Lelan's morning forecast: Thursday, January 14, 2021
- The Independent
‘There was a protocol breach when the front doors were not held open’
- The Telegraph
Celebrities in Russia have joined calls for protests in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny as authorities prepare for what could be the biggest wave of anti-government demonstrations in years. Rallies are due to take place on Saturday in over 60 cities and towns despite coronavirus restrictions and without official permits to protest. The demonstrations offer the first test of support for the 44-year-old politician since he returned to Russia on Sunday following his near-fatal poisoning in August. Despite persistent warnings that police will not tolerate the unsanctioned rallies, dozens of Russian celebrities have taken to social media to back the jailed politician and urge supporters to take to the streets. Igor Denisov, a former captain of the national football team revered by the government, called for Mr Navalny’s release in a video statement. “I’ve never been interested in politics and I never will,” he said in the video posted by the Sports.ru website. “But it’s not about politics. I’d like to support Alexei Navalny and his family... He should be freed.” Soap opera star Alexandra Bortich in an emotional speech on Instagram asked her fans to join her at the protest: “It would be really cool if we all go on a walk on January 23rd - we all have to take that walk if we want to live in a country where human rights are respected and laws are in place.”
- NBC News
- Reuters Videos
- Architectural Digest
- The Telegraph
British Army Reservist serving with US National Guard provided security for President Biden's inauguration, MoD confirms
A British Army Reservist serving with the US National Guard provided security for President Biden's inauguration, the MoD has confirmed. Major Keiron Francis, a Royal Signals officer, is the first British reservist to be involved in a Presidential inauguration. Attached to the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, Major Francis supported the forward elements of the 25,000 troops brought into Washington DC to provide security for Wednesday's event. Under the Foreign Military Reserve Exchange Program, a scheme launched in 2017, Major Francis is able to continue to serve as a reservist whilst working in the US as a sales director in the defence industry. The reciprocal arrangement means that around 30 American, Australian, and Canadian soldiers are currently doing the same in the UK.
- Associated Press
The master tenant of a San Francisco Bay Area warehouse where 36 people perished when a fire ignited during a 2016 dance party pleaded guilty Friday to the deaths, avoiding a second trial after the first ended in a hung jury. Derick Almena, 50, pleaded guilty to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a 12-year sentence. Already free on bail, Almena likely won't return to jail because of the nearly three years he already spent behind bars and credit for good behavior.
- NBC News
- The Independent
US Capitol Police investigating whether Republican congressman attempted to take gun into House vote
Maryland representative reportedly set off metal detectors and revealed firearm under jacket
- The Week
Biden has stopped construction on Trump's border wall, but the fate of outstanding contracts is unclear
Among the first 17 executive orders President Biden signed Wednesday evening was one hitting "pause" on construction of former President Donald Trump's border wall. "It shall be the policy of my administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall," Biden's order said. "I am also directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall."Biden gave the Pentagon and Homeland Security departments up to a week to stop all border construction, and for the most part, the frantic wall-building Trump had unleashed in his last months in office had stopped by Thursday, The Associated Press reports. The Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday it told its contractors to stop installing any additional barriers and do only what's "necessary to safely prepare each site for a suspension of work."Biden gave his administration 60 days to find and review all current contracts and determine which can be canceled, which must be renegotiated, and whether any of the remaining money can be used on other projects. Trump, as of Jan. 15, had spent $6.1 billion of the $10.8 billion in wall construction it had contracted out, a Senate Democratic aide told AP. Overall, the Trump administration had secured $16.45 billion for the wall, including $5.8 billion appropriated by Congress and the rest seized from the Treasury and Defense departments. Biden is targeting that latter pot of money.Trump says he built 450 miles of his wall, though almost all of that was replacement for other barriers. His administration signed contracts for constructing 664 miles, the Senate aide told AP. "Trump said the border wall would be 'virtually impenetrable' and paid for by Mexico, which never happened," AP notes. "While the wall is much more formidable than the barriers it replaced, it isn't uncommon for smugglers to guide people over or through it. Portions can be sawed with power tools sold at home improvement stores."More stories from theweek.com Biden's next executive order will let people stay on unemployment if they quit an unsafe job 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit McConnell is already moving to strangle the Biden presidency
