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Brexit in Crisis as PM May Plots Course Around Speaker’s Obstruction

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Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans were in disarray on Tuesday as her government sought to plot a way around the  speaker of parliament’s ruling that she had to change her twice-defeated divorce deal to put it to a third vote.

After two-and-a-half years of negotiations, Britain’s departure from the European Union remains uncertain – with options including a long postponement, leaving with May’s deal, an economically disruptive exit without a deal, or even another membership referendum.

Speaker John Bercow blindsided May’s office on Monday by ruling the government could not put the same Brexit deal to another vote in parliament unless it was substantially different to the ones defeated on Jan. 15 and March 12.

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said the ruling meant a vote this week on May’s deal was more unlikely but said ministers were studying a way out of the impasse and indicated the government still planned a third vote on May’s deal.

“This is a moment of crisis for our country,” Barclay said.

“The ruling from the speaker has raised the bar and I think that makes it more unlikely the vote will be this week.”

“We always said that in terms of bringing a vote back for a third time we would need to see a shift from parliamentarians in terms of the support – I think that still is the case.”

May is due at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday at which she will ask for a delay to the March 29 Brexit departure set in law as the British government tries to come up with a way to leave the European Union after 46 years of membership.

EU leaders could hold off making a final decision at that summit on any Brexit delay depending on what exactly May asks them for, senior diplomats in the bloc said.

“Now it looks like we have to wait till the week after the council to find out what happens,” one diplomat said.

Speaker’s spanner

Bercow said his ruling, based on a convention dating back to 1604, should not be considered his last word and the government could bring forward a new proposition that was not the same as those already voted upon.

Because May must now spice any deal with additional legal and procedural innovation, Bercow’s ruling means she is likely to get just one more chance to put the deal to a vote.

Barclay, who last week said Britain should be unafraid of a no-deal exit, indicated the government was looking at different options and that circumstances, such an extension or a shift in support, would indicate a change in context.

“The speaker himself has pointed to possible solutions, he himself has said in earlier rulings we should not be bound by precedent,” Barclay said. “You can have the same motion but where the circumstances have changed.”

“The speaker himself has said that where the will of the House is for a certain course of action, then it is important that the will of the House is respected.”

Third vote?

Even before Bercow’s intervention, May was scrambling to rally support for her deal – which keeps close trading ties with the EU while leaving the bloc’s formal structures – after it was defeated by 230 votes in parliament on Jan. 15, and by 149 votes on March 12.

To get her deal through parliament, May must win over at least 75 lawmakers – dozens of rebels in her own Conservative Party, some Labour lawmakers, and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government.

The biggest issue is the so-called Northern Irish border backstop, an insurance policy aimed at avoiding post-Brexit controls on the United Kingdom’s border with EU-member Ireland.

Many Brexiteers and the DUP are concerned the backstop will trap the United Kingdom in the EU’s orbit indefinitely, and have sought guarantees it will not.

The Financial Times said May had been told by senior colleagues she will have to set a timetable for her departure if she is to persuading many rebels to support her deal.

Barclay ruled out May asking Queen Elizabeth to cut short the entire parliamentary session, known as prorogation, saying involving the 92-year-old monarch in Brexit was a bad idea.

“The one thing everyone would agree on is that involving Her Majesty in any of the issues around Brexit is not the way forward, so I don’t see that a realistic option,” he said.

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Dutch Authorities Search For Motive in Tram Shooting

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Authorities in the Netherlands worked Tuesday to determine the motive behind a shooting on a tram that left three people dead and five others wounded in the city of Utrecht.

​Police arrested a suspect identified as 37-year-old Turkish-born Gokmen Tanis hours after a manhunt that lasted several hours Monday.

By Tuesday they said no direct link had been found between the suspect and the shooting victims.

In addition to the main suspect, two other people have been detained, but authorities have not detailed their possible roles in the attack.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Monday a terror attack “could not be excluded,” while the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported that relatives of Tanis in Turkey said the shooting could have been part of a family dispute.

A Dutch regional prosecutor said the suspect had previously been arrested in the Netherlands, but did not give further details.

Security has been increased at Dutch airports, as well as mosques. Schools in Utrecht have been closed, and residents were advised to stay home.

