Top News Stories for Today – December 14, 2016
Situation in Aleppo, Syria
The UN and Red Cross have appealed for civilians to be protected, as fighting in Syria’s Aleppo nears its end. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said people had “literally nowhere safe to run”. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voiced alarm “over reports of atrocities against a large number of civilians”.
Thousands of people are trapped in just a handful of rebel-held districts, which are facing intense bombardment as government troops advance. It is hard to know exactly how many people are trapped in the besieged areas, although one US official with knowledge of efforts to secure safe passage for people in the city told the BBC that there were around 50,000 people. Some residents have sent out messages saying they are crowded into abandoned apartments and rainy streets, unable to take shelter from the bombing, the New York Times reports. BBC
Trump picks ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state
Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, however, have expressed concerns about the oil executive’s close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggesting Tillerson could face a tough fight for confirmation. It would only take a few GOP defectors to block the nomination in the Senate if Democrats unite in opposition. The Associated Press, Reuters, The Week
GOPs support investigation into Russian hacking
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the top two Republicans in Congress, said on Monday that they support investigations into suspicions that Russia tried to influence the November presidential election.
McConnell announced that a Senate intelligence panel will look into the alleged interference. The CIA has concluded that Russia used hackers in an attempt to help President-elect Donald Trump in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump has mocked the findings as “ridiculous,” signaling possible looming conflicts with Congress over the inquiries. The Washington Post, The New York Times
Malaysia crowns new youthful King
Malaysia’s new king, a 47-year-old state sultan, ascended the throne Tuesday, becoming one of the youngest constitutional monarch in the Southeast Asian nation’s history. Sultan Muhammad V took his oath of office in a nationally televised ceremony attended by hundreds of dignitaries at a cavernous hall in Malaysia’s federal palace.
Under a unique system maintained since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957, nine hereditary state rulers take turns as the country’s king for five-year terms. The monarch’s role is largely ceremonial, since administrative power is vested in the prime minister and Parliament. But he is highly regarded, particularly among the ethnic Malay Muslim majority, as the supreme upholder of Malay tradition and symbolic head of Islam. VOA
35,000 children have fled Mosul
The UN children’s agency said Tuesday that about 35,000 children have fled from Mosul since Iraqi forces and a US-led coalition launched a massive operation in mid-October to retake the city from the Islamic State group.
Iraqi special forces meanwhile pushed deeper into the city’s eastern part, retaking the Falah neighboring late Monday, said Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi. Fighting raged as a haze of fog and smoke hovered over the city, which was rocked by tank fire and airstrikes.
The children are among some 93,500 people who have fled since the operation began, while hundreds of thousands have remained in their homes. Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city and the extremist group’s last major urban stronghold in the country. VOA
CIA believes Russia helped Trump win
US President Barack Obama has ordered the intelligence community to conduct a full review of “hacking-related activity aimed at disrupting the 2016 US presidential election.” After his announcement Friday, two leading US newspapers — The New York Times and The Washington Post — reported Russia intervened in the recent US presidential election to help Donald Trump win.
The Times reported Russians hacked the computers of both the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee, but only released damaging material from the DNC. The Democrats were plagued with leaked DNC emails as the presidential election drew near. The Times says intelligence agencies “have concluded that the Russians gave the Democrats’ documents to WikiLeaks.” VOA
China seriously concern Trump’s Taiwan comments
China said Monday it has “serious concern” about comments by US President-elect Donald Trump questioning whether the United States should continue its “one China” policy unless the Chinese government offers trade concessions. In the 1979 US-China Joint Communique, the US recognized Beijing as the sole legal government of China, acknowledging the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the policy, which acknowledges Taiwan is part of China, is the foundation of US-China relations and urged the Trump administration to “understand the seriousness” of the issue. The state-controlled Global Times further said Trump is “naive” to think he can use Taiwan policy for leverage in economic negotiations and that he “needs to learn to handle foreign affairs modestly.”
It also suggested that if Trump supports Taiwan independence or weapons sales then China “would have no grounds to partner with Washington on international affairs” and could offer military and other support to US opponents. VOA
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