 hours over three additional days to mount his defense.
Harvey Weinstein’s trial kicked off in New York yesterday, as lawyers from both sides made their opening statements. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to all seven felony charges, including predatory sexual assault, 1st-degree rape, and 3rd-degree rape.
Additional note: Weinsten was also charged with four counts of rape and sexual battery in Los Angeles earlier this month.
Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) opted to put off deciding whether to declare a global state of emergency over the outbreak of a strain of coronavirus that originated in China. WHO officials will convene again Thursday to make a decision, as the death count rose to at least 17 (stay abreast of the latest updates with this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University).
Fortnite creator Epic Games has partnered with LA-based startup PlayVS to make the popular video game an official high school and college sport. Through a partnership with NFHS (the NCAA equivalent for high school), schools can pay a fee to be placed in a league competing against other neighboring schools, with national championships to be held in May.
On Wednesday, Hallmark Channel’s parent company Crown Media Family Networks announced that CEO Bill Abbott will be departing the company effective Friday. In early December:
Hallmark published an ad featuring a same-sex couple.
The company decided to pull the ad after learning of a petition by conservative group One Million Moms.
Hallmark later reinstated the ad after their previous decision came under fire.
On Tuesday, Toyota said it will recall 3.4 million vehicles worldwide due to an electronic glitch that may result in the airbags not deploying when needed. Also on Tuesday, Honda announced a recall of 2.7 million vehicles with faulty inflators that may cause the airbags to rupture in a crash.
“Friends” and Family
As an adopted child, UK native Karen Harris grew up dreaming about the whereabouts of her birth mother and father. She began searching for her biological parents after turning 18, and was able to locate and reunite with her birth mother ten years later. But even though she knew the name and occupation of her birth father, Karen was unable to track him down – that is, until he ended up listed as a “suggested friend” on her Facebook page.
Karen was thrilled to see he lived only 350 miles away, and the two met up halfway between their two cities after exchanging messages for several weeks. Her father, Trevor, introduced her to family she never knew she had. Karen says she now feels a sense of completion, knowing both of her birth parents, all thanks to social media.
30-year-old Veronika Scott spent parts of her childhood without a home, so she knows just how deadly winter conditions can be for anyone living on the street. Veronika started her company – The Empowerment Plan – after she had the idea for a warm coat that functions as both a sleeping bag and a carryall tote. Since its inception eight years ago, the company has sold and distributed 35,000 coats in over 21 countries, helping those on the streets stay warm and dry.
When Veronika saw how many of the homeless were also in need of jobs, she decided to create a workforce entirely of employees without homes. To date, none of the Empowerment Plan’s workers have reverted back to homelessness, thanks to Veronika’s tireless support. As a founder, innovator, and CEO, Veronika proves that great ideas are born from adversity.
Top 5, no debatin’… Forbes has compiled a list of the five billionaires who have gained the most wealth since President Trump has taken office.
Solar Solution… scientists at Ohio State University have developed a new molecule that can bring in 50 percent more solar energy than current cells by harvesting the entire visible spectrum of light.
Unlimited Power… researchers from the University of Bristol are working to recycle radioactive material from disused nuclear plants, in order to create near-infinite power sources using diamond-like carbon.
Toxic shock… new tests commissioned by an environmental watchdog have shown the number of Americans exposed to toxic chemicals in tap water has been dramatically underestimated by previous studies.
What is the least amount of moves needed to solve any configuration of a Rubik’s Cube?