London, Dec 13 (AP/UNB) — British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a political crisis over her Brexit deal Wednesday, winning a no-confidence vote by Conservative lawmakers that would have ended her leadership of party and country.
But the margin of victory — 200 votes to 117 — leaves May a weakened leader who has lost the support of a big chunk of her party over her handling of Britain's exit from the European Union. It also came at a steep price as she promised not to run for re-election in 2022. Britain's Brexit problem, meanwhile, remains unsolved as May seeks changes to her EU divorce deal in order to make it more palatable to Parliament.
May said she was "pleased to have received the backing of my colleagues" but acknowledged that "a significant number" had voted against her in Wednesday evening's secret ballot.
"I have listened to what they said," May promised as she stood in a darkened Downing St. after what she called a "long and challenging day."
The threat to May had been building as pro-Brexit Conservative lawmakers grew increasingly frustrated with the prime minister's handling of Brexit. Many supporters of Brexit say May's deal, a compromise that retains close economic ties with the EU, fails to deliver on the clean break with the bloc that they want.
The balloting came after May's Conservative opponents, who circled the beleaguered prime minister for weeks hoping to spark a no-confidence vote, finally got the numbers they needed to call one.
The vote was triggered when at least 48 lawmakers —15 percent of Conservative legislators — wrote letters asking for a no-confidence ballot.
On Monday, May postponed a vote to approve the divorce deal to avoid all-but-certain defeat. She has until Jan. 21 to bring it back to Parliament after— she hopes — winning concessions from the EU.
The result of the vote was announced to loud cheers from lawmakers gathered in a stuffy, ornately wallpapered room in the House of Commons. Under party rules, May cannot be challenged again by fellow Conservatives for a year.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, an ally, said the result showed that May "has the support of her party."
"This is a clear statement by the parliamentary party they want her to go forward, they want her to lead us through Brexit," he told Sky News.
But pro-Brexit lawmaker Mark Francois said the result was "devastating" for May, who has lost the support of a third of her party in Parliament.
"If I were her, I wouldn't be pleased with this at all," Francois said. "I think she needs to think very carefully about what to do now."
Before the vote Wednesday, May had vowed to fight for the leadership of her party and the country "with everything I've got," and spent the day holed up in the House of Commons trying to win over enough lawmakers to secure victory.
In a bid to win over wavering lawmakers, May indicated she would step down before the next election, due in 2022.
Solicitor-General Robert Buckland said May told lawmakers at a meeting that "it is not her intention to lead the party in the 2022 general election."
May's victory is a reprieve but does not lay to rest uncertainty about Britain's EU departure, due on March 29.
Opposition lawmakers expressed astonishment and outrage at the Conservative civil war erupting in the middle of the fraught Brexit process.
"This government is a farce, the Tory party is in chaos, the prime minister is a disgrace," Scottish National Party leader Ian Blackford said during a pugnacious Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons.
British business figures expressed exasperation at the continuing political uncertainty.
"With news that the prime minister remains in place, business communities will hope that these political games can finally be put to bed," said Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce.
"Westminster must now focus all its energy on urgently giving businesses clarity on the future and avoiding a messy or disorderly Brexit."
The vote confirms May's reputation as a dogged, determined political survivor. But on Thursday she will head to an EU summit in Brussels facing another difficult task. She is seeking changes to the withdrawal agreement that can win support in Britain's Parliament. But EU leaders say the legally binding text won't be reopened, and the best they can offer are "clarifications."
May said she would "be seeking legal and political assurances that will assuage the concerns" of lawmakers.
Among EU leaders there is sympathy for May's predicament — but also exasperation at Britain's political mess.
The European Parliament's Brexit point man, Guy Verhofstadt, could not contain a note of annoyance, tweeting: "Once again, the fate of EU-U.K. relations, the prosperity of businesses & citizens' rights are consumed by an internal Conservative party catfight over Europe."
On the streets of London, some felt sympathy for the embattled leader.
"It's embarrassing for a start to the rest of the world and I feel really sorry for Theresa May — she's being battered by everybody," said Abby Handbridge, who was selling Christmas cards and wrapping paper at a London street market.
"I hope she stays in power and sorts it out."
New York, Dec 12 (AP/UNB) — Time magazine on Tuesday recognized journalists, including the slain Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, as its 2018 Person of the Year in what it said was an effort to emphasize the importance of reporters' work in an increasingly hostile world.
The designation wasn't intended as a specific message to the magazine's runner-up choice, President Donald Trump, who has denounced "fake news" and called some reporters enemies of the people, said Ben Goldberger, executive editor.
Time cited four figures it called "the guardians." Besides Khashoggi, they are the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, where five people were shot to death in June; Philippine journalist Maria Ressa; and Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been jailed in Myanmar for a year.
