Briefing: Spain ready to force Catalan election, two Italian regions plan autonomy votes

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  • The central government of Spain plans to hold elections in Catalonia in January after dissolving the region’s parliament. It has support from the main opposition party, the PSOE (Socialist). Madrid will hold a cabinet meeting on Saturday to trigger Article 155 of its constitution, which allows the central government to take back some or all power from Spain’s 17 autonomous regions.
  • Meanwhile, two of Italy’s wealthiest regions – Lombardy and Veneto – are holding their own referendums to seek greater autonomy. Together they account for thirty percent of Italy’s GDP. The two regions see economic benefits which pro-independence groups claim will come from loosening Rome’s grip. (More European independence movements here)
  • The Iraqi-Kurdistan dispute has escalated further with clashes between Iraqi troops and Kurdish peshmerga in Alton Kupri in northern Kirkuk. An on-the-scene BBC correspondent reported that there had been rocket, artillery and machine-gun fire. This comes days after Iraqi troops took over southern Kirkuk and the town of Sinjar.
    • Reuters reports that the Kurdish peshmerga’s withdrawal from Kirkuk came after intense pressure from Iran.


  • Obama and Bush denounced deep national divisions without naming U.S. President Donald J. Trump, according to The Washington Post. George W. Bush criticized “bullying and prejudice” in public life while Barack Obama said Americans should reject the politics of “division” and “fear”. Speaking at a Democratic campaign event in Newark, New Jersey, Obama said:  “Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed. That’s folks looking 50 years back. It’s the 21st century, not the 19th century. Come on!”
  • European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he did not believe that Britain would leave the European Union with no Brexit deal. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “In contrast to how it is portrayed in the British press, my impression is that these talks are moving forward step by step.” Despite this, the other 27 EU leaders are expected to rule that there has not been enough progress to enter trade talks.
  • Donald Tusk, the European Council President, has ruled out EU action in Catalonia. He said “there is no room, no space for any kind of mediation or international initiative or action,” at a joint news conference with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Other European leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron, backed the Spanish prime minister.
    • In a WikiTribune essay, former French ambassador Jean-Jacques Subrenat explains how Catalonia isn’t the only EU region with independence movements.
  • The “Czech Trump” is expected to be elected prime minister in the Czech Republic, according to the Guardian. Billionaire Andrej Babiš, the country’s second richest man with a hard stance against immigration, is favourite to win the election despite having been charged with fraud and accused of former links to communist-era secret police.
  • North Korea sent a letter to Australia urging it to distance itself from U.S. President Donald J. Trump, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the letter demonstrated that diplomatic pressure on North Korea was working. She also said that the letter had been sent to other nations.

What we’re reading

  • The Lancet, a health and medicine journal, released a study that found that 16 percent of deaths in the world are caused by air and water pollution. That’s 15 times more than deaths caused by war and violence – Charles Turner
  • In a WikiTribune piece, former French ambassador, Jean-Jacques Subrenat outlines how Brexit could be reversed.
  • The Wall Street Journal’s outlines how Albert Einstein thought quantum mechanics was fundamentally flawed. He was wrong. But only three decades ago, quantum computers were the stuff of science fiction. Now, Google is getting ready to test its quantum computer in the hope of achieving “quantum supremacy”, a milestone that would herald a new era in computing – George Engels
  • Sexual predators have no time period. This Washington Post piece recounts the 1855 case, Missouri v. Celia, where an enslaved woman was on trial for the murder of her white owner who raped her. The story is telling of how cruel slavery was in America, and how dire the situation was for female slaves – Lydia Morrish
  • A Mother Jones investigation uncovered how Republicans suppressed the votes of young people and African-Americans in Wisconsin; and how it likely influenced the vote swinging in favour of Donald J. Trump in the 2016 U.S. Election.” – Linh Nguyen


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