Briefing: Kenya election clashes, Iraq launches Kurdish offensive, China enshrines President's ideas into constitution

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Curated top stories

  • In a bipartisan effort, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Rand Paul drafted legislation that would require the National Security Agency (NSA) to obtain a warrant before surveilling the online activities of U.S. citizens.
  • Iraqi paramilitary forces launched an offensive to capture a key oil pipeline from the autonomous Kurdish region that voted to secede last month. Iraq’s Kurds gained control of a large swath of land when driving out Islamic State and carried out a poll last month to build on that position of strength. Baghdad said that the vote was illegal and sent troops to take control of strategic assets last week. The pipeline, in Fish-Khabur near the Turkish border, would be crucial to any Kurdish independence bid.
  • Civil unrest continues in Kenya ahead of an election rerun scheduled for Thursday. Police used tear gas on protestors as opposition leader Raila Odinga appeared to back away from previous calls for demonstrations against the elections. Kenya’s supreme court upheld Odinga’s challenge to August’s election result, but he has withdrawn from the rerun, saying that it will not be free and fair. 49 people have died in clashes since the August vote, but Odinga told the BBC today that there would only be peaceful protests and people should stay away from polling stations.


  • China’s Communist Party voted to enshrine President Xi Jinping’s name and ideology in its constitution, putting him on the same level as Mao Zedong. Previous Chinese Communist Party leaders have had their ideologies incorporated into the party’s constitution or thinking, but none, besides founder Mao, have had their philosophy described as “thought”, which is at the top of the ideological hierarchy. At the end of the process, the more than 2,000 delegates, gathered in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, were asked if they had any objections, to which they replied with loud cries of “none.”
  • The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said that EU countries must unite or face “defeat” in the negotiations over Brexit. Britain’s actions would decide whether a good, bad or no Brexit deal is reached, Tusk told the European Parliament. “We have managed to build and maintain unity among the 27, but ahead of us is still the toughest stress test. If we fail it, the negotiations will end in our defeat,” he said. British Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) Philip Hammond stoked controversy last week when he referred to other EU members as “enemies”. Hammond later said he had made “a poor choice of words“.
  • The United States is considering implementing sanctions over Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims, according to the State Department. “We express our gravest concern with recent events in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and the violent, traumatic abuses Rohingya and other communities have endured,” it said in a statement. Roughly half a million Rohingya have fled Myanmar into neighboring Bangladesh after the largest military campaign against the Muslim minority in history.

What we’re reading

  • Reuters illustrates how public wifi spots have revolutionized life in Cuba, allowing Cubans to stay connected with family members in the U.S. in a way that was not possible three years ago. -Charles Turner
  • In light of the current constitutional stand-off regarding Catalonia, a helpful piece from Al-Jazeera examines other regions with ambitions to secede from Spain.
  • The New York Times takes a look at Russian-backed news service RT and its wild success on YouTube. The cosy relationship between the two media companies is coming within the scope of the US inquiry into relationships with Russia, the paper reports.
  • As Thailand prepares for the cremation ceremony of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, his image is omnipresent across the country. Here, the Associated Press features a photo essay displaying the influence that permeates the country after Bhumibol’s 70 years on the throne.
  • The South China Morning Post tells us that North Korea wants to pump up its algae reserves for a number of reasons. Yes, you read it correctly – algae.

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