- Prime Minister Boris Johnson lost a call to hold snap elections after the House of Commons voted to block a no-deal Brexit on Wednesday.
- The motion to bar the United Kingdom from leaving the European Union will now move to the House of Lords.
- On Tuesday, Johnson expelled the 21 Conservative Party MP’s that voted against him to take control of the government.
Vote to Block No-Deal Brexit
Lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday that would prevent a no-deal Brexit after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lost his first vote in British Parliament on Tuesday.
Johnson lost the vote 327 to 299. The bill now heads to the House of Lords, which must also pass the legislation for it to go into effect. If it passes, Johnson could be forced to go back to the European Union and ask for another extension. Johnson previously said he will not ask the EU for an extension.
The vote Tuesday night set the stage for Wednesday’s blockade of a no-deal divorce plan from the EU. That vote took power from Johnson to be able to deliver a Brexit deal of his choice and allowed parliament to set Wednesday’s agenda.
At the beginning of the day, Johnson held a majority in parliament by a single member. While delivering a speech, however, Johnson lost that majority when fellow Conservative Party member Philip Lee moved to sit with the Liberal Democrats, who are anti-Brexit.
During the Tuesday vote, which MP’s cast 328 to 301, Johnson suffered a massive blow to his majority, losing the support of 21 fellow conservatives. Directly following the announcement of the vote, a lawmaker mocked Johnson, shouting, “Not a good start, Boris!”
Johnson has argued that if the United Kingdom votes to stop a no-deal, the U.K. will effectively be surrendering to the EU. Johnson said he believes the only way the EU will offer a better deal is if it thinks the U.K. will walk away without any deal at all come the October 31 deadline. This is because a no-deal Brexit is expected to damage other European economies, along with the U.K.’s.
Calls for a General Election
Following the vote to block a no-deal, Johnson called for general elections on October 15 but failed to gain the two-thirds majority needed to initiate snap elections.
Johnson had promised to call for a general election if a no-deal Brexit was blocked in the House of Commons. That would have meant all 650 seats in the House of Commons, including Johnson’s prime minister position, would open up three years before their terms are scheduled to end.
Previously, opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn said he will only agree to elections if a no-deal blockade is passed.
Johnson Expels Tories
During the vote on Wednesday, another conservative, Caroline Spelman, broke from Johnson after she voted to block a no-deal; however, the Telegraph reported she will not lose her membership in the Conservative Party.
The announcement comes in contrast of Tuesday’s vote, where Johnson threatened to expel any conservatives who voted against him. Johnson then followed through with his promise and expelled those 21 conservatives from the party later the same evening.
Some of those conservatives include the grandson of Winston Churchill, Nicholas Soames, and Ken Clarke, who has been in parliament since 1970 and is known as the Father of the House.
“I do think the prime minister, with the greatest respect, has a tremendous skill in keeping in keeping a straight face whilst he’s being so disingenuous,” Clarke said on Wednesday.
None of those conservatives, however, were fired from their positions; instead, they will serve as independents. Nonetheless, they will be unable to run for re-election as conservatives.
What Brexit Means for the U.K.
In June 2016, U.K. citizens voted to leave the E.U. in a referendum, garnering 52% of the majority. Since then, lawmakers have attempted to push through with the deal, but each attempt has faced massive hurdles.
The day following the referendum, then-prime minister David Cameron resigned, with Theresa May assuming the position shortly thereafter.
In 2019, she failed to execute a Brexit deal in parliament three times and ultimately resigned in July. Conservative Party members then elected Boris Johnson, who has promised to take the U.K. out of the EU by the current October 31 deadline with or without a deal.
Johnson had also promised to negotiate a better deal with the EU, but the EU has said it won’t budge on the deal it’s already offered.
An attempt to solve Brexit before a no-deal comes amid shortage fears for necessities like food, gas, and medicine — including insulin. Economists warn a no-deal divorce would be a huge blow to the economy.
Last week, Johnson reportedly took steps to protect his ability to execute a no-deal Brexit after asking Queen Elizabeth II to suspend, or “prorogue,” parliament. In a statement, Johnson said the prorogue was to give him time to develop a robust post-Brexit domestic policy.
