Brexit, Swiss Elections, Russia: Your Monday Briefing
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We’re covering why some British lawmakers don’t trust Boris Johnson, Turkey’s quest for a nuclear weapon and the magic of Ireland’s peat bogs.
Another Brexit vote as majority hangs by a thread
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is trying again today.
His plan for Britain to exit the E.U. will be put to a “meaningful vote” this afternoon, in an attempt to recuperate from a stunning loss on Saturday. Senior officials said Mr. Johnson now has the support to pass his plan, but it was unclear if the speaker of the House of Commons would allow it.
Recap: If Mr. Johnson thought he was on the verge of a breakthrough, his dreams were thoroughly crushed over the weekend when lawmakers voted to delay final approval of the agreement until after Parliament passes the detailed legislation to enact it — so that there is no chance of a no-deal Brexit.
By law, Mr. Johnson had to request a delay in a letter, which the E.U. has not responded to yet, but he also sent a separate letter to the European Council president saying the approval of a delay would damage the relationship between Britain and the bloc.
Reservations: Opponents accused Mr. Johnson of negotiating a shoddy deal that would leave a post-Brexit Britain vulnerable to predatory trade deals with other countries, including the U.S.
Mistrust in Parliament: Many lawmakers feel they have good reason not to trust Mr. Johnson, hence their decision to tie his hands over the weekend. One Labour lawmaker even delayed giving birth to appear in a wheelchair for a pivotal vote. She did not trust her pro-Brexit colleagues to handle the process for medical absences correctly.
Quotable: “Before I decide whether to jump on the prime minister’s bus,” Philip Hammond, a Conservative ex-chancellor, said, “I’d like to be just a little clearer about the destination.”
Turkey eyes nuclear weapons
In the weeks before Turkey’s incursion into Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced his larger ambition: pursuing a nuclear weapon.
Now, with the country in open confrontation with its NATO allies, the threat takes on a new meaning.
The country already has the makings of a bomb program — uranium deposits and research reactors, as well as a long-delayed power reactor now under construction. Experts said it would take a number of years to get from this point to a weapon (unless Mr. Erdogan bought one).
Analysis: If the U.S. could not prevent the Turkish leader from routing its Kurdish allies, how can it stop him from building a nuclear weapon or following Iran in gathering the technology to do so?
Another danger: There are roughly 50 American nuclear weapons parked at Incirlik Air Base in Adana, Turkey. If U.S.-Turkish relations deteriorated, American access to that base would not be assured.
Switzerland elections bring ‘green wave’
Switzerland’s Green parties appear to have made historic gains in parliamentary elections on Sunday, as voters issued a rebuke to the dominant right-wing party.
And one of the first nationalist parties to gain traction, the Swiss People’s Party, could lose more than 10 seats in the lower house of Parliament — a potential sign of a loss of steam for the far right in the region.
Details: Projections based on preliminary results showed the left-wing Green Party and the Green Liberal Party nearly doubled their combined share of the popular vote from 2015, becoming the fourth-biggest party in the lower house of Parliament.
Quotable: “We expected a Green wave but it’s a tsunami, almost,” said one political scientist at Geneva University.
Context: The Swiss People’s Party won over voters in 2015 by stirring fear and anxiety about immigration and Islam, promising to minimize both. This time, it followed a similar playbook, but even voters in conservative areas said the party was out of step with the times, economically and environmentally.
If you have 14 minutes, this is worth it
Internet in an isolated Russian city brings unrest
Closed to foreigners, unreachable by road and shrouded in darkness for 45 days a year, Norilsk, above, an Arctic nickel-mining hub of 180,000, is Russia’s most isolated major city. For a long time, this meant that residents felt separate from much of the country’s turbulence.
But two years ago, a mining company connected Norilsk to cheaper, faster internet — and to an endless stream of information about politics. Now, some who felt political calm before say they are increasingly disaffected by the Kremlin’s actions.
Here’s what else is happening
Canada: The country heads to the polls today, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in a neck-and-neck race with the opposition Conservative party leader, Andrew Scheer.
Syria: President Trump is leaning in favor of a new Pentagon plan to keep a small contingent of American troops in eastern Syria, a senior official said.
Haiti: The violence and economic stagnation stemming from a clash between the country’s president and the opposition have reached a crisis point, Haitians say. At least 30 people have been killed in the demonstrations in the past few weeks, including 15 by police officers, the U.N. said.
G7 summit: President Trump said he would no longer host the meeting of world leaders at his Miami resort, responding to a backlash over ethical issues.
France: A far-right politician asked a mother on a school trip to remove her hijab, a request that quickly gained national attention and reignited the country’s heated debate over secularism, religious rights and feminism.
Snapshot: Above, a peat bog in Ireland. The dense and mucky wetlands, a fuel source for more than 1,000 years, once blanketed one-fifth of the country’s surface. They are also a time capsule for artifacts caught in their soil, like 2,000-year-old human remains — one recent stunning discovery. Today, 85 percent of bogs are in a degraded condition.
Britain: A national television station, Channel 4, announced a raft of new measures designed to support employees going through menopause, including flexible working arrangements and paid leave.
What we’re watching: This TED Talk by the marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. Lynda Richardson, a Travel editor, says, “It is a love story for the coral reef crisis, but even more an ode to her beloved parrotfish, a creature with the amazing ability to ‘poop white sand’ and make changes in its sex and wardrobe.”
Now, a break from the news
Cook: There are few things as comforting as a classic apple pie.
Go: Whether it’s finishing what Jane Austen started, imagining the private conversations of first ladies or inserting the personal, on London stages female playwrights are mixing things up.
Watch: HBO’s “Watchmen” isn’t a remake. Instead, it presents the back story of the original superheroes, and it expresses both reverence for its source and some anxiety of influence, our critic writes.
Read: Writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Terese Marie Mailhot and Imani Perry are letting their audiences eavesdrop on private conversations. Our critic asks what it means.
Smarter Living: If you’re having trouble falling asleep, try giving yourself more time to wind down before bed. Sleep experts gave us a few tips, including taking a walk after dinner and doing some deep breathing exercises. Most crucially, put down your phone — the blue light from the screen is bedtime poison.
And, here’s a guide on how to clean your sneakers. (Yes, you can put them in a washing machine. But that’s only part of it.)
And now for the Back Story on …
What’s a quid pro quo?
Last week, President Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, said that military aid had been withheld from Ukraine to get the country to investigate a conspiracy theory about the 2016 U.S. election — essentially confirming a major piece of the impeachment investigation.
“To be clear,” a reporter in the room said, “what you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mr. Mulvaney replied, “We do that all the time with foreign policy.”
Quid pro quo — Latin for “thing for thing” — is a legal phrase describing an arrangement where you give someone something he or she wants, but only if that person gives you what you want.
It’s most commonly seen in federal bribery trials, where politicians use the power of their office to help someone in exchange for some sort of personal enrichment. It can also appear in lawsuits involving sexual harassment.
Since the start of the investigation, Mr. Trump has turned “no quid pro quo” into a rallying cry. Mr. Mulvaney’s admission that one might have taken place could have enormous consequences.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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