Palestine, Golan Heights take centre stage at Arab League summit

Tunis, Tunisia – The Arab League has rejected the United States‘s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights and renewed a call for the establishment of a Palestinian state, saying peace and security in the region depended on a solution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

In a final statement after Sunday’s summit in Tunisia’s capital, Arab leaders stressed their “full support for Syria’s right” over the Golan plateau, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 war, and expressed their determination to “continue efforts to resume” peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

The daylong meeting in Tunis took place against the backdrop of ongoing regional unrest and conflict – from the long-running wars in Syria and Yemen to instability in Libya, and the widespread anti-government protests in Algeria and Sudan to a major diplomatic dispute in the Gulf.

, Tunisia’s foreign minister, who delivered the 30th summit’s final statement, called the continuing conflicts in the Arab world “unacceptable”.

“Arab reconciliation is the starting point for stability in the region,” he said.

But his statement did not make mention of the majority of conflicts plaguing the region. Instead, it was Washington’s recent move over Golan Heights and the Palestine issue that took centre stage.

, reiterating the “the centrality of the Palestinian cause”, said Arab leaders were committed to resolving the conflict based on the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which offered to recognise Israel in return for a full withdrawal from lands occupied in the 1967 war, including the Golan Heights, occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

‘End to painful era’

Speaking earlier in the day, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia repeated his kingdom’s support for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, while King Abdullah of Jordan, the custodian of Jerusalem’s holy sites, promised he would continue to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

For his part, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt‘s president, called for a “comprehensive peaceful solution” in order to “put an end to this painful era, which wasted our energy for seven decades”.

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), meanwhile, blamed the US for the continued Israeli occupation.

“Israel’s continuation of its racist policy, and the act of being a state above the law, would not have been possible without the support of the American administration,” Abbas said at the summit.

The PA has rejected the US as a mediator between Israel and Palestine since US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017.

But despite denouncing the US’s moves favouring Israel, there was no announcement of further action by the Arab leaders.

The summit’s focus on Palestine, analysts said, was a fig leaf for Arab leaders to deflect attention from turmoil in their countries.

Mahjoob Zweiri, the director of the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University, described the meeting as an attempt by Arab leaders to “deny what is happening in the Arab world, such as the increase of corruption, lack of transparency, and the worsening economic situation”.

“There’s a certain attempt to bring the issue of Palestine back in an attempt to please the Arab public,” he said. “The fact is the Arab League, for years and years, has done nothing to further the Palestinian question.”

In a move that ignores the Arab Peace Initiative, Arab states such as Oman and the United Arab Emirates over the past year have, overtly and covertly, tried to normalise relations with Israel.

That is why, Zweiri said, the Arab League’s policy statement was nothing more than rhetorical posturing.

“There won’t be any translation into any policy,” he said. “It will just be declarations to try to show the Arab public they are doing something.”

Arab leaders at the 30th annual summit of the Arab League in Tunis [Fethi Belaid/ AFP]

Mouin Rabbani, co-editor of Jadaliyya, an Arab studies magazine, said the Palestine issue has been on the agenda of the Arab League from its very inception in the mid-1940s.

However, in recent years it has been demoted to “secondary or even tertiary status”, he added.

“Given that so many of today’s Arab governments are effectively beholden to foreign powers rather than their own citizens, there is now an attempt by the Trump administration to ostensibly rewrite international consensus on the resolutions of the question of Palestine – and for that matter the Arab-Israeli conflict – and using its enormous power to do so unilaterally,” Rabbani told Al Jazeera.

“Over the past year, there have been consistent reports that the Trump administration has been doing so either with the cooperation with or with the acquiescence of key Arab states,” he said, referring to the Middle East peace plan process.

The plan, which was devised by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, has the backing of major Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Its details have not been made public.

Given the keenness of Arab states’ to maintain good relations with the US, Rabbani said the Tunis summit was merely a “prominent platform” where leaders could deny accusations of their collaboration with Washington at the expense of the Palestinian cause.

