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Tuesday
Dec112018

Five Marines missing off coast of Japan declared dead

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. AaronJames Vinculado(WASHINGTON) -- The five Marines missing off the coast of Japan for nearly a week following an aviation mishap have been declared dead by the U.S. Marine Corps.

The Marines were aboard a KC-130 refueling aircraft that may have been attempting to refuel in midair a F/A-18 fighter jet last Wednesday.

"The Marine Corps has pronounced the five remaining Marines involved in the F/A-18 and KC-130 aviation mishap deceased," according to a statement from the III Marine Expeditionary Force based in Japan. "The change in status comes at the conclusion of search and rescue operations."

"Every possible effort was made to recover our crew and I hope the families of these selfless Americans will find comfort in the incredible efforts made by US, Japanese, and Australian forces during the search," U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, commanding general, III Marine Expeditionary Force, said in the statement.

The accident happened about 200 miles off the southwest coast of Japan. The Marine Corps has not confirmed that an aerial refueling was in progress at the time of the mishap.

Four hours after the mishap, one of the two pilots aboard the fighter jet was rescued by the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces. Capt. Jahmar F. Resilard, 28, was recovered six hours later but pronounced deceased.

Both pilots had been able to eject from the F/A-18, but the refueling tanker isn't equipped with ejection seats.

Over the next six days, U.S., Japanese and Australian military aircraft and ships covered more than 35,000 square miles of ocean searching for the five Marines.

"It is with a heavy heart that we have shifted to recovery operations," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez, commander of U.S. Forces Japan. "I ask that you please keep the families and friends of these Marines in your thoughts during this incredibly difficult time."

"I am incredibly proud of and grateful for the efforts of the U.S. military along with our Japanese and Australian partners," Martinez added. "Support from the Japan Self Defense Forces and Coast Guard was immediate and life-saving, and I thank them for their professionalism, dedication and robust support throughout this massive operation."

The names of the five Marines will be made public 24 hours after their families are notified.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Dec112018

Russia sends bombers to Venezuela amid country's economic, humanitarian crisis

omersukrugoksu/iStock(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- Two Russian bombers landed in Caracas, Venezuela Monday amidst an economic crisis there that has left three million refugees in its wake and caused shortages of food and medical supplies.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said the Tu-160 bombers and two support aircraft landed at the Simon Bolivar International Airport on Monday. During the 6,200-mile flight, the ministry said the bombers were briefly escorted by Norwegian F-16s, presumably flying a NATO air police mission.

This is the third time Russia has sent bombers to Venezuela. The other flights in 2008 and 2013 were for joint exercises with the Venezuelan military.

The Russian Ministry of Defense did not say why the bombers were sent or how long they would stay in the country. The flight follows Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's visit to Moscow last week in which he announced $6 billion in Russian oil and gold mining investments.

Maduro, in an ongoing feud with the U.S., has refused all American aid.

The U.S. has provided nearly $97 million for Venezuelan refugees since October of 2016, according to the State Department. The money from the State Department is directed to countries accepting the refugees.

The U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green has said the U.S. stands ready to offer humanitarian assistance Venezuela if Maduro would allow access.

In August, Defense Secretary James Mattis visited Colombia where President Ivan Duque requested assistance to relieve stress on his nation's healthcare system. Colombia has taken in the highest number of Venezuelan refugees at over one million, followed by more than 500,000 refugees in Peru and over 220,000 in Ecuador, according to the United Nations.

The U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort was sent on an 11-week medical assistance mission to Central and South America. That mission concludes later this week.

“Where we are providing humanitarian aid and assistance, Russia is sending strategic bombers, and so the U.S. approach to the region just differs from Russia’s approach," Department of Defense spokesperson Col. Rob Manning told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday.

"And the crisis can only be resolved by the restoration of a democratic government, rule of law, and respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms. I think the biggest thing here is the fact we stand with the Venezuelan citizens during their time of need, and that is what the symbol of the USNS Comfort represents," Manning said.

Late last month, Mattis made a similar point saying, "we are sending doctors, not bombers, to help limit human suffering."

A U.S. official told ABC News that Mattis made the remarks based on U.S. intelligence reports that showed Russian bombers preparing for the flight that seemed imminent, but was then postponed until Monday.

