Trump Appoints Ben Carson as Housing and Urban Development Secretary

President-elect Donald Trump chose neurosurgeon and former presidential rival Ben Carson to be his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Carson had previously suggested that he would not take a possible cabinet position in a Trump administration because he has no experience running a large bureaucracy. When asked what qualifies him to run the Housing department, which oversees an annual budget of 47 billion dollars, Carson said, he grew up in an “inner city.” Carson has been a fierce critic of government programs, saying that they cultivate dependency.

Trump Speaks to Taiwan President Draws Ire of China

Trump held a telephone conversation with the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, on Friday. The call surprised international analysts because the US broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979 as part of an agreement to recognize only mainland China, which, ever since the Chinese Revolution of 1948 claims Taiwan as its territory. An official reaction of the Chinese government downplayed the importance of the call.

New Zealand Prime Minister Steps Down

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, resigned his office in a sudden announcement today. Key, the leader of the popular National Party has been in office for eight years. He pushed for neoliberal policies including privatization and tax-cuts.

UK Supreme Court To Determine Brexit Challenge

John Key has already promised to resign in 2015 if evidence would be presented that New Zealand engaged in mass surveillance of its citizens. When this evidence was presented by various organizations, John Key retracted his promise to resign. Key said that the reason for his resignation now is to have more time for his family and to make room for new politicians to take over.

Opening arguments were made this morning at the UK Supreme Court in a case which will determine the future of a British Exit – or Brexit – from the European Union. The case is ultimately about whether the Executive branch of government has the legal authority to trigger a Brexit. The Court issued a gag order this morning to the media – warning against broadcasting the names of the plantiffs who are arguing that Parliament must be consulted before a Brexit, because of threats of violence that have been already made against them. London based economist John Weeks explained previously to the Real News how far-right attempts to leave the European Union were motivated by anti-immigrant sentiment and a desire to avoid regulations.

England’s High Court ruled in November that the Executive cannot initiate a Brexit without the express consent of Parliament. The Prime Minister and Attorney General have argued that the referendum, combined with the Royal preogative powers imbued within the Executive, provides the Prime Minister and her cabinet with all the power necessary to go forward with a Brexit. If the UK Supreme Court affirms the High Court’s decision, Parliament will have to be consulted and its consent explicitly obtained, before a Brexit can be initiated.

Land Confiscation System of Palestinian Villages Exposed

A new report published today by an Israeli human rights organizations details how Israel expands illegal colonies on Palestinian land. It focuses on three villages, and outlines how lands are reclassified, with illegal colonies retroactively approved by the Israeli government. According to the report, Israel confiscated about 200,000 hectars in the occupied West Bank in the past 50 years, built 200 illegal colonies on that land and settled over half a million colonists there. Rabbi Arik Ashermann explained how zoning laws are used to dispossess Palestinians on SocialTV.

The report comes out just as the Israeli government pushing a legislation to retroactively legalize colonies established on privately-owned land of Palestinians. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on his government to wait until Trump is inaugurated, before passing the legislation that will permit the retroactive legalization of the confiscation of Palestinian land.

US Military Rejects DAPL Permit

The US Army Corps of Engineers announced Sunday that it would not grant a permit for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline underneath Lake Oahe, which borders the Standing Rock Sioux Indian reservation. Sustained protests have been ongoing for several months and have been met with a militarized police response and the arrest of journalists. Protesters, who have come from across the country, argue that the pipeline will endanger the water supply to the reservation and passes through sacred tribal land. One of the protesters, Rory Erler Wakemup, said the following in reaction to the decision: 

Protestors are cautiously celebrating, noting that the pipeline project could be easily resumed when Donald Trump takes office in January. He previously had investments in the pipeline and is supported by the company constructing it, Dallas-based Energy Partners. 

Italians Reject Constitutional Reform, Prime Minister Resigns

The Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, of the governing centre-left Democratic Party, has announced that he will resign in a press conference held midnight last night. His announcement follows the crushing defeat of constitutional reforms that he proposed and that were put to a referendum on Sunday. The hand-counted referendum ballots so far show the majority rejecting the proposed reforms, 59-to-41. Italian voters have seemingly opposed the constitutional reforms proposed, which would’ve expanded the power of the executive and reduced the size of the Senate from 315 to 100.  

Renzi was 39 years old when he came to power in 2014, making him the youngest ever serving Italian prime minister. 

Austrians Elect for Green Party Leader as President, Narrowly Defeating Far-Right Candidate

For the first time in post war European history, a Green party-backed independent candidate and a far-right candidate faced each other in a runoff vote for president – and the independent candidate won. In Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen, won the presidential election on Sunday, for a second time this year. Austria’s highest court had annulled the previous election in May, because of irregularities in the counting of absentee ballots. Van der Bellen defeated far-right candidate Norbert Hofer with 53 percent of the vote – a more decisive margin than last time, when he won by only 50.3 percent.

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