Thursday, April 11, 2019

World News, World News Updates, World News Headlines, Latest World News, Current Affairs

World News, World News Updates, World News Headlines, Latest World News, Current Affairs

President Trump Faces Tough Decision on North Korea at White House Today

Posted: 11 Apr 2019 03:00 AM PDT

President Donald Trump will face a difficult, potentially dangerous, decision when he meets with South Korean president Moon Jae-In at the White House today, three U.S. officials familiar with the matter tell TIME.

The U.S. intelligence community has advised the White House that Moon will ask Trump to ease some of the economic sanctions imposed on North Korea for its rogue nuclear and missile programs, the officials say.

If Trump says Yes, that could help restart diplomatic talks that have stalled since his failed Hanoi summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un last February. But even a modest concession on sanctions could solidify Pyongyang’s status as a nuclear weapons power, leaving U.S. allies in northeast Asia vulnerable and potentially launching a regional arms race.

Trump could avoid that outcome by saying No to Moon’s request. But that risks a return to the saber rattling, or worse, that marked the early days of Trump’s tenure, when fears of war with North Korea spiked. Kim recently signaled his readiness to return to confrontation, despite Trump’s public assertions that the two leaders are good friends.

The Catch-22 is the result of bad diplomacy by both Trump and Kim, the U.S. officials say.

Trump continues to believe that a combination of personal diplomacy and economic pressure will eventually get Kim to abandon his nuclear arsenal, the officials say. Trump is still ignoring the unanimous assessment of intelligence, defense and State Department officials that Kim never will.

Kim, for his part, remains wedded to the idea that Trump will accept an agreement that implicitly concedes North Korea’s nuclear status in exchange for a formal end to the Korean War after 66 years. Trump, Kim is betting, cares more about claiming credit for a diplomatic win than actually solving the problem of a nuclear North Korea.

Kim may be right. Even without a deal, Trump has taken a few small steps in Moon’s direction, including last month calling off two major joint military exercises with U.S. and South Korean forces. Trump also has claimed that he has eliminated the nuclear threat from Pyongyang. That claim that has fallen on deaf ears in Tokyo, Seoul, and U.S. forces in Northeast Asia, all of whom lie within range of a potential missile strike from North Korea.

Administration hawks worry that giving North Korea even symbolic sanctions relief now would remove some of the diplomatic pressure on Russia and China to crack down on Pyongyang. China reportedly just opened a new bridge to North Korea.

However, continuing to demand that Kim has to eat his meat before he can have any pudding, as Trump did at his summit with Kim in Hanoi, risks North Korea launching its response from the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground and ending its moratorium on missile testing, as Kim has threatened to do. That, in turn, could escalate tensions, sparking a return to Trump threats of military action and an end to the North’s moratorium on nuclear and missile testing.

Japan, whose relationship with South Korea remains troubled and whose confidence in the U.S. has been shaken by Trump’s transactional approach to international alliances, moved on Tuesday to extend its sanctions on North Korea for another two years.

There may be a way out for Trump, the U.S. officials say: punt the problem to Moon. The South Korean leader has staked his presidency on mending fences with the North. Saying neither yes nor no—that is, stalling—could buy time for Moon to cook up an interim deal that saves face for both Trump and Kim.

Even that option isn’t a solution to the problem, however. Handing the radioactive hot potato to Moon might result in better relations on the Korean Peninsula in the medium term, but it is unlikely to address the longer-term challenges that come from North Korea’s nuclear and conventional threats.

But at least, the U.S. officials say, punting to Moon would be better than conceding a nuclear North Korea, or threatening war to prevent it.

WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Has Been Arrested in London

Posted: 11 Apr 2019 02:58 AM PDT

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has been arrested by U.K. police at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has been holed up since 2012.

Assange, 47, received diplomatic asylum from Ecuador after breaching bail in the U.K. during an investigation into sexual assault allegations in Sweden. Sweden has since rescinded its arrest warrant for Assange, though the case is not closed. Ecuador withdrew asylum on Thursday morning.

The WikiLeaks founder shot to prominence in 2010 when his site published a cache of leaks from the U.S. military provided by Chelsea Manning. He has argued that if he were extradited to Sweden then he could be arrested by the U.S.