It's the first time since the magazine began the end-of-year tradition in 1927 that Time has featured a journalist or recognized someone posthumously.
Time said that 2018 has been marked by manipulation and abuse of information, along with efforts by governments to foment mistrust of the facts.
Goldberger said the magazine hopes the choice reminds people outside of journalism about the importance of the work.
Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said he sees this message already starting to get through — sadly, in part because of the attention paid to Khashoggi's killing. Khashoggi is one of at least 52 journalists murdered so far this year, the committee said.
"In some ways, I feel we're at a turning point," Simon said.
Khashoggi was killed two months ago when The Washington Post columnist, who had lived in the U.S., visited Saudi Arabia's consulate in Turkey for paperwork so he could get married. He had been critical of the Saudi regime.
The Washington Post applauded Time for its message of support for journalists.
"We hope this recognition will prompt our nation's leaders to stand up for America's values and hold accountable those who attempt to silence journalists who cover our communities or in Jamal's case, an oppressive authoritarian government," said Fred Ryan, the Post's publisher and CEO.
Ressa, a former CNN journalist, co-founded the online site Rappler, which has aggressively covered the government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. She was recently charged with tax fraud, with many in the Philippines seeing that as a reaction to Rappler's reporting. Duterte had earlier banned a Rappler journalist from his news briefings, accusing her of biased reporting.
"I think it means the Philippines is in a battle for the life of our democracy and the people at the front lines of that are the journalists," Ressa said in an interview. "We are doing our jobs and our job is to hold power to account. Our job is to tell our people when the government crosses the line."
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were imprisoned in Myanmar after investigating a massacre of Rohingya Muslims.
Four journalists and a sales assistant were killed by a gunman at the Capital Gazette newspaper last spring.
Time is producing four different covers featuring "the guardians."
Last year Time recognized people who came forward to report on sexual misconduct. Trump, this year's runner-up, was Person of the Year in 2016.
The third-place finisher this year was special counsel Robert Mueller, who Time indicated could move up in next year's rankings depending on the findings of his investigation into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia.
Toronto, Dec 12 (AP/UNB) — A former Canadian diplomat has been detained while visiting Beijing amid a dispute between the two counties over Canada's arrest of a Chinese executive at the request of the United States.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on Tuesday confirmed the detention and said Canada is very concerned.
Michael Kovrig, who previously was a diplomat in China and elsewhere, was taken into custody by the Beijing Bureau of Chinese State Security on Monday night during one of his regular visits to Beijing, said the International Crisis Group, for which Kovrig works as North East Asia adviser based in Hong Kong.
Rob Malley, president of the non-government organization, said Canadian consular officers had not been given access yet to Kovrig.
Malley said he thinks Kovrig was in Beijing on personal matters at the time of his arrest and was definitely not there for any illegal purpose or for any reason that would undermine Chinese national security.
"I don't think he had any reason to feel endangered," Malley said. "He loved China, which was why he decided to take a leave of absence from the foreign affairs ministry in order to remain in China."
The Brussels-based group said it had not received any information about him since his arrest.
The detention came after China warned Canada of consequences for its recent arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver's airport. A Canadian judge granted Meng bail Tuesday while she awaits possible extradition to the U.S.
"We're deeply concerned," Goodale said in response to a question about Kovrig. "A Canadian is obviously in difficulty in China ... We are sparing no effort to do everything we possibly can to look after his safety."
Goodale said there was no explicit indication at this point that it was related to the Meng arrest.
However, Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said he had no doubt Kovrig was detained in relation to the arrest of the Huawei executive.
"In China there is no coincidence," he said. "Unfortunately Canada is caught in the middle of this dispute between the U.S and China. Because China cannot kick the U.S. they turn to the next target."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada's government has contacted Chinese officials about the detention. "We are engaged with the file (case), which we take very seriously," he said.
The International Crisis Group said Kovrig has been one of its full-time experts since February 2017. Its website says Kovrig previously worked as a Canadian diplomat in Beijing and Hong Kong and at the United Nations.
Saint-Jacques, the former ambassador, said Kovrig was on leave from the embassy. He said Kovrig did deep political work when he was working for the embassy. That work would include travel and interviews with dissidents, he said.
"In China there's a very line between espionage and political reporting," he said.
Saint-Jacques said the department created a program 15 years ago so it would get more in-depth analysis. He noted that Kovrig was a former journalist whose embassy reports were well read in Ottawa.
Kovrig wrote on his LinkedIn profile that he had served as the political lead on a visit Trudeau made to Hong Kong in September 2016. He worked in Canada's consulate-general in Hong Kong at the time.
