10 things you need to know today: December 12, 2016

China warns Trump over Taiwan comments, McCain and Graham back calls to investigate Russian election meddling, and more

A Chinese newspaper features Donald Trump
(Image credit: GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

1. Beijing warns Trump against changing 'one China' policy

China on Monday said it had "serious concern" about President-elect Donald Trump's most recent comments about Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province. Since 1979, the U.S. has recognized mainland China and maintained only unofficial relations with the island of Taiwan. Trump recently broke with tradition by accepting a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan's leader, and on Sunday he said he didn't feel "bound by a one China policy." Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry, said any change could make diplomatic cooperation between China and the U.S. "out of the question." "We urge the new U.S. leader and government to fully understand the seriousness of the Taiwan issue," Geng said, "and to continue to stick to the one China policy."

The Associated Press

2. McCain and Graham join calls to investigate Russian election interference

Two leading Republican senators, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, on Sunday joined incoming Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Armed Services ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) in a call for an in-depth investigation of possible Russian interference in last month's president election. "This cannot become a partisan issue," the four senators said in a joint statement. "The stakes are too high for our country." President-elect Donald Trump reiterated his rejection of the CIA's conclusion that Russia had tried to help him win, saying Democrats were making up the link because they were embarrassed about losing to him. "I think it's ridiculous," he said on Fox News Sunday. "I think it's just another excuse."

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The Washington Post The New York Times

3. Defense secretary makes surprise visit in Iraq

Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Sunday made a surprise visit to U.S. service members at an airfield near Mosul, the Iraqi city where American advisers are aiding Iraqi troops trying to drive out the Islamic State. Hundreds of Americans are based at the airfield, Q West, which serves as Iraq's command center for the forces trying to take back Mosul from ISIS. Carter said he was visiting to thank everyone participating in the offensive against the terrorist group in and around Mosul. He also plans to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani to discuss plans to continue the fight.


4. ISIS retakes ancient Syrian city of Palmyra

Islamic State fighters reclaimed control of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra from government forces on Sunday. The victory offset a series of battlefield defeats over the last year for the Islamist extremist group. It came as Syrian government forces and their Russian allies focus on driving rebels out of divided, war-ravaged Aleppo, Syria's second largest city. Palmyra has some strategic significance, as it sits in central Syria, but it also has great symbolic value because of its 2,000-year-old ruins, which ISIS devastated when it previously held the city.

The Associated Press

5. Trump says human impact on climate still uncertain

President-elect Donald Trump said on Fox News Sunday that "nobody really knows" whether human-caused climate change is really happening. He said he was considering whether the U.S. should withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Trump said he was "very open-minded" on climate change but that he believed President Obama's policies on cutting pollution, which scientists say causes the planet to warm, might be hurting America's global competitiveness. 2016 is expected to be the hottest year on record, and the hottest 10 years recorded have occurred since 1998. "Look, I'm somebody that gets it, and nobody really knows," Trump said. "It's not something that's so hard and fast. I do know this: Other countries are eating our lunch."

The Washington Post

6. Rand Paul pledges to block John Bolton nomination

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) threatened Sunday to block the nomination of former United Nations ambassador John Bolton if President-elect Donald Trump picks him as deputy secretary of state. Paul serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. There are 10 Republicans and nine Democrats on the committee, so if the Democrats are united in their opposition, Paul's vote could keep the nomination from getting out of the committee. Paul said on ABC's This Week that he was an "automatic no" in a nomination vote on the hawkish Bolton.


7. Winter storm heads east after disrupting flights in Chicago

Heavy snow from a winter storm forced airlines to cancel more than 1,500 flights into and out of Chicago and Detroit on Sunday. The National Weather Service said that as much as 10 inches of snow would accumulate by early Monday, creating difficult driving conditions in Chicago, the nation's third largest metropolitan area. As much as 13 inches of snow fell in parts of Michigan, and about nine inches fell in Minnesota. The storm was heading east overnight, prompting the National Weather Service to issue winter storm warnings for parts of the Great Lakes and the Northeast on Monday. "If you don't have to drive or go somewhere, stay home," National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Steinwedel said.

Reuters NBC News

8. Man who killed ex-NFL player Will Smith convicted of manslaughter

A New Orleans jury on Sunday night convicted Cardell Hayes of manslaughter for fatally shooting retired New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith after a traffic accident in April. During the week-long trial, Hayes' defense team argued that he only fired because Smith, part of the Saints team that raised the city's spirits after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, was drunk and had reached for a gun. Prosecutors said that Smith might have been going for a registered handgun that was holstered in his vehicle, but only after Hayes shot him and his wife, Racquel, who was injured in the legs. Hayes could face up to 40 years in prison, although jurors rejected the charge of second-degree murder, which would have carried a mandatory life sentence.

The Associated Press

9. Boeing seals deal to sell planes to Iran

Boeing announced Sunday that it had clinched a $16.6 billion deal to sell 80 jetliners to Iran. The company has government approval to deliver the planes to Iran in what would be the first major agreement between a U.S. company and the Islamic Republic since the U.S. lifted sanctions under an accord aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program. Companies are unsure how the administration of President-elect Donald Trump will deal with Iran. In announcing the agreement with Tehran, Boeing echoed one of Trump's top priorities by promising that the sale would "support tens of thousands of U.S. jobs."

USA Today The New York Times

10. La La Land leads winners at Critics' Choice Awards

The musical La La Land won Best Picture at the 22nd annual Critics' Choice Awards on Sunday night, gaining steam in its bid for the Best Picture Oscar. The film led the pack with eight wins, including Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Score. Casey Affleck won Best Actor for Manchester by the Sea, Natalie Portman was named Best Actress for Jackie, and Moonlight won for Best Acting Ensemble. In TV, Game of Thrones won for Best Drama Series, Silicon Valley took Best Comedy, and Viola Davis received the inaugural #SeeHer Award. Saturday Night Live's Kate McKinnon won Best Actress in a Comedy Series, Atlanta's Donald Glover won Best Actor in a Comedy Series, and several cast members from The People v. O.J. Simpson also took home acting awards.

The Hollywood Reporter Entertainment Weekly

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.