Political parties suspended campaigning for provincial elections scheduled for Wednesday that will also determine the makeup of the Dutch senate.

Utrecht is the fourth-largest city in the Netherlands, known for its canals and large student population. Gun violence in the city is rare, as it is across the Netherlands.

 

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NATO to Receive First Northrop Surveillance Drone, Years Late

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NATO is to receive the first of five Northrop Grumman high-altitude drones in the third quarter after years of delays, giving the alliance its own spy drones for the first time, the German government told lawmakers.

Thomas Silberhorn, state secretary in the German Defense Ministry, said the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) drone would be delivered to an air base in Sigonella, Italy, followed by four additional systems, including drones and ground stations built by Airbus, later in the year.

NATO plans to use the aircraft, a derivative of Northrop’s Global Hawk drone, to carry out missions ranging from protection of ground troops to border control and counter-terrorism. The drones will be able to fly for up to 30 hours at a time in all weather, providing near real-time surveillance data.

Northrop first won the contract for the AGS system from NATO in May, 2012, with delivery of the first aircraft slated for 52 months later. However, technical issues and flight test delays have delayed the program, Silberhorn said.

Andrej Hunko, a member of the radical Left opposition party, called for Germany to scrap its participation in the program, warning of spiraling costs and the risk that it could escalate the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

“The drones are closely linked to a new form of warfare,” he said. “They stand for an arms race that will see existing surveillance and spy systems replaced with new platforms.”

Silberhorn, in a previously unreported response to a parliamentary query from Hunko, said NATO had capped the cost of the program at 1.3 billion euros ($1.47 billion) in 2007.

Germany, which is funding about a third of system, scrapped plans to buy its own Global Hawk drones amid spiraling costs and certification problems, and is now negotiating with Northrop to buy several of its newer model Triton surveillance drones.

Fifteen NATO countries, led by the United States, will pay for the AGS system, but all 29 alliance nations are due to participate in its long-term support.

Germany has sent 76 soldiers to Sigonella to operate the surveillance system and analyze its findings, Silberhorn said.

He said a total of 132 German soldiers would eventually be assigned to AGS, of whom 122 would be stationed in Sigonella.

NATO officials had no immediate comment on the program’s status or whether Northrop faced penalties for the delayed delivery.

No comment was available from Northrop.

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France Sacks Paris Police Chief After Weekend Riots    

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France has fired the Paris police chief and threatened to ban demonstrations on the city’s Champs-Elysees Monday after a weekend of rioting left stores ransacked and charred.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced Monday that Paris’ police chief Michel Delpuech, 66, who has been in the position since August 2017, will be replaced after an 18th straight weekend of “yellow vest” protests in the capital turned violent.

Philippe also announced new security measures following a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and top security officials, including a ban on demonstrations on the city’s popular Champs-Elysees — a street of high-end shops popular among tourists — if violent groups were seen there.

Some 10,000 yellow vest demonstrators smashed and looted businesses on the iconic Champs Elysees and hurled cobble stones at police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons. Others participated in a peaceful climate march that brought together tens of thousand of people—underscoring the diffuse, unorganized complexity of the leaderless protest movement.

The months of yellow vest protests have slowed Macron’s reformist agenda. The protest movement, named after the fluorescent jackets French keep in their cars, has morphed well beyond its initial opposition to a planned fuel tax hike, to embrace a hodgepodge of grievances of a largely rural and working class France left behind.

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Putin Signs Into Law Bills Banning ‘Fake News,’ Insults

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President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation enabling Russian authorities to block websites and hand out punishment for “fake news” and material deemed insulting to the state or the public.

The two bills that critics see as part of a Kremlin effort to increase control over the Internet and stifle dissent were signed by the president on March 18, according to posts on the government portal for legal information.

The new legislation allows the authorities to block websites or internet accounts that publish what they deem to be “fake news” and penalize those who post material found to be insulting to state officials, state symbols, or Russian society.

The parliament’s upper chamber, the Federation Council, approved the bills on March 13 after the lower chamber, the State Duma, gave final approval to the proposed legislation on March 7.

On March 11, the Russian Presidential Council for Development of Civil Society and Human Rights urged the upper house to send the bills back to the Duma to be reworked.

