Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 11, 2014

Harold Maass
"It's just the beginning."

(AP Photo/Vincent Yu)


Police clear main Hong Kong protest camp

Hong Kong authorities on Thursday cleared the main pro-democracy protest site, where thousands of people had gathered for more than two months demanding free elections in the Chinese-controlled city. Police removed protesters one by one from the area next to government headquarters. The demonstrations marked one of the most serious challenges to Chinese rule since the 1989 protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Activists did not resist police, but many chanted, "We will be back," as they left. [Reuters]


Palestinian cabinet minister dies after confrontation with Israeli guards

A Palestinian cabinet minister, Ziad Abu Ein, died Wednesday after a confrontation with Israeli border guards at a West Bank demonstration. An assistant said Abu Ein, who had frequently protested against Jewish settlements, was punched and overwhelmed by tear gas. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning, and cut off security cooperation with Israel. Palestinian officials said there would be an autopsy. [The Washington Post]


Cheney says Senate torture report "full of crap"

Former vice president Dick Cheney said Wednesday that a Senate committee's newly released report on the CIA's post-9/11 use of torture was "full of crap." Cheney said the CIA's intensified interrogation tactics, which included a simulated drowning procedure known as waterboarding, helped "catch the bastards who killed 3,000 of us on 9/11." In his first televised remarks on the report, President Obama told Spanish-language channel Telemundo, "When countries are threatened, oftentimes they act rationally in ways that in retrospect were wrong." [CNN, The Guardian]


Students refute more details in Rolling Stone campus rape story

Three University of Virginia students interviewed by The Washington Post disputed details in a Rolling Stone campus rape story published in November. The students, all friends of a sexual assault victim identified as Jackie, were portrayed as apathetic in the Rolling Stone article — the accuracy of which the magazine is investigating — but all three said they encouraged Jackie to contact police. One of the students said Jackie had clearly "experienced a horrific trauma." [The Washington Post]


Schools close in Northern California ahead of fierce storm

Northern California braced Thursday for one of its strongest storms in five years. Moderate rain and wind gusts began hitting the area late Wednesday, but torrential rain, heavy snow, and fierce winds are expected to batter the region through Friday. Officials in San Francisco, Oakland, and Marin County closed schools on Thursday in anticipation of heavy rain and winds, and San Francisco closed its Great Highway along the Pacific Ocean. [USA Today]


U.S. infiltrated Cuba's hip-hop scene to spark a youth revolt

The U.S. tried to recruit one of Havana's most notorious rappers to promote dissent against the Caribbean nation's communist government, according to a report by The Associated Press. Under the plan, the U.S. Agency for International Development sent a Serbian music promoter, Rajko Bozic, in 2009 to team up with hip-hop artist Aldo Rodriguez, a dreadlocked and tattooed performer popular for lyrics critical of the Castro government. But Cuban police detained several musicians and operatives, finding links to USAID on some of their computers. [The Associated Press]


Instagram surpasses Twitter with 300 million users

Instagram has reached 300 million users every month, surpassing Twitter, which has 284 million. Instagram, a photo app that cranked up four years ago, hit 200 million users just nine months ago. Instagram users — 70 percent of them outside the U.S. — now share 70 million photos every day. Instagram was acquired two years ago for $1 billion by Facebook, which is still far bigger with 1.35 billion users. [Techcrunch]


Navy deploys laser weapon in the Persian Gulf

The Navy has deployed a new laser weapon capable of disabling boats and planes that could pose a threat. The weapon fires an invisible ray, and can hit a threatening craft's engine systems with pinpoint accuracy. The 30-kilowatt laser, called the Laser Weapons System, was sent to the Persian Gulf for testing in September aboard the USS Ponce, and is now being used on the ship. "The reality is it's ready," said the Navy's chief of research, Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder. [ABC News]


Coast Guard rescues Hawaiian man

A 67-year-old Hawaiian man, Ron Ingraham, has been rescued after 12 days adrift in the Pacific. The Coast Guard said Ingraham had survived by eating raw fish but was weak and dehydrated when he was picked up 65 miles south of Honolulu. Ingraham sent a mayday call on Thanksgiving saying his small sailboat, Malia, was flooding. The Coast Guard had called off a 12,000-mile search on Dec. 1. His family was preparing his funeral when the Coast Guard picked up another mayday call Tuesday morning. [The Christian Science Monitor]


Google News shuts down in Spain

Google announced Thursday that it would shut down Google News in Spain after lawmakers there approved a rule allowing newspapers to charge every time a snippet or link to their content was posted online. The law, which has been nicknamed the Google Tax, takes effect in January. Google said the fees would simply make Google News too expensive. Articles from Spanish newspapers will still pop up in results on Google's search engine. [The New York Times]