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Brexit: Deal? No deal? Delay? The week ahead in Brexit votes.

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British Prime Minister Theresa May will try again next week to get a Brexit deal through Parliament, with less than 20 days to go before the March 29 deadline.

May promised late last month that she would give the UK Parliament a chance to vote again on a Brexit deal on Tuesday after going back to the European Union to try to negotiate changes that could win the backing of members of Parliament (MPs).

The focus of those negotiations has been the “Irish backstop,” an aspect of the deal that guarantees no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after the UK splits from the EU. But those discussions haven’t gone all that well in the past few weeks.

A potential breakthrough can’t be ruled out ahead of the vote on Tuesday. But will it be enough to get a Brexit deal through Parliament?

Parliament defeated the May’s Brexit deal in January by a stunning 230 votes. The prime minister may need to offer something different to have a chance of succeeding this time around. May, on Friday, asked the EU for “just one more push” to get a revised deal done so she can sell the agreement to MPs.

The EU has always insisted it won’t reopen the deal, though it may be willing to attach some (legally binding) assurances about the backstop. Whether that will be enough is the ultimate question in the UK. Or, as a BBC headline put it, “Brexit: Does anyone really know what happens next?”

No, is the answer. But here’s what you need to know ahead of next week’s vote.

Any chance of a backstop breakthrough?

The Brexit deal combines a 585-page agreement with a short political declaration on the future EU-UK relationship. But what’s holding everything up is the issue of the Irish backstop.

The backstop is basically an insurance policy that says if the EU and UK can’t define their future partnership after Brexit, there will be no physical checkpoints or controls on the border between Northern Ireland (part of the UK and soon to be an ex-EU member) and the Republic of Ireland, an independent country that’s also an EU member-state.

To achieve that, the entire UK will stay in a customs arrangement with the EU, and Northern Ireland will more closely follow the EU’s regulations. The backstop ends when both sides agree to a permanent arrangement that keeps the border open, and the UK can’t pull out of it unilaterally. (Here’s an explainer on why that’s important.)

Brexiteers — those who want to a hard break with the EU — loathe this plan because it keeps the UK and EU closely aligned, which they see as entrapping the UK in an indefinite relationship with the bloc.

The UK has sought “alternative arrangements,” to the backstop, but have failed to find any that would satisfy the EU or truly prevent a hard border. And the EU has stayed firm on their stance that they won’t reopen the text of the withdrawal agreement.

But a breakthrough might — and we need to stress might — be possible before Tuesday’s vote.

On Friday, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, offered two possibilities that might help break the impasse.

The first is a legally binding guarantee that the backstop is intended to be a temporary arrangement and an option of last resort, used if, and only if, the EU and UK can’t figure out alternatives during a transition period after Brexit. (These commitments are based on a letter that EU leaders wrote to May in January.)

The second (and definitely more controversial) suggestion involved a tweak to the backstop that would allow Britain to unilaterally leave the customs union, as long as Northern Ireland remained in alignment with the EU.

This was the EU’s original backstop plan, a set-up the UK has rejected in the past because it would mean border checks on the Irish Sea, with goods coming from the rest of Great Britain getting checked before landing in Northern Ireland, and vice versa. This arrangement is also unpalatable to the Democratic Unionist Party, the conservative Northern Ireland Party whose votes keep May’s government in power.

The DUP doesn’t want Northern Ireland to be treated any differently than the rest of the UK, which this plan would most definitely do.

Here’s Nigel Dodds, the deputy DUP leader:

The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator Stephen Barclay has also rebuffed Barnier’s offering, saying “now is not the time to rerun old arguments.”

So May’s government has turned down this Northern Ireland-only backstop before, and it looks ready to quickly reject it again.

The legal commitment may bring over some converts because “that provides more assurances on the good-faith enterprises of the European Union than it does in the withdrawal agreement,” Anand Menon, the director of UK in a Changing Europe, told me.

But it’s unclear if this will be enough. It’s also unclear if the EU will offer anything else.

Parliament will vote on May’s deal on Tuesday. Then, who knows.

May’s Brexit deal may look very similar to the one Parliament rejected in January when the UK votes on Tuesday, barring any last-minute developments. Which means May may face another embarrassing defeat in Parliament once again.

But it is March, with less than three weeks to go until the Brexit deadline. The calendar alone may convince members of Parliament to vote for a deal, especially if they fear the possibility of a no-deal Brexit and its catastrophic consequences. May has also been trying to woo members of the Labour opposition party who are pro-Leave with funding for their constituencies. And she’s tried to make the “Hotel California” pitch to MPs — especially hardline Brexiteers — that if they don’t vote for her deal now and break up with the EU on March 29, the UK might never leave.