The presidential council, whose advice is often ignored by Putin, cited the European Convention on Human Rights and said freedom of expression cannot be restricted exclusively due to doubts about whether what is being expressed is true.

The new law empowers the prosecutor-general and his deputies to determine what constitutes fake news without a court decision, after which the state media and communications watchdog Roskomnadzor would block the site or account.

Fines, jail time

The law sets fines for publishing “fake news” at up to 100,000 rubles ($1,525) for individuals, 200,000 rubles for public officials, and 500,000 rubles for companies.

The law says publications officially registered with Roskomnadzor, including online media outlets, will be given a chance to remove reports deemed as fake news before their websites are blocked.

It says websites that are not registered with Roskomnadzor will be blocked without warning.

The law also establishes fines of up to 100,000 rubles for insulting the Russian authorities, government agencies, the state, the public, the flag, or the constitution.

Repeat offenders will face bigger fines and can be jailed for up to 15 days.

Roskomnadzor will give Internet users 24 hours to remove material deemed by the prosecutor-general or his deputies to be insulting to the state or society, and those that fail to do so will be blocked, the law says.

In January, after the State Duma approved the bills in their first readings, Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin said: “These are crazy bills.”

“How can they prohibit people from criticizing the authorities?” he added.

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Trump Assails News Accounts Linking Him to New Zealand Massacre

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President Donald Trump complained Monday that the U.S. national news media “is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand.”

He said on Twitter, “They will have to work very hard to prove that one. So Ridiculous!”  

Trump apparently was incensed that major U.S. news outlets reported that Brent Harris Tarrant, the Australian white supremacist accused in the massacre of 50 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, said in a manifesto he released Friday shortly before the attacks that he viewed Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” even though he did not support his policies.

Asked Friday after the attacks whether he sees an increase in white nationalism, Trump said, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.”

Trump said he had not seen the manifesto.

The president has condemned the attack and voiced support for New Zealand.  But he has not commented on Tarrant’s apparent motive for allegedly carrying out the attacks — his avowed racism and hatred for immigrants and Muslims.

The White House on Sunday rejected any attempt to link Trump to Tarrant.

“The president is not a white supremacist,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m not sure how many times we have to say that. Let’s take what happened in New Zealand for what it is: a terrible evil tragic act.”

Trump’s dismissal that white nationalism is on the rise renewed criticism that he has not voiced strong enough condemnation of white nationalists.

Trump was widely attacked in the aftermath of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 when he equated white supremacists with counter-protesters, saying “both sides” were to blame and that there were “fine people” on both sides of the protest.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of numerous Democrats seeking the party’s presidential nomination to oppose Trump in the 2020 election, said on Twitter after the New Zealand attack, “Time and time again, this president has embraced and emboldened white supremacists and instead of condemning racist terrorists, he covers for them. This isn’t normal or acceptable.”

Mulvaney, in the Fox News interview, said, “I don’t think it’s fair to cast this person (Tarrant) as a supporter of Donald Trump any more than it is to look at his eco-terrorist passages in that manifesto and align him with (Democratic House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi or Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a Democratic congresswoman from New York.

“This was a disturbed individual, an evil person,” Mulvaney said.

Scott Brown, U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, told CNN that he gave no credence to Tarrant’s comments about Trump in the manifesto, saying the accused gunman “is rotten to the core.” Brown said he hopes Tarrant is convicted “as quickly as he can be,” and “lock him up and throw away the key.”

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Should Media Avoid Naming the Gunmen in Mass Shootings?

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A few months after teen shooters killed 12 classmates and her father at Columbine High School, Coni Sanders was standing in line at a grocery store with her young daughter when they came face to face with the magazine cover.

It showed the two gunmen who had carried out one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. Sanders realized that few people knew much about her father, who saved countless lives. But virtually everyone knew the names and the tiniest of details about the attackers who carried out the carnage.

In the decades since Columbine, a growing movement has urged news organizations to refrain from naming the shooters in mass slayings and to cease the steady drumbeat of biographical information about them. Critics say giving the assailants notoriety offers little to help understand the attacks and instead fuels celebrity-style coverage that only encourages future attacks.

The 1999 Colorado attack continues to motivate mass shooters, including the two men who this week stormed their former school in Brazil, killing seven people.