“The Arab League has conclusively and unambiguously demonstrated itself to be an obstacle to rather than an instrument of collective Arab action and promoter of Arab rights,” Rabbani said.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Peeps donuts and ‘Dumbo’: 5 things you need to know Monday

Editors, USA TODAY
Published 3:45 a.m. ET April 1, 2019 | Updated 3:47 a.m. ET April 1, 2019

Fossil discovery sheds light on a time capsule of the end of the world

A group of animals died together, 66 million years ago, in what’s now North Dakota, only a few minutes after a huge asteroid smashed into the Earth near present-day Mexico. A research paper to be published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences details the jumbled, fossilized remains of the animals, all killed when a tsunami-like wave and a torrent of rocks, sand and glass buried them alive. The graveyard is a first-of-its-kind discovery from the exact day that life on Earth changed forever, according to the study lead author Robert DePalma, a curator at the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History. 

For Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Time has come

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, appears on the April 1 cover of Time magazine. The Democrat is captured looking into the distance with the words “The Phenom” to her left on the magazine cover. The 29-year-old and her rise as one of the most-talked-about members of Congress are the focus of a Time cover story. Ocasio-Cortez, known to some by her initials AOC, has managed to capture interest in Washington — from her upset primary victory over Joe Crowley last summer to her questioning of Michael Cohen.  

Autopsy planned for college player who collapsed on field

An autopsy is planned for Monday for a college baseball player who died after collapsing on a baseball field, a county coroner said. Parker Neff, 21, played shortstop for the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie. He died at Allendale County Hospital in Fairfax, South Carolina, on Friday afternoon, said Renique Riley, Allendale County coroner. Neff is the third University of South Carolina student to die this week. Samantha Josephson, a 21-year-old USC senior, was confirmed dead Saturday morning after going missing early Friday in Five Points. Another student died by suicide a week ago, according to a report from The State

Peeps doughnuts and marshmallow-flavored coffee at Dunkin’

Dunkin’ announced that it will release a new Peeps doughnut and marshmallow-flavored coffee on Monday. The Peeps Donut features the brand’s iconic yellow marshmallow chick on top of a green and egg-shaped sprinkle doughnut. The chain also had a Peeps Donut in 2014, however it was flower-shaped. But this is the first time Dunkin’ is offering a Peeps coffee, which “brings the delightful, creamy taste of classic Peeps Marshmallow to Dunkin’s hot and iced coffee, espresso drinks, frozen coffee and frozen chocolate,” the company said Wednesday in a statement. April also brings big freebie and deal days starting with April Fools’ Day Monday and a rare special from the Cheesecake Factory and DoorDash.  

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Dunkin’s new Peeps-flavored doughnuts and coffee will get you ready for the new spring season.
USA Today

‘Dumbo’ charms crowds but flies feebly at box office

Final numbers are expected Monday after Disney’s “Dumbo” didn’t exactly take flight at the North American box office the way its other live-action remakes of animated classics have. On Sunday, Disney reported that the Tim Burton-directed film has earned an estimated $45 million domestically from 4,259 locations against a $170 million production budget. It’s less than half of what “Beauty and the Beast,” ″The Jungle Book” and Burton’s own “Alice in Wonderland” earned in their debuts.

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‘Dumbo,’ the beloved elephant with oversized ears, is reimagined in live action.
WALT DISNEY STUDIOS

Contributing: The Associated Press

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Killing Obamacare kills Trump’s health agenda, too

Donald Trump

By eliminating Medicaid expansion, reversing the Affordable Care Act would make President Donald Trump’s plan to eliminate HIV vastly more expensive. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump wants to eliminate HIV in the U.S., contain the opioid crisis and lower the cost of prescription drugs — but all of those need Obamacare to be successful. And Trump just promised to kill it.

His HIV plan relies on key pieces of Obamacare to expand access to prevention and treatment services for Americans at risk of contracting the deadly virus. Expanding opioid prevention relies heavily on Medicaid, which expanded under Obamacare. And Trump’s push to lower drug prices would use an innovation program that tests drug cost modeling — and was created by Obamacare.