That might be a bit dramatic. But there is a much greater chance that Brexit could be delayed.

May has promised members of Parliament two additional votes if her deal fails on Tuesday. She’s said they would happen in succession, on Wednesday and Thursday.

On Wednesday, Parliament would vote on whether it wants to leave the EU without a deal on March 29. The deeply divided Parliament can’t agree on much, but it has agreed in the past that it wants to leave the EU with an agreement in place, so no-deal seems likely to get defeated.

If the no-deal measure went down, then, on Thursday, Parliament would vote on whether to seek a limited extension to Article 50, the provision of the EU treaty under which the UK is withdrawing from the bloc. May has indicated this would be a short-term extension, which would simply postpone Brexit for a few months. This wouldn’t eliminate a no-deal scenario. That scenario just wouldn’t happen on March 29.

And any extension, of any length, will require approval from the EU member-states.

“If the UK asks for an extension, it will be a short extension, everything suggests that,” Michael Leigh, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund and former EU commissioner, told me.

That’s likely to mean two months, possibly three. European parliamentary elections are taking place in May, and the newly elected members begin their term July, so the idea would be for the UK to exit the EU before then.

But, as Leigh told me: “The EU response has got to be — what is the purpose of the extension?”

EU leaders had previously been reluctant to grant the UK an extension unless a legitimate reason existed — something that could fundamentally change the Brexit outcome, such as another referendum vote on whether to leave the EU or new general elections.

Moving the deadline so the UK could continue arguing didn’t seem likely before, but the EU also wants to avoid the chaos of a no-deal scenario, which would still be bad for the EU (if much worse for the UK.) The EU likely doesn’t want to take the blame for that fallout, especially if it’s within its power to avoid by just pushing back the deadline. Still, all 27 EU member states would have to unanimously approve the extension, and they could impose conditions.

The EU would likely make this decision at the European Council summit starting March 21, on the brink of the Brexit deadline.

If the EU rejects a Brexit extension, anything could happen next. A no-deal Brexit. Or even a third vote on the Brexit deal.

A lot would depend on how badly May’s deal is defeated — if it is defeated — on Tuesday. This isn’t likely to be a 230-vote beating like last time. If it’s a close vote — say, 10 votes or so — it’s possible May will make a third attempt.

But if it’s much more than that, even 50 or 60 votes, Menon said, “I’m not sure we’re going to go to a ‘meaningful vote three.’”

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20 People Share Secrets From Their Jobs and Now We Can’t Sleep Well

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Almost every job has its own secrets and nuances that very few people know. The people of different professions shared secrets from their jobs on Reddit and on Twitter and some of their stories may seriously change the way you see the world.

We at Bright Side, of course, don’t have any secrets like these, but as it turns out, not all other professions are as transparent as they seem to be.

  • Truck driver: 9 out of 10 truck drivers travel with a smartphone on their windshield watching a TV-series. Stay away from big trucks.
  • Disney World employee: There are secret tunnels underneath both Epcot and the Magic Kingdom (and probably other parks too) that enable the cast members to travel across the park pretty quickly and easily.

Comment from a park-goer: My father suffered a heart attack while visiting Epcot. I have never witnessed a faster medical response with professionals appearing from seemingly nowhere with just as fast transport through underground tunnels. It was a lifesaver. He was transported to a Disney hospital where he received great care after an emergency surgery and our stay was extended by 3 weeks.

  • IT support people: (help desks, computer repair shops, Geek Squad, etc.) are mostly just better at Googling than you are.
  • Employee at a flour factory: Wheat flour is not actually white. We use chlorine to make it look more attractive. This also increases the gluten level in flour, and this is why people are more gluten-sensitive today.
  • Rescue team member: When you are a young lifeguard, you always have a radio with you 24/7. And you always listen to what happens in the city. If you are going, for example, to a birthday party in your own car and then you hear there is a fire on a nearby street, you turn the car and drive there! (I have my own gear in the car). @Moscow_Spasatel
  • Olive oil factory employee: We had only one kind of oil but we put it in 27 different containers and sold it at different prices. Some of them were labeled as imported, some were called the highest quality oil. But it was the same oil in every single bottle.
  • IT-service engineer: When someone is fixing your computer, they also often look through the data on your hard drive searching for something funny or embarrassing. So, before you give your computer to an IT service, clear your browser history, and copy all the important data to an external drive.
  • Candle factory: Paraffin candles are dangerous and poisonous. Because I know what we added in there (even to the candles that say “100% paraffin”), I will never ever use candles again. If you need to use them for some reason, buy candles made of bee’s wax without any scents.
  • Sommelier: Wine isn’t vegan. It’s not even vegetarian in some cases. The filtering (refining) process uses egg whites, and sometimes isinglass (fish parts).

