HERE ARE THE TOP STORIES
An arms dealer in the American anti-ISIS effort has been linked to organized crime.
The U.S. military used a company with ties to a Bulgarian criminal to buy arms for Syrian rebels in its fight against ISIS. The reputed gangster, whose nickname is “The Baron,” has a lengthy record, according to Bulgarian authorities, BuzzFeed News’ Aram Roston writes.
And another executive involved in buying the weapons on behalf of the U.S. was found to have engaged in “fraud or deceit” with investors, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found.
The revelations raise questions about the security checks the Pentagon uses in crucial counterterrorism programs and about how business executives with underworld ties or past legal trouble can win military subcontracts worth millions of taxpayer dollars.
And a little extra.
The U.S. fight against ISIS is moving ahead “with a great sense of urgency,” President Barack Obama said in an address at the Pentagon yesterday. “[ISIS] leaders cannot hide, and our next message to them is simple: You are next,” Obama said.
While Obama listed prominent ISIS leaders who had been “taken out,” he acknowledged that the fight continues to be “difficult.” The president added that the U.S. and its allies have launched almost 9,000 airstrikes since the bombing campaign against ISIS started last year and said November saw more bombs dropped than any previous month, CNN writes.
For more BuzzFeed News investigations and the latest news and stories, download the BuzzFeed News app for iOS and Android (in U.S. app stores only).
WE’RE KEEPING AN EYE ON
Nearly 40 million people may not be able to safely browse the web on Jan. 1.
On the morning of Jan. 1, 2016, anyone with a cell phone that’s more than five years old will not be able to access the encrypted web (this includes sites like Facebook, Google, and Twitter) according to a new plan to upgrade the way those sites are verified, BuzzFeed News’ Sheera Frenkel writes.
This might not be a huge deal in places like New York or San Francisco, where 5-year-old phones are basically antiques, “but in some parts of the developing world up to 7% of internet users could find themselves suddenly cut off from the world’s most popular sites, according to research recently published by Facebook and Cloudflare,” Frenkel writes.
Why is this happening?
The answer lies in how websites tell you they’re secure. Much of the internet is already encrypted. For example, the “https” and the little green lock that you see at the start of many URLs are indicators that the site has been certified.
Websites are encrypted through a code called a “cryptographic hashing algorithm.” The problem, however, is that the current version, SHA1, is no longer safe, and could be broken by hackers, researchers announced in October. As a result, an industry group that sets the encryption policy said it will be using stronger SHA2 certificates starting Jan. 1.
A ceasefire to stop a nine-month war in Yemen has begun.
A Saudi-led coalition that supports the Yemeni government has been fighting a rebel movement known as the Houthis since March, when the fighting escalated after the Saudi-led coalition began launching airstrikes targeting the rebels, the Associated Press writes. The war has killed almost 6,000 people since March, about half of whom were civilians.
Peace talks. The seven-day truce started as United Nations-backed peace talks between both sides began in Switzerland.
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THIS?
How spicy, if at all, would you like your Greek yogurt?
Chobani, the company whose name has been synonymous with the boom in Greek yogurt sales, “is preparing to launch a new line of flavors at the start of 2016, all aimed at getting people eating more yogurt throughout the day,” BuzzFeed News’ Venessa Wong writes. Sales of Greek yogurt are starting to settle down, which means Chobani needs to work harder to keep growing.
Among Chobani’s new offerings is a Sriracha Mango yogurt: It’s part of the Greek yogurt maker’s “Flip” line, and comes in a square container that’s diagonally split down the middle. Half of the square container is filled with mango yogurt. The other half contains the toppings: sriracha roasted rice crisps, mini sesame sticks, and salted cashews. Fold one side of the container in half and the toppings tumble onto the yogurt.
Chobani’s new line of flavors include: Chipotle Pineapple, a Peanut Butter and Jelly flavored Flip, five light Greek yogurt varieties, two new whole milk options, and limited-edition flavors like a Peppermint Flip, Apple Cinnamon, and Maple.
Quick things to know:
Seattle is the first U.S. city to give collective bargaining rights to drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft. (BuzzFeed News)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may be questioned soon in London over Swedish rape allegations that date back to 2010. (BuzzFeed News)
U.S. Army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who spent five years in Taliban captivity before his release last year (and who is the subject of Season 2 of popular podcast Serial), will face a general court-martial on charges of desertion. (BuzzFeed News)
Seven things we learned from the last British resident to leave Guantánamo Bay. (BuzzFeed News)
Taylor Swift will release her 1989 world tour film exclusively on Apple Music. (BuzzFeed News)
Bill Cosby is countersuing seven women who have accused him of sexual assault for defamation. (BuzzFeed News)
Serena Williams is Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsperson of the Year.” It’s the first time in 32 years that the magazine has honored an individual woman. (Sports Illustrated)
Women say Wen hair products are making them lose their hair. (BuzzFeed News)
Reports of a “papal selfie” were fake. Nothing holy to see here. (BuzzFeed News)
We’re all about that ~space~ today. Tim Peake is on his way to becoming the first British astronaut to visit the International Space Station (ISS). The 43-year-old has been in astronaut training for six years, BuzzFeed UK’s Kelly Oakes writes. Peake, along with U.S. astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, launched this morning. They’ll join three astronauts who are already on the ISS. And if this has piqued your interest, NASA has reopened its application process and is looking for astronauts to “blaze the trail” to Mars. (Bonus: Test your knowledge of the solar system first.) Starting salary: $66,026. Must like to travel. A lot.
This letter was edited and brought to you by Claire Moses and Brianne O’Brien. You can always reach us here.