US expels Russian diplomats
Obama Thursday hit Russia with several retaliatory measures, imposing sanctions on two intelligence agencies, expelling 35 diplomats and closing two Russian compounds inside the United States. Obama called his actions “a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm US interests in violation of established international norms of behavior.” US President-elect Donald Trump, who had scoffed at allegations of Russian interference in the election, said Thursday he would meet with intelligence leaders next week for a briefing on the situation.
Obama’s action coincided with the release Thursday of a 13-page joint analysis by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security that blamed Russia’s intelligence agencies for hacks intended to influence the 2016 election and provided technical details, including samples of malicious computer code said to have been used in their cyber hacking campaign. VOA
UK criticizes US on Israel comment
Downing Street has criticized US Secretary of State John Kerry for calling the Netanyahu government the “most right-wing in Israel’s history”. It was “not appropriate” to attack the composition of the democratically-elected government of an ally, PM Theresa May’s spokesman said. But a senior Tory MP has expressed concerns at No 10’s intervention.
Crispin Blunt said US analysis was correct and on its current path Israel could not stay “democratic and Jewish”. The dispute follows a US decision not to veto a UN Security Council motion criticizing Israel’s policy of building settlements on land occupied since 1967. The UK voted for the resolution, and Mrs May’s spokesman agreed with Mr Kerry that “the only way to a lasting peace in the Middle East is through a two-state solution”. But he said that the settlements were “far from the only problem”. BBC
Body believed to be Greek Ambassador found
Brazilian police say they have discovered a charred vehicle containing a body they think may be the Greek ambassador Kyriakos Amiridis who went missing three days ago. The Globo television channel reported that the license plate on the car matched that of Amiridis’ vehicle.
Police said in a statement Thursday that Kyriakos Amiridis was last seen Monday night in Nova Iguacu. Greek embassy officials would not confirm that Amiridis was missing and said only that he was vacationing in the area and was expected to return to work January 9. According to Brazilian media, the ambassador’s wife reported him missing after he left their holiday apartment in Nova Iguacu and failed to return or to get in touch. VOA
Philippine’s economic growth leads SE Asia
The Philippine economy likely grew faster than any other in Southeast Asia this year, aided by stronger diplomacy with China and Japan and increased spending on infrastructure and the call-center industry.
The total value of goods and services in the Philippines climbed 6.7 percent in 2016, according to government estimates. Third-quarter values of 7.1 percent surpassed comparable figures for all of Asia. The International Monetary Fund estimates the Philippine economy to be worth $311 billion.
Philippine presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella cited achievements in foreign partnerships as a reason for the rise in economic growth. Since taking office in June, President Rodrigo Duterte has formed new ties with China and bolstered relations with already keen investor Japan. VOA
Serena Williams engaged
Tennis great Serena Williams and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian are engaged. A spokesperson for Ohanian confirmed that he popped the question while the two were vacationing in Rome. Williams first announced the news herself in a Reddit post on its “r/isaidyes” forum.
Ohanian also announced the engagement on his Facebook page, linking to Williams’ Reddit post and adding, “She said yes.” Williams and Ohanian, who have been dating since the fall of 2015, have mostly kept their romance out of the spotlight, though she does post pictures of them on her Instagram account from time to time. CNN
Taiwan President to visit US
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will travel through Houston and San Francisco during her January visit to allies in Latin America, her office said Friday, a move bound to anger China, which a day earlier urged the US to block any stopover.
Tsai’s office declined to comment on whether she would be meeting members of US President-elect Donald Trump’s team, but the US mission in Taiwan, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), said the visit would be “private and unofficial.”
Trump angered China when he spoke to Tsai this month in a break with decades of precedent and cast doubt on his incoming administration’s commitment to Beijing’s “one China” policy. VOA
Obama was most admired man in 2016
According to Gallup poll, Americans are most likely to name President Barack Obama as the man they admire most in 2016. Twenty-two percent mentioned Obama in response to the open-ended question. President-elect Donald Trump was second at 15%. It is Obama’s ninth consecutive win, but the seven-percentage-point margin this year is his narrowest victory yet.
The results are based on a Dec. 7-11 poll. Since 1946, Gallup has asked Americans to name the man, living anywhere in the world, whom they admire most. Obama’s win over Trump this year is largely a result of the president earning more mentions among Democrats than Trump receives from Republicans. Fifty percent of Democrats named Obama as most admired, compared with 34% of Republicans choosing Trump. Gallup
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