  • Movie theater: A large bag of popcorn that costs the customer $5.99 (at the time) cost the movie theatre 6 cents to produce, including the butter, the kernels, the bag, the power used by the popper and the time it took the concession employee to fill up the bag and give it to the customer.
  • Internet services: Most “subscription services” will raise their prices over time because they expect you to just live with it. This applies to phone bills, cable packages, internet service, insurance plans… Call up, politely complain about the price. Skip the canned “well the price has gone up because inflation/rising costs/age/end of promotion” and continue to politely say it’s too much, your budget can’t handle all your outgoings and you may need to drop the service. Either you are speaking to someone who can reduce the price, or they can put you through to a person authorized to reduce the price.
  • Mechanic: If you want to go on vacation and you don’t know where to leave your car, get it to a mechanic. Many people do this. It’s ridiculously cheap and you can be away for a month! It is much more expensive to use parking lots. @Neformatws
  • Pharmacist: I’ve worked at several factories that manufacture medications. And the rules were the same everywhere: if you dropped pills on the floor, just put them back into the bottle. So, maybe your medications are not as clean as you think.
  • Librarian: The amount of toilet paper, random items, and bills used as bookmarks that are left in returned library books is unbelievable!
  • Doctor: We spend so much time to be good at what we do, that we know almost nothing about other things.

Is there something about your job that is kept secret?

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The spring equinox is Wednesday, March 20: 7 things to know about the first day of spring.

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The vernal equinox is upon us: On Wednesday, March 20, both the Northern and Southern hemispheres will experience an equal amount of daylight. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the beginning of spring, with daylight hours continuing to lengthen until the summer solstice in June. For those south of the equator, it’s the beginning of autumn.

Technically speaking, the equinox occurs when the sun is directly in line with the equator. This will happen at 5:58 pm Eastern time on Wednesday. (A few hours later, at 9:43 pm, you can look out for the “supermoon”, the last one until 2020.)

Below is a short scientific guide to the most equal night of the year.

1) Why do we have an equinox?

The equinox, the seasons, and the changing length of daylight hours throughout the year are all due to one fact: The Earth spins on a tilted axis.

The tilt — possibly caused by a massive object hitting Earth billions of years ago — means that for half the year, the North Pole is pointed toward the sun (as in the picture below). For the other half of the year, the South Pole gets more light. It’s what gives us seasons.


NASA

Here’s a time-lapse demonstration of the phenomenon shot over the course of a whole year from space. In the video, you can see how the line separating day from night swings back and forth from the poles during the year.



NASA/Meteosat/Robert Simmon

And here’s yet another cool way to visualize the seasons. In 2013, a resident of Alberta, Canada, took this pinhole camera photograph of the sun’s path throughout the year and shared it with the astronomy website EarthSky. You can see the dramatic change in the arc of the sun from December to June.

This is a 6 month pinhole photo taken from solstice to solstice, in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. We are one of the sunniest cities in Canada, and this shows it nicely.

Posted by Ian Hennes on Saturday, December 21, 2013

(You can easily make a similar image at home. All you need is a can, photo paper, some tape, and a pin. Instructions here.)

2) How many hours of daylight will I get Wednesday?

Equinox literally means “equal night.” And during the equinox, most places on Earth will see approximately 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night.

But not every place will experience the exact same amount of daylight. For instance, on Wednesday, Fairbanks, Alaska, will see 12 hours and 15 minutes of daylight. Key West, Florida, will see 12 hours and six minutes. The differences are due to how the sunlight gets refracted (bent) as it enters Earth’s atmosphere at different latitudes.

That daylight is longer than 12 hours on the equinox is also due to how we commonly measure the length of a day: from the first hint of the sun peeking over the horizon in the morning to the very last glimpse of it before it falls below the horizon in the evening. Because the sun takes some time to rise and set, it adds some extra daylight minutes.

Check out TimeAndDate.com to see how many hours of sunlight you’ll get during the equinox.

3) Over the course of the entire year, does every spot on Earth get an equal number of daylight hours?

