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

This just in
8:13 a.m. ET

Israeli fighter jets launched four airstrikes in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday, marking the first air strikes since a ceasefire between Gaza militants and Israel went into effect. The ceasefire followed last summer's 50-day war.

The Israeli airstrikes came after a rocket, which Israel's defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, says was sent by the Islamic Jihad group, was fired at southern Israel on Tuesday night. Yaalon told The Associated Press that the Israeli airstrikes were aimed at Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group in the Gaza Strip, as well as at Hamas sites. No Palestinian group, however, claimed responsibility for the rocket attack.

Israeli Defense Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner told AP the airstrikes targeted "four terror infrastructures" in the Gaza Strip. "The reality that Hamas' territory is used as a staging ground to attack Israel is unacceptable and intolerable and will bear consequences," Lerner told AP. "Israelis cannot be expected to live in the perpetual fear of rocket attacks. The IDF will continue to operate in order to seek out those that wish to undermine Israeli sovereignty with acts of terrorism."

No casualties were reported in the Israeli airstrikes. Meghan DeMaria

The Daily Showdown
8:10 a.m. ET

Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) interview with Jon Stewart started out amicably on Tuesday's Daily Show, with some jokes about filibusters and urination and broad agreement that Republicans are inconsistent when it comes to liberty and NSA mass surveillance. Paul ably dodged a comparison between terrorism and school shootings, pivoting to murder in Baltimore, and then Stewart brought up "this religious liberty" hullaballoo. "I'm really fascinated by the idea of religious persecution in this country," he said. "The depth of feeling seems real," but what are conservatives talking about?

"Some people are afraid in our country that their personal religious opinions will no longer be allowed, even in their church," Paul said, bringing up the idea that tax deductions for church donations are a back door to government regulation. "I think there's a difference between acceptance and neutrality of the law, and trying to force your opinion on someone, even in their church, or even in their expression."

When Stewart objected, Paul walked back to safer ground, bringing up a Christian T-shirt shop that refused to make liberal or pro-gay marriage shirts:

That does sound a little bit to me like a freedom issue, and you can go down the street to get someone else to make it. And I'm not one who is intolerant — I'm one who believes in letting people live life the way they want to live it, but also I would include Christians in that, too. [Rand Paul]

Stewart had a good point about how these protesting businesses seem to be fine selling cake to other types of sinners. But in the end, Paul circled the square and got a befuddled Stewart to toast with him their agreement about the Patriot Act. You can try to follow along below. —Peter Weber

Law And Order
7:03 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, Mexican police arrested Henry Solis, a 27-year-old former Los Angeles Police Department officer, in Ciudad Juarez, ending a two-month manhunt. Late Tuesday, Solis was handed over to U.S. federal agents in El Paso, Texas, where he will be held on California murder charges for the shooting death of Salome Rodriguez Jr. outside a bar on March 13. Mexican authorities say Solis resisted arrest, but that no shots were fired.

Solis is accused of shooting Rodriguez, 23, after some dispute at a bar in Pomona, California, when he was off-duty. The LAPD fired him a few days later, and his father was later arrested for lying to federal investigators after driving Solis to El Paso and, according to security footage, helping him walk across the border to Juarez. You can watch an Associated Press report on the arrest below. —Peter Weber

Quotables
6:04 a.m. ET
Overheard with Evan Smith

One of the biggest and most consequential shifts in the push for gay rights was when corporate America joined the fray, recently siding with LGTB advocates against "religious freedom" laws Indiana and Arkansas. In an interview with Evan Smith, former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) called the business community "a critical block" in the gay-rights fight.

"It's very good to win an issue because you have morality on your side, but it helps in America if the profit motive weighs in," Frank said on the PBS show Overheard. "And essentially what you now have is the business community saying to the bigots, 'Will you please knock it off, you are interfering with our ability to ruin the economy and make money.'" Big Business is doing the right thing, he added, but not exactly for altruistic reasons:

It's interesting what they're saying, and they're saying this: Do not give us the right to discriminate — you are giving me something I didn't ask for. Because if a business has the legal and moral obligation to serve everybody, no controversy. But if you say to them, OK, you can pick and choose, then once they start picking and choosing, somebody's going to be mad at them. Either they'll be too kind to gay people or not kind enough. [Barney Frank]

You can watch Frank's comments at the Overheard site (they broach the topic at about the 12-minute mark), but the entire 25-minute interview is worth a listen. Among other things, Frank talks about how the left's penchant for marching is counterproductive, why the GOP may secretly want the Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage, Hillary Clinton's record on gay rights, and why he thinks Clinton should win the Democratic nomination without too much of a fight. Peter Weber

The beautiful game
5:32 a.m. ET

Hours after arresting six FIFA officials at a luxury hotel in Zurich, based on U.S. criminal corruption charges, Swiss federal prosecutors announced their own investigation into FIFA's awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively. The Swiss prosecutors' office said police had seized "electronic data and documents" from FIFA's Swiss world headquarters, and will question 10 members of the soccer governing body's executive committee who took part in the controversial 2010 votes crowning the 2018 and 2022 hosts.

Switzerland's investigation is not related to the U.S. one, Swiss authorities say, but U.S. and Swiss officials are working together. In the video below, New York Times reporter Matt Apuzzo tells BBC News what he and his colleagues know so far, and how soccer "has never seen anything quite like this." —Peter Weber

The Daily Showdown
4:41 a.m. ET

Last Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) stood on the Senate floor for 10.5 hours, staging a quasi-filibuster to protest the USA Patriot Act. Almost all of his GOP colleagues rolled their eyes at him — literally, sometimes — but if the Senate doesn't act, the Patriot Act will expire on June 1. Good, said Jon Stewart on Tuesday's Daily Show. It was always meant to expire, "and why should we allow the U.S. government to continue to infringe on liberty?"

The Republican answer is that the law, and the NSA mass surveillance it didn't quite authorize, are important tools to prevent terrorism. "I guess the lesson here is that saving American lives is sometimes more important than civil liberties and government overreach," Stewart summarized — "you know, unless you're, obviously, trying to save those lives by providing health insurance." NSA surveillance and ObamaCare, connected. One statistic — that 45,000 people die every year because they lack health insurance, per a 2009 Harvard study — blew Stewart's mind: "How do we make that the thing the government cares about? Do we have to rename Type 2 diabetes 'Osama bin unable to process insulin'?" Well, it's a thought. —Peter Weber

Watch this
3:18 a.m. ET

"In recent years, a stunning breakthrough has been made in our concept of what the universe is for," Bill Nye (the Science Guy) said on Tuesday's Inside Amy Schumer. If you're expecting a science lesson, though, remember what you're watching. Nye, without grimacing, laid out the joke: "We now know the universe is essentially a force sending cosmic guidance to white women in their 20s," a "giant dream board on which women pin their wishes."

Many young white women, the show suggests, have turned "the Universe" into a mashup of God and a Magic 8 Ball, with perhaps a smidgen of instant karma — see How I Met Your Mother for slightly more subtle usage. Nye can only take so much, and there is definitely NSFW language from both Schumer and Nye. If that doesn't bother you, watch below. —Peter Weber

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