The U.S. has not publicly stated that Assange is facing charges, but in November a court filing appeared to mistakenly refer to charges filed against him in secret by the Department of Justice.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

It’s Complicated: From the Roman Empire to Brexit, Britain Has Always Struggled to Define Its Relationship With Europe

Posted: 11 Apr 2019 02:25 AM PDT

Britain today is consumed by its relationship with Europe. Almost three years after 52% of U.K. voters opted to leave the European Union, lawmakers and the public are still struggling to decide what they want their future relationship with the bloc to look like, forcing Prime Minister Theresa May to repeatedly ask other E.U. leaders for an extension of the exit date. On April 10, they set a new deadline of October 31. “Please do not waste this time,” European Council president Donald Tusk warned British lawmakers.

Many Brits want a Brexit deal that keeps them close to the E.U., allowing deep trade links, free migration and shared regulations. Others would prefer, if no satisfactory plan emerges, to crash out of the bloc with no deal in place, and instead forge a new national identity outside of Europe. Others still, millions of them, are calling for an new referendum.

But Brexit is far from the first time Britain has questioned whether it really belongs with the continent that surrounds it. For centuries, from the Roman invasion to the joining of the E.U.’s predecessor in 1973, Britain has alternated between moving closer to and pulling away from Europe. TIME spoke to British historian Jeremy Black, a Professor at Exeter University and author of Britain and Europe: A Short History, about five key chapters in the history of that relationship, and what they might reveal about the U.K.’s current existential crisis.

The Roman invasion

Britain’s first major contact with the continent across the sea came around 55-54 BC, when Julius Caesar arrived and began incorporating much of modern-day England and Wales into the sprawling Roman empire. A century later, in 43 AD, a full-scale invasion followed. From then, for almost 400 years, southern Britain was ruled from Rome. (However, the invaders never managed to tame unruly Scotland, and in 128 AD Emperor Hadrian built at 73-mile coast-to-coast wall on the northwest edge of its territory to keep the northerners out.)

DEA / M. BORCHI—De Agostini via Getty ImagesHadrian’s Wall (UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1987), seen near Housesteads, U.K.

Black says that during this period indigenous pagan religions began to be “amalgamated” with Roman cults, while elites forged cultural ties with Rome. Meanwhile, trade with the rest of the Roman-ruled continent “developed greatly.” Crucially, Roman traders traveling to Europe spread the story of Jesus. Though Christianity remained a marginal faith in Britain for hundreds of years, once it took hold, the religion — and the question of how it should be practiced — would become the defining factor in Britain’s relationship with Europe, tying them together for centuries after the end of Roman rule in around 410 AD.

The Reformation

By the beginning of the 1500s, England had been looking to the Pope for religious authority for almost 1,000 years, ever since church rulers had in the 600s opted to follow the rules and regulations of Roman Catholicism, rather than those preached by Irish monks. The Reformation — “Britain’s greatest-ever break with Europe,” Black says — would change that.

In Western Europe, German monk Martin Luther was speaking out about the corruption and excess he perceived in the Catholic Church. By the mid-1520s, his ideas had sparked fierce debate among academics in England. Some were beginning to see papal authority as an affront to English sovereignty. Around the same time, King Henry VIII had his own grievance with the church: Pope Clement VII had refused to annul his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, which he needed in order to marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn. Henry decided to break with Rome and Catholicism, forging ahead with his divorce, founding the Christian Church of England in 1534 and dissolving monasteries across the country.

“The Reformation was highly divisive,” Black says. “Minorities who remained Catholic objected to the Reformation, of course, and Protestants objected to Catholics having, as they saw it, a loyalty to a foreign jurisdiction.”

Black argues that the Reformation debate in some ways resembles the U.K.’s current struggle with Brexit. “During both episodes, people on both sides focus a lot more on identity, emotion [and] a sense of commitment than we see in normal British politics, which is more about compromise,” he says. “These aren’t areas where people seem to find it very easy to compromise.”

War with France and the rise of the British Empire

After the Reformation, Britain — as the country became known in 1707 with the parliamentary unification of England, Wales and Scotland — couldn’t just ignore its European neighbors. That much is clear from the series of wars with France, the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark and others that punctuated Britain’s 17th and 18th Centuries and early 19th Centuries. The bulk of these conflicts were sparked by disagreements over commercial interests or who should control seas and territories. The Seven Years War (1756-63), for example, plunged Britain and a dozen other European countries into war after the Austrian Habsburgs tried to take back a province from Prussia. Later, Britain and France took different sides in the American Revolution (1775-1783), with France making a decisive contribution to the Americans’ victory and incurring heavy debts in the process.

