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HeadlinesDecember 20, 2016

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Germany: 12 Killed After Truck Plows Through Christmas Market

Dec 20, 2016

In Germany, 12 people were killed and 48 more wounded in Berlin after a truck drove into a Christmas market around 8 p.m. local time, plowing into the stalls packed with shoppers and tourists at about 40 miles an hour. Late Monday night, German media, citing local authorities, reported police detained one suspect in the case: a 23-year-old Pakistani refugee named Naved Baluch. Baluch has denied all involvement in the attack, and early this morning unnamed sources within the German police told local media they believed Naved Baluch was not involved in the attack and that the perpetrator may still be at large and armed. After the attack on Monday, as many as 250 police officers raided Berlin’s largest refugee center, which is housed inside a hangar at a defunct airport, and questioned at least four people. No one was arrested. This is German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking this morning.

Chancellor Angela Merkel: “There is much we still do not know with sufficient certainty, but we must, as things stand now, assume it was a terrorist attack. I know it would be especially hard for us all to bear if it were confirmed that the person who committed this act was someone who sought protection and asylum in Germany. This would be especially despicable for the many, many Germans who, day in, day out, are actively working for refugees, as well as for those people who actually need our protection and who make an effort to integrate into our country.”

Germany has taken in far more refugees in the last two years than any other European Union country—as many as 1 million refugees in 2015. The attack recalled the Bastille Day attack on a boardwalk in Nice, France, in which 84 people were killed after a Tunisian-born French citizen drove a truck through crowds of people in July. The New York Post falsely reported ISIS militants had claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack in Berlin. Following this report, the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors the online activity of militant groups, said no one has claimed responsibility for the attack so far.


Russian Ambassador to Turkey Assassinated in Ankara

Dec 20, 2016

Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov was assassinated Monday evening at an art exhibition in Ankara, Turkey, in a shooting both Turkish and Russian leaders have called a terrorist attack. Turkish authorities say the lone gunman was a 22-year-old off-duty Turkish police officer. He shot Karlov dead in a dramatic scene in the middle of the art gallery, as he yelled “Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!” The attack came as the Turkish foreign minister was on his way to Moscow, Russia, to meet with his Russian and Iranian counterparts for talks on the ongoing Syrian war. Russia has been backing the Syrian government in its war against anti-government rebels, most notably by launching a months-long bombing campaign against rebel-held eastern Aleppo, which included targeting hospitals and other medical centers. Russia’s bombing campaign helped the Syrian government take over eastern Aleppo last week, marking a decisive battle in the five-year civil war. This is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, following the assassination.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “I describe this attack on Russia’s Embassy as an attack on Turkey, Turkey’s state and nation. After the attack on the Russian ambassador, during the talk with Mr. Putin, we agreed this is a provocation, and there isn’t any dispute.”

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin also described the assassination as a “provocation” and said it sought to fray relations between Russia and Turkey.

President Vladimir Putin: “The committed crime is obviously a provocation designed to spoil normalization of Russia-Turkey relations and derailing the peace process in Syria, which is actively promoted by Russia, Turkey, Iran and other countries interested in reconcilement of inter-Syria conflict.”

U.N. Security Council Votes to Monitor Aleppo Evacuations

Dec 20, 2016

The assassination came only hours after the U.N. Security Council voted Monday to monitor the evacuations from eastern Aleppo. The resolution passed unanimously. Russia had threatened to veto an earlier version of the plan. The Red Cross says 25,000 people have already been evacuated from eastern Aleppo since last week, when it fell to advancing Syrian government forces backed by Russian airstrikes. The Red Cross estimates thousands of civilians remain to be evacuated. On Tuesday, Syrian soldiers reportedly broadcast messages over loudspeakers calling on anti-government rebels to leave eastern Aleppo. Last week, the U.N. acused Syrian government troops of shooting at least 82 civilians on sight, amid the fall of the city.


Electoral College Elects Donald Trump 45th President of United States

Dec 20, 2016

In the United States, protests broke out across the country as the 538 electors of the Electoral College met in their respective state capitals and voted to elect Donald Trump the 45th president of the United States. Trump scored 304 votes—well over the threshold of 270 votes necessary for him to become the next president. His Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, won 227 votes. This is Pennsylvania elector Tina Pickett.

Rep. Tina Pickett: “The basis of this is the people’s vote. The people voted, and they placed their vote, as they should and had a right to, on November the 8th. And that is the basis of the vote that we placed today, in my mind. I placed that vote for the people of Pennsylvania who voted in a certain way.”

On November 8, Trump won Pennsylvania by less than 1 percentage point. As the electors met inside, hundreds of protesters gathered outside state capitols across the country, including in Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine and Pennsylvania, where 12 immigrant rights activists were arrested during an anti-Trump rally as they demanded the closure of the Berks family detention center. In the lead-up to Monday’s meeting of the Electoral College, millions of people had called on the electors to refuse to vote for Donald Trump. There were 5 million signatures on one petition alone. But in the end, only two Republican electors, both from Texas, broke ranks and voted against Trump. In fact, more Democratic electors ended up voting against Hillary Clinton, instead casting three votes for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, one vote for Vermont senator and 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and one more vote for Yankton Sioux Nation leader Faith Spotted Eagle of South Dakota, who is part of the resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline.

