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Curated top stories
- Transgender people will be allowed to enlist in the U.S. armed forces, unless President Donald Trump’s administration appeals to the Supreme Court. Two federal appeals courts last week rejected the White Houses’ request to put on hold orders by lower court judges requiring the military to begin accepting transgender recruits on Jan. 1. A Justice Department spokeswoman said there was no update on whether the administration would file an appeal at the Supreme Court.
- Anti-government protests in several cities in Iran grew as they entered a second day with 52 arrests made at the largest demonstration in the northern city of Mashhad. Protesters cited anger over fast-rising prices and government corruption as the impetus for the demonstrations. In several places, protesters called for the release of political prisoners and expressed resentment towards Tehran’s apparent focus on foreign policy over domestic concerns.
- China rebutted allegations made by President Trump that it has been allowing North Korea to get around international sanctions. On December 28, Trump tweeted that China had been “caught red handed” illicitly selling oil to North Korea. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said that the media reports that Trump appeared to be referencing “did not accord with facts” and that China is fully implementing UN sanctions on North Korea.
- An unnamed South Korean foreign ministry official told AP that Seoul arrested a Hong Kong-flagged oil carrier for allegedly transferring oil to a North Korean ship on December 22. The ship’s 25 crew members – 23 Chinese nationals and two from Myanmar – are being temporarily detained in the South Korean port Yeosu, according to the report.
- Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called for a new Catalan parliament to be formed by January 17, which should make way for Madrid to restore semi-autonomous rule to the region. Rajoy suffered a blow when Catalonia narrowly elected pro-separatist parties on December 21. He imposed direct rule from Madrid and ordered that the regional parliament be dissolved after its government held an illegal referendum on October 1.
- A UK parliamentary committee warned Facebook and Twitter (Guardian) that they will be sanctioned if they continue to provide inadequate information to an ongoing inquiry. The committee is inquiring into the influence of fake news on the June 2016 UK referendum on leaving the EU. It has asked for information linked to potential Russian influence on online debate. The committee chair Damien Collins said the request had been “completely ignore[d]”. Russia denies influencing the public debate leading up to the referendum. (Take part in WikiTribune‘s coverage of this story here).
- Italy set an election date of March 4 after the president dissolved parliament on December 28. Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni warned against talking up the risk of instability, although polls indicate that there will be no clear winner from new elections. Former PM Silvio Berlusconi’s party appears likely to take the largest share of votes, though the 81-year-old is officially barred from returning to his role as premier due to a tax fraud conviction.
- Speaking to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Friday, Berlusconi said the choice is between his moderately conservative Forza Italia! party and the populist Five Star movement that he called “rebellious, poverty-perpetuating vigilante[s]”.
What we’re reading
- One of the reasons that Yemen’s crisis was relatively under-covered for so long was that various actors heavily restricted media access to the country. In this special report, Reuters journalists gained access to a Yemeni hospital and witnessed the large-scale tragedy unfolding. A range of preventable diseases compound the damage done by war, famine, and cholera, as the Saudi-Arabian imposed blockade prevents supplies of food and medicine. – Jack Barton