Britain’s continental conflicts in this period ended at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815; the British defeated French Military leader Napoleon Bonaparte, who famously envisaged a proto-E.U., saying in 1805 he wanted to create “a European legal system, a European appeal court, a common currency, the same weights and measures, the same laws.”

National Museum & Galleries of Wales Enterprises Limited/Heritage Images/Getty ImagesThe battle of Waterloo’, 1813-1869. Artist: George Jones.

Far from Napoleon’s vision of tightening European links, over the next century the continent became less and less important to Britain, Black says, because it had a new overseas priority: the British Empire. Starting in the 15th Century and ramping up in the 18th Century, Britain colonized so many countries and territories that, at its peak in the early 1900s, it covered one quarter of all the land on earth, stretching from Canada to India to Australia.

The wealth and influence generated by the empire, and the time and attention it required to maintain, distracted Brits from events geographically closer to home, Black says. After seeing off Napoleon, the British didn’t send an army to the continent for almost a century, when the First World War broke out in 1914. “During the period of empire, Britain was looking economically, culturally and politically across the oceans,” Black says. “In, say, 1850, when most British people picked up their newspapers, they would know more about what was going on in the United States or in Canada than they did about what was going on in Helsinki or Warsaw, or even places closer in.”

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World War II

In one sense, the World Wars forced Britain to see itself as part of a wider European community. It was drawn into both World Wars I and II because it had made public promises to protect other European countries (Belgium in 1914 and Poland in 1939) from German aggression, Black points out. But in the latter case, Prime Minister Winston Churchill was keen to stress that Britain’s involvement was about more than Europe.

“This is not a question of fighting for Danzig [Gdansk] or fighting for Poland,” he told Parliament as they debated a declaration of war in 1939. “We are fighting to save the whole world from the pestilence of Nazi tyranny and in defense of all that is sacred to man.”

After the horrors of WWII, which ended in 1945, countries in Western Europe hoped that stronger ties between neighbors could be a way of preventing future wars. So, six of them formed the first of the E.U.’s predecessors. But Black says Britain wasn’t ready to follow them. “There was still view in the late ’40s in Britain that winning the war was an affirmation of what they’ve been doing, how they’ve been organized,” he says. “There wasn’t the same sense of ‘Oh my God, we’ve got to change things’ as there was in Europe.”

Hulton Deutsch/Corbis/Getty ImagesLondoners read the newspapers headlines about Britain’s entry to the Common Market, January, 1973.

British decline and joining the EEC

The two decades after WWII were a tough time for Brits who wanted to see themselves as world leaders. By the 1960s, most of the empire’s former colonies — along with those of other European nations — had become independent countries. And the 1956 Suez Crisis, in which the U.S. refused to support Anglo-French attempts to retake the Suez canal after the Egyptian government nationalized it, left the U.K. feeling abandoned by its most powerful ally.

The desire to reclaim lost influence, Black says, drove British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan to finally apply join the rest of Europe in what was by then called the European Economic Community, which it finally did in 1973. “They saw it as a potential way to regain their status as a world power,” he says.

Reporting on an 11-day “Fanfare for Europe” event organized by the government to celebrate the U.K.’s entrance into the bloc, TIME noted that “most Britons were more inclined to view the event with resignation, opposition or, like TV comedian Benny Hill, as an occasion for satire […] English housewives worry that their food prices will skyrocket to Common Market levels.”

While Britain’s enthusiasm for the E.U. seemed to have grown by 1975, when 67% of voters in a referendum opted to remain in the bloc, the country never adopted the shared currency, the euro, which was put into use by 11 member states in 1999. Nor did it joined the Schengen agreements, which abolished border controls and allows people to move freely across 25 states. British politicians have long resisted further integration with Europe — most famously, in Margaret Thatcher’s 1990 response to calls for more centralized control of Europe: “No, no, no.”

“Britain has always viewed itself as a semi-detached member of the E.U,” Black says, citing both the British Isles’ geographical separation and the “outward looking” legacy of imperial ties to countries like the U.S. and Australia as reasons for that mindset.

