World shares are mixed and oil prices have risen after the European Union and the Group of Seven agreed on a boycott of most Russian oil and committed to a price cap of $60 per barrel on Russian exports. Shares fell in Paris and Frankfurt but rose in London and Tokyo. Hong Kong's benchmark jumped 4.5% and the Shanghai Composite added 1.8% as more Chinese cities eased away pandemic precautions in a potential boon to the economy. Shares were mixed Friday on Wall Street, as investors fretted over inflation after a report showed U.S. wages were accelerating.
South Korea’s military says North Korea fired about 130 suspected artillery rounds into the water near their western and eastern sea borders, the latest military action contributing to worsening relations between the neighbors. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff says the weapons fell within the northern side of buffer zones created under a 2018 inter-Korean agreement to reduce military tensions. There were no immediate reports of shells falling inside South Korean territorial waters. It was not immediately clear when the incident occurred, and further details were not provided. South Korea’s military says it communicated a verbal warning to North Korea over the firings and urged it to abide by the agreement.
China is easing some of the world’s most stringent anti-COVID controls and authorities say new variants are weaker. But they have yet to say when they might end a "zero-COVID“ strategy that confines millions of people to their homes and set off protests and demands for President Xi Jinping to resign. Commuters in Beijing and at least 16 other cities are allowed to board buses and subways without a virus test in the previous 48 hours for the first time in months. The government announced plans to vaccinate millions of elderly people. That spurred hopes for quick reopening of the country. But health experts and economists warn it will be mid-2023 and possibly 2024 before “zero COVID” ends.
Police say a private airplane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast Saturday night, with two people confirmed dead as authorities searched for a third person. Authorities in Venice, Florida, initiated a search Sunday after 10 a.m. following an inquiry to the Venice Municipal Airport about an overdue Piper Cherokee aircraft. A Venice spokesperson says that around the same time, recreational boaters found the body of a woman floating about 2.5 miles west of Venice. Divers located the wreckage of the rented airplane around 2 p.m. about a third of a mile offshore. Rescuers found a deceased girl in the plane’s passenger area. A third person, believed to be a male who was the pilot or a passenger, remained missing Sunday.
The unabashedly liberal city of San Francisco became the unlikely proponent of weaponized police robots last week after supervisors approved them for limited use. In doing so, the board addressed head-on an evolving technology that has become more widely available even if it is rarely deployed to confront suspects. The authorization comes as police departments across the U.S. face increasing scrutiny for the use of militarized equipment amid a years-long national reckoning on criminal justice. A robot carrying explosives was used by Dallas police in 2016 to kill a sniper. San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said armed robots would be used only as a last resort.
Legislation that ensures same-sex and interracial marriages are recognized as legal unions appears headed for final approval and President Joe Biden’s signature. The Respect for Marriage Act is a historic bipartisan agreement that reflects a wider acceptance of gay rights in both Congress and the country. The measure would protect the rights of about a half million married couples. It passed the Senate last week and heads to the House this week for near-certain approval. For many of the couples whose marriages will be protected, approval of the Respect for Marriage Act brought a sense of relief and was cause for celebration. But they also say more work needs to be done.
New Zealand is launching a wide-ranging inquiry into whether it made the right decisions in battling COVID-19 and how it can better prepare for future pandemics. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday the coronavirus had posed the greatest threat to the nation’s health and economy since World War II. She said now was an appropriate time to examine the government’s response with the highest level of independent inquiry. Among the questions will be whether or not New Zealand took the right approach initially by imposing strict lockdowns and border quarantine restrictions in order to try and wipe out the virus entirely.
The extended Senate campaign in Georgia gives Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker a second chance to persuade voters to send them to Washington. But without party control of Congress at stake and without other candidates on the ticket, the runoff looks different from the November general election. The results of AP VoteCast illustrate some of the challenges each candidate faces on Tuesday. Walker will need to turn out a GOP base that wasn’t enamored with him to start with, and do it without the more popular Gov. Brian Kemp on the ballot. Warnock must get his coalition of some lower-propensity voting groups to turn out.
