US blames Russia for nerve-gas attack; UK to expel 23 Russian diplomats

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  • Nikki Haley says U.S. stands in solidarity with UK over nerve-gas attack – Speaking before the UN Security Council on Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley blamed Russia for the March 4 attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury. “The United States stands in absolute solidarity with Great Britain,” said Haley. “The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent.” Haley called on the U.N. to take action, saying the “credibility of this Council” was at risk (NBC News). UK Prime Minister Theresa May has already said Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats and impose investment restrictions on Russians involved in human rights abuses in response to the attack.
  • Students across U.S. walk out of classes in call for gun legislation – “It’s all thoughts and prayers; it’s all talk,” Brooklyn high school student Daniel Rogov told ABC News on Wednesday. “We need change but there never is change.” Rogov seemed to sum up the prevailing sentiment among American primary through high school students who began walking out of classes today at 10 a.m. eastern time. Commemorating those who died in last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and broadly calling for stricter gun control laws, the walkouts moved steadily westward across the country’s time zones. Though exact numbers were rarely cited, local media from Miami to Seattle reported “thousands” of participants, while “hundreds of D.C.-area students” gathered outside the White House (USA Today). National School Walkout organizers were also behind the Women’s March against President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 (BBC). While some school districts and teachers encouraged the walkouts, others threatened disciplinary action for students who participated.
  • Britain to expel Russian diplomats – UK Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats and impose investment restrictions on Russians involved in human rights abuses. This is part of the British response to the attempted murder of a former Russian double agent that May blamed directly on Vladimir Putin. May said that the use of a rare nerve agent, novichok, against ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury on March 4 was unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom. The UK will brief the UN Security Council on the poisoning later, according to the UK Foreign Office, after Moscow did not respond to Britain’s Tuesday midnight deadline to explain allegations that it was behind the killing. (See other WikiTribune coverage of this story: Russia changes the rules of warfare, perfecting ‘hybrid war’, Britain could weaponize London’s ‘safe haven’ against Putin, Who is Sergei Skripal, target of the nerve agent attack in Britain?, Nerve agent attack would be new chapter in Kremlin playbook.)
  • Lamb claims victory in Pennsylvania House of Reps race – The Pennsylvania election between Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone remains officially too close to call. However, Lamb repeated his declaration of victory on Wednesday with a lead of just 627 votes (Philadelphia Inquirer). President Donald J. Trump won the state by 20 percentage points in the 2016 election. The special election is viewed as a test for Republicans ahead of November’s mid-term elections.
  • Stephen Hawking dies – Famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76. His work ranged from the origins of the universe to the mysteries of black holes. The Briton wrote several popular science books including A Brief History of Time. Hawking was confined to a wheelchair for most of his life after being diagnosed with motor neuron disease at the age of 21. At the time doctors only gave him two years to live. (See WikiTribune‘s story for more.)
  • Philippines to withdraw from International Criminal Court – After the ICC began examining President Rodrigo Duterte in February for police killings of 4,000 drug suspects, Duterte said he planned to leave the organization. Rights groups say the actual figure could be much higher. Duterte said: “The acts allegedly committed by me are neither genocide nor war crimes. The deaths occurring in the process of legitimate police operations lacked the intent to kill.” However, Duterte who was elected in June 2016 on an anti-drugs platform, has publicly encouraged (The Guardian) civilians to kill drug addicts and said he would not prosecute police for killings which weren’t legally authorized.

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