That semi-detachment may be about to become a lot more pronounced. But however Brexit ends, history suggests it won’t be the end of Britain’s tussle with its European identity.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir Has Stepped Down After Being Coerced by the Army, Officials Say

Posted: 11 Apr 2019 02:18 AM PDT

(CAIRO) — Sudan’s armed forces were to deliver an “important statement” and asked the nation to “wait for it” on Thursday, state TV reported, as two senior officials said the military had forced longtime President Omar al-Bashir to step down.

The circumstances of al-Bashir’s apparent ouster and his current whereabouts remained unclear, however.

State TV said an army statement was imminent amid swirling reports of a coup to replace the president of 30 years following mass street protests against his rule. The announcement raised expectations it was a sign al-Bashir was relinquishing power or was being removed by the military.

The two officials, who hold high positions in the government and the military, said the army was now in talks about forming a transitional government. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Pan-Arab TV networks also carried unconfirmed reports that al-Bashir had stepped down and that top ruling party officials were being arrested. They aired footage of masses heading toward the presidential palace in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, waving the national flag, chanting, and clapping.

Al-Bashir, who is a pariah in many countries, is also wanted by the international war crimes tribunal for atrocities in Darfur.

Eyewitnesses in Khartoum said the military had deployed at key sites in the city to secure several installations since the morning hours.

Armored vehicles and tanks are parked in the streets and near bridges over the Nile River, they said, as well as in the vicinity of the military headquarters, where thousands were anxiously awaiting the army statement. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals.

Organizers of the protests urged crowds to converge and join an ongoing sit-in underway in Khartoum since the weekend. They issued a statement vowing to remain in the streets until the “regime steps down completely and power is handed to a civilian transitional government.”

Thousands of protesters, including women carrying their children, were making their way toward the military headquarters, clapping and ululating, many flashing “V” for victory. There were also unconfirmed reports that the airport in the Sudanese capital had been closed.

Ahead of the expected army statement, Sudanese radio played military marches and patriotic music. State TV ceased regular broadcasts, with only the brief announcement saying that there will be an “important statement from the armed forces after a while, wait for it.”

The development followed deadly clashes between Sudanese security forces and protesters holding a large anti-government sit-in outside the military’s headquarters in Khartoum, which also include a presidential residence. There were several attempts to break up the sit-in, leaving 22 dead since Saturday.

On Tuesday, Sudanese security forces tried again to disperse the sit-in, which began over the weekend, killing at least 14 people, activists behind the demonstration said. The government said 11 died. The fatalities so far have included five soldiers who protest organizers said were defending the sit-in.

The months of protests have plunged Sudan into its worst crisis in years. The demonstrations initially erupted last December with rallies against a spiraling economy, but quickly escalated into calls for an end to embattled al-Bashir’s rule.

Security forces have responded to the protest movement with a fierce crackdown, killing dozens. Al-Bashir banned unauthorized public gatherings and granted sweeping powers to the police since imposing a state of emergency last month. Security forces have used tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition and batons against demonstrators

The protests gained momentum last week after Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power for 20 years, resigned in response to weeks of similar protests.

On Saturday, marches in Khartoum marked the 34th anniversary of the overthrow of former President al-Nimeiri in a bloodless coup. It was one of the largest turnouts in the current wave of unrest.

The military removed Nimeiri after a popular uprising in 1985. It quickly handed over power to an elected government. The dysfunctional administration lasted only a few years until al-Bashir — a career army officer — allied with Islamist hard-liners and toppled it in a coup in 1989.

Since the current protests began Dec. 19, the military has stated its support for the country’s “leadership” and pledged to protect the people’s “achievements” — without mentioning al-Bashir by name.

Army troops have deployed to protect vital state installations but have not tried to stop protests and, in some cases, appeared to offer a measure of protection for the demonstrators.

All that raised the possibility that what was playing out in Khartoum on Thursday was a military takeover and removal of al-Bashir.

Thai Authorities Continue Their Cleanup of the Country’s Famous ‘Water Splashing’ Parties

Posted: 11 Apr 2019 01:26 AM PDT

Thai authorities said Wednesday that they will prosecute social media users who share pictures and videos of “indecently dressed” women and transgender individuals during the country’s Songkran celebrations this weekend.

The Bangkok Post reports that those found guilty could face a maximum of five years in jail, a fine of more than $3,000, or both. People seen acting inappropriately in pictures and videos have been warned that they could also face charges of committing obscene acts in public.

