Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 21, 2016

Obama bars new oil drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic, Germany hunts for a new suspect in deadly truck attack, and more


Obama bans oil drilling leases in parts of Arctic, Atlantic

President Obama on Tuesday withdrew large parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans from future oil and gas drilling leases, using a little-known 1953 law. The announcement came as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took similar action to protect a huge part of his nation's Arctic waters from drilling. "These actions, and Canada's parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on Earth," the White House said. White House officials said the move can't be reversed — President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January — but a lawyer who served under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush disagreed. "Basically I say the power to withdraw entails the power to un-withdraw," said David Rivkin, an attorney for the Baker and Hostetler law firm.


Germany releases man detained after truck attack, hunts for new suspect

German authorities on Tuesday released a 23-year-old Pakistani asylum seeker who was detained for questioning after a tractor-trailer plowed through a crowd at a Berlin Christmas market and killed 12 people. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. Investigators said they had grown more uncertain that the young man, who was stopped after he ran from the area of the attack, was the driver of the truck. He denied any involvement. Far-right politicians, noting his refugee status, nevertheless blamed the attack on Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to accept nearly a million refugees from the Middle East and Africa. Authorities are now searching for a Tunisian man whose ID was found in the truck.


Clinton supporters slam FBI over newly unsealed email search warrant documents

Hillary Clinton's allies harshly criticized the FBI on Tuesday after the unsealing of search warrant documents that revived scrutiny of her private email system days before the Nov. 8 presidential election. FBI Director James Comey informed Congress in an Oct. 28 letter about newly discovered emails possibly "pertinent" to the investigation of the server Clinton used as secretary of state. In the newly unsealed affidavit, an agent said there was "probable cause" to believe Clinton emails were on a laptop later reported to belong to disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Clinton attorney David Kendall, noting there was no evidence that any of the material was classified, said the documents showed the "extraordinary impropriety" of Comey's letter, which unnecessarily "produced devastating but predictable damage" to Clinton's presidential bid. The FBI did not comment.


Turkey says Russian ambassador's assassin had help

Turkish authorities said Tuesday that the gunman who fatally shot Russia's ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, in an Ankara art gallery on Monday did not act alone. The killing as "fully professional, not a one-man action," one official said. The gunman, who was killed by security forces, shouted slogans about the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo, which Russian-backed Syrian government forces recently fully reclaimed from rebels. The alleged gunman has been identified as off-duty Turkish police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas. Turkish police have detained seven people linked with the 22-year-old alleged gunman, including his parents, sister, three other relatives, and his roommate.


Four more Flint officials charged over water contamination

Four former Flint, Michigan, officials were charged Tuesday in connection with the city's long-running water crisis. The defendants — two ex-emergency managers and two former public works employees — have been targeted by investigators for alleged misconduct and neglect of duty. Jeff Seipenko, a special agent with the attorney general's office, said one of the emergency managers, Darnell Earley, knew the city's water plant "was not prepared to produce water and, nevertheless, allowed it to be provided to the public." Thirteen people now have been charged in the case, in which a switch to a cheaper but corrosive water source resulted in lead contamination in tap water.


Trump University settlement papers filed in court

Lawyers for President-elect Donald Trump and former students of Trump University have filed their fraud settlement agreement in a San Diego court. The document, filed late Monday, spells out the deal the two sides reached a month ago. Trump has agreed to pay $25 million to settle two class-action lawsuits in which students of the now-defunct school claimed that Trump defrauded them. If the judge approves the deal next year, about 7,000 students would be eligible for partial refunds of the up to $35,000 a year they paid to attend seminars where they expected to learn Trump's real estate secrets. Trump admits no wrongdoing under the agreement.


26 die in clashes between soldiers and protesters in Congo

Security forces in Congo killed at least 26 people on Tuesday in clashes with civilians protesting President Joseph Kabila's refusal to step down at the end of his term. Kabila's term ended Monday, but his coalition said the country lacked the resources to hold elections until 2018. Young men burned tires and threw rocks at police before heavily armed soldiers helped put down the protests, which had spread across Kinshasa, the African nation's capital of 12 million people. The United Nations on Tuesday night was working on confirming the death toll.


U.S. expands list of Russians targeted by sanctions

The Obama administration on Tuesday added seven Russian businessmen, eight companies, and two vessels to the list of entities targeted with sanctions over Russia's annexation of Crimea and its support of separatist rebels in Ukraine. The measures came a month before President Obama leaves office. President-elect Donald Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin's leadership, and called for improving relations with Moscow. His pick for secretary of state, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, has opposed sanctions against Russia and faced scrutiny for his Russian business ties.


Dozens die in explosions at Mexico fireworks market

At least 27 people were killed Tuesday in a chain reaction of explosions and fires at the San Pablito fireworks market near Mexico City, federal police said. At least 70 other people were injured. The head of emergency services in Tultepec told Reuters rescue workers continued to comb through the wreckage overnight, so the death toll could rise. Video footage showed dozens of fireworks exploding and a thick plume of smoke above the market, which was well-stocked with 300 tons of fireworks for Christmas and New Year's celebrations. Several buildings and 80 percent of the 300 stalls at the market were destroyed.


U.S. death sentences fall to 40-year low

Death sentences in the U.S. fell to the lowest numbers in decades in 2016, according to a new report from the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). Thirty people were sentenced to death, down from 49 in 2015 and the lowest number since the 1970s, when capital punishment was halted, then reinstated. In the peak year, 1996, 315 people were sentenced to death nationwide. There were 20 executions in 2016, down from 28 last year and the fewest since 1991. Three contributing factors in the drop have been shortages of lethal injection drugs, legal challenges, and increasing reluctance of juries to back death sentences. A Pew Research Center poll this year found that about half of Americans still support the death penalty, but that marks the weakest level of support in more than four decades.


Almost all operations shut down as COVID-19 outbreak hits U.S. Embassy in Kabul
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
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Biden's Putin meeting rehabilitated his image in Russia
Joe Biden
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White House now looking to 'engage' with China's Xi Jinping
President Biden with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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Israeli airstrikes target Hamas in Gaza for the 2nd time this week
Gaza City.
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Late night hosts pan Marjorie Taylor Greene's Holocaust apology
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