He’s biding his time. Vladimir Putin says he won’t be kicking U.S. diplomats out of Russia, despite his foreign ministry’s recommendation that the government do just that after the U.S. announced sanctions and the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats as punishment for their country’s alleged interference in the American presidential election. The Russian operation, including hacks against the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton, has been dubbed “Grizzly Steppe” by U.S. intelligence agencies. Putin says his eventual response to escalating tensions will depend on Donald Trump’s attitude toward Russia when he takes office Jan. 20.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Tsk tsk. That’s the message from the U.S. secretary of state to Benjamin Netanyahu over new Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Kerry defended the U.S. decision to abstain from last week’s U.N. resolution condemning the settlements, saying it was to preserve the two-state solution — and the region’s only shot at “just and lasting peace.” President-elect Donald Trump, meanwhile, said he wouldn’t let Israel be treated with disrespect. Netanyahu denounced Kerry’s speech, saying he’s looking forward to working with Trump “to mitigate the damage.”
It’s a marathon, not a Sprint. The president-elect boasted yesterday that the telecom company will bring 5,000 jobs “back” to the U.S. — though the positions were part of a $50 billion, 50,000-job investment plan from Japan’s SoftBank that was announced before the presidential election. In a rare Q&A session with reporters, Donald Trump spoke positively about the transition after a call with President Obama, a reversal from a tweet just hours before: “Thought it was going to be a smooth transition — NOT!”
Time to forgive and forget. Colombia’s courts have approved legislation on amnesty for thousands of FARC rebels. After 52 years of war, amnesty is a key step in implementing a peace deal with the guerrillas — though it won’t forgive war crimes or human rights violations from a conflict that left more than 220,000 dead and millions displaced. After a failed referendum on a peace deal earlier this year, the next six months will see 7,000 FARC fighters lay down arms as their group converts into a political party.
The Big Smoke isn’t up in smoke quite yet. Investment in London property has dropped 55 percent since June’s vote to leave the EU — but investment from Chinese companies only dropped 22 percent, giving China’s buyers a bigger share of the pie. Analysts say about 15 percent of the West End is now Chinese-owned, as London real estate becomes cheaper and foreign investors take advantage of the pound’s spectacular crash. But a change may be coming: Rumored regulations on overseas investment from Chinese companies could stymie more buying in Britain.
Know This: Vladimir Putin says Syria’s government has brokered a cease-fire with rebels that will begin at midnight. Donald Trump is reportedly considering moving the VA along the path to privatization.
Cluck This: In China, a large sculpture of a chicken with a Trump-esque coiffure has become a cultural phenomenon.
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“I want to be with Carrie.” That’s what Reynolds — whose daughter, fellow actress Carrie Fisher, died Tuesday — reportedly told her son from her deathbed in a Los Angeles hospital, where she was rushed yesterday after a possible stroke. Reynolds became a star dancing alongside Gene Kelly in the 1952 classic Singin’ in the Rain, and she was nominated for both an Oscar and a Tony during her 63-year career. Reynolds and Fisher will appear together in an HBO documentary, Bright Lights, early next year.
The final frontier doesn’t forgive. It’s been a big year for the world’s largest private space firm. Elon Musk founded SpaceX partly to make space accessible — and marketable — to everyone: A private Mars mission remains a major goal. This year the company’s had significant successes, like launching satellites into orbit and landing reusable rockets on targets. But “traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops.” SpaceX’s failures have revealed cracks in non-state-funded space programs — most significantly, when its $60 million rocket exploded on the launch pad.
Get your thumb off those scales. The armored, raccoon-sized mammals are the world’s most trafficked animals, with meat and scales prized by smugglers. Border officials in Shanghai have now seized 3.4 tons of pangolin scales, worth an estimated $2 million on the black market and representing as many as 7,500 of the scaly critters. All eight species of pangolin are considered vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered, and commercial trade has officially been banned. But this massive haul illustrates that even strict protections aren’t doing enough to deter criminals.
Behold the Hollywood gender gap. Johansson’s films — including Captain America: Civil War — reeled in $1.2 billion worldwide this year, but she didn’t make the top 10 highest paid actors. That list was headed by Dwayne Johnson and Jackie Chan, and included just two women: Melissa McCarthy and Jennifer Lawrence. Only Ben Affleck made both top 10 lists. Though California’s equal pay law went into effect this year, taboos on talking about salaries mean many women still don’t know what their costars make.
The gyms are heating up. Top-ranked Villanova survived a squeaker. Oregon’s Dillon Brooks nailed a game-winning 3-pointer to down No. 2 UCLA. And Virginia clamped down to sink No. 6 Louisville. As college basketball’s conference season gets underway, No. 16 Indiana is proving to be the country’s biggest enigma. With wins against Kansas and North Carolina, but shocking losses to Fort Wayne and, last night, unranked Nebraska at home, the Hoosiers find themselves in a Big Ten hole and perhaps knocked out of the top 25.