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Happening Today: Google, Olympics, Opioids, Sinead O'Connor, Journey

What to Know

  • A Google engineer has been fired after writing and releasing an internal memo criticizing the company's diversity programs
  • Deaths from heroin and opioid overdoses may have been underreported by more than 20 percent, according to a new study
  • Sinead O’Connor posted a video in which she says her battle with mental illness has left her suicidal and living alone in a motel

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Google Engineer Fired After Writing Anti-Diversity Memo to Colleagues

A Google engineer has been fired after igniting a firestorm of controversy by writing and releasing an internal memo criticizing the tech company's diversity programs, according to a report from CNBC. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a memo to employees that the engineer who penned the memo violated the company's code of conduct, CNBC reported. Bloomberg first reported the name of the fired engineer, who confirmed his dismissal in an email to the news agency. NBC News has not independently confirmed the report. The 10-page anti-diversity memo was first reported by Motherboard and published in full by Gizmodo. The memo argued that men are biologically better fit to work in the tech industry and be leaders in the workplace and characterized Google's gender equality efforts as misguided. The anti-diversity memo went public after it was sent out to more than 40,000 Google employees.

Countdown to PyeongChang: Six Months to Winter Olympics

In just six months, snowboarders, slalom skiers, speed skaters and others will arrive at PyeongChang in pursuit of Olympic gold. We’ll watch as athletes from around the world compete in 15 winter sports, catching their dreams or seeing them dashed on the mountains of South Korea during the 2018 Winter Games. Olympians who fell short at the Sochi Games four years ago will be focused fiercely on dazzling this time, aiming for that highest perch on the winners’ stand. Look for performances from the American veterans of past games, from the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team to the affectionally dubbed Shib Sibs, ice dancers Alex and Maia Shibutani. What you won’t see? Hat tricks or any goals from National Hockey League players, at least not with the NHL's blessing. The league will not interrupt its season for the PyeongChang Games. The opening ceremony will be held on Feb. 8, and every event will be broadcast on NBC's TV and digital channels.

U.S. May Begin Airstrikes Against ISIS in Philippines, Officials Say

The Pentagon is considering a plan that would allow the U.S. military to conduct airstrikes on ISIS in the Philippines, two defense officials told NBC News. The authority to strike ISIS targets, most likely with the use of armed drones, could be granted as part of an official military operation that may be named as early as Tuesday, the officials said. Under the proposed plan, the U.S. military would be able to conduct strikes against ISIS targets that could be a threat to U.S. allies in the region, including the Philippine forces already battling ISIS on the country’s southern islands. In Manila, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. was providing the Philippines government with "intelligence capabilities" in the fight against ISIS, including "some recent transfers of a couple of Cessnas and a couple of UAVs (drones) to allow to them to have better information with which to conduct the fight down there." Meanwhile, The U.S. is sending dozens more Marines to Afghanistan to help with internal force protection, three U.S. defense officials told NBC News. The Marines have not yet moved to Afghanistan. But they will join more than 300 other Marines assigned to Task Force Southwest. The officials said the deployment is not tied to the Trump Administration's new South Asia strategy but fulfills a request from the commander on the ground.

Sanctions May Not Halt North Korea Nuclear Program

The strongest sanctions yet against North Korea could still prove no match for the communist country's relentless nuclear weapons ambitions. While the United States hails a new package of U.N. penalties that could cut a third of North Korea's exports, the sanctions themselves aren't the American objective. They're only a tactic for getting Kim Jong Un's totalitarian government to end its missile advances and atomic weapons tests, and there is little evidence to suggest this newest round of economic pressure will be more successful than previous efforts. Whatever the economic pain on Pyongyang, Kim's government has expressed no interest in negotiating away its fast-growing arsenal of perhaps 20 nuclear bombs and the ballistic missiles needed to deliver them. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there is "no daylight" in the view among Washington and its partners that North Korea must move toward abandoning its nuclear weapons. But he was quick to stress the importance of everyone enforcing the new, tougher sanctions.

Opioid Overdoses Have Been Higher Than Thought, Study Shows

Deaths from heroin and opioid overdoses may have been underreported by more than 20 percent, according to a new study. Researchers looking into the nation's deadly drug overdose epidemic revisited thousands of death certificates between 2008 and 2014 and found that mortality rates for opioids were 24 percent higher than previously reported, while the mortality rate for heroin was 22 percent higher than previously reported. "Opioid mortality rate changes were considerably understated in Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Jersey and Arizona," according to the study, published this week in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. "Increases in heroin death rates were understated in most states, and by large amounts in Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Jersey, Louisiana and Alabama." The presidential opioid commission, chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has urged President Trump to "declare a national emergency" to deal with the crisis that, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, killed nearly 35,000 across the United States since 2015.

Sinead O’Connor Says She’s Living in Motel With “Nobody in My Life”

Sinead O’Connor posted a heartbreaking video to Facebook in which she says her battle with mental illness has left her suicidal and living alone in a motel in Hackensack. “I’m now living in a Travelodge motel in the arse-end of New Jersey,” she says towards the beginning of the nearly 13-minute video. The singer fights back tears as she says her loved ones have abandoned her because of the stigma of mental illness. “I’m all by myself, and there’s absolutely nobody in my life except my doctor, my psychiatrist, the sweetest man on Earth, who says I’m his hero,” she says. O’Connor says she wants the video to be of help to others like her “that don’t necessarily have the resources that I have.” The singer, best known for her 1990 hit single “Nothing Compares 2 U,” said she has battled three mental illnesses in her life.

“Separate Ways”? Journey Guitarist Blasts Bandmates Over White House Visit

Is legendary band Journey set for a breakup soon? That's the question many on social media are now trying to tackle after founding Journey guitarist Neal Schon blasted fellow band members for visiting the White House and meeting with President Trump. Band members Arnel Pineda, Jonathan Cain and Ross Valory made the visit, which Schon claimed on social media he had no idea about before it happened. Schon, who has been with the band since 1972, has said Journey's credo has always been the music it creates is for "everyone." The guitarist also points out the trio who made the White House visit knows his position. "This clearly shows no respect or Unity...just Divide," Schon said in a social media posting. On Monday, Schon in a tweet denied he is leaving the group. He did, however, mentioned tensions in the group have been running high for close to two years.

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