Washington, Mar 14 (AP/UNB) — The Senate voted Wednesday to end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition's war in Yemen, bringing Congress one step closer to a unprecedented rebuke of President Donald Trump's foreign policy.
Lawmakers have never before invoked the decades-old War Powers Resolution to stop a foreign conflict, but they are poised to do just that in the bid to cut off U.S. support for a war that has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe.
The vote puts Congress on a collision course with Trump, who has already threatened to veto the resolution, which the White House says raises "serious constitutional concerns."
The measure was co-sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Mike Lee, R- Utah. Next, it will move to the Democratic-controlled House, where it is expected to pass.
The resolution passed by a vote of 54 to 46, with seven Republicans breaking with Trump to back the resolution: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Steve Daines of Montana, Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Todd Young of Indiana.
"The bottom line is that the United States should not be supporting a catastrophic war led by a despotic regime with an irresponsible foreign policy," Sanders said on Wednesday from the Senate floor. He said a vote in favor of the measure would "begin the process of reclaiming our constitutional authority by ending United States involvement in a war that has not been authorized by Congress and is unconstitutional."
In its statement threatening a veto, the White House argued the premise of the resolution is flawed and that it would undermine the fight against extremism. U.S. support for the Saudis does not constitute engaging in "hostilities," the statement said, and the Yemen resolution "seeks to override the president's determination as commander in chief."
"By defining 'hostilities' to include defense cooperation such as aerial refueling," the White House statement said, the Yemen resolution could also "establish bad precedent for future legislation."
Trump's support for Saudi Arabia has been a point of tension with Congress since the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year. Lawmakers from both parties have criticized Trump for not condemning Saudi Arabia strongly enough for the killing.
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., addressed those tensions when he urged his colleagues to oppose the measure.
"We should not use this specific vote on a specific policy decision as some proxy for all the Senate's broad feelings about foreign affairs. Concerns about Saudi human rights issues should be directly addressed with the administration and with Saudi officials," McConnell said from the Senate floor.
McConnell argued the Yemen resolution "will not enhance America's diplomatic leverage" and will make it more difficult for the U.S. to help end the conflict in Yemen and minimize civilian casualties.
Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, argued that U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition helps facilitate peace talks and withdrawing from the conflict would delay an eventual political settlement.
"We need to stay engaged (in Yemen) with the limited engagement we've had," Risch said.
A similar resolution to end support for the Yemen war passed the Senate in December, but it was not taken up by the then Republican-controlled House.
Approaching its fifth year, the war in Yemen has killed thousands and left millions on the brink of starvation, creating what the United Nations called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said before the vote that the resolution "will be seen as a message to the Saudis that they need to clean up their act."
"We are made weaker in the eyes of the world when we willingly participate in war crimes, when we allow our partners to engage in the slaughter of innocents," Murphy said.
Melbourne, Mar 14 (AP/UNB) — Formula One Race Director Charlie Whiting has died from a pulmonary embolism three days before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. He was 66.
The federation for international auto racing issued a statement saying Whiting died on Thursday morning in Melbourne.
FIA President Jean Todt said he was shocked by the sudden death of the long-time F1 official and described Whiting "a great Race Director, a central and inimitable figure in Formula One who embodied the ethics and spirit of this fantastic sport."
A pulmonary embolism is a blockage in the lung, usually caused by a blood clot.
Whiting began his F1 career in 1977 working at the Hesketh team. He joined the FIA in 1988 and became a race director in 1997.
"Formula One has lost a faithful friend and a charismatic ambassador in Charlie," Todt said in a statement. "All my thoughts, those of the FIA and entire motor sport community go out to his family, friends, and all Formula One lovers."
The Red Bull Racing team said Formula One had "lost one of its most loyal and hard-working ambassadors."
"I am deeply saddened to hear the terrible news," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. "Charlie has played a key role in this sport and has been the referee and voice of reason as Race Director for many years.
"He was a man with great integrity who performed a difficult role in a balanced way. At heart, he was a racer with his origins stretching back to his time at Hesketh and the early days of Brabham."
