Top News Stories for Today – December 2, 2016
Trump names James Mattis for secretary of defense
Trump choses retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to be his secretary of defense, he confirmed during a rally Thursday in Ohio. Mattis is respected in the field and has a reputation for strong, aggressive thinking, and like Trump favors a more adversarial stance against potential enemies abroad.
Mattis retired in early 2013 after serving for more than four decades; because he left active military service less than seven years ago, Congress will need to grant Mattis an exception to a federal law that requires defense secretaries be more than seven years removed from active duty. Trump said an official announcement will be made on Monday. The Washington Post
US unemployment rate drops to 4.6%
The US economy added 178,000 jobs in November, the Labor Department reported Friday, and the unemployment rate fell sharply to 4.6% from 4.9% in October. It’s the lowest rate since August 2007. Unemployment has been at or below 5% for nearly a year as more people have returned to the job market and hiring has maintained momentum.
November was the 74th consecutive month America added jobs. The economy is near “full employment.” Wages rose 2.5% in November from a year ago, though that marked a slight slowdown from October. It’s the first major sign of the economy’s health since the surprise victory of President-elect Donald Trump. CNN
Francois Hollande won’t seek second term
French President Francois Hollande announced Thursday he will not seek re-election, the first time since 1958, when France’s fifth republic was created, that an incumbent president has not sought a second term. French voters will head to the polls to vote in spring 2017, and Hollande’s Socialist Party now needs to find a candidate to go up against Francois Fillon of the center-right Republican Party and Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front.
Hollande is suffering from low popularity numbers, and his presidency has been plagued by major acts of terror, including the November 2015 attacks across Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. Hollande said his achievements include fighting against discrimination, strengthening women’s rights, and opening marriage to everyone, and he warned France against the far-right’s call to “retreat, to exit Europe and the world.” CNN
Thai crown prince takes throne as King Rama X
On Thursday, 50 days after Thai King Bhumibol died, his only son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, accepted the throne in a televised ceremony. Officially King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, he will be known as King Rama X of the Chakri dynasty.
The new king, 64, will not have his coronation until after King Bhumibol is cremated, at least a year after his death on Oct. 13. Vajiralongkorn had requested the delay in accepting the crown so he could mourn along with the Thai people, but on Thursday, the accession was made retroactive. King Bhumibol, who ruled for seven decades, was a widely revered and unifying figure for his politically fractured nation. Due to strict royal privacy laws, the Thai people don’t know much about their new king or how he will rule. BBC News, The New York Times, The Week
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is stepping down
Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz will leave his post as the company’s chief executive, the company said Thursday. Schultz will become the company’s executive chairman, and current President and COO Kevin Johnson will become Starbucks’ next CEO. The changes will take place on April 3, 2017 the company said.
Schultz first joined Starbucks in 1982 as director of operations and marketing when the company only had four stores, according to Starbucks. Johnson, who has been the company’s president and chief operating officer, joined Starbucks in 2015, according to his company biography. He has served on the company’s board of directors since 2009. Johnson previously served as CEO of Juniper Networks and was the president of the platforms division at Microsoft. NBC News
Indonesian Muslims protest Christian Governor
Indonesian President Joko Widodo made a surprise visit at a rally Friday in the capital where more than 200,000 protesters had gathered in a park to demand the arrest of Jakarta’s governor. He joined the white-robed crowd for prayers and urged the protesters to leave the demonstration peacefully. Officials said more than 20,000 security forces were deployed to insure the demonstration against Basuki Tjahaja Purnam did not become violent.
Basuki, a Christian who is known as Ahok, is seeking re-election as Jakarta’s governor in February. He is being prosecuted for blasphemy. The charges stem from a comment he made on the campaign trail earlier this year when he dismissed his political opponents who had cited a verse in the Quran that warns against Muslims supporting non-believers.
Ahok has since apologized and said he never intended to cause offense, but it has done little to placate many Muslims who are enraged that a majority Muslim city is administered by a Christian. Critics say the central government, led by the president, has not done enough to face down radical Muslims groups and that hatred and bigotry have been allowed to grow. Ahok is Jakarta’s first Christian governor in half a century. He is also the first ethnic Chinese to hold the governor’s post. VOA
Israel shuts charcoal factories for clean air
For years, residents of central Israel have been complaining about air pollution from Palestinian factories in the nearby West Bank. Now that authorities have finally cracked down, shutting a group of the worst offending charcoal plants in one notorious town, Palestinians complain that hundreds were thrown out of work by their military occupiers.
The story of the northern West Bank town of Yabed, and its now-idle collection of charcoal plants, illustrates how for Israelis and Palestinians, politics seems to permeate the most basic elements of daily life, whether it be education, construction or sports. The environment is no exception.
In Israel, factories face close environmental oversight, but in the semi-autonomous West Bank it’s far trickier. For instance, the home of the Palestinian charcoal industry in Yabed is in an area that falls under Palestinian civil authority, but where Israel retains security control, as in most of the West Bank’s area. VOA
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