In the summer months, the northernmost latitudes get a lot of daylight. Above the Arctic Circle, during the summer, there’s 24 hours of daylight. In the winter, the Arctic Circle is plunged into constant darkness.

So does this mean the number of daylight hours — in total, over the course of the year — equal out to places where the seasonal difference is less extreme?

The answer to this question is somewhat surprising: Roughly speaking, everywhere on Earth sees a similar number of daylight hours every year. But the equator actually gets slightly fewer daylight hours than the poles.

As astronomer Tony Flanders explained for Sky & Telescope magazine, sunlight at the poles gets refracted more than sunlight at the equator. That refracting results in the visible disc of the sun being slightly stretched out (think of when the full moon is near the horizon and looks huge — it’s being refracted too). And the refracted, stretched-out sun takes slightly longer to rise and set. Flanders estimated that the equator spends around 50.5 percent of its year in sunlight, while the poles spend between 51.5 and 53 percent of their years in sunlight.

And, of course, this is how much sunlight these areas could potentially receive if the weather were always perfectly clear; it’s not how much sunlight they actually see, nor the strength of the sunlight that hits their ground. “Where are the places on Earth that receive the largest amount of solar radiation?” is a slightly different question, the answer to which can be seen on the chart below.



US Energy Information Administration

4) Can I really only balance an egg on its tip during on the equinox?

Perhaps you were told as a child that on the equinox, it’s easier to balance an egg vertically on a flat surface than on other days of the year.

The practice originated in China as a tradition on the first day of spring in the Chinese lunar calendar in early February. According to the South China Morning Post, “The theory goes that at this time of year the moon and earth are in exactly the right alignment, the celestial bodies generating the perfect balance of forces needed to make it possible.”

This is a myth. The amount of sunlight we get during the day has no power over the gravitational pull of the Earth or our abilities to balance things upon it. You can balance an egg on its end any day of the year (if you’re good at balancing things).


This man is very good at balancing eggs.
AFP/Getty Images

5) Is there an ancient monument that does something cool during the equinox?

During the winter and summer solstices, crowds flock to Stonehenge in the United Kingdom. During the solstices, the sun either rises or sets in line with the layout of the 5,000-year-old-monument. And while some visit Stonehenge for the spring equinox too, the real place to be is in Mexico.

That’s because on the equinox, the pyramid at Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula puts on a wondrous show. Built by the Mayans around 1,000 years ago, the pyramid is designed to cast a shadow on the equinox outlining the body of Kukulkan, a feathered snake god. A serpent-head statue is located at the bottom of the pyramid, and as the sun sets on the day of the equinox, the sunlight and shadow show the body of the serpent joining with the head.

This is easier to see in a video. Check it out below.

6) Are there equinoxes on other planets?

Yes! All the planets in the solar system rotate on a tilted axis and therefore have seasons. Some of these tilts are minor (like Mercury, which is tilted at 2.11 degrees). But others are more like the Earth (tilted at 23.5 degrees) or are even more extreme (Uranus is tilted 98 degrees!).

Below, see a beautiful composite image of Saturn on its equinox captured by the Cassini spacecraft (RIP) in 2009. The gas giant is tilted 27 degrees relative to the sun, and equinoxes on the planet are less frequent than on Earth. Saturn only sees an equinox about once every 15 years (because it takes Saturn 29 years to complete one orbit around the sun).


Cassini Imaging Team/NASA

During Saturn’s equinox, its rings become unusually dark. That’s because these rings are only around 30 feet thick. And when light hits them head on, there’s not much surface area to reflect.

7) I clicked this article accidentally and really just want a mind-blowing picture of the sun


The sun blew out a coronal mass ejection along with part of a solar filament over a three-hour period (February 24, 2015). Some of the strands fell back into the sun.
Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA

The image above was taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, a spacecraft launched in 2010 to better understand the sun.

This past summer, NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft that will come within 4 million miles of the surface of the sun (much closer than any spacecraft has been before). The goal is to study the sun’s atmosphere, weather, and magnetism and figure out the mystery of why the sun’s corona (its atmosphere) is much hotter than its surface. Still, even several million miles away, the probe will have to withstand temperatures of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s essential to understand the sun: It’s nothing to mess with. Brad Plumer wrote for Vox about what happens when the sun erupts and sends space weather our way to wreak havoc on Earth.

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Kitten Doesn’t Understand How Tails Work Yet

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Occurred on March 16, 2019 / Hanoi, Vietnam

Info from Licensor: “This kitten still doesn’t understand why the dog’s tail keeps hitting it in the face.”

View at DailyMotion

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