Athens, Mar 3 (AP/UNB)— Yannis Behrakis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, has died. He was 58.
His death Saturday was confirmed by his employers, Reuters, where he had worked since 1987. Behrakis had long been ill with cancer.
Born in Athens in 1960, Behrakis studied photography at a private school and worked at a studio before fulfilling his lifelong dream to become a photojournalist. Since early 1989, he had been on assignments across Europe, the Mideast Asia and Africa, often in conflict zones.
In 2000, he was ambushed in Sierra Leone, likely by rebels, and barely escaped along with Reuters' co-worker Mark Chisholm. Their Reuters colleague Kurt Schork, Behrakis' close friend, and AP cameraman Miguel Gil Moreno were killed.
Behrakis led a team of Reuters photographers to the 2016 Pulitzer Prize, covering the refugee crisis.
Paris, Mar 3 (AP/UNB) — Thousands of French yellow vests protested Saturday for a 16th straight weekend in Paris and other cities to show they are keeping up momentum against the government's economic policies they see as favoring the rich.
In Paris, more than a thousand protesters marched peacefully through well-off western neighborhoods of the capital, starting from the Arc de Triomphe monument to reach a southern plaza. The demonstration was placed under tight security.
Police forces were dispersing dozens of protesters who remained near the Champs-Elysees avenue.
Many other rallies were organized across the country. Some brief scuffles between protesters and police broke out in the cities of Lyon, Lille and Nantes, but no serious injuries were reported.
Organizers said they want to maintain pressure on the government as a two-month "grand debate" initiated by Macron to let ordinary French people express their views on the country's economic and democratic issues is ending this month.
Sophie Tissier, a coordinator of the Paris protest, told The Associated Press that "we keep protesting every Saturday because Macron doesn't respond at all to the yellow vests' demands. We want to rebuild our democracy and change today's political system."
"Macron is contemptuous and ... does not even try to understand that there are people that are living in great poverty and precariousness, and that there are so many inequalities," she added.
Supports for the movement has ebbed in recent weeks as outbreaks of violence continue, including last month when a few protesters hurled a torrent of anti-Semitic insults at noted philosopher Alain Finkielkraut on the sidelines of a Paris march.
The movement was named after the fluorescent vests that French motorists must carry in their vehicles for emergencies.
The protests started in November to oppose fuel tax hikes, but have expanded into a broader public rejection of Macron's economic policies, which protesters say favor big businesses and the wealthy over ordinary workers.
Macron has since announced a package of measures worth about 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion) to boost workers' and retirees' purchasing power and launched a national debate that is taking place through meetings across France and a dedicated website until mid-March.
Many yellow vests reject the debate which they consider as politically driven to serve the government's interests.
London, Feb 28 (AP/UNB) — Prime Minister Theresa May insisted Wednesday that Britain will leave the European Union on schedule next month, amid signs that her promise to give Parliament a vote on delaying Brexit was boosting support for her unpopular EU divorce deal.
May has bowed to pressure from within her Conservative government and given Parliament the chance to delay Britain's scheduled March 29 departure if lawmakers fail to approve her divorce agreement with the bloc.
The change of course was welcomed by pro-EU members of Britain's divided Parliament, who sought further guarantees the government would not try to renege on May's commitment. Lawmakers in the House of Commons voted 502-20 in favor of a symbolic motion underscoring May's promise.
Some pro-Brexit lawmakers, who fear delaying Brexit day could be used to try to stop Britain's withdrawal altogether, abstained from the vote.
On Tuesday, May gave Parliament a greater say over Brexit to forestall a rebellion by pro-EU members of her government, who threatened to quit and vote with the opposition in order to rule out a disruptive "no-deal" Brexit. She said Parliament will get to vote again on her deal with the EU by March 12. If it is rejected, lawmakers will then vote on whether to leave the EU without an agreement or seek to postpone Brexit by up to three months.