It did, however, severely limit the time parliament would have to agree on a deal or to block a deal, adding a week to a previously scheduled three-and-a-half week recess.
Following the suspension, protests and petitions surged. Some lawmakers like George Young and Ruth Davidson even resigned, though Davidson attributed her resignation to caring for her newborn son. Still, many media outlets connected the timing of her resignation with parliament’s prorogue.
On Wednesday, Davidson spoke out directly about the expulsion of Soames from the Conservative Party. Soames has served in parliament since 1980, and including Tuesday’s vote, had only voted against the Conservative Party three times.
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Protesters Trapped at Hong Kong University After Another Weekend of Violence
- Hundreds of protesters are trapped at Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University as police surround the campus following a series of violent weekend clashes.
- Several religious leaders and lawmakers fear Hong Kong may soon see an incident similar to 1989’s Tiananmen Square massacre as they wait to see if mainland China will order the widespread use of live rounds.
- On Monday, Hong Kong’s High Court ruled the October ban of face masks unconstitutional after Chief Executive Carrie Lam enacted the ban last month so police could better identify protesters.
Students Trapped on University Campus
Hundreds of protesters remain trapped on Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University Monday after a violent weekend of police clashes that resulted in police completely surrounding the campus.
Earlier in the day, protesters attempted a mass exodus to flee the university, but they were met with tear gas and rubber bullets. One reporter described the situation as no less than 10 minutes of nonstop tear gas.
Some protesters were arrested in the clash, but many were also reportedly forced back onto campus.
The clash occurred after protesters ignored riot police’s warnings to leave unarmed at an approved exit zone. Many attendees, however, feared they would be arrested if they used that exit.
Clashes like this over the weekend led to dozens being admitted to the hospital, with four in serious condition.
Students Protest at PolyU
The situation began last week when students began the protest at PolyU. Those protests originally started peacefully, but many protesters prepared for violence by making Molotov cocktails.
Those students then reportedly practiced by throwing them in the school’s empty pool. Other students reportedly practiced using catapult-style slingshots and bows and arrows.
On Saturday, clashes erupted as police started advancing on PolyU. In a scene that has become increasingly common over the last few months, riot police fired tear gas and water cannons while protesters shielded themselves with umbrellas and boards. Those protesters then hurled bricks and Molotov cocktails in retaliation.
Bricks continued to fly well into Sunday morning when protesters flung them at residents who were trying to clear a road.
Also Sunday morning, there were some reports of Chinese soldiers in riot gear monitoring the situation from the base of the university. On Saturday, the Chinese government deployed soldiers into the territory for the first time in the protests nearly six-month history, though that deployment was mostly part of an effort to clean up and clear streets.
Sunday evening, protesters fired catapults and bows and arrows from rooftops, with one arrow reportedly striking an officer in the calf. Later, protesters set fire to a bridge that connects the university to a train station.
A huge fire burning on the bridge that connects #PolyU to Hung Hom MTR station. The smoke is being blown by the wind into campus and protesters are retreating, carrying along their supplies. pic.twitter.com/so7z3B0JJe— Rachel Cheung (@rachel_cheung1) November 17, 2019
Into the night, PolyU administrators asked protesters to end the violence and leave the campus.
“The university is gravely concerned that the spiraling radical illicit activities will cause not only a tremendous safety threat on campus, but also class suspension over an indefinite period of time,” a university statement reads.
Outside the campus, Hong Kong legislator Ted Hui tried to negotiate with riot police by trying to ask police to allow protesters on campus to leave. Police denied the request and Hui was later pepper-sprayed.
Protesters Set Fire to Armored Vehicle and Ask for Support
The same night, police attempted to enter the campus by using an armored vehicle. That vehicle charged a barricade protesters had set up on a bridge, but it reversed course as protesters set it on fire using Molotov cocktails.
Students then rushed another armored vehicle following that clash.
