Top News Stories for Today – December 15, 2016
US blasts Russia and Syria in UN
At an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday night, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, offered a stinging indictment of “the Assad regime, Russia, and Iran” for the “atrocities” in eastern Aleppo. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had started the meeting by saying he’s heard”credible reports” of Syrian government forces and allies slaughtering civilians in eastern Aleppo as they push rebel forces from the city.
“Aleppo will join the ranks of those events in world history that define modern evil, that stain our conscience decades later,” Power said, asking: “Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there literally nothing that can shame you? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin, that just creeps you out a little bit?” Russia’s ambassador said that Power was acting like “Mother Teresa” when the United States has its own troublesome track record. The Associated Press, US State Department
Bombing resumes in eastern Aleppo
The evacuation of rebels and civilians from eastern Aleppo was delayed on Wednesday, with an opposition group saying the agreement might not kick in until Thursday, if at all. Despite a ceasefire brokered by Turkey and Russia on Tuesday, with Russia agreeing to stop bombing Aleppo and the rebels promising to withdraw from the city, Syrian activists and outside monitoring groups say the shelling of the remaining opposition-held pockets resumed late Wednesday morning. Reuters, The Associated Press
By dawn Wednesday, there were buses idling at a designated area, but it was not clear when they would start driving into the rebel-held districts, and the opposition says Iranian Shi’ite militias aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are behind the delay. The UN said it has received reports Syrian soldiers and their allies shot and killed 82 civilians on Tuesday as they tried to leave eastern Aleppo. Witnesses who remain in the eastern part of the city say they are fearful of arrest, conscription, or summary execution, and outside, the streets are strewn with dead bodies. Reuters, The Associated Press
Trump picks Rick Perry to lead Energy Department
Donald Trump on Wednesday formally announced Rick Perry, a former Texas governor and Trump’s one-time presidential rival, as his choice to lead the US Department of Energy. If the nomination is confirmed by the US Senate, the move would put Perry in charge of a federal department that he had proposed eliminating during his bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. In a statement from Trump’s transition team, the president-elect cited Perry’s tenure leading Texas, a leading oil-producing state and the nation’s second-most-populous one, from 2000 until 2015.
“Rick Perry created … a business climate that produced millions of new jobs and lower energy prices in his state, and he will bring that same approach to our entire country as secretary of energy,” Trump said in the statement. Perry, who ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 2012 and 2016, in the statement welcomed the planned nomination to serve under Trump, who takes office Jan. 20. Reuters
Duterte admits personally killing drug dealers
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he personally killed suspected drug traffickers during his two-decade tenure as mayor of the southern city of Davao. Duterte made the admission Monday during a speech before a group of businessmen, boasting that he would ride around Davao on his motorcycle and “just patrol the streets… looking for a confrontation so I could kill.”
The president said he would kill drug suspects just to show police “that if I can do it, why can’t you?” Duterte’s shocking admission came amid defense of his all-out crackdown on suspected drug dealers since taking office in June.
Nearly 6,000 people have been killed by police and vigilante squads during that time, drawing criticism from human rights groups, the United Nations and US President Barack Obama. Duterte vowed to ignore the criticism and continue with the crackdown, and even dared his opponents to remove him from office. VOA
China warns Trump on One China
Beijing has warned the incoming US administration that any attempt to challenge the “One China” policy could impact on peace in the Taiwan Strait. Interference may also damage developing US-China relations, a spokesman said. Under the “One China” policy, the US has formal ties with China rather than the island of Taiwan, which China sees as a breakaway province. However, US President-elect Donald Trump has expressed doubts about continuing to abide by the policy.
An Fengshan, a spokesman for China’s policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office, said “Upholding the “One China” principle is the political basis of developing China-US relations, and is the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”. “If this basis is interfered with or damaged then the healthy, stable development of China-US relations is out of the question, and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait will be seriously impacted,” he added. Mr An’s comments came as Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command, vowed the US will keep challenging Beijing’s “assertive, aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea”. BBC
Arctic heating up at twice as fast as rest of globe
The Arctic is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world — triggering a “massive decline in sea ice and snow,” according to a new federal report. On Tuesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its 11th annual Arctic Report Card, which compiles data from 61 scientists in 11 countries.
“Rarely have we seen the Arctic show a clearer, stronger or more pronounced signal of persistent warming and its cascading effects on the environment than this year,” Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA’s Arctic Research Program, said in a statement. CNN
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