The Supreme Court is hearing the case of a Christian graphic artist who objects to designing wedding websites for gay couples, that’s the latest clash of religion and gay rights to land at the highest court. The designer and her supporters say that ruling against her would force artists — from painters and photographers to writers and musicians — to do work that is against their faith. Her opponents say that if she wins, a range of businesses will be able to discriminate, refusing to serve Black customers, Jewish or Muslim people, interracial or interfaith couples or immigrants, among others.
Raphael Warnock is the first Black U.S. senator from Georgia, having broken the color barrier with a special election victory in January 2021. Now Warnock can add another distinction by winning a full six-year term in a Tuesday runoff. Standing in the way is another Black man, Republican challenger Herschel Walker. The two men have cut different paths and offer clearly opposing visions for the country, including on race and racism, despite their common upbringings in the wake of the civil rights movement and the guarantee of a historical first from their Senate matchup. Black voters in this Deep South state say the choice is stark.
A heartfelt Patti LaBelle praised her lifelong friend Gladys Knight. Matt Damon playfully teased George Clooney and Sheryl Crow performed a heartfelt rendition of “Baby Baby” for Amy Grant. Sean Penn called U2 “four scrappy Dublin punks,” and ballet dancers performed for conductor and composer Tania León. Knight, Clooney, Grant, León and U2 were feted during Sunday’s Kennedy Center Honors. Every year the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts honors a select group of people for their artistic contributions to American culture. The show will be broadcast on Dec. 28 on CBS. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their respective spouses were in attendance.
California lawmakers are preparing to return to work for a special session on gas prices. State lawmakers are scheduled to convene on Monday to swear in new members and elect leaders for the 2023 legislative session. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has also called lawmakers into a special session on that same day to begin work on a proposed penalty for oil companies when their profits surpass a certain threshold. The proposal likely won't be debated until January. More than a quarter of the Legislature's 120 lawmakers could be new members following the November elections, depending on the outcome of some close races.
Today in History
Jurors in the capital murder trial of a former U.S. Border Patrol agent have heard him confess in a taped interview to killing four sex workers in South Texas. If convicted of capital murder, 39-year-old Juan David Ortiz faces life in prison without parole because prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty. Ortiz was a Border Patrol intelligence supervisor at the time of his arrest in September 2018. Jurors heard the taped confession last week. The bodies of the four women were found along roads on the outskirts of Laredo in 2018. Authorities say Ortiz wasn’t on duty during the killings and wore civilian clothes.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the U.S. will not shrink from its unwavering support for Israel despite stark differences with Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu and concerns the Biden administration may have about members of his incoming right-wing government. Blinken said Sunday that the United States will remain a stalwart friend of Israel even as it pursues goals that Netanyahu has opposed, including a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a restoration of the languishing 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Blinken also said the Biden administration would engage with Netanyahu's government based on its policies and not on personalities. But he also warned that the U.S. would object to policies that marginalize the Palestinians.
The Supreme Court is about to confront a new elections case that could dramatically alter voting in 2024 and beyond. A Republican-led challenge is asking the justices for a novel ruling that could significantly increase the power of state lawmakers over elections for Congress and the presidency. The court is hearing arguments Wednesday in a case from highly competitive North Carolina, where Republican efforts to draw congressional districts heavily in their favor were blocked by a Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court. The question for the justices is whether the U.S. Constitution’s provision giving state legislatures the power to make the rules about the “times, places and manner” of congressional elections cuts state courts out of the process.
The CIA Officers Memorial Foundation provides college tuition and other expenses to children of fallen officers. Unsurprisingly, much of the charitable work to support those families goes on in private. The leaders want to change that by holding gatherings for the children of fallen officers and gradually telling more of their stories publicly. The foundation recently hired the daughter of one of seven officers to die in a December 2009 attack on the CIA's base in Khost, Afghanistan. Calista Anderson wants to help other children of fallen officers and shares her memories of her mother, Jennifer Matthews.
