BEARCAT POACHING CASE HANDED TO PROSECUTORS
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BEARCAT POACHING CASE HANDED TO PROSECUTORS

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KANCHANABURI — Police on Tuesday forwarded to prosecutors the case against 14 suspects – including a government official – over poaching a bearcat in a national park.

With the 1,365-page case file delivered, Kanchanaburi police chief said the party were charged with 17 counts related to firearms possession and poaching a protected animal. Among them is Watcharachai Sameerak, permanent secretary of a provincial district, who got 14 charges.

The group was arrested in October at the Sai Yok National Park after rangers found them with hunting gear and severed bearcat paws. An animal jaw and skin, as well as bullet shells and a machete were later uncovered near Tao Dam monastery, where the group claimed to be bound to make merit.

Sompoch Limtrakul, director-general of the regional prosecutor’s office, said he expects the prosecution team to finish reviewing the case by next week.

Another high-profile poaching case against construction mogul Premchai Karnasuta is ongoing. The trial began last month after he was also arrested in a Kanchanaburi national park over accusations of poaching and eating a black panther earlier this year.

khaosodenglish.com

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UK’S MAY SUFFERS EMBARRASSING DEFEAT ON BREXIT STRATEGY

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British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London, to attend Prime Minister’s Questions in 2017 at the Houses of Parliament. Photo: Matt Dunham / Associated Press

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered an embarrassing defeat by lawmakers Thursday in a vote that left her bid to secure a European Union divorce deal stuck between an intransigent EU and a resistant U.K. Parliament – with Brexit just six weeks away.

A rebellion by hard-core Brexit backers saw the House of Commons vote by 303 votes to 258 against a motion reiterating support for May’s approach to Brexit – support expressed by lawmakers in votes just two weeks ago.

The defeat is symbolic rather than binding, but shows how weak May’s hand is as she tries to secure changes to her divorce deal from the EU in order to win backing for it in Parliament. It is likely to leave EU leaders wondering whether May can win support for any kind of Brexit deal, given Britain’s political instability.

May tried to put a positive spin on the result. The prime minister’s office said in a statement that “while we didn’t secure the support of the Commons this evening,” the government believed Parliament still wanted May to seek changes to the Brexit deal that lawmakers could support.

“The government will continue to pursue this with the EU to ensure we leave on time on 29th March,” it said.

Others were blunter.

“What an absolute fiasco this is,” said pro-EU Conservative lawmaker Anna Soubry. A leading pro-Brexit colleague, Bernard Jenkin, used the same word: “Fiasco.”

The vote is the latest outbreak of Brexit-driven chaos that is roiling Britain’s Parliament and imperiling Britain’s orderly exit from the EU.

Two weeks ago, Parliament sent a contradictory message, voting to send May back to Brussels to seek changes to a section of the withdrawal agreement intended to ensure an open border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit.

But lawmakers also voted to rule out a “no-deal” exit, though without signaling how that should happen.

On Thursday the government was defeated on an uncontroversial-sounding motion reiterating the earlier decision, when hard-line pro-Brexit lawmakers in the governing Conservatives abstained, accusing the government of effectively ruling out the threat of leaving the EU without an agreement on departure terms and future relations, a move they say undermines Britain’s bargaining position.

“Conservative MPs (members of Parliament) really ought not to be associated with anything, express or implied, which seems to take ‘no deal’ off the table,” Brexit-backing Conservative lawmaker Steve Baker tweeted before the vote.

Pro-EU lawmakers in Britain’s divided Parliament feel the opposite. They fear time is running out to seal a deal before Britain topples off a “no-deal” cliff, with economically devastating results. But the Commons on Thursday rejected two amendments from the opposition that sought to postpone Brexit or steer the U.K. away from the cliff edge.

Lawmakers intent on averting a “no-deal” Brexit are gathering their strength to make a push in a new series of votes on Feb. 27 to force the government’s hand.

By then, Brexit will be only a month away.

May is struggling with little sign of success to win backing for the divorce deal she struck with the EU from both pro-Brexit and pro-EU lawmakers in Parliament, which rejected the agreement by a whopping 230 votes last month.

May has refused take a “no-deal” Brexit off the table as she attempts to win concessions from the bloc. Most businesses and economists say the British economy would be severely damaged if the country crashed out of the EU on the scheduled Brexit date of March 29 without a deal, bringing tariffs and other impediments to trade.

Jeremy Corbyn, who heads the main opposition Labour Party, accused May of sitting on her hands, “hoping that something will turn up that will save the day and save her face.”

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told lawmakers that “the only way to avoid ‘no-deal’ is either to secure a deal on the terms the prime minister has set out” or to cancel Brexit – something the government says it won’t do.

The remaining 27 EU nations insist that the legally binding withdrawal agreement struck with May’s government in November can’t be renegotiated.

Leaders of the bloc have expressed exasperation at Britain’s desire for last-minute changes, and its failure, amid seemingly endless wrangling in the U.K. Parliament, to offer firm proposals.

