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Boris Johnson’s Conservative party loses parliamentary seat held for 200 years

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party lost control of a previously safe parliamentary seat on Friday in a surprise election result interpreted as a voter backlash against a British leader beset by crises and scandal.

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The centrist Liberal Democrats party candidate, Helen Morgan, won the North Shropshire seat by nearly 6,000 votes, overturning a 23,000 vote Conservative majority from 2019.

“Tonight, the people of North Shropshire have spoken on behalf of the British people. They have said loudly and clearly: ‘Boris Johnson, the party is over’,” Morgan said in her victory speech.

“Our country is crying out for leadership. Mr Johnson, you’re no leader.”

The Conservatives had won every previous election for the mostly rural area of central England since the constituency was created in its current form in 1983. The seat has existed in some form since the 1830s and had always been held by a Conservative, according to the BBC.

The huge swing comes at time when Johnson is facing criticism on several fronts, including over reports his staff held parties last Christmas when the country was in lockdown.

Nationwide opinion polls show Conservatives falling behind their main rivals, the Labour Party, following an outcry over lawmakers’ second jobs, criticism of the way Johnson funded the lavish refurbishment of his flat, and a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The vote for the North Shropshire area, one of 650 seats in Britain’s parliament, was called outside of the regular election cycle because the incumbent Conservative resigned after he was found to have broken rules on paid lobbying.

The government attempted to prevent that resignation by changing rules designed to stop corruption in parliament, but was forced to backtrack after the move provoked an outcry about integrity and trust under Johnson’s leadership.

So-called by-elections are often used by voters to punish the ruling party, but the scale of the Liberal Democrat victory will be taken as evidence of deep public dissatisfaction.

Johnson still maintains a large majority of the seats in parliament after a comprehensive 2019 election win built on a promise to ‘Get Brexit Done’ that united traditional right-leaning Conservative voters with a swathes of new supporters.

North Shropshire was a pro-Brexit, staunchly Conservative area. Analysts say Friday’s heavy defeat may further undermine Johnson’s authority over lawmakers already in open revolt over plans to introduce COVID-19 passports.

Britain’s next nationwide election is due in 2024.

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Boris Johnson’s govt denies graft charges over ennobled Conservative Party donors

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US combat jet crashes in South China Sea exercise, 7 hurt

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A US Navy F35C Lightning II combat jet conducting exercises in the South China Sea crashed while trying to land on the deck of an American aircraft carrier, injuring seven sailors, the military said Tuesday.

The pilot was able to eject before the aircraft slammed into the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Monday and then fell into the water. The pilot was safely recovered by a helicopter, said Lt. Mark Langford, a spokesman for the US 7th Fleet.

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Seven sailors, including the pilot, were injured and three were evacuated for medical treatment in Manila, Philippines, while four were treated on board the ship. The three sent to Manila were reported in stable condition on Tuesday morning, the Navy said.

Details on the crash of the multimillion-dollar aircraft were still being verified, Langford said.

“The status and recovery of the aircraft is currently under investigation,” he told The Associated Press.

Two American carrier strike groups with more than 14,000 sailors and marines are conducting exercises in the South China Sea, which the military says is to demonstrate the “US Indo-Pacific Command Joint Force’s ability to deliver a powerful maritime force.”

Impact to the deck of the USS Carl Vinson was “superficial,” Langford said, and both carriers have resumed routine flight operations.

As China has pressed territorial claims in the South China Sea and increased pressure on Taiwan, the US and its allies have stepped up exercises in the region, in what they call freedom of navigation operations in line with international law.

As the Carl Vinson and Abraham Lincoln strike groups began their dual carrier operations on Sunday, China flew 39 warplanes toward Taiwan in its largest such sortie of the new year, according to Taiwan’s defense ministry.

The formation of 24 Chinese J-16 and 10 J-10 fighter jets stayed out of Taiwanese air space, but the maneuver prompted Taiwan to scramble its own aircraft in response.

Chinese pilots have been flying toward Taiwan on a near-daily basis, and it was unclear if Sunday’s flights were a response to the American exercises. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs refused to comment.

Taiwan and China split during a civil war in 1949, but China claims the island as its own territory. Beijing has used diplomatic and military means to isolate and intimidate the self-ruled island, but the US has continued to support Taiwan by selling it advanced weapons and fighter planes.

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Snowstorms, cold and fire threaten displaced Syrians in northern camps

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Five-year-old Intissar and her younger sister Lin were sheltering from northern Syria’s bitter winter cold when fuel from a heater ignited their tent, killing them and seriously injuring their mother.

The young family and other displaced Syrians were living near the Turkish border in a camp of more than 400 tents, which offer little protection from snowstorms and plunging temperatures which struck in recent days.

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The cold snap has brought chaos to traffic and flights in neighboring countries but its effects are most severe in northwest Syria, where 3 million people have been left homeless in a long-running humanitarian crisis.

Many have been displaced several times by the 11-year war.

“People in the camp are suffering. The tents don’t protect from the cold,” said Nouredin al-Abdullah, whose cousin Ahmed is the father of the girls who died. “If you think about heating, God forbid, you and your children may go (the same way).”

He said the latest snowfall was the heaviest he had seen.

The weight of the snow has collapsed many tents, while water seeped underneath them.

Across the region, food supplies and health services have been disrupted and relief workers are struggling to reach some of the 300 worst affected sites, said Mark Cutts, U.N. deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria.

“The numbers are just staggering, and it is very difficult to provide people with all the support they need,” he said. Desperate to stay warm, people were burning cardboard and plastic bottles, and then inhaling toxic fumes.

“Even more suffering is caused because of the lack of fuel for heating,” he told Reuters, adding that at least one child had died from the freezing cold.

“There are more than 1 million people still living in tents or substandard accommodation,” Cutts said. “It’s becoming increasingly urgent that we get people out of these tents.”

Read more: Syrian prison battle death toll tops 150, concern over fate of minors

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Gunmen kill Pakistani policeman guarding polio workers

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Gunmen shot and killed a Pakistani policeman who was providing security for polio vaccination workers in the northwest on Tuesday, according to police.

The assailants fled the scene, and no one claimed responsibility for the attack in Kohat, local police official Dikdar Khan said. He added that the body of the slain policeman had been transported to a hospital.

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No polio workers were harmed in the attack, police said, a day after Pakistan launched a nationwide anti-polio campaign.

Militants in Pakistan often target polio teams and police assigned to protect them, falsely claiming the vaccination campaigns are a Western conspiracy to sterilize children. Militants have claimed responsibility for previous attacks across the country.

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