Theresa May continues Brexit talks in Brussels after surviving bid to topple her

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images(BRUSSELS) — Theresa May, Britain’s embattled prime minister, is pressing on with fraught Brexit negotiations after surviving an attempt to oust her from power Wednesday night.

May is currently in Brussels for an EU summit, an engagement it was unclear whether she would keep Wednesday as news emerged that she was facing a vote of no confidence by her own party. But May survived the vote, despite a third of her party voting against her.

She called Wednesday “a difficult day” in her opening statement in Brussels.

“I’m grateful for the significant support I had from colleagues. But I have also heard loud and clear the concerns of those who didn’t feel able to support me,” May said.

Leaders of all 27 EU states are in attendance, and May will have an opportunity to raise issues with the Brexit deal and appeal for help. The EU member states will then debate on what compromises the bloc is or is not willing to make for the British — but only after May leaves the room.

While May has faced threats to her leadership with several cabinet ministers’ resignations since the summer, the most serious challenge came as she published her agreement with the EU on the terms of the U.K.’s withdrawal.

After it became clear that other members of Parliament wouldn’t vote for her agreement, she postponed a critical vote on Tuesday, to the fury not just of opposition parties but her own colleagues.

The move was prompted dozens of members of Parliament to write letters stating they had no confidence in the prime minister, and Wednesday morning, May announced she was facing a vote on her leadership.

Under Conservative party rules, the leadership is put to a vote if 15 percent of members of Parliament write letters to the 1922 Committee chairman, a group of MPs that handle the leadership process.

Last night, the Conservative party declared that she had survived by 200 votes to 117. Under party rules, there cannot be another contest for a whole year.

The episode has further weakened May. But crucially, in a desperate bid to survive the vote, she made an 11th-hour appeal to her colleagues to support her, vowing she would not lead the Conservatives in the next general election. May said she will resign as party leader and prime minister before the country next goes to the polls in 2022.

While May’s position as party leader — and prime minister, as long as there is no snap election — is safe for another year, her struggle is far from over.

Earlier this week, she raced across Europe to try and persuade EU leaders to give further concessions on the Brexit deal in the hopes she could get it passed by the British parliament.

On Tuesday, she traveled to the Hague, Berlin and Brussels. She met with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to raise issues on key sticking points in the Brexit deal that British politicians are refusing to accept.

The response from EU leaders was unequivocal: there was no room for negotiation.

However, some leaders have indicated there may be room for “clarification” on the interpretation of some terms, and it is this nuance that May is hoping will help to make the deal more palatable to the British.

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Maria Butina, accused Russian agent, pleads guilty in federal court

Alexandria Sheriff’s Office via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Maria Butina, a 30-year-old Russian gun rights activist, has signed onto a plea agreement with the U.S. government, officially pivoting away from her months-long campaign to prove her innocence after standing accused of developing a covert influence operation in the United States.

As part of her plea deal, the details of which ABC News reported earlier this week, Butina agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and cooperate with federal, state and local authorities in any ongoing investigations.

As Butina prepared to change her plea before a federal judge in Washington, D.C., Thursday morning, the judge confronted directly questions raised about the stark conditions of her confinement—which this week has brought a rebuke from the Russian government. Butina’s lawyer had complained she was held alone in her cell for long stretches and had little personal our sensory contact.

The judge asked Butina and her attorney if conditions had impaired her psychologically to the point she had agreed to plead guilty.

“Is your mind clear?” the judge asked.

“Absolutely clear,” Butina replied in a firm voice.

Driscoll told the court that while he remains concerned about the overuse of solitary confinement, he did not consider that a factor in her change of plea.

“As of today, I believe she is doing well mentally,” Driscoll said.

ABC News reported earlier this week that, as part of her deal, Butina admitted that she and an unnamed “U.S. Person 1,” which sources have identified as longtime Republican operative Paul Erickson, with whom she had a multiyear romantic relationship, “agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official (“Russian Official”) and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General.”

Based on the description, the “Russian Official” appears to be Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under his Torshin direction, the agreement said, she “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics.”

Ahead of Thursday’s hearing, a spokeswoman with the Russian Foreign Ministry told reporters in Moscow again called for Butina’s “soonest release from custody” and said the Russian government “will support any decision she might take aimed at her liberation.”