During its mission to Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Honduras, the Comfort has seen over 20,000 patients at both land-based medical sites and on board the ship, depending on the patient's needs. The ship's physicians also conducted more than 600 surgeries.

The Comfort's surgical and medical services include X-rays, CT scans, dental services, an optometry and lens laboratory, a physical therapy center and a pharmacy. The ship also maintains up to 5,000 units of blood for medical services.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Dec112018

Meghan Markle makes surprise appearance at British Fashion Awards

Joe Maher/BFC/Getty Images(LONDON) -- A glowing, pregnant Meghan Markle made a surprise appearance Monday night at the British Fashion Awards to honor the designer of her wedding gown during the British fashion industry's big night.

The Duchess of Sussex presented the British Designer of the Year Womenswear Award to Clare Waight Keller, the first female artistic director of the fashion label Givenchy, at the Royal Albert Hall in London Monday, where she made an unannounced appearance during the awards show.

While her growing baby belly stole the spotlight, Meghan's fashion ensemble also turned heads.

She donned a black one-shoulder dress and had her hair pulled back in a sleek low bun for the occasion. The duchess also rocked gold bangles and bold, dark nail polish -- which many were quick to point out on social media breaks with royal tradition.

"As all of you in this room know, we have a deep connection to what we wear, sometimes it's very personal and sometimes it's emotional," she said during remarks before presenting the award.

"But for me this connection is rooted in really being able to understand that it's about supporting and empowering each other, especially as women," Meghan added.

Waight Keller gave the duchess a hug as she accepted the award, then told the audience she had to "take a moment" because she was so "shocked."

She also thanked Markle during her speech, saying, "this woman is so amazing."

"I've gotten to know Meghan on such a personal level, and you know, to have someone like that trust you in an incredible moment in their life, is something that is just the most unbelievable honor," Waight Keller said.

Millions around the globe tuned in to watch Meghan tie the knot with Prince Harry last May, where she donned Waight Keller's custom gown, made out of triple silk organza and featuring an open bateau neckline with three-quarter-length sleeves.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Dec112018

Australian woman, 102, becomes oldest skydiver in the world

Mauricio Graiki/iStock(ATHELSTONE, Australia) -- A 102-year-old Australian woman has become the oldest skydiver in the world while also raising awareness for the disease that killed her daughter.

Athelstone, Australia, resident Irene O'Shea celebrated her 100th birthday by skydiving for the first time, and has taken the extreme leap of faith every year since, according to SA Skydiving, the Adelaide-based company that O'Shea has jumped with each time.

Sunday's skydive, which broke the world record, "went smoothly," SA Diving said, describing her as "an absolute joy to have in the dropzone."

O'Shea's daughter died of motor neurone disease years ago, according to SA Diving. She saw this year's skydive as the "perfect opportunity" to raise money and awareness for the Motor Neurone Disease Association of South Australia.

O'Shea jumped from 14,000 feet at SA Skydiving's Langhorne Creek Dropzone with instructor Jed Smith, a 24-year-old paramedic with whom she made her previous jumps. The pair fell at about 136 mph before the parachute was deployed, according to SA Skydiving.

Video showed O'Shea -- clad in a cable-knit sweater -- smiling as she prepared to exit the plane with Smith. The two enjoyed views of Langhorne Creek and Lake Alexandrina on the way down, the skydiving company said.

Friends and family -- including O'Shea's grandchildren and great-grandchildren -- were awaiting the centenarian on the ground.

When asked by a local reporter whether she was an adrenaline junkie, O'Shea responded, “As far as I’m concerned I’m the same as everyone else, just a normal person," according to the skydiving company.

Previously, the oldest person to ever skydive was Bryson William Verdun Hayes, a British D-Day veteran who broke the record in May 2017 at the age of 101 and 38 days, the Press Association reported.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Dec112018

Legendary Russian human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva dies at 91

Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the doyenne of Russia's human rights movement and one of the country's most revered activists, has died.

Alexeyeva, who for decades exposed oppression under the Soviet Union and then post-Communist Russia, was so respected that even President Vladimir Putin found it necessary to show her deference.

A veteran of the celebrated, Soviet-era dissidents of the 1970s, Alexeyeva helped found the USSR's first human rights organization, the Moscow Helsinki Group, which chronicled abuses committed by the Communist authorities.

