BREXIT: BRITAIN’S PARLIAMENT REJECTS NO-DEAL SPLIT FROM EUROPEAN UNION
The UK Parliament on Wednesday rejected a chaotic no-deal Brexit by a narrow
margin, preventing Britain from crashing out of the European Union without
any transition phase.
The House of Commons voted against the deal by 312 votes to 308.
British MPs will now vote on Thursday on whether to ask for delaying
Britain’s departure beyond March 29 by extending Article 50 – the legal
mechanism that takes the UK out of the 28-member economic bloc.
This would have to be ratified by the EU and the length of extension will
become the next focus on both sides.
However, how the EU will react to an extension request remains unclear at
this stage, given that it is preparing for its own EU elections towards the
end of May.
Brussels has already made it clear that it will not renegotiate the deal
thrashed out with the UK over two years of prolonged talks.
Unless agreed otherwise, Britain leaving the EU by March 29 remains the
default Brexit option by law.
The March-end deadline kicked in when the UK triggered Article 50 of the
Lisbon Treaty following a referendum in favour of Brexit by nearly 52 per
cent to 48 per cent in June 2016.
DONALD TRUMP ANNOUNCES PLAN TO GROUND ALL BOEING 737 MAX PLANES
U.S. President Donald Trump on March 13 announced a plan to ground all
Boeing 737 MAX aircraft amid intense international and political pressure
following the second deadly crash in less than five months.
“We’re going to be issuing an emergency order of prohibition regarding all
flights of the 737 MAX 8 and 737 MAX 9,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the
Boeing shares fell precipitously on March 13, moments after Mr. Trump’s
Shares had recovered early in the session, but lost 2.8% to $365.24 shortly
before 12.30 a.m. IST, putting the stock down 13.6% since before the March
10 crash of an Ethiopia Airlines flight, and wiping billions off the
company’s market value.
IN RARE DISSENT, BRI ‘FACES CRITICISM’
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s much-touted Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
has come under criticism at the annual political sessions of the country, a
rare dissent in China’s one-party political system, according to a media
report on Wednesday.
The annual sessions of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative
Conference (CPPCC) and the National People’s Conference (NPC) began on March
3 and is due to end on March 15. The CPPCC consisting of over 2,000
delegates is a national advisory body with nominated representatives from
various walks of life. The NPC, which also has over 2,000 legislators, is
often regarded as rubber stamp parliament for its routine endorsement of
laws and policies formulated by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC).
While dissent and disagreements are a rarity in China, murmurs of criticism
that too against Xi’s BRI, which reportedly carries over trillion dollar
investment budget, surfaced during the discussions at the two sessions, Hong
Kong-based South China Morning Post reported. While the two sessions are
being held in the backdrop of increasing apprehensions over the adverse
impact of the ongoing trade war with the US and continued slowdown of the
China’s economy, former Chinese diplomat Ye Dabo has questioned whether it
was accurate for Premier Li Keqiang to say in his government work report
that the BRI had made “important progress” last year.
Li presented the work report to the NPC on March 5 for adoption. “I think
this evaluation may be a bit excessive,” Ye said. “We have achieved some
results and some fast developments, but it also has problems,” Ye was quoted
by the Post report as saying. Ye said China’s cooperation with countries
through BRI had “not been as smooth (as they like to see)”.
CHINA AGAIN BLOCKS BID AT UN TO LIST JEM CHIEF MASOOD AZHAR AS GLOBAL
In yet another setback to India’s bid to designate Pakistan-based terror
group Jaish-e-Mohammed’s chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, China on
Wednesday put a technical hold on a proposal in the UN Security Council to
ban him following the Pulwama terror attack.
A diplomat at the UN told PTI that China put a “technical hold”.
The proposal to designate Azhar under the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee
of the UN Security Council was moved by France, the UK and the US on
February 27, days after a suicide bomber of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM)
killed 44 CRPF soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama, leading to a
flare-up in tensions between India and Pakistan.
Reacting to China blocking the bid at UN to list JeM chief Masood Azhar as
global terrorist, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in Delhi said, “We
are disappointed. We will continue to pursue all available avenues to ensure
that terrorists involved in attacks on Indian citizens are brought to
“We are grateful to all countries who supported the bid to designate Azhar
as global terrorist,” MEA added.
The Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee members had 10 working days to raise any
objections to the proposal. The no-objection period deadline was scheduled
to end at 3 PM local time (New York) Wednesday, (12:30 AM IST Thursday).
Just before the close of the deadline, China put a hold on the proposal. The
diplomat said China asked for “more time to examine” the proposal.The
proposal was the fourth such bid at the UN in the last 10 years to list
Azhar as a global terrorist.
AUS CARDINAL GETS 6-YR JAIL FOR CHILD SEX ABUSE
Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Vatican official to be convicted of
sex abuse to date, has been sentenced to six years in prison by an
Australian court for the “callous” assault of two choirboys in the late
A former senior adviser to Pope Francis, Pell, 77, was found guilty by a
jury in December last year.
County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd, while delivering the sentence,
described Pell’s abuse of two choirboys in the sacristy at St Patrick’s
Cathedral in Melbourne as “a brazen and forcible sexual attack on the
“There was a clear relationship of trust with the victims and you breached
that trust and abused your position to facilitate this offending,” the chief
judge said. “The brazenness of your conduct is indicative of your sense of
authority and power in relation to the victims,” he said.
Pell will serve a minimum of three years and eight months in jail before he
will be eligible for parole.
Outside the court, survivors of Catholic sex abuse who had attended the
hearing were divided on the sentence. Some felt it was too light, while
others were happy to see justice being done. Until last month, Pell held the
role of Vatican treasurer, considered by many to be the third most senior
position within the Roman Catholic church.
FACEBOOK SUFFERS THE MOST SEVERE OUTAGE IN ITS HISTORY
Facebook is suffering the most severe outage in its history, with key
services rendered unusable for users globally for much of Wednesday.
The last time Facebook had a disruption of this magnitude was in 2008, when
the site had 150m users – compared to around 2.3bn monthly users today.
Facebook’s main product, its two messaging apps and image-sharing site
Instagram were all affected.
The cause of the interruption has not yet been made public.
“We’re aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing the
Facebook family of apps,” Facebook said in a statement.
“We’re working to resolve the issue as soon as possible.”
In response to rumours posted on other social networks, the company said the
outages were not a result of a Distributed Denial of Service attack, known
as DDoS – a type of cyber-attack that involves flooding a target service
with extremely high volumes of traffic.
Estimates suggest the issue began around 16:00 GMT on Wednesday.
While Facebook’s main service appeared to load, users reported not being
able to post.
Those on Instagram were not able to refresh feeds or post new material.
Facebook Messenger’s desktop version did not load – but the mobile app
appeared to allow the sending of some messages; however, users reported
glitches with other kinds of content, such as images. WhatsApp, Facebook’s
other messaging app, had similar problems.
TEN DEAD, INCLUDING 6 CHILDREN, IN BRAZIL SCHOOL SHOOTING
Two armed men wearing face masks entered a Brazilian elementary school on
Wednesday and shot and killed at least six children who were on their snack
breaks, as well as two school officials, before fatally turning their guns
on themselves, police said.
Ten people, including the gunmen, were killed in total, Sao Paulo police
The unidentified gunmen, who appeared to be between 20 and 25 years of age,
shot and killed a worker at a nearby car wash before their attack at the
Raul Brasil school, police said. More than 1,000 children aged between 11
and 15 attend classes there.
Another 17 people – mostly school kids – were shot and injured, and several
of them were in serious condition, said police, who were not yet aware of a
motive for the violence.
GOOGLE SAYS SORRY FOR GMAIL, DRIVE OUTAGES
San Francisco: Google on Wednesday apologised after users around the world
faced problems with accessing Gmail and other services. Users in several
countries, including India, reported problems in attaching or accessing
attachments, as well as accessing and saving draft emails and sending
emails. Google reported that the issue has now been resolved.
FIRST PERSON ON MARS LIKELY TO BE A WOMAN
Washington: The first person on Mars is likely to be a woman, NASA
Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said. NASA will also have its first
all-female spacewalk at the end of the month, when astronauts Anne McClain
and Christina Koch will get to float around in space. The spacewalk will
last about seven hours, according to the US space agency. NASA has come a
long way since 1978, when the first six women joined NASA’s astronaut corps.
Currently, women comprise 34 per cent of its active astronauts, according to