Thailand’s traditional New Year, known as Songkran, is commonly celebrated with what is known as the world’s biggest water fight. The three-day-long holiday is marked by revelers splashing water over each other.

The warnings over photo sharing come just days after organizers of the annual Songkran party on Bangkok’s Khao San Road announced that the celebrations were being canceled this year to make way for the coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn. The party at the famed tourist strip normally draws large throngs of travelers and locals alike, with establishments providing provide vats of water and an assortment of water guns and buckets for their use.

Although many people commemorate the festival with water fights, Songkran, has a more subdued, spiritual side with devout Thais visiting temples to pour water over Buddha statues, and over the hands of the elderly, as a ritual of blessing and purification.

Siriwat Dipho, the deputy commander of the police’s Technology Crime Suppression Division, told the Bangkok Post that pictures of scantily-clad party-goers were not in keeping with “good Songkran tradition.”

Officers are also enforcing laws to curb traffic violations, including drink driving, which claims annually hundreds of lives during the festive period. In 2018, there were 418 traffic-related deaths during Songkran, up from 390 in 2017, according to the country’s Road Safety Center.

900 Million Voters, a Million Polling Stations. The World’s Largest Election Just Got Started in India

Posted: 11 Apr 2019 12:31 AM PDT

(NEW DELHI) — Polls opened Thursday in the first phase of India’s general elections, seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party.

A festive spirit prevailed as men and women in colorful clothes made their way to heavily guarded voting stations in large numbers.

In the world’s largest democratic exercise, voters in 18 Indian states and two Union Territories are casting ballots on Thursday, the first day of a seven-phase election staggered over six weeks in the country of 1.3 billion people.

Modi supporters say the tea seller’s son from Gujarat state has improved the nation’s standing. But critics say his party’s Hindu nationalism has aggravated religious tensions in India.

Thursday’s voting is important for the BJP as it had won only 32 of 91 seats in the previous 2014 elections. It is seeking to improve its tally this time.

Voting also began for two parliamentary seats in the Indian-controlled portion of disputed Kashmir amid tight security and a boycott call by Muslim separatists who say the polls are an illegitimate exercise. Armed police and paramilitary soldiers in riot gears guarded polling stations and nearby roads.

Shops, businesses and most schools were closed on Thursday in response to a strike called by separatist leaders who challenge India’s sovereignty over Kashmir and seek right to self-determination for the entire territory as demanded by United Nations resolutions.

In the northern Baramulla area, many people said they came out to vote only against Modi’s BJP, calling it an “anti-Muslim” and “anti-Kashmiri” party. They opposed the BJP’s election manifesto, which promised to scrap decades-old special rights for the Kashmiris under India’s Constitution. The special status prevents outsiders from buying property in the territory.

“I didn’t want to vote but then there’s an imminent threat by politicians like Modi who are up in arms against Kashmiris,” said Abdul Qayoom, a voter in Baramulla town. “They’ve taken our rights, now they want to dispossess us from our land. We want to stop people like Modi.”

The voting follows a sweeping crackdown with police arresting hundreds of Kashmiri leaders and activists. Authorities also banned the movement of civilian vehicles on a key highway to keep it open exclusively for military and paramilitary convoys two days a week during India’s general election.

Some 900 million people are eligible to cast ballots at around a million polling stations across India. They will decide 543 seats in India’s lower house of Parliament. Voting concludes on May 19 and counting is scheduled for May 23.

Modi came to power in 2014 and the party invoked its Hindu nationalist roots before the elections, with Modi at the forefront against the threat of Pakistan, India’s Muslim-majority archrival. Hindus comprise about 80% of India’s 1.3 billion people.

Even though India continues to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, the Modi-led government’s performance on the economy has come under criticism.

The first item in the opposition Congress party’s election manifesto describes a plan for creating jobs. It also promises an income subsidy program for the poorest families and for farmers.

Kim Jong Un Says North Korea Will Deliver a ‘Severe Blow’ to Those Imposing Sanctions

Posted: 10 Apr 2019 06:58 PM PDT

Kim Jong Un urged a “severe blow” to those sanctioning North Korea and called on ruling party officials to continue “self-reliance,” signaling his determination to hold the line in talks with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Kim made the remarks Wednesday during a meeting with top leaders of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said Thursday. He was quoted as telling officials that the country should strike at those who thought they could make it surrender with sanctions, without elaborating.

