BEIJING (Reuters) - U.S. first lady Michelle Obama told an audience of college students in the Chinese capital on Saturday that open access to information - especially online - is a universal right. But Obama stopped short of calling on China to offer its citizens greater freedoms on a visit in which she is expected to steer clear of more complicated political issues, but rather try to build goodwill through soft diplomacy. "It is so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the internet and through the media," Obama said told an audience of about 200 U.S. and Chinese students at Beijing's prestigious Peking University. "My husband and I are on the receiving end of plenty of questioning and criticism from our media and our fellow citizens, and it's not always easy," she added. "But I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world." Censorship in Chinese news media and online is widespread, and internet users in the country cannot access information about many controversial topics without special software to circumvent restrictions. The United States frequently criticizes China's human rights record, including its lack of protection of freedom of speech. Obama, a Harvard-educated lawyer, is focusing on promoting education and cultural ties during the week-long trip, and will also visit the Great Wall, the historic city of Xi'an, and the southern city of Chengdu along with her mother and two daughters. Former U.S. first ladies Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton both criticized other countries' human rights records on trips abroad while their husbands were in office. U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus also touched on internet freedom on Saturday in remarks to the students before Obama's speech. "Between texting, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat we're all interconnected," he said, describing how technology enables better communication between cultures. Twitter and Facebook are both blocked in China. (Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Nick Macfie)
- Yahoo News
Republicans built up QAnon backer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, but now are they afraid of what they created?
On the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the combative Georgia Republican known for her association with QAnon, was back on Twitter after a 12-hour suspension, and back to making waves.
Tam Dinh Pham of the Houston police department was part of the deadly mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. A veteran Houston police officer is in trouble after attending the U.S. Capitol riots in Washington, D.C., then lying about it. Officer Tam Dinh Pham joined the deadly mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
- The Week
Constitutionally-speaking, Chief Justice John Roberts is meant to preside over President Trump's impeachment trial, but he apparently wants out, Politico reports.Multiple Republican and Democratic sources have reportedly told Politico that Roberts is seeking a way to avoid the job because of how things played out when he oversaw Trump's first impeachment trial last year. Roberts, Politico notes, has worked hard to keep the Supreme Court apolitical during his tenure, so he was reportedly displeased that he "became a top target of the left" during the proceedings. "He wants no further part of this," one source told Politico, although there's been no official word from Roberts' camp about what he'll ultimately do.Trump's trial is a bit of a constitutional oddity. On the one hand, it's a presidential impeachment, but on the other hand, the trial will take place after he leaves office, which is why there's a chance Roberts may have some wiggle room. Historically, either the vice president or the longest-serving member of the Senate have taken up the mantle for lower-level impeachments, per Politico. That means Vice President-elect Kamala Harris or Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) could be the choice. Read more at Politico.More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Biden honors coronavirus victims during somber ceremony Trump's White House staff and alumni are reportedly using the same excuse to skip his big sendoff
The incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is considering creating a White House position focused on competition policy and issues relating to antitrust, two sources familiar with internal deliberations said. The idea remains under consideration and the Biden White House may not ultimately make the move, one of the sources said. "It is yet to be determined if this will be more of a coordinator kind of a role or if this person will really sit at the White House," said another source.
Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken said at a confirmation hearing on Tuesday that it was “extraordinary how frightened Vladimir Putin seems to be of one man” — Alexey Navalny.Why it matters: Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, Navalny, returned to Russia on Sunday and was swiftly arrested. He spent the previous five months recovering in Germany after being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. His detention poses an early foreign policy challenge for the Biden administration.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.What he’s saying: Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Navalny served as a voice for millions of Russians, “and their voice needs to be heard in Russia.” * “The attempts to silence that voice by silencing Mr. Navalny is something that we strongly condemn,” Blinken added, noting that Navalny's arrest and other points of tension with Russia would be “very high on the agenda for an incoming administration.” * Incoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan previously called for Navalny's immediate release.The latest: Navalny was ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days. He was officially arrested for violating the conditions of a suspended prison term by missing an appointment in December.Worth noting: Blinken praised Sen. Mitt Romney, who serves on the committee, for being “prescient” on Russia. Romney was mocked for referring to Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe” in a 2012 presidential debate with Barack Obama, including by Obama himself.Go deeper: Bill Browder on Russia-U.S. relations after Alexei Navalny's arrestGet smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- National Review
Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) warned on Tuesday that the U.S. is not taking China’s actions against Uyghur Muslims seriously enough. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced earlier in the day that the U.S. will classify China’s treatment of Uyghurs as a “genocide.” China operates a network of internment camps where over a million Uyghurs are imprisoned, and the Chinese government has implemented a program of forced sterilizations for Uyghur women. Sasse said that the genocide designation came “late,” and implied that both the Trump administration and incoming Biden team have not done enough to confront China. “This decision is good and right, but it’s late. The United States isn’t taking the Uyghur genocide seriously.” Sasse said in a statement. “A lot of folks in the Trump Administration wanted to talk about China primarily in terms of a trade deficit, and a lot of folks in the Biden Administration want to talk about China as merely a competitor.” Sasse added, “The Chinese Communist Party is a genocidal dictatorship and Chairman Xi [Jinping] is evil. The United States has an obligation to meet this challenge head on and take the side of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang who are raped and tortured.” China also reportedly uses Uyghurs and other Muslims for forced labor, including harvesting cotton in Xinjiang Province. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol banned the importation of cotton from Xinjiang last week. The province is the source of 20 percent of the world’s supply of raw cotton. Earlier on Tuesday, Biden’s nominee for Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told senators that she supported an “aggressive” stance toward China. “Our approach to China has to evolve and essentially meet the reality of the particularly assertive and aggressive China that we see today,” Haines said. “I do support an aggressive stance, in a sense, to deal with the challenge that we are facing.”
- NBC News
Suspect William McCall Calhoun Jr. faces a host of charges stemming from the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol Building.
A boy who was killed in an alleged murder-suicide by his father has been identified as 9-year-old Pierce O’Loughlin. Family tragedy: The boy and his father, Stephen O'Loughlin, 49, were both found dead at their home on Scott Street, Marina District in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, SF Chronicle reports. The boy’s mother, Lesley Hu, asked authorities to check on her son after learning that he did not show up for school that day.
- Yahoo News Video
A former Florida Department of Health employee who was fired for insubordination after repeatedly violating the agency's policy about communicating with the media turned herself in to sheriff's officials on Sunday night on charges of accessing computer equipment without authority.
- Associated Press
French President Emmanuel Macron hoped on Tuesday that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will show a greater military commitment to fight against Islamic extremists in several theaters of conflict and especially in the Middle East. Macron, who made his New Year’s speech to the French military in Brest, in western France, said “I am certain that in the coming weeks, the new administration (Biden) will need to make key decisions that will mark a greater commitment and awareness in the fight against terrorism" in Syria and Iraq. Macron stressed that France has maintained its efforts to fight against the Islamic State group in the region.
Secretary of State designate Tony Blinken said in his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that the Biden administration is "a long way" from executing its plan to return to the Iran nuclear deal, and plans to consult with Israel and the Gulf states before doing so.Why it matters: America's partners in the Middle East have been publicly raising their concerns about a possible return to the 2015 agreement and calling on the Biden administration to consult with them first.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.The state of play: President-elect Biden's plan is to return to the deal, by lifting sanctions, if Iran returns to compliance with the restrictions on its nuclear program. In the next stage, Biden wants to negotiate a broader and longer-lasting agreement. * Blinken said those negotiations would include Iran’s missile program and regional activity.What they're saying: Blinken said Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal left Iran closer to obtaining a nuclear weapon because Tehran began to breach its terms. “Iran’s breakout time, which was a year under the nuclear deal, is only 3-4 months today," Blinken said in the hearing. * Yes, but: While Blinken stressed that the U.S. would live up to its commitments if Iran did, he said the new administration wouldn't rush back into the deal before assessing whether Iran was prepared to return to full compliance.Worth noting: Blinken said he “didn’t shed tears” about the killing of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassim Soleimani by the U.S. one year ago, but added that he believes it made America less safe.Go deeper: * Netanyahu aides fret that "Obama people" will shape Biden's Iran policy * Netanyahu may appoint envoy to Biden administration on Iran * Israel to push Biden to take it easy on Saudi Arabia, UAE and EgyptBe smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
- The Independent
‘If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors...traitors get shot,' he told his children
The Trump administration said on Tuesday it had issued drilling leases on more than 400,000 acres (160,000 hectares) of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), delivering on a promise to fossil-fuel proponents on President Donald Trump's last full day in office. Formal issuance of the leases by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management came a day before the inauguration of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, who has pledged to protect the 19.6-million-acre (7.9-million-hectare) habitat for polar bears and caribou and to ban new oil and gas leasing on federal lands. Lease holders would still need to seek permits from the new administration before any wells could be drilled, among other challenges.
