UN condemns Israeli settlements as Obama declines to veto
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — In a striking rupture with past practice, the United States allowed the U.N. Security Council on Friday to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a “flagrant violation” of international law. In doing so, the outgoing Obama administration brushed aside Donald Trump’s demands that the U.S. exercise its veto and provided a climax to years of icy relations with Israel’s leadership.
The decision to abstain from the council’s 14-0 vote is one of the biggest American rebukes of its longstanding ally in recent memory. And it could have significant ramifications for the Jewish state, potentially hindering Israel’s negotiating position in future peace talks. Given the world’s widespread opposition to settlements, the action will be almost impossible for anyone, including Trump, to reverse.
Nevertheless, Trump vowed via Twitter: “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.”
The resolution said Israel’s settlements in lands the Palestinians want to include in their future state have “no legal validity.” It demanded a halt to such activities for the sake of “salvaging the two-state solution.” Loud applause erupted in the council chamber after U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power permitted the resolution to pass.
Friday’s condemnation, a day after Egypt suddenly postponed a scheduled showdown, capped days of frantic diplomacy in capitals around the world.
Trump welcomes ‘nice’ letter from Putin after nuclear vow
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (AP) — After months of promising to engage more with Russia, President-elect Donald Trump vowed to enhance America’s nuclear capabilities, admonishing Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that he hopes both global powers can restore collaboration so that “we do not have to travel an alternate path.”
Trump passed along a “very nice letter” that his transition team said was sent to him by Putin urging Trump to act “in a constructive and pragmatic manner” to “restore the framework of bilateral cooperation.”
The letter, dated Dec. 15, also notes that serious global and regional challenges “show that the relations between Russia and the U.S. remain an important factor in ensuring stability and security in the modern world.”
In response, Trump said that Putin’s “thoughts are so correct,” and that he hopes “both sides are able to live up to these thoughts, and we do not have to travel an alternate path.”
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Putin sent the letter, “voicing hope for an improvement of bilateral ties,” according to the Interfax news agency. Trump’s transition team described the text as an unofficial translation.
Berlin attack suspect slain in shootout with Italian police
MILAN (AP) — A routine request for ID papers outside a deserted train station in a Milan suburb at 3 a.m. Friday led to a police shootout that killed the Tunisian fugitive wanted in the deadly Christmas market attack in Berlin.
While authorities expressed relief that the search for Anis Amri was over, his four-day run raised fresh questions about whether he had any accomplices and how Europe can stop extremists from moving freely across its open borders, even amid an intense manhunt.
Italian police said Amri traveled from Germany through France and into Italy after Monday night’s truck rampage in Berlin, and at least some of his journey was by rail. French officials refused to comment on his passage through France, which has increased surveillance on trains after recent attacks in France and Germany.
Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni called for greater cross-border police cooperation, suggesting some dismay that Europe’s open frontier policy had enabled Amri to move around easily despite being its No. 1 fugitive.
Amri, whose fingerprints and wallet were found in the truck that plowed into Christmas market outside Berlin’s Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, killing 12 people and injuring 56 others, was caught seemingly by chance after eluding police for more than three days.
Assad won back Aleppo, but immense challenges lie ahead
BEIRUT (AP) — Hundreds of people returned to eastern Aleppo neighborhoods on Friday to check on their homes after the last opposition fighters left the city, picking through debris and wreckage for personal belongings blasted by years of fighting.
In a sign of the immense challenges that still lie ahead for President Bashar Assad, rebels outside the city shelled a neighborhood in the city, killing three people in the first bombardment since government forces took full control of Syria’s largest city a day earlier, state TV reported.
The rebel surrender in Aleppo ended a brutal chapter in Syria’s nearly six-year civil war, and marked Assad’s most significant victory since an uprising against his family’s four-decade rule began in 2011. But large parts of the war-ravaged country remain outside his control, including rural areas in Aleppo province south and west of the city where opposition fighters still operate.
Assad has said that the most important priority after securing Aleppo will be fortifying the countryside around it before moving on to other strongholds outside his control, including the nearby province of Idlib, west of Aleppo, and the city of Raqqa controlled by the Islamic State group in eastern Syria.
Syrian TV said Friday’s rockets which hit the southwestern neighborhood of Hamadaniyeh were fired by insurgents based southwest of Aleppo.
Carrie Fisher remains in intensive care unit, brother says
LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Star Wars” actress Carrie Fisher is receiving treatment in an intensive care unit after suffering a medical emergency on a flight Friday, according to her brother.
Todd Fisher said Friday night that his sister is receiving excellent care, but that he could not classify her condition. He had earlier told The Associated Press that she had been stabilized and was out of the emergency room. In a subsequent interview he said many details about her condition or what caused the medical emergency are unknown.
Carrie Fisher, 60, experienced medical trouble during a flight from London and was treated by paramedics immediately after the plane landed in Los Angeles, according to reports citing unnamed sources.
Celebrity website TMZ, which first reported the incident, said anonymous sources told them the actress suffered a heart attack.
Todd Fisher said much of what had been reported about the incident was speculation.