After Putin came to power and authoritarianism in a softer form returned again to Russia, Alexeyeva continued her campaigns. She led demonstrations well into her 80s, standing with protesters as they were confronted by riot police and condemning the crackdown on political freedoms and expression under Putin.

Alexeyeva endured countless arrests and KGB interrogations. She was later exiled, too.

She was 91 years old when she died Saturday in Moscow.

Known for her impish sense of humor, Alexeyeva, at a demonstration in 2009, was detained and placed in a police van while dressed as the Russian equivalent of a Santa's helper. She was 82 years old at the time.

Alexeyeva, who died Saturday in a hospital in Moscow, continued to work until her death, meeting with victims and pressing authorities on political cases.

Alexeyeva’s decades of insistence on the essentialness of human rights and unflagging defense of victims of political oppression through her country's tumultuous recent history led some to refer to her as “Russia’s conscience,” a title her some of her colleagues said she would have dismissed.

Rights groups and political leaders hailed her following her death. Human Rights Watch in a statement called Alexeyeva a “towering figure for human rights activists everywhere.”

Alexeyeva’s status meant the present-day Russian authorities were careful in their treatment of her and at times sought to co-opt her.

Last year, Putin visited Alexeyeva at her home to wish her a happy 90th birthday. She used the occasion to try to strong-arm Putin into promising to pardon a senator convicted in a controversial case.

Leonid Ragozin, an independent journalist, on Saturday wrote Alexeyeva had told him during a 2012 BBC interview that she would like to die in prison, just to annoy Putin.

On Saturday, Putin sent a telegram of condolences to Alexeyeva’s relatives, praising her “invaluable personal contribution” to the development of civil society in Russia.

Alexeyeva was an anchoring point in Russia’s fractious dissident movement, universally admired for her moral authority and efforts to defend those targeted for persecution. She was known for her personal involvement in political cases, attending court hearings despite her physical frailty.

“She wasn’t a last hope, but rather a person who always knew what to do,” wrote Anna Gaskarova, whose husband Alexeyeva had supported after he was jailed for three years for taking part in a political demonstration in 2012. Alexeyeva had hosted a dinner every year for a group of people arrested in the same protest, known as the Bolotnaya Affair.

“Such people don’t die,” Gaskarova wrote in a tribute on Instagram.

Much of the respect stemmed from Alexeyeva’s fearlessness in the face of power. She was raised during the years of Stalinist terror and as a teenager worked as a volunteer laborer during World War II.

In the 1960s, she volunteered to type the Chronicle of Current Events, a banned journal that tracked judicial violations by Soviet authorities. After she co-founded the Moscow Helsinki Group in 1976, she was forced into exile, spending 16 years in the United States, where she worked for a time for the U.S. government-funded Radio Liberty.

She returned to Russia in 1993.

In the Putin-era, she was an undeniable icon, even as it was one that was often unwanted in Russia as aggressive nationalism and intolerance of dissent surged.

Kommersant, Russia’s leading independent newspaper, wrote in its obituary on Saturday that Alexeyeva's death had deprived Russia of “a very important symbol.”

“This symbol annoyed a lot of people in Russia, but its existence meant a lot for how our country looked -- from inside and without,” the newspaper wrote.

An unceasing critic of the Kremlin’s growing repressiveness, Alexeyeva also sought to find ways to communicate with Putin's government. She joined the Kremlin's presidential human rights council but left it in 2012 over concerns it was becoming a puppet body.

She took a long view of Russia's current slide back toward authoritarianism, calling it the inevitable reaction to the revolution that ended the USSR. But she lamented that most Russians showed little concern for the repressive turn, seeing that as a failure of her own rights movement.

Kommersant on Monday published an address, which Alexeyeva had written from the hospital to the Moscow Helsinki Group's annual conference, which took place Sunday. The newspaper said the text could be seen as her political testament.

“It seems to me there are not easy times ahead," she wrote. "We all see very well how weak is civil society, the culture of law and democratic institutions in our country.”

She wrote that she believed they had underestimated the lingering effect of Russia's totalitarian history and that the rights movement had not always found the right arguments or style to change people's views.

She also warned the human rights movement against becoming associated with one political side, saying its most important task now was to find people who can spread its values to a much wider audience.

She ended with characteristic optimism.

