Top news stories for today – Dec 26, 2017
Guatemala is moving its embassy to Jerusalem
Guatemala’s president announced on Christmas Eve that the country will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, becoming the first nation to follow the lead of US in ordering the change. Guatemala was one of nine nations that voted with the United States and Israel on Thursday when the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a non-binding resolution denouncing Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Trump didn’t set any timetable for moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and neither did Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales. Guatemala and Israel have long had close ties, especially in security matters and Israeli arms sales to Guatemala. Czech Republic has said it is considering such a move. abc News
Trumps celebrate Christmas in Florida
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump celebrated Christmas at Trump’s private Palm Beach club, Mar-a-Lago, and released a video in which Melania Trump said they wished “America and the world a very Merry Christmas.” She said during the holiday season “we see the best of America” as people send packages to military personnel and help the needy.
“In this season of joy, we spend time with our families, we renew our bonds of love and goodwill between our citizens and, most importantly, we celebrate the miracle of Christmas,” the president said. Trump also claimed victory in the so-called war on Christmas, tweeting that he was “proud to have led the charge against the assault of our beautiful and cherished phrase, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!” The Associated Press, The Week
Peruvians protest pardon of ex-leader Fujimori
Protests erupted in Peru on Monday after President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned ailing former President Alberto Fujimori, who was serving 25 years in prison for human rights abuses and corruption. Thousands of demonstrators marched in the capital city of Lima, many carrying posters calling Fujimori a “murderer” and a “thief.” Police responded with tear gas.
Critics say Kuczynski pardoned Fujimori in exchange for abstentions by lawmakers in a party run by Fujimori’s children that allowed the president to survive an impeachment vote on Friday. The conservative party, Popular Force, controls Congress, and Keiko Fujimori — the former president’s daughter and Kuczynski’s rival in the 2016 presidential election — had pushed to impeach him over a scandal involving his financial ties to Brazilian construction behemoth Odebrecht. BBC News, The Associated Press, The Week
Russia bars opposition leader from election
Russian election officials have barred opposition activist Alexey Navalny from participating in next year’s presidential election against Vladimir Putin, citing his conviction on embezzlement charges, the state-run media outlet RIA-Novosti reported Monday. “Firstly, a citizen who has been sentenced to imprisonment for committing a grave or especially grave crime and who has an outstanding conviction for the said crime, has no right to be elected president of the Russian federation,” said Boris Ebzeev, a member of Russia’s Central Election Commission.
The decision did not come as a surprise, given a law preventing convicted criminals from running for office in Russia, but Navalny’s supporters have argued his candidacy should be permitted because they say his conviction was politically motivated. CNN
Pope calls for a solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Pope Francis on Monday called for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In his annual Christmas message, he said, “Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders.”
The plea came four days after more than 120 countries backed a United Nations resolution urging the US to reverse President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, angering Palestinians, who consider East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state. Reuters
Holiday sales rise at best pace in 6 years
Holiday retail sales rose at their best pace since 2011, thanks to strong consumer confidence and a healthy job market, Mastercard SpendingPulse reported. “It started with a bang in the week leading up to Black Friday,” said Sarah Quinlan, a senior vice president of marketing insights at Mastercard, which tracks spending online and in stores.
Retailers got help from the calendar, with shoppers getting a full weekend for last-minute buys because Christmas fell on a Monday. Sales, excluding automobiles, rose by 4.9 percent over the Nov. 1 to Christmas Eve season, up from a 3.7 percent gain last year. Online sales continued to be the driving force, increasing by 18.1 percent. MarketWatch
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