Top News Stories for Today – December 3, 2016
Italy to vote referendum to amend 1948 constitution
First Brexit, then Trump, now Italy? This weekend, Italians go to the polls to vote in a referendum on whether or not the country should amend its 1948 constitution.
The referendum is the brainchild of Matteo Renzi, Italy’s energetic, 41-year-old Prime Minister. His intention is to defang the upper house of the Italian Parliament, the Senato, by cutting its numbers from 315 to 100, thus reducing its powers dramatically, making it more of a consultative assembly.
Proponents of the referendum say that the goal is to make the job of governing Italy less complicated. By allowing the cabinet to push through legislation in a reasonable time frame, Italy would become more efficient, productive and prosperous while simultaneously becoming less bureaucratic and bound up in red tape. Some opponents say that the proposed reforms don’t go far enough, while others fear that a weakened Senate will eliminate an important check on power. CNN
Trump endorses Philippines’ drugs war
President-elect Donald Trump endorsed the Philippines’ controversial drug war tactics, claimed Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday after a short phone call with Trump Friday night. “He was quite sensitive to our war on drugs and he wishes me well in my campaign and said that we are doing, as he so put it, ‘the right way,'” Duterte said.
Since taking office, Duterte has launched a brutal attack on suspected drug dealers, encouraging extrajudicial killings by police and vigilantes alike. “My order is shoot to kill you,” he infamously said of dealers. “I don’t care about human rights, you’d better believe me.” CNN, The Week
Trump speaks with Taiwanese president
While the phone call between the US president-elect and the Taiwanese president appeared to be mainly congratulatory, it broke over three decades of precedent; the last time leaders of the two countries spoke directly is believed to be 1979 and the US doesn’t formally recognize the Taiwanese government. China considers the island a breakaway province, and so the phone call is expected to create an uproar in Beijing. “That’s how wars start,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted.
China on Trump-Taiwan call
China on Saturday lodged its expected objections to President-elect Donald Trump’s acceptance of a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in a sharp break with diplomatic habit. “We have noticed relevant reports and lodged solemn representation with the relevant side in the United States,” said a representative from China’s Foreign Ministry.
“The ‘one China’ principle is the political foundation of China-US relations.” Earlier comments from Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi place the blame squarely on “petty” Taiwan. Trump on Twitter defended the call, noting that he did not initiate it and that “the US sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment,” so a call should be permitted. CNN, Reuters
Democrats on Trump’s pick for defense secretary
Democrats are already putting up roadblocks to the nomination of retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for defense secretary. While most appointments need only a simple Senate majority for confirmation, Mattis, who retired from the military in 2013, also needs the Senate to approve a waiver allowing him to serve in the Pentagon less than seven years after retirement.
And for that, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said she would require a 60-vote supermajority, which Republicans don’t have. “Civilian control of our military is a fundamental principle of American democracy,” Gillibrand said. Though Mattis has strong support from Republicans, Politico noted it’s quite possible that Democrats could “unilaterally block” Mattis. Politico, Bloomberg
South Korean opposition files Impeachment
South Korea’s opposition parties have filed an impeachment motion against scandal-hit President Park Geun-hye. The bill was filed Saturday as hundreds of thousands of South Koreans from around the country gathered in Seoul for a rally for the sixth consecutive Saturday to demand the president’s impeachment.
The motion was signed by 171 lawmakers of the 300-seat legislature. A vote will be held in the National Assembly Friday. The opposition, however, will need 28 members of the ruling party to bring the vote to the two-thirds majority required to pass the bill. It is not clear if the opposition will be able to garner the votes from Park’s Saenuri Party.
Park has offered to step down, but the opposition says the offer is a stalling tactic designed to buy time and keep her in office. The ruling party wants the president to voluntarily step down in April, opening the way for a presidential election to be held in June, six months ahead of schedule. VOA
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