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In our news wrap Friday, British lawmakers in the House of Commons approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s bill paving the way for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Parliament's upper chamber, the House of Lords, still must approve it. Also, envoys from Russia and China blocked a United Nations resolution to renew cross-border humanitarian aid deliveries into war-torn Syria.
In the day's other news: Brexit is one step closer to becoming a reality. British lawmakers in the House of Commons approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson's bill paving the way for the U.K. to leave the European Union.
But it still requires the approval of Parliament's upper chamber, the House of Lords. Johnson's Conservative majority in Parliament means that it is all but certain the bill will become law. But he still appealed for unity.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson:
This bill and this juncture in our national story, Mr. Speaker, must not be seen as a victory for one party over another or one faction over another. This is the time when we move on and discard the old labels of leave and remain.
The United Kingdom is set to leave the E.U. on January 31.
Envoys from Russia and China today blocked a United Nations resolution that would have renewed cross-border humanitarian aid deliveries into war-torn Syria. The U.N. Security Council failed to get enough votes to pass the resolution, which would have allowed the aid to flow through Turkey and Iraq. Those border crossings have been used since 2014 to provide urgently needed aid to millions of Syrian civilians.
In Australia, two firefighters died overnight as they battled flames that have engulfed the country's East Coast. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, under mounting criticism, cut his Hawaiian vacation short to respond to the crisis.
Martha Fairlie of Independent Television News narrates our report.
With more than 100 wildfires raging across New South Wales, a seven-day state of emergency has been declared. And Australia's most populous state is now mourning the loss of two volunteer firefighters as they responded to the fires.
Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O'Dwyer were killed when a tree fell on their truck. But shock has turned to anger, and now there's added fury, after it was revealed the prime minister has been on holiday with his family in Hawaii while the wildfires burn.
He's been forced to cut short his trip and apologize in a radio interview.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison:
I know that Australians would want me back at this time, after these fatalities. And I'm — I will happily come back and do that.
The prime minister is expected to return to Australia this weekend, just as another warning of catastrophic bushfire danger is issued for Saturday.
Almost 1,000 homes have been burned down in the past six weeks. And with record temperatures twice this week, there is little anyone can do to stop the flames.
Yesterday was hell.
Just a huge wall of flames just came. I had to hide behind the corner as it was coming. And I just sort of had the hose on me. And I stood up. And it was still intensely hot. I sort of burned my arm.
And while authorities in New South Wales are warning people not to travel until after this weekend, residents living in the path of the wildfires are being forced to move out of their homes just before Christmas.
That report from Martha Fairlie of Independent Television News.
There are new warnings about the devastating impact deforestation has had on the world's largest rain forest. A report in the journal "Science Advances" said that the Amazon has now reached a — quote — "tipping point."
Scientists warned that, at the current rate, parts of the rain forest could dry up into a savanna and release billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere.
In India, thousands defied a government-imposed public assembly ban for another day to rally against a new citizenship law. Indian authorities cut Internet service to disrupt organizers. In northern Uttar Pradesh, police used sticks to beat back protesters.
And, in New Delhi, more than 10,000 demonstrators took to the streets to denounce the government for granting citizenship to non-Muslim migrants in India illegally.
Rahim (through translator):
You are leaving out people from one religion and including everyone else. What kind of politics is this? The public is not stupid. We know well what they want to do and what they don't want to do.
At least 14 people have died and 4,000 more have been detained since nationwide demonstrations broke out last week.
Back in this country, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited President Trump to deliver his annual State of the Union address on February 4. The president accepted the invitation, which came two days after the Democratic-led House of Representatives voted to impeach him.
His prime-time speech will take place on the day after the Iowa presidential primary caucuses, and could coincide with the Senate's impeachment trial, which has yet to be scheduled.
An unmanned Boeing space capsule launched into the wrong orbit during a test flight today, after an error with its internal timer charted a wayward course. The starliner took off from the Cape Canaveral, Florida, base bound for the International Space Station. But NASA canceled the plan after seeing the error.
It is expected to return to Earth as early as Sunday. The mission is part of Boeing's efforts to send astronauts to space for NASA next year.
Ford Motor Company is recalling more than 600,000 mid-size sedans in the U.S. over brake issues. A normally closed valve in the braking system can stick open, extending the stopping distance and increasing the risk of a crash. The recall affects Ford Fusions, Mercury Milans and Lincoln MKZs from the model years 2006 to 2010.
And stocks made broad gains on Wall Street today, as the major indexes again reached record closing highs. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 78 points to close at 28455. The Nasdaq was up more than 37 points, and the S&P 500 added nearly 16.
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