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So while the notion of killing Obamacare altogether arouses the GOP base, the reality is that the decade-old law is so intertwined with the entire U.S. health care system that repealing large chunks of it would destroy the ability to do things Trump actually likes.

Even members of Trump’s team have raised red flags. Outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Thursday that overturning Obamacare could thwart an initiative to get cheaper forms of insulin on the market. Carl Schmid, an AIDS Institute leader and co-chair of Trump’s HIV advisory board, called the ACA decision “an unfortunate distraction from ending the HIV epidemic initiative.”

“He’s just completely consigning his own initiatives to the ash heap if the ACA goes down,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a health law and policy expert at George Washington University. “It has become the fabric of the health care system.”

If the law is struck down in court, as the president is rooting for, an estimated 25 million people will lose coverage through private insurance and Medicaid expansion, and insurers will no longer be required to cover people with pre-existing conditions like HIV/AIDS.

The HIV and opioid crises are intertwined because HIV infections have increased with people sharing needles for injecting drugs. Any Obamacare changes that hurt one of those efforts will have serious ramifications for the other.

“Trump’s attempt to dismantle the ACA would critically undermine the goal of ending the HIV epidemic in the United States in the near term,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan congressional HIV/AIDS caucus.

“It would be like pulling the chair out from under the initiative,” said Jen Kates, director of Global Health and HIV Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. In the days before Obamacare’s guarantees of coverage despite pre-existing conditions, people with HIV seeking individual insurance were denied 100 percent of the time, she said.

Advocates and lawmakers have similar concerns about the national response to the opioid crisis, which Trump declared a public health emergency in 2017, which Trump declared a public health emergency in 2017. The Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid covers about 1.2 million people getting mental health and addiction treatment, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

Finally, Trump’s plan to lower drug prices to what patients pay overseas depends on various parts of the ACA, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s Innovation Center — a vehicle for testing new payment models.

The president last week abruptly shifted his previous position and signaled support for a federal judge’s ruling that the ACA in its entirety should be thrown out, despite objections from his health secretary and attorney general. Obamacare’s fate is likely to once again be settled by the Supreme Court. Trump has promised something better in its place, but no one knows what that might be.

If Obamacare goes, prevention services and screening requirements provided under the ACA’s essential health benefits would be eliminated. This would occur as Obamacare was expected to soon require that PrEP, a drug that can prevent new HIV infections, be made available for free in all health insurance plans.

Without those protections, fewer people could be diagnosed and get care — directly undermining a key goal of the Trump administration’s HIV strategy: to detect infections and treat people more quickly to avoid spread of the disease. Recent CDC data shows about eight in 10 new infections are transmitted by people who don’t know they’re infected.

Public health experts are deeply concerned by any potential rollback in services, particularly in Medicaid, which covers more than 40 percent of all people living with HIV, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is credited with increasing coverage of people with HIV — which jumped from 36 percent in 2012 to 42 percent in 2014 and has probably grown since many more states have bolstered their Medicaid rolls.

The Trump HIV plan doesn’t count on states expanding Medicaid, but “they were also not expecting a state to lose access to Medicaid expansion as a result of a court case,” said Bill McColl, AIDS United’s vice president of advocacy and policy.

To make its HIV plan work, the Trump administration planned to rely on non-profit health clinics and hospitals that receive steep discounts on drugs. Obamacare expanded this program, known as 340B, to rural, critical access and community hospitals. That drug savings money is credited with keeping many of these facilities open and alleviating some of the burden on health centers that treat uninsured and low-income HIV patients.

If financially strapped rural hospitals lose their 340B status due to the elimination of Obamacare, it will place a huge burden on other places that treat HIV patients, like the Ryan White Clinics, said Peggy Tighe, the lead lobbyist for Ryan White Clinics for 340B Access.

The cuts to 340B would also hurt anti-addiction treatment because some of the patients treated for HIV infections in rural hospitals and clinics are also opioid users, Tighe said.

