5 things to know for December 20: Syria, shutdown, Weinstein, Russia, airport drones

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the fourth time this year, disregarding calls by President Donald Trump to slow down further rates to avoid making "another mistake."

Posted: Dec 20, 2018 7:24 AM
Updated: Dec 20, 2018 8:00 AM


Most men in politics are clean-shaven, but it looks like beards may be making a comeback. Abraham Lincoln would be proud. Here's what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and Out the Door. (You can also get '5 Things You Need to Know Today' delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)

1. Syria

Surprise: President Trump is ordering US military forces out of Syria, claiming they've defeated ISIS and their work is done. He made the announcement on Twitter, saying, 'We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.' The decision has raised a lot of questions, to put it lightly. Not only does it contradict what the Trump administration's been saying lately about the ISIS threat, experts say a withdrawal of ground forces will please US enemies by clearing the way in Syria for the Assad regime, Russia and Iran. They also say it could weaken US influence and intelligence in the area. Even Trump allies, like GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, are irritated. Senior political and military figures from Israel, an important US ally, have also criticized the move. They say a withdrawal will complicate matters for other US allies in the region.

2. Government shutdown 

It looks like we may not have a government shutdown -- for now. The Senate was up late last night passing a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded and prevent a partial shutdown looming at the end of this week. The bill still must be approved by the House and signed by President Trump, but if all goes well, several key federal agencies will be funded through February. Neither party really wants a shutdown, but they've been at an impasse over the President's demand for $5 billion in funding for his long-promised wall at the US-Mexico border. Now, it looks like the White House has stepped back from that demand a little bit, allowing legislators to get other spending needs met.

3. Harvey Weinstein 

More than a year after the first allegations against Harvey Weinstein surfaced, the disgraced producer is expected in a New York courtroom today for a critical pretrial hearing in his criminal case. He has pleaded not guilty to five felony sexual misconduct charges. The infamous movie mogul's lawyers have asked for the charges to be dismissed, citing police misconduct. The lawyers have also asked for an evidentiary hearing to examine the behavior of police and prosecutors in the case. At today's hearing, the judge will decide whether to grant that hearing and whether to move forward with charges. If they're dismissed, you can expect a lot of outrage. Either way, Weinstein still faces several civil allegations.

4. Russia sanctions 

When it comes to sanctions against Russia, the US giveth, and the US taketh away. The US Treasury has announced a new set of sanctions against Russian individuals and entities, including current and former members of Russia's intelligence agency GRU, for what it called Russia's 'continued disregard for international norms.' In this case, it's groups that used cyberhacking techniques to try to influence the 2016 presidential election. Meantime, Treasury also announced it plans to lift sanctions on two Russian firms, including Rusal, the world's second-largest aluminum producer. Maybe Russian President Vladimir Putin will mention it today in his annual marathon news conference, in which he's already warned of the growing risks of a new nuclear arms race and criticized the US over plans to withdraw from a nuke treaty.

5. Airport drones

Oh, you're trying to brave the already-horrible pre-holiday travel onslaught? How about a pair of rogue drones to completely wreck your plans? That's what's happening at Gatwick Airport in London. The United Kingdom's second-biggest airport shut down around 9 last night after two drones were seen over the airfield. The airport briefly reopened a few hours later, but then more drones were spotted, and things got boarded up again. Passengers are stranded and incoming flights rerouted, some as far away as Paris or Amsterdam. Just FYI, it's illegal in the UK to fly drones within 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) of an airfield boundary. The airport says police are investigating.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

Just 6 months of walking can reduce cognitive decline

Guess it depends on where you're headed. You can get pretty far in six months.

General Mills is going to start making pet food

'Honey, why does this cereal taste like beef?'

Artist Banksy admits he's behind new mural in Wales

At least this one won't be shredded.

Manchester United's fired manager racked up a $679,000 bill after living in a 5-star hotel for years

It better have had an amazing free breakfast.

Blind, burrowing amphibian named after President Trump

C'mon, you really think we're gonna make a joke about this?

THIS JUST IN ...

Even more market woes

European stocks opened sharply lower after the US Federal Reserve yesterday raised interest rates and indicated it expects more hikes next year. The news has already pushed the Dow to its lowest level of the year.

TODAY'S NUMBER

130,000

That's how many people left Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in late 2017, Census data show. That's almost 4% of the island's population.

TODAY'S QUOTE

'I hope you slow down. I hope that when your mom tells you to 'drive safe' you make a promise to her, and yourself, that you will. I hope you can envision me sitting in your kitchen telling your screaming mother that you have been killed.'

An Ohio police officer, who wrote an emotional letter to a teenager after ticketing him for driving 100 miles per hour

AND FINALLY

How to wrap your cat, in a few easy steps 

I can't tell whether this cat is just very chill or is plotting some bitter revenge. (Click here to view.)

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