Colombia’s congress has ratified a revised peace agreement between the government and FARC rebel leaders, hoping to end a five-decade conflict. Both the House and Senate unanimously voted for accord, despite the vocal opposition of former President Alvaro Uribe, who wanted more concessions from rebels. Uribe, who is now a senator, boycotted the final vote. On Thursday, President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño signed the agreement in Bogota. With legislative approval, the peace agreement officially goes in effect. Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. The last attempted peace accord was defeated by voters in a referendum in October. This current peace accord, which made 50 changes, did not require voter approval. In the 180 days that follow, the United Nations will oversee an arms removal of rebel forces, after which the longest civil war in Latin America will end. More than 260,000 people have died in the last five decades.
Today's News: Nov. 30, 2016
Colombian peace accord ratified, the investigation of the Colombia plane crash, Trump cabinet picks, and more from the United States and around the world.
—Colombia’s congress has ratified a revised peace agreement between the government and FARC rebel leaders, hoping to end a five-decade conflict. More here
—Authorities are investigating the airplane crash in Colombia that killed 71 people Monday night. Fans mourned the members of a Brazilian soccer team that perished in the crash, and who were scheduled to play in the final of a major South American tournament Wednesday. More on the potential causes of the accident here.
—President-elect Donald Trump has announced his picks for treasury and commerce secretaries. More here from our politics team.
—A Canadian police department has threatened to punish drunk drivers by making them listen to Nickelback. Seriously.
—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
Colombian Congress Approves Peace Agreement to End 52-Year Civil War
North Carolina Elections Board Orders Recount in Durham County
The North Carolina governor’s race will go on a little bit longer.
At the end of a roughly three-hour meeting on Wednesday, the state Board of Elections voted 3-2 along party lines to order a recount of 94,000 early votes, plus votes from one precinct, in Durham County. Lawyer Thomas Stark, a Republican and supporter of Governor Pat McCrory, had requested the recount, but the Durham County board (which like all county boards is controlled by Republicans) rejected his request. He then appealed to the state board.
The matter at hand is the cache of votes, whose totals came in late at night due to complications in counting. When they were added, they changed a statewide lead for McCrory into a narrow advantage for Roy Cooper, his Democratic challenger; Cooper’s lead has persisted ever since. At Wednesday’s meeting, Democratic lawyers (and board members) argued that there was no real irregularity simply because the votes had come in late, and that Stark’s challenge didn’t meet the legal standard for a recount. Stark (and Republican members) countered that recount couldn’t hurt and would help reassure voters that the election was clean.
As of Wednesday evening, Cooper leads by a little bit more than 10,000 votes. The executive director of the state Republican Party said the GOP wanted a state recount but would withdraw the request if Durham County was recounted. But as long as Cooper leads by 10,000 votes or more, McCrory’s request for a recount won’t be automatically counted, so the state board decision may be the governor’s only option. (A few counties have not produced final tallies yet.)
It’s not clear just how long the recount will take—Stark and officials from Durham County offered varying estimates on Wednesday—but the results will wait on the process. Most observers think it’s unlikely that McCrory will make up his deficit.
FBI Overcomes Final Roadblock to Expand Hacking and Surveillance
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden’s final attempt to hamper changes to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which expand the hacking powers of the U.S. government, failed on Wednesday, Reuters reports. The changes were previously approved by the Supreme Court via private vote. Beginning Thursday, U.S. judges will be allowed to issue search warrants granting the FBI remote access to computers in multiple geographic jurisdictions, including, perhaps, those overseas. This will help the bureau locate computers suspected of illegal activity. In a statement to the Senate on Wednesday, Wyden referred to the changes as “one of the biggest mistakes in surveillance policy in years,” arguing that they infringe on the privacy of American citizens. The senator also expressed concern that an incoming Trump administration would be able to abuse the new hacking powers. The U.S. Justice Department, meanwhile, has advocated for changes to the criminal code for many years. “The Constitution already forbids mass, indiscriminate rummaging through victims’ computers, and it will continue to do so if the venue rule change goes into effect,” U.S. Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell wrote in a blog post Monday. “By contrast, blocking the amendments would make it more difficult for law enforcement to combat mass hacking by actual criminals.”
Audio Suggests Pilot Ran Out of Fuel in Colombian Plane Crash
The chartered plane that crashed in Colombia Monday night may have run out of fuel, according to audio footage obtained by multiple Colombian media outlets, the AP reports. In one of the audio recordings, the plane’s pilot can be heard saying “May Day! May Day!” and requesting to land due to a “total electric failure” and lack of fuel. The pilot claims to be hovering at an altitude of 9,000 feet, which experts say is maximum range for the aircraft. No traces of fuel were discovered at the crash site, nor did the plane explode upon impact, providing support for the theory that there was not enough fuel on board. One of the six survivors, Ximena Sanchez, a Bolivian flight attendant, told rescuers the plane ran out of fuel and “turned off” moments before it collided with a Colombian mountainside. Officials have not yet publicly announced the cause of the crash. A full investigation of the plane’s technology and maintenance history, along with the black boxes recovered from the wreckage, will likely take months.
