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US Senate to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales

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The US Senate will vote Thursday on whether to block $8.1 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies, a lawmaker said, as legislators’ outrage with the kingdom grows.

Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republican-led Senate, had agreed to allow votes on the 22 arms sales that critics say will aggravate the devastating war in Yemen.

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“I want to thank the bipartisan group of cosponsors of these resolutions, the majority leader and our staffs for diligently working through this unprecedented process,” Menendez said late Wednesday on the Senate floor.

President Donald Trump’s administration took the extraordinary step of bypassing Congress to approve the sale of aircraft support maintenance, munitions and other weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well as a transfer of existing weapons to Jordan.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration was responding to an emergency caused by Saudi Arabia’s historic rival Iran, which backs the Huthi rebels in Yemen.

Senators, including some Republicans, said there were no legitimate grounds to circumvent Congress, which has the right to disapprove arms sales.

But it will remain a long haul for Congress to come up with a two-thirds vote to overcome a potential veto by Trump.

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Critics say that the weapons will help Saudi Arabia mount its offensive in Yemen, where millions remain on the brink of starvation in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe.


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Trump impeachment trial: 4 stories from first day spell doom for Mitch McConnell

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If the score was kept for the first day of the impeachment trial, it would show hefty losses for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

As Former Special Counsel for the Department of Defense, Ryan Goodman, pointed out, four major headlines perfectly reflect the cracks in the strangle-hold McConnell has had on his party.

First, McConnell was forced to change the impeachment hearing rules. After a huge uprising by Americans demanding to be able to watch the impeachment trial during normal human hours, senators told McConnell he'd lost the votes to hold proceedings after midnight.

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‘Disease fanboy’: Internet slams NBC conservative for ‘rooting for pandemic’ to distract from Trump impeachment trial

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Hugh Hewitt is once again under fire, this time for almost appearing to be glad a deadly SARS-related virus has been diagnosed in a patient in Washington state – saying additional diagnoses will take the focus away from the Senate's historic impeachment trial. Hewitt is a conservative Washington Post columnist, radio host, MSNBC and NBC contributor, and law professor who went from being a "Never-Trumper" to all-in for President Donald Trump.

"People care much more for their health than theater," said Hewitt via Twitter, referring to Trump's impeachment trial. The SARS-related virus, known as the Wuhan coronavirus, is named for an area of China where it was first found. It "has infected more than 300 people and killed six in an outbreak that has struck China, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and now the US," CNN reports.

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Greece elects first woman president

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Greece's parliament on Wednesday elected the first woman president in the country's history, a senior judge with an expertise in environmental and constitutional law.

A cross-party majority of 261 MPs voted in favour of 63-year-old Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou, parliament chief Costas Tassoulas said.

"Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou has been elected president of the republic," Tassoulas said.

The new president, until now the head of Greece's top administrative court, the Council of State, will take her oath of office on March 13, he added.

The daughter of a Supreme Court judge, Sakellaropoulou completed postgraduate studies at Paris's Sorbonne university.

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