UK Parliament votes to force Brexit extension in setback for Boris Johnson

iStock/Vladislav Zolotov(LONDON) — U.K. lawmakers voted on Saturday to undermine a deal reached between Boris Johnson and the European Union, casting doubt on the prime minister’s ability to meet an Oct. 31 Brexit deadline.

Johnson announced Thursday that he had reached a deal with European leaders for the U.K. to leave the EU, but the agreement still needed to be approved by his country’s Parliament.

But in the latest stunning rebuke, lawmakers on Saturday approved an amendment, by a vote of 322 to 306, that said Parliament must pass all of its Brexit-related bills before a deal can be reached with the EU.

Meanwhile, the U.K. Parliament had gathered to vote on Johnson’s deal — the first time the body gathered on a Saturday in nearly four decades. The vote has now been rescheduled for next week.

Johnson has repeatedly ruled out asking EU leaders for an extension to the Brexit deadline, and vowed to continue with his Brexit plans “unchanged” despite the setback.

“I will not negotiate a delay with the EU, and neither does the law compel me to do so,” Johnson said after the vote. “I will tell our friends and colleagues in the EU exactly what I’ve told everyone in the last 88 days that I’ve served as prime minister: that further delay would be bad for this country, bad for the European Union and bad for democracy.”

Johnson said his government will introduce legislation next week “for us to leave the EU with our new deal on Oct. 31.”

The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, praised Parliament’s vote as a mechanism to “stop a no-deal crash out from the European Union” and said the prime minister must comply with the law.

As the vote took place hundreds of thousands of protesters marched through London to call for a second Brexit referendum.

In early September lawmakers voted 327 to 299 in favor of a law that will force the prime minister to ask for an extension to the Brexit deadline if a deal has not been passed. The amendment effectively builds into the law another insurance policy to avoid a “no-deal” Brexit.

That law means Johnson is now required to write a letter requesting an extension to the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline by midnight on Saturday. The EU is expected to reluctantly agree to an extension, despite Johnson saying after today’s defeat he “would not negotiate” a deal with EU leaders.

If no extension is agreed with EU leaders, the default procedure means the U.K. is still scheduled to leave the EU without a deal after the Oct. 31 deadline. Critics say such a development could be devastating hugely to the UK economy.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 19 Oct 2019

Filmmaker Ken Burns says ‘Country Music’ reflects diverse, complicated story of America

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — The history of country music offers Americans a “new perspective” on the nation’s own complex story, providing a different way to understand the diverse diaspora that it is today, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns told ABC News.

“Country music has all of these influences from all these diverse places from the beginning, and proceeds to then add many more influences,” said Burns, who sat down for an ABC News Live interview with “Powerhouse Politics” host and political director, Rick Klein. “So in some ways, it tends to sort of neutralize the simplistic binary arguments we get into today.”

Over the course of 16 hours and eight episodes, Burns traces the evolution of the genre in his latest work, “Country Music,” released on PBS in September. From its genesis with hillbilly songs to post-war America’s bluegrass to rockabilly and country pop, the film crosses every intersection the genre takes with other musical forms.

“We’re all looking for stories that are complicated and a wonderful way to talk to us about who we are, and country music is that,” he said, sitting feet away from the stage at the Hill Country Barbecue restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C.

His selection of country music — following his storytelling of American history through his other films “The Vietnam War,” “Baseball,” “Prohibition,” “Jazz” and “The Civil War” — comes from his passion for stories. It also stems from his attraction to the genre’s history, which was born out of the roaring ’20s and developed throughout the turbulent 20th century, mirroring heartache, loss, love and redemption along the way.

“We pick our topics because they are good stories,” he said. “This one happens to help us come to terms from a new perspective of the very complicated 20th century. This is music born, at least for commercial purposes, in the 1920s and we take it up to the end of the millennium. It’s a new way to see us, both the U.S. and us in that intimate way.”

Burns shared details from the film, like how the stories of country legends weave together. That included Merle Haggard’s life crossing with Johnny Cash’s while he was an inmate at San Quentin State Prison and Dolly Parton’s rise from extreme poverty in eastern Tennessee to notoriety as a revered member of the country family.

The famed filmmaker also conveys the universality of the genre, which is as multifaceted as the country and reflects what he says is every American’s story.

“I can think of no better story that reminds us that we’re all in the same boat … than the universal truths that emanate not out of just the songs, the art, but of the story of the people who made those songs,” he said. “What is a country song but expressing kind of universal human emotions, like loss and love and seeking redemption?”

