Nation and World briefs for December 13

UK’s May wins no-confidence vote by MPs unhappy about Brexit

LONDON — 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.

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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.

Gunman from Christmas market attack in France still at large

STRASBOURG, France — Hundreds of security forces combed eastern France for a 29-year-old man with a long criminal record who shouted “God is great!” in Arabic and sprayed gunfire during a deadly rampage in Strasbourg’s famous Christmas market, officials said.

Tuesday night’s attack at France’s largest Christmas market, which killed two people, left a third brain-dead and injured 12, was a stark reminder to a nation wounded by previous assaults that terrorism remains a threat, even as anti-government protests roil the country.

National police distributed a photo of the wounded fugitive, identified as Cherif Chekatt, with the warning: “Individual dangerous, above all do not intervene.”

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told lawmakers that the French native had run-ins with police starting at age 10 and his first conviction at age 13.

Chekatt had been convicted 27 times, mostly in France but also in Switzerland and Germany, for crimes including armed robbery. He had been flagged for extremism and was on a watch list.

Trump comments upend US approach to Huawei, trade talks

WASHINGTON — The United States and China have taken pains this week to emphasize that their trade talks are entirely separate from the U.S. case against a top Chinese technology executive. But with a few words, President Donald Trump obliterated the distinction.

Trump said Tuesday he’d wade into the case against Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecommunications giant Huawei, if it would help produce a trade agreement with China.

“If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made — which is a very important thing — what’s good for national security — I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary,” Trump told Reuters in an interview.

The comment suggests Meng could be a political pawn in negotiations and makes things more awkward for Canada, which arrested her on America’s behalf during a Dec. 1 layover at the Vancouver airport.

Responding to Trump’s comment, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday: “Regardless of what goes on in other countries, Canada is, and will always remain, a country of the rule of law.”

France’s Macron caught between protests, Strasbourg attack

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron is trying to take back control of his nation after a month of protests that caused mayhem across the country — and now a new extremist attack that’s putting France on renewed terror alert.

Striving to show he’s responding to “yellow vest” protesters’ demands for tax relief, the French leader maintained his planned agenda Wednesday: He held his weekly Cabinet meeting and talks with big public and private companies, notably to encourage them to give a tax-free, year-end bonus to their employees.

At the same time, Macron’s office said he was staying constantly informed about the investigation into Tuesday’s Strasbourg attack and hunt for the gunman, still on the run.

Macron said “the terrorist threat is still at the core of our nation’s life,” in comments reported by government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux.

“Public order must prevail in every place and every circumstance,” Macron added.

Insurance claims at $9 billion from California fires

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Insurance claims from last month’s California wildfires already are at $9 billion and expected to increase, the state’s insurance commissioner announced Wednesday.

About $7 billion in claims are from the Camp Fire that destroyed the Northern California city of Paradise and killed at least 86 people, making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire in at least a century. The rest is from the Woolsey and Hill fires in Southern California.

Collectively, the fires destroyed or damaged more than 20,000 structures, with the vast majority in and around Paradise. On Tuesday, state and federal authorities estimated it will cost at least $3 billion just to clear debris.

“As the claims get perfected, as individuals get access to their former homes and neighborhoods, as they dialogue with their insurance companies and share more information about the scope of their loss, we expect these numbers to rise,” Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said of the $9 billion estimate.

There are more than 28,000 claims for residential personal property, nearly 2,000 from commercial property and 9,400 in auto and other claims for the fires.

UN chief calls for compromise, sacrifice at climate talks

KATOWICE, Poland — The United Nations secretary-general called on countries to make compromises in tackling global warming, amid concern that the U.N. conference on the issue could end without a substantial agreement.

In his second dramatic appeal at the talks in Poland in the space of 10 days, Antonio Guterres told ministers and senior diplomats from almost 200 countries they should consider the fate of future generations.

“This is the time for political compromises to be reached,” he said. “This means sacrifices, but it will benefit us all collectively.”

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His call came as the two-week meeting in Katowice shifted from the technical to political phase, with ministers taking over negotiations.

Campaign groups warned of the risks of failure and accused powerful players such as the European Union of not pushing hard enough to reach an agreement.

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