Top News Stories for Today – December 26, 2016
George Michael dies at 53
British pop singer George Michael, who rocketed to stardom with the duo Wham! in the ’80s, died at his home in England on Christmas Day. He was 53. His publicist said Michael, born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, “passed away peacefully.”
Police did not immediately reveal how Michael died, saying his death was unexplained but not suspicious. Michael was best known for early hits such as “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” which hit No. 1 on both sides of the Atlantic, but he also had a successful solo career with hits such as the 1987 album Faith. He reportedly was working on a new album with producer and songwriter Naughty Boy. BBC News, The Associated Press, The Week
Netanyahu summons US ambassador
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel B. Shapiro, to a meeting on Sunday to discuss America’s decision not to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in Palestinian areas.
The U.S. traditionally vetoes such resolutions critical of Israel, but this time it abstained, allowing the resolution to pass by a 14-0 vote. Netanyahu also called for meetings with envoys from New Zealand and Senegal, which voted in favor of the resolution. Netanyahu blamed President Obama for the passage of the measure, which said Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem constituted a “flagrant violation under international law” and served as an obstacle to peace. The Washington Post
Christmas violence in Chicago
At least 27 people were shot over Christmas weekend in Chicago. Nearly all of the victims were men under the age of 30. At least seven died from their injuries. Due in major part to a rise in gang violence, Chicago has had more than 700 homicides this year for the first time in nearly two decades, with 745 recorded so far.
Last year at the same time, only 476 homicides had been recorded. President-elect Donald Trump has blamed poor leadership for the violence in Chicago, telling Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly earlier this year that a top police officer assured him he could stop the shootings “in one week.” The New York Times, CBS News
Japan, US to sign US Base worker immunity pact
Japan and the U.S. have agreed in principle on guidelines for limiting immunity from Japanese prosecution for civilian workers at American military bases, following a murder case this year on a southern Japanese island involving a Marine-turned-contractor, officials said Monday. Since July, the governments have been negotiating several points concerning U.S. civilian contractors at American bases who are subject to protection under the countries’ Status of Forces Agreement.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told a regular news conference that the two sides have agreed on how to define what constitutes a “civilian contractor” at an American base and hope to sign the agreement “during President Barack Obama’s term.” He did not give further details. The May arrest of the base contractor, accused of raping and murdering a 20-year-old woman, renewed outrage on Okinawa, where resentment has been simmering over the island’s heavy U.S. troop presence. VOA
Trump has a chance to reshape Federal Courts
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump can begin to significantly reshape the federal judiciary when he takes office due to a large number of vacancies in the federal courts. There are currently 104 vacancies, including a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court that was vacated by the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia, according to the federal judiciary. There are also 38 judicial emergencies, courtrooms where there are not enough judges to hear cases that are increasing in number.
By contrast, there were 54 federal judicial vacancies when President Barack Obama entered the White House eight years ago. VOA
Nuclear war threatened over fake news
A fake news story led to threats of nuclear war between Pakistan and Israel on Christmas Eve. In an article published by AWDNews on Tuesday December 20, former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon was quoted as threatening to destroy Pakistan if it sent troops into Syria. “We will destroy them with a nuclear attack,” the article quoted Yaalon as saying. There is no evidence Yaalon ever said those words.
Pakistan Defense Minister Khawaja Asif responded to the fake news article on his official Twitter as if it were real. He warned Israel that it was not the only nuclear power. “Israeli (defense minister) threatens nuclear retaliation presuming (Pakistan) role in Syria against Daesh. Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear State too,” Asif wrote late on December 23.
Less than a day later, the Israeli Ministry of Defense responded on Twitter, notifying Asif the Yaalon statement quoted in AWDNews was completely false. Asif tweeted again, late on Christmas night, saying their nuclear program was only a “deterrence to protect our freedom.” “We desire to coexist in peace, both in our region and beyond,” he said. CNN
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