London, Mar 14 (AP/UNB) — In a tentative first step toward ending months of political deadlock, British lawmakers voted Wednesday to block the country from leaving the European Union without a divorce agreement, triggering an attempt to delay that departure, currently due to take place on March 29.
Parliament is scheduled to decide Thursday whether to put the brakes on Brexit, a vote set up after lawmakers dealt yet another defeat to Prime Minister Theresa May amid a crisis over Britain's departure from the EU.
The lawmakers' 321-278 vote has political but not legal force, and does not entirely rule out a chaotic no-deal departure for Britain. But it might ease jitters spreading across the EU after lawmakers resoundingly rejected May's divorce deal on Tuesday. Exiting the EU without a deal could mean major disruptions for businesses and people in the U.K. and the 27 remaining EU countries.
In chaotic scenes that revealed how May's authority has been eroded by Brexit battles, more than a dozen pro-EU government ministers abstained rather than vote with her against ruling out no-deal.
Speaking with a raspy voice after weeks of relentless pressure, May hinted that she plans to make a third attempt to get lawmakers to support her Brexit deal, which they have already rejected twice.
She said Parliament faced a "fundamental choice" — a "short, technical extension" if lawmakers approve a divorce deal with the EU in the next week, or a much longer delay to Brexit if they don't.
The EU warned that voting against no-deal Brexit wasn't enough to stop it. By law, Britain will leave the EU on March 29, with or without a deal, unless it cancels Brexit or secures a delay.
"There are only two ways to leave the EU: with or without a deal," a European Commission official said. "The EU is prepared for both. To take no deal off the table, it is not enough to vote against no deal - you have to agree to a deal."
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the unresolved situation.
Earlier, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned that "the risk of a no-deal has never been higher."
As Britain teeters ever closer to the edge of the Brexit cliff, lawmakers are trying to seize control from the divided and squabbling government, although it's far from clear if they can agree on a way forward. There are competing factions that support May's deal, a "softer" deal that would keep close ties with the EU, a no-deal Brexit, or even a new referendum on Britain's EU membership.
Parliament likely will agree to delay Brexit, but it would need EU approval. The bloc — openly exasperated by Britain's continuing Brexit crisis — warned that the U.K. would need to present a strong reason for any extension.
"I am against every extension — whether an extension of one day, one week, even 24 hours — if it's not based on a clear opinion of the House of Commons for something," said the European Parliament's chief Brexit official, Guy Verhofstadt. "Please make up your minds in London, because this uncertainty cannot continue."
The bloc is also reluctant to consider a delay that goes beyond elections to the European Parliament in late May, because it would mean Britain would have to participate in the polls even as it prepares to leave.
Both Britain and the EU have ramped up planning for a no-deal Brexit, which would rip up decades of rules for travel and trade between Britain and the bloc. Economists say it could cause huge upheaval, with customs checks causing gridlock at U.K. ports, new tariffs triggering sudden price increases and red tape for everyone from truckers to tourists.
The U.K. government announced its plans for the Irish border in the event of a no-deal Brexit, saying it wouldn't impose new checks, duties or controls on goods coming from EU member Ireland into Northern Ireland. It also said it wouldn't slap tariffs on 87 percent of goods coming into Britain from the EU — though there would be new levies on imports of some items including meat and cars.
The tariffs, intended to be temporary, wouldn't apply to goods crossing from Ireland to Northern Ireland, raising fears the plan would spark a rise in smuggling.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said under the proposals, "Northern Ireland will become a backdoor to the European single market and I think that in a matter of months that will lead to the need for checks at Northern Ireland's ports."
"I don't think the U.K.'s proposals will be workable for very long," he said during a visit to Washington.
In Irish border communities and U.K. ports, no-deal anxiety was mounting.
"Potentially it is going to be a nightmare," said Michael Eddy, a district councilor who lives in the aptly named town of Deal, a few miles from the major Channel port of Dover on England's south coast.
