Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: August 23, 2014

Sarah Eberspacher
Civilians walk by a line of Russian trucks moving back across the Ukrainian border. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
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Russian trucks leave Ukraine, but Western fears persist

Just a day after more than 260 trucks rolled into Ukraine — without Kiev's consent — Russia's convoy of what it claims carried only humanitarian aid in the form of food and medicine moved back across the border. Ukrainian officials said they were only allowed to look at the contents of a fraction of the trucks, and Russia chose to move its convoy across the border without waiting for the previously agreed-upon Red Cross escort. While the convoy's swift departure shored up Moscow's claims that the operation's goal was solely that "of helping needy civilians," Ukrainian President Petro O. Poroshenko denounced the move as a "flagrant violation of international law." [The New York Times]


Hamas militants execute 18 alleged 'collaborators' with Israel

Hamas militants shot and killed 18 Palestinians they claim were guilty of aiding Israel on Friday. Gunmen killed seven of the alleged collaborators in front of a mosque as worshippers exited the building; they took another 11 individuals to an abandoned police station and shot them there, Hamas officials said. The killings came a day after Israeli forces carried out an airstrike that killed three high-ranking Hamas commanders. [Reuters]


U.N. raises Syrian conflict death toll to more than 191,000

The United Nations human rights office released a report on Friday estimating the death toll in Syria's civil war has more than doubled in the last year. The Human Rights Data Analysis Group reported 191,369 deaths had been recorded since the conflict began in March 2011, and it did not even include the more than 50,000 dead who were unable to be identified and thus were not counted for the report. Navi Pillay, the agency's high commissioner, pointed to the report as she criticized Western nations for their lack of intervention in the conflict, saying it had "empowered and emboldened" fighters. [The New York Times]


Cyberattack affects more than 1,000 U.S. businesses

The same cyberattack that stole more than 40 million credit card numbers from Target is actually even more widespread in its hacking, the Department of Homeland Security announced on Friday. The Secret Service estimates that hackers using the malware, dubbed "Backoff," may have gained access to more than 1,000 American businesses' in-store cash register systems. While several companies, including UPS and Supervalu, have come forward to say their clients have been affected, many more have not. [The New York Times]


Chinese fighter jet made 'dangerous intercept' on U.S. plane

The Pentagon confirmed on Friday that a Chinese fighter jet performed a "dangerous intercept" on a U.S. Navy patrol plane earlier this week. The U.S. plane was flying over international waters in the South China Sea when the Chinese jet made a few close passes near the P-8 Poseidon, including a barrel roll, that the Pentagon described as "aggressive and unprofessional." Officials said they had relayed their concerns to Beijing via "diplomatic channels." [NPR]


Chelsea Manning: Military still denying gender treatment

Chelsea Manning, who was formerly an Army private known as Bradley Manning, says that a year after her initial request and a month after it was approved, the military has still not allowed her to begin gender-reassignment treatment. Serving a 35-year sentence for leaking documents to WikiLeaks, Manning is the first military inmate to request treatment for gender dysphoria. Her lawyer said the military's failure to execute the treatment amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, but an army spokeswoman said the request had been approved and that "treatment for the condition is highly individualized and generally is sequential and graduated." [NBC News]


Study finds technology stunts children's social skills

Researchers at UCLA published a new study in the journal Computers in Human Behavior that found children's social skills may be lessening thanks to time spent with technology. The study sent 51 sixth graders to an outdoor camp for five days, where they had no access to television, phones, or the internet. Another 54 sixth graders used technology normally. After five days, the camp kids were better able to identify emotions and recognize expressions in photos. "You can't learn non-verbal emotional cues from a screen in the way you can learn it from face-to-face communication," Yalda T. Uhls, the study's lead author, said. [Time]


Researchers successfully hack Gmail's smartphone app

Researchers from the Universities of Michigan and California say that Gmail's smartphone account is one of the easiest popular apps to hack. They were able to crack into Andriod phones' Gmail accounts with a 92 percent success rate, using malicious software they disguised as an innocuous app that a smartphone owner might choose to download. "The assumption has always been that these apps can't interfere with each other easily," Shiyun Qian, one of the researchers involved in the study, said. "We show…one app can in fact significantly impact another and result in harmful consequences for the user." [BBC News]


Oregon sues Oracle Corp. over health care website flaws

The state of Oregon is seeking more than $200 million from technology company Oracle Corp., for its failure to create a functioning health insurance exchange website. While several companies worked on the enrollment website — which never went live — Oregon claims that Oracle specifically carried out "a pattern of racketeering activity," and breached contracts. For its part, Oracle filed a lawsuit earlier this month seeking more than $23 million from the state for what it says are disputed bills. [The Associated Press]


Smithsonian National Zoo's giant panda cub turns one year old

It's Bao Bao the giant panda's first birthday, and the Smithsonian National Zoo is celebrating with cake and other fun activities for the quickly growing cub. In the next six weeks, Bao Bao will begin to be weaned from her mother, Mei Xiang, in preparation for her move to China in three more years. [NBC4 Washington]

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