The gunman who attacked two mosques in New Zealand on Friday, killing at least 49 people, was said to have been inspired by the man who in 2015 killed nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Adam Lankford, a criminologist at the University of Alabama, who has studied the influence of media coverage on future shooters, said it’s vitally important to avoid excessive coverage of gunmen.

“A lot of these shooters want to be treated like celebrities. They want to be famous. So the key is to not give them that treatment,” he said.

The notion hit close to home for Sanders. Seemingly everywhere she turned — the grocery store, a restaurant, a newspaper or magazine — she would see the faces of the Columbine attackers and hear or read about them. Even in her own home, she was bombarded with their deeds on TV.

Everyone knew their names. “And if you said the two together, they automatically knew it was Columbine,” Sanders said. “The media was so fascinated — and so was our country and the world — that they really grasped onto this every detail. Time and time again, we couldn’t escape it.”

Criminologists who study mass shootings say the vast majority of shooters are seeking infamy and soak up the coverage as a guide.

Just four days after the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooting, which stands as the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Lankford published a paper urging journalists to refrain from using shooters’ names or going into exhaustive detail about their crimes.

These attackers, he argued, are trying to outdo previous shooters with higher death tolls. Media coverage serves only to encourage copycats.

Late last year, the Trump administration’s federal Commission on School Safety called on the media to refrain from reporting the names and photos of mass shooters. It was one of the rare moments when gun-rights advocates and gun-control activists agreed.

“To suggest that the media alone is to blame or is primarily at fault for this epidemic of mass shootings would vastly oversimply this issue,” said Adam Skaggs, chief counsel for the Giffords Law Center, which works to curb gun violence.

Skaggs said he is “somewhat sympathetic to journalists’ impulse to cover clearly important and newsworthy events and to get at the truth. … But there’s a balance that can be struck between ensuring the public has enough information … and not giving undue attention to perpetrators of heinous acts.”

Studies show a contagion effect from coverage of both homicides and suicides.

The Columbine shooters, in particular, have an almost cult-like status, with some followers seeking to emulate their trench-coat attire and expressing admiration for their crime, which some have attributed to bullying. The gunman in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting kept a detailed journal of decades’ worth of mass shootings.

James Alan Fox, a professor at Northeastern University who has studied mass shootings, said naming shooters is not the problem. Instead, he blamed over-the-top coverage that includes irrelevant details about the killers, such as their writings and their backgrounds, that “unnecessarily humanizes them.”

“We sometimes come to know more about them — their interests and their disappointments — than we do about our next-door neighbors,” Fox said.

Law enforcement agencies have taken a lead, most recently with the Aurora, Illinois, police chief, who uttered just once the name of the gunman who killed five co-workers and wounded five officers last month.

“I said his name one time for the media, and I will never let it cross my lips again,” Chief Kristen Ziman said in a Facebook post.

Some media, most notably CNN’s Anderson Cooper, have made a point of avoiding using the name of these gunmen.

The Associated Press names suspects identified by law enforcement in major crimes. However, in cases in which the crime is carried out seeking publicity, the AP strives to restrict the mention of the name to the minimum needed to inform the public, while avoiding descriptions that might serve a criminal’s desire for publicity or self-glorification, said John Daniszewski, the AP’s vice president and editor-at-large for standards.

For Caren and Tom Teves, the cause is personal. Their son Alex was among those killed in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in 2012.

They were both traveling out of state when the shooting happened, and it took 15 hours for them to learn the fate of their son. During those hours, they heard repeatedly about the shooter but virtually nothing about the victims.

Not long after, they created the No Notoriety movement, encouraging media to stick to reporting relevant facts rather than the smallest of biographical details. They also recommend publishing images of the shooter in places that are not prominent, steering clear of “hero” poses or images showing them holding weapons, and not publishing any manifestos.

“We never say don’t use the name. What we say is use the name responsibly and don’t turn them into anti-heroes,” Tom Teves said. “Let’s portray them for what they are: They’re horrible human beings that are completely skewed in their perception of reality, and their one claim to fortune is sneaking up behind you and shooting you.”

