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Curated top stories
- In her first major set back in parliament, British Prime Minister Theresa May lost a key vote on the EU withdrawal bill. Members of Parliament voted Wednesday for an amendment to the bill which would mean that lawmakers must approve the final deal with the European Union before Britain’s withdrawal begins. The government had argued this would jeopardise its chances of delivering a smooth departure from the EU. Despite a last-minute attempt to offer concessions to rebels, an amendment to the bill was backed by 309 to 305. Ministers said the “minor setback” would not prevent the UK leaving the EU in 2019.
- On December 14, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on whether to scrap “net neutrality” rules established under former President Barack Obama in 2015 . Current “net neutrality” rules block internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminating against online services or websites. The Republican-dominated FCC board, chaired by Ajit Pai, is expected to reverse the rules. Giant tech companies, small startups, digital rights groups and civil liberty advocates have rallied against the long expected decision, claiming it gives ISPs too much power. (See WikiTribune journalist Charlie Turner’s in-depth article on the issue and community member Eric Fershtman’s report).
- A summit of leaders of 57 Muslim nations gathered in Istanbul issued a communique urging the world to “recognize the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital.” They also called on U.S. President Donald Trump to reverse his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and transfer the U.S. embassy to the Holy City. The leaders called Trump’s decision “a clear violation of international law.” The Extraordinary Islamic Summit was convened by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in response to Trump’s decision on December 7.
- Doug Jones became the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama since 1992 – a big upset in a solidly Republican state. Strong turnout among African American voters helped Jones defeat Republican Roy Moore, who had been enthusiastically backed by President Trump despite facing allegations of sexual misconduct. The upset will trim the Republicans’ already narrow Senate majority to 51-49. Reuters reports that Jones’ win may endanger Trump’s agenda and open the door for Democrats to retake the Senate chamber in next year’s congressional elections. (Read WikiTribune’s analysis of the result here.)
- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered to begin direct talks with North Korea. Tillerson said that the offer comes without conditions, going against a previous demand that Pyongyang would first accept giving up its nuclear arsenal as part of any negotiations. Tillerson’s statement comes nearly two weeks after North Korea said it had successfully tested an advanced intercontinental ballistic missile that put the entire U.S. mainland within range of its nuclear weapons.
What we’re reading
- President Trump’s repeated use of the concept of “fake news” appears to have given strongman leaders from Cambodia to Russia and Syria the green light to challenge press freedom, according to an analysis from the New York Times. “Trump has succeeded in building an alternative reality separate from the mainstream media’s efforts at democratic, rational politics,” John Lloyd, a senior research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, told Steven Erlanger of the Times. – Peter Bale
- A baby girl in the UK has survived birth with her heart entirely outside her body. Incidences of this happening are about one in seven million. The infant, who is three weeks old, has undergone three operations at a hospital in Leicester. This Guardian report details the intense surgical skill – and emotions – of an extremely rare event, the first such survival in Great Britain. – Angela Long
- The Financial Times reports (paywall) on Saudi Arabian billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s ongoing detention in a purported anti-corruption drive by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The FT writes that Alwaleed’s investment business, Kingdom Holdings, is effectively frozen. Alwaleed holds stakes in some of the world’s best-known companies from Citi to Twitter. “One must assume that he will be dealmaking for his future … But in a broader sense, he is done now,” the FT quoted an unnamed “Saudi banker” as saying. – Peter Bale
What the WikiTribune community’s up to
- WikiTribune community member Parker Lamb reports on an investigation into the use of fake identities to promote the case against net neutrality – ahead of a crucial decision by U.S. regulators on December 14.
- Ivan Martinez reports on Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, confirming he’ll stand again for the fourth time.