May stressed that she personally opposes extending the Brexit deadline, and said "the United Kingdom remains on course to leave the European Union with a deal" if lawmakers "hold their nerve." Writing in the Daily Mail, May said talks with the EU about securing changes to the divorce deal to make it more palatable to Parliament have "begun to bear fruit."
The House of Commons rejected May's deal with the EU by a huge margin last month — largely over concerns about a provision to guarantee an open border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland — and sent May back to Brussels to get changes.
The EU is adamant that the legally binding withdrawal agreement can't be changed, though the bloc's negotiators are holding talks with U.K. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox about potential tweaks or additions to reassure pro-Brexit British lawmakers that the border "backstop" is only a temporary measure.
May is calculating that the prospect of a delay may persuade pro-Brexit lawmakers to support her deal despite their reservations. Many Brexiteers feel the Irish backstop portion of the deal keeps the U.K. bound closely to EU trade rules, unable to strike new agreements around the world.
Brexit-backing Conservative lawmaker Edward Leigh said Wednesday that colleagues should back the agreement because "the choice is no longer perhaps between an imperfect deal and no deal — it is between an imperfect deal and no Brexit."
Lawmakers rejected a bid Wednesday by the main opposition Labour Party to force the government to embrace its alternative Brexit plan, which calls for retaining close ties with the EU. Labour has said if it can't get its plan through Parliament, it will campaign for a second referendum on Britain's EU membership.
The government caved in on a vote it looked set to lose, agreeing to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in Britain whether or not the U.K. leaves the bloc without a Brexit deal.
"That such an amendment is needed is in itself a very sad state of affairs," said Alberto Costa, the Conservative lawmaker behind the motion. He said 3 million EU citizens in Britain and 1 million U.K. citizens in other EU countries "should never have been used as a bargaining chip.
British businesses welcomed the prospect of a Brexit delay. They warn that without a deal, Britain risks a chaotic departure that could disrupt trade between the U.K. and the EU, its biggest trading partner.
Confederation of British Industry head Carolyn Fairbairn said leaving without a deal would be "a wrecking ball on our economy" and giving the option to delay "feels like an option on sanity."
Delaying Brexit would require approval from all 27 other EU countries, whose leaders are annoyed by what they see as the inability of feuding British politicians to agree on what kind of relationship the U.K. wants with the bloc.
Chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Wednesday that there must be clarity that extending negotiations wouldn't just prolong the impasse facing both sides.
EU politicians say Britain must have a good reason for seeking a pause.
French President Emmanuel Macron said any such request would need to be justified by "a clear perspective on the goal."
"We don't need time. We need decisions," he said at a joint news conference in Paris with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel said the EU wouldn't refuse Britain "a bit more time."
She said "we are aiming for an orderly solution — an orderly withdrawal by the British from the European Union."
Toronto, Feb 28 (AP/UNB) — Canada's former attorney general testified Wednesday she experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to inappropriately interfere in the prosecution of a major Canadian engineering company, including receiving "veiled threats."
Ex-justice minister and ex-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould called it "incredibly inappropriate" but said she didn't think it was illegal because she wasn't instructed to seek a settlement. She said 11 people tried to interfere in her prosecutorial discretion including Trudeau.
In a meeting with Trudeau, the prime minister raised the issue and asked her to "help out" with the case, she said.
Wilson-Raybould said she asked Trudeau if he was politically interfering with her role as attorney general and told him she would strongly advise against it.
"No, no, no. We just need to find a solution," she said Trudeau responded.
She said Trudeau told her that if Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin didn't get a deferred prosecution there would be jobs lost and the company would move its headquarters from Montreal to London and noted he was a lawmaker from Quebec. Wilson-Raybould said she was "barraged" and subjected to "hounding" by members of the government.
Trudeau disputed her view of events.
"I strongly maintain, as I have from the beginning, that I and my staff always acted appropriately and professionally, and therefore I completely disagree with the characterization of the former attorney general about these events," he said at a news conference.
Trudeau said the decision on whether to forgo prosecution and enter a plea agreement with the company was hers and hers alone.