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Serbia President Vows to Defend Law and Order Amid Protests

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Serbia’s president pledged Sunday to defend the country’s law and order a day after opposition supporters stormed the national TV station, protesting what they called his autocratic rule and biased grip on the country’s media.

The opposition clashes with police on Saturday and Sunday in Belgrade, the capital, were first major incidents after months of peaceful protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic. The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, fair elections and a free media.

As Vucic held a news conference Sunday in the presidency building in downtown Belgrade, thousands of opposition supporters gathered in front demanding his resignation and trapping him in the building for a few hours.

Skirmishes with riot police were reported, including officers firing tear gas against the protesters who sought to form a human chain around the presidency to prevent Vucic from leaving the building.

The pro-government Pink TV showed a photo of Vucic playing chess with the interior minister apparently inside the presidency. Vucic posted a video message on Instagram, saying “I’m here and I won’t move from a place they want to occupy.”

Later, he was seen leaving the building as most of the protesters dispersed from the scene.

“They (protesters) have no power, can do nothing … as you can see, they have no courage, no courage for anything,” Vucic said as he got into his car. “Nothing will come of it, nothing.”

Police said they were attacked and arrested several demonstrators. The interior minister said the protest leaders must be “processed” as soon as possible.

The crowd, however, chanted “He is finished!” at Vucic, which was the slogan of the October 2000 uprising that led to the ouster of late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, architect of the country’s bloody wars with its neighbors during the early 1990s.

During his televised address, Vucic repeatedly branded opposition leaders as “fascists, hooligans and thieves.”

“There will be no more violence,” Vucic said. “Serbia is a democratic country, a country of law and order and Serbia will know how to respond.”

Vucic tried to downplay the protesters’ numbers, insisting that only about 1,000 people had gathered, saying “they think they have the right, 1,000 of them, to determine the fate of the country.”

He has also claimed support from outside the capital, saying people are ready to come to Belgrade to defend him.

Serbian riot police on Saturday night removed hundreds of people, including opposition leaders, who stormed the state-run TV headquarters in Belgrade to denounce the broadcaster, whose reporting they consider highly biased.

Serbia’s weekly anti-government protests began after thugs beat up an opposition politician in November. A former extreme nationalist, Vucic now says he wants to lead Serbia into the European Union.

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New Zealand Attack Prompts Grief, Reflection in America

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The deadly mass shooting at New Zealand mosques has prompted an outpouring of grief and rekindled dialogue and reflections about confronting hate and xenophobia in communities spanning the globe, including in the United States. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where stopping the spread of hate messaging in the digital age is a topic of renewed discussion.

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Government Critic Wins Slot in Slovak Runoff

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Vocal government critic Zuzana Caputova clinched pole position in round one of Slovakia’s weekend presidential election, according to near-complete results of the first ballot since an investigative journalist’s slaying dealt a blow to the political establishment.

The environmental lawyer secured 40.55 percent of the ballot with 99.88 percent of votes counted, while runner-up European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, the ruling Smer-SD party’s candidate, garnered 18.66 percent, the Slovak Statistics Office said early Sunday.

Caputova is on course to become Slovakia’s first female president, as a new opinion poll by the Focus pollster said she would win the runoff vote against career diplomat Sefcovic, 52, by a landslide on March 30.

The 45-year-old liberal thanked her supporters in the race for the largely ceremonial post, saying “thank you” in Slovak as well as in the languages of the country’s largest minority groups.

Focus on public trust

Running on a slogan of “Stand up to evil,” Caputova had appealed to voters tired of the country’s main political players and vowed to restore public trust in the state.

She was among tens of thousands of protesters who took to the streets after last year’s killing of journalist Jan Kuciak, which shocked the nation and raised fears about media freedom and political corruption.

They were the largest anti-government protests since communist times in the central European country of 5.4 million people, which spent decades behind the Iron Curtain before joining the European Union, the eurozone and NATO.

“It turns out that we want our country to be decent and fair. Zuzana Caputova is exactly the person who can pull Slovakia out of the crisis,” outgoing President Andrej Kiska said in a Facebook video message after the results rolled in. 

The president ratifies international treaties, appoints top judges, is commander in chief of the armed forces and can also veto laws passed by parliament.

Turnout was just under 50 percent.

