Live Coverage

Today's News: Dec. 16, 2016

The evacuation of Aleppo, Chinese military aggression, and more from the United States and around the world.

Omar Sanadiki / Reuters

—The negotiated evacuation of citizens in Aleppo’s rebel-held eastern district has been halted, trapping between 50,000 and 100,000 people. More here

—The FBI and the director of national intelligence now agree with the CIA’s assessment that the Russian government intervened in the presidential election to help President-elect Donald Trump win. More here

—A Chinese Navy warship seized an unmanned, underwater glider drone from an American vessel in the South China Sea. More here

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


This live blog has concluded

Princeton's Men's Swimming and Diving Team Is the Latest to Be Suspended for Sexist Messages

People walk by Princeton University's Nassau Hall. (Dominick Reuter / Reuters)

Princeton University joined the growing list of academic institutions that have suspended sports teams for exchanging offensive remarks online. The New Jersey school on Thursday announced its decision to suspend the men’s swimming and diving team’s season after discovering content on the team’s mailing list that the university described as “vulgar and offensive, as well as misogynistic and racist in nature.” John Cramer, a Princeton spokesman, told the university’s student newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, that the specific contents of the emails were being withheld to ensure the privacy of “members of the women’s swimming and diving team,” though he did not confirm whether the women’s team members were the subject of the emails.

Other university sports teams have faced similar allegations resulting in suspensions. Massachusetts’ Amherst College announced Sunday the suspension of its men’s cross-country team after several of the team’s emails published by Amherst’s student magazine, The Indicator, revealed its members used lewd comments about eight of their female peers—including language referring to some of the women as a “meatslab” or a “walking STD”— that the university described as “racist, misogynist, and homophobic.” Harvard University canceled its men’s soccer team’s season last month after it was revealed that the team produced a “scouting report” of the women’s soccer team’s recruits, assigning each one a numerical rating and a hypothetical sexual position. Columbia University also announced last month its decision to suspend members of its wrestling team after eight of its members were revealed to have sent racist and sexually explicit messages in a group text.

Report: FBI Backs CIA Assessment That Russia Intervened to Help Trump

Gary Cameron / Reuters

Multiple news outlets are reporting that the FBI and director of national intelligence now agree with the CIA’s assessment that the Russian government intervened in the presidential election to help President-elect Donald Trump win. The Washington Post reported Friday that CIA Director John Brennan recently told the agency’s employees that there is a “strong consensus” among himself, FBI Director James Comey, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election.” According to NBC News, the FBI now believes Russian support for Trump was “one part” of a broader effort to undermine American democratic institutions. News outlets first reported last week that the CIA, which had already deemed Russia the culprit in the hacking, had revised its assessment to conclude the Russian government hoped to clandestinely aid Trump by undermining his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. President Obama has ordered all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies to prepare a report on foreign interference in recent presidential elections by January 20, the day Trump takes office.

The 'Harlem Deer' Comes to an Unfortunate Demise


It was an emotional few days for people in New York City who hoped to save a deer that wandered into Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem. For two weeks the “Harlem Deer” or “Lefty,” as the white-tailed, one-horned buck came to be known, had attracted crowds of excited locals. Meanwhile, city and state officials bickered over its fate. The city, citing state law, said the deer should be euthanized, because its chances of survival were low. Governor Andrew Cuomo, however, wanted to see the deer alive. The battle drew out to the final moment, with the deer’s execution scheduled for Friday. Friday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on The Brian Lehrer Show on WYNYC radio, “If a deer is already in a natural location and you can leave them there, then they have a chance of survival, but if not, you don’t really have another option. It’s a question of is it going to be a quick and merciful death versus potentially a very long painful process.” Still, Cuomo, who has a reputation for inserting himself in city matters, was obstinate. Just before noon, the state Department of Environmental Conservation drove to the East Harlem shelter where the deer was kept and drove it, away heading somewhere beyond the city where it could live safely. Alas, on the way to freedom, the deer died. City officials blamed the stress of captivity.  

U.S. Official: Chinese Navy Seized American Drone in South China Sea

An aerial view of Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba, in the South China Sea on November 29, 2016. (Tyrone Siu / Reuters)

A Chinese Navy warship seized an unmanned, underwater glider drone from an American vessel in the South China Sea, the Department of Defense said Friday in a statement. The Pentagon says the incident took place Thursday in international waters off the coast of the Philippines at noon local time, officials said. A Chinese Navy vessel retrieved the U.S. drone from the water. An official said the USS Bowditch, an oceanographic research vessel, had deployed the drone as part of a survey mission to collect data on ocean and weather patterns. When the Bowditch’s crew asked for the drone back, the Chinese vessel reportedly ignored the request and left. The act prompted the State Department to file a demarche, or formal diplomatic request, asking that the drone be returned. This isn’t the first time the U.S. and China have clashed on the South China Sea. Beijing and Manila have both claimed portions of the area. The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled unanimously in favor of the Philippines in July when it declared that China has no legal rights to the contested waters, but China has rejected the ruling, and the international tribunal cannot enforce it. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to take a more hardline approach to China—and tensions have been heightened since Trump’s recent phone call with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, marking a departure from U.S. protocol, which treats Taiwan as an ally but does not recognize its independence.

