Brextension: UK lawmakers vote to seek delay of EU departure
LONDON — In a stalemate over Brexit, British politicians have chosen to delay it.
After weeks of political gridlock, Parliament voted Thursday to seek to postpone the country’s departure from the European Union, a move that will likely avert a chaotic withdrawal on the scheduled exit date of March 29.
With Brexit due in 15 days and no divorce deal yet approved, the House of Commons voted 413-202 to ask the bloc to put off Britain’s exit until at least June 30. The official result was initially announced as 412-202, but was later amended to 413 in the official voting list.
The vote gives Prime Minister Theresa May some breathing space, but is still humbling for a leader who has spent two years telling Britons they were leaving the bloc on March 29.
Power to approve or reject the extension lies with the EU, which has signaled that it will only allow a delay if Britain either approves a divorce deal or makes a fundamental shift in its approach to Brexit. In a historic irony, almost three years after Britain voted to leave the EU, its future is now in the bloc’s hands.
Witness: Many dead in New Zealand mosque shooting
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — Many people were killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Friday, a witness said.
Police have not yet described the scale of the shooting but urged people in central Christchurch to stay indoors.
And New Zealand media reported a shooting at a second mosque in a Christchurch suburb.
Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch at about 1:45 p.m. and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.
Peneha, who lives next door to the mosque, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in Peneha’s driveway, and fled.
Senate slaps down Trump border emergency; Republicans defect
WASHINGTON — In a stunning rebuke, a dozen defecting Republicans joined Senate Democrats Thursday to block the national emergency that President Donald Trump declared so he could build his border wall with Mexico. The rejection capped a week of confrontation with the White House as both parties in Congress strained to exert their power in new ways.
The 59-41 tally, following the Senate’s vote a day earlier to end U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen, promised to force Trump into the first vetoes of his presidency. Trump had warned against both actions. Moments after Thursday’s vote, the president tweeted a single word of warning: “VETO!”
Two years into the Trump era, a defecting dozen Republicans, pushed along by Democrats, showed a willingness to take that political risk. Twelve GOP senators, including the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney of Utah, joined the dissent over the emergency declaration order that would enable the president to seize for the wall billions of dollars Congress intended elsewhere.
“The Senate’s waking up a little bit to our responsibilities,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who said the chamber had become “a little lazy” as an equal branch of government. “I think the value of these last few weeks is to remind the Senate of our constitutional place.”
Many senators said the vote was not necessarily a rejection of the president or the wall, but protections against future presidents — namely a Democrat who might want to declare an emergency on climate change, gun control or any number of other issues.
Israel strikes Gaza targets following Tel Aviv rocket attack
JERUSALEM — Israeli warplanes attacked militant targets in the southern Gaza Strip early Friday in response to a rare rocket attack on the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, as the sides appeared to be hurtling toward a new round of violence.
The rocket attack Thursday night caught the Israeli military off guard and marked the first time that Tel Aviv, some 50 miles north of Gaza, has been targeted since a 2014 war. Though the attack caused no damage or injuries, it was a significant escalation and set the stage for a tough Israeli reprisal.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting with his military chief and other top security officials. Shortly after, Israeli warplanes attacked targets in southern and central Gaza.
The blasts were so powerful that smoke could be seen in Gaza City, 15 miles from some of the strikes. The Israeli warplanes could be heard roaring through the skies above Gaza City.
The Israeli military said it was targeting “terror sites” in Gaza, but gave no further details. Palestinian media said naval bases belonging to the ruling Hamas group had been struck. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
From wire sources
North Korea official: Kim rethinking US talks, launch moratorium
PYONGYANG, North Korea — A senior North Korean official says the United States threw away a golden opportunity at the Hanoi summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and suggested the North Korean leader will decide soon whether to keep talking with the U.S. and maintaining his moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests.
Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui told a meeting of diplomats and foreign media in Pyongyang on Friday the North has no intention of compromising or continuing talks unless the U.S. takes measures that are commensurate to the changes it has taken — such as the 15-month moratorium on launches and tests — and changes its “political calculation.”
Choe said Kim would make a decision soon on whether to continue the launch and test moratorium.
