News in brief for March 5

  • In this May 6, 1954 file photo, Britain's Roger Bannister hits the tape to become the first person to break the four-minute mile in Oxford, England. (AP Photo, File)

Roger Bannister, who broke the 4-minute mile, dies at 88

LONDON (AP) — It was a typical British afternoon in early May: wet, cool and blustery. Not exactly the ideal conditions for running four laps around a track faster than many thought humanly possible.

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A lanky Oxford medical student named Roger Bannister looked up at the white-and-red English flag whipping in the wind atop a nearby church and figured he would have to call off the record attempt.

But then, shortly after 6 p.m. on May 6, 1954, the wind subsided. Bannister glanced up again and saw the flag fluttering oh-so gently. The race was on.

With two friends acting as pacemakers, Bannister churned around the cinder track four times. His long arms and legs pumping, his lungs gasping for air, he put on a furious kick over the final 300 yards and nearly collapsed as he crossed the finish line.

The announcer read out the time: “3…”

The rest was drowned out by the roar of the crowd. The 3 was all that mattered.

Bannister had just become the first runner to break the mythical 4-minute barrier in the mile — a feat of speed and endurance that stands as one of the seminal sporting achievements of the 20th century.

The black-and-white image of Bannister, eyes closed, head back, mouth wide open, straining across the tape at Oxford’s Iffley Road track, endures as a defining snapshot of a transcendent moment in track and field history.

Bannister died peacefully in Oxford on Saturday at the age of 88. He was “surrounded by his family who were as loved by him, as he was loved by them,” the family said in a statement Sunday.

British Prime Minister Theresa May remembered Bannister as a “British sporting icon whose achievements were an inspiration to us all. He will be greatly missed.”

Bannister’s time of 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds captured the world’s imagination and buoyed the spirits of Britons still suffering through post-war austerity.

Merkel in line for a fourth term after months of uncertainty

BERLIN (AP) — Germany ended months of political uncertainty Sunday when Chancellor Angela Merkel gained the support needed to preserve her governing coalition and secure a fourth term as leader of Europe’s most powerful economy.

The center-left Social Democrats voted overwhelmingly to remain in a coalition with Merkel’s conservative bloc, after difficult and drawn-out negotiations triggered by September’s elections, which saw the rise of a new right-wing force in German politics and raised questions about Merkel’s future. Parliament is expected to meet March 14 to re-elect Merkel as chancellor, ending the longest time Germany has been without a new government after elections in its postwar history.

Merkel has drawn flak from both left and right for maintaining an unabashedly centrist course since taking office in 2005. With the coalition approved, she can now turn her attention to tackling rising anti-immigrant sentiment in Germany while pushing forward efforts to reform the stumbling European Union.

“I congratulate the SPD on this clear result and look forward to continuing to work together for the good of our country,” she said on Twitter.

White House: No exemptions from tariffs

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s administration appears unbowed by broad domestic and international criticism of his planned import tariffs on steel and aluminum, saying Sunday that the president is not planning on exempting any countries from the stiff duties.

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Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said: “At this point in time there’s no country exclusions.”

Trump’s announcement Thursday that he would impose tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively, on imported steel and aluminum, roiled markets, rankled allies and raised prospects for a trade war. While his rhetoric has been focused on China, the duties will also cover significant imports from Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Japan and the European Union. The Pentagon had recommended that Trump only pursue targeted tariffs, so as not to upset American partners abroad. But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Sunday that was not the direction the president would take.