News Briefs – National and International



Gorsuch Confirmed to SCOTUS

Judge Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the U.S. Senate by a tally of 54-45 on April 7. This is the culmination of more than a year’s worth of back and forth between the Republican and Democratic parties over how to fill the vacancy left by the late Antonin Scalia. Most recently, Senate Republicans were able to overcome a filibuster by the chamber’s assembled Democrats by invoking the “nuclear option.” This measure allowed for Gorsuch to be confirmed by a simple majority vote instead of the customary 60-vote threshold. Gorsuch, who has served on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006, will be sworn in on April 10.


Trump Meets with Chinese President

President Donald Trump met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on April 6 during a summit at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Florida resort. This was Trump’s first meeting with President Xi, whose country was a source of constant attack by Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign. The two are expected to discuss bilateral ties as well as major regional and global issues that concern both countries. Trump has been very critical of the Chinese government, saying that the country is, “using (America) as a piggy bank to rebuild China.” But upon meeting with Xi, President Trump says the two have developed a friendship, calling it an honor to host them.


Teen Pleads Guilty to Plan to Kill Pope

A New Jersey teenager pleaded guilty on April 5 to charges stemming from a plan to kill Pope Francis during his 2015 trip to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. Santos Colon, who at the time was just 15, contacted who he thought was a sniper in hopes of hiring him to kill the pontiff. Unbeknownst to the teen, the person he contacted was an undercover FBI source, leading to his arrest just two weeks before the pope’s visit. According to reports from the AFP news agency, Colon was inspired by the Islamic State, although it is not clear how he is connected to the group. He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.



Syrian Chemical Attack Kills 72

Warplanes attacked the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun in the early morning of April 6,

releasing a nerve agent that has killed more than 70 people so far. According to eyewitness reports, the planes dropped several bombs on the town that released a yellow mushroom cloud into the air. The banned chemical agent sarin is suspected to have been used in the attack, according to several officials. Khan Sheikhoun was controlled by rebel forces at the time, leading to increased speculation that the Syrian government played a part in the attack, a claim the regime vehemently refutes. Both President Donald Trump and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley have both denounced the attack and have called for action against the Syrian government, who they maintain were involved in that attack.


Britain Formally Begins Process to Leave EU

British prime minister Teresa May formally began her country’s departure of the European Union by handing a letter triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to Donald Tusk, president of the EU Council on March 29. This comes nine months after the referendum vote where the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU. In the letter, May enumerated seven negotiating principles, which will be used as the prime minster begins the two-year process of negotiations necessary for the U.K.’s complete departure from the Council. Many members of the body, including Tusk and chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, have criticized the moved, with Tusk remarking that this was not a “happy day” for the EU. May, on the other hand, called the departure “a historic moment from which there is no turning back.”


Venezuelan National Assembly Dissolved by Supreme Court

The Venezuelan Supreme Court removed power from the country’s National Assembly on March 30, effectively creating a one-man rule by President Nicholas Maduro. The court’s reasoning behind the decision comes from accusation of the assembly being in contempt for swearing in legislators last year in elections that the court ruled were invalid. According to the ruling, all powers vested in the opposition-controlled legislative body will be transferred to the court, which is full of government loyalists. As a result, all three branches are controlled by President Maduro’s United Socialist party. This move has been denounced by several prominent Venezuelans, who have called the government effectively a “dictatorship.” The country of Peru has also broken off diplomatic relations with Venezuela as a result of the court’s decision.

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