He also welcomed the investigation of the ethics commissioner while he rejected calls by the leader of the opposition Conservative Party to resign, saying Canadians will have a choice later this year in parliamentary elections.
"My job as prime minister is to stand up for jobs. I have done that and will continue to do that. That is a fundamental role of a Canadian prime minister," Trudeau said.
Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer also said police should investigate and called Trudeau a disgraced prime minister. Jagmeet Singh, leader of the opposition NDP, said there should be a public inquiry but stopped short of calling for Trudeau to step down.
"He may need to resign because of this," he said. "What we heard today was explosive."
Trudeau's government has been on the defensive since the Globe and Mail newspaper reported Feb. 7 that Trudeau or his staff pressured her to try to avoid a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin over allegations of corruption involving government contracts in Libya. Critics say that would be improper political meddling in a legal case.
"For a period of approximately four months, between September and December of 2018, I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the attorney general of Canada," she told a Parliament justice committee.
The scandal has been a significant blow to Trudeau, who is facing an election this year.
Gerald Butts, Trudeau's closet adviser, resigned last week but denied that he or anyone else pressured Wilson-Raybould. Michael Wernick, the top civil servant in the government, has also said that no inappropriate pressure was put on Wilson-Raybould.
Wilson-Raybould resigned from the Cabinet on Feb. 12 as veteran affairs minister but gave no reasons. She had been unexpectedly demoted from justice minister last month, and was furious, releasing a 2,000-word statement after that.
"I was concerned I was shuffled because of a decision I would not take with SNC, I raised those concerns with the PM," she said. "Those concerns were denied."
Wilson-Raybould compared the situation to President Richard Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre" firing of the independent special prosecutor overseeing the Watergate investigation in 1973.
The Globe and Mail's report this month said Trudeau's office pressured her to instruct the director of public prosecutions to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin. The agreement would have allowed the company to pay reparations but avoid a criminal trial on charges of corruption and bribery.
If convicted criminally, the company would be banned from receiving any federal government business for a decade. SNC-Lavalin is a major employer in Quebec, with about 3,400 employees in the province, 9,000 employees in Canada and more than 50,000 worldwide.
"It's OK to talk about job losses. It's OK to talk about it in initial conversations but when those topics continue to be brought up after there is a clear awareness that a decision has been made it becomes inappropriate," Wilson-Raybould said.
"Where they became very clearly inappropriate was when political issues came up, like the election in Quebec, like losing the election were SNC to move its headquarters."
She said there would be merits in separating the roles of attorney general and justice minister.
Asked if she has confidence in Trudeau, Wilson-Raybould twice did not answer yes
Wilson-Raybould remains a member of Trudeau's Liberal party in Parliament. She said she doesn't anticipate being kicked out of the party. Trudeau said he hadn't reviewed her entire testimony and needed to see that before he made any decision on her membership.
Daniel Beland, a political science professor at McGill university, said Wilson-Raybould's testimony is very bad for Trudeau and threatens his re-election chances this fall.
"Her testimony was both detailed and credible. She also implicated a lot of people, from top advisers and the most powerful civil servant in the country to the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister, Bill Morneau," Beland said. "The Liberals have fallen in the polls since this story emerged and today's testimony is likely to make things worse for them, at least in the short run."
London, Feb 27 (AP/UNB) — Britain's bumpy journey out of the European Union took a major turn Tuesday, as Prime Minister Theresa May handed the steering wheel to Parliament, giving lawmakers the power to slam on the brakes and divert Britain away from a disruptive and chaotic Brexit.
Bowing to pressure from within her own government to avert a damaging "no-deal" Brexit, May told legislators she would give them three choices: approve the divorce agreement she has struck with the EU, vote to leave the bloc on March 29 without a deal, or ask the EU to delay Brexit by up to three months.
May said the promises were "commitments I am making as prime minister and I will stick by them."
It is the first time she has conceded that Britain may not leave the EU on March 29, the date fixed two years ago and enshrined in U.K. law as departure day.