“It’s very difficult, but it’s necessary. Believe me, I know what I am talking about,” she wrote. “When we started our difficult path in the defense of human rights, we had far less grounds for optimism than today, but we believed in our hopeless business! I wish you such belief and also strength and luck with all my heart!”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Dec112018

Eight people investigated for Italian disco stampede deaths, prosecutors say

ChiccoDodiFC/iStock(ROME) -- A teenage boy was being held in connection with the stampede at a disco in Italy that killed six people, including five children, prosecutors for the regional and minors said Monday.

Seven other people -- three managers of the disco and four owners of the building -- were also being investigated in the incident, which occurred Friday night in a town east of Florence.

Speaking at a press conference in Ancona on Monday, Giovanna Leboroni, a prosecutor for the regional minors court, confirmed that the boy was being investigated for having sprayed a substance in the disco Friday night.

Leboroni did not provide any further details. But she added that even though three witnesses identified the boy, "much investigative work still needs to be done."

Officials did not give the name of the boy or the other people being investigated.

The stampede occurred at the Laterna Azzurra in Madonna del Piano id Corinaldo -- which is located in the province of Ancona, a seaside town on Italy's eastern coast -- ahead of a concert for Italian rapper Sfera Ebbasta.

Panic erupted when what many described as an acrid smell started permeating the disco between midnight and 1 a.m. local time, according to Italian news agencies. Some compared it to mace or pepper spray, though police officials said they were not ready to confirm those details.

In addition to the six deaths, dozens were injured, police said.

Leboroni said investigators have spoken to many witnesses who mentioned the possible use of a variety of different substances in the concert hall that night.

"Some described irritant substances, others explosions, yet others of having smelled pepper and others again of smelling ammonia," she said. "Some even mentioned smoke canisters."

"What has been established is that suddenly something was dispersed in the air," she added.

Investigators still need to confirm which substance was sprayed that night and if that was the cause of the stampede.

"At present, all that can be confirmed is that something was dispersed in the air inside the hall which led to the panic," Leboroni said.

Leboroni also said a small pepper spray canister had been found in the concert hall.

"The finding of this, along with many witness reports, leads us to believe that this could have been one of the causes," she added. "But this doesn’t exclude that were others."

The chief prosecutor of Ancona, Monica Garulli, said investigators are also looking into whether the club sold more tickets to the event than the venue could safely hold.

Italian media reports have mentioned discrepancies -- in the hundreds -- between the disco’s legally permitted capacity and the number of tickets sold for the concert that night.

The prosecutors stressed that the two investigations by different prosecutors’ offices -- one that deals with minors -- were continuing simultaneously and focusing on both the building’s capacity and safety measures and the release of a substance in the disco.

Prosecutors are investigating whether there are grounds for possible charges of manslaughter and the willful or culpable cause of injuries.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Dec102018

US sanctions three senior North Korean officials amid stalled nuclear talks

ronniechua/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration sanctioned three senior North Korean officials for human rights abuses and censorship in the country as discussions between the U.S. and North Korea over the regime's nuclear weapons program have stalled.

The U.S. Treasury Department, which announced the sanctions, said they were in honor of American Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old college student who died after being released from North Korean custody in June 2017. He would have turned 24 on Dec. 12.

The sanctions are also part of a congressionally mandated report that details North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's violently oppressive rule. In particular, the State Department report identified three committees within the government and state political party that censor media by restricting the sale of any foreign media, confiscating any that is found and punishing those who obtain it.

"North Koreans caught with illicit entertainment items such as DVDs, CDs, and USBs are at a minimum sent to prison camps and, in extreme cases, may face public execution," the report said. It went on to allege that one of those groups is responsible for kidnapping and imprisoning defectors and foreigners who share such items and promote human rights.

To punish North Korea for these abuses, the Treasury Department sanctioned the three officials, including Choe Ryong Hae, a close aide to Kim who is seen as the number two official in the country as head of the party's Organization and Guidance Department. It is perhaps the most powerful organization in North Korea, responsible for all policies and assignments within the party and military.

The other two officials are Pak Kwang Ho, head of the Propaganda and Agitation Department, and Jong Kyong Thaek, minster of State Security, the government agency that manages the country's prison camps.