In his effort to explore the soundtrack of the genre, Burns also sought to push back on some of the misconceptions of country music — particularly the perception that it is comprised of only “conservative, rural, or Southern” artists despite its decades of African American influences.

“I think too often in our culture, we abbreviate something and we sort sort of categorize it. And country music has never been a one thing,” he said. “It has always been a really complicated mixture of influences. … And then you just proceed through these amazing characters decade after decade who tell us a lot about who we are.”

He added, “There’s an African American dimension in every one of our eight episodes, and the music is infused with the African American experience, even though it seems to come down to us as essentially a white music, which we then transfer as being conservative, rural, Southern. It’s all types of things.”

In detailing what he learned about America from his eight years of work on the film, he also asserted that while it appears as though everything in modern American culture “is in opposition. Everything’s red state, blue state. It’s young or old, it’s rich or poor, white or black,” like country music, every American story is a “combination, a mixture, an alloy.”

Sitting in the nation’s capital and keenly aware of another historical event less than a week away — the 2019 World Series — Burns also weighed in on the impending battle between the Washington Nationals and either the Houston Astros or the New York Yankees.

“The historian in me is completely repressed by the Boston Red Sox baseball fan in me, in which I root for the Boston Red Sox — who are, by the way, the reigning world champions until they’re not — and anyone who’s playing the Yankees,” he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 19 Oct 2019

Tropical Storm Nestor batters Florida with storm surge, tornadoes

ABC News(APALACHICOLA, Fla.) — Tropical Storm Nestor expected to make landfall in Florida today as it brings heavy rain, gusty winds, storm surge, and possible tornadoes to parts of the Southeast U.S.

As of 8 a.m. Saturday, the storm was about 110 miles west of the coastal city of Apalachicola, Florida, and its maximum sustained winds were 50 mph as it moved northeast at 17 mph.

Nestor is still expected to come ashore in Florida later Saturday morning. Winds and storm surges are affecting parts of the Florida Gulf Coast as Nestor is begins to lose tropical characteristics. Once that happens, it will become a post-tropical cyclone.

Regardless of the true physics of the storm, heavy rain, some severe storms, and gusty winds will continue as the storm moves into the Southeast today.

A tornado watch remains in effect for much of Florida until noon EDT as some of the outer bands of Nestor are producing spin-up tornadoes. There have already been four reported tornadoes in the Tampa Bay metro area overnight.

Nestor will continue to move inland today as tropical storm-force winds extend up to 160 miles east of the central low pressure, bringing heavy rain and some gusty winds to much of the Southeast today. In addition, severe storms will be possible on the right side of the storm, especially from Central Florida to Eastern North Carolina. A few tornadoes will be possible in some of the intense bands east of the center of circulation. This tornado threat includes Jacksonville, Savannah, Charleston, and Wilmington.

On Sunday Nestor will slide further up the East Coast and bring heavy rain to parts of the Mid-Atlantic including Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. Once again, there will be at least some marginal severe probabilities in parts of Eastern North Carolina.

Luckily, Nestor will quickly be pushed eastward on Sunday night and Monday, with the majority of the storm heading into the Atlantic. While some showers and gusty winds will be possible, impacts should be kept to a minimum in much of the Northeast.

Attention will immediately turn to a new storm developing in the West, that will race across the country this week. This is typical for fall, as low pressure systems begin to trek further and further into the mid-latitudes due to colder air gaining strength in the Arctic.

On Saturday, heavy rain, gusty winds, and some mountain snow will be possible in the Northwest with parts of the Cascades expected to pick up a couple of inches of fresh snow.

The storm is also causing gusty winds ahead of the frontal system, which could briefly cause pockets of fire danger from California to the Rocky Mountains.

Late Sunday and early Monday, as the storm heads into the Central U.S., it will spark a line of strong storms and heavy rain, There is a chance for some severe weather across Northern Texas, parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas. The threats will be damaging winds, large hail and possible tornadoes.

Then on Monday and into early Tuesday, heavy rain and severe storms will move into parts of the southern U.S., especially the Mississippi River Valley. There will be a potential for a few tornadoes in this round of severe weather. This classic fall severe weather set-up looks like it could be the most notable severe weather in the last couple of months.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 19 Oct 2019

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings to lie in state, funeral services set for Baltimore

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings will lie in state in National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, ahead of funeral service at his church of nearly four decades in his home district of Baltimore.

There will be a public viewing in the two-story chamber following a formal ceremony for members of Congress, the Cummings family and invited guests on Thursday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced.

A wake and funeral for Cummings will be held at New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore on Friday, Oct. 25. The wake will begin at 8 a.m., followed by the funeral at 10 a.m, according a church spokeswoman. Bishop Walter S. Thomas Jr., the church’s pastor since 1975, is scheduled to deliver the eulogy.