European Council President Donald Tusk, who chairs summits of EU leaders, tweeted: “No news is not always good news. EU27 still waiting for concrete, realistic proposals from London on how to break #Brexit impasse.”

Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper said some British politicians were “living in a fantasy world” by believing a solution would magically appear.

“It’s as if we’re all standing around admiring the finery of the emperor’s new clothes and actually the emperor is running around stark naked and everyone is laughing at us – or at least they would be if it wasn’t so sad,” she said.

Story: Jill Lawless

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CONGRESS OKS BORDER DEAL; TRUMP WILL SIGN, DECLARE EMERGENCY

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A Donald Trump supporter flexes his muscles in 2017 with the words “Build The Wall” written on them as Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Plattsburgh, New York. Photo: Elise Amendola / Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Congress lopsidedly approved a border security compromise Thursday that would avert a second painful government shutdown, but a new confrontation was ignited – this time over President Donald Trump’s plan to bypass lawmakers and declare a national emergency to siphon billions from other federal coffers for his wall on the Mexican boundary.

Money in the bill for border barriers, about USD$1.4 billion, is far below the $5.7 billion Trump insisted he needed and would finance just a quarter of the 200-plus miles he wanted. The White House said he’d sign the legislation but act unilaterally to get more, prompting condemnations from Democrats and threats of lawsuits from states and others who might lose federal money or said Trump was abusing his authority.

The uproar over Trump’s next move cast an uncertain shadow over what had been a rare display of bipartisanship to address the grinding battle between the White House and lawmakers over border security.

The Senate passed the legislation 83-16, with both parties solidly aboard. The House followed with a 300-128 tally, with Trump’s signature planned Friday. Trump will speak Friday morning in the Rose Garden about border security, the White House said.

House Democrats overwhelmingly backed the legislation, with only 19 – most of whom were Hispanic – opposed. Just over half of Republicans voted “no.”

Should Trump change his mind, both chambers’ margins were above the two-thirds majorities needed to override presidential vetoes. Lawmakers, however, sometimes rally behind presidents of the same party in such battles.

Lawmakers exuded relief that the agreement had averted a fresh closure of federal agencies just three weeks after a record-setting 35-day partial shutdown that drew an unambiguous thumbs-down from the public. But in announcing that Trump would sign the accord, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also said he’d take “other executive action, including a national emergency,”

In an unusual joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said such a declaration would be “a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract” from Trump’s failure to force Mexico to pay for the wall, as he’s promised for years.

“Congress will defend our constitutional authorities,” they said. They declined to say whether that meant lawsuits or votes on resolutions to prevent Trump from unilaterally shifting money to wall-building, with aides saying they’d wait to see what he does.

Democratic state attorneys general said they’d consider legal action to block Trump. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello told the president on Twitter “we’ll see you in court” if he makes the declaration.

Despite widespread opposition in Congress to proclaiming an emergency, including by some Republicans, Trump is under pressure to act unilaterally to soothe his conservative base and avoid looking like he’s lost his wall battle.

The abrupt announcement of Trump’s plans came late in an afternoon of rumblings that the volatile president – who’d strongly hinted he’d sign the agreement but wasn’t definitive – was shifting toward rejecting it. That would have infused fresh chaos into a fight both parties are desperate to leave behind, a thought that drove some lawmakers to ask heavenly help.

“Let’s all pray that the president will have wisdom to sign the bill so the government doesn’t shut down,” Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Thursday’s Senate session opened.

Moments before Sanders spoke at the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took to the Senate floor to announce Trump’s decisions to sign the bill and declare an emergency.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters there were two hours of phone calls between McConnell and the White House before there were assurances that Trump would sign.

McConnell argued that the bill delivered victories for Trump over Pelosi. These included overcoming her pledge to not fund the wall at all and rejecting a Democratic proposal for numerical limits on detaining some immigrants, said a Republican speaking on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

In a surprising development, McConnell said he would support Trump’s emergency declaration, a turnabout for the Kentucky Republican, who like many lawmakers had opposed such action.

Democrats say there is no border crisis and Trump would be using a declaration simply to sidestep Congress. Some Republicans warn that future Democratic presidents could use his precedent to force spending on their own priorities, like gun control. GOP critics included Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who said emergency declarations are for “major natural disasters or catastrophic events” and said its use would be of “dubious constitutionality.”

White House staff and congressional Republicans have said that besides an emergency, Trump might assert other authorities that could conceivably put him within reach of billions of dollars. The money could come from funds targeted for military construction, disaster relief and counterdrug efforts.

Congressional aides say there is $21 billion for military construction that Trump could used if he declares a national emergency. By law, the money must be used to support U.S. armed forces, they say.The Defense Department declined to provide details on available money.

With many of the Democrats’ liberal base voters adamantly against Trump’s aggressive attempts to curb immigration, four declared presidential hopefuls opposed the bill in the Senate: Cory Booker of New Jersey, New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota voted for it, as did Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, who is expected to join the field soon.

