Paris, Jan 18 (AP/UNB) — One by one, European Union nations are spending millions, hiring thousands of workers and issuing emergency decrees to cope with the increasingly likely possibility that Britain will leave the bloc on March 29 without a plan.
A no-deal Brexit could shake up the rest of the continent in ways that many Europeans haven't yet fathomed, from snarled air traffic to paralyzed ports and millions of workers in legal limbo.
France is spending 50 million euros ($57 million) to beef up security at airports and the Eurotunnel, and hiring hundreds of extra customs officers.
Portugal is opening special airport lanes for British travelers, the nation's main source of tourists. The Netherlands is scouring for qualified veterinarians to carry out new checks on live imports. Germany is fast-tracking a debate on solving bureaucratic problems if there is no Brexit deal.
Governments from Europe's Atlantic Coast to the Black Sea are preparing rules for British citizens to live and work in their countries once they no longer enjoy EU residency rights — and hoping that Britain is doing the same for their citizens.
Britain, which would face by far the biggest disruption, has devoted thousands of civil servants and several billion pounds (dollars) on measures to mitigate the worst effect — although officials can only speculate about what will actually happen on March 30 if Brexit happens without a deal.
After the British parliament overwhelmingly rejected British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit divorce deal this week, other governments are bracing for chaos, too.
"We strongly believe" Britain will leave with no exit deal, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced Thursday, unveiling a raft of emergency measures to cope with that prospect. "Under these conditions, our responsibility ... is to ensure that our country is ready, that the interests of our citizens are preserved and defended."
The French government will build new infrastructure and hire new staff at airports and ports — and the tunnel beneath the English Channel. The company that operates the Eurotunnel says a quarter of all U.K.-EU trade passes through the tunnel, which could be a major chokepoint in a no-deal Brexit.
France's emergency decrees will temporarily let British companies transport goods in France, and allow certain British insurance and other financial activities to continue in France despite Britain's loss of access to the EU financial market. The exceptional transfer of military equipment between the two countries will also be allowed.
In Berlin, German lawmakers debated a bill Thursday that aims to solve bureaucratic issues arising from Brexit.
"We want to keep the damage — and there will certainly be damage from Britain's departure — as small as possible," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday. "That's why we will of course do everything to find an orderly solution, but we are also prepared if there is no orderly solution."
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said Thursday that 80 percent of British tourists arrive at airports in Faro, the Algarve and Funchal in the Madeira Islands, where dedicated lines for them will help prevent delays.
Dutch authorities say they are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. The customs service is hiring some 900 new staff. The food and animal welfare authority is scouring southern and eastern Europe for qualified vets to carry out checks on live imports.
The government has set up an online Brexit counter and checklist for Dutch companies doing business with Britain — some 35,000 of which have no experience of dealing with countries outside the EU single market.
Romanian leaders have sought to reassure the estimated half a million Romanians living in Britain that they won't be left in the lurch — but haven't provided specifics. Romania currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia are working on legislation to deal with the short-term rights of British citizens in a no-deal Brexit, while the Dutch will let British citizens living in the country remain for 15 months and offer them the chance to apply for residency permits.
In Britain, the government announced Thursday it's putting military reservists on standby for permanent service in the event the country leaves without a divorce deal. It's also recruiting hundreds of extra customs officers and border staff and has passed laws to help cross-border trade continue to flow, such as permits for long-distance truckers. Many businesses are taking things into their own hands, and stockpiling goods .
Britain says EU citizens will be able to stay temporarily despite a no-deal Brexit.
A high-level EU official is now touring all the capitals of the 27 countries remaining in the bloc, to assess Brexit preparations and provide help where needed, EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Thursday.
The EU has produced 88 notices how specific sectors should deal with possible Brexit emergencies.
"We're not taking any chances," said Schinas.
Colombia, Jan 18 (AP/UNB) — A car bomb exploded at a heavily guarded police academy in Colombia's capital on Thursday, killing 10 people and injuring dozens in an attack that recalled the bloodiest chapters of the country's drug-fueled guerrilla conflict.
