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Curated top stories
- Myanmar banned United Nations (UN) human rights investigator Yanghee Lee from entering the country after the government said she was “not impartial and objective while conducting her work.” Lee was scheduled to visit Myanmar in January to review the human rights situation there, including allegations of war crimes committed against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state. Lee said in a statement: “This declaration of non-cooperation with my mandate can only be viewed as a strong indication that there must be something terribly awful happening in Rakhine, as well as in the rest of the country.” On Tuesday, officials in Myanmar said they had discovered a mass grave with 10 bodies in a village in the western state.
- Following an attack on police outposts by Rohingya militants in late August, Myanmar’s military cracked down on the Muslim minority (see WikiTribune‘s coverage here) in an operation the U.S. and UN said amounted to “ethnic cleansing.” Around 650,000 Rohingya have reportedly fled to neighboring Bangladesh.
- The U.S. Senate approved the Republican tax-cut bill in a 51-48 vote for the largest overhaul of the U.S. tax system in more than 30 years. Republicans say the bill, which introduces a sweeping tax cut for corporations, individuals and small businesses, will boost economic growth.
- The bill is expected to go back to the House of Representatives on Wednesday for a final approval, after which President Donald Trump will sign it into law. (Take part in our story: U.S. tax bill.)
- The Senate vote came hours after the House passed the bill by a vote of 227-203 on Tuesday, overcoming opposition from all Democrats who said it is designed to benefit the rich.
- The GOP tax bill also includes a repeal of the individual mandate (Politico) of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare. The individual mandate is a key provision of the Obama-era policy, which forces every American to have health insurance. (Read More on how the ACA has fared under the Trump Administration).
The Tax Cuts are so large and so meaningful, and yet the Fake News is working overtime to follow the lead of their friends, the defeated Dems, and only demean. This is truly a case where the results will speak for themselves, starting very soon. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2017
- The European Court of Justice, the highest court in the European Union, has ruled that Uber is officially a transport company and not a digital service. Uber has always insisted that it’s an information app that connects drivers and passengers. The case was filed in 2014 after a group called Elite Taxi asked a Barcelona court to impose penalties on Uber. This verdict will have major implications for how the company is regulated throughout Europe.
- This is another major setback for the tech giant. In September, the UK’s Transport for London authority said it would not re-issue Uber’s private hire operator license in the British capital due to its failure to oversee public safety and inadequate background checks on drivers.
- Saudi Arabia has permanently closed its land border with Qatar (Al Jazeera), which was blockaded two weeks after Riyadh, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Doha on June 5. The crisis in the Gulf has now simmered for nearly eight months. Ties were severed because the four countries accused Qatar of funding terrorism and maintaining a too close relationship with their rival Iran.
- Earlier this month, the annual summit of the Gulf Council Cooperation (GCC) went ahead, and then was abruptly cut short. Saudi Arabia and the UAE then later announced that they were forming a new economic and military partnership separate from the GCC. (Read more: our explainer on the GCC and what the Gulf crisis means for its future.)
What we’re reading
- Our 2017 list of what we’ve read, watched and listened to this year is regularly being updated. You can contribute to it here.
- The Winklevoss twins – tall, tanned, terrific – are now Bitcoin billionaires. This piece in the New York Times looks at their faith in the virtual currency which seems to be paying off. The former champion rowers live simply with an ethic of hard work. Tyler Winklevoss is quoted as saying: “We are very comfortable in very high-risk environments with absolutely no guarantee of success.” – Angela Long