Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 29, 2016

Kerry criticizes Israel over West Bank settlements, Obama designates two new Western national monuments, and more


Kerry and Netanyahu trade jabs over Israeli settlements in Palestinian areas

Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday criticized Israel for continuing settlement construction in the West Bank, saying it was preventing progress toward a two-state peace deal with the Palestinians. Kerry said that to keep peace hopes alive, the U.S. had to allow the recent approval of a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the settlements, instead of vetoing it. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Kerry's speech disappointing and "unbalanced," saying it was "obsessively focused" on settlements while only paying "lip service to the unremitting Palestinian campaign of terrorism" against Israel.


Obama creates two new national monuments in Utah and Nevada

President Obama on Wednesday designated two new national monuments in Utah and Nevada, protecting 1.65 million acres of federal land. Most of it, 1.35 million acres, surrounds the Bears Ears Buttes in southeastern Utah. The rest is northeast of Las Vegas around Nevada's Gold Butte. The moves were the latest in a series of actions Obama has made to protect public lands and waters from development as time runs out for him to seal his environmental legacy before leaving office in January. Native American tribes and others have been pushing to protect the areas for years, but some locals and Republican lawmakers have criticized Obama's efforts to protect parts of the West as a federal land grab.


Russia announces cease-fire between Syrian government, rebels

A view of Aleppo.


On Thursday, Russian state media announced a cease-fire between the Syrian government and Syrian rebel groups, set to take effect at 12 a.m. on Dec. 30. "Reports have just arrived that several hours ago there was a development that we all have looked and worked for for so long," Russian President Vladimir Putin said. "Three documents have been signed. A cease-fire between the Syrian government and the armed opposition is one. A package of measures to control the cease-fire is another. And a declaration of readiness to enter into peace talks on a settlement in Syria is the third." Turkey will act with Russia as a "guarantor" of the peace process, effectively sidelining the United States. There is still some question about whether the cease-fire will hold, as several similar attempts between Turkey and Russia in Aleppo failed before an eventual cease-fire finally allowed for evacuations of rebels and civilians.


Trump says deal with Sprint will bring 5,000 jobs to U.S.

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that Softbank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son had promised to move 5,000 jobs at Softbank's telecom Sprint from other countries to the U.S. Trump also noted that Sofbank-backed satellite startup OneWeb would create 3,000 jobs. Sprint clarified that the jobs were part of a previously announced plan to create jobs, and that only some of its new jobs would be moved from abroad, while the rest would be newly created positions. Trump's announcement came after the latest in a series of direct talks he has had with corporate CEOs on boosting U.S. employment.


Obama administration expected to unveil sanctions against Russia over hacking

The Obama administration is expected to unveil as early as Thursday its plans to retaliate against Russia for its alleged hacking to influence the U.S. presidential election. Federal authorities also are expected to provide fresh details on how they came to conclude that Russia was behind cyberattacks on Democrats and leaking of their emails and other documents, allegedly aiming to hurt Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and help her Republican rival, President-elect Donald Trump. Sources told ABC News that the Obama administration would reveal planned public steps, such as economic sanctions, but not any covert actions that might be in the works.


Trump gives mixed messages on Obama transition relationship

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday gave mixed signals on the level of cooperation between his team and the Obama administration on the presidential transition. First, Trump tweeted, "Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks. Thought it was going to be a smooth transition - NOT!" Hours later, Trump told reporters that the transition was in fact moving along "very, very smoothly. Very good." Later, Trump told reporters that Obama had called him for a "general" conversation. "Very, very nice," Trump said. "Appreciated it."


Dylann Roof reportedly won't offer defense in penalty phase of murder trial

Dylann Roof, the self-avowed white supremacist convicted of killing nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, last year does not plan to put up a defense in the penalty phase of his trial, which starts Jan. 3. The trial will determine whether he gets life in prison or the death penalty. Roof, 22, plans to represent himself during the final part of his trial. He reportedly plans to make an opening statement, but not to present any evidence or call witnesses, including mental health experts. U.S. Judge Richard Gergel has warned Roof that representing himself instead of having lawyers make his case is "a bad idea."


Philippines leader Duterte says he once threw rape suspect from helicopter

Controversial Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is facing renewed scrutiny this week after threatening to throw corrupt government officials out of a helicopter, claiming that he had done it before. Duterte, a former prosecutor, said he had once tossed a rape and murder suspect out of a helicopter. "If you are corrupt, I will fetch you using a helicopter to Manila and I will throw you out," Duterte said in a speech to typhoon victims. "I have done this before, why would I not do it again?" The threat came just weeks after Duterte, who has launched a deadly crackdown on drug suspects, said he had personally killed alleged criminals in his previous job as mayor of Davao City.


JonBenet Ramsey's brother files $750 million defamation suit against CBS

Lawyers for Burke Ramsey, the brother of JonBenet Ramsey, filed a $750 million defamation lawsuit against CBS, saying the network produced a fraudulent documentary that slandered him by accusing him of fatally hitting his sister with a flashlight in 1996. The lawsuit says the producers of the four-hour documentary series, The Case of JonBenet Ramsey, which aired in September, overlooked evidence that proved Burke Ramsey's innocence with a "reckless disregard" for the truth, and used questionable "experts" to support a theory prosecutors dismissed years ago as "ludicrous." An autopsy found that the 6-year-old beauty pageant winner had been strangled and sexually assaulted. CBS declined to comment on the suit.


Debbie Reynolds dies one day after daughter Carrie Fisher's death

Actress Debbie Reynolds, 84, died on Wednesday, one day after her daughter, author and Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher, died at age 60. Reynolds, who starred in classic musicals such as Singin' in the Rain and won an Oscar nomination for her role in 1964's The Unsinkable Molly Brown, reportedly was distraught and was rushed to a hospital after suffering a medical emergency. She had been at her son Todd Fisher's Beverly Hills home planning her daughter's funeral. Fisher suffered a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles on Friday, and died four days later.


Karzai: Afghanistan will be 'better off' without U.S. military
Hamid Karzai.
afghanistan conflict

Karzai: Afghanistan will be 'better off' without U.S. military

What Ebrahim Raisi's election means for Iran, U.S.
Ebrahim Raisi.
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What Ebrahim Raisi's election means for Iran, U.S.

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Great Britain has its 1st Catholic prime minister. Surprise!
Boris Johnson, Carrie Symonds
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Great Britain has its 1st Catholic prime minister. Surprise!

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Bernie Sanders.
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