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Anti-Brexit Protest Draws in Nearly 1 Million

An estimated one million people came out to protest in London on Saturday to show support for another Brexit referendum. The protests come after the European Union granted an extension for the Brexit deadline, which gives lawmakers this week to approve the Brexit deal and leave May 22. If the UK does not pass a […]

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  • An estimated one million people came out to protest in London on Saturday to show support for another Brexit referendum.
  • The protests come after the European Union granted an extension for the Brexit deadline, which gives lawmakers this week to approve the Brexit deal and leave May 22.
  • If the UK does not pass a deal, they have until April 12 to decide what to do next.

Protests in London

Hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets of London on Saturday to demand a second Brexit referendum.

The protest, called “Put It To The People,” was organized by the People’s Vote campaign, which is made up of more than 100 grassroots groups that support a second Brexit vote.

Organizers for the protest estimated that a million people turned out, although there is no way to independently confirm the number.

What is known for certain was that there was a wide variety of people who came out to show their support for a second vote.

British citizens from all over the country came to London to join the protest, and British MPs from all across the political spectrum also attended.

The protest was not limited to British citizens. People from other European Union (EU) countries flew in to join the protest, including from Italy and Ireland.

Brexit Deadline Extended

The protest comes after EU leaders and Prime Minister Theresa May agreed on Thursday to extend the Brexit deadline.

The original deadline for Britain to leave the EU was March 29, and now under the current extension the UK will leave on May 22 if Parliament passes May’s Brexit deal.

That might seem like a simple extension, but there are a lot of different ways this can go. Now, the UK essentially has to decide between passing May’s Brexit deal or opening a whole other can of worms.

Lawmakers essentially have this until the end of week to pass May’s plan, if they wish to leave the EU on May 22.

However, May’s Brexit deal is extremely unpopular with both liberals and conservatives, and it has been voted down by Parliament two separate times.

The first time was in January, when MP’s voted against the deal by a 230 vote margin – the biggest defeat in Parliament’s history.

The second time was earlier this month, when the plan was again defeated by a margin of 149 votes.

Alternatives to May’s Brexit Deal

If May’s Brexit deal does not get passed, MPs will have until April 12 to decide what they are going to do instead.

The UK has four different options if they choose not to pass May’s plan.

The first option is to ask the EU for a longer extension. While this would give them more time to negotiate, including potentially negotiating a new deal, extending negotiations even more would require the UK to hold elections for the EU’s European Parliament in May.

Electing new representatives for the UK to the EU’s Parliament would not make much sense if the UK is planning to then leave the EU.

The second option is a no-deal Brexit, which basically means that Parliament would just accept the situation and move forward with Brexit.

However, earlier this month, Parliament debated and voted to reject a no-deal Brexit.

The third option is invoking Article 50, which would cancel Brexit. An online petition supporting this option went viral and got over 5 million, but Theresa May has ruled out invoking Article 50.

The final option is to hold another referendum altogether, which is the driving force for the protests on Saturday. Again, Parliament rejected an amendment for a second referendum during a series of votes earlier this month.

Parliament has strongly opposed these options, which makes it extremely difficult to see a path forward.

The deadline for Brexit is coming fast, and UK lawmakers have still not come up with a plan that even a majority of Parliament can get behind.

What’s Next?

Parliament now has this week to decide if they are going to pass Theresa May’s Brexit plan.

If the deal is voted down again, Parliament could hold a series of votes to see where MP’s agree and disagree. That move could reveal if support for a second referendum has shifted at all given the recent changes to the Brexit negotiations.

While Parliament did vote against a second referendum in the past, there is support for it both among MP’s and the British populous.

Back in February, the Labour Party announced  that they officially supported a second referendum.

Labour Party leaders are also considering a plan by two of the party’s members where MPs would vote for May’s deal on the condition that it is then put to a public vote. That move would essentially allow the UK to vote on Brexit again without an official referendum.

While that might seem like a good potential option, it still relies on passing May’s unpopular Brexit deal.

Recent polls in the UK suggest that if there were another referendum, Britain could vote to remain in the EU.

A snap poll last week found that nearly two-thirds of respondents support remaining in the EU over Brexiting with May’s current deal.

If the options were remaining or leaving without a deal, remaining would still win.

Source: YouGob

Almost half of the poll’s respondents said they would support another public vote.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Al Jazeera) (BBC)

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U.K. Court Rules Julian Assange Can Be Extradited to U.S.

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The judgment overrules a lower court decision that blocked the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition on the grounds that his mental health was not stable enough to weather harsh conditions in the American prison system if convicted.


New Developments in Assange Extradition Battle

A British court ruled Friday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States to face charges of violating the Espionage Act that could land him in prison for decades.

Prosecutors in the U.S. have accused Assange of conspiring with former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 to hack into a Department of Defense computer network and access thousands of military and diplomatic records on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The information obtained in the hack was later published by WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011, a move U.S. authorities allege put lives in danger.

In addition to a charge of computer misuse, Assange has also been indicted on 17 espionage charges. Collectively, the charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 175 years.

The Friday decision from the High Court overturns a lower court ruling in January, which found that Assange’s mental health was too fragile for the harsh environment he could face in the U.S. prison system if convicted.

