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Michael Vadon / Creative Commons

Donald Trump's White House is paranoid, tense and increasingly defined by turf battles​ between top advisors vying to promote their competing agendas. It has gotten so bad that Donald Trump has charged a group of senior aides  with monitoring the loyalty of his Cabinet secretaries. The confusion shows and it's rattling America and our closest European and Asian allies.

Rex Tillerson concluded his first trip to Asia as secretary of state, sounding optimistic about the prospects for U.S. cooperation with China on the North Korean nuclear issue.

The upbeat notes he struck in Beijing contrasted with his remarks on Friday in Seoul about how all options, including military strikes against North Korea, remain on the table.

Updated at 4:50 p.m. ET

At a wide-ranging and occasionally tense news conference after their first in-person meeting Friday, President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed trade and border policy — and had one notable exchange when Trump was asked about his unproven claims that former President Obama tapped the phones at Trump Tower last year.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has arrived in Tokyo to begin a a six-day sweep through Northeast Asia. It's his first trip there as America's top diplomat, and he heads into a region full of challenges, both old and new.

The world is facing its greatest humanitarian crisis since 1945, says the United Nations humanitarian coordinator, Stephen O'Brien.

O'Brien told the U.N. Security Council on Friday that more than 20 million people across four countries in Africa and the Middle East are at risk of starvation and famine.

"We stand at a critical point in our history," he said. "Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death."

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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.

South Korea's military says North Korea has test-fired a handful of "unknown projectiles" off its west coast into its east coast waters, further rattling an already uncertain situation on the Korean peninsula under ongoing political drift in Seoul and a new American administration.

It's the stuff of spy novels.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly says the U.S. needs to "do a better job to vet" residents of seven majority-Muslim countries that the Trump administration has temporarily banned from entering the U.S.

In an interview with Morning Edition host Rachel Martin, the retired Marine Corps general said the ban, which has been blocked by a district court order that is now being reviewed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, "is not based on religion in any way."

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said state businesses and institutions are being harmed by the Trump administration’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. 

The U.K.'s exit from the European Union must be triggered by Parliament, not by the prime minister, the nation's Supreme Court says. In an 8-3 ruling, the court ruled that Theresa May doesn't have legal standing to carry out Brexit, the plan to leave the EU that voters embraced in a close referendum last June.

As Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th U.S. president, protests, demonstrations — and a few celebrations — were underway in cities around the world.

In London, demonstrators holding anti-Trump signs gathered outside the U.S. Embassy on Friday evening. Earlier in the day, huge banners saying "Build Bridges Not Walls" were hung across the city's bridges, part of a U.K. campaign that that began after Trump was elected in November.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the Obama administration is attempting to "undermine the legitimacy" of President-elect Donald Trump.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian government, at the direction of Putin, hacked several U.S. targets as part of an "influence campaign" to shape the outcome of the election.

Creative Commons

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.

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