Kurds set fire to political party offices; Saudi Arabia 'intercepts Houthi missile'

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  • Republican tax reform could pass both houses of the U.S. congress as early as tonight. The Associated Press reports that the House of Representatives approved on the $1.5 trillion bill on Tuesday. The House passed the bill by a vote of 227-203, overcoming united opposition from Democrats and 12 Republicans who voted against it. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill in the evening.
    •  The bill does not need any Democratic votes in order to pass. By using a Senate rule known as reconciliation, this piece of legislation only needs a simple majority to pass, which the Republicans currently have at 52-48.
    • The GOP tax bill will institute sweeping tax cuts, including a reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.
  • Saudi Arabia said it intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Yemeni rebels from the Houthi movement towards its capital city Riyadh on Tuesday. There were no reported casualties. A missile targeted the royal court at al-Yamama palace, where a meeting of Saudi leaders was underway, a spokesperson for the Houthi movement saidAl Jazeera also reportsThis is the latest in a series of attacks by the Houthis, an Iran-backed militant group. (Read WikiTribune‘s explainer The crisis in Yemen: how did we get here?)
Saudi Arabia's capital city, Riyadh. Photo by: B.alotaby via Wikimedia Commons. Used under Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 4.0.
Saudi Arabia’s capital city, Riyadh. Photo by: B.alotaby via Wikimedia Commons. Used under Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 4.0.
  • Kurdish protesters attacked the buildings of Iraq’s main political parties in a second day of unrest and demonstrations. Over 1,000 people protested in the northern city of Sulaimaniya and protesters set fire to the offices of Kurdish political parties in the towns of Koya, Kifri and Ranya, according to a Reuters witness. Security forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas, injuring six people, according to the region’s health officials. The violence is a reaction to tension that has been growing since an independence referendum in September when the Kurds voted overwhelmingly to secede from Iraq. (Read WikiTribune’s explainer on the Kurdistan-Iraq dispute.)
  • A study by the Oxford Internet Institute found Russian Twitter accounts “contributed relatively little to the overall Brexit conversation.” The finding comes after Britain’s Electoral Commission launched an investigation into Russian social media meddling in the lead-up to the UK’s 2016 European Union referendum. The study says reports of active 150,000 Twitter accounts linked to Russia have not been verified and that despite previous studies making it clear automated accounts were active on Twitter, this one “found little evidence of links to Russian sources.”
  • Facebook is launching a new service that uses facial recognition to notify users when photos of them are uploaded, but they themselves are not tagged. The optional service will only be available in the United States at launch, Canada and the European Union have privacy laws that prohibit the software.


  • Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said he will lift a ban on political activity that has been in place since a 2014 military coup. Prayuth, who is head of the military junta, said that Thailand will hold an election in November 2018, but until it lifts the ban there is no pathway for other parties to participate. The announcement led the European Union to say that it would resume all political contact with Thailand for the first time since 2014.
  • North Korea was “directly responsible” for a cyber attack earlier this year that affected more that 300,000 computers across the world, according to an aide to U.S. President Donald Trump. Writing in the Wall Street JournalThomas Bossert said that Pyongyang carried out the WannaCry malware attack which affected hospitals, businesses and banks, and caused billions of dollars of damage. “North Korea has acted especially badly, largely unchecked, for more than a decade, and its malicious behavior is growing more egregious. WannaCry was indiscriminately reckless,” he wrote. Bossert, a homeland security adviser, said the U.S. administration would to use its “maximum pressure strategy to curb Pyongyang’s ability to mount attacks, cyber or otherwise.”

What we’re reading

  • Guardian journalist Patrick Barkham reports on the village of Aberporth, which aims to be the first plastic-free village in Wales, UK, a decade after visiting the village of Modbury, which became the first town in Europe to ban plastic bags in shops. – Harry Ridgewell
  • Human Rights Watch researcher Nick McGeehan has spent years uncovering abuses of the migrant workers building stadiums in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. In this piece on Medium he digs into the Dubai wealth underlying the emerging soccer empire that is putting Manchester City among Europe’s elite clubs, and also holds New York City FC, Melbourne City and Girona, among other prize sporting assets. – Jack Barton
  • The Financial Times‘s Courtney Weaver looks at Democratic senator and former corporate lawyer Kirsten Gillibrand in an opinion piece, “Kirsten Gillibrand’s moment arrives with #MeToo” (may be behind paywall). The Democrat is under fresh eyes as a feasible presidential candidate in 2020 after increased attention on the sexual assault allegations leveled against U.S. President Donald J. Trump by more than a dozen women. “If Roy Moore’s defeat in Alabama last week was the first #MeToo election, Ms Gillibrand’s rise represents the beginnings of the first #MeToo political campaign,” Weaver writes.

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