He says local authorities have modeled potential disruptions and believe that even "a two-minute delay for every truck going through the port of Dover" would lead to a 50-mile (80-kilometer) traffic jam.
"What then happens with local people wanting to go about their business, wanting to get to hospitals, wanting to get their kids to school, all of that kind of stuff?" he said.
The European Parliament approved measures Wednesday to ameliorate the immediate hardships of a no-deal Brexit. It backed emergency plans to provide continuity for everything from air, port and road traffic to foreign students to the fishing industry.
The U.K. Parliament has twice rejected the withdrawal agreement that May spent two years negotiating with the EU, and the bloc insists there will be no more talks.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned British lawmakers that "whoever rejects the (Brexit) agreement plays with the welfare of their citizens and the economy in a reckless way."
Yet May has not given up on a third attempt to get her deal through Parliament again.
U.K. Treasury chief Philip Hammond said he was "confident that we will do a deal" in the next few weeks.
Many Britons wish they could share his optimism.
"I think that a bit of unity would be helpful now," said Katharine Beaugie, an artist in Dover. "It would be much better if we could have found some sort of decision."
Lagos, Mar 14 (AP/UNB) — Emergency crews sifted through debris as night fell on frantic efforts to rescue scores of school children and others feared trapped inside a three-story building that collapsed Wednesday in Nigeria's densely populated commercial capital, Lagos. At least eight people were confirmed dead and 37 others were rescued alive.
Anguished families crowded around the flattened remains of the building, which housed an elementary school, holding out hope that more children would still be found alive in the wreckage.
Scenes of jubilation erupted earlier in the day when a man was brought out alive. But the mood shifted dramatically an hour later when another man was brought out dead. The rescue of a woman carried to an ambulance on a stretcher was greeted with cries of, "She's not dead!" in the local Yoruba language.
The evening call to prayer could be heard as hundreds anxiously waited in the city's Ita Faji neighborhood trying to help in rescue efforts. Using flashlights, some people pulled what looked like clothing from the ruins. In the crowd, a baby cried.
As many as 100 children had been in the primary school on the building's top floors, witnesses said.
"It touches one to lose precious lives in any kind of mishap, particularly those so young and tender," Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said.
Earlier, Associated Press video showed rescuers in yellow vests carrying dust-covered, stunned-looking children from the rubble, to cheers from hundreds who had rushed to the scene. But the crowd quieted as others were pulled out slung over rescuers' shoulders, unmoving.
The children were hurried to ambulances. One man pressed his hands to a passing survivor's head in blessing.
More equipment was brought in as nightfall approached. National Emergency Management Agency spokesman Ibrahim Farinloye said 37 people had been pulled out alive, while eight bodies were recovered from the ruins. An unknown number remained missing.
It was not immediately clear why the building collapsed, but such disasters are all too common in Nigeria, where new construction often goes up without regulatory oversight and floors are added to already unstable buildings.
Lagos state Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode said the building, which had been marked for demolition, was classified as residential and the school was operating illegally on the top two floors.
He promised a full investigation once rescue operations were concluded and vowed that those responsible would be prosecuted.
"I want to commiserate with the families of those that lost their lives in this collapsed building," the governor said in a post on his Facebook page that also urged onlookers to "give the rescue workers the chance to save more lives."
The children's rights group Plan International Nigeria called on the Lagos state government to "launch an inquiry into the incident, and ensure that all persons found culpable for dereliction of duties are punished."
"This incident has further highlighted the urgent need ... to take urgent action on issues of safety in schools across the country," country director Hussaini Abdu said.
Ambode, the state governor, said his deputy was visiting hospitals and that the government would cover the hospital bills of survivors. "All we are interested in now is to save more lives and also see how those that have been rescued are put in proper place and proper care," he said.
Earlier in the day, anxious onlookers stood in narrow streets and on rooftops of rusted, corrugated metal, watching the rescue efforts. With emotions high, a number of shirtless men jumped in to offer assistance, hacksaws and mallets in hand. Some were barefoot. Some were bare-handed. One held a water bottle in his teeth.
