The relationship’s become even more special. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned envoy Daniel Shapiro after the U.S. abstained from Friday’s U.N. Security Council vote to condemn Israeli settlement activity. Previously, all U.S. administrations since 1980 had vetoed such resolutions. A State Department official said the abstention came after years of trying to convince Netanyahu, who called the resolution “shameful,” to pursue peace with Palestinians who see the settlement areas as their own. But President-elect Donald Trump has courted Israeli hardliners, vowing to relocate America’s embassy to disputed ground in Jerusalem.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They didn’t have a chance. A massive operation involving 3,500 people on boats, submersibles, jets and helicopters is working to recover wreckage and bodies after a Russian military plane crashed into the Black Sea Sunday, killing all 92 aboard. The Tu-154, which disappeared from radar minutes after refueling in Sochi, was bound for Syria carrying military personnel, reporters and the famed army choir Alexandrov Ensemble to entertain troops. Authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the crash as Russia observes a national day of mourning for the victims.
It’s done “enormous good works.” But the Donald J. Trump Foundation’s also under investigation for questionable use of funds, such as settling lawsuits for his for-profit enterprises. The mogul stated that he’s seeking to “avoid even the appearance of any conflict with my role as president” by shutting down the charity that he says has supported veterans, police and children. But Trump donated nothing to it between 2009 and 2014, and the New York Attorney General’s Office says that until it concludes its probe, the fund must remain open.
Festive? Seriously? Apart from the season’s potentially heart-attack-inducing stresses, how can one make merry when Googling the word “Christmas” conjures images of genuine terror attacks and fake news about a Jewish family fleeing their home after canceling A Christmas Carol? Start with Yiwu, a Chinese city where year-round Xmas decoration manufacturing provides income for otherwise impoverished migrants. Then see how Syrian refugees joyously adorn their Christmas tree — in their new home in the U.K. And finally, rewrite your family script to banish the ghosts of holidays past and embrace the yuletide spirit.
Tolerance and unity. Those might also be victims of Monday’s attack on a popular Christmas market in Berlin, where a Polish truck ran down holiday shoppers, murdering 12 and injuring about 50. It led to the shootout early Friday near Milan, with Italian police killing Anis Amri, 24, the Tunisian migrant who appears on video declaring allegiance to ISIS’s leader. His death provided some closure, but the attack has already stoked anti-immigrant sentiment and criticism of Europe’s open borders, while Tunisian authorities have arrested Amri’s nephew and two others they say formed a terror cell.
Some days, the bear gets you. Russia’s sophisticated cyber-interference in the U.S. presidential election is a historical event on par with Watergate and 9/11, and it demands extensive fact-finding and investigation, posits Hoover Institution political sociologist Larry Diamond. Seventeen American intel organizations agree that Russian military hackers undermined Democrats in Congress and discredited Hillary Clinton. A bipartisan Congress and the press must now assess the damage, Diamond argues, as well as ties among Donald Trump, his chosen team and the Kremlin — while acknowledging Trump is legally and constitutionally the president.
It’s business. The million-plus migrants who’ve entered Europe since 2015 haven’t just incited political turmoil. They’ve fueled an industry that’s making smugglers, organized criminals and government contractors rich. A city in Mali is booming from illegal trans-Saharan smuggling that’s multiplied 16 times in two years. In Italy, it’s feeding Mafia coffers with refugee prostitutes and drug dealers. In Turkey, it’s enabling child labor, and in Germany, it enriched a housing contractor who spent as little as $11 a day on asylum-seekers — all part of an abusive infrastructure authorities struggle to control.
Know This: A magnitude 7.6 earthquake has hit southern Chile, but a tsunami warning has been lifted and no fatalities have been reported. Authorities are evacuating thousands of residents as super typhoon Nock-ten makes landfall in the eastern Philippines. Cleveland police have identified the officer whose 2-year-old son fatally shot himself with his father’s gun. And the Oakland Raiders’ Super Bowl dreams have been dashed by quarterback Derek Carr’s broken leg.
Disarm This: Donald Trump’s Twitter habit may be making America’s adversaries more unpredictable: “We’re just operating in this world where you cannot believe the things he says,” said Eliot Cohen, a former George W. Bush administration official. “It’s going to greatly magnify the danger of miscalculation by all kinds of people.”
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He was something special. The British singer/songwriter, who sold more than 115 million albums, died “peacefully” at his home in Oxfordshire on Christmas Day of what his longtime manager said was heart failure. Michael, a Londoner, found explosive fame in the early 1980s with Wham! — in 1985, they were the first Western act to perform in China — and later earned solo success with hits like “Faith” and “Father Figure.” Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, he’d been working on a new album and planned to release a documentary in 2017.
It’s a cellars market. The number of wineries in Valle de Guadalupe’s tripled in just four years, and an industry of tours and hotels has sprung up around the area’s wine culture, which produces 1.5 million cases annually. But an ongoing drought’s put that in danger, and it’s getting worse as more wineries open and the valley’s water supply is spread thin. With the government doing nothing, winemakers have taken on the problem themselves, with drought-friendly farming techniques and water-treatment collectives designed to squeeze every last drop from available resources.
There’s a reason it’s called “white gold.” The silvery-white metal is vital for lithium-ion batteries in the tech world’s latest smartphones, electric cars and laptops. But it’s heavily mined from salt flats on the Argentina-Chile border, the ancestral home of the Atacamas people. Legal loopholes between governments and indigenous communities mean residents see little of the mines’ billions of dollars in profits. With lithium use expected to triple by 2025, the Atacamas are questioning agreements they’ve made — and the effects on their environment and way of life.
In times of trouble, will you have enough social capital? Recent natural disasters have shown that people get vital help quickest not from government agencies, but from people who live nearby, suggesting that we may need to rethink emergency response policies. In the devastating 2011 Japan tsunami, areas with strong neighbor-oriented initiatives saw almost no loss of life, and now grassroots organizations like 100 Resilient Cities are bolstering community connections, raising living standards and training ordinary people to be heroes — before the levee breaks.
Good morning, Syria. From Istanbul, low-budget Radio Alwan takes calls from inside the shattered land and relies on imperiled journalists on the ground in Aleppo and elsewhere to deliver the news. Racked with guilt about escaping, the Turkey-based staff has tried to deliver hope and diversion, and the station is branching out into comedy, dramas and magazine programs. But writers for a soap opera featuring a man brainwashed by ISIS struggle with the choice between a realistic denouement or one in which the Syrian protagonists live happily ever after.
It’s the digital experience that eclipsed reality. FIFA is every soccer fan’s favorite video game — but it’s also changed the face of the professional sport. Designed back in 1993, the game’s exploded into a brand that even non-gamers recognize. It’s influenced politics, business and how soccer is played. FIFA condenses 90-minute soccer matches into 10 action-packed minutes, featuring real players with unique skills. It’s also attracting new fans, with 50 percent of American players saying the video game got them hooked on the real thing.