Notably, the January ruling did not determine whether or not Assange was guilty. In fact, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser explicitly rejected the defense’s arguments that the charges against him were politically motivated and that he should be protected under freedom of press.

However, she agreed that the defense had provided compelling evidence that Assange suffers from severe depression and that the conditions he could face in the U.S. prison system were “such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.”

The U.S. appealed the ruling, arguing that Assange’s mental health should not be a barrier to extradition and that the psychiatrist who examined him had been biased. 

In October, the Biden administration vowed that if Assange were to be convicted, he would not be placed in the highest-security U.S. prison or immediately sent to solitary confinement. Officials also said that the native Australian would be eligible to serve his sentence in his home country.

High Court Ruling

The High Court agreed with the administration’s arguments in its ruling, arguing that the American’s assurances regarding the conditions of Assange’s potential incarceration were “sufficient.” 

“There is no reason why this court should not accept the assurances as meaning what they say,” the ruling stated. “There is no basis for assuming that the USA has not given the assurances in good faith.”

Assange’s fiancé, Stella Moris, said in a statement that his legal team would appeal the decision to the British Supreme Court at the “earliest possible moment,” referring to the judgment as a “grave miscarriage of justice.”

The Supreme Court will now decide whether or not to hear the case based on if it believes the matter involves a point of law “of general public importance.” That decision may take weeks or even months.

If the U.K. Supreme Court court objects to hearing Assange’s appeal, he could ask the European Court of Human Rights to stay the extradition — a move that could set in motion another lengthy legal battle in the already drawn-out process.

Assange and his supporters claim he was acting as an investigative journalist when he published the classified military cables. They argue that the possibility of his extradition and prosecution represent serious threats to press freedoms in the U.S.

U.S. prosecutors dispute that Assange acted as a journalist, claiming that he encouraged illegal hacking for personal reasons.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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Early Data Indicates Omicron is More Transmissible But Less Severe

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The studies come as Pfizer and BioNTech claim that preliminary research shows a third shot of their COVID vaccine appears to provide sufficient protection against the new variant, but two doses alone may not.


More Information About Omicron

Several preliminary studies published in recent days appear to show that the new omicron COVID-19 variant may be more transmissible but less severe than previous strains.

One recent, un-peer-reviewed study by a Japanese scientist who advises the country’s health ministry found that omicron is four times more transmissible in its initial stage than delta was.

Preliminary information in countries hit hard by omicron also indicates high transmissibility. In South Africa —  where the variant was first detected and is already the dominant strain — new COVID cases have more than doubled over the last week.

Health officials in the U.K. said omicron cases are doubling every two or three days, and they expect the strain to become dominant in the country in a matter of weeks.

In a statement Wednesday, World Health Organization Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while early data does seem to show high transmissibility, it also indicates that omicron causes more mild cases than delta.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevent Director Rochelle Walensky echoed that sentiment, telling reporters that of the 40 known omicron cases in the U.S. as of Wednesday, nearly all of them were mild. One person has been hospitalized so far and none have died.

Studies on Vaccine Efficacy 

Other recent studies have shown that current COVID vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness and death in omicron patients, and boosters provide at least some added protection.

On Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that laboratory tests have shown a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine appears to provide sufficient protection against the omicron variant, though two doses may not.

According to the companies, researchers saw a 25-fold reduction in neutralizing antibodies for omicron compared to other strains of the virus for people who had just two Pfizer doses. 

By contrast, samples from people one month after they had received a Pfizer booster presented neutralizing antibodies against omicron that were comparable to those seen against previous variants after two doses.

Still, Pfizer’s chief executive also told reporters later in the day that omicron could increase the likelihood that people might need a fourth dose earlier than previously expected, which he had initially said was 12 months after the third shot.

Notably, the Pfizer research has not yet been peer-reviewed, and it remains unclear how omicron will operate outside a lab, but other studies have had similar findings.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Bloomberg) (NBC News)

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40 Camels Disqualified From Beauty Contest After Breeders Inject Their Faces With Botox

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The animals were barred from competing for $66 million in prizes at this year’s King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia.


Camels Booted From Beauty Contest

More than 40 camels were disqualified from a beauty contest in Saudi Arabia this week after judges found artificial enhancements in their faces, marking the biggest crackdown on contestants in the competition to date.

The animals were competing for $66 million in prizes at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, a month-long event that is estimated to include around 33,000 camels.

However, according to The Guardian, they were forced out of the contest when authorities found that breeders had “stretched out the lips and noses of the camels, used hormones to boost the animals’ muscles, injected heads and lips with Botox to make them bigger, inflated body parts with rubber bands, and used fillers to relax their faces.”

Those types of alterations are banned since judges look at the contestant’s heads, necks, humps, posture, and other features when evaluating them.

An announcement from the state-linked Saudi Press Agency said officials used “specialized and advanced” technology to detect tampering.

“The club is keen to halt all acts of tampering and deception in the beautification of camels,” the SPA report added before warning that organizers would “impose strict penalties on manipulators.”

While it’s unclear what that actually entails, this isn’t the first time people have tried to cheat in this way.

In 2018, 12 camels were similarly disqualified from the competition for injections in their noses, lips, and jaw.

See what others are saying: (Insider) (The Guardian) (ABC News)

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