U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: December 23, 2016



1. Italian police kill Berlin Christmas market attack suspect in Milan
A man identified as the Berlin Christmas market attack suspect, Anis Amri of Tunisia, was killed in a shootout with Italian police in Milan early Friday, Italian authorities said. “The person killed, without a shadow of a doubt, is Anis Amri, the suspect of the terrorist attack,” Interior Minister Marco Minniti said. The man allegedly started shooting at police after they asked for his ID papers at a railway station. An officer was injured. German investigators found Amri’s fingerprints on the steering wheel and other parts of the cab of a truck used to mow down people at a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people and wounding more than 50. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Source: The Associated Press, Reuters

2. Trump calls for strengthening U.S. nuclear capability
President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday called for the U.S. to “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability.” He said, via Twitter, the new nuclear buildup should continue until the rest of the world “comes to its senses” regarding nuclear weapons. Spokesman Jason Miller later tried to clarify Trump’s tweet, which seemed to suggest a major shift in longstanding U.S. policy from a president-elect, saying that “Trump was referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it — particularly to and among terrorist organizations and unstable and rogue regimes,” as well as “the need to improve and modernize our deterrent capability as a vital way to pursue peace through strength.” Russian President Vladimir Putin also said Thursday that his country needed to upgrade its nuclear capabilities.

Source: The Associated Press, BBC News

3. Syrian military declares it has retaken full control of Aleppo
The Syrian army officially took full control of the formerly divided and besieged city of Aleppo on Thursday. The news came after the evacuation of civilians and fighters from the last rebel-held area in eastern Aleppo, following delays by cold weather. The last buses carrying civilians out of the formerly opposition-held areas left on Thursday night. The seizure of the city marked the first time all of Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city and industrial capital, had returned to the hands of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces since 2012. Syrian rebels reportedly shelled Aleppo a day after the opposition fighters finished their withdrawal from their last stronghold in the city.

Source: CNN, Reuters

4. Trump appoints RNC’s Sean Spicer as press secretary
President-elect Donald Trump named his senior communications teamThursday, appointing Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee communications director and chief strategist, to be his press secretary. Hope Hicks, who served as Trump’s press secretary during his campaign, will be director of strategic communications. Trump spokesman Jason Miller will be the director of communications, and Dan Scavino, a veteran of the Trump campaign’s social media operation, will be the director of social media in Trump’s White House.

Source: Reuters

5. Obama to shut down 9/11-era Muslim registry
The Obama administration on Thursday moved to shut down a dormant national registry program for visitors from countries with active terrorist groups, which was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, registered some 85,000 people and removed about 13,000 immigrants, most of them Muslim, from the U.S., although it never produced a terrorism prosecution and was suspended in 2011. President Obama reportedly had been urged to dismantle it before President-elect Donald Trump could use it as the foundation of a “Muslim registry” he suggested during his campaign. Asked following the Berlin Christmas market attack whether he still planned a Muslim registry or a ban on some Muslim immigrants, Trump said, “You know my plans.”

Source: The New York Times

6. Egypt postpones U.N. vote condemning Israeli settlements after Trump objects
Egypt on Thursday abruptly postponed a planned United Nations Security Council vote on a resolution that would have condemned Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The U.S. has traditionally used its veto power to block criticism of Israel at the Security Council, but this time President Obama had refused to commit to a veto, leading Palestinians to hope he would let the measure pass to put pressure on Israel. President-elect Donald Trump publicly intervened at Israel’s urging, reportedly talking with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and saying in a statement on Facebook that “peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations.”

Source: Reuters, The New York Times

7. Putin criticizes Democrats blaming him for their loss
Russian President Vladimir Putin pushed back on Friday against Democrats who have accused his government of leaking hacked emails to help President-elect Donald Trump beat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, saying Democrats “need to learn to lose with dignity.” “Democrats are losing on every front and looking for people to blame everywhere,” Putin said, noting that Republicans held onto their majorities in the House and Senate, and adding, “Did we do that, too?” U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia orchestrated the hacking of email accounts of Democratic officials, including Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, and the leaking of the information to damage Clinton’s campaign.

Source: The Washington Post

8. Prince Charles decries ‘disturbing’ aggression against religious minorities
Prince Charles warned Thursday that the “aggressive” attitude of rising populist groups toward people practicing minority religions had “deeply disturbing echoes” of the Nazi era of World War II. The 68-year-old prince made the comments on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, a feature exploring the religious aspects of contemporary issues. It was Prince Charles’ third time participating in the program, a departure from the hands-off approach to politics taken by his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, who is Britain’s longest-serving monarch but has given no interviews to the media.

Source: BBC News

9. Ikea to pay $50 million in deadly toppled furniture case
Ikea confirmed Thursday that it had reached a tentative settlement with relatives of three children, all around age 2, who were crushed to death by chests or dressers from the Swedish furniture company’s Malm line. The families of the American children — Curren Collas, Camden Ellis, and Ted McGee — said Ikea would pay $50 million to settle their claim that the furniture’s design was flawed, making it “inherently unstable and easily tipped over.” They also accused the company of refusing to meet voluntary safety standards regarding furniture stability.

Source: The New York Times

10. Eric Trump halts operations of his charitable foundation
Eric Trump on Thursday suspended operations at his charitable foundation, halting fundraising as he faced questions about whether donors would have special access to his father, President-elect Donald Trump, or other members of the first family. A day earlier, Eric Trump had told The New York Times he would personally stop raising money for the charity but left unclear his broader plans for the foundation. The Eric Trump Foundation has raised more than $1.5 million a year through a golf tournament and other fundraisers, which have included auctions offering winners meetings with Eric Trump and his siblings Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump.

Source: The Washington Post

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