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If you like your Republic...
March 24, 2014
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Venetians have voted overwhelmingly in an unofficial and non-binding referendum to break away from Italy and form their own sovereign state. Eighty-nine percent of voters in the lagoon city and its surrounding area opted to break away. Organizers said that 2.36 million people — 73 percent of those eligible to take part — voted. The proposed new country, the Republic of Venice, would include the five million inhabitants of Italy's Veneto region.

Venice — famous for its canals — has only been part of modern Italy since the 1860s. The 1,000-year–old democratic Republic of Venice was absorbed into modern Italy in 1866 after defeat by Napoleon in the 1790s.

Why does Venice wish to leave now? Campaigners for Venetian independence say it's the economy, stupid. Venice pays €71 billion to Italy's central government in taxes, but receives just €50 billion back in government services. The extra money goes to subsidize poorer regions in Italy's south, which have been hit hard by the economic crisis in the Eurozone.

The result of the vote is not recognized by Italy's government. However, Venice's leadership may now begin withholding tax from Rome. President of the Veneto region, Luca Zaia, of the separatist Northern League party, told the Daily Mail that Venetians had lost 85,000 jobs in the crisis and were now hungry for change: "The will for secession is growing ever stronger," he said. "We are only at the Big Bang of the movement — but revolutions are born of hunger and we are now hungry. Venice can now escape." John Aziz

Only in America
2:31 p.m. ET
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Facing a need for $743 million worth of repairs to crumbling infrastructure, the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, has told residents the city can fix its many potholes through the power of prayer. "Yes, I believe we can pray potholes away," said Mayor Tony Yarber, who is also a church pastor, on Twitter. "Moses prayed," he said, "and a sea opened." The Week Staff

This just in
2:15 p.m. ET
AP Photo/Jim Cole

Former St. Paul's prep student Owen Labrie, 19, was found not guilty in a high profile rape trial that cast a pall over the prestigious New Hampshire school. Labrie faced nine charges, three of which were for felony sexual assault. The jury only found Labrie guilty of a few misdemeanors, such as seducing a minor on the internet and misdemeanor sexual assault, NBC reports.

Prosecutors claimed that Labrie had raped a 15-year-old as part of a school tradition, called Senior Salute, where graduating students try to have sex with underclassmen. Labrie testified that he had two consensual sexual contacts that stopped before intercourse.

"I said, 'No, no, no, keep it up here,'" his accuser told the court, describing how she had tried to fight Labrie off. "I tried to be as polite as possible … I wanted to not cause a conflict." Jeva Lange

An interview for the ages
1:15 p.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Unsatisfied with how the "lamestream media" has been questioning the GOP presidential candidates, Sarah Palin has decided to take it upon herself to conduct an interview with the contenders, including, of course, Donald Trump. While the conversation topics for Friday night's interview on One American News Network have not yet been revealed in their entirety, Palin made it very clear in a Facebook post that she plans to defend The Donald.

WTH, LAMESTREAM MEDIA! STAY OUT OF MY BIBLEWTH? Lamestream media asks GOP personal, spiritual "gotchas" that they'd...

Posted by Sarah Palin on Friday, August 28, 2015

If you somehow couldn't make it through all of Palin's post, here are the sparknotes: Palin wants to call out the media for its harsh attacks on, namely, The Donald. She's particularly incensed about the abundance of "spiritual 'gotchas'" that are used against GOP candidates, but not against the media's "favored liberal pals," presumably referencing a reporter's recent question about Trump's favorite Bible verse.

After lavishing praise on the Republican frontrunner for "screwing with the reporter" by refusing to answer the question that he found to be "very personal," Palin makes the case for the media assuming more of the Trump attitude to "empower Americans to reject [the mainstream media] and their bias as voters run to the anti-status quo candidates daring to Go Rogue."

The status quo is starting to look a whole lot better. Becca Stanek

Quotables
1:01 p.m. ET
NORTH KOREAN TV/AFP/Getty Images

There's nothing like the threat of nukes to help you get your way, according to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who bragged that peace negotiations with South Korea last week were successful due to his nation's potential threat of nuclear attack. While Kim agrees that both nations are now on the path of "reconciliation and trust" with their "landmark" truce, North Korea's official KCNA agency quoted Kim as saying, "[The deal] was by no means something achieved on the negotiating table but thanks to the tremendous military muscle with the nuclear deterrent for self-defense." Of course, Kim would say something like that.

