Dec. 20, 2018

REUTERS

President Trump on Thursday defended his surprise decision to declare victory over Islamic State militants in Syria and completely withdraw U.S. troops from the country, amid criticism from some Republicans and concern from allies and some U.S. military commanders.

President Donald Trump overrode his top national security aides, blindsided U.S. ground commanders, and stunned lawmakers and allies with his order for U.S. troops to leave Syria, a decision that upends American policy in the Middle East.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed legislation to fund several federal agencies through Feb. 8 and avert a partial government shutdown, but without including $5 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall that President Donald Trump demanded.

The U.S. Congress steered toward preventing a partial federal shutdown with a temporary government funding bill that likely would extend into next year a fight with President Donald Trump over border security.

The United States imposed fresh Russia-related sanctions on Wednesday, expanding a blacklist of individuals allegedly involved in a Kremlin-backed campaign to meddle with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, among other misdeeds.

The U.S. Congress will not vote on a bill to speed the introduction of self-driving cars before it adjourns for the year, a blow to companies like General Motors Co and Alphabet Inc's Waymo unit, key senators said on Wednesday.

The United States' special representative for Syria has canceled his planned meetings at the United Nations on Thursday to discuss the Syria peace process, U.S. officials said.

The United States and more than a dozen allies are expected to condemn China for efforts to steal other countries' trade secrets and technologies and to compromise government computers.

Thousands of protesters in Atbara city in northeastern Sudan rallied against rising food prices and corruption on Thursday, chanting anti-government slogans and setting fire to car tires as police tried to disperse them with tear gas.

Drones flying near London's Gatwick airport grounded flights for at least 15 hours, causing chaos for tens of thousands of Christmas travelers in what authorities said was a reckless attempt to cripple Britain's second busiest airport.

The number of Americans filing applications for jobless benefits rose marginally from near a 49-year low last week, suggesting underlying strength in the labor market and broader economy. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 214,000 for the week ended Dec. 15.

AP Top Stories

The Senate approved a plan Wednesday night that appeared all but certain to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the day Friday, allowing lawmakers to go home for the holidays and setting up a short-term spending bill to fund the government until Feb. 8.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday that Islamic State militants had executed nearly 700 prisoners in nearly two months in eastern Syria.

Almost 700 clergymen in Illinois have been accused of child sexual assault, a far greater number than the Catholic Church had previously disclosed, the Midwestern US state's top prosecutor revealed Wednesday.

The French government bowed to police demands for a salary boost and decades of unpaid overtime after police officers - stretched by containing violent yellow vest demonstrators and guarding against extremist attacks - staged their own protests, including at the main Paris airport.

The UN General Assembly on Wednesday formally ratified a UN deal on migration by a large majority -- but without the support of the United States and a string of other countries.

A U.S. judge in San Francisco has extended his decision blocking the Trump administration from enforcing a ban on asylum for any immigrants who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Russia said on Wednesday it would not let the United States inspect a new nuclear-capable cruise missile at the heart of a dispute between Washington and Moscow that risks unraveling a landmark arms control treaty. Washington has threatened to pull out of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), alleging that the new Russian missile, the Novator 9M729 (called SSC-8 by NATO), violates the pact, which bans either side from stationing short and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe.

BBC

The United States Senate has unanimously approved a bill to make lynching a federal crime in the country.

Nevada has become the first state in the US with a female-majority legislature, where women hold 51% of seats.

A crackdown on migrant smuggling networks across the Americas has resulted in 49 arrests. The operation was coordinated by Interpol which said organized crime networks were helping to smuggle South Asian migrants into the US. Nearly $2m has been recovered during anti-smuggling operations across 11 countries, Interpol said.

WND

An unprecedented 45 Democrats are jockeying for the party's nomination to challenge President Trump in 2020 - shattering the record.

The case of a sexualized 11-year-old boy who has been dancing, in full drag makeup and dress, on stage at a New York gay bar, while men throw dollar bills at him, has prompted outrage even from many LGBT voices.

With Democrats opposing President Trump's request for $5 billion for a border wall, an Air Force veteran has stepped with a GoFundMe page. After only a couple of days, the fund established by Brian Kolfage has raised more than $400,000, reports the Blaze. The campaign, titled "We the People Will Fund the Wall," aims to raise $1 billion to help fund the wall that became a major plank in Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

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