Did Rodrigo Duterte Personally Kill 3 People or Not?

Romeo Ranoco / Reuters

Did Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte shoot and kill three men while he served as mayor of Davao? As of Friday, it would seem so. Since his election this summer, the bellicose president has brought a bloody war on drugs and crime to his country, with the most recent estimates putting the death toll at about 6,000. His idea to purge the Philippines of drug users and pushers was implemented and tested first when Duterte served as mayor of Davao, a once-troubled city on the country’s south, which has since become a financial center. A rumor—perpetuated in part by Duterte himself—has said he oversaw a death squad in Davao, and that he even killed three men personally. On Wednesday, Duterte admitted for the first time to a group of businessmen that he rode the streets of Davao on a motorcycle, “looking for a confrontation so I could kill." But on Thursday Duterte's spokesman chalked that up to the president being flip. Then on Friday, in an interview with BBC, Duterte put it bluntly: "I killed about three of them ... I don't know how many bullets from my gun went inside their bodies. It happened and I cannot lie about it." It’s not clear what repercussion this admission will have for Duterte—if any. He has publicly said he hopes to kill hundreds of thousands of people, and his approval rating as of October was 86 percent.

Cuba Offers to Repay Its Debts to the Czech Republic With Rum

Bottles of rum line the shelves of a store in Havana, Cuba, on October 14, 2016. (Enrique de la Osa / Reuters)

Cuba owes the Czech Republic millions of dollars in Cold War-era debt—an obligation the country has offered to repay with its famous rum. The unusual proposal, which was announced Thursday by the Czech Republic’s finance ministry, would allow Cuba to repay its $276 million debt with its trademark liquor—enough to last the Czechs more than a century, based on their current intake of $2 million of Cuban rum per annum. The Czechs have been amenable to similar requests in the past. In 2010, the central European country considered allowing North Korea to repay a portion of its $10 million debt, which it also dates to the Cold War era, with ginseng. Though the Czech finance ministry said it would prefer that at least part of Cuba’s debt still be paid with cash, it is still weighing the offer, according to the Associated Press. We’ll drink to that. Na zdravi!

The Evacuation of Civilians in Aleppo Breaks Down

Omar Sanadiki / Reuters

The negotiated evacuation of citizens in Aleppo’s rebel-held eastern district has been halted, trapping between 50,000 and 100,000 people. The cause of the stoppage was not immediately clear, and all sides blamed one other. The evacuation was brokered by Turkey and Russia to allow civilians to flee as Syrian government forces retake the city from rebels, and it was carried out by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the Red Cross. Evacuations began Thursday, and about 8,000 people escaped to rebel-held towns further east. But the column of buses, cars, and ambulances shuttling civilians out ground to a halt Friday morning. A World Health Organization official said Russia, which backs the Syrian government, ordered the evacuation stopped. The Syrian government accused rebels of trying to smuggle out weapons, and the rebels blamed the Syrian government for firing on evacuation buses. The Guardian reported the breakdown came after an al-Qaeda-affiliated group refused to allow the evacuation of wounded Syrian government supporters. In the past week Syrian government troops have swept through the city, which rebels have held since 2012, about a year after the civil war began. The Assad regime, with aid from Russia, has bombed the eastern district into rubble, and the status of the remaining civilian holdouts has become a humanitarian crisis. It is not yet clear when or if the evacuations will resume.

Obama Promises to Take Action Against Russia's Election Meddling

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep that aired Friday, President Obama said the U.S. must retaliate for Russia’s cyberattacks during the presidential election. Obama did not say what form this retaliation would take, partly because he’s waiting for a final report on the matter, but he promised to take action “at a time and place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be." U.S. intelligence officials have concluded hackers working on behalf of Russia broke into the Democratic National Committee's computer network, and the email of John Podesta, a top adviser for Hillary Clinton. The question remains what Russia’s motivation was. Last week, The Washington Post published a secret CIA assessment claiming Russia aimed to help Donald Trump win. Reports this week have directly implicated Russian President Vladimir Putin in the hacks. Trump continues to dispute the intelligence assessments, and Thursday he tweeted:

This is not entirely true, however. The director of national intelligence issued a statement blaming Russia for the hacks on October 7, a month before the election.