Briefing: May sets out Brexit priorities, North Korea yells back at Trump, Puerto Rico battered

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  • United States Senator John McCain has stated that he will not support the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill, seriously jeopardizing the Republican Party’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.
  • Iraqi Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous area in the north of the country, will vote whether to secede from the central Iraqi government in Baghdad this coming Monday. The scheduled referendum has drawn criticism from the United Nations who are concerned that the plebiscite may further destabilize the region, and distract from the fight against ISIS. Haider al-Abadi, Prime Minister of Iraq, told the Associated Press last week that his government may intervene if the Kurds pursue independence.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel was met with nearly 8,000 protestors at a campaign speech in Munich in preparation of the upcoming September 24th national elections. Reuters reports that the crowd was a mix of dissidents from all sides of the political spectrum, including supporters of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party who are fierce critics of Chancellor Merkel decision to allow over 1.3 million refugees into the country between 2015 to 2017. Polling at 11 to 13 percent of support, The AfD is projected to win seats in parliament this weekend, the first explicitly “far-right” party to do so in the past 60 years.
  • T-Mobile U.S and Sprint Corp, the third and fourth largest wireless providers in the United States respectively, are getting ready to merge their operations in the US. Softbank, a Japanese telecommunications corporation that owns Sprint, will control 40 to 50 percent of the new merged company if the deal goes through.
  • UK Prime Minister Theresa May has called for an additional two-year transitional period as part of the UK’s exit from the European Union. Speaking in Florence, May told reporters that her government would push for an exit from the single market and customs union as well as jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Europeans already in Britain will have their rights protected, she said.
  • Puerto Rico faces a week without power after taking a battering from hurricane Maria. The U.S. commonwealth’s power utility has suffered from a long-term debt crisis that culminated with the island filing for the equivalent of bankruptcy earlier this year.
  • Uber has had its operating license suspended by London’s transport authority who say that the ride-hailing app does not operate to the required standards of governance and puts Londoners’ safety at risk. The U.S. tech company has 21 days to appeal the decision. Full Story.
  • Technology giant Facebook is to give Congress the contents of 3,000 advertisements purchased by Russians during the 2016 US presidential race. Facebook’s CEO made the announcement on Thursday following weeks of scrutiny over the social network’s potential role in influencing elections. Facebook has recently revealed that an operation which appeared to be based in Russia had purchased $100,000 in adverts to promote divisive political and social messages in a two-year period.
  • Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has unveiled its latest ballistic missile capable of reaching much of the Middle East. The missile was displayed during a military parade in Tehran. Though Iran has long claimed to have missiles in the same range, the parade was the first time that the “Khoramshahr”, which can travel up to 2,000 kilometres, has been shown. The move poses a direct challenge to President Donald Trump, who signed a bill last month imposing mandatory penalties on those involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program, and anyone who does business with them.




  • “A mentally deranged US dotard” is how North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has described U.S. President Donald Trump.  Kim was responding to Trump’s speech at the UN in New York where he said the United States might be forced to “totally destroy” the hermetic state. Trump also repeated calls for tougher sanctions. Kim said in a message on state television that Trump will “pay dearly for his speech”, calling it “mentally deranged behaviour.” Full transcript here. 
  • Puerto Rico is surveying the damage caused by Hurricane Maria after the storm slammed into the Caribbean. At least 17 people are dead and small islands have been left devastated. Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello told CNN it might take months for electricity to be completely restored to the island. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz told NBC that “the Puerto Rico and the San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there.” Photos can be found here.
  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he would put his own son to death under controversial laws punishing drug dealers. His son, Paolo, is facing allegations of drug trafficking. “My order is to kill you if you are caught. And I will protect the police who kill you, if it is true,” Duterte told reporters he had told Paolo. He has defended the use of  extrajudicial killings of drug dealing suspects which has caused international outcries.

What we are reading and watching

  • The New Zealand Labour Party’s new leader has “electrified” the country’s politics, according to a Bloomberg report. Jacinda Ardern, 37, has turned around her party’s prospects in the space of just seven weeks. She was named leader after Andrew Little stepped down in the wake of several negative polls that were signalling the death knell of the party. However, now Labour is neck and neck with the ruling National party with many polls putting her as preferred Prime Minister over Bill English. The turnaround has led to some giving Ardern the nickname “stardust”. Polls close on Saturday, local time.
  • Former NFL star turned convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez is said to have suffered from severe brain injury by the time he killed himself in prison. The former New England Patriots player might have been one of the NFL’s all-time greats, but he could never escape drugs, guns and a life of violence. Now, his lawyer has said that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the brain disease commonly referred to as CTE.  Jose Baez said during a news conference that it was the most severe case researchers had encountered. Hernandez was 27 when he hanged himself in prison in April. The disease is believed to derive from repetitive head trauma, and can lead to conditions like dementia, rage and depression.
  • A schoolgirl reportedly trapped under the rubble of a collapsed school never existed, said the Mexican Navy. The girl’s story featured in news reports and was repeated by volunteers and officials and gripped the country. Navy assistant secretary Angel Enrique Sarmiento said it had no knowledge of the girl. “We never had any knowledge about that report, and we do not believe — we are sure — it was not a reality.” Twitter users quickly used the “Fake News” tag and news organisations backtracked on earlier coverage while trying to figure out how the story had originated.
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