Top News Stories for Today – December 21, 2016
Obama bans offshore drilling
President Obama announced Tuesday he has indefinitely blocked offshore drilling along most of Alaska’s coast and from Norfolk, Virginia, to the Canadian border. Obama is rushing to protect his environmental policies before he leaves office in January, and he used an obscure provision of the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to enact the ban, saying it gave him the authority to act unilaterally, The New York Times reports.
Drilling is now banned in 115 million acres of federally owned Arctic waters, home to endangered species like polar bears, as well as 3.8 million acres along the Atlantic Coast, protecting coral canyons. At the same time on Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his own ban on drilling in Canadian Arctic waters. The New York Times, The Week
Berlin market truck attack
German investigators are searching for a Tunisian man whose identity document was found in the cab of the 18-wheeler that crashed into a Christmas market in Berlin on Monday, German media reported Wednesday. According to Der Spiegel, the temporary residency permit points to a man in his early 20s who goes by the name Anis A., born in the southern Tunisian city of Tataouine.
On Tuesday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed 12 people and injured 48, though it did not identify the purported ISIS-inspired assailant. Germany initially arrested a Pakistani asylum-seeker, but released him on Tuesday citing a lack of evidence tying him to the attack. Berlin police say they had gotten 508 tips on the attack by Tuesday night, and are examining DNA evidence gathered from the cab of the semi. BBC News, The Associated Press, The Week
Mexico’s deadly fireworks explosion
At least 27 people were killed and 70 others injured Tuesday after an initial blast triggered more explosions at the San Pablito fireworks market near Mexico City, federal police said. The head of emergency services in Tultepec told Reuters rescue workers are still combing through the site, and the death toll could rise.
Video footage showed dozens of fireworks exploding and a thick plume of smoke above the market. Several buildings have been destroyed. In September 2005, several people were injured at the market before independence day celebrations, when a similar explosion rocked the site. Reuters, The Week
Assassination of Russian Ambassador
Russia said Wednesday it is too early to draw conclusions about the shooter responsible for the assassination of the country’s ambassador to Turkey. An off-duty police officer shot Ambassador Andrei Karlov on Monday in Ankara. A witness told VOA the shooter shouted: “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria! As long as our lands aren’t safe, you will not be safe!”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told US Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone call that Turkey believes the killer is linked to Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the United States and has also been blamed for July’s failed coup in Turkey. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday there should be no rush to conclusions before a joint investigation of the assassination is complete. VOA
US China trade war loom
The possibility of a trade war between the United States and China loomed large over the horizon after the US electoral college confirmed Donald Trump’s presidency on Monday. China is expected to take a series of defensive and retaliatory measures to counter any US moves to restrict the role of Chinese goods and currency movements in the American economy, as Trump has promised to do.
“In the event of a trade war with the United States, China’s response would go well beyond tariff increases,” said Mark Williams, Chief Asia Economist for Capital Economics. “US companies would find their products and operations in China subject to tighter regulation that hampered their capacity to do business there.”
“US exports of cars and aircraft would be in the firing line,” he said. China might also subject US companies to tighter regulation that hampers their capacity to do business. Beijing may also encourage its exporters by offering tax rebates to overcome any reduction in export demand in the US, Williams said. VOA
US Police and racial disparity
Black men are nearly three times as likely to be killed by legal intervention than white men, according to the study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health on Tuesday. American Indians or Alaska Natives also are nearly three times as likely and Hispanic men are nearly twice as likely, the study suggests.
“It affirms that this disparity exists,” said Dr. James Buehler, clinical professor of health management and policy at Drexel University in Philadelphia, who authored the study. Buehler analyzed national vital statistics and census data on legal intervention-related deaths, from 2010 to 2014, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiological Research (WONDER) database system, which includes county-level death certificates. The data showed 2,285 legal intervention deaths for that time period. CNN
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