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Today's News: Dec. 28, 2016

Remembering Debbie Reynolds, John Kerry outlines U.S. vision for peace in the Middle East, and more from the United States and around the world.

Mike Blake / Reuters

—Renowned actress and singer Debbie Reynolds died, just a day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, passed away. Reynolds was 84 years old. More here

—U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry criticized Israel’s settlement activities in a speech. More here

—President Obama designated large swaths of land in Utah and Nevada as national monuments, placing more than 1 million acres under federal protection. More here

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

Updates

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Remembering Debbie Reynolds

Mike Blake / Reuters

Renowned actress and singer Debbie Reynolds died Wednesday, just a day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, passed away. Reynolds was 84 years old. She was rushed to the hospital Wednesday afternoon with breathing difficulties and died later that evening. Following her death, her son Todd told Variety, “She wanted to be with Carrie.” Born in El Paso, Texas, in 1932, Reynolds was one of the biggest stars of the 1950s and ‘60s, starring in Singin’ in the Rain. Her performance in The Unsinkable Molly Brown landed her an Oscar nomination for best actress in 1964. She was first nominated for a Golden Globe in 1950 for her role in Three Little Words. She was also nominated for an Emmy Award. Off-screen, Reynolds was a celebrated humanitarian and collector of Hollywood memorabilia. She was married to singer Eddie Fisher in the 1950s, but divorced after four years after he left her for Elizabeth Taylor. Their daughter, Carrie Fisher, died on Tuesday, four days after a suffering a heart attack. She was 60 years old.

President Obama Declares National Monuments in Utah, Nevada

Bears Ears in southeastern Utah (Rick Bowme / AP)

President Obama designated large swaths of land in Utah and Nevada as national monuments Wednesday, placing more than 1 million acres under federal protection. The monuments include the Bears Ears region in southern Utah and the Gold Butte region in southern Nevada. President Obama said the designations will “protect some of our country’s most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes.” Indeed, the Bears Ears designation was lauded by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition as a “courageous” step to protect sacred tribals areas, though it will likely upset local leaders who have vowed to fight such a designation on the grounds that it should not be established through executive decree. Under the 1906 Antiquities Act, the president can designate national monuments out of public land without seeking congressional approval. Obama has invoked the executive power 29 times throughout his tenure, expanding the protected area of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean and establishing the first national monument in the Atlantic.

Dylann Roof Says He Won't Present Evidence in Death Penalty Trial

Reuters

Dylann Roof told a judge Wednesday he has no intention to “offer any evidence at all or call any witnesses whatsoever” in his upcoming trail that will determine whether he will face the death penalty or spend the rest of his life in prison for the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel told Roof, who will represent himself, that he will have until the start of the proceedings, which begin January 3, to change his mind. Last month, 22-year-old Roof, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, was convicted of all counts for shooting and killing nine black churchgoers attending a Bible study at the historic church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof admitted to shooting to the worshippers in a videotaped confession to the FBI, adding: “What I did is so minuscule to what they’re doing to white people, every day, all the time.”

All Chicago Police Will Wear Body Cameras Within a Year

Jim Young / Reuters

The Chicago Police Department will fast-track a plan to equip all officers with body cameras by the end of next year, the mayor’s office announced Wednesday. This puts the plan a year ahead of schedule. Right now, about one-third of Chicago’s 22 police districts have the cameras. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has pushed for more departments to equip officers with the cameras, and Chicago took advantage of federal funding to help pay for its program. The move is an effort to hold officers more accountable, especially amid the growing concern around police shootings. The Chicago Police Department is still under investigation by the DOJ for its training and procedures that led to the death of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old shot by officers in 2014.

Faulty Wing Flaps May Be to Blame for Russian Plane Crash

Reuters

Investigators looking into the crash of a Russian military plane on Sunday believe faulty wing flaps may have caused the aircraft to plummet into the Black Sea killing all 92 people on board. Authorities said they’d found the plane’s second black box Wednesday, and a recorded conversation between the pilots suggested a wing-flap error. A transcript of the conversation was published by Russian media, with some of the crew’s last words including: "The flaps, hell ... !" The plane was a government-owned Tupolev-154, an old Soviet-era model designed in the 1960s and last updated in the 1980s. It is almost completely out of use among commercial airlines, though the Russian government still uses it. The plane had taken off from Sochi after it refueled, and was bound for Syria, where a famed military choir, whose members were on the plane, was scheduled to sing for troops at a New Year’s concert. It crashed just two minutes after takeoff. If the wing flaps were to blame, they would have caused the plane to lose speed and quickly drop altitude.

Tunisian Man Arrested in Connection With Berlin Attack

Anis Amri is seen in this photo taken from security cameras at the Milan Central Train Station on December 23. (Reuters)

German authorities arrested Wednesday a 40-year-old Tunisian man they say was an accomplice in the December 19 attack on a Christmas market in Berlin that killed 12 people and wounded 48 others. Authorities arrested the suspect in Berlin and have a day to decide whether to charge him. Investigators say they found the suspect’s contact information on the phone belonging to Anis Amri, the man who carried out that attack by driving a truck into a crowd. Amri was shot and killed near Milan last week. The BBC adds that Dutch authorities are investigating whether Amri traveled to the Netherlands immediately after the attack. ISIS claimed responsibility for the Berlin attack.

Russian Official Appears to Admit 'Institutional Conspiracy' of Sports Doping

(Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters)

A Russian anti-doping official has acknowledged to The New York Times an “institutional conspiracy” that permitted widespread doping in the country’s athletics program. But the body she heads, Rusada, said Anna Antseliovich’s remarks were distorted. At issue is the World Anti-Doping Agency’s McLaren report that was published earlier this month. It claimed more than 1,000 Russian athletes benefited from the doping program in an “institutional conspiracy [that] existed across summer and winter sports athletes.” Rusada officials said Wednesday that Antseliovich was merely echoing those remarks, but not directly acknowledging any official Russian actions to support doping. The Russian government has denied the existing of a doping program for its athletes. Nevertheless, its track-and-field competitors were banned from the Rio games.

Kerry to Outline U.S. Vision of Middle East Peace Deal

(Reuters)

Secretary of State John Kerry will reportedly outline Wednesday the U.S. vision of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, just days after the U.S. abstained from a UN Security Council vote that criticized Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. That abstention has resulted in a new low in relations between the two allies (Israel had wanted the U.S. to, as it typically does, to veto the resolution) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies alleging that it was the Obama administration that, in fact, orchestrated the resolution and pressured its allies on the Security Council to adopt it. Israel has suspended diplomatic relations with those nations that supported the UN resolution and had announced the construction of more homes in East Jerusalem—but that latter plan has reportedly been postponed until after Kerry’s speech to avoid further straining relations with the Obama administration. Our live blog is here.