#Update: I have never seen so much broken bottles from Molotov Cocktails at a protest as of now, here you see a video footage of Polytechnic University students throwing these cocktails towards riot police vehicles. #HongKong #China #PolyU pic.twitter.com/4LOWQi8zvM— Sotiri Dimpinoudis (@sotiridi) November 17, 2019
All of that happened while students airdropped messages to each other asking protesters to recruit even more protesters to then surround the police.
“The effort to surround the police at PolyU from all four corners is our final hope,” one message read.
It later seemed that message worked because five other significant protests in the city all popped up in an attempt to draw police resources away from the university. Notably, there were reports of some medical professionals being arrested, presumably by riot police.
In a video statement, police said they would use start live rounds on rioters if they continued using lethal weapons to attack officers. Police then tried to storm the campus again but protesters set the entrance on fire.
At the same time, a handful of protesters managed to escape the university on motorcycles.
Meanwhile, pro-democracy lawmakers and religious leaders on the streets urged people to rescue those inside of PolyU because they said that they were afraid the situation could turn into a new Tiananmen Square.
In 1989, the Chinese government ordered the military to use live rounds on protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. While the Chinese government reported that only a few hundred died, other estimates climbed well into the thousands.
A few hours later in a video, the president of PolyU tried to de-escalate the situation, saying he had negotiated a suspension of force with the police but only if protesters left campus and turned themselves in.
“The main goal is to protect the campus and prevent people from getting arrested,” one PolyU alum said.
Before last week’s clash between riot police and protesters at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, it had been an unspoken rule that police didn’t go on college campuses. In that sense, students had been able to feel safe and to talk openly.
Face Mask Ban Overturned
Also on Monday, Hong Kong’s High Court struck down a ban that barred protesters from wearing face masks.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam enacted the ban in October in a move she had hoped would de-escalate the situation and make it easier for police to identify individuals.
In its findings, the court said the ban violated Hong Kong’s constitution, known as the Basic Law.
It also said that the ban was too vague and that it endangered the ability of the Legislative Council to make laws.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (Axios) (South China Morning Post)
Prince Andrew Addresses Virginia Giuffre Accusations and Epstein Ties in “Car Crash” Interview
- In a recent interview with BBC, Prince Andrew said he did not have sex with a 17-year-old who was allegedly trafficked to him by Epstein in 2001.
- He tried to say that the alleged victim’s description of him as sweaty couldn’t have been right because he had a medical condition that prevented him from sweating.
- He also suggested, among other things, that the photograph of them together was suspicious because he never hugs or displays affection in public.
- Since then, more photos of him embracing women have surfaced, along with a ton of ridicule and criticism over what many are calling a “car crash” interview.
Prince Andrew’s Relationship with Epstein
Prince Andrew again tried to clear his name against claims that he had sex with an underage girl trafficked to him by Jeffrey Epstein, however, he seems to have made things worse for himself.
In a BBC interview which aired Saturday, the Duke of York was confronted with detailed accusations from Virginia Roberts-Giuffre, one of Epstein’s most prominent accusers. Giuffre has claimed that she was a “sex slave” of Epstein’s that was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth and one of Epstein’s highest-profile friends.
The prince had been known to stay at some of Epstein’s homes, fly on his private jet, and attend parties with him. Even after Epstein was hit with his sex offense conviction, the two remained in contact. Then in August, Epstein reportedly killed himself while in jail awaiting trial for federal sex trafficking charges involving dozens of young victims.
Giuffre has said multiple times that she was trafficked to the prince in 2001 when she was 17-years-old. She swore on her story in a court deposition and has discussed it in public interviews, saying they had sex on three different occasions.
Both Prince Andrew and Buckingham Palace have denied her claims, calling them “false” and “without foundation.” However, the two are known to have met at some point based on a now-infamous photograph that shows them together.
Prince Andrew Denies Claims
In Giuffre’s account of their encounter, she mentioned that the Duke of York was sweating profusely while they danced at Tramp nightclub in London. She says Prince Andrew got her alcohol and eventually took her back to Ghislaine Maxwell’s home. Maxwell, who is also pictured in the photo, is one of the women accused of helping round up underage girls for Epstein and his friends.