More than 170 hospitals were added to the drug discount program thanks to Obamacare in the seven states the Trump administration’s HIV plan targets, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. About 1,000 rural hospitals throughout the country joined the program, according to 340B Health, which lobbies for these health care facilities.

By eliminating Medicaid expansion, reversing the ACA would make Trump’s plan to eliminate HIV vastly more expensive, “although still a worthy goal,” Schmid said.

The billions Congress has appropriated to expand opioid treatment services would be undermined without the health care law’s coverage and consumer protections, such as the requirement that insurers cover addiction care the same way they cover other medical services.

“You cannot strengthen a response to these problems if your foundation is weak,” said Andrew Kessler, founder and principal at Slingshot Solutions.

When it comes to drug prices, ending Obamacare immediately would raise costs for seniors and state governments, while other Americans might see their drug coverage disappear entirely thanks to the loss of the ACA’s mandate that all health plans cover prescription medications.

Seniors would likely spend around $2,000 or more in out-of-pocket drug costs each year without Obamacare, estimates Juliette Cubanski, Kaiser Family Foundation’s associate director of Medicare policy. That’s because the ACA requires drugmakers to provide big discounts to seniors in the coverage gap phase of Medicare Part D. And states would no longer be entitled to the larger discounts on drugs provided to Medicaid programs under Obamacare.

Meanwhile, Trump administration efforts to get cheaper medicines to market could falter. Obamacare created the biosimilar pathway, a way for companies to bring cheaper versions of some of the most costly and complex biologic medicines to market.

Eliminating the biosimilar pathway could cripple efforts to get cheaper versions of insulin to patients. Starting in 2020, insulin will be regulated as a biologic, finally giving companies seeking to make cheaper copycats a way to get a product approved that could be automatically substituted for branded insulin, whose cost has been rising.

Gottlieb, who as FDA chief has made biosimilars a priority, acknowledged at a Senate Appropriations hearing Thursday that if Obamacare is overturned it would thwart FDA’s plan to increase access to them.

“It’s a very important pathway and we fully support it, obviously,” Gottlieb said in response to questions from Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont). “We think it has been profoundly impactful with consumers.”

Other Trump plans to lower the cost of medicines also would be stymied, like the president’s idea to test aligning Medicare payments for pricey doctor-administered drugs to the lower costs paid by other wealthy nations.

This and other similar demonstrations can’t be done without Obamacare’s Innovation Center, which gives the government broad powers to test new health policies without congressional approval.

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Family, friends remember Samantha Josephson, murdered after mistaking her killer’s car for Uber

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South Carolina student Samantha Josephson was confirmed dead after getting into a car she mistook for her Uber.
Wochit, USA TODAY

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Samantha Josephson, the University of South Carolina student who authorities say was murdered after mistaking her killer’s car for an Uber and then was trapped in the back seat with child safety locks, was remembered at a tearful vigil on Sunday night.

With wet eyes and mournful embraces, about 500 people gathered at the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center. About a dozen of Josephson’s friends spoke in honor of her memory, as well as her boyfriend, Greg Corbishley, and father, Seymour Josephson.

They told the story of a lively 21-year-old who loved her friends and family and skillfully balanced her social life with her studies, which were set to take her to law school at Drexel University after her upcoming South Carolina graduation in May.

“I look at all of you guys, and I see that even in the short time that she was here, how many people she positively impacted with her energy and her positive attitude and her wildness,” Corbishley said. 

“Energy doesn’t die. It stays with you, and that positive energy is going to help me go on in living the rest of my life.”

Nathaniel David Rowland, 24, is facing murder and kidnapping charges in the death of Josephson.

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Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said Josephson was standing near the Bird Dog bar in the city’s Five Points entertainment district at about 2 a.m. Friday when Rowland rolled up in his Chevy Impala.

“She had, in fact, summoned an Uber ride,” Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said. “She simply mistakenly got into this car thinking it was an Uber.”

