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- The Republican Party was again unable to secure the 51 votes needed in the United States Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. After this Saturday, special budgetary rules known as the “reconciliation process” will expire, making it impossible for Republicans to pass legislation in Senate without Democratic support. In the absence of the reconciliation process, Democrats can force any piece of legislation to need 60 votes in order to pass by using the “filibuster”. There are only 52 Republicans in the Senate.
- United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet with Cuban Foreign Affairs Minister Bruno Rodriguez in Washington D.C after several employees at the U.S. Embassy in Havana suffered mysterious medical issues including significant hearing loss. Last week, the Trump Administration expressed the possibility of closing their diplomatic presence in Cuba in light of the suspected sonic-attack.
- Russia’s communications agency has warned Facebook on Tuesday that it will block the network next year if it refuses to store its data locally. The country’s law on personal data obliges foreign companies to store it in Russia. In an ongoing battle for control of the internet, Russia has already banned LinkedIn for the failing to store data there. “There can’t be any exceptions here,” Alexander Zharov, chief of the Federal Communications Agency, said.
- An Iraqi preacher accused of helping the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq went on trial in a German court on Tuesday. Another four members of an extremist network he set up have also gone on trial. Identified as Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah A. in court documents, the 33-year-old allegedly recruited at least seven people who travelled to the Middle East to fight alongside Islamic State.
- Puerto Rico has a water and food shortage following Category 4 Hurricane Maria, which ravaged the region on September 20. Drinking water “was nowhere to be found”, reported AP, as many stores and restaurants remain closed. But supermarkets are gradually reopening in the area where nearly everyone is without power and more than half without water.
- Ireland is due to go to the polls next year to hold a vote on whether to repeal a near-total constitutional ban on abortion, according to a Guardian report. The Irish government announced they will hold the vote in May or June 2018, just before the pope visits in August.
- Turkish President Recep Erdoğan has threatened sanctions if Kurds in neighboring Iraq go through with a referendum seeking independence. Erdogan fears the vote may inflame unrest among his country’s Kurdish minority and accused the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government of “treachery” for continuing with the vote despite international opposition. The results of the referendum are yet to be announced but a “yes” vote is expected.
- South Korean news agency Yonhap reports that North Korea is building up weaponry on its border after two U.S. aircraft flew close in a warning from Washington, D.C.. North Korea’s foreign minister said yesterday that President Trump’s warnings over the weekend had amounted to a declaration of war and that his government would be entitled to shoot down U.S. planes if they appeared threatening. White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders refuted this as “absurd”, while South Korea called for calm.
- A U.S. congressional oversight committee has requested that the White House provide information regarding any communications from senior officials using non-official channels. The request was based on reports (see below) that Jared Kushner and other senior White House Staff have been using private email accounts for official state business.
- Iraqi Kurdistan held a referendum on Monday where over 72 percent of the population turned out for a vote on independence. While the results are expected to be overwhelmingly in favor of independence, the final numbers will not be ready for 72 hours. The vote is non-binding but is a step towards ethnic Kurds seceding from Iraq and officially forming their own state. The Iraqi government in Baghdad has condemned the referendum from the beginning and has even hinted at military intervention if Kurdistan tries to secede.
- Turkish journalist Kadri Gursel was released from prison after being detained for 330 days on charges of “asymmetric war methods” by providing support for Fethullah Gülen, a political enemy of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Four of Gursel’s colleagues from Cumhuriyet remain in prison on similar charges. Turkey continues to be considered one of the worst countries for press freedom according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
- The United States Supreme Court seems to be looking more favourably on President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban. The court has signaled that it may dismiss a challenge to Trump’s controversial ban after the White House announced tailored restrictions on eight countries that legal experts said stand a better chance of holding up in court. The Trump administration took months to work out the new restrictions that include Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. They will go into effect on October 18. The Supreme Court on Monday announced it would cancel arguments scheduled for next month to give both sides time to consider the implications of the new one.
- Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner corresponded with other administration officials through a private email account, according to news reports. Both the New York Times and Politico reported that Kushner used private accounts to conduct White House business dozens of times. During the presidential campaign, Trump and his aides consistently referred to his rival Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email accounts to handle government business as criminal
- More Republicans are refusing to endorse the party’s latest attempt at replacing Obamacare. U.S. Senator Susan Collins joined John McCain and Rand Paul in rejecting the bill to end the Affordable Care Act. The Maine senator said in a statement that the proposed legislation would make “devastating” cuts in the Medicaid program for poor and disabled people as well as drive up premiums. Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate and are up against a tight September 30 deadline to pass a bill with a simple majority, instead of the 60-vote threshold needed for most measures.
What we are reading and watching
- Chinese and US scientists have used geographic mapping, remote sensing data and satellite imagery to assess changes across the population of pandas from 1976 to 2013. Their study, published in the journal, Nature Ecology & Evolution, suggests that suitable panda habitats have substantially reduced. The forests where the panda lives are in worse shape than in 1988, when it was first listed as endangered, scientists say.
- The term “taking a knee” until recently referred to athletes protesting racial inequality during the U.S national anthem. However, as Doreen St. Felix writes in the New Yorker, the term now looks as though it is expanding to refer to anyone using it to protest the Trump administration.
- The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg is at the centre of attention after it was revealed that she was assigned a bodyguard for protection at the annual Labour Party conference. She was then faced with a barrage of abuse online, with some claiming the broadcaster was “playing the victim.” The Guardian‘s Gaby Hinsliff has the run-down with her column. In short: British female political journalist is trolled for having protection, highlighting misogyny and disrespect for women in the political world.