He predicts the 4,000-seat sanctuary will overflow with people paying respects as lawmakers from both political parties are expected to attend.

“For all who pass through these doors, it has been very somber,” Thomas told The Baltimore Sun on Thursday. “We’ve lost a friend, a loved one, a member, a role model. You can roll out the whole list of nouns. He steps into all of them with big shoes.”

On Wednesday, Oct. 23, Cummings will lie in repose at Morgan State University, where he served on the Board of Regents. Following the viewing, there will be a community-wide celebration of the congressman at the university’s Murphy Fine Arts Center from 6-8:30 p.m.

Morgan State University President Dr. David Wilson said in a statement on Thursday that the university is “deeply saddened by the loss of one our fiercest advocates and supporters.”

“Rep. Cummings was not only a dear friend to Morgan, he was family. His wisdom, wise counsel and superb leadership will be greatly missed,” Wilson wrote. “The City of Baltimore, the State of Maryland, and our nation, will forever be indebted to the legacy of this great public servant.”

Cummings, the son of sharecroppers who became the first African American in Maryland history to be named Speaker Pro Tempore, later rose to become Chairman of the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Just five months ago, he delivered the commencement address at the historically black research university in Maryland.

“Your lives are in front of you,” Cummings told the graduating class in May. “And so I beg you to go out and stand up for this democracy.”

Cummings died Oct. 17 at the age of 68, due to complications concerning longstanding health challenges, according to a statement from his office. In lieu of flowers, the Cummings’ family has suggested the public make donations to The Elijah Cummings Youth Program.

House votes originally scheduled for next Thursday will be held late Wednesday night — as it’s customary to cancel voting when a dignitary has the rare honor of lying in state in the U.S. Capitol.

The last persons to lie in state were former President George H. W. Bush last December and the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, in August 2018.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 19 Oct 2019

On 1st National Period Day, youth group shines spotlight on ‘tampon tax’

Chistina Garcia(NEW YORK) — “Menstrual hygiene is a right, not a privilege.”

That’s the message that youth activists hope to take nationwide for the first National Period Day, Oct. 19, as they campaign to end the tax on menstrual hygiene products.

Rallies are taking place on Saturday across all 50 states, where women are gathering in hopes of shifting a culture of silence around periods and demanding policy changes that will help inch toward an economy of gender equity.

What is the tampon tax?

Right now, 35 states still have the “tampon tax,” a catchy nickname for the sales tax imposed on tampons and other menstrual products, since they are considered non-essential goods. Though there is no specific tax for those products, products like pads, liners and cups are all subject to taxes as non-essential items in many states. Viagra, Rogaine, lip balms and candy, meanwhile, are considered basic necessities and are exempt from sales tax in some of these same states.

Critics of the tax have said this is an injustice that needs to be corrected.

Take 21-year-old activist Nadya Okamoto, who has been vocal in the movement to push legislators to eliminate the tampon tax.

“Menstrual hygiene is a right, not a luxury, and the tampon tax tells us that it’s essentially a luxury,” Okamoto told “GMA.” “That assumption is one of our biggest barriers in front of us, so we need to take that down so we can continue to fight for menstrual equity.”

At just 16, Okamoto founded Period, a non-profit organization. It’s now the largest youth-run NGO in women’s health.

In 2014, Okamoto’s family experienced legal homelessness after her mother left her job. Okamoto’s commute to school went from 20 minutes to more than two hours. On her journey through downtown Portland, she said she would often pass by homeless shelters where she made conversation with some of the women she met. It was there where she learned about period poverty, the lack of access to menstrual hygiene resources.

Ever since then, she “became obsessed with periods,” she said.

As she researched the topic more and learned about issues people face regarding menstruation, the tampon tax stuck out to her.

“Advocating against the tampon tax and once and for all getting our government to actually recognize menstrual products as a necessity is really important,” Okamoto told “Good Morning America.”

From there, she added, they can work on solving other problems, from providing “freely accessible period products in schools, shelters and prison,” to getting benefit programs to cover feminine hygiene products that many don’t currently cover.

For example, federal assistant programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, aka WIC, don’t include access to menstrual hygiene products.

A common hurdle in this legal fight, Okamoto said, is that “often cisgender male legislators” either don’t understand the issue or are hesitant to talk about periods in a public setting.

“So a big part of this fight is just getting the culture ready to talk about periods,” she explained. “So legislators can come out and speak freely about it without having to think they’re the ones who have to do all the heavy lifting on destigmatizing menstruation.”

