10 things you need to know today: December 19, 2016

Electoral College gathers to formally elect president, Aleppo evacuations resume, and more

Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Alabama
(Image credit: Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

1. Electoral College gathers to formally elect Trump

Members of the Electoral College gather Monday in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to officially elect Donald Trump as president. Trump's state wins have set him up for a comfortable victory of 306 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton's 232. The process, normally a formality, has become unusually controversial this year — partly because Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, and partly because the CIA has concluded that Russia leaked emails hacked from Democrats to help Trump win. Republican electors have been swamped with calls, letters, and emails from Trump opponents urging them to vote for somebody else, even though in some cases that would violate state law. There was no evidence the campaign had swayed enough electors to change the result.

CNN The Washington Post

2. Evacuations resume in Aleppo ahead of U.N. vote

Evacuations resumed in Aleppo early Monday, with at least 65 buses carrying 3,500 people out of the last rebel-held enclave in the war-ravaged Syrian city, according to a monitoring group. The United Nations Security Council plans to vote Monday on a draft resolution calling for neutral monitors to oversee the departure of rebels and civilians. Russia had threatened to veto the resolution, but promised to join a unanimous vote after last-minute negotiations, said Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. The evacuation process in Aleppo was temporarily held up Sunday, a day after being renegotiated, when five evacuation buses were burned trying to enter government-held villages near Idlib province.

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CNN Reuters

3. DNC chair says Russian hacking continued through election

Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile said Russian hackers kept trying to hack into the organization's computers "daily, hourly" until after the Nov. 8 election. Her claim contradicted President Obama, who said last week that Russia's "tampering" with the U.S. electoral process had stopped after he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin to "cut it out." "They tried to hack into our system repeatedly," Brazile told ABC's Martha Raddatz on This Week.

ABC News

4. China and U.S. in talks on return of underwater drone

Chinese and U.S. military officials are engaged in "unimpeded" negotiations on the return of an American underwater drone seized by a Chinese naval vessel, a spokeswoman for China's foreign ministry said Monday. The unmanned underwater vehicle was gathering non-classified information, such as ocean temperatures, in the South China Sea off the coast of the Philippines last week when it was seized. China's state media mocked President-elect Donald Trump for misspelling "unprecedented" — he spelled it "unpresidented" before correcting himself — in a tweet accusing China of "stealing" the drone.

Reuters Time

5. Gunmen kill 10 in Jordan

Gunmen killed seven members of Jordan's security forces, two local civilians, and a Canadian tourist on Sunday in attacks on a military patrol and a Crusader castle popular with tourists in the southern city of Karak. Four attackers also were killed. The attacks were followed by an hours-long standoff between Jordanian special forces and armed men inside the castle. The shootings were the latest blemish on the pro-Western kingdom's record as a safe zone in a region facing widespread threats from Islamist extremists. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Associated Press The Washington Post

6. South Korea begins trial of disgraced president's confidante

The corruption trial of Choi Soon-sil, the jailed longtime friend of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, begins Monday. The scandal has left Park in disgrace and led to her impeachment last week. Park has apologized publicly several times, but Choi has not appeared in public since Oct. 31, when she told reporters that she had "committed a sin that deserves death." Prosecutors say Choi used her status as the president's longtime confidante to pressure companies into making donations to two foundations, and siphoned off some of the money for herself.

The Associated Press BBC News

7. Senators call for select committee to investigate Russian hacking

A bipartisan group of senators on Sunday, including Republican John McCain of Arizona and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday calling for the creation of a select committee to spearhead the investigation of Russian hacking aimed at influencing this year's presidential election. "Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American," the senators wrote. The mounting pressure has widened a gap between lawmakers from both parties and President-elect Donald Trump, whose aides on Sunday reiterated his rejection of intelligence agencies' conclusion that Russia leaked hacked Democratic emails to help him win the election.

The New York Times

8. Venezuela sends troops to calm rioting

The Venezuelan government on Sunday sent troops and police to quell riots and looting that erupted in several cities after last week's sudden announcement that the country's most-used currency bill was being taken out of circulation. President Nicolas Maduro abruptly shifted course on Saturday, and announced that the bill, the 100-bolivar note, could be used until Jan. 2. Maduro blamed the violence and long lines at banks on a "macabre" plot backed by President Obama to "create chaos, violence, division" in Venezuela by extracting huge quantities of 100-bolivar notes — whose value has dropped to about four cents due to ongoing hyperinflation — and stockpiling them abroad.

The Associated Press

9. Rogue One leads box office with $155 million haul

Walt Disney Co.'s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story dominated the box office in its debut weekend, making an estimated $155 million in the U.S. and Canada. The take amounted to the second biggest December opening ever, behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens last year. That film smashed a host of records, bringing in $248 million domestically in its first weekend. Rogue One, Disney's first spinoff since it bought Lucasfilm in 2012, was never expected to best The Force Awakens. The new movie tells the story of a band of rebel fighters in the lead up to the events involving central characters Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo in the original 1977 Star Wars.


10. Zsa Zsa Gabor dies at 99

Actress and Hollywood socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor died of heart failure Sunday in her Bel Air mansion. She was 99. Gabor, the most famous of three glamorous sisters from Hungary, appeared in more than 60 TV and feature films. Critics said her best roles were early in her career, in such films as 1952's Moulin Rouge and Orson Welles' 1958 classic Touch of Evil. Later she would be better known for her string of nine marriages, her tabloid-worthy behavior, and her one-liners. "I am a marvelous housekeeper," she once said. "Every time I leave a man I keep his house." In June 1989, she infamously slapped a Beverly Hills police officer who pulled over her Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible for a traffic violation, a scandal she made fun of in the movie The Naked Gun 2 1/2.

Los Angeles Times The New York Times

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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.