June 15, 2017

From Washington, this is VOA news.

A hospital in Washington DC says the Republican congressman who was shot and wounded early Wednesday at a congressional baseball practice is in critical condition following surgery. Representative Steve Scalise of Louisianan, the House majority whip, was said to be in critical condition at the Medstar Washington Hospital after being shot in the hip on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, across the river from Washington.

Several other people were wounded when an attacker with a handgun and a rifle fired on Republican lawmakers practicing for a charity baseball game scheduled to take place Thursday in the nation's capital.

The gunman, 66-year-old James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, was wounded by Capitol Police and later died. He fired repeatedly at the men on the ball field before police were able to return fire.

Besides Scalise, a Capitol Police officer, a congressional aide and a lobbyist also were wounded by the shooter.

Officials say there is no clear motive yet for his actions. The FBI says it is actively looking into Hodgkinson's associations and social media postings.

Congressman Jeff Duncan told police that Hodgkinson approached him in the parking lot before the shooting and asked him if the men practicing were Republicans or Democrats.

Some of Hodgkinson's social media posts bitterly lashed out at President Trump. Hodgkinson was also a volunteer with senator Bernie Sanders' Democratic presidential campaign.

Sanders said he is sickened by the shooting and that violence of any kind is unacceptable.

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Grief turned to anger as firefighters continued to battle one of London's biggest fire disasters in recent memory and leaders faced questions about possible safety violations.

Police say at least 12 people were killed as a rapidly moving fire raced through a 24-story apartment building in West London in the pre-dawn hours Wednesday, trapping residents.

Scotland Yard officials expect the death toll to rise.

Trapped residents screamed for help, flashing their cellphone light to get spotted by rescuers, some jumped from their windows.

Firefighters worked late into Wednesday morning searching for trapped victims. Questions are merging on why the blaze spread so quickly in a city where a long history of disastrous fires has forced one of the world's most stringent fire codes.

Residents point to faulty alarm systems, not enough fire escapes and flammable plastic panels. But officials say it could take days before an investigation yields any answers and have final death toll.

Luis Ramirez, VOA news, London.

Grenfell Tower contained an estimated 120 apartments and was home to as many as 600 people.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved an amendment that would strengthen sanctions against Russia as a punishment for its campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The provision would also require congressional review if the White House decides to relax, suspend or terminate sanctions already in place.

U.S. President Donald Trump having given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan as now hearing from Mattis as is the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, he testified the president had authorized his ability to set troop numbers in Afghanistan, noting that any change to the current troop level of 8,400 would not come immediately.

"Together in the inter-agency, we will define the way ahead and I will set the U.S. military commitment, consistent with the commander in chief strategic direction and the foreign policy as dictated by Secretary of State Tillerson."

This could mean a boost in the number of American forces in Afghanistan, where 16 years of fighting against the Taliban and other militants has resulted in a stalemate.

And, Zambia's parliament has suspended 48 opposition lawmakers for boycotting a speech by the president earlier this year. It's a sign of mounting tensions as the jailed opposition leader awaits trial on a treason charge.

For the next 30 days, the 48 opposition lawmakers will not be allowed to attend parliamentary sessions. The 48 members, all of them from the largest opposition party, had committed, according to parliament speaker Patrick Matibini, "gross misconduct" by boycotting the president's speech.

There is more at voanews.com.

That's the latest world news from VOA.