Death Toll Rises to 7 in Tennessee Wildfires
Updated on November 30 at 4:31 p.m. EST
The death toll rose to seven in the wildfires that have scorched several thousands of acres and injured dozens in Tennessee, officials said Wednesday. The identities of the victims have not been released. The fire started Monday in eastern Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park and quickly spread across 15,000 acres into areas surrounding the mountain resort city of Gatlinburg, destroying more than 400 structures, displacing more than 14,000 people, and threatening a popular aquarium whose caretakers were evacuated. The wildfire, which Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam called the worst fire the state has seen in 100 years, is the latest of several blazes that have spread across the drought-stricken southeastern United States. The cause of the Tennessee fires is not yet known.
Over 2,000 Veterans Plan to Join Pipeline Protesters in North Dakota
More than 2,000 U.S. military veterans have planned to join protesters opposing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. The organizers of the effort, called “Veterans Stand For Standing Rock,” said the group aims to non-violently protest the oil pipeline’s construction and protect protesters “from assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force and DAPL security.” The protests, which are entering their eighth month, have included clashes with police, some of which have turned violent. The veterans will join the protesters next week, a day before North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple said protesters must begin leaving the area. The state, however, has said it would not forcibly remove people.
Fidel Castro’s Ashes Begin 4-Day Journey Across Cuba
An urn containing Fidel Castro’s ashes began a long procession Wednesday to the Cuban leader’s final resting place in Santiago. The journey will last four days and span 500 miles, and will follow the same route Castro took during his historic victory march after the overthrow of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959. Large crowds flocked to Havana’s Revolutionary Plaza Tuesday night for a rally to kick off the next day’s journey. A green military jeep carrying Castro’s urn departed the office of the country’s defense ministry at about 7 a.m. local time Wednesday. Many spectators were silent, while others waved Cuban flags and shouted, “Long may he live!” The procession is expected to arrive in Santiago around 7 p.m. Saturday for another mass commemoration at the Plaza Antonio Maceo. Castro’s ashes will be interred the next day at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery, marking the end of a nine-day period of national mourning.
India Orders Movie Theaters to Play the National Anthem
Indian movie theaters are now obligated to play the national anthem before every film screening, the nation’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday. Audiences will also be required to stand during the anthem while an Indian flag is displayed and the doors of the theater remain shut. The ruling, which goes into effect 10 days from now, was issued in response to a petition started by 78-year-old Shyam Narayan Chouksey, who was concerned about widespread disrespect toward the national anthem, particularly in theaters. The legislation also banned citizens from printing the anthem on “undesirable objects,” playing an abridged or dramatized version, or profiting from it. Prior to this decision, only theaters in the states of Maharashtra and Goa were required to play the anthem, known as Jana Gana Mana. Doing so was common practice in India during the 1960s and 1970s, but has been largely discontinued since. Recent years have seen a surge in extreme expressions of nationalism at Indian movie theaters. In October, a disabled man was assaulted for not standing during the anthem at a theater in Goa, and in 2014, a man was beaten by a mob after his girlfriend failed to stand during a screening.
Canadian Police Are Punishing Drunk Drivers by Making Them Listen to Nickelback
The questionable music quality of Canadian rock band Nickelback has become the butt of jokes and ridicule, but before now it had not slipped so far as to be considered torture. That seems to be the insinuation police in the town of Kensington, on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, made when they threatened to unleash Chad Kroeger’s voice on anyone caught drunk driving over the upcoming holiday season. In a Facebook post last week that just received attention Wednesday, the department threatened: “On top of a hefty fine, a criminal charge and a years driving suspension, we will also provide you with a bonus gift of playing the offices [sic] copy of Nickelback in the cruiser on the way to jail.” Along with the post came a picture of an unopened copy—a cassette—of Nickelback’s September 11, 2001 release of Silver Side Up, which went Platinum in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Some Canadians took offense to the warning, and said the police department was making jokes about a serious crime. Some defended Nickelback. Others offered alternative Canadian-born artists to help deter drunk driving, like pop singer Justin Bieber.
FDA Approves New Trials to Treat PTSD With Ecstasy
The Food and Drug Administration approved Tuesday a final set of clinical trials for MDMA, the illegal drug more commonly known as ecstasy, which, if successful, could push it to prescription-drug status. Researchers plan to administer the drug, which has addictive properties and can lead to serious brain damage, only a handful of times with trained psychotherapists on hand. Previous research suggests ecstasy is an effective means of treating post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2012 study found that three doses of MDMA resulted in a 56 percent decrease in the severity of PTSD symptoms among patients without leading to any drug abuse. The upcoming trials, known as Phase 3, will include about 230 patients. MDMA researchers have already attempted to expedite the drug’s approval process by applying for breakthrough therapy status with the FDA. With this approval, an MDMA prescription drug could be available as early as 2021.