“Once again, we demand that Washington observe her lawful rights and ensure her soonest release from custody,” the spokeswoman said, adding that whatever decision Butina makes with her lawyers, “she would take them in order to be freed, considering that she is a political prisoner.”

Butina was arrested in Washington, D.C., in July on charges of conspiracy and failure to register as a foreign agent. Her indictment attracted headlines at the time for salacious claims made by the government that she used sex as part of an alleged effort to infiltrate powerful conservative groups and build relationships with prominent Americans, drawing comparisons to the recent Hollywood film, Red Sparrow, which focused on the seductive aspects of spycraft.

But the government was later forced to back away from some of those allegations, conceding that they were based on a misreading of a series of text messages. Prosecutors wrote that “the government’s understanding of this particular text conversation was mistaken,” according to court filings.

Butina has been held in jail since her arrest and indictment, with a federal judge claiming in September that she “cannot imagine a scenario where it is not possible” that Butina would flee the country if allowed out on bail.

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Two investigations underway into controversial London police ramming tactic

Metropolitan Police(LONDON) — A controversial tactic in which police in London use specially-trained drivers to ram criminals on scooters has triggered two separate investigations after the criminals had suffered “serious” injuries.

The Metropolitan Police released footage last month of the policy, known as “contact tactics,” in action. The aggressive tactic is used in the hope that “potential offenders will think twice about their actions,” the department said in a statement.

Police are legally obligated to make a referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) if an individual is “seriously injured” during a police operation. This automatically triggers an independent investigation. The findings of an IOPC investigation are then sent to the police force — which is then required to act on the recommendations.

The first investigation was launched after a “contact tactic” incident in November 2017 left the driver of a scooter with a head injury and a broken foot. Then, in March, another scooter operator involved in an incident ended up with a broken leg. Both injuries were deemed significant enough to be “serious,” an IOPC spokesperson told ABC News.

The IOPC said the officer involved in the November incident breached professional standards. The investigation could now result in criminal charges against the officer.

“Ultimately no police tactic can ever be used with impunity in a country where we police by consent – be that tactical contact, the use of firearms or the use of restraint,” an IOPC spokesperson told ABC News.

“It is always a matter of whether it’s reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances. Independent scrutiny is a vital part of public confidence in the way policing is done.”

The duel investigations are likely to bolster the argument of those opposed to the controversial policy.

Diane Abbott, a Member of Parliament and critic of the policy, tweeted in November that “contact tactics” were “potentially very dangerous” and “police are not above the law.”

Police, however, say that such tactics are necessary and play a part in reducing crimes committed on motorbikes.

“We are pleased to see a reduction in moped-related offenses and we will continue to work tirelessly across London to maintain this downward trend,” a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told ABC News.

“Tactical contact has long been available to officers, however it is now being used more frequently in the Met’s fight against power two-wheeled crime. The proportionate use of force is essential in circumstances where officers have to protect the public and often themselves.”

“All policing actions and tactics that result in either a serious injury or death to the rider, pillion passenger or a member of the public, will fall under the Police Reform Act and be subject to an open transparent investigation.”

A pillion passenger is a term mostly used in the United Kingdom to describe a second passenger on a motorbike.

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Report: For third straight year, Turkey jailed more journalists than any other country

bedo/iStock(NEW YORK) — Even as Turkish leaders call for an international inquiry into Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, the Committee to Project Journalists found the Turkish government to be the world’s biggest jailer of journalists for the third consecutive year, according to a newly released report.

According to the global press freedom watchdog’s Annual Prison Census, 251 journalists are currently in jails around the world as of Dec. 1 for charges related to their work — 68 in Turkey, 47 in China and 25 in Egypt, collectively responsible for more than half of the journalists behind bars.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been one of the harshest critics of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his alleged role in Khassogi’s killing, but following a failed coup against his government in 2016, experts said, Erdogan has engaged in a country-wide crackdown on criticism.

“Turkey has really cracked down on the independent press by equating journalism with terrorism,” Courtney Radsch, advocacy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, told ABC News. “And we see this as part of a pattern that’s been in place for many years.”

Criticism of Saudi Arabia’s record on press freedom is often warranted. Khashoggi’s murder, which provoked outrage around the world and even spurred Time magazine to name him and other persecuted journalists the magazine’s “Person of the Year,” comes amid a spike in the country’s own repression of journalists.

