Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 21, 2014

Jon Terbush
A tragic day for New York City police. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

1.

Gunman kills two NYC cops in ambush shooting

A lone gunman on Saturday shot and killed two New York City police officers in Brooklyn before taking his own life in an armed standoff. The shooter, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, is believed to have killed his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore earlier Saturday before heading north and vowing on social media to kill police officers, too. Police said Brinsley killed officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos while they sat in a parked squad car, and then fled into a nearby subway station where he shot himself. Police Commissioner William Bratton called the attack an assassination, saying the officers were "targeted for their uniform and for the responsibility they embraced to keep the people of this city safe." [The New York Times]

2.

Obama: North Korean cyberattack on Sony not an act of war

President Obama on Sunday said the U.S. would weigh whether to add North Korea to its list of state sponsors of terror, though he stopped short of calling the Sony Pictures cyberattack an act of war. "I think it was an act of cyber vandalism that was very costly, very expensive," Obama said on CNN's State of the Union. The federal government last week confirmed speculation that North Korea was behind the attack. [The Associated Press]

3.

Castro says Cuba won't abandon communism

Cuban President Raul Castro on Saturday insisted that the island nation would not move away from communism despite a thawed relationship with the U.S. "We must not expect that in order for relations with the United States to improve, Cuba will abandon the ideas that it has struggled for," he said in a speech. The Obama administration announced last week it was renewing full diplomatic ties with Cuba that had been severed for more than 50 years. [The Washington Post]

4.

Rahm Emanuel's son robbed in Chicago

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's son was robbed Friday night near the family's home, police confirmed Saturday. Zach Emanuel was talking on his phone just a few doors down the street from the house when two men assaulted him and made off with his phone. A spokesperson for Emanuel confirmed the incident Saturday and said Zach was not seriously harmed. [The Chicago Tribune]

5.

Kurdish fighters take key town from ISIS

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters on Saturday reclaimed control over the Iraqi town of Sinjar, which had been under ISIS control since last summer. ISIS's siege on Sinjar forced the town's Yazidi population to flee into the mountains, and prompted the U.S. to step in with airdrops to aid the refugees. [Reuters, CNN]

6.

Boko Haram releases video purporting to show civilian massacre

The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram on Saturday released a video appearing to show gunmen slaughtering civilians in a dorm. "We have made sure the floor of this hall is turned red with blood, and this is how it is going to be in all future attacks and arrests of infidels," a man says in the video. Last month, Boko Haram denied reports it was nearing a truce with the Nigerian government, claiming instead that it had married off hundreds of kidnapped schoolgirls. [The Associated Press]

7.

Protesters shut down parts of Mall of America

Demonstrators protesting recent police killings of unarmed black civilians temporarily shut down parts of the sprawling Mall of America in Minnesota on Saturday. Chanting protesters clogged the mall's rotunda and ignored a warning from mall officials to disperse, leading some business to close their gates. Rows of police in riot gear cleared the demonstration and made about two dozen arrests. [USA Today]

8.

Al Qaeda condemns Taliban massacre of Pakistani children

A regional Al Qaeda branch on Sunday condemned the Taliban's slaughter last week of 149 Pakistanis at a school in Peshawar. "Our hearts are bursting with pain and grief over this incident," Osama Mehmood, a spokesman for the group's South Asia chapter, said. While reaffirming its opposition to the U.S. and Pakistan, the group added that the attack — which resulted in the death of 132 students — had "crossed the limit."  [AFP]

9.

Elton John marries longtime partner

Famed musical entertainer Elton John on Sunday formally tied the knot with his partner, David Furnish. The two joined in a civil partnership nine years ago. "That's the legal bit done," John wrote in an Instagram post. "Now on to the ceremony!" [The Guardian]

10.

Final Hobbit film cleans up at box office

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies raked in $16.6 million Friday in the U.S., and it's headed toward a likely haul of $88 million by the end of its opening weekend. The third and final film in the Hobbit franchise blew away the competition over the pre-Christmas weekend, and its release slightly outperformed the debuts for the last two installments in the series. [Variety]