10 things you need to know today: December 26, 2017

Trump calls for goodwill in Christmas message, Peruvians protest Fujimori's pardon, and more

President Trump
(Image credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

1. Trump stresses 'miracle of Christmas' in holiday call for goodwill

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump celebrated Christmas at Trump's private Palm Beach club, Mar-a-Lago, and released a video in which Melania Trump said they wished "America and the world a very Merry Christmas." She said during the holiday season "we see the best of America" as people send packages to military personnel and help the needy. "In this season of joy, we spend time with our families, we renew our bonds of love and goodwill between our citizens and, most importantly, we celebrate the miracle of Christmas," the president said. Trump also claimed victory in the so-called war on Christmas, tweeting that he was "proud to have led the charge against the assault of our beautiful and cherished phrase, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!"

The Associated Press

2. Thousands protest Fujimori pardon in Peru

Protests erupted in Peru on Monday after President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned ailing former President Alberto Fujimori, who was serving 25 years in prison for human rights abuses and corruption. Thousands of demonstrators marched in the capital city of Lima, many carrying posters calling Fujimori a "murderer" and a "thief." Police responded with tear gas. Critics say Kuczynski pardoned Fujimori in exchange for abstentions by lawmakers in a party run by Fujimori's children that allowed the president to survive an impeachment vote on Friday. The conservative party, Popular Force, controls Congress, and Keiko Fujimori — the former president's daughter and Kuczynski's rival in the 2016 presidential election — had pushed to impeach him over a scandal involving his financial ties to Brazilian construction behemoth Odebrecht.

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BBC News The Associated Press

3. Russia bars opposition leader Alexei Navalny from challenging Putin

Russian election officials have barred opposition activist Alexey Navalny from participating in next year's presidential election against Vladimir Putin, citing his conviction on embezzlement charges, the state-run media outlet RIA-Novosti reported Monday. "Firstly, a citizen who has been sentenced to imprisonment for committing a grave or especially grave crime and who has an outstanding conviction for the said crime, has no right to be elected president of the Russian federation," said Boris Ebzeev, a member of Russia's Central Election Commission. The decision did not come as a surprise, given a law preventing convicted criminals from running for office in Russia, but Navalny's supporters have argued his candidacy should be permitted because they say his conviction was politically motivated.


4. Pope Francis calls for two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Pope Francis on Monday called for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In his annual Christmas message, he said, "Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders." The plea came four days after more than 120 countries backed a United Nations resolution urging the U.S. to reverse President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, angering Palestinians, who consider East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state.


5. Winter storm hits Midwest and Northeast with frigid weather

Winter Storm Ethan hammered the Northeast with heavy snow on Monday, blanketing parts of the region with nearly 4 inches of snow per hour for some of Christmas Day. Parts of Maine and New Hampshire were under a blizzard warning on Monday, with up to 10 inches of snow and wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour. Forecasters warned that the harsh conditions could make travel "dangerous to impossible." The storm left behind feet of snow from the central Rockies through the Midwest as it headed east. States from Montana and the Dakotas to Wisconsin braced for wind chills as low as 40 degrees below zero, with Minnesota getting its coldest Christmas Day since 1996.

The Weather Channel The Associated Press

6. U.N. unveils budget; Haley says U.S. forced cuts

United Nations members reached agreement Sunday on a $5.4 billion 2018-2019 budget. President Trump's ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, said the U.S. had negotiated a $285 million cut to the world body's spending plan, and she hinted that more reductions were coming. "We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked," Haley said. "You can be sure we'll continue to look at ways to increase the U.N.'s efficiency while protecting our interests." Trump has frequently criticized the U.N. for depending heavily on U.S. funding while opposing U.S. interests. Secretary General António Guterres also has called for improving the efficiency of some parts of the organization.

The New York Times

7. Trump administration proposes scrapping post-spill offshore drilling rules

The Trump administration is proposing rolling back Obama-era offshore-drilling safety rules imposed after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which regulates offshore oil and gas drilling, says the plan would save the oil industry more than $900 million over the next decade. The changes reportedly include easing rules that require oil production facilities to stream real-time data onshore, where regulators can currently access it, and scrapping a rule that only BSEE-certified inspectors monitor critical equipment like the blowout preventer that malfunctioned in the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 people and triggered the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

The Wall Street Journal CNBC

8. Erica Garner in grave condition after heart attack

Erica Garner, who became an activist against police brutality after her father was killed by police, was on life support Monday after suffering a heart attack. She fell into a coma after falling ill, and was placed on life support. Garner, 27, spoke out against police treatment of African Americans after the death of her father, Eric Garner, after New York City Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in a banned chokehold. "If playing the race card is fighting for human rights for Black people unapologetically ... Then DEAL ME IN," she wrote in July 2016. Her family said she had a heart attack after a bout with asthma.

New York Daily News

9. Topless Femen activist tries to snatch statue in Vatican Nativity scene

Police arrested a topless Femen activist on Monday after she allegedly tried to take the statue of the baby Jesus from the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square. She jumped a guardrail and rushed the display, shouting "God is woman." She also had the phrase painted on her back. Femen, a women's rights activist group, identified the woman on its website as Alisa Vinogradova. It said she was a "sextremist" working toward the group's goal of "complete victory over patriarchy." Another Femen activist tried to snatch the statue on Christmas Day in 2014, and managed to get it out of the manger before police caught her.


10. Sound of Music actress dies at 68

Heather Menzies-Urich, a TV and movie actress whose best-known role was Louisa von Trapp in the 1965 movie The Sound of Music, died Sunday night in Frankford, Ontario, in her native Canada, her son Ryan Urich said Monday. She was 68 and had recently been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Menzies-Urich landed the role of the third-oldest von Trapp child at age 14, and later appeared in the movies Hawaii, Piranha, and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, as well as the TV shows Dragnet, Bonanza, The Bob Newhart Show, and a starring role in Logan's Run. After Menzies-Urich's second husband, actor Robert Urich, died from cancer in 2002, she started the Robert Urich Foundation for cancer research and support.

The Associated Press Variety

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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.