Live Coverage

Today's News: Dec. 15, 2016

Dylann Roof convicted, Facebook takes action, and more from the United States and around the world.

Reuters

—A federal jury in Charleston, South Carolina, found Dylann Roof guilty of all counts for the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015. More here

—Facebook made one of its most concerted efforts yet Thursday to limit fake news from being shared across its social media platform. More here

—Longtime sports broadcaster Craig Sager died Thursday. More here

—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).

Updates

This live blog has concluded

Trump Taps David Friedman for U.S. Ambassador to Israel

President-elect Donald Trump has tapped one of his advisers, David Friedman, as the next ambassador to Israel. Friedman, who is far-right, has said that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are not illegal and said that liberal Jews threaten Israel. Both Friedman and Trump have discussed putting the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. It currently sits in Tel Aviv. More on the Friedman pick here.

Remembering Craig Sager

David J. Phillip / AP

Longtime sports broadcaster Craig Sager died Thursday. He was 65. Sager was beloved by fans, athletes, and coaches not just for his colorful suits during sideline interviews, but for the strength he showed while battling cancer in recent years. He was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014, and underwent three bone marrow transplants in the process of fighting it. Sager, who was born in Illinois in 1951, worked for Turner Broadcasting for more than three decades and in journalism for 40 years. The NBA said Thursday the league would observe a moment of silence in his honor. League commissioner Adam Silver said he “was as vital to the NBA as the players and coaches.” In 2016, he won the Jimmy Perseverance Award at the ESPYS for his long career and fight with cancer, which San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, normally known for his salty demeanor toward reporters, recognized in an interview late last year.

Dylann Roof Found Guilty on All Counts in Charleston Church Killings

Reuters

A federal jury in Charleston, South Carolina, needed less than two hours of deliberation Thursday to find Dylann Roof guilty of all counts for the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015. Roof, 22, faced 33 counts, including charges related to federal hate crimes and obstruction of religion, for shooting and killing nine black churchgoers during a Bible study at the historic church in Charleston. In a video confession, Roof, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, told FBI agents he intended to shoot the black churchgoers, adding: “What I did is so minuscule to what they’re doing to white people, every day, all the time.” A sentencing hearing, set to begin January 3, will determine whether Roof will face the death penalty or spend the rest of his life in prison.

Facebook's Plan to Fight Fake News

Facebook

Facebook made one of its most concerted efforts yet Thursday to limit fake news from being shared across its social media platform. Fake news became a matter of concern during the U.S. presidential election and culminated in an incident in which a North Carolina man carried a gun inside a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant earlier this month to self-investigate a conspiracy that claimed Hillary Clinton ran a child sex-trafficking ring in the building. The rumor had begun as a fake news article, and gained such attention among conspiracy theorists that it became widely known as “Pizzagate.” Facebook, until recently, has hedged at becoming an arbiter of what is true or false. But Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, announced in November he would outline a plan to fight the spread of fake articles. The company’s newest tool allows users to flag a fake news post, and even to send a message to the friend who posted it saying the article is erroneous. If enough people do this, a coalition of fact-checkers, like Poynter, Politifact, and Snopes, can label the article as “disputed.”

A Texas City Wakes Up to Contaminated Tap Water

Eric Gay / AP

The residents of Corpus Christi, Texas, received an alarming message late Wednesday. City officials said everyone should avoid using tap water—and drink only bottled water until further notice—due to possible contamination of an unknown chemical. “Boiling, freezing, filtering, adding chlorine or other disinfectants, or letting the water stand will not make the water safe,” the statement read. The news was sent at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday by email, and offered little more information as to the cause of contamination other than stating a “back-flow incident in the industrial district” was to blame. By early Thursday, many of the businesses in the city of 320,000 were out of water. Most schools and some businesses had closed, and city officials said they hoped to have the issue resolved by the end of the day.

Trump Nominates Congressman Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior

President-elect Donald Trump nominated Ryan Zinke, the Republican congressman from Montana, to be the interior secretary. As my colleague Russell Berman noted in our Politics team’s live blog of Trump’s transition efforts, Zinke is a first-term House member who served in the Navy Seals for more than 20 years. Russell said: “Zinke is a conservative who has fought for increased local input into how federal lands are managed and their resources utilized, but largely opposed new environmental regulations.”

Putin Is Directly Linked to U.S. Hacks, News Reports Say

Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin was directly involved in the hack of the Democratic National Committee and efforts to interfere in the U.S. elections, NBC and ABC are reporting. Both news reports are based on anonymous sourcing. NBC cited two senior U.S. intelligence officials while ABC quoted U.S. and foreign intelligence officials. Russia has denied the reports, and Donald Trump, the U.S. president-elect, has questioned the intelligence that resulted in the assessment. His surrogates have even suggested that the Russians are the victims of a false-flag operation conducted by the U.S. While, on the face of it, Putin’s reported involvement is significant, U.S. intelligence officials were publicly saying in October that “based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts … only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

Explosives May Have Caused the EgyptAir Crash, Investigation Finds

An EgyptAir plane scheduled to travel from Paris to Cairo after flight MS804 disappeared on May 19, 2016. (Christian Hartmann / Reuters)

Traces of explosives were found on the remains of EgyptAir Flight 804, which crashed into the Mediterranean en route from Paris to Cairo in May, Egypt’s civil aviation ministry announced Thursday. Investigators previously denied that explosives contributed to the crash, which resulted in the deaths of all 66 people on board. Evidence collected from the plane’s black boxes suggests the plane likely broke apart in midair as a result of a fire near or inside the cockpit, though officials could not determine if the fire was intentional. No distress call was made.  

Red Cross Says Evacuation From Eastern Aleppo Is 'Well Underway'

A still image taken from a drone footage and released by Russia's Defense Ministry on Thursday shows what the ministry says is the evacuation of rebels and their families from eastern Aleppo. (Reuters TV)

Updated on December 15 at 5:49 p.m. EST

The International Committee of the Red Cross says the evacuation of rebels and civilians from eastern Aleppo to safe areas controlled by the rebels is “well underway,” a day after the fate of a cease-fire deal brokered by Russia and Turkey appeared uncertain. The ICRC, working alongside the Syrian Red Crescent, prepared to evacuate about 200 wounded people from east Aleppo, the last rebel stronghold that all but fell this week to forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Each of the main sides involved in the fighting in Aleppo has confirmed Thursday’s evacuation. Russia, which intervened in the Syrian civil war at Assad’s behest, said 5,000 rebels and their families were leaving eastern Aleppo, as did the Syrian government and its allies in Hezbollah, the Shia militant group from Lebanon. Turkey, which supports some of the rebels, also said the evacuations to rebel-held Idlib were under way. The White Helmets, a humanitarian group that operates in Aleppo that the Syrian government views as terrorists, added one of its drivers who was clearing the evacuation route was shot by a government sniper. The rebels who do make it out of Aleppo will regroup in Idlib, the Syrian province their allies control. Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria, told reporters in Paris Thursday that an estimated 50,000 people still remain in eastern Aleppo.