In the interview with BBC journalist Emily Maitlis, Prince Andrew said there are issues with those claims.
First Andrew insisted he had “no recollection” of ever meeting Giuffre. “I’m convinced that I was never in Tramps with her. There are a number of things that are wrong with that story, one of which is that I don’t know where the bar is in Tramps. I don’t drink, I don’t think I’ve ever bought a drink in Tramps whenever I was there,” he said.
He added that it “couldn’t have happened because the date that’s being suggested I was at home with the children.”
When asked how he remembers that so clearly, he said he remembered going to a Pizza Express in Woking with his daughter earlier in the day, which was “a very unusual thing for me to do.”
Then he addressed Giuffre’s comments about his sweating. “There’s a slight problem with the sweating because I have a peculiar medical condition which is that I don’t sweat, or I didn’t sweat at the time,” he said.
“Yes, I didn’t sweat at the time because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenalin in the Falkland’s War when I was shot at and I simply… It was almost impossible for me to sweat,” he added.
The prince went on to say that because of certain steps he has taken in the years since, he can now sweat again.
Prince Andrew stopped short of saying that 2001 photo was fake, as his friends have suggested. Instead, he said that he never remembers it being taken and said that though it is clearly an image of him, he is not convinced that it is his hand around Giuffre’s waist.
As a member of the royal family, he said: “Public displays of affection are not something that I do…I don’t believe that photograph was taken in the way that it’s been suggested.”
He also said he is not sure the picture of him was taken in London because he usually wears a suit and tie when traveling there.
The prince went on to say that he did not regret his friendship with Epstein, adding that their relationship has some “seriously beneficial outcomes.”
“The people I met and the opportunities I was given to learn, either by him or because of him, were actually very useful,” Andrew said.
“Do I regret the fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes.”
“Unbecoming?” Maitlis replied, adding, “He was a sex offender.”
The duke quickly backtracked, saying: “Yeah, I’m sorry, I’m being polite. I mean, in the sense that he was a sex offender.”
Flood of Backlash Against Prince Andrew
His comments in the interview were received with a slew of backlash and by the following day, more photos emerged showing him publically embracing women, contradicting his previous claims. According to the NY Post, in one 2007 photo, American socialite Chris Von Aspen licks Andrew’s face. In another 2008 picture, he appears to have his hand on the butt of Canadian socialite Pascale Bourbeau as she wraps her arm around his neck. The Daily Mail also released a video of him with women at a party on the French Riviera in 2008.
A newspaper report from 2000 also began circulating which twice referred to the prince sweating profusely.
The prince has also been met with ridicule from British media and internet users.
“I expected a train wreck,” tweeted Charlie Proctor, editor of the Royal Central website. “That was a plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion level bad.”
Andrew even faced calls for U.S. law enforcement to question him. “I think he’s made things much worse for himself. And it’s much more likely the authorities will want to speak to him now. And they should,” Lisa Bloom, who represents two of Epstein’s alleged victims, told the BBC on Monday.
Also on Monday, it became public news that the Duke of York’s former PR adviser, who only took up his position in September, had resigned two weeks ago after warning against doing the TV interview.
Things further escalated for Andrew when a former senior British government official claimed that the prince used the N-word during a meeting back in 2012.
Rohan Silva, who was David Cameron’s key aide on the tech economy, claimed that the prince used the N-word in his presence during a 2012 discussion about trade policy.
Silva, who is of Sri Lankan descent, told the Evening Standard that when he asked Prince Andrew whether the government department responsible for trade “could be doing a better job,” the Duke of York responded: “Well, If you’ll pardon the expression, that really is the n***** in the woodpile.”
See what others are saying:( (FOX News) (Vice) (The New York Times)
Venice Mayor Blames Worst Flood in 50 Years on Climate Change
- The Italian government declared a state of emergency in Venice after the city experienced its second-worst flooding in almost 150 years of flood records.
- Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro blames the floods that have grown increasingly common over the last few decades on climate change.
