Johnson survives a no-confidence vote, for now
Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, won a tense no-confidence vote among Tory lawmakers yesterday, 211 to 148. Yet the vote presages a volatile period in British politics as he fights to stay in power and lead a divided Conservative Party.
Johnson vowed to stay on, declaring that the victory should end speculation about his future in the role. “It’s a convincing result, a decisive result,” he said. But history suggests otherwise: Conservative prime ministers who have been subjected to such a vote are usually drummed out of office, regardless of the outcome.
For a politician who led the Tories to a landslide election victory in 2019 with the promise to “get Brexit done,” it was a bruising fall from grace, Mark Landler, our London bureau chief, writes in this analysis. Johnson’s job has been in peril for months.
Context: Johnson’s support has eroded since last year, when a scandal erupted over revelations that he and his senior aides threw parties at 10 Downing Street, violating Covid lockdown rules. More than 40 percent of Conservative lawmakers voted against him in an unexpectedly large rebellion.
Conservatives: With a comfortable majority in Parliament, the party is in no danger of losing power. Johnson may attempt to ride out the storm by claiming that he got a larger mandate than when he was first elected leader of the party in July 2019.
Potent weapons reach Ukraine
Britain has joined the U.S. in pledging to send Ukraine advanced rocket systems, which can hit targets up to 50 miles away. President Biden said last week that the U.S. would soon deliver a precision rocket system with a similar range. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has repeatedly warned the West against supplying Ukraine with such arms.
Since Russia invaded, NATO nations have upgraded Ukraine’s arsenal with increasingly sophisticated tools without training soldiers how to use the equipment. In some cases, soldiers learned enough to operate complex tools, sometimes using Google Translate to understand English-language manuals, but then rotated to other placements, leaving the unit with an expensive paperweight.
The fighting in eastern Ukraine has increasingly become an artillery war, and Western rockets could dent Moscow’s weaponry advantage in the battle for the Donbas. The barrages have exacted a heavy toll on the Ukrainian Army: The government has said that as many as 100 soldiers are dying every day.
‘We pray for them, too’: Even as Russian shells kill monks and nuns, the Sviatohirsk Monastery of the Caves in eastern Ukraine, a key site in the Russian Orthodox Church, remains loyal to the church and its pro-Putin leader, Patriarch Kirill.
Guerrilla attacks are rising in the Russian-occupied south.
U.S. federal authorities intend to seize two aircraft believed to be owned by Roman Abramovich, saying the oligarch violated strict export regulations linked to Russia’s invasion.
Israel’s government teeters again
Israel’s fragile coalition government once again edged closer to collapse after its Parliament voted against applying Israeli civilian law to Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.
The decision undermined the two-tier legal system that distinguishes between Israelis and Palestinians in most of the territory and that is often at the heart of accusations that Israel operates an apartheidlike system in the West Bank.
Technically a temporary measure, the law — which is distinct from the military law by which Israel generally governs Palestinians living in the same area — has been routinely extended by lawmakers since 1967 and expires at the end of the month. The effort failed by a 58-to-52 vote after Naftali Bennett, Israel’s right-wing prime minister, failed to keep his tenuous coalition in line.
Consequences: If no lawmakers change course, the move could topple the government, throw a political lifeline to Benjamin Netanyahu — the leader of the opposition who lost power last June — and place the governing of West Bank settlements in chaos, legal experts said. Another vote is forthcoming.
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More than a year after they first began arriving in Britain under a new visa program, tens of thousands of people from Hong Kong are settling into their new home. But they still long for the one they left behind.
“You grow up in a place, and you don’t recognize it. It becomes a stranger,” one recent arrival said, reflecting on the changes in Hong Kong as he mixed evaporated milk into steaming tea. “When we think of it, we just want to cry.”
Into the void
Does the picture you see above appear to be moving, growing or expanding? This static image, of a darkness that threatens to swallow up the viewer, has much to teach us about how our brains and eyes see the world.
In a study published last week, psychologists tested this illusion on 50 men and women with normal vision. Using an infrared eye tracker, they found that the greater a participant’s response to the illusion, the stronger the pupil dilation response. About 14 percent of people can’t see the illusion at all.
Your pupils unconsciously adjust to the light in your surroundings, dilating to capture more light in darkness and constricting to prevent overexposure in brightness. When you look at this illusion, the hole is not darkening. But the perception of the hole darkening is enough to make your pupils respond.
The researchers hypothesize that the illusion works because the gradient on the central hole makes it look as if the viewer is entering a dark hole or tunnel, prompting the pupils to dilate.
One hypothesis is that the brain is trying to predict and show us the future in order to perceive the present, a result of the brain’s strategy to navigate an uncertain, ever-changing world. The brain adapts by, say, prompting pupils to dilate when anticipating darkness.