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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)

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Leaked Documents and Photos Give Unprecedented Glimpse Inside Xinjiang’s Detention Camps

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The so-called vocational schools, which China claims Uyghurs enter willingly as students, oversee their detainees with watchtowers armed with machine guns and sniper rifles, as well as guards instructed to shoot to kill anyone trying to escape.


Detained for Growing a Beard

The BBC and a consortium of investigative journalists have authenticated and published a massive trove of leaked documents and photographs exposing the Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims in unprecedented detail.

According to the outlet, an anonymous source hacked several police computer servers in the northwestern Xinjiang province, then sent what has been dubbed the Xinjiang police files to the scholar Dr. Adrian Zenz, who gave them to reporters.

Among the files are more than 5,000 police photographs of Uyghurs taken between January and July 2018, with accompanying data indicating at least 2,884 of them were detained.

Some of the photos show guards standing nearby with batons.

The youngest Uyghur photographed was 15 at the time of their detention, and the oldest was 73.

One document is a list titled “Relatives of the Detained,” which contains thousands of people placed under suspicion for guilt by association with certain family members. It includes a woman whose son authorities claimed had “strong religious leanings” because he didn’t smoke or drink alcohol. He was jailed for ten years on terrorism charges.

The files also include 452 spreadsheets with information on more than a quarter of a million Uyghurs, some of whom were detained retroactively for offenses committed years or even decades ago.

One man was jailed for ten years in 2017 because he “studied Islamic scripture with his grandmother” for a few days in 2010.

Authorities targeted hundreds more for their mobile phone use, like listening to “illegal lectures” or downloading encrypted apps. Others were punished for not using their phones enough, with “phone has run out of credit” listed as evidence they were trying to evade digital surveillance.

One man’s offense was “growing a beard under the influence of religious extremism.”

The Most Militarized Schools in the World

The files include documents outlining conditions inside Xinjiang’s detention camps, or so-called “Vocational Skills Education and Training Centers.”

Armed guards occupy every part of the facilities, with machine guns and sniper rifles stationed on watchtowers. Police protocols instruct guards to shoot to kill any so-called “students” trying to escape if they fail to stop after a warning shot.

Any apprehended escapees are to be taken away for interrogation while camp management focuses on “stabilizing other students’ thoughts and emotions.”

The BBC used the documents to reconstruct one of the camps, which data shows holds over 3,700 detainees guarded by 366 police officers who oversee them during lessons.

If a “student” must be transferred to another facility, the protocols say, police should blindfold them, handcuff them and shackle their feet.

Dr. Zenz published a peer-reviewed paper on the Xinjiang police files, in which he found that more than 12% of Uyghur adults were detained over 2017 and 2018.

“Scholars have argued that political paranoia is a common feature of atrocity crimes,” he wrote. “Here, it is suggested that the pre-emptive internment of large numbers of ordinary citizens can be explained as a devolution into political paranoia that promotes exaggerated threat perceptions.”

See what others are saying: (BBC) (Newsweek) (The Guardian)

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Biden Vows to Defend Taiwan if Attacked by China

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Some praised the remarks for clarifying U.S. foreign policy, while others feared they could escalate tensions with China.


Biden’s Remarks Create Confusion

During a Monday press conference in Tokyo, U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States would intervene to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.

The remark caught many off guard because it contradicted decades of traditional U.S. foreign policy toward China.

A reporter said, “You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”

“Yes,” Biden answered. “That’s a commitment we made. We are not — look, here’s the situation. We agree with a One China policy. We signed onto it and all the attendant agreements made from there.”

“But the idea that it can be taken by force — just taken by force — is just not appropriate,” he continued. “It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”

Beijing considers the Taiwanese island to be a breakaway province, but Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, has claimed to represent the real historical lineage of China.

Since 1972, the U.S. has officially recognized only one China, with its capital in Beijing. However, Washington maintains extensive informal diplomatic ties with Taipei and provides military assistance through weapons and training.

Successive U.S. presidents have also committed to a policy of “strategic ambiguity,” refusing to promise or rule out a direct military intervention in case China attacks Taiwan.