The meeting comes as Trump prepares to host South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House in an effort to rescue nuclear talks that have sputtered since the U.S. leader walked out of a summit with Kim on Feb. 28. The negotiations broke down after North Korea made demands for sanctions relief that the U.S. side believed exceeded the regime’s disarmament offers.

The allies want to discourage Kim from any actions that could provoke Trump and return the two sides to the familiar cycle of threats and counter-threats. North Korea is planning to celebrate the birth of its founder — Kim’s grandfather Kim Il Sung — on Monday, an occasion that the regime has sometimes marked with shows of military might.

A top North Korean diplomat told reporters in Pyongyang last month that Kim would decide “in a short period of time” whether to continue his freeze on nuclear bomb and missile tests.

Trick or Treat? The E.U. and the U.K. Agree to Delay Brexit Until Halloween

Posted: 10 Apr 2019 06:50 PM PDT

(BRUSSELS) — European Union leaders and Britain on Thursday agreed to a Brexit extension that will allow the U.K. to delay its EU departure date until Halloween.

Leaders of the 27 remaining EU member states met for more than six hours before agreeing after midnight to postpone Brexit until Oct. 31.

European Council President Donald Tusk presented the offer to May, who had asked for a delay only until June 30.

Tusk said in a tweet that the British leader had agreed to the longer “flexible” extension, which means Britain can leave before October if it ratifies a withdrawal deal with the EU.

“This means additional six months for the UK to find the best possible solution,” Tusk wrote.

Just two days before Britain was due to leave the EU, its leaders spent a long dinner meeting wrangling over whether to save Britain from a precipitous and potentially calamitous Brexit, or to give the foot-dragging departing nation a shove over the edge.

May pleaded with them at an emergency summit to delay Britain’s exit, due on Friday, for a couple more months while the U.K. sorts out the mess that Brexit has become.

Some were sympathetic, but French President Emmanuel Macron struck a warning note shortly before the European leaders met.

“Nothing is decided,” Macron said as he arrived at the summit, insisting on “clarity” from May about what Britain wants.

“What’s indispensable is that nothing should compromise the European project in the months to come,” he said.

May said a June 30 deadline was enough time for Britain’s Parliament to ratify a Brexit deal and pass the legislation needed for a smooth Brexit.

But British lawmakers have rejected her divorce deal three times, and attempts to forge a compromise with her political opponents have yet to bear fruit.

May spoke to the 27 EU leaders for just over an hour, before they met for dinner without her to decide Britain’s fate. In contrast to some testy recent summits, there were signs of warmth and even humor. May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were filmed laughing over a tablet bearing an image showing the two of them speaking to their respective Parliaments on Wednesday wearing similar blue jackets.

Many leaders said they were inclined to grant a Brexit delay, though Macron had reservations after hearing May speak. An official in the French president’s office said the British leader hadn’t offered “sufficient guarantees” to justify a long extension.

Others suggested a longer delay would likely be needed, given the depth of Britain’s political disarray.

May signaled she would accept a longer extension, as long as it contained a get-out-early cause should Britain end its Brexit impasse.

“What is important is that any extension enables us to leave at the point at which we ratify the withdrawal agreement,” May said as she arrived in Brussels.

She added that she was hopeful it could be as soon as May 22 — a key date since that would avoid the need for Britain to participate in elections for the European Parliament.

Several months have passed since May and the EU struck a deal laying out the terms of Britain’s departure and the outline of future relations. All that was needed was ratification by the British and European Parliaments.

But U.K. lawmakers rejected it — three times. As Britain’s departure date of March 29 approached with no resolution in sight, the EU gave Britain until Friday to approve a withdrawal plan, change course and seek a further delay to Brexit, or crash out of the EU with no deal to cushion the shock.

Economists and business leaders have warned that a no-deal Brexit would lead to huge disruptions in trade and travel, with tariffs and customs checks causing gridlock at British ports and possible shortages of goods.

A disorderly Brexit would hurt EU nations, as well as Britain, and all want to avoid it.

May’s future, meanwhile, is uncertain.

She has previously said that “as prime minister” she could not agree to let Britain stay in the EU beyond June 30, and she has also promised to step down once Brexit is delivered. Many Conservative Party lawmakers would like her to quit now and let a new leader take charge of the next stage of Brexit. But they can’t force her out until the end of the year, after she survived a no-confidence vote in December.

