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It’s hard to read the word "mafia" and not be reminded of scenes from The Godfather or Casino.

But mafias infiltrate more than just movie plots and crime novels. Their presence is felt in states and societies across the globe.

In the Washington of 2016, even when the policy can be bipartisan, the politics cannot. And in that sense, this year shows little sign of ending on Dec. 31.

When President Obama moved to sanction Russia over its alleged interference in the U.S. election just concluded, some Republicans who had long called for similar or more severe measures could scarcely bring themselves to approve.

Officials at the Burlington Electric Department discovered malware on a Burlington Electric laptop Friday that was identified as part of the Russian hacking offensive, utility officials confirmed Friday evening.

Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia won't be expelling U.S. diplomats in a tit-for-tat response to U.S. sanctions, as his foreign minister had suggested earlier Friday.

Instead, he says he will decide how to move forward depending on the actions of President-elect Donald Trump's administration.

Trump took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to praise Putin's decision, calling it a "great move."

Updated at 6:15 p.m.

The White House has announced new actions targeting Russia in response to what U.S. officials say were cyberattacks intended to interfere with the U.S. election.

Agreement Reached On Syria Cease-Fire

Dec 29, 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in Moscow that the Syrian government and Syrian opposition forces have agreed to a nationwide cease-fire to begin at midnight local time.

The Syrian army said the agreement excludes the Islamic State as well as Jabhat Fateh al Sham — the group formerly known as the Nusra Front — and all groups linked to them. Turkey's foreign ministry said the agreement excludes groups the U.N. deems terrorist organizations.

With his tenure as secretary of state rapidly pulling to a close, John Kerry made an impassioned defense for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Wednesday.

Kerry said he is concerned that some Israeli politicians are rejecting it.

"If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic; it cannot be both, and it won't ever really be at peace," said Kerry.

Ken Hawkins / Creative Commons

Whether it's red or white, boxed or bottled -- few beverages stimulate the senses quite like a glass of wine does. Still, the science behind how the human body "tastes" wine -- well, it's more complex than you might think. 

Turkey and Russia have launched a joint investigation into the assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey at the opening of a photo exhibit in the capital, Ankara, on Monday.

The ambassador, Andrei Karlov, was gunned down as he gave a speech at an art gallery. Turkey has identified the attacker as Mevlut Mert Altintas, a 22-year-old riot police officer, who shouted to the crowd, "Don't forget Aleppo! Don't forget Syria!" He was killed by Turkish special forces at the scene.

Editor's note: An image below shows Ambassador Andrei Karlov on the ground after he was shot.

Russia's ambassador to Turkey has died after he was shot Monday evening at an art exhibition in the capital, Ankara, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in comments broadcast on Russian state television.

MItya Aleshkovskiy / Creative Commons

President Barack Obama has vowed to respond to alleged cyber-hacking by Russia. Speaking on NPR, Obama said, "I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections that we need to take action."

Meanwhile, a Russian political activist with ties to Connecticut has announced that he’ll run for president of Russia in the 2018 election.

President Obama said Friday he is leaving behind a more prosperous and safe country than the one he inherited from his predecessor.

"Almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than it was eight years ago," the president said at a White House news conference on Friday before the Obama family's departure to Hawaii for its annual holiday vacation.

Evacuations of embattled eastern Aleppo, which began Thursday after days of efforts to negotiate a cease-fire, have come to a halt.

Thousands of civilians and fighters have already been evacuated from the rebel-held enclave: Some 3,000 civilians were evacuated in the first few convoys, along with more than 40 wounded people, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday.

The aid group anticipated it would take days to fully evacuate east Aleppo.

President-elect Donald Trump announced Thursday he will nominate bankruptcy attorney David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel. Friedman, who has no prior diplomatic experience, is an outspoken supporter of Jewish settlement on the Israeli-occupied West Bank and has questioned the need for a Palestinian state.

After years of devastating war, days of increasing desperation and the collapse of one cease-fire, evacuations are underway in besieged eastern Aleppo.

Live images on Syrian state TV showed ambulances entering the rebel-held enclave on Thursday morning to evacuate the wounded. Aid groups confirm that evacuations have begun — despite reports of a brief burst of gunfire targeting ambulances.

Updated at 8:00 p.m. ET

A cease-fire in besieged eastern Aleppo appears to be going forward, paving the way for people trapped there to evacuate.

It's difficult to confirm exactly how many civilians remain in the small slice of Aleppo still controlled by rebel groups, but estimates put the number in the tens of thousands.

NPR's Alison Meuse reports an opposition activist in the city says the bombing has stopped.

President-elect Donald Trump, in a statement early this morning, announced his intention to nominate ExxonMobil chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson to lead the State Department and become the country's top diplomat.

The selection, which had been rumored for the past week, is unusual in a number of ways, and could face more scrutiny than usual when the Senate holds confirmation hearings.

Here are some key facts about the president-elect's nominee for the final major position to be filled in his Cabinet:

On Sunday, President-elect Donald Trump told Fox News that he wouldn't feel "bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade."

The one-China policy has guided U.S.-China discourse since 1979, when Washington established diplomatic relations with Beijing and downgraded its embassy in Taiwan.

President Obama has ordered the intelligence community to conduct a "full review" of "malicious cyber activity" timed to U.S. elections, the White House said Friday.

The review will go all the way back to the 2008 campaign when China was found to have hacked both the Obama and McCain campaigns, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said at a Friday press briefing.

In what could mark an escalation of tensions with the West, commercial satellite images suggest that Russia is moving a new generation of nuclear-capable missiles into Eastern Europe.

Edoardo Di Falchi / Flickr

Why is there something rather than nothing? This has been described as perhaps the most sublime philosophical question of all. Today, on The Colin McEnroe Show, we answer it. But as we do, we realize that it's not just a philosophical quandary; it's a scientific, cultural, and theological one as well.

Rifle fire crackled over a snowy field in central Estonia, interrupted by the rhythmic thumping of a heavy machine gun. From their position on a ridge, paratroopers from the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade opened up on the opposite tree line, as their comrades below inched toward an imaginary enemy bunker.

The foe in the exercise earlier this month was unnamed. But with the Russian border just 70 miles away, it was clear what kind of scenario was being played out.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has been selected as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in President-elect Donald Trump's administration, according to Trump's transition team.

Haley has accepted the position, which requires Senate confirmation.

NPR State Department correspondent Michele Kelemen reports the position was elevated to Cabinet rank by President George W. Bush and that President Barack Obama kept the designation. But Kelemen says the job of U.N. ambassador was not traditionally Cabinet-rank and it's unclear whether Trump will maintain that status.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani remains one of the leading contenders for secretary of state in the Trump administration. Foreign policy is not an official part of the mayor's job. But there were a few times when Mayor Giuliani clashed with visiting diplomats and foreign heads of state.

Before Rudy Giuliani was America's Mayor, he was the mayor of New York. Part of the job is to make sure parking tickets get paid, and some of the biggest parking scofflaws in town were the visiting diplomats at the United Nations — some of whom owed tens of thousands of dollars.

Ninian Reid / Creative Commons

From businessman to president-elect -- it was a victory that surprised many. This hour: the rise of Republican Donald Trump. We recap Tuesday’s election results and we also hear from you.

Did you vote? What does a Trump presidency mean to you, your friends, and your family? 

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