The scene outside the General Santander police academy in southern Bogota was chaotic in the aftermath of the midmorning attack, the biggest against a police or military facility in Bogota in years.
Videos circulating on social media show panicked officers hauling injured colleagues on stretchers with debris and body parts strewn in front of red tile-roofed cadet barracks. In the distance, the skeletal steel remains of the truck used in the attack can be seen still burning while approaching ambulances blare.
President Ivan Duque rushed back to the capital with his top military advisers from a visit to a western state to oversee the police investigation, which points to a possible suicide bombing - something unprecedented in decades of political violence in the Andean nation.
Chief Prosecutor Nestor Martinez said a 56-year-old man named Jose Aldemar Rojas, driving a 1993 Nissan pick-up loaded with 80 kilograms (175 pounds) of pentolite, carried out the attack. He said the car had its last official mechanical revision some six months ago in the eastern state of Arauca, along the border with Venezuela.
"This is an attack not only against the young, the security forces or the police. It's an attack against society," Duque said in a brief statement after surveying the blast scene. "This demented terrorist act will not go unpunished."
The defense ministry said 10 people were killed and another 66 injured. Among the dead were a Panamanian and an Ecuadorian national.
Rafael Trujillo said he was delivering a care package to his son Gerson, who entered the school just two days ago, when he was stopped in his tracks by the blast that destroyed windows in apartment buildings as far as four blocks away.
"I'm sad and very worried because I don't have any information about my son," said Trujillo, standing outside the facility, where police officers had set up a taped perimeter as forensic specialists surveyed the blast site.
Authorities were at a loss to explain how the vehicle slipped through a gate permanently protected by explosive-sniffing dogs, heavily-armed guards and security cameras. But there were unconfirmed reports based on leaked recordings of phone conversations of officers on the scene that the driver rammed through the checkpoint on a kamikaze mission.
Health authorities in Bogota appealed for residents to donate blood at one of four collection points in the capital to help treat those injured, the majority of whom were rushed to a police hospital.
For decades, residents of Bogota lived in fear of being caught in a bombing by leftist rebels or Pablo Escobar's Medellin drug cartel. But as Colombia's conflict has wound down, security has improved and residents have lowered their guard.
While authorities had yet to suggest who was behind the attack, and no armed group claimed responsibility, attention was focused on leftist rebels from the National Liberation Army, which has been stepping up attacks on police targets in Colombia amid a standoff with the conservative Duque over how to re-start stalled peace talks.
The group known as the ELN was long considered a lesser military threat than the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, whose 7,000 guerrilla fighters disarmed as part of a 2016 peace accord.
But in the wake of the peace deal the Cuban-inspired insurgency has been gaining strength, especially along the eastern border with Venezuela, where it has carried out a number of kidnappings and bombings of oil pipelines. That has hardened Duque's resolve in refusing to resume peace talks that have been stalled since he took office last August, despite a rebel offer of a cease-fire.
Other possible assailants include the country's Usuga drug cartel, which has suffered a number of setbacks at the hands of the police, and dissident members of the FARC.
Several foreign leaders condemned the attack, as did the former commanders of the disbanded FARC.
The United Nations peace mission in Colombia called it "an unacceptable criminal act which goes against the efforts the country is making to steer away from the violence, and work ... to build a more prosperous and peaceful future."
An explosion at the upmarket Andino shopping mall in June 2017 killed three people, including a French woman, and injured another 11. Police later arrested several suspected members of a far-left urban guerrilla group called the People Revolutionary's Movement for the bombing.
But it has been more than a decade since a police or military installation in the capital has suffered a major bombing. A blast at military university in 2006 left almost two dozen people injured.
Ariel Avila, an analyst who tracks violence, said that in the last four years, there have been 28 attacks in the capital with explosives. While the majority has been carried out with low-grade homemade materials and grenades that have damaged property but left no casualties, he said police intelligence and checkpoints surrounding the city need to be reinforced to prevent more attacks.