Michelle Obama: “We’re Feeling What Not Having Hope Feels Like”

Dec 20, 2016

The official election of Donald Trump comes as an interview aired in which first lady Michelle Obama told Oprah Winfrey that she and her husband, President Barack Obama, now know what it’s like not to feel hope for the future.

Michelle Obama: “See, now we’re feeling what not having hope feels like, you know. Hope is necessary. It’s a necessary concept. And Barack didn’t just talk about hope because he thought it was just a nice slogan to get votes. I mean, he and I and so many believe that if you—what else do you have if you don’t have hope? What do you give your kids if you can’t give them hope?”

Over the weekend, as clips of the taped interview were published online, Donald Trump attacked first lady Michelle Obama, claiming that she “must have been talking about the past.”

Obama Grants Clemency to 231 Prisoners in Single Day

Dec 20, 2016

On Monday, President Obama granted clemency to 231 prisoners—the most individual acts of clemency granted in a single day by any president in U.S. history. Obama pardoned 78 people and shortened the sentence of 153 others convicted of federal crimes. Obama has now pardoned a total of 148 people during his presidency and has shortened the sentences of 1,176 people, including 395 serving life sentences, as part of a push to reduce the number of people serving long sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. But he still hasn’t offered clemency or pardons to some high-profile political prisoners, including Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning or Native American activist Leonard Peltier.


North Carolina Lawmakers Set to Repeal Anti-LGBT “Bathroom Bill”

Dec 20, 2016

In North Carolina, the Charlotte City Council voted unanimously Monday to rescind the anti-LGBT ordinance that prompted North Carolina’s House Bill 2, otherwise known as the “bathroom bill.” The law denies transgender people use of the bathroom, changing room or locker room that matches their gender identity. On Monday, North Carolina Governor-elect Democrat Roy Cooper said lawmakers will meet for a special session today to repeal HB 2, which he has called “one of the most discriminatory laws in the country.”

China Returns U.S. Navy Drone Seized in South China Sea

Dec 20, 2016

Chinese and U.S. officials say China has returned a U.S. Navy drone China seized in the South China Sea last week. The U.S. has called the seizure of the drone illegal. China has claimed territorial control over the South China Sea, one of the busiest trade routes in the world, while the U.S. has asserted the area should be considered international waters. After the drone was first seized, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted, “China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters-rips it out of the water and takes it to China in unpresidented [sic] act.” Trump later deleted the tweet, after realizing he had misspelled “unprecedented.” Trump also tweeted, “We should tell China that we don’t want the drone they stole back.- let them keep it!”


Zürich: Gunman Opens Fire at Islamic Center, Wounding 3

Dec 20, 2016

In Zürich, a gunman who wounded three people after opening fire during prayers at an Islamic center in Zürich has been found dead a short distance from the shooting. Swiss police say the gunman apparently committed suicide. The police have not identified the shooter. A worshiper who was a witness to the shooting says the three wounded victims were Somalis and that the Islamic center was frequently used as a mosque by Zürich’s Somali community.


IMF Head Christine Lagarde Convicted of Negligence

Dec 20, 2016

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has been convicted in absentia by a French court of “negligence by a person in position of public authority.” The case stems from a case in which she approved the misuse of hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds in 2008, while she was French finance minister. The French court did not sentence Lagarde to any punishment, and she will not have a criminal record.

Ban Ki-moon Warns South Sudan May Be Headed Toward Genocide

Dec 20, 2016

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on the U.N. Security Council to stop the flow of arms to South Sudan, warning of the possibility of genocide.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “The Security Council must take steps to stem the flow of arms to South Sudan, as well as send a clear warning that hate speech, incitement and violence must end and that there will be accountability for mass atrocities and other crimes. If we fail to act, South Sudan will be on a trajectory toward mass atrocities. Its people will be the target of those atrocities, while they pin their hopes on the international community, in general, and the Security Council.”

South Sudan is the world’s youngest country. The United States backed South Sudan’s independence in 2011 and the country’s president, Salva Kiir, whose troops are now accused of carrying out the majority of the crimes in the ongoing civil war.

New Orleans Settles High-Profile Police Brutality Cases for $13.3 Million

Dec 20, 2016

And back in the United States, in New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has announced the city has reached a $13.3 million settlement over three police brutality cases from the weeks before and after Hurricane Katrina. One of the cases involves the death of 40-year-old Ronald Madison, who was shot and killed on September 4, 2005, when a group of New Orleans police officers opened fire with AK-47s on families crossing the Danziger Bridge in search of food following Hurricane Katrina. Police later tried to cover up the case. Another case involved the death of 48-year-old Raymond Robair, who was beaten to death by a police officer one month before the hurricane. The families have been seeking justice in these cases for 11 years.

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