Former Canadian Liberal Party leader Bob Rae said it was clear why Kovrig had been detained.
"It's called repression and retaliation," Rae tweeted.
Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Trudeau, said Chinese "retaliation against Canadian interests or Canadians would be unacceptable and pointless."
"It would have zero impact on judicial proceedings in Canada," Paris tweeted. "Beijing should already know this from previous experience. Let cooler heads prevail."
Jorge Guajardo, Mexico's former ambassador to China, said Canada needs to take dramatic action.
"I'd be summoning the entire Canadian consular Corp in China home for training. If that means they can't issue visas in the meantime, certainly the Chinese would understand. These are special times," he tweeted.
Hu Xijin, editor in chief of China's state-run newspaper Global Times, wrote on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo that there isn't any evidence Kovrig's detention was retaliation for Meng's arrest. But he added that the current situation was "highly sensitive" because of a "American-Canadian conspiracy" to arrest Meng.
"If people in the rest of the world make this association, it's because Meng Wanzhou's arrest was really way over the line. Naturally, people would think that China would take revenge," Hu said.
Kuala Lumpur, Dec 12 (AP/UNB) — Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was charged Wednesday with tampering with the final audit report into a defunct state investment fund, adding to a long list of corruption allegations against him since his ouster in May elections.
Najib was charged along with Arul Kanda Kandasamy, the former head of the 1MDB fund, which is being investigated in the U.S. and other countries for alleged cross-border embezzlement and money laundering.
Najib pleaded not guilty to abusing power to order the modification of the report in February 2016 before it was presented to the Public Accounts Committee, in order to protect himself from disciplinary and legal action. Kandasamy, who was detained overnight by anti-graft officials, pleaded not guilty to abetting Najib.
The charges came after the auditor-general revealed last month that some details had been removed from the 1MDB report. Kandasamy led 1MDB from 2015 until he was terminated in June. The two men were released on bail, and face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.
Najib set up 1MDB when he took power in 2009 to promote economic development, but the fund amassed billions in debts. U.S. investigators say Najib's associates stole and laundered $4.5 billion from the fund, including some that landed in Najib's bank account.
Public anger over the scandal led to the defeat of Najib's long-ruling coalition in May 9 elections and ushered in the first change of power since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957.
The new government reopened the investigations stifled under Najib's rule. Najib, his wife and several top-ranking former government officials have been charged with multiple counts of corruption, criminal breach of trust and money laundering.
Najib, 65, has accused the new government of political vengeance.
Rio De Janeiro, Dec 12 (AP/UNB) — A man opened fire in a cathedral in southern Brazil after Mass on Tuesday, killing four people and wounding four more before taking a bullet in the ribs in a firefight with police and then shooting himself in the head, authorities said.
The shooting happened right after the midday service had ended at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Campinas, a city about 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of Sao Paulo.
"It's so sad," said Wilson Cassante, a press officer with the archdiocese. "It's hard to imagine the pain this has caused."
Hours after paramedics were seen taking bodies and injured out of the church, authorities identified the shooter as 49-year-old Euler Fernando Grandolpho from Valinhos, a nearby city in the densely populated state of Sao Paulo.
Grandolpho, a systems analyst, was not a member of the church, authorities said. According to public records, he had held various jobs with government entities, including a stint as an assistant to the prosecutor in the public ministry in Sao Paulo.
Authorities said they had not determined a motive. A backpack found near the dead gunman had his identification but no note or other clues, police investigator Jose Henrique Ventura told reporters outside the church.
"Thanks to the intervention of police, something much bigger was avoided," Ventura said, adding that the four injured were in stable condition.
Danielle Coutinho told EPTV that she was sitting in the church chatting after Mass when gunfire began. A man sitting close to her was shot as she and others ran.
"I saw people getting shot. I can't get it out of my head," she said in tears. "It was horrible."
Brazil has long struggled with gun violence, and is routinely the world leader in total homicides, though mass shootings are rare. Last year, nearly 64,000 people were killed. President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain, campaigned on promises to crack down on violence, in part by loosening gun laws so more civilians could arm themselves.
Hamilton Caviola Filho, a police investigator, told news portal G1 that authorities had reviewed surveillance footage from inside the cathedral.
The shooter "came into the church, sat on a pew, with time to think, and then got up and starting shooting," Caviola Filho said.
The investigator also said that before shooting himself in the head, the suspect took a bullet in the ribs from responding police. In total, the suspect fired at least 20 shots, Caviola Filho said.
Father Amaury Thomazi, who celebrated Mass before the shooting, posted a video recounting the chaos that followed the burst of gunfire.
"Nobody could do anything or help in any way" to stop the rampage, Thomazi said. He called on people to pray for the dead, the injured and the shooter.