"We need to fortify the city again," he told Blu Radio.
Phoenix, Jan 18 (AP/UNB) — A newborn baby girl was found dead in a women's restroom inside an Amazon distribution center and investigators have located and spoken with the mother, Phoenix police said Thursday.
Sgt. Vince Lewis said police were not commenting on whether the mother is an Amazon employee to prevent her identity from being revealed. No charges have been filed.
Firefighters confirmed that the baby was dead and that the investigation is continuing in consultation with the Maricopa County medical examiner's office, a police statement said.
Amazon said in a statement that the company is working with police to support the investigation and called the incident "terribly sad and tragic."
The company's massive distribution center on the city's southwest side is one of several Amazon sites in metro Phoenix.
Under Arizona law, mothers can anonymously leave unharmed newborns at designated "safe haven" locations.
They include hospitals, ambulances, churches, on-duty fire stations and adoption agencies. The baby must be under 72 hours old and given to a person.
The law, which was passed in 2001, also states the mothers who follow those instructions will not face prosecution.
London, Jan 18 (AP/UNB) — Queen Elizabeth II's husband, Prince Philip, was involved in a car crash Thursday while driving in rural England but was not injured.
Buckingham Palace said Philip, 97, was checked by a doctor after the accident and determined to be fine.
The palace said the two-car accident happened Thursday afternoon near Sandringham Estate, the queen's country retreat in eastern England.
Witnesses told the BBC Philip appeared "very shocked" and shaken after the collision, which caused the Land Rover he was driving to overturn.
Norfolk Police said the drivers of both cars, a Land Rover and a Kia, were given alcohol breath tests under routine procedures following a collision. The force said both drivers tested negative.
"The male driver of the Land Rover was uninjured. The female driver of the Kia suffered cuts while the female passenger sustained an arm injury, both requiring hospital treatment," the police force said in a state.
The two women from the Kia were treated at nearby Queen Elizabeth Hospital and discharged, the statement said.
Witnesses described seeing broken glass and debris at the scene. Police did not say how the accident happened. There was no indication anyone was arrested for a driving offense.
Philip had a passenger in his car, but the palace did not identify the person. It is likely the prince was traveling with a protection officer, a standard security procedure for Britain's senior royals.
Philip has largely retired from public life. He has seemed to be in generally good health in recent months.
He and Elizabeth, 92, have been on an extended Christmas holiday at Sandringham, one of her favored rural homes.
Indonesia, Jan 18 (AP/UNB) — Indonesian President Joko Widodo accused his election rival of allowing corrupt candidates on his legislative ticket and failing to include women in senior positions.
Widodo and former Gen. Prabowo Subianto, along with their running mates, faced off Thursday in the first of five debates before the April 17 election. The debate focused on terrorism, human rights, corruption, and law and order.
Opinion polls show Widodo commanding 52 percent to 54 percent popular support and Subianto trailing with 30-35 percent. About 10 percent of voters are undecided and another 15 percent are considered swing voters, meaning the race has the potential to tighten.
Subianto, making his second bid for president after being narrowly defeated by Widodo in 2014, waffled when asked why his party has the highest number of candidates with corruption records.
"Maybe the corruption they did was not huge, maybe he or she just, what I mean is, the theft was indeed wrong, but the most important thing to be eradicated was a corrupter who stole trillions of rupiah (hundreds of millions of dollars) of state money, of people's money," he said.
Questioning Subianto's opening statement of a commitment to empowering women, Widodo said he has nine women in important Cabinet positions but there are few the leadership of Subianto's Gerindra party.
Subianto said his party has many female candidates and criticized the quality of decision-making by Widodo's female ministers.
Widodo, the first Indonesian president from outside the country's Jakarta elite, has made upgrading Indonesia's infrastructure the signature policy of his five year-term.
In debating human rights, none of the candidates addressed Subianto's involvement in human rights abuses during the dictator Suharto's regime that ended two decades ago.