Former President Donald Trump is facing rebuke from both parties after calling for the “termination” of parts of the Constitution over his lie that the 2020 election was stolen. Trump, who announced last month that he is running again for president, made the claim over the weekend on his Truth Social media platform. Incoming House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries on Sunday described Trump’s statement as strange and extreme. GOP Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio said he “vehemently" disagrees and condemns the remarks. Both he and Republican Rep.-elect Mike Lawler of New York say the remarks should be a factor as their party decides who should lead them in 2024.
An Iranian lawmaker has said that Iran’s government was “paying attention to the people’s real demands” a day after a top official suggested that the country’s unpopular morality police has been shut down following months of protests. The comment regarding the force's purported suspension or abolition came after months of deadly anti-government protests. The Associated Press has been unable to confirm the current status of the religious force. The Iranian morality police was established in 2005 with the task of arresting people who violate the country’s Islamic dress code. Nationwide anti-government protests were sparked by the death of a women three days after her arrest by Iran’s morality police.
As Elon Musk is finding out, running a global social media platform requires more than a few good algorithms. It also presents tough decisions about what kind of content to allow, and how to handle users who break the rules. Since Musk purchased Twitter, however, the rules have become unclear and enforcement inconsistent. The platform announced it was ending its COVID-19 misinformation policy, only to say no policies had changed. Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, was banished from Twitter for posting antisemitic content, even as the platform reinstated the account belonging to a neo-Nazi leader. Social media experts say the lack of clear and enforceable content rules could hurt Twitter if users start to lose trust.
The police chief of Tampa has been placed on leave after a video emerged of her flashing her badge from the passenger seat of a golf cart to get out of a traffic ticket. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor placed Chief Mary O’Connor on administrative leave Friday pending an investigation of the Nov. 12 traffic stop. The body camera video shows O’Connor identifying herself as the Tampa police chief and asking the Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy not to ticket her and her husband, who she says was driving the golf cart without a tag. O'Connor later released a statement saying the incident reflected “poor judgement."
Democrats in the Vermont House of Representatives have selected their leaders ahead of the next legislative session. The Democrats held a public caucus Saturday at the State House in Montpelier. Rep. Jill Krowinski of Burlington was tapped for a second term as speaker, though her nomination must be approved by the entire House on the first day of the 2023 session. Democrats also selected Rep. Leader Emily Long of Newfane to serve another term as majority leader. Democrats hold majorities in both the House of Representatives and the state Senate. The session gets underway January 4.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa looked relaxed and shared a joke with journalists as the African National Congress party’s national working committee is discussing his political fate. Ramaphosa’s future hangs in the balance as he faces calls from within the ANC and from opposition parties to step down from his position amid a scandal involving the theft of a large sum of cash from his farm in 2020. Ramaphosa was recused from Sunday’s meeting of the ruling ANC, which came days after an independent parliamentary panel issued a report that suggested he may have broken anti-corruption laws. The president has denied any wrongdoing in the matter.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is making clear he wants to keep the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place to protect the health of the troops, as Republican governors and lawmakers press to rescind it. This past week more than 20 Republican governors wrote to President Joe Biden asking that the administration remove the mandate. They say it has hurt the U.S. National Guard’s ability to recruit troops. Congress may consider legislation this coming week to end the mandate as a requirement to gather enough support to pass this years’ defense budget, which is already two months late. Austin says the mandate has kept the forces healthy.
The OPEC oil cartel and allied producers including Russia aren't changing their targets for shipping oil to the global economy. The decision Sunday comes amid uncertainty about the impact of new Western sanctions against Russia that could take significant amounts of oil off the market. Starting Monday, a European Union boycott of most Russian oil and a price cap of $60 per barrel on Russian exports by the EU and the Group of Seven democracies take effect. On the other side, oil has been trading at lower prices on fears a slowing economy will reduce demand. OPEC said in October that's why it was a slashing production by 2 million barrels per day starting in November, which remains in effect.