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Australia legalizes same-sex marriage

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Equality ambassadors from the The Equality Campaign gather in front of Parliament House on Dec. 7. (PC- Photographer: Sean Davey/AFP via Getty Images)

Canberra, Dec 7: Australias Parliament legalized same-sex marriage on Thursday, overcoming years of conservative resistance with an overwhelming majority vote.

Cheers and applause broke out as ministers voted in favour of the bill following hours of debate and emotional speeches at the House of Representatives. Only four MPs voted against the bill, the Australian media reported.

“This is Australia: Fair, diverse, loving and filled for respect for everyone,” said an effusive Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as he introduced the bill for a final vote.

“What a day, what a day for love, for equality, for respect. Australia has done it!” said Turnbull following the announcement.

“Today we’ve voted for love, for equality. It’s time for more marriages, more love, more respect. This belongs to us all.”

Labour Party leader Bill Shorten said the new law spoke for a modern Australia, “inclusive and fair”, 9news.com reported. Gay rights advocates praised the landmark vote even as they said it was long overdue.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a staunch critic of same-sex marriage, seemed to have softened.

“When it comes to same-sex marriage, some countries have introduced it via the courts, some via Parliament, and others – Ireland and now Australia – by vote of the people,” Abbott said. “And that is the best way because it resolves this matter beyond doubt or quibble.”

The bill will now go to Governor-General Peter Cosgrove for royal assent. The country is now the 24th in the world to allow same-sex couples to marry, according to Pew Research.

The move follows a two-month national postal survey that showed 61 per cent of more than 12 million respondents were in favour of marriage equality.

Australia’s first same-sex weddings will not take place until at least January due to a longstanding requirement for all Australian couples to provide a full month’s notice of their intention to get married.

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CNN Sues The White House Over Jim Acosta’s Revoked press credentials

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Washington, Nov 14: The White House on Tuesday said that it will mount a “vigorous” defence against the lawsuit filed by CNN accusing the administration of violating freedom of the press by suspending the press credentials of one of its reporters after a press conference confrontation with President Donald Trump.

“We have been advised that CNN has filed a complaint challenging the suspension of Jim Acosta’s hard pass. This is just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared in a statement.

The cable news service on Tuesday filed its suit in a District of Columbia court against the president and five members of his staff over the decision to permanently ban CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta from the presidential residence.

In its statement, the administration claimed that 50 other CNN reporters are accredited to cover White House news and that Acosta is not special in any way, suggesting that he can easily be replaced.

“The wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process,” CNN said in a statement.

The lawsuit, filed in DC District Court, asks for a restraining order requiring the return of Acosta’s White House press pass.

When the White House suspended Acosta’s pass last week, it said it did so because he had placed his hands on a female intern who was trying to take the microphone from him after Trump indicated he was no longer taking his questions. Video of the altercation shows only incidental contact.

CNN has said this fight was not about the intern but rather about the president’s contempt for Acosta and CNN.

“While the suit is specific to CNN and Acosta, this could have happened to anyone. If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials,” CNN said.

The White House answered back, saying that the administration “cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when a reporter acts this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional.”

“The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolize the floor. If there is no check on this type of behavior it impedes the ability of the President, the White House staff, and members of the media to conduct business,” the White House added.

 

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33rd Asean summit begins with call for multilateralism, international cooperation

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Singapore, Nov 13 : The 33rd summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) opened here on Tuesday with a call for upholding multilateralism and international cooperation to address economic, environmental and terrorism-related challenges.

The summit, a gathering of leaders of Asean’s 10 member countries, will review the regional bloc’s achievements in 2018 in pushing forward community building and integration while mapping out a new course for the year ahead, Xinhua news agency reported.

In a speech at the opening ceremony of the summit, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted the strength of the bloc in times of international uncertainty.

“The existing free, open and rules-based multilateral system, which has underpinned Asean’s growth and stability, has come under stress. Countries, including major powers, are resorting to unilateral actions and bilateral deals.

“Asean is greater than the sum of its parts. By coming together in one collective voice… Asean members have strengthened our standing in the world.”

During Singapore’s chairmanship in 2018, Asean member countries redoubled integration efforts and came up with concrete measures that laid the groundwork for a “united, effective and relevant Asean”, Lee said.

Asean reaffirmed its commitment to multilateral trade and made substantial progress towards completing negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), he added.

Lee also called for international cooperation in tackling non-traditional and trans-national threats, including terrorism and climate change.

“These common challenges are complex and unprecedented. We need to pool our ideas and resources to tackle these issues together… multilateralism remains an important basis for international cooperation and for the region’s growth and stability.”

An ongoing trade dispute between Washington and Beijing has threatened to weaken the Asean economy, which was forecast to become the fourth biggest in the world by 2030, after the US, China and the EU.

Lee said the integration process implemented by the group sought to attract investors to some of the most vibrant economies in the region.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the Prime Ministers and Presidents of the Asean countries will meet representatives of allies such as the US, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea.

The most significant absentee at the forum was US President Donald Trump, although the US was represented by Vice-President Mike Pence, who was set to take part in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Papua New Guinea later this week.

It was not clear if Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Pence would hold a bilateral meeting during the summit to discuss the trade dispute.

The humanitarian crisis of Myanmar’s minority Rohingya community was also expected to dominate talks between the summit’s participants, although Lee steered clear of the topic in his speech.

Climate change threats in the region, terrorism and the shift to digital technology were other issues in focus at the forum. The opening ceremony of the summit was set to be followed by a formal dinner for the leaders.

Asean consists of Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Asean was unable to conclude negotiations for the RCEP during a summit in Singapore, postponing them till 2019, Philippines Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez said.

The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between Asean and six Asia-Pacific states with which the regional bloc has existing Free Trade Agreements — namely China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

“We are determined to finish everything by next year,” Lopez said.

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Sri Lanka SC overturns sacking of parliament

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Colombo, Nov 13: The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka overturned President Maithripala Sirisena’s sacking of parliament on Tuesday. 

A three judge bench on Monday and Tuesday heard Fundamental Rights petitions filed by several parties challenging the President’s dissolution of Parliament.

The political turmoil escalated in the island nation when Sirisena dissolved Parliament on Friday and called for a snap parliamentary election on January 5, over two weeks after sacking Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replacing him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The parties which filed petitions on Monday included the United National Party led by the sacked Wickremesinghe, the main opposition Tamil National Alliance, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, the Tamil Progressive Alliance and the All Ceylon Makkal Congress.

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