Jong is "involved in directing abuses committed in the political prison camp system, where serious human rights abuses such as torture, deliberate starvation, forced labor, and sexual violence are systematized," according to the U.S. State Department, while Pak directs the propaganda meant to indoctrinate North Koreans.

Because North Korea is already so heavily sanctioned and the three men are not likely to have U.S. assets that could be frozen, the action is largely symbolic.

But experts say it is an important reminder that the U.S. cares about the regime's human rights violations, even if the message has been muddied by President Donald Trump, who has praised Kim as a "smart cookie" and "very talented" and has said Kim "loves his people" and that the two of them "fell in love."

Bruce Klingner, former CIA deputy division chief of Korea and now a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that while "Trump has not commented on, and seemingly dismissed concern over, North Korean abuses" since the Singapore summit earlier this year, "this sends a message that advocacy [for] human rights should not be abandoned in the quest for progress in security negotiations."

Especially on International Human Rights Day, the message is that, "If North Korea doesn't change, doesn't stop its human rights abuses, then we can't engage them economically," David Maxwell, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told ABC News. "We have to put as much pressure on that as we do on the nuclear program."

But the international pressure on North Korea for its human rights abuses could be slipping.

For the last five years, the United Nations Security Council held a session on International Human Rights Day to discuss the regime's abuses, which the U.N. has documented in detail -- including prison camps, forced labor, extrajudicial killings, rape, starvation, and censorship. This year, however, the U.S. did not win enough votes among Security Council members to hold the session again on Monday.

The U.S. mission is looking to hold the meeting in 2019, a spokesperson told ABC News, adding that the America "remains deeply concerned with the human rights situation in North Korea, and we continue to urge the North Korean regime to join the community of nations, begin to respect human rights, and adhere to international standards on humanitarian assistance."

Talks between the U.S. and North Korea have focused on the nuclear issue and little on those human rights abuses. In October, the State Department declined to say whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had raised the issue with Kim directly and argued that denuclearization was the priority.

The State Department "is very clear about the concerns that we have, not just about North Korea but many countries, frankly, around the world and countries that can do a lot better. Our priority in North Korea, though, right now is denuclearization," spokesperson Heather Nauert said in October.

Calling out North Korea now could anger the regime and further delay talks between Pompeo and his counterpart Kim Yong Chol, North Korea's nuclear negotiator and former spy chief. North Korea canceled meetings in New York at the beginning of November.

"It's good to see the Trump administration paying attention to human rights abuses somewhere," Mike Fuchs, a deputy assistant Secretary of State for East Asia in the Obama administration, told ABC News. But both sides "are looking for signs that the other is serious about diplomacy, and actions like this are more likely to undermine diplomacy than to further it."

That's debatable to others, though, who say North Korea will always look for an excuse to cancel a meeting and blame the other side.

"The North Koreans always bake in an excuse that they can use to back out of an agreement and blame the South or the U.S. or both," said Maxwell. "If we are worried about that, we're never going to move ahead."

There have yet to be working-level meetings between the two countries, with North Korea refusing to meet one-on-one with Pompeo's special representative for North Korea, Steve Biegun, since he started in August. Maxwell said he's hopeful Biegun and his team will raise the issue -- whenever he finally gets the chance to do so.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Dec102018

Macron addresses French nation after weeks of unrest, announces new economic measures

Chesnot/Getty Images(PARIS) -- French president Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation in a recorded TV speech on Monday and announced new economic measures in response to weeks of violent protests across the country.

Speaking calmly and slowly from the Elysee Palace, the 40-year-old head of state confessed that the anger of protesters was "deep, and some of their claims legitimate." He added that these protests come from "40 years of malaise."

Macron announced that the minimum wage would increase by 100 euros per month in 2019. He also said that a tax hike for the poorest pensioners will be cancelled at the start of the next year.

His address comes two days after protesters from the Yellow Jackets movement -- named after the neon-yellow security vests demonstrators have been wearing -- took to the streets of France for the fourth weekend in a row.

A spokesperson for the French interior minister told ABC News that 136,000 people demonstrated in France on Saturday, including 10,000 people in Paris.

For the third Saturday in a row, the demonstration in Paris turned violent on the famous Champs-Elysees Avenue, and in other areas of the French capital. Dozens of angry protesters, many of them wearing gas masks or ski goggles, threw rocks and projectiles at French police.

