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Theresa May ABANDONS customs union vote as she fears sabotage from Tory Remainers

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THERESA May has pushed back two key votes on the customs union for months because she fears damaging defeats by rebel MPs that could cause chaos for the Government’s Brexit negotiations and dramatically weaken her in the eyes of Brussels, it is claimed.

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Justice Dept. asks Supreme Court to dismiss ‘sanctuary’ immigration suits

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WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to dismiss three lawsuits over a Trump-era immigration policy that led some areas to declare themselves “sanctuary cities.”

The policy was part of an effort to get police departments to tell federal authorities when non-citizens were about to be released from custody.

In what began half-heartedly under former President Barack Obama and ratcheted up under former President Donald Trump, the Justice Department sought to withhold federal grants from local governments that refused to tell immigration agents when people in the custody were about to be released. The government also wanted access to local jails so immigration agents could question non-citizens in custody.

In brief letters to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department said the cases should be dismissed, indicating that the government will no longer seek to enforce that policy.

The Trump administration was at odds with many major cities over federal detainer requests, issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement, asking local police and sheriff’s offices to hold jail inmates for up to 48 hours after they have completed serving their sentences. The requests applied to people in the U.S. illegally who were convicted of committing local crimes and could be deported after they were released.

After federal courts blocked that effort, the Justice Department instead sought advance notice before non-citizens were released, spawning a new round of lawsuits.

Several lower federal courts said that local officials have no duty to help immigration agents enforce federal law, and some states and cities passed what are known as sanctuary laws expressly forbidding police to provide information about non-citizens in their custody. Supporters said the laws make communities safer by encouraging undocumented victims of crime to cooperate with police.



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Biden called off strike against second target in Syria to avoid killing civilians, say officials

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden called off an air strike against a second target in Syria last week after a woman and children were spotted in the area, a senior administration official told NBC News.

Because of the presence of civilians, only one target was bombed in last week’s operation, which came in retaliation for recent rocket attacks on U.S. personnel that the Pentagon blamed on Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Iraq, the administration official and a Defense official said.

The president made the decision to cancel the separate air strike after military reconnaissance revealed a woman and two children in the courtyard of the intended target, according to the senior administration official.

The Biden administration sent a private message to Iran following the strike, the administration official said.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on Biden’s decision, which came at the last moment before aircraft were due to drop bombs on the second target.

The target that was bombed last week by U.S. warplanes was a logistics waystation in eastern Syria that the Pentagon said was used by Iranian-backed militia. U.S. officials blamed a deadly Feb. 15 rocket attack on a U.S.-led coalition base in Irbil in northern Iraq on the paramilitary groups.

Since the U.S. bombing raid last week, an Iraqi air base northwest of Baghdad that hosts U.S. troops came under rocket attack on Wednesday morning.

The U.S. military believes Iranian-backed militia likely are to blame for Wednesday’s rocket attack, three Defense officials told NBC News.

The Pentagon is not yet ready to say definitively who launched rockets at the Ain al-Asad base northwest of Baghdad, but the attack resembled previous assaults carried out by Iraqi Shiite militia armed and supported by Iran, the three officials said.

The base was hit by 10 medium-range 122mm rockets, which were fired from a truck to the east, the officials said. The Feb. 15 attack at a U.S.-led coalition base in Irbil in northern Iraq featured shorter-range 107mm rockets.

A civilian contractor at the al-Asad base suffered a cardiac arrest while taking shelter from the rocket attack and later died, according to the Pentagon. The vast base is home to about 1,400 coalition troops.

Ain al-Asad military airbase housing U.S.-led coalition troops in the western Iraqi province of Anbar.Ayman Henna / AFP via Getty Images file

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday that the U.S. was waiting on the results of an investigation into the attack by Iraqi authorities. The United States reserved the right to respond if necessary, Kirby said, but he added that “nobody wants to see this situation escalate.”

Along with the recent rocket attacks on facilities that host U.S. personnel, militia groups have stepped up roadside bomb attacks on private contractor convoys that supply various bases in the country, according to Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East policy, who has studied the militia groups’ activities. The convoys are escorted by Iraqi security forces.

Amid tensions between the United States and the Iranian-armed militias, Pope Francis is due to make a landmark visit to the country starting on Friday.



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GOP Sen. Johnson delays Covid relief bill by forcing all 628 pages be read out loud

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A Republican senator on Thursday severely delayed the passage of a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package by forcing the entire 628-page bill to be read out loud.

In protest of the bill, which had been expected to pass after a marathon round of votes overnight Thursday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., objected to waiving the reading of the legislation.

Two Senate clerks — John Merlino and Mary Anne Clarkson — are expected to take shifts reading the bill. The effort, which began at around 3:30 p.m., could last over 15 hours before lawmakers actually begin debating the provisions in the legislation.

Any member can object to waiving the reading of the bill, a procedural move that is typically skipped. Johnson said in a tweet on Thursday because of its large price tag “we should know what’s in the bill.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Johnson’s stunt would “accomplish little more than a few sore throats for the Senate clerks who work very hard day in, day out to help the Senate function.”

The clerk begins reading 628 pages of the Covid Relief bill on the Senate floor of the Capitol on March 4, 2021.NBC News

The Democratic-controlled Senate voted Thursday afternoon to begin debate on President Joe Biden’s relief package in a party-line vote. The bill does not need any Republican support to pass because Democrats are using a special budget process to bypass the filibuster. However, Republicans are expected to raise objections to the bill anyway.

Before a final vote can be taken, there will be a period of lawmakers introducing unlimited amendments, known as a vote-a-rama.

The House passed a version of the Covid-19 relief bill in February. Once the Senate bill is approved, the House will need to vote on it again before it can be sent to the president.



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