Friends of Josephson filed a missing persons report that afternoon when she did not return to The Hub, an apartment complex in Columbia where she lived with friends and was not reachable on her cellphone.

Less than three hours later, Clarendon County sheriff’s deputies responded to a report that turkey hunters had found a body in a rural area 65 miles from where Josephson was last seen. The body was located in area known to Rowland, a place where he recently resided, Holbrook said.

Arrest warrants indicated Josephson suffered wounds to much of her body, including her head and neck.

“Our hearts are broken,” Holbrook said. “There is nothing tougher than to stand before a family and explain how a loved one was murdered.”

Police publicized details of the suspected vehicle at about the same time the body was found, Holbrook said. Around 3 a.m. Saturday, a Columbia canine officer stopped a black Chevy Impala two blocks from the Five Points area, Holbrook said.

The driver briefly fled on foot before being chased down and was taken into custody. Holbrook said Josephson’s phone was found in the car, along with “a lot of blood,” bleach and other cleaning supplies. 

The vehicle’s child locks were activated, which would have prevented escape, Holbrook said.

University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides offered condolences to her loved ones. He also pleaded with students to be careful.

“Look out for one another, be active bystanders,” he said. “Travel in groups and stay together.”

A gofundme campaign for funeral and memorial costs, with a goal of $5,000, had drawn more than $35,000 in pledges Sunday. Josephson’s father, Seymour Josephson, posted a note on Facebook with details for her funeral Wednesday in her native New Jersey.

“I will miss and love my baby girl for the rest of life,” he said. “Samantha is no longer with us but she will not be forgotten.”

Bacon reported from McLean, Va. Contributing: Donna Isbell Walker and Mollie R. Simon, The Greenville News

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Michigan State’s experience wins out over Duke’s talent in Elite Eight showdown

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SportsPulse: The Spartans shocked Zion Williamson and the Duke Blue Devils with their thrilling upset. USA TODAY’s Jeff Zillgitt believes how they did it is a recipe to win it all in Minnesota.
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — It was fitting that in this game, of all games, the ball wound up in the hands of Kenny Goins. 

It wound up in the hands of a former walk-on who, nearly five years later, is now a redshirt senior.

In other words, it wound up in the hands of the most experienced guy on the floor.

For all of the five-star talent and future NBA lottery picks in this Elite Eight matchup at Capital One Arena on Sunday, it was Goins who ultimately hit the go-ahead 3-pointer to seal Michigan State’s 68-67 win over Duke. 

It was an incredible moment for a guy who passed up multiple Division I scholarship offers to walk on at Michigan State in 2014. But it was also indicative of perhaps the most glaring difference between the two teams: Experience. 

“College basketball won today,” Los Angeles Lakers president and Michigan State product Magic Johnson told a small group of reporters on the court Sunday night. 

“You see the team that’s been together for a long time win, and maybe that will help guys to say ‘well, I’m OK to stay, maybe I’ve got to work on my talent and my game.’ Because Michigan State (has) got a team full of those guys, and they did OK today.”

While Duke fielded three guys who are all but certain to be top-10 NBA draft picks this summer — freshmen R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson — Michigan State offered a stark contrast: Two seniors, one junior, one sophomore and one freshman. (And that freshman, Aaron Henry, appears unlikely to head to the league any time soon.)

Opinion: Year unlike any other sees Zion Williamson and Duke fall short of Final Four

Johnson said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has done “an amazing job” with one-and-done prospects, while Spartans coach Tom Izzo has taken a different approach. He’ll get the occasional super-prospect, but he’s more inclined to develop players over time.

“I think Jay Wright at Villanova set the standard for that,” Izzo said. “If you really look back from when we won it 20 years ago, and Gary Williams, there were a lot of veteran teams. Mike, when he had (Shane) Battier and all those guys.

“Freshmen, it’s hard to be in these environments. No matter who you play during the year, there’s something about experience.”