The strategy is meant to deter China while avoiding a hard commitment to any action.

Biden Sparks Controversy

The White House quickly sent a statement to reporters appearing to walk back Biden’s remark.

“As the president said, our policy has not changed,” the statement said. “He reiterated our One China Policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”

Monday was not the first time Biden made similar remarks regarding China and Taiwan.

Last August, he promised that “we would respond” if there was an attack against a fellow member of NATO and then added, “same with Japan, same with South Korea, same with Taiwan.”

In October, he again told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the U.S. would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack, prompting the White House to hurriedly walk back his statement.

Monday’s remark was received with support as well as criticism.

“Strategic ambiguity is over. Strategic clarity is here,” Tweeted Matthew Kroenig, professor of government at Georgetown University. “This is the third time Biden has said this. Good. China should welcome this. Washington is helping Beijing to not miscalculate.”

“It is truly dangerous for the president to keep misstating U.S. policy toward Taiwan,” historian Stephen Wertheim wrote in a tweet. “How many more times will this happen?”

“The West’s robust response to Russian aggression in Ukraine could serve to deter China from invading Taiwan, but Biden’s statement risks undoing the potential benefit and instead helping to bring about a Taiwan conflict,” he added. “Self-injurious and entirely unforced.”

Biden also unveiled the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a trade agreement signed by the U.S. and 12 Asian nations.

The agreement appeared to many like another move to cut off China from regional trade pacts and supply chains in Washington’s strategic competition with Beijing.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (The South China Morning Post)

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Russia Takes Over 900 Azovstal Fighters Prisoner as Mariupol Surrenders

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Ukraine said the soldiers successfully completed their mission, but the fall of Mariupol represents a strategic win for Putin.


Azovstal Waves the White Flag

Russia’s foreign ministry announced on Wednesday that it had captured 959 Ukrainians from the Azovstal steelworks, where besieged soldiers have maintained the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol for weeks.

A ministry spokesperson said in a statement that 51 were being treated for injuries, and the rest were sent to a former prison colony in the town of Olenivka in a Russian-controlled area of Donetsk.

The defense ministry released videos of what it claimed were Ukrainian fighters receiving care at a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk. In one, a soldier tells the camera he is being treated “normally” and that he is not being psychologically pressured, though it is unclear whether he is speaking freely.

It was unclear if any Ukrainians remained in Azovstal, but Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, said in a statement Wednesday that the “commanders of the highest level” were still hiding in the plant.

Previously, estimates put the number of soldiers inside Azovstal around 1,000.

Ukraine officially gave up Mariupol on Monday, when the first Azovstal fighters began surrendering.

Reuters filmed dozens of wounded Ukrainians being driven away in buses marked with the Russian pro-war “Z” symbol.

Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said in a Tuesday statement that the Ukrainian prisoners would be swapped in an exchange for captured Russians. But numerous Russian officials have signaled that the Ukrainian soldiers should be tried.

Mariupol Falls into Russian Hands

After nearly three months of bombardment that left Mariupol in ruins, Russia’s combat mission in the city has ended.

The sprawling complex of underground tunnels, caverns, and bunkers beneath Azovstal provided a defensible position for the Ukrainians there, and they came to represent the country’s resolve in the face of Russian aggression for many spectators.

Earlier this month, women, children, and the elderly were evacuated from the plant.

The definitive capture of Mariupol, a strategic port city, is a loss for Ukraine and a boon for Russia, which can now establish a land bridge between Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian separatists. The development could also free up Russian troops around Mariupol to advance on the East, while additional reinforcements near Kharkiv descend from the north, potentially cutting off Ukrainian forces from the rest of the country.

The Ukrainian military has framed events in Mariupol as at least a partial success, arguing that the defenders of Azovstal completed their mission by tying down Russian troops and resources in the city and giving Ukrainians elsewhere more breathing room.

It claimed that doing so prevented Russia from rapidly capturing the city of Zaporizhzhia further to the west.

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (BBC) (BBC)

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