The voting did not go completely without a hitch, as a man ran out with the ballot box at the polling station in the eastern village of Medzany and threw it to the ground, scattering its contents on the street. 

Caputova, a deputy head of the non-parliamentary Progressive Slovakia party, cast her ballot in her southern city of Pezinok.

“Slovakia is at a crossroads in terms of regaining the public’s trust,” she said, flanked by her daughters and partner.

Symbol of change

Journalist Kuciak and his fiancee were gunned down in February 2018 just as he was about to publish a story on alleged ties between Slovak politicians and the Italian mafia.

The double murder and Kuciak’s last explosive report, published posthumously, plunged the country into crisis.

Then-Prime Minister Robert Fico was forced to resign but remains the leader of the populist-left Smer-SD and is a close ally of current Premier Peter Pellegrini.

Four people were charged with the killings. 

On Thursday, prosecutors said they had also charged multimillionaire businessman Marian Kocner with ordering the killing of Kuciak, who had been investigating his business activities at the time.

Kocner is believed to have ties to Smer-SD.

“With this announcement, the authorities may have wanted to show just how effectively the state functions so it could help Sefcovic gain some points,” Bratislava-based analyst Grigorij Meseznikov told AFP. 

“On the other hand, this could also be a vindication for Caputova, as she is the symbol of change.”

‘Courageous’

On the streets of Bratislava, several voters said they were impressed by Caputova’s fresh approach. 

Project manager Nora Bajnokova, 33, said she backed Caputova because “she is a woman, a mother, a lawyer and not involved in active politics,” while voter Ivan Jankovic, 31, called her “courageous and open-minded.”

But for security guard Oto, 41, who did not give his last name, only Sefcovic was “serious” enough to be presidential material.

“Sefcovic is an experienced multilingual diplomat who can immediately represent Slovakia abroad,” said another voter, Milan Perunko, 54.

A sports enthusiast and European Commission vice president since 2014, Sefcovic campaigned on the slogan “Always for Slovakia.” 

Official results will be announced at noon on Sunday. 

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Report: May Partner Insists on Role in Post-Brexit Trade Talks

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The Northern Irish party that props up British Prime Minister Theresa May’s minority government is demanding a seat at post-Brexit trade talks as its price for supporting her twice-defeated divorce deal, The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported.

The Democratic Unionist Party also wants a guarantee that Northern Ireland will be treated no differently from the rest of the United Kingdom, the newspaper said.

“We are determined that Brexit should happen in accordance with the referendum result, but the only way it can happen which is acceptable to us is if the United Kingdom is treated as one,” DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds told The Sunday Telegraph. “The government is now focused on this key issue, but political statements or pledges are not enough.” 

Earlier, May warned lawmakers that unless they approved her twice-defeated Brexit divorce deal, Britain’s exit from the European Union could face a long delay and could involve taking part in European Parliament elections. 

After 2½ years of tortuous divorce negotiations with the EU, the final outcome is still uncertain with options including a long delay, exiting with May’s deal, a disorderly exit without a deal, or even another referendum. 

An ultimatum

May has issued Brexit supporters a clear ultimatum: Ratify her deal by a European Council summit March 21 or face a delay to Brexit way beyond June 30 that would open up the possibility that the entire divorce could be ultimately thwarted. 

Negotiation of a new deal “would mean a much longer extension — almost certainly requiring the United Kingdom to participate in the European Parliament elections in May,” she told The Sunday Telegraph.

“The idea of the British people going to the polls to elect MEPs three years after voting to leave the EU hardly bears thinking about. There could be no more potent symbol of Parliament’s collective political failure.”

EU leaders will consider pressing Britain to delay Brexit by at least a year to find a way out of the domestic maelstrom, though there is shock and growing impatience at the political chaos in London. 

Her deal, an attempt to keep close relations with the EU while leaving the bloc’s formal structures, was defeated by 230 votes in parliament on Jan. 15 and by 149 votes on March 12. 

But May continues to fight to build support for her plan, which is expected to put before lawmakers for a third time next week, possibly on Tuesday.

To get it through Parliament, the prime minister must win over dozens of Brexit-supporting rebels in her own Conservative Party — and the Democratic Unionist Party. 

