Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 28, 2016

Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher dies, Shinzo Abe and President Obama make a historic visit to Pearl Harbor, and more


Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher dies at 60

Actress and author Carrie Fisher, most famous for her iconic role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies, died Tuesday after suffering a heart attack last week on a flight from London to Los Angeles. She was 60. Fisher, the daughter of pop singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, landed her first film role as a teenager alongside Warren Beatty in Shampoo, then, at age 19, appeared as Princess Leia in the first Star Wars film. She later tapped into her insider's view of Hollywood in semi-autobiographical books, including the bestseller Postcards from the Edge. She also went on to become a successful Hollywood script doctor.


Obama and Abe make landmark visit to Pearl Harbor

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a landmark visit to Pearl Harbor with President Obama on Tuesday. The unprecedented joint visit was the first by leaders from the U.S. and Japan to the site of the surprise Japanese air attack that pulled the U.S. into World War II 75 years ago. Abe offered "sincere and everlasting condolences" to the victims of the attack, which left 2,300 U.S. servicemen dead. "We must never repeat the horrors of war again, this is the solemn vow the people of Japan have taken," he said. The visit came after Obama earlier this year visited Hiroshima, the Japanese city hit with the first of two U.S. atomic bombs at the end of the war.


John Kerry to present Obama administration's final vision for Israel, Palestine

Jerusalem's city government postponed a municipal committee's planned Wednesday vote on construction permits for nearly 500 homes for Israeli settlers in predominantly Palestinian East Jerusalem ahead of a speech by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. With just three weeks left in office, Kerry will outline the Obama administration's vision for peace, and "address some of the misleading critiques" recently aimed at the Obama administration, a senior State Department official said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused President Obama and his aides of orchestrating the passing of a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel's building of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.


Turkey and Russia to pitch ceasefire proposal in Syria

Turkey and Russia have agreed on a proposal for establishing a general cease-fire in Syria, Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency said on Wednesday. The two countries plan to present their plan to the Syrian government and opposition groups in the hope of putting the cease-fire into effect by midnight. The media report said Turkey and Russia are proposing to expand the cease-fire that was established in the city of Aleppo earlier this month when rebel forces and many civilians left, allowing government forces and their allies to regain control over the entire city.


Montana officials condemn plans for white-nationalist march

Top Montana officials from both parties on Tuesday condemned plans for a white-nationalist march in the town of Whitefish, home of alt-right movement writer Richard Spencer. Whitefish has been the scene of recent anti-Semitic outbursts targeting some local residents. In a joint letter, U.S. Sens. Jon Tester (D) and Steve Daines (R), U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R), Gov. Steve Bullock (D), and Montana Attorney General Tim Fox (R) condemned the actions, saying: "Rest assured, any demonstration or threat of intimidation against any Montanan's religious liberty will not be tolerated."


Nonprofit director who referred to Michelle Obama as an 'ape in heels' fired

Former West Virginia nonprofit director Pamela Taylor, who faced widespread criticism for referring to first lady Michelle Obama as an "ape in heels" on Facebook, has been permanently fired from her post. Scrutiny over Taylor's racist post revealed that her agency, the Clay County Development Corp., was not meeting several requirements of organizations that receive public funding, such as holding open meetings, having a non-discrimination policy, and responding to public records requests. Taylor, who was suspended but due to return to her post, is losing her job as her nonprofit is placed under the control of a state agency. Clay Mayor Beverly Whaling, who responded positively to Taylor's "ape in heels" remark, has already resigned.


Ex-Argentine president indicted on corruption charges

Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was indicted Tuesday on fraud and corruption charges involving major public works projects in the second indictment she has faced since leaving office last year. Other members of her government, including former planning and public works ministers, also were charged in the latest case, as was a businessman long associated with Mrs. Kirchner and her late husband Néstor Kirchner, who was president before her. Mrs. Kirchner denies the charges, saying they are just political attacks by her successor and rival, President Mauricio Macri.


Retailers got sales boost late in holiday shopping season

A rise in consumer spending in late December helped to offset a slow start to the holiday shopping season, the National Retail Federation reported Tuesday. The spending boost is expected to help many retailers beat sales forecasts for the critical holiday season. Spending over the Thanksgiving weekend fell 3.5 percent compared to a year earlier, despite record online sales. "It was a hot start with Cyber Monday, followed by a lull for the last couple of weeks and then a big-bang finish," said Pete Madden, a director at retail consultancy AlixPartners.


Police suspect social media used to plan post-Christmas mall fights

Brawls broke out at several malls, including one in Philadelphia and another in Milwaukee, on Tuesday in a second night of similar disturbances at more than a dozen malls across the country. Police said the instigators of the Philadelphia fight organized it using Snapchat. Police elsewhere said they suspected that social media also played a role in fights that occurred at other malls on Monday. Police in Aurora, Colorado, said 500 people gathered at the Town Center mall after a social media post announced a fight. Officers arrested five juveniles over the brawl, which forced the mall to temporarily shut down. Around the same time, a similar disturbance resulted in seven arrests at the Shoppes at Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester, Connecticut. Police said it was "highly probable" that social media posts played a role.


Russia drops denial of doping accusations

Russia is admitting for the first time that its sports officials ran a massive doping operation that involved many of the country's top athletes, according to a report in The New York Times. Russian sports officials denied the accusations, which have tainted the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and got many Russian athletes barred from this year's Rio games, even after a World Anti-Doping Agency investigation released this month found extensive evidence that a lab director tampered with urine samples and provided performance-enhancing drugs, and Russian security agents broke into urine-sample bottles. "It was an institutional conspiracy," said Anna Antseliovich, the acting director general of Russia's national anti-doping agency.


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