The clock’s run out. Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont had until 10 a.m. today to give the Spanish government a clear answer on whether Catalonia plans to secede — and he stayed silent. Now federal officials are meeting to decide how to enact Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which would suspend the region’s autonomous governance. After a disputed referendum on Oct. 1, Puigdemont declared a mandate for independence — but immediately suspended it. He now says if Article 155 is triggered he’ll launch an outright push for secession via a vote in Catalan Parliament.
The Presidential Daily Brief
There’s history here. When President Donald Trump called Myeshia Johnson, whose husband was killed serving in Niger, both Johnson’s mother-in-law and Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson reported that he made insensitive remarks. Trump tweeted that he had “proof” he didn’t make them. Later the White House admitted he did make them, but blamed others for politicizing a tragedy. Trump has attacked Gold Star families before, notably during the campaign. Meanwhile, White House chief of staff John Kelly — whose son was killed in Afghanistan — voiced his support for the president and criticized Wilson.
Lights, camera, factions. Ksenia Sobchak, the socialite daughter of Vladimir Putin’s political mentor, has announced she’ll run in March’s presidential election. The 35-year-old journalist has been unofficially banned from state television since joining anti-Putin protests in 2012. Sobchak’s independent run might split the already weak liberal opposition — leading some, including imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, to suggest it’s a Kremlin-backed scheme. Putin, who’s been in power for nearly 18 years, hasn’t officially declared his candidacy, though he’s widely expected to run — and win.
One step at a time. The Senate approved a budget resolution today that would allow them to pass tax reform with a simple majority vote, rather than the usual 60-vote threshold, which would require bipartisan compromise and likely fail. An independent think tank estimates that 80 percent of the plan’s benefits will go to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. Meanwhile, congressional Republicans are worried that President Trump will attempt to withdraw from NAFTA, which could further jeopardize tax reform by alienating pro-trade lawmakers.
Know This: A federal judge yesterday ordered the U.S. government to stop denying an undocumented 17-year-old an abortion, after hearing arguments that she should be forced to choose between leaving the country and terminating her pregnancy. Jacinda Ardern, 37, will be New Zealand’s new prime minister. And several Iditarod sled dogs have tested positive for banned substances for the first time in the race’s history.
Read This: An 83-year-old man in Canada has buried 42 schoolbuses underground, creating a massive nuclear shelter he calls Ark Two that can ostensibly hold 350 people.
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There’s no honor in these laws. In at least nine countries, many in North Africa and the Middle East, so-called “honor laws” allow rapists to wed their victims — even underage ones — as a way of avoiding prosecution. But gradually those statutes are being repealed: In 2014, Morocco relented after the suicide of a 16-year-old girl who was forced to marry her rapist. This year, Tunisia, Lebanon and Jordan followed suit. Now human rights groups have their sights set on similar laws in Iraq, Kuwait and Bahrain.
The only way to win is not to play. AlphaGo software already beat Go’s human world champion this year, but the Google-owned company says its updated program goes a step beyond. While the original was trained on data from 100,000 human-played games, new AlphaGo Zero just learned the rules and taught itself the rest. Within three days it had learned to beat its predecessor, despite using about one-twelfth the computing power. DeepMind scientists hope this reinforcement learning technique could be applied to fields like quantum chemistry or particle physics.
It’s not over. The military crackdown that’s pushed Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims to flee hasn’t abated. Monday an estimated 20,000 arrived in the no-man’s-land between what the U.N. calls a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” in Myanmar and relative safety in Bangladesh. They huddled overnight in rice fields when border guards prevented them from proceeding to overcrowded refugee camps. The past week alone saw 38,000 new arrivals, and officials say those numbers are only increasing. With over 500,000 refugees already, many worry the influx could overwhelm Bangladesh’s densely packed population.
“Now I know while I was profiting, others were in terrible pain.” So the Clerks director tweeted earlier this month when the news of sexual harassment allegations against mogul Harvey Weinstein became public. Smith, admitting that Weinstein had financed most of his films dating back to 1994, said he felt “ashamed.” He’s announced he’ll donate forthcoming residuals from the films Weinstein endowed to Women in Film, a nonprofit that offers career help to women in all walks of the film industry. The organization says they’re still working out the details.
It’s a way of mending defenses. Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL prefers players stand for the national anthem but won’t pass a rule on the issue. Owners and players met Wednesday, discussing ongoing protests over racial injustice and support for social initiatives. President Trump, who has conflated the protests with disrespecting the U.S. military, tweeted that the decision showed “total disrespect for our great country.” Goodell claimed “about half a dozen” players were still kneeling — though at least seven 49ers knelt Sunday — saying he’ll “try to put that at zero.”