February 2, 2017
From Washington, this is VOA news. I'm David DeForest reporting.
"The ayes to the right - 498. The Nos to the left - 114."
Britain moved one step closer to separation from the European Union late Wednesday when members of parliament voted overwhelmingly to begin the process.
Lawmakers voted 498-114 to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to begin Brexit negotiations.
The vote in parliament came after opponents of Brexit launched a court battle challenging Theresa May's government, the prime minister and her attempt to trigger the process without consulting parliament.
European Union President Donald [Trump] Tusk says China, Russia and the United States under the leadership of President Trump are among the top external threats facing the bloc.
His remarks came in a letter to 27 EU leaders before a summit scheduled for Friday in Malta.
Tusk [said] laid out, rather, a defense of the European Union, saying it has never faced more dangerous challenges and needs what he called "courage, determination and political solidarity."
Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the United States is committed to honoring an agreement to resettle a group of asylum seekers from Pacific island camps.
The agreement reached during the Obama administration involves about 1,200 migrants who were [accepted] intercepted, rather, trying to reach Australia.
Israeli soldiers and police gathered Wednesday in the West Bank to carry out the eviction of about 50 Jewish families living in an unauthorized outpost there.
The military has ordered people to leave the settlement of Amona, which the Supreme Court ruled was built on private Palestinian land.
This is VOA news.
The U.S. Senate Wednesday approved the nomination of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.
"The yeas are 56. The nays are 43. The nomination is confirmed."
Tillerson is the former CEO of ExxonMobil.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to advance the nomination of Republican Senator Jeff Session as the nation's top law enforcement official. Despite a Democratic boycott, the Senate Finance Committee voted Wednesday to advance the nominations of Republican Congressman Tom Price as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and Steve Mnuchin as head of the Treasury Department.
At the White House, spokesman Sean Spicer criticized the Democratic boycotts.
"They are doing their constituents in our country a disservice by resorting to these childish tactics. The president's cabinet nominees will be confirmed on the floor of the Senate once Democrats actually allow them to get a fair vote."
Senate Democrats Wednesday also boycotted other committee votes. [This one] One other one, rather, this one is the Environmental Protection Agency nominee Scott Pruitt. Pruitt has expressed some doubts about the science of climate change, and the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee session ended without any action on his nomination.
U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser denounced Iran's ballistic missile launch Wednesday.
Retired General Michael Flynn said Iran is putting at risk the nuclear agreement. It reached in 2015 with world powers.
"Iran continues to threaten U.S. friends and allies in the region. The Obama administration failed to respond adequately to Tehran's malign actions, including weapons transfers, support for terrorism and other violations of international norms."
Flynn did not threaten any specific action against Iran.
Iran confirmed Wednesday that it did in fact carry out a missile launch on Sunday, but says it did not violate the nuclear agreement.
Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch began meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
Vice President Mike Pence joined Gorsuch as he started off with a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Senator McConnell called Gorsuch an "outstanding appointment."
Reuters reports that Syria's opposition factions have issued a statement saying they will not participate in peace talks unless the discussions lead to turning over power to a transitional governing body, and they said no steps will be taken toward a political solution unless there is a fully enforced cease-fire.
The statement further said that no outsiders can decide who represents the opposition at talks.
President Trump made an unannounced visit Wednesday to the Dover Air Base. He was there to pay respects to a U.S. commando killed in Yemen.
From the VOA news center in Washington, I'm David DeForest.
That's the latest world news from VOA.