- Thomson Reuters
Hello! Here’s what’s happening on Wednesday.
1. Catalonia’s leader declared independence from Spain on Tuesday evening before almost immediately suspending the process. Catalan President Carlos Puigdemont delivered a speech to the regional parliament that was seen as trying to appease his pro-independence government while also creating time to hold vital talks with Madrid.
2. At least 15 people have died and more than 200 are missing as wildfires continue to burn across Northern California. At least 2000 homes, businesses and other buildings have been destroyed and the region’s $US1 billion wine industry is also under threat.
3. In a show of force the US flew bombers over the Korean peninsula on Tuesday evening. Two US bombers were joined by fighters from Japan and South Korea, making it the first nighttime combined exercise between the three country. The move came a day after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the US army to “be ready” with military options in case diplomacy with North Korea failed.
4. UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said there is no guarantee EU citizens will be able to stay in Britain if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. May admitted on a radio show that she “didn’t know” what a no-deal Brexit would mean for the rights of EU citizens in Britain, but insisted that she and the government want them to stay.
5. The Environmental Protection Agency has taken the first steps to repeal former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The landmark policy was designed to significantly reduce carbon emissions from electricity, but it was locked up in legal disputes since being created and was never able to be fully implemented.
6. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive has announced a cut to company profit tax in her maiden policy address. Company profits tax will drop from 16.5% to 8.25% for the first $HK2 million ($AU320,000) to help small medium businesses. Lam also announced a subsidised “starter homes” scheme which will help families afford accommodation in one of the world’s most expensive cities.
7. Three Las Vegas shooting victims are suing the bump stock makers for their alleged role in the massacre. The complaint alleges manufacturers were irresponsible in selling and producing bump stocks which increase the rate of gun fire and were used in the October 1 shooting. The Nevada residents are seeking unspecified damages to cover counselling.
8. Bolivian President Evo Morales has asked the country’s highest court to abandon term limits. The request, which came only a year after Bolivians voted down a similar proposal by Morales, seeks to end a constitutional ban on being re-elected indefinitely and would help him seek a fourth term in 2019. The move caused thousands of Bolivians to take to the streets in protest.
9. Liberians voted on Tuesday to replace Africa’s first female leader, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The Nobel Peace Laureate is stepping aside at the end of her second term and is overseeing what will be the first smooth transition of power in 73 years. If the election results are widely accepted it will be the first time a democratically elected leader of the country will hand power to another.
10. Alibaba has announced it is going to spend $15 billion on “moonshot projects” over the next three years. The e-commerce giant will be hiring 100 scientists to research AI, the Internet of Things and quantum computing. The company will work with researchers at universities like the University of California at Berkeley and will also set up its own labs in China, the US, Israel, Russia and Singapore.