By Tom Perry CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's army-backed authorities referred deposed President Mohamed Mursi to trial on Sunday on charges of inciting murder and violence, in an escalation of the crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood. The new government also named a constituent assembly almost devoid of Islamists and gave it 60 days to review amendments that would erase Islamic articles brought in last year by the Brotherhood and more hardline Islamic parties. Nearly two months after the army deposed Mursi, the moves underscored Egypt's dramatic power shift as its new rulers tighten their grip and crack down on the Islamists who rose to power through the ballot box after Hosni Mubarak's downfall. A state prosecutor charged Mursi and 14 other Brotherhood members with "committing acts of violence, and inciting killing and thuggery", the state news agency reported. The charges relate to violence in which around a dozen people were killed outside the presidential palace last December, after Mursi had ignited protesters' rage with a decree that expanded his powers. The episode was one of the most violent of his presidency. Tens of thousands gathered outside the presidency to demonstrate against Mursi's decree and a divisive, Islamist-tinged constitution that he planned to put to a referendum. The Brotherhood's leaders called on members to rally to his defense. The state news agency said they were now accused of mobilizing their followers to forcibly disperse the protesters after the security forces rejected Mursi's orders to do so. The charges against Mursi include inciting his followers and assistants to commit crimes of premeditated murder and use violence and thuggery. Mursi is also being investigated over his escape from jail during the 2011 uprising against Mubarak. He is suspected of murder and conspiring with the Palestinian group Hamas during his escape, though no formal charges have been brought. Both the European Union and the United States, source of $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Cairo, had called for Mursi's release after he was detained following his overthrow on July 3. MASS PROTESTS He was toppled just a year into his term following mass protests fuelled by anger at economic mismanagement and Brotherhood attempts to entrench its power. His downfall has led to some of the worst violence in Egypt's modern history, in the form of protests by his supporters, a bloody police crackdown on those supporters, and militant attacks on the police and churches. At least 900 people, most of them Mursi supporters, were killed last month after the authorities smashed two protest camps set up by Mursi's supporters in Cairo. Around 100 of the dead were members of the security forces, killed in what the state has described as a Brotherhood campaign of terrorism. The group denies resorting to violence, saying the government is using the charge to justify the crackdown. Mursi's fall has also triggered a spike in violence in the Sinai Peninsula, where hardline militants expanded into a security vacuum left by the 2011 uprising against Mubarak. Underlining the growing threat of attacks, an army source said three people had been arrested for opening fire with machine guns on a ship passing through the Suez Canal, the global shipping artery that runs through Egyptian territory. During Saturday's unsuccessful attack, the Panamanian-registered container ship COSCO ASIA came under fire in a northern section of the canal, the source said. Canal Authority sources said a rocket-propelled grenade was also used. The Brotherhood says it is committed to peaceful resistance. It managed to bring thousands into the street last Friday in demonstrations against what it views as a "putschist regime" that aims to turn Egypt back into a police state. The government says it will restore democracy with parliamentary and presidential elections once amendments to the constitution are approved in a referendum. PANEL OF 50 The presidency named a 50-member panel that will review an extensive set of amendments drawn up by a "panel of experts". The proposals would remove Islamic-influenced articles including one that gave Muslim scholars a say over some affairs of state, and also lift a ban on some Mubarak-era officials assuming public office. Drawn up by a 10-member "committee of experts" appointed by decree, the draft preserves the privileged status of the military, which it effectively shields from civilian oversight. Although Islamists won five popular votes held since 2011, the constituent assembly will have only two Islamists among its members. One belongs to the hardline Salafi Nour party, the other is a former Brotherhood leader now harshly critical of the group he left last year. "It's a very establishment list," said Nathan Brown, an expert on Egypt based at George Washington University in the United States. The presidency said six Islamist parties, including the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, had been approached to fill the two seats set aside for Islamists. Only Nour had responded. The Brotherhood says it wants nothing to do with the army's plans for Egypt. The Brotherhood and the Nour Party secured a major say over the last constitution-drafting process by winning some 70 percent of the seats in parliamentary elections held after Mubarak's downfall. Critics said the Islamists then sidelined other groups in a process that failed to reflect Egypt's diversity. The constitution was signed into law last December by Mursi after being approved in a referendum. The Nour Party complained of a "disregard and exclusion of the Islamist current" in the make-up of the review panel. Nour, which was founded after Mubarak's fall, noted that the committee left out members of the youth movements that ignited the uprising of January 25, 2011, "raising doubts about the panel's position towards the revolution". (Additional reporting by Asma Alsharif and Shaimaa Fayed; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
- NBC News
First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
President Joe Biden will continue his flurry of executive orders on Monday, signing a new directive to require the federal government to “buy American” for products and services. Why it matters: The executive action is yet another attempt by Biden to accomplish goals administratively without waiting for the backing of Congress. The new order echoes Biden's $400 billion campaign pledge to increase government purchases of American goods.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.What they're saying: "President Biden is ensuring that when the federal government spends taxpayer dollars they are spent on American made goods by American workers and with American-made component parts," the White House said in a fact sheet.The big picture: Biden’s action kick offs another week in which the president will seek to undo many Trump policies with executive actions, while signaling the direction that he wants to take the country. * Biden will also reaffirm his support for the Jones Act, which requires maritime shipments between American ports to be carried on U.S. vessels. * Last week, Biden signed an order to attempt to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors and workers to $15 an hour.The bottom line: Former President Trump also attempted to force the federal government to rely on U.S. manufacturers for procurement with "buy American" provisions. * But supply chains — with some parts and components made outside of the U.S. — require long and complicated efforts to boost domestic manufacturing. Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- Associated Press
A federal judge on Sunday blocked the release of a Tennessee man who authorities say carried flexible plastic handcuffs during the riot at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell for the District of Columbia set aside an order by a judge in Tennessee concerning the release of Eric Munchel of Nashville. After testimony at a detention hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Frensley for the Middle District of Tennessee determined Friday that Munchel wasn’t a flight risk and didn’t pose harm to the public.
