President Trump defends troop withdrawal from Syria » Defense Secretary Jim Mattis left the Pentagon last night, officially handing the reins to Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan. He’ll serve in the interim until the Senate confirms President Trump’s future appointee.
In a memo to all Defense Department staff on Monday, Mattis said “Our department has proven to be at its best when the times are most difficult. So keep the faith in our country and hold fast alongside our allies.”
Mattis resigned last month, at least in part because of the president’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria. President Trump again defended that decision on Monday—saying ISIS is “mostly gone.”
And he’s apparently won over at least one outspoken critic of the move. After meeting with the president, Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters…
GRAHAM: We talked about Syria, and he told me some things I didn’t know that made me feel a lot better about where we’re heading in Syria. He promised to destroy ISIS. He’s going to keep that promise. We’re not there yet, but as I said today, we’re inside the 10-yard line.
Graham later said he believes Trump will ensure ISIS is permanently destroyed, Iran does not fill a power void, and America’s Kurdish allies are protected.
American in Moscow accused of spying » Russia has arrested a U.S. citizen on espionage charges.
Russia’s Federal Security Service said Paul Whelan was detained in Moscow on Friday, adding that he was caught “during an espionage operation.” Officials did not provide any details.
Spying charges carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years in Russia.
The U.S. State Department said it was aware of the situation and is pushing for consular access to the detained American.
The State Department did not confirm the name of the detained citizen or provide any information about the case. And the U.S. Embassy in Moscow had no comment Monday.
Warren announces presidential exploratory committee » 2019 is not an election year, but it will be a very big year for presidential politics as White House hopefuls begin jockeying for position. And on New Year’s Eve, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts all but threw her hat into the ring.
WARREN: … to be able to work hard, play by the same set of rules and take care of the people we love. That’s the America I’m fighting for, and that’s why today, I’m launching an exploratory committee for president.
That, part of a campaign style video Warren posted to her website on Monday. The second-term Democrat says she’ll announce details about her campaign early in the new year.
President Obama’s former Housing Secretary, Julian Castro, has also announced an exploratory committee. And outgoing Maryland Congressman John Delaney has formally launched his campaign.
Lion kills worker at wildlife conservatory » A lion attacked and killed an intern at a North Carolina wildlife conservatory this week after it escaped from a locked space.
Twenty-two-year-old Alexandra Black was cleaning an enclosure at the Conservators Center in Caswell County when the lion attacked her.
Black graduated from Indiana University in May with a degree in animal behavior and had been working at the center for about two weeks.
The center’s executive director, Mindy Stinner, called it the worst day of her life and expressed sympathy for Black’s family.
STINNER: I can’t imagine the loss they’re enduring. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be them. We only knew this person a short time and obviously it was already devastating for us.
The center said it’s still unclear how the lion escaped during the routine cleaning. Officials tried to tranquilize the lion, but when that failed, they were forced to shoot and kill it.
Stinner said at no time was the public in any danger.
The facility, located about 50 miles northwest of Raleigh. It is closed until further notice.
Thousands of works enter public domain » After more than two decades, a trove of classic books, songs, films and more have entered the public domain. WORLD Radio’s Leigh Jones reports.
LEIGH JONES, NEWS EDITOR: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”
That is an excerpt from Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” And that’s just one of thousands of works first published in 1923 that are no longer copyright protected as of today.
Also on the list: Films like Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments and Winston Churchill’s book The World Crisis.
It’s been 21 years since the last large release of American works into the public domain. And it’s the first time in the true digital age.
In 1998 Disney and other copyright holders successfully pressured Congress for longer protections. Lawmakers then passed legislation tacking on another 20 years to the copyright term. That created a two-decade-long freeze of any large scale expiration of copyrights.
But now, tens of thousands of classic works are newly available for sharing and re-publishing.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Leigh Jones.