They burned dozens of cars, set up barricades and broke store windows before looting them. In turn, police attempted to disperse the crowd by firing tear gas and blasting water cannons.

During his address on Monday, Macron said authorities would not stand for violence and that “no anger justifies” attacking police or looting stores, adding that he would use “all means” to restore order.

More than 1,700 people were arrested all over France last Saturday, including around 1,000 individuals in Paris, according to the French interior ministry.

Around 320 people were injured during protests across the country on Saturday, including 39 police officers, authorities said.

The nationwide Yellow Jackets protests started in small urban centers and rural areas of the country in response to a proposed fuel price hike, and demonstrators have been blocking roads over the past three weeks.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced last week that he was backing down from the proposed fuel price hike. "No tax is worth putting the nation's unity in danger," Philippe said during a press conference last Wednesday.

However, the protests have continued, and turned into a broader rebuke against the economic policies of Macron and the French ruling class, which many citizens view as elitist and indifferent to their struggles.

The movement has no clear leader and has attracted groups of people with a wide variety of demands.

Various Yellow jacket Facebook groups have already called for more nationwide protests in France on Saturday, Dec. 15.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Dec102018

Theresa May says she will delay a planned vote on Brexit despite furious Parliament

MarioGuti/iStock(LONDON) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May says she is calling off a key Brexit vote in Parliament scheduled for Tuesday that has been building for weeks amid increased infighting among politicians within and across all major political parties.

The so-called “meaningful vote” was intended to give MPs a say on the deal that May had negotiated with the European Union on the nature of how Britain would exit the EU.

The U.K. voted in 2016 to leave the EU by 52 percent, the first country ever to do so, sparking a fraught years-long political and legal process to exit the bloc.

Late in November of this year, May returned from Brussels with a withdrawal settlement and a blueprint for future relations after two years of negotiations with European officials.

May’s government said the agreements meet the key aspirations that Brits demanded upon voting to leave the bloc, while doing minimal damage to the U.K. economy, which is deeply intertwined with the EU.

However many MPs are bitterly opposed to one major clause in the agreement -- an insurance policy designed to keep the British union in one piece and Northern Ireland within in the U.K., should both parties fail to come to a trade agreement within the remaining negotiating period.

Known as the “Northern Irish Backstop,” the policy is a mechanism to avoid a hard border between the EU and Northern Ireland that would endanger the integrity of the U.K.

The “Backstop” mechanism forces the U.K. continue to honor current EU regulations, allowing for trade policies to remain the same until a more permanent solution is negotiated in the future.

This is particularly important for trade and the movement of people between Ireland and Northern Ireland, as Ireland is a member of the EU. If the regulation was different on either side of the border, it would require security and customs checks of goods coming into and going out of either side, a process that is referred to as a “hard border.”

But many MPs object to the fact that the U.K. cannot unilaterally withdraw from the “Backstop” -- they need EU agreement to do so, effectively forcing the U.K. to follow EU laws.

What now?

In a speech to the House of Commons on Monday, May said the government “will defer” the scheduled vote, and hinted that she intends to return to Brussels to seek additional concessions on the sticking points of her deal, although she argued that the agreement she has secured was still the best chance of delivering Brexit.

She said that if the vote were to go ahead tomorrow the government would most likely suffer a heavy loss, but added that she believed there is “a majority to be won in this House in support of it, if I can secure additional reassurance on the question of the backstop.”

However the Speaker of the House John Bercow said he had heard many MPs complain about the prospect of delaying the vote after more than three days of debates and contributions.

He said that there were two options for the government: to offer the House a vote on whether tomorrow’s vote should be delayed or should go ahead, or ministers could refuse to move the business of parliament that is scheduled for Tuesday. Bercow added, however, that the latter option would be politically toxic for the government if it denied MPs a say on such a critical moment in the Brexit process.

However, the British media reported that May’s spokesman said the government disagreed, and that no vote was required on Tuesday for parliament to “move on” and vote on Brexit another time.

There is some confusion among political analysts and MPs as to how and if the prime minister’s plan to unilaterally delay the vote will work, and it remains to be seen if that is how the government will choose to close out Tuesday.

Following Theresa May’s statement to Parliament, she faced grueling questions from angry and frustrated MPs who both support and oppose the deal, arguing for the vote to go ahead.