Perhaps no part of Sunday’s game better illustrated that point than midway through the first half, when Duke went on a 12-0 run. Reddish made a three. Barrett made a three and pumped his fist. The Duke-heavy crowd was going absolutely bonkers.

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Then Izzo took a timeout, Cassius Winston made a layup and Michigan State closed out the half on a 13-0 run of its own.

“I thought they played older than we did,” Krzyzewski said. “Especially in the first half, I thought we were — we were not ourselves. And we wanted it too much.”

More: 3 reasons bracket-busting Michigan State can win national title this March Madness

Michigan State, in contrast, controlled the pace of the game with Winston, a junior, and Matt McQuaid, a senior. Sophomore Xavier Tillman and junior Nick Ward were primarily responsible for guarding Williamson. And ultimately, it was Goins who took the most important shot of the game — even though he wouldn’t have even been on the court for Michigan State a mere two years ago, let alone shooting a three inside the final minute.

“Kenny didn’t really start shooting with confidence until this year,” associate head coach Dane Fife said. “It’s the beginning of a great closure on a career for a guy that’s given his meniscus, some cartilage in his nose, half of an eyeball — he’s been poked in the eye several times. He’s just given his all to the program.”

Goins, for his part, said Sunday’s win was in part the byproduct of all the losses that he and his veteran teammates have navigated over the years. Experience brings perspective, but it also makes the critical moments in a game seem a little bit more routine.

Perhaps that, more than anything else, is why Michigan State is moving on to the Final Four — its first such trip since 2015. In a meeting between one team shaped by talent and another shaped by time, the lasting takeaway was clear.

“Experience matters,” Izzo said. “It really does.”

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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Grandma, 61, gave birth to own granddaughter so her son and his husband could be dads

Cecile Eledge gave up coffee for nine months. 

She did everything doctor’s told her. 

Eledge, 61, said she was joking when she offered to be the gestational surrogate her son and his husband needed. To her surprise, she passed a battery of tests including heart, cholesterol and stress.

A week ago, Uma Louise was born at Nebraska Medical Center weighing 5 pounds, 13 ounces.

A mother and a sister made it possible

Married dads Matthew Eledge and Elliot Dougherty said the birth of their daughter was possible thanks to the women in their life, Eledge’s mother and Dougherty’s sister.

Eledge’s mother carried and delivered their baby. Dougherty’s sister donated eggs to conceive. 

“We have some selfless women in our lives,” Matthew Eledge, 32, a teacher, told USA TODAY. 

His mother said through all the testing, she kept expecting doctors to say she wasn’t fit to be a surrogate.

“But the doctors said there is absolutely no reason you can’t go full term,” she said. “‘Everything is in our favor,’ they said.”

Eledge said she was more careful than she ever was with Matthew, whom she never fully gave up coffee for. 

“I would have felt terrible if anything had happened,” she said. “I followed things to the letter. You know, I love my coffee.”

Baby Uma was conceived through in vitro fertilization, using Eledge’s sperm and eggs from Dougherty’s sister, Lea Yribe.

‘It takes a village’

Dougherty’s sister made the couple who “felt vulnerable” think having a child was even possible, Elliot Dougherty said. He begin talking to her a couple a years ago and his now 26-year-old sister offered to donate some of her eggs.

“That whole thing gave us the momentum to start a family,” said Dougherty, 29, a hair dresser. She was very committed from the get-go.”

Matthew Eledge said with their salaries as a school teacher and hair dresser, it would have been so much more difficult to have a child and pay someone to serve as surrogate and egg donor. But it also seemed cold and corporate.

“We also believe it takes a village to raise a family,” he said. “While we may have taken an unconventional approach, we were able to talk about the process and it made everything more exciting and more fun.”

Elliot Dougherty added: “I can’t believe tomorrow will be a week. She’s going to be a week old! The whole thing has just been amazing.”

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Another tense Brexit week begins: What will happen next?

London, United Kingdom – At the start of another week, which was meant to be the first after the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, the Brexit outlook is as uncertain as ever. 

What is happening today?

