In need of Donald Trump’s phone number? Ask golf legend and Australian native Greg Norman. After the New York real estate mogul won the presidency, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sought to congratulate him on his victory. He turned to Joe Hockey, the Australian ambassador to the U.S., who had just received the Republican’s digits from Norman, positioning the prime minister to be one of the first world leaders to talk to the next president of the U.S. Norman, in a statement released Wednesday, said “it was a pleasure and an honor” to connect the two men. Norman continued, “I have great respect for both men who have been voted in by the people of their respective countries and I am fortunate enough to call Mr. Trump a friend, so I was happy to put them in touch to further the incredible long-standing relationship the two countries have experienced.” Trump and Turnbull reportedly spoke last week for 15 minutes and had a “very frank” discussion on U.S.-Australian relations.
—Dozens of wildfires continued to rage across the South on Wednesday, scorching more than 128,000 acres in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. More here
—A Minnesota police officer will face felony charges in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile near St. Paul in July. More here
—Bob Dylan won’t attend the Nobel Prize ceremony on December 10. More here
—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
Golf Legend Connects Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister
Dozens of Raging Wildfires Threaten the South
Dozens of wildfires continued to rage across the South on Wednesday, scorching more than 128,000 acres in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. With dry weather and strong winds, the fires are expected to continue throughout the week. While the wildfires have stayed away from most major cities, smoke has drifted to urban centers, blanketing Charleston and Atlanta in an ominous haze and poor air quality. More than 5,000 firefighters coming in from across the country are trying to contain the damage and prepare for less conducive weather. While fires in the West usually calm during the evenings, these fires across the southern region of the Appalachian Mountains are raging consistently throughout the day, fueled by decades of fallen leaves. Authorities haven’t reported any injuries.
Stranded People Rescued Days After New Zealand Earthquake
Hundreds of survivors stranded in a small coastal town by a huge earthquake in New Zealand have been rescued and brought by a navy ship to Christchurch, Reuters reports. About 450 people from Kaikoura reached the city early Thursday local time, four days after a 7.8-magnitude struck the country. The quake caused massive landslides in Kaikoura, blocking roads and stranding about 1,000 tourists and hundreds of residents. Hundreds more were transported from Kaikoura to the Christchurch area this week by helicopters from the country’s air force. The earthquake killed two people and damaged dozens of buildings.
Texas Board of Education Rejects a Controversial Mexican-American Studies Textbook
The Texas Board of Education has rejected a Mexican-American studies book that critics called racist, and that had passages referring to Mexicans as lazy. The Atlantic covered the controversy in September, which began after the board rejected a proposal to create a curriculum around Mexican-American history. Instead, as a sort of compromise, the board opened submissions for a textbook that could be used for a special-topics social-studies course. Only one book, Mexican American Heritage, was submitted, published by a controversial former board member. The vote Wednesday was preliminary, and a final decision will come at the end of the week. If the book is rejected then, it could lead to a new call for textbook submissions.
Wisconsin Man Featured in 'Making a Murderer' to Be Released Friday
A Wisconsin man whose story was chronicled in a Netflix true-crime documentary will be released from prison Friday after serving nine years, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. Brendan Dassey, 27, was convicted in 2007 in the murder and sexual assault of a 25-year-old woman, and sentenced to life in prison. His conviction was overturned in August after a federal judge ruled Dassey had been coerced into a confession under interrogation. The Wisconsin attorney general's office has appealed the ruling in an attempt to block Dassey's release. Dassey's uncle, Steven Avery, also was convicted in the crime and is serving a life sentence. The cases of both men were the focus of Making a Murderer, a 2015 series.
Bob Dylan Won't Attend Nobel Prize Ceremony
Bob Dylan has told the Swedish Academy he won’t attend the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm on December 10 “due to pre-existing commitments,” the academy said in a statement. Dylan’s non-attendance is not unusual. Past winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature who haven’t gone to Stockholm for the award ceremony include Doris Lessing, Harold Pinter, and Elfriede Jelinek. The academy said the only condition Dylan must fulfill to keep the literature prize is deliver his lecture within six months of December 10, 2016. But the academy’s rules say the prize cannot be revoked, and about the six-month time period it only says: “It shall be incumbent on a prizewinner, whenever this is possible, to give a lecture on a subject relevant to the work for which the prize has been awarded. Such a lecture should be given before, or no later than six months after, the Festival Day in Stockholm or, in the case of the Peace Prize, in Oslo.” The Academy says it will have an update Friday, and we’ll report then on what it says.
Minnesota Officer Faces Felony Charges in Fatal Shooting of Philando Castile
A Minnesota police officer will face felony charges in the fatal shooting of a black man in July that was streamed live on Facebook, prosecutors said Wednesday, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. St. Anthony Police officer Jeronimo Yanez has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm in the death of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old school cafeteria manager. Prosecutors found the use of lethal force was “not justified” when Yanez shot Castile in his vehicle during a traffic stop in a St. Paul suburb in July. Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, was in the car with him and streamed the bloody aftermath live on Facebook. Reynolds's four-year-old daughter was in the backseat. Castile’s death, coupled with a fatal police shooting of another black man in Louisiana a day earlier, prompted widespread protests against police in cities across the United States. A day after Castile was killed, a sniper targeted police officers at a protest in Dallas, killing five.