Momentum to repeal the tampon tax

In recent years there has been momentum to repeal the tax. States like Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey passed laws to eliminate the tax. In this past year, progress has been made in Rhode Island where the tax was eliminated in their budget effective in June of this year, and in California where a budget bill is passed in which period products were exempt from a tax for two years.

Democratic California Assemblymember Cristina Garcia said she’s pushing Gov. Gavin Newsom to permanently extend a tax exemption on menstrual products.

When she first came up with the proposal she said people dismissed it and made fun of her. “People would say, ‘Oh, it’s going to be a bloody fight,’ and they started calling me the tampon lady,” Garcia told “GMA.”

Opponents have said the main problem is the loss in revenue.

Katherine Loughead, a policy analyst at the Tax Foundation, a think tank based in Washington, told “GMA” that abolishing the tampon tax may force governments to apply higher sales tax rates to other items.

In large states like California and Texas, taxes on menstrual products alone can generate more than $20 million annually. To make up the difference, lawmakers have suggested raising taxes on alcohol and tobacco. But no change has been made.

The danger of creating so many exemptions is that “ultimately it leads to a slippery slope, where do we draw the line? There’s a lot of things that are a necessity to other people,” Loughead said.

However, Garcia argues if people were able to keep the taxed money, they could spend it on other taxed products, thus adding to the state’s tax revenue.

“But more importantly, my uterus should not be used in balancing the budget,” she said.

As it turns out, this issue is not unique to the U.S.

Half of the European Union countries still impose a value-added tax, or VAT, rate on menstrual hygiene products although some have reduced that rate. Other countries, including Australia, India and Canada, have abolished the policy.

At the end of the day, Garcia said, this fight is about much more than tax revenue or the affordability of period products — it’s about the larger conversation of equality under our system and how we as a society value a woman’s body.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

‘If I were in the House, I would vote to impeach’ Trump: Former Republican Gov. John Kasich

Twitter/@rickklein(WASHINGTON) — Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich said if he were in the House of Representatives today, he would vote to impeach President Donald Trump.

“I have no problem with the president of the United States withholding aid if it’s related to policy, but to withhold aid because you want some political operation to occur, I just think is dead wrong, and it just goes too far for me,” Kasich said on ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast. “So if I were in the House, I would vote to impeach.”

Kasich, who sought the 2016 GOP presidential nomination and has been a frequent critic of Trump, said that while coming to the decision that an impeachment inquiry was necessary was “a piece of cake for” him, the decision to support impeaching the president was something he’d been struggling with.

While he said he didn’t really see the quid pro quo “at the time,” acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s comments Thursday, “compounded by so many other things,” finally led Kasich to a decision.

“The final, final act was Mulvaney saying, ‘Yes, we did withhold this aid, because we wanted this investigation done about the 2016 election,'” he told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein.

On Thursday, in an exchange with Karl during a press briefing, Mulvaney admitted there was a quid pro quo as it relates to Ukraine, saying that part of the reason Trump withheld military aid was to put pressure on the foreign government to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory from 2016 involving a hacked email server that belonged to the Democratic National Committee.

While Mulvaney said that the “driving factors” in Trump’s decision were his distaste for foreign aid in general — especially if it’s used in a corrupted way — and that he didn’t think European nations were giving enough financial assistance to Ukraine, he added, “Did he also mention to me in pass the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s it. And that’s why we held up the money.”

Karl pressed for clarity: “But to be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is: Funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happens as well.”

Mulvaney replied, “We do that all the time with foreign policy.”

Later, he claimed the media “decided to misconstrue” what he said, saying in a statement: “There was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election. The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server. The only reasons we were holding the money was because of concern about lack of support from other nations and concerns over corruption.”

“I’ve now concluded there was a quid pro quo that was absolutely unacceptable,” Kasich told the hosts.

While Kasich supports impeaching the president, he hasn’t been happy with the way House Democrats have gone about conducting the investigation, taking issue with there not having been a formal vote, calling it a political move.

“When you’re going about impeaching a president, investigating a president, we don’t have time for politics,” he said, but added that he does think the House will move on impeachment.

As far as the timeline of the investigation goes, and contrary to others who have spoken out, the former lawmaker doesn’t think there should be a rush to get this done.

“I don’t think they should be in any hurry. I think they ought to do their job the right way,” Kasich said. “This is our country. There’s an investigation. Do it right. You shouldn’t have some calendar. You shouldn’t worry that you’re going to put your vulnerable members at risk. Tough. If you can’t do that then you shouldn’t have started this thing, OK? Plain and simple.”