California Governor Gavin Newsom's office has decided to lift the orders as ICU availability in the regions that remained under the stay-at-home order, including the Bay area and Southern California are projected to rise above the 15% threshold that triggered the lockdown measures, according https://bit.ly/3sSPOfp to San Francisco Chronicle. California has reported over 3.1 million cases and 36,745 deaths so far, a Reuters tally showed. Strict stay-at-home orders were renewed for much of California in December to avert a crisis in hospitals.
- The Telegraph
The acrimonious split within Republican ranks widened over the weekend as Donald Trump made his foray back into politics, backing the re-election of a hard-line supporter as chair of the party in Arizona. His wholehearted support for Kelli Ward was seen by allies as the former president firing a warning shot across the bows of any Republican senators considering backing his impeachment. Underlining Mr Trump’s grip on the Republican grassroots, the Arizona party also voted to censure John McCain’s widow, Cindy, former senator Jeff Flake and governor Doug Ducey, who refused to back the former president’s claims of election fraud. Mr Trump’s intervention came amid reports that he is considering setting up a “Patriot Party” which would spearhead primary challenges to his opponents in the 2022 mid-term elections. The former president has already amassed a massive war chest with his Save America political action committee declaring last month that it had raked in $207.5 million in donations.
- The Independent
First family orders sesame bagels with cream cheese
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Monday he will not run for a third term in the U.S. Senate in 2022, citing "partisan gridlock."Why it matters: It's a surprise retirement from a prominent Senate Republican who easily won re-election in 2016 and was expected to do so again in 2022, creating an open Senate seat in a red-leaning swing state.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.Between the lines: Portman was one of the Republican senators who said that former President Trump "bears some responsibility" for the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. His decision not to seek re-election will free him from the political constraints of voting to convict Trump in his upcoming impeachment trial, though it's not yet clear whether he will choose to do so.What they're saying: "I don’t think any Senate office has been more successful in getting things done, but honestly, it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision," Portman said in a statement. * “We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties are being pushed further to the right and further to the left, and that means too few people who are actively looking to find common ground." * "This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but a problem that has gotten worse over the past few decades."Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- Associated Press
Indonesian authorities said that they seized an Iranian tanker and Panamanian tanker suspected of carrying out the illegal transfer of oil in their country's waters Sunday. The tankers — the Iranian-flagged MT Horse and the Panamanian-flagged MT Frea — were seized in waters off Indonesia's West Kalimantan province, said Wisnu Pramadita, a spokesman for the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency.
Drugmaker Merck & Co said on Monday it would stop development of its two COVID-19 vaccines and focus pandemic research on treatments, with initial data on an experimental oral antiviral expected by the end of March. Merck was late to join the race to develop a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus, which has so far killed more than 2 million people and continues to surge in many parts of the world including the United States. The company will record a pre-tax discontinuation charge in the fourth quarter for vaccine candidate V591, which it acquired with the purchase of Austrian vaccine maker Themis Bioscience, and V590, developed with nonprofit research organization IAVI, Merck said in a statement.