Every British initiative to get a deal has floundered so far. Several days of talks between May’s Conservative government and the main opposition Labour Party aimed at finding a compromise have failed to produce a breakthrough. Labour favors a softer Brexit than the government has proposed, and wants to retain a close economic relationship with the bloc. The two sides said they would resume their discussions Thursday.

European Union Offers to Postpone Brexit Until Oct. 31

Posted: 10 Apr 2019 04:12 PM PDT

Two European officials say EU leaders are offering to allow Britain to extend Brexit until Oct. 31 and are awaiting the U.K.’s response.

The officials said that the European leaders agreed at an emergency Brexit summit early Thursday in Brussels that part of the offer is that the EU would assess the situation June.

The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door negotiations.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was expected to meet with EU Council President Donald Tusk to discuss the offer.

May had come to the summit requesting a delay until June 30 but had acknowledged she would be willing to extend that date. The British Parliament has repeatedly rejected a withdrawal deal negotiated with the EU, leading to today’s deadlock over Britain’s long-awaited departure.

Bones Found in Philippine Cave Reveal Long-Lost Cousin of Modern Humans

Posted: 10 Apr 2019 12:17 PM PDT

(NEW YORK) — Fossil bones and teeth found in the Philippines have revealed a long-lost cousin of modern people, which evidently lived around the time our own species was spreading from Africa to occupy the rest of the world.

It’s yet another reminder that, although Homo sapiens is now the only surviving member of our branch of the evolutionary tree, we’ve had company for most of our existence.

And it makes our understanding of human evolution in Asia “messier, more complicated and whole lot more interesting,” says one expert, Matthew Tocheri of Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

In a study released Wednesday by the journal Nature, scientists describe a cache of seven teeth and six bones from the feet, hands and thigh of at least three individuals. They were recovered from Callao Cave on the island of Luzon in the northern Philippines in 2007, 2011 and 2015. Tests on two samples show minimum ages of 50,000 years and 67,000 years.

The main exodus of our own species from Africa that all of today’s non-African people are descended from took place around 60,000 years ago.

Analysis of the bones from Luzon led the study authors to conclude they belonged to a previously unknown member of our “Homo” branch of the family tree. One of the toe bones and the overall pattern of tooth shapes and sizes differ from what’s been seen before in the Homo family, the researchers said.

They dubbed the creature Homo luzonensis.

It apparently used stone tools and its small teeth suggest it might have been rather small-bodied, said one of the study authors, Florent Detroit of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

H. luzonensis lived in eastern Asia at around the same time as not only our species but other members of the Homo branch, including Neanderthals, their little-understood Siberian cousins the Denisovans, and the diminutive “hobbits” of the island of Flores in Indonesia.

There’s no sign that H. luzonensis encountered any other member of the Homo group, Detroit said in an email. Our species isn’t known to have reached the Philippines until thousands of years after the age of the bones, he said.

But some human relative was on Luzon more than 700,000 years ago, as indicated by the presence of stone tools and a butchered rhino dating to that time, he said. It might have been the newfound species or an ancestor of it, he said in an email.

Detroit said it’s not clear how H. luzonensis is related to other species of Homo. He speculated that it might have descended from an earlier human relative, Homo erectus, that somehow crossed the sea to Luzon.

H. erectus is generally considered the first Homo species to have expanded beyond Africa, and it plays a prominent role in the conventional wisdom about evolution outside that continent. Some scientists have suggested that the hobbits on the Indonesian island are descended from H. erectus.

Tocheri, who did not participate it the new report, agreed that both H. luzonensis and the hobbits may have descended from H. erectus. But he said the Philippines discovery gives new credence to an alternate view: Maybe some unknown creature other than H. erectus also slipped out of Africa and into Europe and Asia, and later gave rise to both island species.

After all, he said in an interview, remains of the hobbits and H. luzonensis show a mix of primitive and more modern traits that differ from what’s seen in H. erectus. They look more like what one what might find in Africa 1.5 to 2.5 million years ago, and which might have been carried out of that continent by the mystery species, he said.

The discovery of a new human relative on Luzon might be “smoke from a much, much bigger fire,” he said.

Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, said the Luzon find “shows we still know very little about human evolution, particularly in Asia.”

More such discoveries will probably emerge with further work in the region, which is under-studied, he said in an email.