When asked if he thought Republicans would ever vote to remove Trump from office, Kasich said he’s “not a fortune teller,” but referred back to his time in the House during the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, which he voted in favor of. He said that back then, the fact that Clinton was likely to be acquitted wasn’t the issue for him in making his decision.

And he noted that the impeachment inquiry into Trump is just starting.

“There’s going to be lots of hearings that are going to continue, more witnesses. Who knows what’s going to come out? Every day, there’s another — I mean, almost another bombshell, so I can’t predict what’s going to happen next week. … Next week, who knows what’s going to happen?” he said.

Klein and Karl also asked Kasich about Tuesday’s Democratic debate, which was held in the Ohioan’s hometown, Westerville.

He said that debates are a “silly way to pick a president.”

“You want to pick a president based on the sound bites? I mean, that’s what we’re doing,” he said. “These debates are pushing everybody to extremes to come up with a snarky answer, and it’s just — it’s just, you know, what’s there to watch?”

He took a shot at “Medicare for All,” a signature proposal for top-polling 2020 Democratic candidates Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, saying the American people don’t want to give up their private insurance for a government-run option. He also criticized a wealth tax supported by Warren, Sanders and billionaire candidate Tom Steyer, and made a slight pass at former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s proposal to institute a mandatory buy-back program for assault weapons, like a AR-15s and AK-47s.

“The way it’s going right now, they’re going hard left, which means they can’t win,” Kasich said of the Democratic primary field.

Karl asked Kasich if his political days were behind him, and while he threw cold water on getting into this presidential election, he left open the possibility for trying to run again in the future.

“The only thing I really have an interest in is president, and I see no path at this point in time,” he said. “I’ll be younger when the next election comes around than all these top front runners running for president today.”

Kasich ended with this question, “Can somebody who doesn’t hold public office have a big enough voice to move the public? Is there a way to do it?”

Citing all many methods of communication now used — podcasts, YouTube, TV, Twitter — Kasich said voices are what matter.

“We’ll see,” he said. “All of my options are on the table.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 19 Oct 2019

Driver who fatally struck 3 siblings at school bus stop is found guilty of reckless homicide

Indiana State Police(ROCHESTER, Indiana) — A 24-year-old Indiana woman who struck four children with her pickup truck, killing three of them, as they crossed a rural highway to their school bus, has been found guilty of reckless homicide.

Alyssa Shepherd was also found guilty of criminal recklessness in the Oct. 30, 2018, crash, which shined a light on issues of school bus safety.

Shepherd testified Friday that she saw blinking lights but failed to see a school bus or a red stop sign arm when she plowed into 6-year-old twin brothers Xzavier and Mason Ingle, and their 9-year-old sister, Alivia Stahl, as they crossed the highway to board the bus from the mobile home park where they lived, near Rochester, Indiana. All three children died, while Maverik Lowe, 11, was injured in critical condition.

Lowe, who entered the courtroom Wednesday using a walker, testified that he saw the headlights of an approaching vehicle as he crossed the road toward the bus. He recalled having only a couple of second to decide what to do.

“I decided to go forward,” he said, at which point he was struck. He remembered struggling to breath as he lay in a ditch before rescuers had him airlifted him to a hospital, where he spend 30 days and ultimately underwent 21 surgeries.

Shepherd, in her testimony, said she dropped her husband at work and was on her way to drop her kids at school and welcome a new youth pastor to church when she came upon a large vehicle, according to South Bend, Indiana, ABC affiliate WBND.

“I saw a vehicle, it was a very large vehicle. I couldn’t tell what it was,” Shepherd told the court, saying that she assumed it was an oversized-load modular home.

“When I saw children I instantly knew it was a bus,” Shepherd said. She testified that doesn’t remember how she moved the steering wheel but said she did brake.

Her husband testified that Shepherd called him shortly after the accident.

“She was very hysterical. I couldn’t quite make out what was going on. I assumed she was in an accident,” he said.

The parents of the three children who were killed, Shane Ingle and Brittany Stahl, told ABC News following the accident that their loss was “more than what we can even express in words.”

“A parent never expects to bury their child,” the couple said in a statement. “Every night we go to sleep without their hugs and kisses. And every morning we wake up to reality and wishing it was just a dream. We miss them so much. Our lives are forever changed.”

Shepherd, who will be sentenced on Dec. 18, now faces up to 21 1/2 years in prison.

The crash led the Indiana legislature to increase statewide penalties for drivers who pass stopped school buses illegally.

Shortly after the accident, the supervisor of the local school district announced that the bus stop where the crash occurred would be relocated into the mobile home park where the victims lived.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 19 Oct 2019
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