Whereas CPJ found at least seven journalists in jail in December 2017, that number has risen to 16 just a year later, including four female journalists who covered women’s rights in the country.

And with President Donald Trump’s popularization of the pejorative term “fake news” to describe and denounce critical coverage of his administration, the CPJ recorded a significant uptick in the number of journalists facing “false news” charges around the world since his election.

In 2016, only nine journalists around the world were held for that charge. After Trump’s election, that number rose to 21 in 2017. And it rose again to 28 in 2018.

“We see countries are using the same terminology and pointing to the United States and pointing to Trump’s labeling of journalists as fake news,” Radsch said. “It basically serves to inoculate those in power [because] it creates distrust.”

Steven Cook, senior fellow for the Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told ABC News that leaders in countries without enshrined press freedom protections take their cues from the United States.

“We used to think that when journalists were under attack, at least you would have the largest pulpit of them all, the U.S. president. But it’s the opposite,” Cook said. “The press has been labeled the enemy of the people and that’s been heard around the world by people who think likewise.”

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China confirms two missing Canadians have been detained

allanswart/iStock(HONG KONG) — The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed Thursday that a second Canadian citizen has been detained in China in addition to the former Canadian diplomat who was reported missing earlier this week.

Both men are being detained by China’s Ministry for State Security for allegedly “endangering national security.”

At a press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang revealed that entrepreneur Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were both taken into custody separately on Monday. Kovrig is being held in Beijing and Spavor is being held in the northeastern Chinese city of Dandong, across the river from North Korea.

The sudden detention of the two Canadian citizens comes in the wake of the high profile arrest of Chinese tech-giant Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada at the behest of the United States, which wants her extradited for alleged bank fraud and violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Beijing had earlier vowed “grave consequences” for Canada if the Huawei executive was not released. Meng has since been released on bail, but is required to remain in Vancouver, living in her family’s six-bedroom mansion while awaiting an extradition hearing in February.

Spavor, who runs a nongovernmental organization (NGO) called Paektu Cultural Exchange, out of Dandong, is a longtime prominent consultant on North Korea, facilitating business and sports delegations in the reclusive state. He is among just a handful of foreigners who have met with Kim Jong Un inside the country.

Spavor famously organized many of former NBA star Dennis Rodman’s trips into North Korea, including one when Rodman claimed he went jet-skiing with the North Korean leader in 2013. Spavor acted as Rodman’s translator on those trips.

Lu said earlier in the week that former diplomat Kovrig’s current employer, The International Crisis Group, was not officially registered in China, making any of their work illegal in the country, violating a new foreign NGO law China put in place just over a year ago.

The law stipulates that in addition to registering with the government, the NGO “must not endanger China’s national unity, security, or ethnic unity.”

According to the Ministry of Public Security, which maintains a list of registered NGOs in China, Spavor’s organization was not included.

Lu said on Thursday that Canada has been informed of the detentions, but would not say if the men have access to lawyers.

When asked if the detentions were in any way related to Meng’s arrest in Canada, Lu would only say it was all being handled according to Chinese law.

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Bomb threats demanding bitcoin funds reported across the country, authorities say

TinaFields/iStock(NEW YORK) — Multiple bomb threats have been reported across the country, according to authorities.

The New York Police Department said it was monitoring multiple bomb threats sent electronically to various locations throughout the city. The threats are not credible at this time, the department said.

 The FBI said in a statement that it was aware of “recent bomb threats made in cities around the country.” The agency is in touch with local law enforcement to provide assistance, it said, asking the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report any suspicious activity.

Also in New York City, a call came into The Bronx High School of Science saying a pipe bomb would explode in 20 minutes, a police spokesperson told ABC News. The school was cleared, and it was determined that there was no threat, police said.

 The threat seemed to fit the pattern of others deemed not credible, saying that a detonation would occur in the absence of a $20,000 bitcoin payment.

Massachusetts State Police are also tracking multiple bomb threats emailed to several businesses throughout the state, it said.

Bomb threats were made to several locations in the Chicago area, including Aurora City Hall, the Aurora Library and Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora, ABC Chicago station WLS-TV reported.

Threats have also been made in Canadian cities Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Penticton, CTV reported.

It is unclear how many bomb threats were made. Additional details were not immediately available.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Death-defying drivers clamor for cash spilling out of armored truck on New Jersey highway

WABC-TV(EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.) — Rush hour was particularly hectic on one New Jersey highway Thursday morning.

