Top news stories for today – Dec 22, 2017
UN condemn Trump’s Jerusalem decision
The United Nations General Assembly voted 128-9 on Thursday to declare America’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “null and void,” with 35 countries abstaining. The vote represents overwhelming international disapproval of the Trump administration’s controversial decision. The US was forced to use a rare veto during a UN Security Council 14-1 vote earlier this month on the same issue.
The United States’ ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, warned before the vote Thursday that America would be “taking names” of countries that voted to condemn the administration’s decision. “When we make a decision, at the will of the American people, about where to locate our embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us,” she declared. NBC News, CNN
Pro-separatist parties in Catalonia wins election
The Spanish government called an early election in the Catalonia region in an attempt to stop the separatist movement, but with 97 percent of Thursday’s votes counted, pro-independence parties have won a majority of the Parliament’s 135 seats. The previous Catalan administration held an illegal referendum to secede from Spain, and the former president, Carlos Puigdemont of Junts Per Catalunya, is in self-imposed exile in Brussels; if he returns, it’s likely he will be arrested and face charges of sedition and rebellion.
No single party has a majority, but three separatist parties took 70 seats, and could agree to govern as a coalition. Secession is a very divisive issue in the region; the anti-independence Ciutadans Party won 36 seats, the most in the snap election. CNN
UN to vote on additional N Korea sanctions
The UN Security Council is expected to vote Friday on another round of targeted sanctions aimed at further restricting North Korea’s crude oil imports, which fuel its weapons programs. The proposed sanctions come in response to Pyongyang’s November 28 launch of a newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) called a Hwasong-15, which the North Koreans claim is capable of delivering nuclear warheads anywhere in United States.
It was Pyongyang’s third ICMB test this year and its 20th ballistic missile launch of 2017. The United States drafted the text and negotiated it with China. It was circulated to the wider council membership on Thursday, and a vote is scheduled Friday at 1 p.m. EST. VOA
US life expectancy dropped
Life expectancy in the US has dropped for the second year in a row. Americans, on average, can expect to live 78.6 years, which is a small but statistically significant drop from the previous year, says a report from the National Center for Health Statistics.
A multi-year drop in life expectancy is rare for the US. You’d have to go back to the ’60s to find the last time it dipped two years in a row. So, what’s fueling the decline? Part of it can be explained by the increases in drug overdose deaths we’ve seen the past couple of years. CNN
China gears up to reduce impact of US tax cut
Chinese companies with international ambitions are caught in a serious dilemma by the US move to cut corporate tax rates. The move has made the US an attractive destination for Chinese companies facing very high taxes and other restrictions at home. On the other hand, they face the risk of being punished by Chinese authorities who are opposed to “unnecessary” overseas investments.
Earlier this week, China wrapped up a top-level annual economic policymaking conference, with a three-year pledge to “fight financial risks.” Though there was no specific mention of the US tax reform, it was clear that Chinese authorities are gearing up to counter any external risks to the domestic economy. China based multinational companies and wealthy individuals cannot ignore the fact that recent moves by the Trump administration are going to change the investment scenario in the US and have some impact in other markets as well. VOA
US Congress clears spending bill to avoid shutdown
The Republican-led Congress narrowly passed a temporary spending bill to avoid a government shutdown Thursday, doing the bare minimum in a sprint toward the holidays and punting disputes on immigration, health care and the budget to next year.
The measure passed the House on a 231-188 vote over Democratic opposition and then cleared the Senate, 66-32, with Democrats from Republican-leaning states providing just enough votes. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the measure. The wrap-up measure allows Republicans controlling Washington to taste their win on this week’s $1.5 trillion tax package — even as they kick a full lineup of leftover work into the new year. Congress will return in January facing enormous challenges on immigration, the federal budget, health care and national security along with legislation to increase the government’s authority to borrow money. Each of those items is sure to test the unity that Republicans are enjoying now. VOA
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