10 things you need to know today: December 27, 2019

Harold Maass


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday survived a challenge for the leadership of his conservative Likud party. Early results showed Netanyahu with 72.5 percent of votes in the party election. Long-time Likud rival Gideon Saar got 27.5 percent. Netanyahu declared victory even before the official results were released. "A giant victory!" he tweeted early Friday. "With the help of God and with your help, I will lead Likud to a great victory in the upcoming elections and we will continue to lead the country to unprecedented achievements." Netanyahu beat challenger Saar, an experienced but less popular politician, despite pending corruption charges and the fact that he failed to win enough seats to form a government in two elections since April. Saar said Netanyahu should be replaced because he wouldn't be able to prevail after March elections, either. [The New York Times]


President Trump harshly criticized Democrats on Thursday in a flurry of post-Christmas tweets, singling out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for stalling the impeachment process in a dispute over Senate rules. Pelosi has delayed transmitting the articles of impeachment the House approved last week until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reveals the process for Trump's trial. "The Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats said they wanted to RUSH everything through to the Senate because 'President Trump is a threat to National Security' (they are vicious, will say anything!)," Trump wrote, "but now they don't want to go fast anymore, they want to go very slowly. Liars!" Trump said Pelosi was "crazy" and called her San Francisco district "filthy dirty." [NBC News]


A Bek Air plane crashed on Friday in Kazakhstan with 95 passengers and five crew members on board. At least 14 people were killed. Forty-nine people were rushed to hospitals with serious injuries. Eighteen were in critical condition. The Fokker 100 aircraft went down near the city of Almaty shortly after taking off on a flight to the capital, Nur-Sultan. It "lost altitude during takeoff and broke through a concrete fence," then hit a building just off the runway, Kazakhstan's Civil Aviation Committee said in a statement. The plane broke in two. Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev expressed condolences via Twitter and said a government commission would investigate. "All those guilty will be severely punished in accordance with the law," he wrote. [Reuters, The Washington Post]


A major winter storm system is heading toward the Plains and Upper Midwest after hitting Southern California's mountains with heavy snow. The storm halted traffic on Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles on Christmas night, then forced the temporary closure of Interstate 15, which connects Las Vegas to Southern California, briefly on Thursday. Weather.com warned that on Friday the storm could cause "significant travel difficulty" through Southern California passes and on Interstate 40 in northern Arizona, and on Interstate 25 north of Albuquerque. "After bringing a swath of snow from Arizona and New Mexico to Colorado at the end of the week, snow will streak across the central and northern Plains by Saturday," AccuWeather meteorologist Renee Duff said. [USA Today]


President Trump got mixed reviews in a poll asking Americans how his presidency will be remembered. Forty percent of the respondents in the Economist/YouGov survey said Trump would be viewed in history as a "poor" president, while another nine percent said he would be seen as "below average." Twenty-two percent said Trump would be viewed as an "outstanding" leader, while 12 percent put him "above average." Eight percent said he would be considered "average." The poll was conducted days after the House passed two articles of impeachment accusing Trump of abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democrats, and of obstructing Congress. Nearly 50 percent of the respondents approved of impeachment "somewhat" or "strongly." Forty-one percent disapproved "strongly" or "somewhat." [Newsweek]


The Turkish Constitutional Court ruled Thursday that the government's ban on Wikipedia was unconstitutional. The online encyclopedia's lawyers argued that the policy violated the right of free expression protected under the Turkish constitution. The ban was put in place as part of a broader crackdown on access to information after a failed July 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Wikipedia Foundation said in a statement that it hoped "access will be restored in Turkey soon." The Turkish Embassy in Washington did not immediately release any comment. Yaman Akdeniz, a law professor at Istanbul Bilgi University who also challenged the Wikipedia ban, said he expected the ruling to be enforced, but probably not until a full opinion is published. [The New York Times]


Tesla has sealed agreements for up to $1.3 billion in loans from Chinese banks, according to a Thursday regulatory filing. The revolving loan deal is intended for use on Tesla's Shanghai electric-car factory. The lenders involved in the agreement include China Construction Bank Corp, Agricultural Bank of China, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. The Shanghai plant will be Tesla's first vehicle manufacturing facility outside the U.S. It is part of the company's effort to increase its sales in China, the world's biggest auto market, without higher import tariffs that apply to cars made in the U.S. [Reuters]


A tourist helicopter went missing off Kauai's Napali coast in Hawaii on Thursday. There were seven people on board, including the pilot and six passengers, two of whom were believed to be children. Coast Guard crews searched for the aircraft after it failed to return from a tour. Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Cox, of Coast Guard Joint Rescue Command Center Honolulu, said harsh weather made the effort "challenging" due to low visibility and high wind gusts. The helicopter has an electronic locator, but authorities said they had received no signals from it. [CNN]


Amazon shares surged 4.4 percent higher on Thursday after the online retail giant announced "record-breaking" holiday sales. The company said its customers ordered "billions of items" in the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas season. Amazon said its own devices helped boost sales, with customers snapping up tens of millions of Echo Dots, Fire TV Sticks, Echo Show 5s, and other Alexa-enabled gadgets. The devices have been big sellers for several years, making Amazon the biggest provider of voice assistants. Other popular items included the LOL Surprise Glitter Globe Doll Winter Disco Series with Glitter Hair, iRobot's Roomba 675 vacuum, and the Instant Pot Duo 80 pressure cooker. [Barron's, CNN]


Songwriter Allee Willis, whose work included the Friends theme "I'll Be There for You," has died. She was 72. Fans and collaborators paid tribute on social media as news circulated of Willis' unexpected Tuesday death from cardiac arrest in Los Angeles. After writing and fixing songs for top artists in the mid-1970s, often without credit, Willis helped write Earth, Wind & Fire's enduring hit "September," then their next album. Her subsequent songwriting credits include the Pointer Sisters' hit "Neutron Dance" and the Pet Shop Boys' "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" Willis won two Grammys, one for her work on the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack, and another for her work on the Broadway adaptation of The Color Purple. She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018. [The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times]

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