Some drivers stopped their vehicles on Route 3 in East Rutherford during their morning commute to pick up cash that had apparently spilled out of an armored truck. The commotion caused “multiple” car accidents, police said.

A video taken by a motorist on the other side of the highway divider shows people clamoring for the bills in the middle of the road, bringing the traffic behind them to an almost standstill. Some drivers were laying on their car horns as they tried to get through.

“There’s money all over Route 3, no joke. Can’t make this up,” the woman who took the video says in disbelief. “I want to get out and go get money too, but I wouldn’t dare!”

Brink’s, an American security and protection company, confirmed to ABC News that one of its trucks was involved in the incident on Route 3 in East Rutherford.

“The incident is under investigation and we have no additional comment at this time,” a company spokesperson said in an email Thursday.

It was unknown how much money wound up on the roadway or if those who pocketed the cash will be allowed to keep it.

The East Rutherford Police Department said its detectives are investigating the incident.

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Murder investigation underway after remains of dad who vanished in 1961 found in family’s basement

D-Keine/iStock(LAKE GROVE, N.Y.) — A murder investigation is underway after the remains of a man who vanished in 1961 were found in his family’s Long Island home, police said.

George Carroll’s remains were found by his son, Michael Carroll, and grandsons while they were excavating the basement of the Lake Grove home on Halloween, the Suffolk County Police Department said.

The skeleton was sent to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner to be examined by an anthropologist, and on Wednesday police confirmed that the remains belong to George Carroll.

Michael Carroll, 57, now owns the house, police said.

As a child he lived there with his parents, George and Dorothy Carroll, and his siblings before George Carroll disappeared in 1961, police said.

How his father ended up beneath the basement is still unclear.

Michael Carroll, who could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday, told ABC New York station WABC in October that his father vanished when he was a baby, but the possibility that his father was buried in the basement was always a family rumor.

“It’s something that’s been talked about for years,” he told WABC. “We heard multiple stories.”

Michael Carroll’s mother died in the 1990s, police said.

Police on Wednesday said the death is being investigated as a homicide, but the department declined to release the cause of death.

“Previously, we said the skull was fractured due to blunt force trauma, however, that was not concluded as the cause at this point,” a Suffolk County police spokesperson told ABC News via email on Thursday.

The department also declined to discuss any potential suspects.

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Severe storms to move east with flooding possible in Southeast

ABC News(NEW YORK) — The storm that dumped over a foot of snow from Washington to Colorado over the past two days is continuing to push east on Thursday.

Numerous states from the east to west are under flood, snow and high wind alerts.

The storm system will move into the Southern Plains on Thursday, bringing heavy rain and storms ahead of it, from the Gulf Coast into the mid-Mississippi Valley.

A few of the storms could become severe with damaging winds, hail and even an isolated tornado. Flash flooding is also possible.

The storm system will not move much on Friday, but the rain ahead of it will spread into the Southeast — the areas that just got hit with heavy snow and ice last weekend.

Damaging winds, hail and a few tornadoes — as well as flooding from heavy rain — are possible from Florida to the Carolinas.

The heavy rain moves up the East Coast into the Mid-Atlantic on Friday night into Saturday morning and into the Northeast by Saturday afternoon.

Some flash flooding is possible from the heavy rain.

Some areas from northern Florida to the Carolinas could see more than 4 inches of rain as the storm moves through the eastern U.S.

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Middle school gunman exchanges fire with officers, kills himself: Police

ChiccoDodiFC/iStock(RICHMOND, Ind.) — A teenage suspect is dead after a shooting outside an Indiana middle school Thursday morning, police said.

The single shooter exchanged gunfire with police before killing himself, according to Indiana State Police Sgt. John Bowling.

No other students were injured in the incident at Dennis Intermediate School in Richmond, police said.

Bowling credited an unknown individual who warned police.

“Someone knew something and said something,” he said. “The school was able to follow procedure to help protect students.”

The students are being evacuated from the intermediate school, Richmond Community Schools said, while other schools in the district are resuming classes.

“You wouldn’t think a small town like Richmond this would happen,” one grandmother who raced to the scene told ABC Indianapolis affiliate WRTV. “I don’t know what’s wrong with this new generation.”

“My heart is aching for all these parents,” she added.

The investigation is ongoing, Bowling said.

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