03.12.2019 • Tuesday • M 1
sT. LOuIs POsT-dIsPaTCH • A15
Last-minute Brexit talks break deadlock But Parliament still may not be satisfied with changes to plan to leave the EU BY JILL LAWLESS AND RAF CASERT associated Press
LONDON • The British government said Monday that frenzied last-minute diplomacy had won “legally binding changes” to overcome a roadblock in its divorce deal with the European Union, hours before Parliament was due to decide the fate of Prime Minister Theresa May’s hard-won agreement — and of Britain’s departure from the EU. On the eve of Tuesday’s vote, May flew to the French city of
Strasbourg, where EU legislators were meeting, for nighttime talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The prime minister was seeking revisions, guarantees or other changes to persuade reluctant British legislators to back her withdrawal agreement with the EU, which they resoundingly rejected in January. At a joint news conference, May and Juncker claimed to have succeeded. May said new documents to be added to the deal provided “legally binding changes” to the part relating to the Irish border. The legal 585-page withdrawal agreement itself though was left intact. “In politics, sometimes you get a second chance. It is what you do with this second chance that counts. Because there will
be no third chance,” Juncker warned the legislators who will vote late Tuesday. “Let’s be crystal clear about the choice: it is this deal or Brexit might not happen at all,” he said. May said the changes should overcome lawmakers’ qualms about a mechanism in the deal designed to keep an open border between Britain’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. The mechanism, known as the backstop, is a safeguard that would keep the U.K. in a customs union with the EU until a permanent new trading relationship is in place. Brexit-supporters in Britain fear the backstop could be used to bind the country to EU regulations indeﬁnitely. May said the new wording “will guarantee that the EU can-
not act with the intent of applying the backstop indeﬁnitely.” But the changes appear to fall well short of Brexiteers’ demands for a unilateral British exit mechanism from the backstop. Pro-Brexit lawmakers said they would read the fine print before deciding how to vote on Tuesday. Announcing the breakthrough in Britain’s House of Commons, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington said lawmakers faced “a fundamental choice ... to vote for the improved deal or to plunge this country into a political crisis.” Earlier, Juncker kissed May twice on the cheeks when she arrived at the commission’s headquarters in the European Parliament building. EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier kissed
Chaos spreads in Venezuela Scattered protests are held in cities after days without power
her hand before they went inside for talks. When negotiations between the EU and the British government were at a low ebb, Juncker shook the British leader’s hand before a similar meeting. Britain is due to pull out of the EU on March 29, but the government has not been able to win parliamentary approval for its agreement with the bloc on withdrawal terms and future relations. The impasse has raised fears of a chaotic “no-deal” Brexit that could mean major disruption for businesses and people in Britain and the 27 remaining EU countries. “This is a government in chaos, with a country in chaos because of this mess,” Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said.
Inventor laments web’s coming-of-age problems BY JAMEY KEATEN associated Press
GENEVA • The inventor of the
People collect water Monday from a broken pipe that belongs to the city water service, during rolling blackouts that have kept people without running water in their homes in Caracas, Venezuela. The blackout has intensified the toxic political climate, with accusations of sabotage. BY FABIOLA SANCHEZ AND SCOTT SMITH associated Press
CARACAS, VENEZUELA • Ven-
ezuelans on Monday converged on a polluted river in Caracas to ﬁll water bottles and held scattered protests in several cities as a growing sense of chaos took hold in a country where people have had little power, water and communications for days. A 3-year-old girl with a brain tumor languished in a Caracas hospital, awaiting treatment after doctors started surgery but then suspended the operation when nationwide power outages first hit on Thursday, said the girl’s fearful mother, who only gave her ﬁrst name, Yalimar. “The doctors told me that there are no miracles,” said Yalimar, who hopes her daughter can be transferred Tuesday to one of the few hospitals in Venezuela that would be able to ﬁnish the complex procedure. The girl’s story highlighted an unfolding horror in Venezuela, where years of hardship for millions of people got abruptly worse after the power grid collapsed, intensifying the country’s long-running misery. On Monday, schools and businesses were closed, long lines of cars
waited at the few gasoline stations with electricity and hospitals cared for many patients without power. Generators have alleviated conditions for some of the critically ill. The widespread blackouts have brought oil exports to a halt, and financial experts say that is costing the cashstrapped country millions of dollars a day. Russ Dallen, a Miami-based partner at the brokerage firm Caracas Capital Markets Dallen, said Monday that Venezuela hasn’t shipped $358 million in oil since the nationwide power failures hit Thursday evening. He said that “the whole system is grinding to a halt.” There were also acts of kindness: people whose food would rot in fridges without power donated it to a restaurant, which cooked it for distribution to charitable foundations and hospitals. Information about developments across the country was difficult to gather because communications were unreliable. Engineers restored power in some areas, but it often went again. There have been a few protests in the Venezuelan capital, and reports of similar shows of anti-government an-
ger in the cities of Maracaibo and Maturin. Opposition leader Juan Guaido tweeted about reports of looting in some cities, but the reports were difficult to conﬁrm. In Caracas, some people reported more sightings of “colectivos,” a term for armed groups allegedly operating on behalf of the state to intimidate opponents. While President Nicolas Maduro and other government officials said they were working hard to restore power and provide basic necessities, the mood in Caracas was desperate. Marian Morales, a nurse working for a Catholic youth group, and several colleagues handed out diapers and food from their car, parked near a hospital. Police and men in civilian clothing ordered them to leave, saying they didn’t have permission. Morales said the needy are cautious about approaching to collect the handouts because of the presence of security forces. The opposition-controlled National Assembly debated the power cuts and declared that the situation was an emergency, a largely symbolic move aimed at pressuring Maduro. Guaido criticized the government’s
handling of the outages and called it a “sadistic regime.” Early Monday, an explosion rocked a power station in Caracas. Flames rose overnight from the electrical facility in the Baruta area of Caracas. Residents gathered to look at the charred, smoldering transformers and electrical equipment. Guaido said three of four electricity transformers servicing the area were knocked out and that state engineers were unable to ﬁx them. He has blamed the blackouts on alleged government corruption and mismanagement. Winston Cabas, the head of Venezuela’s electrical engineers union, which opposes the government, disputed government allegations that the dam was the target of sabotage. He blamed a lack of maintenance as well as the departure of skilled workers from the troubled country over the years. “The system is vulnerable, fragile and unstable,” he said. Maduro had accused Guaido and the United States of staging a “cyberattack” on the hydroelectric station at the Guri Dam, the cornerstone of Venezuela’s electrical grid. The U.S. dismisses the allegation.