The DUP has voted against May’s plan because of concerns about the Northern Ireland backstop, which is an insurance policy aimed at maintaining an open border between the British province of Northern 

Ireland and EU member Ireland.

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Thousands of Catalan Separatist Supporters Protest in Madrid

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Thousands of supporters of Catalan independence marched through central Madrid on Saturday to protest the trial of 12 separatist leaders who face years in prison for their role in organizing a failed independence bid from Spain in 2017.

Demonstrators, many who made the journey from the northwestern Catalonia region for the protest, waved Catalan flags and carried signs reading “Self-determination is not a crime.”

Protest organizers put the turnout at 120,000 while police gave a figure of 18,000. 

Tensions between Madrid and Barcelona have thawed since the political crisis triggered by Catalonia’s independence declaration in late 2017, but the trial of 12 separatist leaders for their role in the secession bid and events leading up to it has been one of several sticking points to derail negotiations. 

The 12 are on trial in Madrid on charges ranging from rebellion to misuse of funds, which they deny. 

The Catalan crisis is set to play a major role in April 28 elections, with three right-leaning parties — the conservative People’s Party (PP), the center-right Ciudadanos and the relatively new far-right Vox party — calling for Spain to take a tougher position with separatists. 

Polls show the support of Catalan parties may prove decisive if Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is to form a government after the vote. Most polls indicate Sanchez’s Socialists winning the most seats but falling short of a parliamentary majority. 

Sanchez came to power by winning a confidence motion last year with the support of Catalan separatist parties but was unable to secure their backing for his budget, effectively dooming the project and leading him to call an early election. 

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Swamped by Tourists, Venice Plans Visitor Fees

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Overwhelmed by tourists Venice will soon start to charge an entrance fee. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro says the money raised will help pay for the upkeep of the historic lagoon city.

Venice routinely has more tourists than permanently declared residents. Rising housing costs and the use of properties for tourist accommodation have driven the population down by two thirds since the middle of the 20th century.

As a result, Venice for years has been struggling with numerous woes, including high tides that regularly flood the city’s iconic Saint Mark’s Square, and growing numbers of tourists.

To deal with the endless flows of visitors no solutions at this moment are final but, starting later this year, all tourists will be paying a fee that will go towards the upkeep, cleaning and services that are needed for the city to survive. City administrators say the maintenance costs of Venice are extremely high compared to other cities.

Visitors who stay in hotels for the night are already paying a tax which is added to their room rate. But later this year day-trippers or tourists who visit Venice for just for a few hours will also be subject to a fee. Mayor Brugnaro this week outlined the plan to the foreign press gathered in Rome.

He said they want to defend the city for current and future residents and visitors because Venice is a marvel of the world and only in this way will they be able to safeguard it”.

Brugnaro said an experimental entrance fee of about $3 will be charged to those who visit Venice this year but said no date had yet been set as to when this charge would start. The fee, the mayor said, would be collected by transport companies bringing the visitors to the city on planes, trains, buses and cruise boats. Cameras, he said, would also be installed in certain parts of Venice for those arriving for the day in private cars. He made clear there would be stiff fines for those who do not comply with the new charge.

Some, like students and workers, would be exempt from paying the fee, as would those who were born and reside in Venice and children under the age of 6.

From January 1st, 2020, the entrance fee will be set to about $7 but will be variable and range from $3 to $11, depending how busy the city is.

Some in Venice say they do not believe the entrance fee plan will work. Lawyer Roberta Pierabon said it will be impossible to implement.

She said visitors arrive from all sides. It’s impossible to block Venice because Venice is an island and you reach it on water. She does not believe the flow of arrivals can be controlled and added that she disapproved of the plan.

Other Venetians favor the idea, saying that it will help control the tourism so that it is not so “aggressive.” Michele Tessari, who, often works with tourists on lagoon transport, said Venetians would like a more elite kind of tourism, not so much “eat-and-run” tourism and the entrance fee will help with this. He said locals want to avoid seeing tourists eating their sandwiches sitting on the bridges of Venice like tramps.”

Venetians love their city and know it will never stop attracting visitors. Venice is so special, they say, that it belongs to the whole of humanity, and everyone should have the opportunity to visit this incredible city at least once in their lifetime.