A second round of non-binding “indicative votes” on Monday aims to test support for alternatives to Prime Minister Theresa May‘s divorce deal with the EU.

The votes will take place at 8 GMT, and results will come in at around 10pm.

All eyes are on whether the vote will lead to MPs forcing May’s hand towards a “softer Brexit”, possibly leading to a general election.

Parliament rejected all eight alternative options put to a vote last week. 

Holding a second referendum and a customs union with the EU received the most support.

On the day the country was originally scheduled to leave the EU, March 29, MPs voted down May’s deal with the bloc for the third time. Unlike the previous two votes, this ballot was held on only one of two constituent parts of the deal, the withdrawal agreement, which sets out the terms of departure and includes a 20-month transition period.

A non-legally binding political declaration laying out the future relationship between the UK and EU was not voted on. 

May lost the vote by a margin of 58, down from 230 in January and 149 in March. 

In a surprising move, May had told members of her own Conservative Party, which is bitterly divided over Brexit, that she would stand down if they backed her deal. But even that attempt to win over rebels who would rather see a “hard Brexit” proved insufficient.

The prime minister could bring the agreement before Parliament for a fourth time this week. 

Will Parliament finally find a consensus?

A week ago, MPs voted to temporarily seize control over the parliamentary timetable from the government in an attempt to break the Brexit deadlock and advise on a way forward through a series of “indicative votes.”

Out of the 16 options tabled by MPs, eight were chosen by the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, and none secured a majority. 

The speaker is likely to select three or four options this time, leaving out proposals that were previously rejected by large margins, such as revoking Article 50 and leaving with no deal. 

The idea of holding a confirmatory public vote on a Brexit deal received the most votes last week – something which was seen as a victory by campaigners for a so-called people’s vote. 

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, renewed his call for the party to support a second referendum option. 

But a number of Labour MPs from leave-voting constituencies previously defied the party whip and voted against the proposal, making it difficult to see where additional votes could come from. An amendment seeking a second referendum could still be introduced at a later stage.

Options for a “softer Brexit”, particularly a customs union and the so-called “Common Market 2.0”, could win the decisive support of MPs who abstained in the last round of votes. 

The latter would see the UK join the European Economic Area (EEA) and European Free Trade Association while being part of a customs union with the EU.

Will today’s votes change the course of Brexit?

The votes are non-binding.

Should MPs be successful in achieving a majority for an alternative course, they may seek to legislate for the government to seek a long extension to the Brexit deadline with the EU.

Is a no-deal Brexit off the table?

No.

No deal remains the default option under Article 50, and the current Brexit deadline is April 12. 

If no alternative option is agreed upon to make the case for a longer extension with the EU, the UK may “accidentally” crash out of the bloc in two weeks’ time.

The Irish border has been the main point of contention in the Conservative Party.

Hard-Brexiteers fear the backstop protocol in the withdrawal agreement – an insurance policy designed to keep an open border in the island of Ireland – could tie to the UK to the EU’s trade rules indefinitely. 

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland argues that it would create a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

That border will have to be managed in case of a no-deal scenario. Germany and France have both scheduled meeting with the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, this week.

The EU said in a statement last week it had completed its no-deal preparations.

More than 170 Conservative MPs wrote to May this week to ask her to take the UK out of the EU “with or without a deal”.

Why is everyone talking about a general election?

If Parliament agrees on a way forward that May can’t endorse, the prime minister may decide to trigger a general election. However, a general election will need the approval of at least two-thirds of the British Parliament, and there’s currently no appetite for it in the Conservative benches.

Meanwhile, a number of cabinet ministers are openly preparing for a leadership challenge as the prime minister’s position looks increasingly fragile.

If the indicative votes process does lead to MPs choosing a “soft Brexit” scenario, it could put pressure on hard-Brexiters to vote for May’s deal when she brings it back a fourth time. 

In order to do that, she will need the speaker – who has previously ruled that the same deal couldn’t be brought before the House twice – to allow it.

Reporting by Ylenia Gostoli 

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