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Friday briefing: JFK files released, Spain and Catalonia on knife-edge, America’s opioid crisis

Australian deputy prime minister removed… Spain hopes for direct rule over Catalonia… Assad’s chemical attack scrutinised 

Hello, this is Anna bringing you today’s top stories for easily-digestible reading.

JFK files released – Nearly 3,000 previously classified files relating to John F. Kennedy’s murder in 1963 have been released to the public, revealing some interesting details about the conspiracy-fuelled case. They reveal that the FBI had warned Dallas police about a threat to kill shooter Lee Harvey Oswald, and that Soviet officials feared an ‘irresponsible’ US general could launch a missile strike in reaction to the incident. However, not all files were released. Donald Trump made a last minute decision to delay the publication of hundreds of files, bowing to pressure from intelligence officials. ‘Executive departments and agencies have proposed to me that certain information should continue to be redacted because of national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns,’ a White House memo read.

Spain and Catalonia on a knife-edge – All eyes are on the Spanish senate as today it will decide whether Madrid will take over some of Catalonia’s autonomous powers after the region’s escalated push for independence. Following a disputed referendum in Catalonia on the question of separation, held on October 1, and marred by national police violence, Spain has been thrown into its worst political crisis in four decades. Madrid is expected to trigger Article 155, with the approval of the Senate, to impose direct rule over Catalonia – and in turn fire current leader Carles Puigdemont – in a move that is likely to cause mass protest and potential civil unrest. Article 155 is viewed by many as Spain’s nuclear option; only to be implemented in worst-case scenarios. The Catalan government are currently debating whether to declare unilateral independence as well.

Smack in suburbia – Donald Trump has declared the opioid addiction crisis gripping the country as a ‘public health emergency’. He said he was directing federal agencies to use all of their resources to fight the epidemic, freed up funding for treatments and relaxed certain laws and regulations. ‘We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic,’ Trump said in a speech at the White House. ‘We can do it.’ According to the Centers for disease Control and Prevention, 64,000 people died in 2016 due to drug overdoses, most of them being linked with opioid use. The president also offered a rare genuine glimpse into his family life, going off-script to talk about his brother Fred, who died from alcoholism. ‘He’d tell me don’t drink,’ Trump said, ‘He was a strong guy but it was a tough, tough thing that he was going through. But I learned because of Fred.’

Election faux pas – The High Court of Australia has decided that five politicians – including the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce – were wrongly elected because they held dual citizenship. This means three of the politicians, including Joyce, have been disqualified from office; the others quit in July. Joyce’s removal from office deals a particularly fatal blow to the ruling government because it strips them of their one-seat majority. Debate about dual citizenship in politics has captivated Australia. Currently, the country’s constitution does not allow people with dual citizenship reach government, demanding that those who do renounce their heritage.

Assad’s darkest day – UN investigators have determined that Bashar al-Assad’s military was behind the April 4 Sarin gas attack on Khan Sheikhun town, that killed more than 87 people. Images of children paralyzed and killed by the chemicals shocked the world. Donald Trump’s administration responded to the atrocity by instructing US military to bombard a regime airbase with cruise missiles. UN-sponsored peace talks on Syria are due to resume next month. Donald Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has called for regime change, in a hardening of the US administration’s stance. ‘The reign of the Assad family is coming to an end, and the only issue is how should that be brought about,’ said Tillerson. Russia, on the other hand, is still siding with Assad’s regime.

Stuck up shit creek without a paddle – Now, for some rare good news for you. Two US yachtswomen and their two dogs were rescued by the US Navy after floating adrift for five months in the Pacific Ocean. Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiaba set off from Hawaii in a small boat with their pooches, before running into some bad weather that subsequently destroyed its engine. Their boat drifted in the open seas about 1,500km (930 miles) southeast of Japan. The two women made numerous distress calls but the signals weren’t picked up because they were not close enough to other vessels or shores. But on October 24, a Taiwanese fishing vessel saw the Appel and Fuiaba’s boat and alerted authorities on the US territory of Guam. See, good things do happen as well!


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