1. Global netizens are paying attention to Venezuela, as the crisis-stricken country holds municipal elections today. With the opposition in disarray, ruling Socialist Party candidates are expected to sweep the votes, furthering Maduro's consolidation of power. Locally, our signals picked up abnormally high online interest in the killings at Barlovento, a series of murders committed by government security forces last year. This sharp spike in interest may indicate growing concern over state violence against civilians.
2. Congressional Republicans are steaming ahead on tax reform legislation, yet the U.S. policy issue that registered the greatest increase in online attention this week was health care. GOP lawmakers are apparently split over whether to include ObamaCare subsidies in a spending bill due December 22. Further, the tax bill passed last week by the Senate included a provision to end the individual mandate, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said could cause 13 million Americans to become uninsured. The heightened public interest in U.S. health care captured by our signals suggests these ObamaCare-related issues could be more potent stumbling blocks than lawmakers realize.
3. Chinese customs data released Friday showed that the U.S.-China trade imbalance had grown in the first 11 months of 2017. Chinese-language attention to “dumping” has been steadily rising, perhaps indicating growing concern about the U.S. Commerce Department's anti-dumping investigation into Chinese aluminum launched at the end of last month.
4. After a roller-coaster week of Brexit negotiations, Theresa May secured fleeting progress on Friday. Still, the UK's path to a final settlement is far from clear. Digital conversations driving Predata's Brexit debate signals show May faces further roadblocks both at home and on the Continent. Our Hard Brexit signal was driven this week by sources related to Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox, a hardline Tory Brexiteer, as well as the official Labour Leave campaign. Lead EU negotiator Michel Barnier continues to dominate our Brussels-focused signal, along with sources related to Brexit specialists within the European Parliament who will take a firm line on citizens rights and the primacy of the European Court of Justice on matters of EU citizenship and commercial law.
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