Catalonia votes in key election; Facebook signs deal with Universal

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  • Catalonia goes to the polls on Thursday for a heated regional election that risks reigniting the region’s independence crisis following a controversial referendum in October. With the separatist and unionist blocs seemingly tied, it seems unlikely the constitutional crisis will be resolved. The Spanish government hopes the vote will strip pro-independence parties of their control of Catalonia’s parliament and end the push to split with Spain. Catalan separatists, meanwhile, face a crucial test that will determine whether they can justify their pursuit of independence in the short term.
  • Facebook and Universal Music Group signed an agreement that will allow Facebook users to upload copyrighted content belonging to one of the largest record labels in the world. The deal is designed to attract advertisers to Facebook, according to Reuters, as the social media platform expands into video and competes Youtube’s success with music videos. The same press release also stated that the agreement applies to Facebook Inc’s Messenger and Oculus services as well. The financial details of the agreement have not been disclosed.
  • A man was arrested in Melbourne after a vehicle plowed into a crowd of pedestrians, injuring 14 people. Police detained the driver of the vehicle and are calling the crash on Flinders Street, a busy intersection in the center of the Australian city, “a deliberate act,” according to The Guardian. The man has a history of mental health, assault and drug use issues, according to the police, as reported by Reuters. A second man seen filming the incident, who had a bag of knives, was also arrested, but police said: “It is now believed he had no links to the incident, however he is still assisting police with enquiries.” The men have not yet been charged and police have not released their names.
    • Attackers have increasingly turned to vehicles as weapons in incidents around the world over the past two years, which include three vehicle-ramming attacks in London, a truck mowing down people on Bastille Day in Nice and a car attack in Barcelona. (See WikiTribune‘s coverage of vehicle attacks from earlier this year.)
  • Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski accused the country’s congress of staging a coup ahead of his Friday appearance before the house, when it is expected he will be impeached. If he is removed from office he will be the first president to be forced out by the Odebrecht scandal. This involves the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht paying for South American political campaigns in return for contracts. Kuczynski initially denied receiving payments from Odebrecht but now denies having received any illegal payments from them. “We are facing a coup disguised as supposedly legitimate legal interpretations,” he said in a televised appeal.
  • The United Nations will join another round of peace talks behind the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad and a coalition of oppositional forces, in hopes of ending the seven-year long Syrian civil war. The upcoming talks will be held in Astana, Kazakhstan next week, after previous talks in Geneva ended in deadlock.


  • Britain will strengthen its ties with European Union (EU) neighbor Poland, not weaken them, British Prime Minister Theresa May is due to announce in Warsaw on Thursday. The proposed defense treaty comes just after the EU announced on Wednesday that it would take disciplinary measures against Poland, accusing the country of threatening the EU rule of law with its judicial reforms. The decision to rebuke Poland could lead to a 2018 vote by EU states on action against the country, including stripping its voting rights, according to The Financial Times (article may be behind a paywall). (Take part in our explainer: is democracy in Poland under attack?)
  • President Donald Trump is threatening to cut off U.S. funding to countries that refuse to back his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. An upcoming resolution at the United Nations would declare that Jerusalem’s status could only be changed by negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, who also claim the capital as their own. Trump decried nations that “take our money and then vote against us,” backing Ambassador Nikki Haley who said earlier that the U.S. would be “taking names” of countries that didn’t support the president. The vote, expected Thursday, will come in a rare emergency special session of the 193-member UN General Assembly.
  • A commission negotiating the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union has set a deadline: full Brexit in three years. The European Commission says the transition should conclude by the last day of 2020, which coincides with the end of the EU’s seven-year budget cycle. The announcement is the first official confirmation of the deadline. British Prime Minister Theresa May had formally sought a two-year transition (The Independent).
  • The nine-month battle to free Mosul of the Islamic State group killed up to 11,000 Iraqi civilians, a casualty rate nearly 10 times higher than what has been previously reported, according to an Associated Press investigation. The AP used independent databases from NGOs to determine the death count, which it says has not been acknowledged by the U.S.-led coalition. It said most of the victims of airstrikes, artillery fire or mortar rounds were simply described as “crushed” in health ministry reports.

What we’re reading

  • American writer Mara Hvistendahl provides a fascinating look at China’s use of big data to track and rank the country’s 1.4 billion people in “Inside China’s Vast New Experiment in Social Ranking,” her deep dive on modern Chinese life published by Wired. The piece combines her personal experience with trying to climb the Zhima Credit ladder with exhaustive research and keen insights into how smart phone apps expertly tap into both the Chinese competitive spirit and their willingness to give up any hint of a private life. – Jodie DeJonge
  • It was 39 years since Kauka had last walked up the steep dirt road to her house in the Timor-Leste highlands, a lifetime since she was taken by an Indonesian soldier on her way home from school. This piece by The Guardian traces her steps back to her mother and traverses a lifetime of wondering as one of the youngest nations in the world came to grips with its identity. – Charles Anderson

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