Notably, the word “wall,” the heart of many a chant at Trump campaign events and his rallies as president, is absent from the compromise’s 1,768-page legislative and descriptive language. “Barriers” and “fencing” are the nouns of choice, a victory for Democrats eager to deny Trump even a rhetorical victory.

The agreement, which took bargainers three weeks to strike, would also squeeze funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in an attempt to pressure the agency to detain fewer immigrants. To the dismay of Democrats, however, it would still leave an agency many of them consider abusive holding thousands more immigrants than last year.

The measure contains money for improved surveillance equipment, more customs agents and humanitarian aid for detained immigrants. The overall bill also provides $330 billion to finance dozens of federal programs for the rest of the year, one-fourth of federal agency budgets.

Trump sparked the last shutdown before Christmas after Democrats snubbed his $5.7 billion demand for the wall. The closure denied paychecks to 800,000 federal workers, hurt contractors and people reliant on government services and was loathed by the public.

With polls showing the public blamed him and GOP lawmakers, Trump folded on Jan. 25 without getting any of the wall funds. His capitulation was a political fiasco for Republicans and handed Pelosi a victory less than a month after Democrats took over the House and confronted Trump with a formidable rival for power.

Trump’s descriptions of the wall have fluctuated, at times saying it would cover 1,000 miles of the 2,000-mile boundary. Previous administrations constructed over 650 miles of barriers.

Story: Alan Fram, Catherine Lucey, Andrew Taylor 

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Archaeologists in Pompeii Find Fresco of Narcissus in ‘Extraordinary’ Condition

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An undated photo of the atrium of a house with a fresco portraying the mythological hunter Narcissus, right, in Pompeii, near Naples, Italy.CreditCreditParco Archeologico di Pompei, via Associated Press

Time robbed Narcissus of his good looks, but through a volcanic blast, almost 2,000 years and many tons of ash, his beloved — his own reflection — has gazed unwaveringly back.

On Thursday, the mythological figure of Narcissus re-emerged to the public from his perch on a wall in Pompeii, where archaeologists announced they had uncovered a remarkably well-preserved fresco depicting his story: The hunter who fell in love with his reflection in a pool.

The fresco was unearthed in a home where, last November, archaeologists excavated a bedroom fresco of Greek mythology, the rape of Leda by the god Zeus in the form of a swan. Both works survived the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., which buried the Roman city of Pompeii in fire, pumice and ash.

Alfonsina Russo, the director of the excavation, said in a statement that “the beauty of these rooms” had caused the archaeologists to change their plans and work on the room and its surroundings. In the process, she said, they found the new fresco in the atrium, a part of the house where wealthy Romans would have conducted business.

The fresco probably dated to “the last years of the colony,” Massimo Osanna, the site’s director general, said, citing the “extraordinary preservation” of the image’s colors.

In the fresco, Narcissus reclines by a pool, his face damaged but looking downward toward the water, where his greenish reflection stares back. A winged figure who may be Eros, the Greek god of love, stands nearby, as does a dog — tugging in vain at Narcissus’ garment, unable to pull him away.

Mr. Osanna said that the decorations around the room were “pervaded by the theme of the joy of living, of beauty and of vanity.” Other mythological figures, like cupids, maenads and satyrs, also appeared in the public part of the house “as though part of a Dionysian retinue,” he said, referring to the Greek god of wine and revelry.

In the atrium where the Narcissus fresco stands, the archaeologists also found the trace of stairs leading to an upper floor and the remains of glass containers, a bronze funnel and eight amphorae, the ancient vessels for olive oil, wine or other goods. Ms. Russo said the team hopes to open “at least part” of the home to the public.

The opulence of the home suggested it was “a grand residence with a wealthy owner,” said Sophie Hay, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge who has studied Pompeii and was not part of the excavation.

Around the beginning of the millennium, Dr. Hay said, Greek myths were made popular by the poet Ovid. “In Pompeii it became fashionable to depict the myths in frescoes,” she said.

In Ovid’s telling of Narcissus, he is a preternaturally handsome young man who is predicted to live a long life so long as he never catches sight of himself. A nymph named Echo falls in love with him — and Narcissus rejects her. She retreats to a cave, eventually fading to only a voice.

Narcissus’ rejection of Echo and other suitors angers the goddess Nemesis, who arranges it so that he spots his own reflection in a pool. He, too, falls hopelessly in love, unable to touch his mirror image in the water, and like Echo he wastes away. Only Narcissus appears in the newly found fresco.

The excavations are in a part of Pompeii at the edge of the site and vulnerable to collapse, which threatens the archaeological artifacts below, Dr. Hay said. The unearthed fresco follows several other recent finds at Pompeii, including a horse covered in pumice and ash, an elaborate shrine embedded in a wall, and the skeleton of a man who seemed to have been crushed by a flying boulder, but probably was not.

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