The collapse came as Buhari, newly elected to a second term as president, tries to improve groaning, inefficient infrastructure in Africa's most populous nation.
In a recent report, the International Monetary Fund noted the state of the country's crumbling infrastructure.
"Nigeria's infrastructure is generally less than half the size than in the average sub-Saharan Africa country and only a fraction of that in emerging market economies," the report said. "The perceived quality of the infrastructure is low."
Suzano, Mar 14 (AP/UNB) — Two masked men armed with a gun, knives, axes and crossbows descended on a school in southern Brazil on Wednesday, killing five students and two adults before one killed the other and then himself, authorities said.
The men, identified as former students at the school in a suburb of Sao Paulo, also shot and killed the owner of a used car business nearby before launching the attack on the school, authorities said.
Besides the five students, the dead included a teacher and a school administrator, said Joao Camilo Pires de Campos, the state's public secretary. Nine others were wounded in the school attack and hospitalized, he said.
"This is the saddest day of my life," de Campos said, speaking to reporters outside the school in the Sao Paulo suburb of Suzano.
Authorities identified the attackers as 17-year-old Guilherme Taucci Monteiro and 25-year-old Henrique de Castro.
"The big question is: What was the motivation of these former students?" de Campos said.
Monteiro's mother, Tatiana Taucci, offered a possible answer, telling Band News while hiding her face from the camera that her son had been bullied at the school.
"Bullying, they call it. ... He stopped going to school ... because of this," she said.
She said she was surprised by his involvement and found out about the attack from the television like everyone else.
Minutes before the attack, Monteiro had posted 26 photos on his Facebook page, included several posing with a gun and one that showed him giving the middle finger as he looked into the camera.
In some of the photos, he wore a black scarf with a white imprint of a skull and cross bones. No text accompanied the posts.
By Wednesday afternoon, Facebook had taken down Monteiro's page.
During the attack, Monteiro opened fire with a .38 caliber handgun and de Castro used a crossbow, de Campos said, adding that forensics would determine how each of the victims died.
The attackers were also carrying Molotov cocktails, knives and small axes, authorities said
"In 34 years as a policeman, it's the first time I see someone use a crossbow like that," police Col. Marcelo Salles said. "It is horrendous."
The assailants were trying to force their way inside a room at the back of the school where many students were hiding when police arrived. Instead of facing police, they took their own lives. Monteiro shot de Castro in the head and then shot himself, police said.
Students gathered outside the school recounted harrowing attacks and seeing several bodies lying in pools of blood.
Kelly Milene Guerra Cardoso, 16, said she and other students took refuge in the school's cafeteria, locked the door and lay on the floor.
"We stayed there until the door was opened. We thought it was the shooters coming to get us, but it was the police," she said. "They told us to start running."
Horacio Pereira Nunes, a retiree whose house is next to the school, said he heard shots around 10 a.m.
"Then a lot of kids started running out, all screaming," he said. "It didn't take long until police arrived."
The Raul Brasil Professor public school has more than 1,600 students from elementary to high school grades, teachers gathered outside said.
Latin America's most populous nation has the largest number of annual homicides in the world, but school shootings are rare.
In 2011, 12 students were killed by a gunman who roamed the halls of a school in Rio de Janeiro, shooting at them.
President Jair Bolsonaro ran on a platform that included promises to crack down on criminals, in part by expanding public access to guns. Soon after his Jan. 1 inauguration, Bolsonaro issued a decree making it easier to buy a gun.
"A monstrosity and cowardness without equal," Bolsonaro wrote in a tweet expressing his sympathies for the families of the victims of Wednesday's attacks.
Similar to arguments made by proponents of less gun regulation in the United States, Bolsonaro and his supporters argue that expanded access to guns will combat crime.
Sen. Major Olimpio, a member of Bolsonaro's party and a proponent of loosening gun legislation, again made that argument hours after Wednesday's rampage.
"We can't let those who take advantage of this tragedy speak about how disarmament is the solution," he tweeted, adding: "Weak and shameful 'disarmament farce,' which gave guns to criminals and prevented self-defense."