- While the flood peaked at over six feet, it has receded some; however, parts of the city are still four feet underwater.
- The flood has reportedly caused structural damage to major landmarks like St. Mark’s Basilica.
Second Worst Flood on Record
The Italian government declared a state of emergency on Thursday as 85% of Venice sits underwater.
On Tuesday night, a combination of high tide, strong winds, and a full moon led to seawater overwhelming seawalls and flooding the city. The flood, which is the second-worst on record in almost 150 years, peaked at more than six feet; however, it came only a couple of inches shy of beating the record-breaking 1966 floods.
Wind and water reportedly slammed boats onto streets in the city, which is only about three feet above sea level. In some cases, boats hit streets so violently that they dislodged bricks and stones. By Wednesday morning, many of those boats sat on the streets.
As water gushed into the city, it flooded homes, stores, and hotels. In some instances, water spewed out of toilets as pipes backed up.
There have also been reports of power outages across the city. Reportedly, one 78-year-old man died after being electrocuted by a short circuit in his home.
Schools were canceled on Wednesday and again on Thursday.
“The disaster that hit Venice is a blow to the heart of our country,” Italy’s Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte said in a Facebook post. “It hurts to see the city so damaged, its artistic heritage compromised, its business activities on its knees.”
All of that presents another massive problem as floodwater damages major landmarks in the city. People described St. Mark’s Square as a lake, with the floodwater also reaching St. Mark’s Basilica, which along with Venice is part of a World Heritage Site.
The archbishop of Venice, Francesco Morgalia, said St. Mark’s is now suffering structural damage and that the water is causing “irreparable harm.” The flood has also further damaged marble that was already showing signs of water and salt damage.
Although the basilica has only flooded six times since it was built in 1063, the last four of those times have all been within the past 20 years, with the most recent being in November 2018.
“Venice is an emblem for the whole country,” Venice’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, said in a press conference on Wednesday. “We are no longer talking about a local problem, but a worldwide one.”
“There were people who were crying today because they’ve lost everything, and we’re not talking about the poor,” he added. “The point is that there is no longer certainty. You no longer know how to live, and if we want to repopulate, we want to give certainty. It’s the life of the city itself, the future of the city.”
The Floods’ Connection to Climate Change
On Twitter, Brugnaro also said that the floods are a result of climate change, and climate scientists have agreed.
Similar to the current fires in Australia, scientists say the world is seeing more extreme weather events.
As polar ice caps continue to melt, ocean and sea levels have begun to rise. In Venice alone, city officials said the sea level is four inches higher than it was 50 years ago. In addition to that, Venice sunk five inches between 1950 and 1970 and continues to sink at a rate of half an inch per year.
Climate scientists predict the city will be underwater by the end of the century.
Venice’s expected flooding season, known as “acqua alta,” also carries strong winter winds that can be made even stronger by the effects of climate change.
All of those factors can then produce higher and more devastating tides.
Since the record-breaking 1966 flood, Venice has seen almost 20 floods peaking at over four-and-a-half feet.
“The [increased flooding] is a trend that jibes with the extremization of climate,” the former head of Venice’s Tide Monitoring and Forecast Centre said. “If we look at the course of history, we have documents dating back to 1872, and we can see that these phenomena didn’t used to exist.”
Venice’s Floodgate Project
While Venice does have seawalls to help reduce flooding, there’s actually been a lot of controversy around the city’s new floodgates.
Since 2003, the city has been trying to complete a more than $6 billion dollar effort to build 78 underwater floodgates. That project, MOSE, would temporarily isolate the lagoon from the sea during flood season, but it has also been plagued by cost burdens and corruption scandals.
Because of that, it has been delayed multiple times and even missed its 2018 deadline. Currently, MOSE is projected to be completed by 2022.
Following the flood, Brugnaro said MOSE must be completed soon. On Thursday, Regarding the MOSE project, Conte also said that the “commitment to Venice is total”.
He said he hopes the floodgates are at least partially functional by the 2022 deadline.
“The situation in this unique city is dramatic,” he added. “Lots of money has been spent.”