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Boris Johnson’s Call for Election Fails After No-Deal Brexit Defeat

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  • 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. 

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (The Guardian) (Washington Post)

International

Russia Orders Social Media Sites To Block Calls for Navalny Protests

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  • Shortly after his arrest on Sunday, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny called for protests to take place on Jan. 23 and was met with a wave of support online.
  • In response, the government ordered tech giants like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, and Russian-centric VK to “block all publications with calls to demonstrate on the 23rd.”
  • TikTok has already deleted 38% of posts with such calls while VK and YouTube have deleted 50%, and Instagram has removed 17%.

Navalny Calls for Protests

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny’s return to Russia and subsequent arrest earlier this week has set off a chain of events in the country.

Since his arrest, Navalny has called for protests to occur on Jan. 23. Now, Russian authorities are taking precautions and arresting his allies in an effort to slow down the momentum of the looming demonstrations. Among their many demands are that Navalny be released.

Throughout the week, thousands of posts shared by younger Russians have raged across social media asking that people partake in the protests. The reach of those posts, however, have been curtailed by the government.

Social media tech giants like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, and the Russian-centric VK were ordered by the Russian government to “block all publications with calls to demonstrate on the 23rd.”

Roskomnadzor, the Russian communications watchdog, later stated, “Internet sites will be brought to administrative responsibility in connection with the dissemination of information prohibited by law and aimed at attracting minors to participate in unauthorized mass public events.”

“Participation in such events is in violation of the established procedure, including in a pandemic, and carries risks of harm to life and health,” it added.

Censorship Payoff Unknown

For many of the sites, which are often seen as a way to promote free speech in regimes that are far more restrictive, the order puts them in an awkward position. Still, many have already complied, at least to some extend.

According to Roskomnadzor, Tiktok has deleted 38% of videos calling for minors to attend the protests. VK and YouTube have both deleted 50% of similar posts, while Instagram has removed 17% of posts that violate the regulations.

It’s unclear to what extent this censorship will have on stopping Russians from attending tomorrow’s protests; however, some of the nation’s largest protests in modern history have been organized by Navalny.

See what others are saying: (Moscow Times) (Associated Press) (Reuters)

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Accusations Against Chinese Actress Shine Light on the Nation’s Surrogacy Laws

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  • Chinese actress Zheng Shuang is facing major backlash after her former partner, Zhang Heng, accused her of abandoning her two children born through U.S.-based surrogates.
  • Beyond public outcry and losing brand deals, Zheng is likely facing legal consequences after a Chinese government agency said that using a legal loophole to obtain a surrogate from abroad was “definitely not innocent.” 
  • Zheng denies the claims and hasn’t confirmed if the children are actually hers, although she’s listed as their mother on their birth certificates.
  • As for the children in question, Zhang has been taking care of them in the U.S.

American-Based Surrogacy Cause Controversy

Chinese social media users have launched into debates surrounding how the rich and elite circumvent domestic laws in order to obtain surrogate services.

The latest controversy is surrounding actress Zheng Shuang. Though she has never confirmed this publicly, Zheng allegedly went to the U.S. with her-now-ex Zhang Heng and had two children with the help of American surrogates. However, on Monday, Zhang accused Zheng of abandoning the children and leaving him to take care of them in the U.S. The couple reportedly broke up before the babies were born due to Zhang’s alleged infidelity.

According to the South China Morning Post, Zhang’s friend released a voice recording on the Chinese platform NetEase Entertainment. In it, Zhang and Zheng are allegedly having a discussion with their parents over what to do with the then-unborn children. Zheng’s father suggested that they abandon the children at the hospital, while Zheng reportedly expressed annoyance that they could not be aborted so late in pregnancy.

Legal Grey Zone Likely Won’t Help

Beyond public outcries, Zheng lost a recent brand deal with Prada that she signed just eight days before the accusations were made. Additionally, other brand partners, such as Aussie, have distanced themselves from the actress. She also faces multiple awards she has won being revoked as well as potential legal consequences.

Currently, surrogacy is illegal in China; however, the laws have a legal grey zone. Technically, providing surrogacy is what is illegal, but obtaining one from abroad is not explicitly mentioned, even if it goes against the spirit of the law.

The Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party commented on the situation in a Weibo video post, saying that using this legal loophole to get a surrogacy was “definitely not innocent.” 