- The Telegraph
Families who lost relatives during Wuhan's initial outbreak of coronavirus are being blocked in their legal efforts to hold the Chinese authorities responsible for the deaths, one year after lockdown first went in place at ground zero of the pandemic. Five families accuse the municipal and provincial governments for covering up the outbreak, neglecting to notify the public, and failing to act swiftly, causing infections to explode. More than two million people globally have died from coronavirus. The Telegraph has interviewed four of the five trying to bring unprecedented lawsuits, most of whom are seeking 2 million yuan (£226,000) each in reparations. They told this newspaper of a campaign of harassment and denial of justice. Chinese courts have rejected all lawsuits they have tried to file, though they continue to persist by attempting to sue at higher courts, defying government threats that have scared dozens of others into giving up. Pursuing their cases poses immense risks as they’re challenging China’s official narrative, which claims authorities acted swiftly and with transparency to contain Covid-19, glossing over missteps and the silencing of whistleblowers.
- NBC News
- National Review
Retired General Lloyd Austin, Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of defense, was legally barred from serving in the job without Congress granting him a special waiver under the National Security Act of 1947. General Austin retired from the Army in April 2016, which is less than the seven years out of uniform required by the statute before serving as secretary of defense. Both the House and Senate voted for that waiver on Thursday by lopsided margins, after having waived the same requirement for James Mattis four years ago. Granting two consecutive waivers was the wrong way to do this. A wiser course would have been to repeal the ban entirely, or at least dramatically shorten it. Congress should do so now. Section 113 of the act, enacted when the War and Navy departments were merged into a much-enlarged Defense Department overseeing a much-enlarged standing military after the Second World War, imposed a ten-year ban on uniformed officers serving as secretary of defense. That was shortened to seven years in 2008. The theory of the ban was to ensure civilian control of the military, both to avoid capture of Pentagon leadership by military-industrial interests and, more gravely, to prevent the growth of an unsupervised standing military that might someday threaten civilian government. Within a few years of its passage, a waiver was granted to let George Marshall take over as secretary of defense after the outbreak of the Korean War. Marshall was, by common agreement, uniquely qualified for the moment, having been chief of staff of the Army throughout World War II, and uniquely safe to entrust with the job, having served as a civilian as secretary of state before his appointment to run the Defense Department. Four years ago, I argued for a waiver for Mattis, the first granted since Marshall. A major part of my argument at the time was that the American republic had gotten by just fine with more-recently-serving military men running the War Department before the ban. Indeed, this stretched all the way back to Henry Knox, as well as with recent ex-generals such as Dwight Eisenhower and Ulysses S. Grant as president. However, there were three other reasons why a waiver for Mattis was particularly appropriate in 2017. First, Mattis was a man of unusual prominence and respect as a thoughtful warrior. He could legitimately be regarded as a man whose reputation inside and outside the armed forces lent credibility and stability to the Defense Department, in addition to qualifying him for the role. General Austin is undoubtedly a well-regarded man (notwithstanding questions about his involvement in Obama-era intelligence handling), but he does not occupy a similarly unique position. Second, there was a shortage of candidates of stature comparable to Mattis. A large proportion of the national-security establishment of the Republican Party (or of independents or conservative Democrats of the sort who might serve in a Republican administration) had been alienated from Donald Trump in the course of the 2016 presidential campaign. Between those who would refuse to serve under Trump and those whom Trump would refuse to hire, the pickings for a first-class defense secretary were slim. There was thus a particular need for Mattis to step up to the task. While the Democrats’ bench of potential defense picks is not exactly inspirational, Austin was not even the favorite among observers of the party; Michèle Flournoy was, having served in senior Pentagon