HERE ARE THE TOP STORIES
North Korea says it has successfully detonated its first hydrogen bomb. The claim is being met with skepticism.
The country made the announcement after an artificial earthquake that registered at a magnitude of 5.1. North Korea called it a “world-startling event,” adding that its test was “conducted in a safe and perfect manner” and “had no adverse impact on the ecological environment,” BuzzFeed News’ Jim Dalrymple II and Dan Vergano report.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told BuzzFeed News the U.S. was aware of North Korea’s claims but could not confirm them.
The head of the Atomic Energy Agency said if North Korea’s H-bomb test is confirmed, it would be a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and “deeply regrettable,” the Associated Press writes.
A bit of background
North Korea has previously conducted three nuclear tests, but this is the first time it has claimed to have detonated a hydrogen bomb.
“We will not accept (North Korea) as a nuclear state,” U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said. “We will continue to protect and defend our allies in the region, including the Republic of Korea, and will respond appropriately to any and all North Korean provocations.”
Last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claimed that the country was “ready to detonate a self-reliant A-bomb [atomic] and H-bomb,” according to BBC News.
For updates on this story and other news, download the BuzzFeed News app for iOS and Android (in U.S. app stores only).
WE’RE KEEPING AN EYE ON
Why Saudi Arabia and Iran hate each other.
Things went haywire in the Middle East over the weekend: Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shiite cleric on Saturday, as well as 46 other prisoners, which sparked fury in Iran and led to Iranians ransacking the Saudi embassy in the capital, Tehran. Since then, Saudi Arabia has severed diplomatic ties with Iran, and Kuwait, Sudan, and Bahrain have downgraded their relations as well.
But why all the drama? The strife between the two countries is geopolitical — “both are theocratic oil exporters with huge militaries and both of them want to be the country that’s on top in the region,” BuzzFeed News’ Hayes Brown writes. Then there’s religion: Saudi Arabia hosts the holiest city in Islam — Mecca — and thinks of itself as the guardian for Sunni Islam. Meanwhile, overwhelmingly Shiite Iran considers itself patron of Islam’s minority sect and wants to boost its regional influence, writes Brown.
The difference between Sunni and Shiite Islam is both simple and complicated, but basically it goes back to an ancient fight over who was the rightful successor to the Prophet Mohammed. If you want to read more about it, check out this explainer from the Council on Foreign Relations.
The tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia could empower ISIS in Iraq, by preventing Sunni–Shiite cooperation across the region, writes the New York Times.
U.S. officials, meanwhile, are more concerned about the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia than its thawing ties with Iran, BuzzFeed News’ Ali Watkins writes.
Experts think they've found the first international cyberattack to cause a blackout.
On Dec. 23, more than 600,000 homes in Ukraine lost all power for several hours. “Now cybersecurity experts are claiming that the power outage was caused by a cyberattack, likely originating in Russia,” BuzzFeed News' Sheera Frenkel reports.
Ukraine’s security service blames Russia for the incident, even though definitively establishing the source of cyberattacks is always difficult.
“It’s a milestone because we’ve definitely seen targeted destructive events against energy before — oil firms, for instance — but never the event which causes the blackout,” John Hultquist, head of the cybersecurity firm iSight’s cyber espionage intelligence practice, told ArsTechnica. “It’s the major scenario we’ve all been concerned about for so long.”
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THIS?
A New Year’s Eve ride with Lyft co-founder John Zimmer.
BuzzFeed News’ Alex Kantrowitz spent the last night of 2015 in a car with the co-founder of the ride-hailing app:
“It’s 8:33 p.m. on Dec. 31, and Lyft co-founder and President John Zimmer is sitting in his hybrid Volkswagen Jetta on a side street in San Francisco’s Mission District, waiting for his first rider of the night. For the third year in a row, Zimmer is spending his New Year’s Eve the same way thousands of his company’s contract employees do: driving around the city, catching fares.
“New Year’s Eve is critical for ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber: It’s one of the highest-demand nights of the year, when scores and scores of people — longtime devotees and brand-new users alike — will pull up Zimmer’s app, looking for a better way to get from point A to point B. But it’s also when Lyft’s central sales pitch — that its service is fundamentally faster, cheaper, and more efficient than the yellow cabs that have performed the same service for decades — is put to the test. If Lyft makes you wait five or ten minutes longer than a cab would, then there’s little reason to use it.
“I ask Zimmer what it’s like competing with Uber, a company notorious for its ruthless competitive tactics. Zimmer offers a simple response: customer service. The company, he says, looks out for drivers, offering them perks such as the opportunity to earn tips and get paid instantly. Same for customers, he says, telling me Lyft capped its version of surge pricing (called Primetime) on New Year’s Eve, for instance, to twice that of normal fares. (Uber did not; New Year’s day brought the annual spate of stories about people waking up in horror to $500 ride bills).”
Quick things to know:
U.S. President Barack Obama delivered an emotional speech on gun control yesterday, during which he outlined a series of executive actions designed to expand background checks on firearm sales including online and at gun shows. (BuzzFeed News)
Almost 1.1 million people registered as asylum-seekers in Germany in 2015, the country’s Interior Ministry said. More than 400,000 of them came from Syria. (BuzzFeed News)
German officials promised to pursue the perpetrators of the assaults and robberies that took place on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and insisted that rumors about the perpetrators’ alleged status as refugees won’t impact the investigation. (BuzzFeed News)
Twitter might expand its tweet character limit to 10,000. Last year, the company lifted its 140-character limit from direct messages. (BuzzFeed News)
Turkey has released Mohammed Rasool, a reporter for Vice News. He was imprisoned in August for 131 days, following accusations of aiding “terrorist organizations.” He’s out on bail. (BuzzFeed News)
The FBI is asking for the public’s help in closing an 18-minute gap in the timeline of the San Bernardino mass shooting that killed 14 people on Dec. 2. The investigation has found no evidence that the attack was “foreign directed.” (BuzzFeed News)
The militants who have taken over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon could face federal charges, a local sheriff said. The ultimate call on what those charges would be is up to the FBI. (BuzzFeed News)
Apple and Fitbit, two of the biggest producers of wearable tech, are being sued for allegedly infringing on another company’s patent. (BuzzFeed News)
Still looking to make good on that New Year’s resolution and return to the gym? Here’s how to actually start working out again. (BuzzFeed Life)
High-end Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana — famous for its form-fitting dresses — has launched its first line of hijabs and abayas. The collection was first released on Style.com/Arabia. The line follows several other fashion campaigns that target Muslim women who wear hijabs, BuzzFeed News’ Leticia Miranda writes. In September, H&M hired its first model who wears a hijab and in July 2014, DKNY launched a Ramadan collection. Maahum Chaudhry, co-founder of the fashion site Libaas, welcomed the new line, calling it “reaffirming” to have such a major fashion house acknowledge more modest tastes. But, she added, “modesty is about more than just what you wear.”
This letter was edited and brought to you by Natasha Japanwala, Claire Moses, and Brianne O’Brien. You can always reach us here.