Billionaire Saudi Prince Says It's About Time to Let Women Drive
Billionaire and Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal called his country’s ban on women driving an “unjust act” and must be lifted for the sake of equality and the country’s economic future. Alwaleed is often called the “Arabian Warren Buffett,” and is one of the richest men in Saudi Arabia and around the world. He is also an advocate for women’s rights—something unusual in Saudi Arabia, where women were first allowed to vote just last year. Alwaleed made the declaration on Twitter Tuesday, and in a longer statement said, “Preventing a woman from driving a car is today an issue of rights similar to the one that forbade her from receiving an education or having an independent identity.” Another reason women should drive, Alwaleed said, was for the diversification of Saudi Arabia’s economy, which took a hit when oil prices crashed in 2014. Alwaleed also argued that money spent on hiring male drivers, many of whom are foreigners, often ends up as remittances, sent outside the country to their families. “The situation,” Alwaleed said of the ban on women driving, “obviously takes its toll on the national economy.”
Trump Picks Treasury and Commerce Secretaries
President-elect Donald Trump has picked two men as the next secretaries of the Treasury and Commerce departments. Steven Mnuchin, a Hollywood financier who worked for Goldman Sachs, will head the Treasury, and Wilbur Ross, a billionaire banker, will lead Commerce. Mnuchin has no government experience, and Ross served as an adviser in the Clinton administration on foreign investment funds and in the New York mayor’s office under Rudy Giuliani. My colleague Priscilla Alvarez has more on these picks here.
An Italian Heir to the Fiat Fortune Faked His Own Kidnapping
Lapo Elkann, the 39-year-old heir to the Fiat fortune, has been charged in New York with falsifying his own kidnapping and asking for ransom money from his family, police confirmed Tuesday after the New York Daily News first reported the story Monday night. Elkann is the grandson of Gianni Agnelli, the late billionaire CEO of the Italian automaker. Elkann, who runs an eyewear company and has gained a reputation as a heavy drug user, said on Instagram last Thursday he had traveled to New York to work on “a lot of projects in development.” A couple days later, he called his family and said a woman was holding him against his will and had threatened to hurt him unless family members paid her $10,000. A family representative reportedly took the cash to a New York Police Department precinct, and officers set up a drop-off at an apartment building. Outside, officers saw Elkann standing with a woman, later determined to be an escort. Officers took the pair in for questioning, where Elkann admitted he and the escort had spent the past two days high on cocaine and marijuana but had run out of money. At first, Elkann blamed the scheme on the escort, but police determined it had been his idea. All charges against the woman have been dropped.
ISIS Claims Ohio State Attacker Was Its 'Soldier'
The Islamic State has described the attacker who drove his car into pedestrians and slashed them with a butcher knife at Ohio State University on Monday as the terrorist group’s “soldier,” a similar claim it has used to praise and take credit for so-called lone wolf actors. The attacker, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 18, was a Somali-born refugee and student at the school. Artan was shot and killed by a police officer within minutes of the attack. Evidence so far suggests Artan carried out the attack on his own, although authorities are still investigating whether he had any direct communication with ISIS. As of now, Artan’s only link to ISIS seems to be Facebook posts he made prior to the attack in which he praised the terrorists and wrote: “By Allah, we will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims. You will not celebrate or enjoy any holiday.” ISIS has urged its supporters abroad to carry out independent attacks. The perpetrators of the mass shootings in San Bernardino last year and in Orlando this summer pledged allegiance to the terrorist group, and ISIS hailed them as “soldiers of the caliphate in America.”
Fans Mourn Brazilian Soccer Players Killed in Plane Crash
The members of the Brazilian soccer team that perished in a plane crash Monday night in Colombia were scheduled to play Wednesday in the final of a South American tournament. It was the first time Chapecoense, which represents the city of Chapeco, had made it that far in a major competition. The victims will be honored Wednesday at the Atanasio Girardot stadium in Medellín, where the match was to be held. tletico Nacional, the Medellín team Chapecoense was scheduled to face, has said the trophy in the Copa Sudamerican tournament should be awarded to its rival in honor of the victims. On Tuesday, fans dressed in Chapecoense’s green jerseys gathered Tuesday in the streets of Chapeco and inside Arena Conda, Chapecoense’s home stadium, to pay tribute to the victims. Three players survived the crash, which killed 71 people, including crew members, players, coaches, staff, and journalists traveling with the team. Six people survived. Officials are continuing to investigate the accident.