posts under both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. It is not clear why General Austin would be markedly superior to Flournoy or other potential choices. Third, Trump was new to government and temperamentally unstable, but also potentially subject to the counsel and influence of a strong figure running the military. There was a particular risk that Trump would be in need of someone who knew the ropes. For all Biden’s many flaws, inexperience is not one of them. Nor is impulsiveness; Biden is more apt to be overcautious. Biden will need a serious person in the job who can push back against left-wing efforts to hobble our defense capabilities, but the identity of the defense secretary under Biden is not that likely to have a major influence on the direction of our foreign policy. There are two arguments suggested by Democrats — especially those among the 17 Senate Democrats and 150 House Democrats who voted against the Mattis waiver — for granting a waiver to Austin. One, which is entirely of Biden’s own making, was that declining a waiver for Austin would unduly delay installing a secretary of defense. But this is a hazard of any cabinet nomination that requires Senate approval. If Austin had lost the waiver vote, this would be no different from losing a confirmation vote. The second is the argument that Austin is uniquely valuable because there has never been an African-American defense secretary. Of course, there is some value in getting “firsts” behind us. There is, however, no reason to suspect that he is the only qualified black candidate for the job. Moreover, a country that has now had a black president and vice president and multiple black secretaries of state and national-security advisers is not in immediate, dire need of breaking this particular barrier. Flournoy, the chief alternative candidate, would have been the first woman in the job, and it is as likely as not that if Austin had been denied the waiver, Biden would have prioritized race, gender, or some other form of identity in making his choice. The point of waiving application of a general law is that the circumstances are exceptional. Granting consecutive waivers without identifying an exceptional reason moves us from exception to habit. When declining to enforce a law becomes a habit, Congress should rethink the law. My own preferred solution is to reduce the seven-year period to simply require that the officer be out of uniform until after an intervening presidential or congressional election, in order to reduce the risk of uniformed officers lobbying or campaigning for the job, or being granted political favor, while in uniform. A cooling-off period of that limited duration, similar to those used in various parts of the Constitution, might alleviate some of the potential constitutional objections to Section 113. There is, for now, no obvious reason why the Senate should not confirm Austin, but there was nothing exceptional to justify a waiver. Having voted twice to waive the law, Congress should be honest and change it.
- The Telegraph
The South African Covid variant could make current vaccines 50 per cent less effective, Matt Hancock has claimed. In video footage of a webinar with travel agents, the Health Secretary warned that the importation of the variant could ruin Britain's vaccination drive and send the country "back to square one" without tough travel restrictions. Mr Hancock is among a number of ministers pushing for tougher travel restrictions modelled on Australia and New Zealand, which have closed their borders to non-residents and require all returning nationals to quarantine in Government-approved hotels. Speaking ahead of a Cabinet Covid-O Cabinet meeting at which ministers will consider similar UK border closures and quarantine hotels, Mr Hancock admitted that the data showing the South African variant reduced vaccine efficacy by 50 per cent was not certain "so I wouldn’t say this in public". He added: "Nevertheless, if you vaccinate the entire population and then you get in a new variant that evaded the vaccine, then you'd be back to square one. And so tougher international restrictions are the price that, for instance, Australia has paid for stronger domestic protection, as in more life getting back to normal domestically."
- Charlotte Observer
One of the women told police the man sexually assaulted her in his SUV.
- Associated Press
The latest jackpot-winning Powerball ticket, worth $731.1 million, was sold in a struggling coal mining town whose biggest previous claim to fame was being the hometown of baseball legend Lefty Grove. The store will get a $100,000 bonus for selling the ticket to the fifth-largest lottery prize in U.S. history. An even larger Mega Millions jackpot will be up for grabs Friday night.
Germany on Friday rejected a claim by Argentina that a request by airline Lufthansa to fly over Argentina en route to the Falkland Islands implied a recognition of them as Argentine territory. Argentina and Britain have long disputed ownership of the Falklands, with Argentina claiming sovereignty over the British-run islands it calls the Malvinas.