With that date just over a month away, the government has not been able to win parliamentary approval for its agreement with the EU on withdrawal terms and future relations. Anxiety over the standoff is intensifying since a chaotic "no-deal" Brexit could cause disruptions for businesses and people in both Britain and the 27 remaining EU countries.
May promised lawmakers they would get to vote again on her deal by March 12. If it is rejected, lawmakers will vote the next day on whether to leave the bloc without an agreement. If the no-deal option is defeated, they will vote on whether to seek a delay to Brexit.
Because a majority of lawmakers opposes a "no-deal" Brexit, Parliament's choice is effectively between backing May's deal and postponing Britain's departure from the EU.
May said her goal remains to lead Britain out of the EU on schedule and with a deal.
"I don't want to see an extension," she said, adding that any delay to Brexit should be "as short as possible."
But her announcement angered pro-Brexit lawmakers.
"My suspicion is that any delay to Brexit is a plot to stop Brexit," said leading Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg. "This would be the most grievous error that politicians could commit."
Pro-EU politicians, meanwhile, said May's move did not go far enough.
"A temporary extension does not rule out a no-deal Brexit; it merely moves the cliff-edge back a few weeks," said anti-Brexit Conservative Dominic Grieve.
May's concession to Parliament came after members of her government joined calls for her to rule out a "no-deal" departure. Three government ministers wrote in Tuesday's Daily Mail they planned to vote with opposition lawmakers to stop a no-deal withdrawal unless May agreed to delay Brexit and guarantee "we are not swept over the precipice on March 29."
Delaying Brexit would require approval from all 27 other EU countries. European Council President Donald Tusk said Monday the remaining members would "show maximum understanding and goodwill" to such a request.
But some EU leaders say Britain must have a good reason for seeking the delay.
Philippe Lamberts, an influential member of the European Parliament's Brexit steering group, said a British request for an extension must be accompanied by "a credible plan for holding a people's vote on the final deal that includes an option to remain" in the EU.
Businesses warn that without a deal, Britain risks a chaotic departure that could disrupt trade between the U.K. and the EU, its biggest trading partner. The uncertainty has already led many British firms to shift some operations abroad, stockpile goods or defer investment decisions.
Businesses and the markets breathed a sigh of relief at May's statement, which did not rule out "no deal" but at least pushed it a bit further away. The pound rose above $1.32, its highest level for a month.
"Today, we have seen real movement towards ruling out a chaotic and damaging no-deal on March 29," said Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses.
But British politics remains deadlocked over Brexit, with both May's governing Conservatives and the main opposition Labour Party deeply split over whether to leave the bloc, and on what terms.
Pro-EU Conservative legislator Ken Clarke said delaying Brexit would not break the logjam, but only see the "present pantomime" continue, with "similar chaos about where we are going."
The House of Commons rejected May's deal with the EU last month — largely over concerns about a provision to guarantee an open border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland — and sent May back to Brussels to get changes.
The EU is adamant that the legally binding withdrawal agreement can't be changed, though the bloc's negotiators are holding talks with U.K. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox about potential tweaks or additions around the margins.
A large group of lawmakers, from both government and opposition parties, says the only way out of the impasse is a new referendum on the terms of Britain's EU departure.
May insists she will never support a referendum that could overturn Britain's 2016 decision to leave the EU.
The Labour Party this week moved to support a new referendum as a way to break the deadlock. The left-of-center party said it would back a second public vote if the House of Commons rejects its alternative Brexit plan, which calls for Britain to retain close economic ties with the EU.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that if May's deal was approved by Parliament, "we believe there must be a confirmatory public vote to see if people feel that's what they voted for" in the 2016 EU membership referendum.
But the idea of a new referendum is opposed by some Labour lawmakers in areas that voted to leave the bloc.
Labour lawmaker John Mann said Labour had previously promised to "accept the result of the referendum."
"A second referendum doesn't do that and the voters — in very, very large numbers — will not accept that," he said.