In our news wrap Tuesday, President Trump is playing down the possibility of a “Christmas surprise” North Korean missile test. Pyongyang has warned of unspecified action if the U.S. does not ease sanctions by year’s end -- but Trump said Kim Jong Un might send a “beautiful vase” instead. Also, Christmas celebrations around the world included a Bethlehem parade and midnight mass at the Vatican.
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President Trump is playing down a possible Christmas surprise from North Korea, what some believe will be a missile test.
Pyongyang has warned of unspecified action if the U.S. doesn't ease sanctions by year's end. But, today, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Mr. Trump suggested North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may have something else in mind.
President Donald Trump:
Let's see. Maybe it's a nice present. Maybe it's a present where he sends me a beautiful vase, as opposed to a missile test, right? I may get a new vase. I may get a nice present from him. You don't know. You never know.
The president spoke after a Christmas Eve video conference with members of the U.S. military stationed around the world.
Christmas has already arrived in much of the world. In Bethlehem today, the main square was filled for the annual parade. The faithful and tourists alike arrived to visit the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
Later, at the Vatican, worshipers gathered in St. Peter's Basilica, where Pope Francis celebrated midnight mass.
But, in Paris, fire damage prevented Christmas services at Notre Dame Cathedral, for the first time since the French Revolution.
In Hong Kong, Christmas Eve was marked by a new wave of protests. Thousands of demonstrators occupied key roads to block traffic in a major tourist district. Riot police fired tear gas to break up the crowds. Scuffles also broke out inside busy shopping malls. Police beat back some of the protesters with batons.
The Parliament in Iraq approved a new election law today, meeting a key demand of protesters. It calls for electing one candidate per district, instead of electing entire slates. The goal is to give independents a better chance. Mass protests have flared across Iraq since October. They call for an overhaul of the political system and an end to corruption.
Cooler weather in part of Australia helped crews fighting some 200 wildfires today. And Prime Minister Scott Morrison sought to ensure manpower for the front lines by announcing paid leave for many volunteers.
Morrison toured burnt vineyards and wrecked homes in Adelaide and thanked firefighters for working through the holidays.
Today may be Christmas Eve, but, for so many firefighters, it is going to be another day out there protecting their communities. And I thank them for their service. And I thank all those volunteers who are supporting to keep them out there. And I thank their families for their forbearance.
The prime minister has taken political criticism for vacationing in Hawaii last week as the wildfire crisis exploded.
On Wall Street, stocks were mostly flat, as the market closed early for Christmas. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 36 points to close at 28515. The Nasdaq rose seven points, and the S&P 500 slipped a fraction.
Britain's Prince Philip was discharged from a London hospital today, in time for Christmas. He walked out unaided after a four-night stay. Buckingham Palace said that he was treated for an unspecified preexisting condition. Prince Philip is 98 years old.
And, thankfully, the U.S. and Canadian militaries are tracking Santa Claus' journey tonight for the 64th year. This time, the tracker is on social media and 3-D apps, thanks to tech firms working with NORAD. That's the North American Aerospace Defense Command. About 1, 500 volunteers are also fielding thousands of e-mails and phone calls.
Safe journey to Saint Nick.