CHINESE DISSIDENT’S DEATH CENSORED ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Lamentations following the death of Nobel laureate and political prisoner Liu Xiaobo Thursday were censored across mainland China. On the popular Chinese microblogging platform Sina Weibo, searches for Liu’s name resulted in a message that results could not be displayed, while Chinese-language domestic media largely ignored the Nobel laureate’s passing. Government-run English-language outlet The Global Times did report his death, but referred to Liu in an editorial as “a victim led astray by the West” who ultimately became an enemy of the state.
Liu’s death caps off a month-long battle between the Chinese government and international critics over whether the political prisoner should be allowed to travel to receive treatment—the Chinese government maintained, contrary to the opinion of Western experts who examined him, that Liu was too ill to leave China for treatment. The Nobel committee responded to the Chinese government’s intransigence Thursday by calling Liu’s death “premature,” a sentiment echoed by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who called the Chinese government’s travel ban “wrong.”
NEW REPUBLICAN HEALTH CARE BILL ATTEMPTS TO GARNER MAJORITY
Struggling to find a compromise that would win the votes of over fifty senators, Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate unveiled a new proposal Thursday to repeal and replace Obamacare, the signature health insurance law signed by former President Barack Obama in 2010. Unlike past proposals, the new bill would keep a set of Obamacare taxes on high-income earners and lessen regulations on what policies insurers could sell—both moves intended to garner the votes of moderate members and far-right-leaning members unconvinced by prior efforts.
With Republicans controlling 52 of the Senate’s 100 seats and complete unanimity among Democrats against repealing Obamacare, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will need to convince all but two of his members to vote for any health care bill to secure its passage. While the new bill has specific provisions intended to convince those previously on the fence, it remains controversial among moderates due to its drastic cuts in Medicaid, the U.S. federal government’s insurance program for impoverished families.
‘LADIES AND GENTLEMEN’ REMOVED FROM TUBE
Due to LGBT concerns, announcements on the tube will no longer refer to “ladies and gentlemen,” instead saying “hello everyone” as part of an effort to make the transit system more gender neutral. Transport for London, the government body tasked with overseeing the London Underground System, said that, in order to make riders feel more “welcome,” all pre-recorded announcements would be altered and, likewise, employees would be instructed to change their terminology.
The move comes after London Mayor Sadiq Khan stated last month that he supported a shift to more gender neutral language, though he noted that the change might be difficult for some staff.
“From time to time, well-meaning staff may still use the term ‘ladies and gentlemen’,” he said at a session of Mayor’s Question Time. “If this happens frequently, TfL will issue reminders to staff.”
TRUMP’S FRIEND JIM ABSENT ON RECENT PARIS TRIP
On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump referred frequently to his friend Jim, a friend who loves Paris, but had to stop visiting the City of Lights due to fears of terrorism—“Paris is no longer Paris,” he said at one point. But as Trump arrived in Paris Thursday on his first official visit as U.S. commander-in-chief, the mysterious friend was nowhere to be found.
The White House has not responded to numerous media outlets inquiries about ‘Jim’ and Trump has not yet mentioned a surname or more details, leading to speculation on Twitter that Jim was made up on the campaign trail to prove a political point or even an imaginary friend of the president’s. At a press conference in Paris, Trump dodged a question about Jim and changed tune about Paris’ failings.
“You know what? It’s going to be just fine,” said Trump, adding that France’s new president Emmanuel Macron is “great” and will be “tough” in countering violent extremism.
VOICE OF KERMIT THE FROG ‘DEVASTATED’ OVER FIRING
The puppeteer who has voiced the legendary character Kermit the Frog since the death of Muppets founder Jim Henson in 1990 announced in an emotional blog post Thursday that he was fired against his will and that he was “devastated to have failed” his mentor after nearly three-decades as Kermit.
“For me the Muppets are not just a job, or a career, or even a passion. They are a calling, an urgent, undeniable, impossible to resist way of life,” wrote Steve Whitmire, Kermit’s longtime voice. “I feel that I am at the top of my game, and I want all of you who love the Muppets to know that I would never consider abandoning Kermit.”
Whitmire joined the Muppets in 1978 and assumed the voice of the Muppets’ signature character after 35 years of Henson’s acting as Kermit. The Hollywood Reporter reported that longtime Muppets performer Matt Vogel will assume the role in coming months.