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Curated top stories
- U.S Senate Republicans believe they have the votes to pass a controversial package of tax cuts for businesses and individuals. Senator John McCain, who helped defeat the push to overturn Obamacare earlier this year, said the bill was “far from perfect” but would lift the economy. The Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated the Republican bill would expand the $20 trillion national debt by $1.4 trillion over a decade. Analysts said that it would also give little relief to poor Americans. Republicans have said that economic growth spurred by tax cuts would generate enough new tax revenue to eliminate any new deficit.
- Pope Francis said the international community must take “decisive measures” to resolve the Rohingya crisis which has seen 620,000 people flee to Bangladesh since August. While on his visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar the Pope didn’t identify the Rohingya by name, however, Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid accused Myanmar’s military of committing “ruthless atrocities” against Rohingya Muslims. During his speech in Bangladesh, the Pope praised Bangladesh for taking in over 620,000 refugees “before the eyes of the whole world.”
- Widespread persecution of the Rohingya Muslims, at least partly at the hands of Myanmar’s military, has been called ethnic cleansing by the U.S. Myanmar’s de facto leader and Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been widely criticized for not taking a firmer stance on the violence. (Read more: Rohingya crisis a replay of 40 years ago.)
- U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to publicly admonish UK Prime Minister Theresa May, furthering a diplomatic spat between the allies. “Don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive radical Islamic terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom,” Trump wrote. It follows Trump’s retweets of videos the BBC described as “inflammatory” for their anti-Muslim sentiment. After May criticized Trump for sending the videos from a far-right British group, he responded by telling her to focus on terrorism, not him. As The Guardian noted, the feud marked an “extraordinary diplomatic spat” in the “special relationship” upon which the countries have long relied.
- Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told a special meeting of the Security Council that North Korea’s latest missile launch brought the two countries closer to war. She also warned that if war followed, the North Korean regime would be “utterly destroyed.” Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, accused the U.S. of trying to provoke North Korean leader Kim Jong Un into “flying off the handle”. While Russia condemned North Korea’s ballistic missile test on Wednesday, calling it “a provocation”, Lavrov said Russia would not cut ties with North Korea.
- The United Nation extended peace talks aimed at ending the Syrian civil war until December 15. Reuters reported that representatives of the Syrian government and opposition militants negotiated possibly ending the country’s six-year conflict from separate rooms in the same UN building in Geneva. UN envoy Staffan de Mistura says the new extension will allow for future presidential elections and a new constitution to be deliberated.
- An evacuation plan was devised for migrants being held in Libyan detention camps at a joint African Union-European Union summit in Ivory Coast. Speaking at the summit, France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, said the “extreme emergency operation” was agreed upon by nine countries, including Libya, France, Germany, Chad and Niger. However, groups including the African Union and the UN accused the EU of contributing to the problem in the past by their policy of intercepting migrants heading for Europe and returning them to Libya.
- Libya launched an investigation after CNN released a video last week showing men being auctioned as farm workers. Hundreds of thousands of Africans travel through Libya every year, en route to Europe. Some are then captured and enslaved.
- A UK consumer group is suing Google over accusations of unlawfully collecting the personal data of millions of users. The group taking action, Google You Owe Us, accused the tech giant of harvesting the information of 5.4 million users of the Safari browser by bypassing iPhone security settings. It is led by Richard Lloyd, former director of consumer body “Which?” He said that this happened between June 2011 and February 2012, and those affected in this period could be entitled to compensation of as much as “several hundred pounds each.” A Google spokesperson responded: “This is not new. We have defended similar cases before. We don’t believe it has any merit and we will contest it,” as reported in the Guardian.
- The Honduras election crisis sinks further into chaos as the count continues from the November 26 vote. The poll drew neck-and-neck between Salvador Nasralla and President Juan Orlando Hernández, who is a firm U.S. ally. Nasralla said he will not accept the poll count because the electoral court is manipulating results. The Financial Times reported that Nasralla has taken to social media to urge supporters to take their fight to the streets. His tweet sent thousands out into the capital of Tegucigalpa, where supporters accused the authorities of fraud.
What we’re reading
- Media freedom across the globe is at its lowest point this century, according to a new survey reported in The Guardian. Seventy-nine journalists were killed in 2016, according to Article 19 – the freedom of expression campaign group, and political website V-Dem. Turkey has become progressively worse for a free press, with 152 journalists in jail as of last April, and 170 news organisations forced to close since the coup in July 2016. The article quotes the Committee to Protect Journalists, which said Donald Trump’s attacks on “fake news” media in the U.S. was sending a message to authoritarian leaders that it is acceptable to persecute the press. – Angela Long
- Buildings aren’t supposed to burn the way London’s Grenfell Tower did, but to the residents stuck inside, and to the firefighters who rushed to save them, this was a different kind of fire: a blaze that burned at 1,800 degrees, a devastating inferno that killed dozens and shocked an entire nation. Here, GQ contributor Tom Lamont relays the untold story of what it felt like to fight that fire and to flee it – a story of a thousand impossible decisions and the people who dared that night to make them. – Charles Anderson