This is Russia. Alexei Navalny, seen as the strongest potential candidate to challenge Vladimir Putin in Russia’s presidential election, was officially barred from running by his country’s election commission. The ban stems from a corruption conviction which he says was politically motivated. ”The procedure that we’re invited to take part is not an election,” said Navalny. He has called on his supporters to boycott the election and said he will lead protests across the country. Putin is expected to win his fourth term in the March 18 vote.
The Presidential Daily Brief
More than 200 people have been killed by flooding and landslides in the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines, which is also reeling from a deadly shopping mall blaze believed to have killed 37 others. “Everything was washed out,” said one rescue worker in Bukidnon province, where floodwaters swept away more than 100 homes and residents. The fire was also in the south, in sprawling Davao City, where firefighters who struggled to enter the burning mall had retrieved one body and expressed “zero” hope of rescuing another 36 people trapped inside.
Fidelity, bravery and integrity weren’t enough. To some, Andrew McCabe exemplifies those qualities in the FBI’s motto. But the agency’s deputy director has attracted a maelstrom of derisive tweets from President Donald Trump. He’s blamed McCabe for a “phony” investigation of Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails and noted that a Clinton ally supported McCabe’s wife’s political ambitions. The 49-year-old civil servant has decided to retire in early 2018, perhaps relieving pressure on Trump-appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray, who’s reportedly trying to protect his agency’s integrity as it investigates White House officials.
They don’t travel well. The Supreme Court ruled Dec. 4 that the Trump administration could enforce its travel ban against mainly Muslim nations — while legal challenges proceeded. On Friday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the president lacked authority to impose it. On Saturday, a lower court in Seattle announced it had blocked rules preventing family reunification among revamped refugee vetting that bans citizens from 11 nations Trump imposed in October. Now both cases will move forward, along with a related ruling out of Maryland, ultimately to be judged by America’s nine top jurists.
It’s certainly “big.” Time and each earner’s circumstances will tell how “beautiful” it is, to use the words of President Donald Trump. He signed the strictly Republican tax overhaul Friday, foretelling immediate “love” from its massive corporate tax cut beneficiaries, who’ll be “showering their workers with bonuses.” Some companies sought a delay until the new year, allowing time to adjust, and even White House insiders worried that the 2017 signing will trigger automatic spending cuts. Meanwhile, Trump signed a stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown, with an added $4 billion missile defense outlay.
It’s enough to spoil one’s eggnog. This evening, Christmas observances will begin with greetings. Like many politicians before him, President Trump has vowed to reclaim “Merry Christmas” as the appropriately Christian welcome. But historians provide perspective: Americans’ devout forebears, the Puritans, fined people for saying “Merry Christmas,” because: 1. They’d outlawed the holiday for its lack of scriptural basis, and 2. It was when their less pious neighbors debauched the night away. So rather than agonize over Yuletide syntax, remember that charity, comfort and joy can make all the difference.
“The World wants Peace, not Death.” That’s how President Trump tweeted about Friday’s U.N. Security Council vote to impose new sanctions punishing Pyongyang’s continued development of potentially nuclear-tipped ICBMs like the one it tested Nov. 29. The panel voted 15-0 to impose the new restrictions: cutting about 90 percent of fuel imports, banning exports and forcing some 93,000 North Korean expat workers to return home within two years. The U.S. says it wants to negotiate, but Trump has undone Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s invitations for talks without preconditions.
Workers of the world, good night. Once a showcase of Soviet industrial development, small, single-industry towns across Russia are quickly deteriorating. Far Eastern Kadykchan exemplifies this trend, with its shuttered mine, crumbling infrastructure and disillusioned residents steadily moving away to find work. Government officials are figuring out ways to diversify 319 such “monotowns,” where 14 million people live, and while federal funding and professional training programs help, encouraging people to stay is still a tough sell. New, modern industries are breathing life into some threatened centers, showing a potential way forward for others.
The Week Ahead: This week newly elected Catalan separatist party members will begin attempts to form a regional governing coalition as new Spanish arrest warrants have been issued for 11 former officials in connection with Catalan independence efforts. And the partisan balance of the Virginia House of Delegates, hanging on one tied election, is scheduled to be decided by drawing lots on Wednesday.
Know This: Guatemala has announced that it will follow U.S. President Trump’s example by moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Five people were killed Christmas Eve when a small private plane crashed in Florida. The Kremlin has issued a warning to the U.S., saying its decision to send lethal weapons to the Ukrainian government will lead to more bloodshed. And a Reston, Virginia, couple was killed during a holiday gathering Friday, allegedly shot by their daughter’s boyfriend, who the parents reportedly worried was a neo-Nazi.
Listen for the Holidays: It’s the most wonderful (and wacky) time of the year. This playlist covers all the warm and fuzzy holiday classics as well as a few oddballs that may have had too much eggnog! Happy holidays from Sony and OZY.
It’s a crisis of faith. The evangelical voting bloc has been a powerful force in American politics for decades. But when the vast majority throw their lot behind embattled role models like President Trump or Roy Moore, has the Moral Majority lost its way? Rebellion within the old ranks, not to mention a new generation of Christians who find Republican leaders anathema to their faith, means more are ditching the label, even while maintaining its conservative doctrine. In the future, “evangelical” might denote more political leanings than religious, if it doesn’t already.
If only the “X” had GPS coordinates. A real-life, modern-day Indiana Jones, geologist Keith Barron matches dusty historical documents to aerial surveys hoping to unearth gold mines in South America. He’s done it before — a 2006 Ecuador discovery was worth hundreds of millions of dollars — and now the Canadian adventurer has trained his spectacles on the country’s legendary “Lost Cities of Gold” nestled among the Andes’ volcanic peaks. Despite the odds of striking it big hovering around 1,000 to 1, Barron presses on, thrilled by the hunt.
Produce, produce everywhere, and not a crop to eat. Kansas’s farm-country residents are making sure they aren’t a flyover state for grocery stores. A third of their counties have so-called food deserts — areas 10 miles from the nearest store — while dozens of communities have lost groceries in the last decade. But a cadre of grocers are pushing solutions like encouraging community-owned cooperatives and declaring food a public good worthy of subsidies. And they are hoping to build momentum, enlisting more of the 55 million similarly isolated Americans.
It’s one thing to preach diversity, another to achieve it. Racism is often blamed for Britons’ vote to separate from a more immigration-tolerant EU. But it’s actually the U.K. that’s led Europe in promoting racial and ethnic diversity. And one key to its success is that it collects and pays attention to statistics, which the “color-blind” EU has resisted. Some politicians in Brussels have agitated for British-style policies to track the EU’s diversity for years, but Brexit threatens to extinguish that ray of enlightenment from across the English Channel.
It’s been 84 … sorry, 20 years. When Titanic came out in 1997, the bloated $200-million film seemed destined to be a money-loser — but hordes of rabid fans, often young women obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack, helped make it “king of the world.” But another look at the story, in which a young woman finds a man who respects her, loves her, dies for her, and helps her shake off societal constrictions to live out her dreams, may have colored now-grown women’s idea of love.
Suddenly, they were a team. The #MeToo movement got an assist from star athletes like Olympic gold winner and WNBA All-Star Breanna Stewart, who described being sexually assaulted at age 9, and gymnastics medalist McKayla Maroney, who’s accusing USA Gymnastics of covering up its doctor’s since-admitted serial molestation. As more women gain power in male-dominated domains like sports, their voices embolden others, argues sports columnist Kavitha Davidson. That includes women who brought about the downfall of Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, and others steeling themselves for that fateful leap.