- The Week
Senate Democrats are drawing a line at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) demand that a power-sharing agreement in the 50-50 Senate include a pledge to retain the legislative filibuster. "If we gave him that, then the filibuster would be on everything, every day," Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) told NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday's Meet the Press. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered McConnell "word for word" the same power-sharing agreement used in the first half of 2001, and McConnell's insistence on adding the filibuster pledge is "a non-starter."But until Schumer and McConnell reach agreement on the Senate's operating rules, Republicans still retain much of the majority they lost last Wednesday."Without an organizing accord, Republicans remain in the majority of most Senate committees," and "veteran Democrats eager to seize the gavels and advance their long dormant agendas can only wait and wonder," The Washington Post explains. "Newly sworn-in Democratic senators cannot get committee assignments until an organizational deal is struck," leaving the old GOP-majority structures in place, and "Democrats can't unilaterally impose an organizing agreement because they would need Republican support to block a filibuster."The filibuster has evolved into a sclerotic de facto requirement for a 60-senator supermajority on all legislation. Frustration with obstruction by the minority led Senate Democrats to end the filibuster for some presidential appointees and lower-court judges in 2013, and McConnell continued eroding the filibuster as majority leader, killing it for Supreme Court nominees and further easing the confirmation of presidential appointees.A handful of Democratic centrists would prefer to keep the filibuster — for now. But there is mounting pressure from inside and outside the chamber. "There is absolutely no reason to give Sen. McConnell months and months to prove what we absolutely know — that he is going to continue his gridlock and dysfunction from the minority," said Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for the anti-filibuster liberal coalition Fix Our Senate.More stories from theweek.com Trump must be prosecuted Josh Hawley knows exactly what he's doing Moderna working on booster shot to increase protection against South African coronavirus variant
- The Independent
Biden news: Experts find major ‘gaps’ in Trump pardons as White House scrambles to rollout vaccine plan
Latest developments from Washington DC and beyond
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), incoming chair of the Senate Budget Committee who caucuses with the Democrats, told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that Democrats plan to push a coronavirus relief package through the chamber with a simple majority vote. Why it matters: "Budget reconciliation" would allow Democrats to forgo the Senate's 60-vote requirement and could potentially speed-up the next relief package for millions of unemployed Americans. Democrats hold the the 50-50 split in the Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.What he's saying: "What we cannot do is wait weeks and weeks and months to go forward. We have got to act now," Sanders said. * "We're going to use reconciliation — that's 50 votes in the Senate, plus the vice president — to pass legislation desperately needed by working families in this country right now." * When asked if he wants a relief bill passed before former President Trump's impeachment trial begins the week of Feb. 8, he said: "We've got to do everything. This is not — you don't have the time to sit around, weeks on impeachment and not get vaccines into the arms of people."Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
- The Telegraph
Italy’s interior minister has intervened in a row in Naples over the painting of giant murals that pay tribute to the blighted lives and violent exploits of teenage criminals. Italians have adopted a curious English phrase, “baby bosses”, to describe the young gangsters, who frequently lose their lives in confrontations with police on the streets of the southern city. Such “bosses” are said to be members of “baby gangs” – another curious Italo-English invention that denotes groups of delinquents and drifters. Authorities in Naples want to scrub out or paint over two large murals which adorn the sides of buildings. They depict two young men, Ugo Russo and Luigi Caiafa, who were shot dead in separate incidents last year by police officers during robbery attempts. A mural dedicated to Russo depicts his face and the words Verità e Giustizia – Truth and Justice. He was killed when he tried to rob an off-duty police officer last year.
Tacoma Police spokeswoman Wendy Haddow said police were alerted to the street racers and a 100-person crowd blocking area streets, according to the News Tribune. When the patrol car responded, the crowd began pounding on the vehicle's windows, she told local media. “He was afraid they would break his glass,” Haddow told the News Tribune, saying the officer sped away from the scene for his own safety.
- Associated Press
A 34-year-old grizzly bear captured in southwestern Wyoming has been confirmed as the oldest on record in the Yellowstone region, Wyoming wildlife officials said. Grizzly bear 168 was captured last summer after it preyed on calves in the Upper Green River Basin area. Biologists learned of the bear’s longevity after euthanizing the bruin, which had preyed on cattle and then finally, calves.
- Business Insider
Barely any time has passed since President Biden's inauguration, and Republicans have already returned to their bag of shenanigans.
- Yahoo News Video
Israeli authorities on Monday extradited a former teacher accused of sexually abusing her former students in Australia, capping a six-year legal battle that had strained relations between the two governments and antagonized Australia's Jewish community.
Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani on Monday seeking $1.3 billion in damages for his "demonstrably false” allegations about the company's voting machines, the New York Times reports.Why it matters: Giuliani led former President Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election and spread the baseless conspiracy theory that Dominion's voting machines flipped votes from Trump to Joe Biden.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here. * Another one of Trump's allies, Sidney Powell, is also facing a defamation lawsuit for falsely claiming that Dominion was part of an international communist plot to rig the election. * The lawsuit against Giuliani is based on more than 50 statements he made at hearings, on Twitter, on his podcast and in media appearances, including after Dominion sent him a legal notice calling on him to stop, according to the Times.This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
Venezuela's Juan Guaido is a "privileged interlocutor" but no longer considered interim president, European Union states said in a statement on Monday, sticking by their decision to downgrade his status. The EU's 27 states had said on Jan. 6 they could no longer legally recognise Guaido as after he lost his position as head of parliament following legislative elections in Venezuela in December, despite the EU not recognising that vote. Following the disputed re-election of President Nicolas Maduro in 2018, Guaido, as head of parliament, became interim president.
- Associated Press
The Supreme Court declined Monday to take up the case of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is serving a 6 1/2-year prison sentence after being convicted in a corruption case. The high court's decision not to hear Silver's appeal is another sharp blow to the Manhattan Democrat, who was once one of the three most powerful state officials. Silver was ousted as speaker in 2015 and was convicted later that year.