Top News Stories for Today – December 15, 2016
Putin personally involved in election hack
Senior US. intelligence officials told NBC News Wednesday they have a “high level of confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed how material hacked from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used.
The intelligence came from spies working for US. allies and diplomatic sources, the officials said. In 2011, Hillary Clinton cast doubts on the integrity of Russia’s parliamentary elections, and this began as a “vendetta” against her, a high-level intelligence official told NBC News. The effort then morphed into an attempt to highlight corruption in American politics and “split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn’t depend on the US. to be a credible global leader anymore.” The CIA has since assessed the Russian government wanted Donald Trump to get elected. NBC News, The Week
Republican Senator Graham accuses Russia of hacking his email
Senior US Republican senator Lindsey Graham has said his campaign email account was hacked by Russians. Sen Graham also told CNN that he believed “the Russians” hacked into the Democratic National Committee, and accused them of trying to “destabilise democracy all over the world”. Officials in Russia have repeatedly denied hacking accusations.
Trump rejected a CIA report that Russian hackers tried to sway the election in his favour. In a separate development, NBC News reported that US intelligence officials now believe with “a high level of confidence” that Putin became personally involved in a covert Russian campaign to interfere US election.
Mr Putin is said to have been furious when Mrs Clinton, as secretary of state, questioned the integrity of 2011 parliamentary elections in Russia. He publicly accused her of encouraging street protests. BBC
Evacuation from eastern Aleppo is underway
On Thursday, Red Cross/Red Crescent ambulances and green city buses began evacuating Syrian opposition forces and civilians from eastern Aleppo, as agreed upon in a ceasefire agreement negotiated earlier this week. The rebels had previously surrendered Tuesday under a deal allowing them to evacuate the war-ravaged city, but the evacuations were delayed Wednesday due to reports of shelling.
Civilians were also set to be evacuated under Tuesday’s deal. There were some early reports of Syrian government forces or allied militias firing on departing ambulances and wounding at least three people. The reclaiming of Syria’s second largest city would be a major battlefield victory for Bashar al-Assad‘s forces in the country’s five-year civil war, though human rights groups have condemned the massive casualties — particularly among civilians — in Aleppo. Reuters, The Associated Press, The Week
Trump met top tech leaders
President-elect Donald Trump met with the nation’s top technology executives Wednesday for a discussion focused on jobs. In addition to Trump’s three adult children — Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka — the guest list for the meeting at Trump Tower in New York City included Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, Tesla’s Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Larry Page and Eric E. Schmidt of Google parent Alphabet, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
At the end of the meeting, Trump thanked the attendees and joked that “right now, everybody in this room has to like me.” Trump added that his administration would “be there for” the tech giants. “You’ll call my people, you’ll call me — it doesn’t make any difference, we have no formal chain of command around here.” NBC News
Putin arrives in Japan to discuss territorial dispute
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Japan Thursday for a summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. They will seek progress on a territorial row that has blocked a peace treaty formally ending World War II. The two sides are likely to clinch agreements on economic cooperation in areas from medical technology to energy. But both have sought to dampen expectations of a breakthrough in the feud over the windswept islands in the western Pacific seized by Soviet forces at the end of the war, forcing some 17,000 Japanese residents to flee.
Putin, who arrived nearly three hours behind schedule and Abe will meet Thursday at a mountainside inn at the hot spring resort of Nagato in Abe’s home constituency in southwest Japan, and again in Tokyo Friday. Police wearing riot gear dotted the streets in Nagato. One banner, showing a drawing of Putin and Abe shaking hands, welcomed their meeting as “A new start, from Nagato.” VOA
After 6 months, Duterte opinion rating high
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte retained a “very good” opinion-poll rating after six months in office marked by surging deaths in his war on drugs, but many worry that his tirades against some foreign leaders could dent the country’s image. Duterte registered a net satisfaction rating of 63 percent, just lower than the 64 percent he got in September, the Social Weather Stations agency said in a statement Thursday.
Duterte’s war on drugs, the key plank of his campaign for a May election, has claimed about 5,000 lives since July 1. In the same survey, 51 percent of respondents agreed that the president’s habit of foul-mouthed attacks on foreign leaders who anger him could be harmful for foreign relations. VOA
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