There are also voices calling for opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn to bring forward a motion of “no confidence”in the prime minister.

If that were to go ahead, and if enough MPs from Labour, the Scottish Nationalist Party and others agree, the government would fall and a general election would be triggered.

The reaction in Parliament was impassioned


“The country is divided not by party but by faction,” said Vince Cable, the leader of the U.K.’s fourth largest party, the Liberal Democrats, on Tuesday in the House of Commons.

"What the heck is going on?" thundered Scottish MP Hannah Bardell at the Prime Minister.

"The government has lost control of events and is in complete disarray," said Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

"Without change [May's deal] jeopardizes the control of our money, our borders, our regulatory independence and our constitution too," said the Conservative MP and former Brexit Secretary David Davis.

May faces attack from all sides, including her own party. Political observers have noted prominent Conservative politicians cleaning up their social media profiles, courting media and showing signs of preparing for a leadership contest should May be ousted.

Meanwhile, the view from the EU ranges from confused to aghast.

Veteran Belgian politician Guy Verhofstadt tweeted: “I can’t follow anymore. After two years of negotiations, the Tory government wants to delay the vote. Just keep in mind that we will never let the Irish down. This delay will further aggravate the uncertainty for people & businesses. It’s time they make up their mind!”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Dec102018

'Your daughter should have been safe': New Zealand PM apologizes for tourist's murder

Courtesy Lucie Blackman Trust(LONDON) -- The prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, issued a heartfelt apology Monday on behalf of her country for the death of a female British tourist who was killed while backpacking in the country.

Ardern opened a weekly news conference by directly addressing the death of Grace Millane, 22, by saying that she could not imagine the grief that the victim's family was experiencing.

The British tourist had been missing since Dec. 1. But a homicide investigation was opened when a man was arrested in connection with the case on Saturday, police said in a statement.

The prime minister’s voice began to crack with emotion as she issued a direct apology to the family for the killing.

“From the Kiwis I have spoken to, there is this overwhelming sense of hurt and shame that this has happened in our country, a place that prides itself on our hospitality,” she said. “On behalf of New Zealand I want to apologize to Grace’s family. Your daughter should have been safe here and she wasn’t, and I’m sorry for that. I’ve advised the family through the police if there’s anything we can do to assist we are here to help with that.”

A 26-year-old man has been charged with the murder of Millane, who was last seen at a hotel in Auckland on Dec 1. A woman's body was discovered in an area of bush to the west of Auckland on Sunday and a formal identification process will now take place, police said in a statement.

Millane’s father, David Millane, is now in New Zealand but her mother, Gillian Millane, has been unable to make the journey from the U.K.

The man arrested in connection with the murder appeared in Auckland District Court on Monday to submit a request for public anonymity. Judge Evangelos Thomas rejected the request but the suspect’s lawyer quickly filed an appeal which means the man still cannot be identified by the media for legal reasons, according to Radio New Zealand.

In an unusual move, the judge opened up the proceedings by commenting on the “desperate” grief of Millane’s family in court.

"Before we call this matter I'd like to acknowledge the presence of Grace's family. I don't know what we say to you at this time. Your grief must be desperate," Judge Thomas said, according to Radio New Zealand.

In the United Kingdom there has been a similar sense of shock at the death of the 22-year-old, who traveled to New Zealand after graduating from college. The University of Lincoln tweeted it was “deeply saddened to hear the terrible news” regarding its former student.

The Lucie Blackman Trust, a charity which specializes in assisting the families of missing Britons abroad and has been in contact with the Millane family, also said it was “incredibly saddened” to hear the case was now being treated as a homicide.

Matt Searle, the CEO of the Lucie Blackman Trust, told ABC News that there will be no further statement or interviews from the family.

“I would like to say though we have been utterly astounded by the level of support offered to Grace’s family from the people of New Zealand,” he said. “We have been inundated with amazing offers, from financial help to people offering to cook a meal for the family or lend them a spare room or car. We have also received a great many messages of condolence and sympathy for Grace’s family and we will of course compile all of these and pass to the family.”

The crime has stunned New Zealand citizens in part because of the country’s low murder rate. There were 48 homicides nationwide in 2017, a number lower than the 58 recorded in 2016, according to the latest police figures.

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