U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: December 24, 2016

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

THE WEEK

1. UN Security Council votes with U.S. abstention to end Israeli settlements
The United Nations Security Council on Friday voted in favor of a resolution against Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. The U.S. did not use its veto, as President-elect Donald Trump and several senators hoped, and instead abstained from voting either way. The abstention marks a break from Washington’s typical position as “Israel’s sturdiest shield,” The New York Times reported, indicating the Obama administration’s frustration with the difficulty settlement-building poses to a two-state solution. The resolution’s passage came a day after Egypt, which proposed the measure, postponed the vote following a meeting between Trump and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Source: The Washington Post, The New York Times

2. Trump reportedly doubles down on ‘arms race’
President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday tweeted that “the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” but spokesman Jason Miller later tried to temper the statement, claiming Trump really meant the U.S. should prevent nuclear proliferation and “modernize our deterrent capability.” On Friday, however, in a phone call with Morning Joe‘s Mika Brzezinski, Trump reportedly clarified that he is in fact urging nuclear buildup. “Let it be an arms race, we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all,” Brzezinski quoted Trump as saying. Earlier Friday morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a news conference that Moscow does not want a new arms race and will keep its nuclear arms within existing treaty limits.

Source: Morning Joe, The New York Times

3. FBI warns of possible ISIS-inspired attacks on churches at Christmas
The FBI issued a warning to local law enforcement Friday that the Islamic State has urged supporters in the United States to attack holiday gatherings this weekend, including churches celebrating Christmas. The warning came after ISIS-linked websites posted a list of churches, but the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security emphasized there are no known, credible threats against any congregations. “As part of the continuous dialogue with our law enforcement partners, the FBI routinely shares information about potential threats to better enable law enforcement to protect the communities they serve,” said FBI representative Andrew Ames, indicating that the warning has been sent out of an abundance of caution.

Source: Reuters, The Guardian

4. Experimental Ebola vaccine offers ‘100 percent protection’ in final tests
Final tests of an experimental Ebola vaccine conducted in Guinea, a West African country hit particularly hard by the deadly virus, indicate scientists may be close to perfecting an effective inoculation against the disease. The vaccine offers “100 percent protection,” results published Thursday in The Lancet medical journal revealed. Of “nearly 6,000 people receiving the vaccine, all were free of the virus 10 days later,” the BBC reported, though the treatment only protects against the Zaire strain of Ebola. The immunization has yet to receive regulatory approval. The Ebola epidemic in Africa in 2014 killed over 11,000 people.

Source: Associated Press, The New York Times

5. ISIS releases video of Berlin truck attack suspect suggesting advance contact
The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency on Friday released video of Anis Amri, the 24-year-old Turkish man suspected of carrying out Monday’s deadly truck attack in Berlin, pledging his allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Amri, who was killed Friday in a shootout with Italian police in Milan, is seen standing in northern Berlin. The clip raises questions about whether Amri was in contact with the terrorist group before the attack; CNN reported documents indicate he was “part of an ISIS recruitment network” in Germany centered around the radical preacher Abu Walaa, who “styled himself as ISIS’s representative” to the country.

Source: Associated Press, CNN

6. Australian police foil terror plot planned for Christmas Day
Australian police arrested five men in overnight raids, officials announced Friday, foiling an alleged Islamic State-inspired terror plot on Melbourne planned for Christmas Day. The suspects reportedly intended to attack multiple sites in the city center, including St. Paul’s Cathedral, using “explosives and possibly knives or guns.” Investigators said the five suspects — all Australian citizens between the ages of 21 and 26 — were “self-radicalized but certainly inspired by ISIS and ISIS propaganda.”

Source: NBC News, New York

7. Nigerian troops oust Boko Haram from forest stronghold
The Nigerian army on Friday successfully drove Boko Haram militants from their last stronghold in the Sambisa Forest, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhar announced Saturday, a major victory against the terrorist organization that kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in 2014, nearly 200 of whom remain missing. “The terrorists are on the run and no longer have a place to hide,” Buhar said in a statement praising the raid but indicating there is still work to be done. “Further efforts should be intensified to locate and free our remaining Chibok girls still in captivity,” he added. “May God be with them.”

Source: BBC News, Pulse.ng

8. Lockheed Martin CEO agrees to lower F-35 costs after Trump meeting
Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson promised Friday she would work to lower costs of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter after meeting with President-elect Donald Trump, who one day earlier tweeted that he might cancel the project in favor of a cheaper, comparable jet from Boeing. “I’ve heard [Trump’s] message loud and clear about reducing the cost of the F-35,” Hewson said. “I gave him my personal commitment to drive the cost down aggressively.” F-35 development is the Pentagon’s single most expensive project ever, with escalating costs projected to hit $1.45 trillion over its lifespan. Depending on its specifications, a single plane costs up to $337 million.

Source: CNN, Reuters

9. Actress Carrie Fisher ‘out of emergency’ after in-flight medical crisis
Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher suffered a cardiac episode on a London to Los Angeles flight Friday and was hospitalized for emergency treatment in an intensive care unit on landing in California midday. By Friday evening, Fisher’s brother, Todd, said she was “out of emergency” but “It’s not fair to say ‘stable.’ I am not saying she is fine, or not fine.” Still, he said, “She’s a real survivor and always has been and I would expect the best from this.” Other passengers on Fisher’s plane posted reports of her illness on social media, with one post claiming she stopped breathing for “10 minutes or so.”

Source: Reuters, BuzzFeed News

10. NFL, NBA gear up for Christmas weekend games
The NBA and NFL are putting some of their flashiest rivalries on display over the Christmas weekend. On the gridiron, the Minnesota Vikings will take on the Green Bay Packers in Wisconsin on Saturday. Other Christmas weekend matchups in the NFL include the New York Jets vs. the New England Patriots on Saturday and the Baltimore Ravens against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. In the NBA, the Christmas Day lineup is headlined by a Finals rematch between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the afternoon, followed by the Minnesota Timberwolves vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Clippers at Staples Center.

Source: Sporting News, NBA.com

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