North Korea had threatened to use force against South Korea over propaganda broadcasts launched when a North Korean land mine maimed two South Korean soldiers earlier this month. The two countries also exchanged fire at the border last week. During talks on Monday, North Korea offered an official statement of "regret" over the land mine, satisfying South Korean officials. The extent to which North Korea has advanced in their nuclear capabilities is unknown. Jeva Lange

are we there yet?
11:14 a.m. ET
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Congress is only a few weeks away from a mid-September vote on the Iran nuclear deal, which the White House claims will "verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and ensure that Iran's nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful going forward." Critics, meanwhile, say the deal does not do enough to keep Iran from getting a bomb. Ten Senate Democrats remain undecided, but the Obama administration at this point basically only needs one more senator to back the deal, tipping the number of supporters to the vital 34 required for Obama to sustain a veto against the passage of a resolution of disapproval.

Thirty Democratic senators are standing as solid "yes" votes on the deal, with an additional three "leaning toward voting for the deal," by The Washington Post's count. There is even speculation that Democrats might get 41 senators in favor of the deal, which would prevent the resolution of disapproval from even coming to an up-or-down vote in that chamber.

Still, several Jewish Democrats have come out against the deal, exposing a divide in the party. "I've been accused of being treacherous, treasonous, even disloyal to the United States," Rep. Nita M. Lowey of New York told The New York Times on her decision to vote against the White House's wishes.

For more, check out this massive graphic over at The Washington Post, which shows who falls where. Jeva Lange

Clinton Emails
11:00 a.m. ET
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Well, this could explain a lot: Hillary Clinton is the only secretary of state since 1957 to complete her time in office without ever operating under the supervision of a permanent inspector general (IG), an independent watchdog who is tasked with rooting out misconduct in the agency. There was an acting IG during Clinton's tenure, but the Obama administration never made a permanent appointment.

"Every agency needs a permanent, independent inspector general," says Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who is pushing the State Department to release records explaining the lapse. "The position is too important to assign to a placeholder. An acting inspector general doesn’t have the mandate to lead, and he or she might not be able to withstand pushback from an agency that doesn’t want to cooperate with oversight."

Grassley also argues that "it’s fair to say some of the problems exposed lately probably could have been prevented with a permanent inspector general in place." He is referring to ongoing allegations that Clinton regularly used her position for personal gain and convenience, and that her use of a private email server for State Department business may have compromised classified information. Bonnie Kristian

The future has arrived
10:55 a.m. ET
DAVID J. PHILLIP/AFP/Getty Image

Meteorologists get a lot of flak for getting the weather wrong, but 10 years ago, one meteorologist made a forecast that was eerily prescient. As Hurricane Katrina brewed in the Gulf of Mexico, National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Ricks of Slidell, Louisiana, predicted that it would be "a most powerful hurricane with unprecedented strength...rivaling the intensity of Hurricane Camille of 1969."

Unfortunately, Ricks' prediction was largely ignored in the run-up to the hurricane. As he told NBC News years later, "I would much rather have been wrong in this one. I would much rather be talking to you and taking the heat and crying wolf. But our local expertise said otherwise."

It wasn't just the strength of the hurricane that Ricks predicted either — he also forecasted the breadth of damage the monstrous storm eventually wreaked. Ricks wrote:

"Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks...perhaps longer. At least one half of well constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail...leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed.

The majority of industrial buildings will become non functional. Partial to complete wall and roof failure is expected. All wood framed low rising apartment buildings will be destroyed. Concrete block low rise apartments will sustain major damage...including some wall and roof failure.

High rise office and apartment buildings will sway dangerously...A few to the point of a total collapse. All windows will blow out." [Twitter]

Ricks went on to detail the spread of airborne debris and its devastating effects: a power outage that "will last for weeks," and water shortages that "will make human suffering incredible by modern standards." For once, it would've been nice if the weatherman had been wrong. Becca Stanek

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