France's Former Economy Minister Launches Independent Presidential Bid
Former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron announced Wednesday his bid for the French presidency. The 38-year-old is a relative political novice, having only first appeared in the political landscape two years ago when he was appointed the minister of economy, industry, and digital affairs by Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Macron, who has never before held elected office, said at his announcement Wednesday that he would run as an independent in order to move the country away from “clan-based politics,” adding: “The challenge is not for me to bring together the left, or to bring together the right. The challenge is to bring the French people together.” Macron’s candidacy could unsettle the country’s mainstream center-left and center-right parties, both of which are undergoing tight primary races.
Two Sunken Dutch Ships From World War II Have Vanished From the Sea Floor
Dutch divers preparing for the 75th anniversary of the battle of the Java Sea in 1942 recently swam to the ocean floor to prepare three sunken ships for next year’s commemoration celebration. The ships were discovered off the coast of Indonesia in 2002 by amateur divers and represented an important part of Dutch and World War II history. The HNLMS De Ruyter, HNLMS Java, and the HNLMS Kortenaer were all sunk by Japanese forces in a battle that became one of the costliest losses for the Netherlands. About 2,000 people died, and it led to the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies. When divers neared the site of the wreckage, their sonar picked the ships’ indentations on the ocean floor, but two of the warships had completely disappeared, and only part of the third remained. The Netherlands defense ministry said Tuesday it was likely salvagers had stolen the vessels, and an international investigation is being opened.
Twitter Suspends Several Alt-Right Accounts
Twitter suspended at least six accounts associated with the alt-right, a movement which espouses white nationalism. Among those suspended is Richard Spencer, the head of the National Policy Institute think tank, as well as the group’s account, and the account for Spencer’s online magazine, Radix Journal. Spencer called the suspensions “corporate Stalinism.” Twitter declined to comment, but USA Today reported it’s not the first time the social-media company has suspended accounts associated with the alt-right. Twitter’s decision came the same day the company announced a new set of tools to combat “abuse, bullying, and harassment” online.
China Doesn't Want Its Citizens to Call North Korea's Leader 'Kim Jong Fatty the Third'
The Chinese government blocked internet searches this week for “Kim Jong Fatty the Third,” a popular nickname in the country for North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. North Korean officials requested a removal of the nickname from the internet because it derides the communist leader’s weight, and notes Kim is the third member of his family to rule North Korea. The term “Jin San Pang” is so popular and used so widely that Chinese search engines, like Baidu, autofill the name after users begin typing. This week those references did not appear on the search engine, nor on Weibo, a Chinese hybrid of Twitter and Facebook. In response, some Chinese took to the internet and suggested other nicknames, like “Fatty Kim the Third,” which had not been blocked.
A Children's Hospital in Aleppo Was Bombed
At least 20 people, including children, are dead in airstrikes on targets in rebel-held Aleppo that included a children’s hospital and a blood-donation bank. The children's hospital was struck nine times by barrel bombs dropped from helicopters. Russian strikes, which resumed Tuesday after a pause that began October 18 to allow civilians to leave the area, restarted not long after President Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone with Donald Trump, the U.S. president-elect who has signaled a Syria strategy that’s different from President Obama’s. Russia’s military presence in Syria, on the side of President Bashar al-Assad, is ostensibly to fight ISIS, but the group is not present in Aleppo. Parts of the city, Syria’s largest, is controlled by several rebel groups, including those backed by the U.S.
Russia Withdraws From International Criminal Court
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an order Wednesday to withdraw his country from the International Criminal Court. “The International Criminal Court has not justified hopes placed upon it and did not become a truly independent and authoritative judicial body,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Russia signed the Rome Statute, which established the Hague-based court, in 2000, but never ratified it.
Jakarta's Christian Governor Is Named a Suspect in Blasphemy Investigation
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the ethnic Chinese Christian governor of Jakarta who is better known as “Ahok,” has been named a suspect in a blasphemy investigation related to comments he made about the Quran while campaigning for re-election. Ari Dono, the head of the National Police’s Criminal Investigation Department, said in a news conference Wednesday that Ahok had been barred from traveling overseas. During a campaign meeting in September, Ahok interpreted a verse in the Quran to urge people to vote for him. The remarks by Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor, a target of Islamist groups since he was elected in 2014, led to violent protests. Tuesday’s police announcement, which came despite admitted divisions within the force, has raised fears of a rise in religious tensions in the overwhelmingly Muslim-majority country. Ahok said he accepted “the status of being a suspect. This is an example of democracy.”
Trump Defends Transition Efforts
President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to defend his transition efforts after The New York Times reported the process is in disarray. Trump also denied he was trying to obtain “top level security clearance” for his children, as was reported by several news organization. He did not, however, say anything about the NBC News report that he had sought security clearance for his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has emerged as perhaps Trump’s closest adviser. The Times in its story said the transition efforts were “marked by firings, infighting and revelations that American allies were blindly dialing in to Trump Tower to try to reach the soon-to-be-leader of the free world.”
The failing @nytimes story is so totally wrong on transition. It is going so smoothly. Also, I have spoken to many foreign leaders.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2016