Court rules gun maker can be sued over Newtown shooting
HARTFORD, Conn. — Gun-maker Remington can be sued over how it marketed the rifle used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, a divided Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
Gun control advocates touted the ruling as providing a possible roadmap for victims of other mass shootings to circumvent a long-criticized federal law that shields gun manufacturers from liability in most cases when their products are used in crimes. Gun rights supporters bashed the decision as judicial activism and overreach.
In a 4-3 decision, justices reinstated a wrongful death lawsuit against Remington and overturned the ruling of a lower court judge, who said the entire lawsuit was prohibited by the 2005 federal law. The majority said that while most of the lawsuit’s claims were barred by the federal law, Remington could still be sued for alleged wrongful marketing under Connecticut law.
“The regulation of advertising that threatens the public’s health, safety, and morals has long been considered a core exercise of the states’ police powers,” Justice Richard Palmer wrote for the majority, adding he didn’t believe Congress envisioned complete immunity for gun-makers.
Several lawsuits over mass shootings in other states have been rejected because of the federal law.
Institute founded by Sanders’ wife, son is shutting down
CONCORD, N.H. — The Sanders Institute, a think tank founded by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ wife and son, is shutting down, at least for now, amid criticism that the nonprofit has blurred the lines between family, fundraising and campaigning.
The Vermont-based institute has stopped accepting donations and plans to suspend all operations by the end of May “so there could not even be an appearance of impropriety,” Jane Sanders told The Associated Press.
The unexpected move by the institute’s board of directors comes as Bernie Sanders, a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination, prepares for a wave of intense scrutiny into his political network and his family’s role in its operation.
As a candidate in 2016, Sanders criticized Hillary Clinton over her family’s nonprofit, saying the foundation run by Clinton’s husband and daughter amounted to a back door for foreign leaders and others seeking to buy access and influence. The Sanders Institute could open the Vermont senator to charges of hypocrisy.
The institute was founded to promote liberal policies less than two years ago by Sanders’ family with the backing of pro-Sanders celebrities and advocates— though Sanders himself had no formal role. While it operates at a fraction of the scale of the Clinton Foundation, it has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars during its brief existence and has declined to disclose its donors.
O’Rourke begins 2020 bid with big crowds, centrist message
BURLINGTON, Iowa — Democrat Beto O’Rourke jumped into the 2020 presidential race Thursday, shaking up the already packed field and pledging to win over voters from across the political spectrum as he tries to translate his sudden celebrity into a formidable White House bid.
The former Texas congressman began his campaign by taking his first ever trip to Iowa, the state that kicks off the presidential primary voting. In tiny Burlington, in southeast Iowa, he scaled a counter to be heard during an afternoon stop at a coffee shop.
“Let us not allow our differences to define us as at this moment,” O’Rourke told a whooping crowd, his heels perched at the countertop’s edge. “History calls for us to come together.”
Earlier in the day, O’Rourke popped into a coffee shop in Keokuk while many cable networks aired live coverage. He took questions about his support of federal legalization of marijuana as well as the possibility of a universal basic income, all while characteristically waving his arms and gesticulating fervently.
“I could care less about your party persuasion,” O’Rourke said.
Late-winter storm hits Midwest after paralyzing Colorado
OMAHA, Neb. — A blizzard that paralyzed parts of Colorado and Wyoming barreled into the Midwest on Thursday, bringing whiteout conditions to western Nebraska and dumping heavy rain that prompted evacuations in communities farther east.
Emergency crews responded after a vehicle was swept off a road in Norfolk, Nebraska, and rising water along the Elkhorn River prompted evacuations in the city of 24,000 people. The missing individual had not been found by midday Thursday.
Evacuations also occurred in several other eastern Nebraska communities and at least one Iowa town. Cara Jamison and her neighbors had to leave their homes in Fremont, Nebraska, after water and ice chunks from a flooding Platte River blocked their street. She and her husband moved photo albums to the second floor of their home.
“Photos are the important things,” she said. “Furniture can be replaced.”
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem closed all state offices Thursday as the blizzard conditions moved in, and later in the day ordered the opening of the state’s Emergency Operations Center to handle the response to the blizzard and flooding. The state was preparing an emergency declaration, Noem said. The Red Cross opened shelters in Sioux Falls and Yankton.