While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Jan 30

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves parliament after MP's voted to change her Brexit deal.
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves parliament after MP's voted to change her Brexit deal.PHOTO: AFP

British lawmakers instruct May to demand EU reopen Brexit deal; EU says ‘No’

British lawmakers instructed Prime Minister Theresa May to demand that Brussels replace the Irish border arrangement known as the “backstop”, in a last-ditch attempt to renegotiate an exit treaty that the European Union says it will not change.

The amendment, put forward by influential Conservative lawmaker Graham Brady, passed by 317 votes to 301, and is intended to strengthen May’s hand when she returns to Brussels to try to renegotiate – something the EU again ruled out within minutes of the vote.

With two months left until Britain is due by law to leave the EU, investors and allies have urged the British government to clinch a deal to allow an orderly exit from the club it joined in 1973.

The amendment calls for the backstop to be replaced with unspecified “alternative arrangements” to avoid the reintroduction of border checks in Ireland, and says parliament would support May’s Brexit deal if this change were made.


Huawei's Meng Wanzhou appears in court as Canada mulls US extradition

Huawei Technologies' chief financial officer, the central figure in a high-stakes dispute between the world's two largest economies, made her first appearance in a Canadian court in more than a month as Ottawa weighs extraditing the Chinese executive to the United States.

Meng Wanzhou, daughter of the Chinese telecommunications company's founder, attended the hearing in British Columbia Supreme Court during which Justice William Ehrcke approved her request for a change in who is financially responsible for her bail.

Canada arrested Meng on Dec 1 at the request of the United States, which on Monday brought sweeping charges against Huawei and Meng that paint the company as a threat to US national security. Meng was charged with bank and wire fraud to violate American sanctions against Iran.


China likely to step up militarisation in South China Sea: US intelligence report

China is likely to continue to increase its maritime presence in the South China Sea and build military and dual-use infrastructure in the Spratly Islands to improve its ability to control access and project power, a newly-released American intelligence assessment of global threats warned.

Beijing seeks to influence the politics and economies of countries in its backyard, and is expected to increase its engagement in South-east Asia to build its influence while diminishing the influence of the US and its allies, said the annual report submitted to the US Senate.

It said that in the coming year, China and Russia would compete more intensively with the United States and its allies and partners in an expansive race for technological and military superiority, thus presenting greater threats to US national security.


Canadian landscaper Bruce McArthur pleads guilty to eight murders

A Canadian landscaper pleaded guilty to the murders of eight men with links to Toronto’s gay community and the mutilation of their bodies, most of them chopped up and hidden inside planters.

The plea entered by Bruce McArthur, 67, was a surprise – he had been scheduled to stand trial next year.

He now faces the likelihood of life in prison. A sentencing hearing is scheduled to start on Feb 4, when family and friends of the victims will have an opportunity to describe how the killings affected their lives.


Empire actor Jussie Smollett assaulted in Chicago in potential hate crime

Jussie Smollett, a black, openly gay actor best known for his work in Fox's Empire, was assaulted in Chicago by two people carrying a noose and an unidentified "chemical substance" in what police are calling a "possible racially-charged assault and battery."

Smollett, 35, was walking on the 300th block of E. North Lower Water Street around 2am local time on Tuesday, "when two unknown offenders approached him and gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him," the Chicago Police Department said in a statement to The Washington Post.

"The offenders began to batter the victim with their hands about the face and poured an unknown chemical substance on the victim."