10 things you need to know today: December 15, 2016

Intelligence officials say Putin personally directed election hacking, Trump promises to help tech leaders, and more

Russian President Vladimir Putin
(Image credit: Adam Berry/Getty Images)

1. Intelligence agencies believe Putin personally directed election hacking

U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News they had "a high level of confidence" that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed how messages and other documents hacked from Democrats were used to influence the presidential election. Two senior intelligence officials said information on Putin's role came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies. The effort reportedly started as retaliation against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for criticizing Russian parliamentary elections in 2011, and developed into a broader effort to expose flaws in America's political system and convince American allies that they "couldn't depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore," one official said.

NBC News

2. Trump and tech leaders meet in attempt to put feuding behind them

President-elect Donald Trump met with leading Silicon Valley executives in New York on Wednesday to talk about jobs, and smooth over tensions that erupted during the presidential campaign. Trump struck a conciliatory tone, greeting the tech leaders with lavish praise and telling them his goal is "to help you folks do well." "We want you to keep going with the incredible innovation," Trump said. "There's nobody like you in the world." The executives also reportedly made nice. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post, and a target of past Trump attacks, said he was "super excited about the possibility that this can be the innovations administration."

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The New York Times The Wall Street Journal

3. Fed raises interest rates for second time since 2008 financial crisis

Federal Reserve policy makers raised interest rates a quarter of a percentage point as expected on Thursday at the close of a two-day meeting. The hike, putting the federal funds rate between 0.5 percent and 0.75 percent, was just the second since the 2008 financial crisis. The last increase came in December 2015. The Fed signaled that it would step up the pace of rate increases in 2017, with three more hikes next year instead of the two forecast in September. Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said officials were adapting to expectations of Trump administration tax cuts, deregulation, and stimulus spending, but that the "very modest adjustment" to the Fed's plans on interest rates should be "understood as a reflection of the confidence we have" in the economy's progress.


4. Army found Trump national security adviser 'inappropriately' shared secrets

A secret U.S. military investigation in 2010 concluded that retired Army Gen. Michael T. Flynn, whom President-elect Donald Trump has selected to be his national security adviser, "inappropriately shared" classified information with foreign military officers in Afghanistan, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. Flynn was not reprimanded over the case, even though he was not authorized to share the information, because he did not do it "knowingly" and there was "no actual or potential damage to national security as a result," according to records the Post obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The Washington Post

5. Yahoo discloses data breach potentially exposing 1 billion accounts

Yahoo said Wednesday that an August 2013 data breach might have resulted in the theft of personal data from more than 1 billion user accounts. The breach was separate from one disclosed in September that exposed information from 500 million accounts. Until the latest revelation, the earlier breach was believed to be the biggest on record. The news came as the CIA's accusation that Russia used hackers to influence the U.S. presidential election increased fears of cybercrime. "We truly are under major siege and we're unprepared for it. It really is a national emergency," said Avivah Litan, vice president at Gartner Research.

USA Today

6. Trump puts Michigan's Ronna Romney McDaniel in line to lead RNC

President-elect Donald Trump announced Wednesday that Michigan GOP Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel was being appointed as deputy chair of the Republican National Committee, putting her in line to succeed the current chairman, Reince Priebus, when he becomes Trump's chief of staff. McDaniel, a niece of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, supported Trump during the primary and led the party in a state that had been expected to back Democrat Hillary Clinton but instead helped seal Trump's victory. "Ronna has been extremely loyal to our movement and her efforts were critical to our tremendous victory in Michigan," Trump said, "and I know she will bring the same passion to the Republican National Committee."


7. Impeachment call follows Philippines president's claim he killed criminals

Critics of controversial Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte told CNN on Thursday that he should be impeached after he said that he had "personally" killed suspected criminals when he served as mayor of Davao City. Duterte, speaking at a business forum on Monday, said he used to ride through the streets on a motorcycle looking for criminals to kill, "just to show the guys that, if I can do it, why can't you?" As president, he has waged a "war on drugs" linked to more than 5,000 deaths in less than six months. Senator Leila De Lima, a staunch Duterte critic, said his boasting amounted to an admission of "mass murder," which would qualify as high crimes that are grounds for impeachment under the country's constitution.


8. Ambulance targeted by gunfire as Aleppo evacuations begin

Both sides in Syria's civil war confirmed Thursday that the evacuation of rebels and thousands of civilians from Aleppo was moving ahead after a delay caused by resumed fighting and fresh demands from Iran, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The operation was disrupted, however, when forces loyal to the government reportedly fired on a medical convoy evacuating people from one formerly rebel-held area in eastern Aleppo. Other ambulances and buses managed to move into other areas. Tensions remained high, as a media outlet of Lebanon's Hezbollah said "big complications" remained for truce talks.

The Associated Press Reuters

9. N.C. Republicans try to strip incoming Democratic governor's powers

North Carolina Republican lawmakers introduced bills in a surprise Wednesday special session seeking to strip powers from Governor-elect Roy Cooper, a Democrat, before he takes office in January. Cooper narrowly unseated Gov. Pat McCrory (R) in a bitter election, ending four years of unified Republican control that brought new restrictions on voting access, abortion, and gay rights. Republicans want to strip the governor of control over local election boards and the right to appoint University of North Carolina trustees. They also want to cut to 300 from 1,500 the number of state employees who serve at the governor's pleasure, protecting hundreds of McCrory appointees. A GOP leader said Republicans want to ensure they remain "relevant;" a Democratic spokesman called the moves "an unprecedented, shameful, and cowardly power grab."

The New York Times The Charlotte Observer

10. Manchester by the Sea leads SAG Award nominations

Manchester by the Sea got a leading four nominations for the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, which were announced Wednesday. Fences and Moonlight followed with three nods each. The musical La La Land, a favorite among nominees at the Golden Globes and Critics' Choice Awards earlier this week, received nominations for its leads, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, but with its focus on a two-person relationship, it was left out of the SAG Awards' list of nominees for ensemble cast. The last film to win Best Picture at the Oscars without being nominated in the SAG ensemble category was Braveheart, two decades ago.

Orange County Register Los Angeles Times

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.