More states consider working around the Electoral College
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Frustrated after seeing another candidate secure the presidency without winning the national popular vote, mostly Democratic lawmakers in several capitols want their states to join a 10-year-old movement to work around the Electoral College.
In states including Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Mexico, legislators have said they plan to introduce legislation that would require their state’s Electoral College voters cast ballots for the presidential candidate who earns the most votes nationwide, regardless of the statewide results.
“Every vote in this country should have equal weight. The Electoral College is a relic of a bygone era, and we need to change this system,” said Connecticut state Sen. Mae Flexer, who filed a bill with several fellow Democrats requiring Connecticut to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
Since 2006, 11 states have signed onto the compact, which require their Electoral College voters to cast ballots for the national popular vote winner. In theory it would take effect once it involves states representing at least 270 electoral votes, the threshold to win the presidency.
When people vote for president, they are really choosing the electors from the political parties. The college is made up of 538 electors, which corresponds to the number of a state’s seats in the U.S. Senate and House, plus the three votes allotted to Washington, D.C.
US warns of possible attacks on churches, holiday gatherings
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal authorities warned law enforcement authorities across the nation Friday that Islamic State sympathizers are continuing to call for attacks on churches and other holiday gathering sites.
The warning was issued after a publicly available list of U.S. churches was posted on a militants’ social media site. It also came just days after Monday’s attack at a Christmas market in Berlin that left 12 dead and 56 injured.
Separately on Friday, police in Australia detained five men suspected of planning a series of Christmas Day attacks using explosives, knives and a gun in the heart of Melbourne.
FBI spokesman Andrew Ames said U.S. citizens are advised to maintain awareness of their surroundings and report suspicious activity. He said the FBI will work closely with federal, state and local law enforcement should there be any potential threat to public safety.
“The FBI is aware of the recent link published online that urges attacks against U.S. churches,” Ames said. “As with similar threats, the FBI is tracking this matter while we investigate its credibility.”
Affidavit: Road-rage killing suspect said car was too close
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Little Rock man who fired his gun into a car, striking and killing a 3-year-old boy, did so because he thought the driver of that vehicle was following him too closely, police said in an affidavit released Friday following the suspect’s arrest.
Gary Eugene Holmes, 33, turned himself in at police headquarters Thursday night, Little Rock police said in a statement Friday. Holmes was being held in the Pulaski County jail on preliminary charges of capital murder and committing a terroristic act in the shooting death last week of Acen (AY’-sin) King.
Holmes pleaded not guilty to the preliminary charges and was ordered jailed without bond after a brief video arraignment Friday morning. Court records do not list an attorney who can speak on his behalf.
Police said Acen was on a shopping trip with his grandmother Dec. 17 when he was struck by gunfire. The boy’s grandmother, Kim King-Macon, told authorities that she had stopped at a stop sign in the pouring rain when a man honked his horn, then got out of his car and fired a gun.
King-Macon said she did not realize her grandson had been shot until she arrived at the shopping center, about 10 miles away, and saw Acen slumped over in his seat. In 911 recordings released by police, a woman can be heard screaming, “Acen has been shot! Oh my God!”
Kardashian-Chyna reality show continues on social media
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The night before the “Rob & Chyna” baby special premiered on E!, Rob Kardashian announced to his 8.2 million Instagram followers that his fiance and mother of their month-old daughter had abruptly left him and taken the baby with her.
A few days later, Kardashian replaced those posts with various images of holiday-themed socks from his company. He explained in another entry that he’d been “in an emotional bad place and did some things that embarrassed myself and my family” in the days before. He apologized to fiancee Blac Chyna, said he is “seeking help” for his “flaws/issues” and asked his fans to “please pray for me.”
The drama continues to unfold across multiple media platforms. The couple’s reality show has been renewed for a second season, and according to Kardashian family tradition, social media is where future plot points are born.
The Kardashians are the reality-TV experts of cross-platform storytelling, said Katie Walsh, a doctoral student at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, who presented her studies on reality TV and fan culture at last year’s Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference in Montreal.
“Rob and Chyna have a TV show, and you can continue watching it on social media,” she said. “The other aspect of social media that makes it so important is that it’s participatory… Everybody has access to Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and then you can actually participate in the story line of the show by making comments on their Instagram.”
APNewsBreak: Rise in MLB average salary lowest since 2004
NEW YORK (AP) — The rise in Major League Baseball’s average salary slowed this year as more players got hurt and wound up on the disabled list, leaving the increase at just under $14,000.
This season’s final average was $3,966,020, the Major League Baseball Players Association said Friday in its annual report, up just 0.35 percent from last year’s $3,952,252. That is the lowest rate of increase since a 2.5 percent drop in 2004.
The commissioner’s office has the Aug. 31 average at $3,825,967, down from $3,835,498 in 2015. The union includes a pro-rated share of option buyouts that may be earned if the option is declined, while MLB does not take those into account in its average.
MLB said total salaries increased from $3.58 billion last year to $3.69 billion for those on Aug. 31 rosters and disabled lists.
There were 964 players on active rosters and DLs on Aug. 31, the last day before the player limit expanded from 25 per team to 40. That is up from 933 last year, and most of the additional players have relatively little major league service time and earn close to the minimum, which was $507,500 this year.