Suspect in Kim Jong Nam assassination freed by Malaysia BY SHIBANI MAHTANI Washington Post
HONG KONG • One of the
women suspected of killing Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was freed Monday in Malaysia after prosecutors unexpectedly dropped charges against her. Siti Aisyah, 26, returned home to Indonesia on Monday evening. She and the second suspect in the murder, Doan Thi Huong, 30, from Vietnam, appeared in court Monday, but charges were dropped only against Aisyah. “I feel very happy,” she said at a news conference, thanking
everyone who worked for her release after more than two years in Malaysian custody. “I didn’t expect that today will be the day of my freedom.” The two women, who maintain their innocence, were accused of delivering the potent VX nerve agent that killed Kim Jong Nam in an airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in February 2017. Both Aisyah and Huong have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a television show and were applying lotion on the man’s face. U.S. ofﬁcials have said the orders came from Pyongyang. The pair were the only ones held by Malaysian authorities,
after four North Korean suspects ﬂed the country the day of Kim’s murder. He was the eldest son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and had lived abroad since 2003. Kim Jong Il died in 2011 and was succeeded by Kim Jong Un, who then set about consolidating power. In a statement, Malaysian Attorney General Tommy Thomas said Aisyah’s release came after intervention from the Indonesian government, which repeatedly lobbied for the charges against her to be dropped and for her to be allowed to return home. The decision was made “taking into account the good relations” between Indonesia and Malaysia, Thomas wrote in
a letter to Indonesia’s minister of law and human rights. The woman’s case was raised at every meeting between Indonesia and Malaysia, Indonesian officials said, including when Indonesian President Joko Widodo met with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in July. Both Indonesia and Malaysia are Muslim-majority nations, with closely related languages and deep ties. “We are grateful the public prosecutor has come to this conclusion because we truly believe she is merely a scapegoat and she is innocent,” said Gooi Soon Seng, Aisyah’s attorney. The trial against Huong, however, will continue Thursday.
World Wide Web knows his revolutionary innovation is coming of age, and doesn’t always like what he sees: state-sponsored hacking, online harassment, hate speech and misinformation among the ills of its “digital adolescence.” Tim Berners-Lee issued a cride-coeur letter and spoke to a few reporters Monday on the eve of the 30-year anniversary of his first paper with an outline of what would become the web — a ﬁrst step toward transforming countless lives and the global economy. The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, plans to host BernersLee and other web aficionados on Tuesday. “We’re celebrating, but we’re also very concerned,” BernersLee said. Late last year, a key threshold was crossed — roughly half the world has gotten online. Today some 2 billion websites exist. The anniversary offers “an opportunity to reflect on how far we have yet to go,” BernersLee said, calling the “ﬁght” for the web “one of the most important causes of our time.” He is convinced the online population will continue to grow, but says accessibility issues continue to beset much of the world. “Look at the 50 percent who are on the web, and it’s not so pretty for them,” he said. “They are all stepping back suddenly horrified after the Trump and Brexit elections realizing that this web thing that they thought was so cool has actually not necessarily been serving humanity very well.” The anniversary is also a nod to the innovative, collaborative and open-source mindset at the Geneva-based CERN, where physicists smash particles together to unlock secrets of science and the universe. As a young English software engineer, Berners-Lee came up with the idea for hypertexttransfer protocol — the “http” that adorns web addresses — and other building blocks for the web while working at CERN in March 1989. Some trace the actual start of the web to 1990, when he released the first web browser. Berners-Lee reminisced about how he was really out to get disparate computer systems to talk to one another, and resolve the “burning frustration” over a “lack of interoperability” of documentation from disparate computing systems used at CERN in the late 1980s. Now, the hope of his World Wide Web Foundation is to enlist governments, companies, and citizens to take a greater role in shaping the web for good under principles laid out in its “Contract for the Web.” Under the contract’s sweeping, broad ambition, governments are supposed to make sure everyone can connect to the internet, to keep it available and to respect privacy. Companies are to make the internet affordable, respect privacy and develop technology that will put people — and the “public good” — first. Citizens are to create and to cooperate and respect “civil discourse,” among other things. To Berners-Lee, the web is a “mirror of humanity” where “you will see good and bad.”