“Surrogacy is banned in China as it uses women’s uteruses as a tool and sells life as a commercial product.,” it continued. “As a Chinese citizen, the act of traveling to the US on a legal loophole is not abiding the law.” 

Following the post, companies like Blued, a gay dating app in China, took down sections of their apps that helped users set up services with surrogacy firms overseas.

Surrogacy is a controversial subject in China, with many actors and actresses obtaining them overseas, but many social media users across the country are against the practice. Officially, the government claims that it “overlooks life” and “tramples the bottom line [of human morality].

Zheng has denied claims that she abandoned any children, and has never confirmed whether or not she actually has any, although she is listed as the mother on the children’s birth certificates.

As for the children in question, even though Zheng’s father suggested abandoning them in the hospital, her ex has been taking care of them in the U.S.

See What Others Are Saying: (South China Morning Post) (Straits Times) (New York Times)

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American Influencer Kristen Gray To Be Deported From Bali

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  • In a viral Twitter thread, influencer Kristen Gray encouraged people to move to Bali like she did while promoting her eBook and other resources on how to do so amid COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Many criticized her for encouraging an influx of travelers during the pandemic. She also sparked conversations about gentrification and was slammed for falsely characterizing Indonesia as queer-friendly.
  • The local government promised to deport her Tuesday, arguing that selling her book and offering paid consultations on traveling to Bali violated the purpose of her visitor stay permit. They also say she was “spreading information that could unsettle the public.”
  • “I am not guilty. I have not overstayed my visa. I have not made money in Indonesian rupiah in Indonesia,” Gray told reporters. “I put out a statement about LGBT and I am being deported because of LGBT.”

Kristen Gray Goes Viral

Officials in Indonesia said Tuesday that they will deport Kristen Gray, an American influencer who has caused international outrage in the last week.

Gray moved to Bali with her girlfriend in 2019 with plans to stay for six months. In reality, the couple ended up staying much longer because of the coronavirus pandemic, and in a viral Twitter thread, Gray shared how positive their experience has been.

Gray pointed to several benefits of moving to Bali in her posts, like its safety, low cost of living, luxury lifestyle, as well as its queer-friendly and Black communities.

She also encouraged others to make the same move and promoted their $30 eBook “Our Bali Life Is Yours” for tips on how to do it. “We include direct links to our visa agents and how to go about getting to Indonesia during COVID,” she even wrote in one post.

Backlash

The thread sparked outrage for encouraging an influx of travelers to a country that has closed its borders over the worsening pandemic. On top of that, it sparked conversations about the gentrification of neighborhoods there.

Bali is a major tourist destination for Americans, Europeans, and Australians in particular, and like areas all over the world, it has suffered from the loss in visitors this year.

However, many online noted that locals have been steadily priced out of certain areas of the island as foreigners open businesses to cater to tourists. Others argue that poorly regulated development is also destroying industries that Balinese people have historically relied on.

Aside from those criticisms, many people also took issue with Gray characterizing Bali as a queer-friendly when the reality for locals is far different.

“It well may be the case for you. However, please recognize that it is because a) you’re a foreigner and b) you have economic leverage since the Indonesian local community is financially dependent on keeping you happy so they don’t mess with you,” a user named Kai Mata said in a viral TikTok.

“Please realize for the rest of us Indonesians on the island, this is not a queer-friendly place. Our gay communities are often shut down and raided by authorities and Indonesia at large has tried to mandate conversion therapy for us the LGBTQ+ Community.

Government Responds

The local government responded to the public outrage over Gray’s thread Tuesday. In a statement, it said selling her book and also offering paid consultations on traveling to Bali violated the purpose of her visitor stay permit, which was valid until January 24.

Gray was also accused of “spreading information that could unsettle the public” by saying Bali is queer-friendly and suggesting foreigners travel there during the pandemic.

According to Reuters, she was being held at an immigration detention facility Tuesday and was to be deported as soon as a flight was available.

In a brief statement to the Balinese press, Gray defended herself. “I am not guilty. I have not overstayed my visa. I have not made money in Indonesian rupiah in Indonesia. I put out a statement about LGBT and I am being deported because of LGBT,” she explained.

Many of her fans believe her and also argue that she is seeing this level of criticism because she is a Black woman.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Reuters) (Vulture)

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