- National Review
Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) blocked a quick confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas as Joe Biden’s Department of Homeland Security secretary, citing Mayorkas’s immigration policy stance. Mayorkas is a former Obama administration official considered the architect of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children a renewable deportation deferment, without providing a path to citizenship. The confirmation hearings for Mayorkas come as Biden has pledged to undue many of the Trump administration’s restrictions on immigration, although it is unclear how quickly the Biden administration can act on those promises. “Mr. Mayorkas has not adequately explained how he will enforce federal law and secure the southern border given President-elect Biden’s promise to roll back major enforcement and security measures,” Hawley said in a statement. “Given this, I cannot consent to skip the standard vetting process and fast-track this nomination when so many questions remain unanswered.” Biden is reportedly set to propose an immigration-reform bill that would grant roughly eleven million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship over eight years. The bill could also grant citizenship to agricultural workers and illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. However, the proposal is not expected to include Republican-backed border security measures. The looming immigration debates in Congress come as a new migrant caravan continues to travel toward the U.S.-Mexico border. Several thousand people in the caravan clashed with Guatemalan security forces while crossing the border from Honduras on Sunday. “There’s help on the way, but now is not the time to make the journey,” a Biden official said in comments to NBC.
- NBC News
Election experts have uniformly declared that the 2020 election was conducted fairly.
- Associated Press
A California sheriff’s deputy was killed and another deputy was wounded in a shootout with a suspect who gunned down a K-9 dog before he was fatally shot, authorities said. The gunbattle erupted in Sacramento near a racetrack at the Cal Expo event venue after a vehicle pursuit late Monday, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said. The deputy who died was identified as Adam Gibson, a six-year veteran of the department, Jones said.
- The Independent
Care worker charged in Capitol riots investigated by FBI for trying to ‘steal Pelosi’s laptop and sell it to Russia’
Riley Williams intended the laptop to end up in the hands of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, former partner claims
- Architectural Digest
Mercedes-Benz’s Hyperscreen, General Motors’ Bright Drop, and Jeep’s Electric Wrangler were among the unveils that turned headsOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- The Week
Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden's choice to lead the State Department, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday and appears to have passed with flying colors. As it turns out, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) may have been his biggest fan.Graham, who called Blinken an "outstanding choice" and gave him an elbow bump during a break, asked a series of questions, many of which resulted in answers the senator found quite agreeable. For example, Blinkin doesn't "trust" the Taliban to police al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Afghanistan after a U.S. exit. He also considers Iran the world's worst sponsor of terrorism and said he concurs with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's assessment that China is committing genocide against the Uighurs and other religious and ethnic minorities. That last point reportedly left Graham "positively gushing."> Blinken agrees that the Chinese Communist Party engaged in genocide against the Uighur Muslim population, agrees they were not transparent on Coronavirus. Lindsey Graham is positively gushing.> > — David B. Larter (@DavidLarter) January 19, 2021If the friendly exchange was any indication, Blinken won't have much trouble getting confirmed, but the bipartisanship on display did have receive from sharp criticism from supporters of non-interventionist policy.More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Biden honors coronavirus victims during somber ceremony Chief Justice John Roberts reportedly wants no part of Trump's impeachment trial
- National Review
Rand Paul would like you to know that while he “didn’t agree with the [Capitol] fight that happened” January 6, he doesn’t believe that President Trump — whose batty two-month crusade to convince his supporters the election was stolen served as the proximate cause of the “fight” — should be disqualified from holding office again in the future. Language tends to be intemperate these days, but “I didn’t agree with the fight” errs in the opposite direction: It’s far too tame a response to the sickening display of January 6. This was no ordinary “fight.” It was an attempt to violently disrupt the counting of electoral votes, and hence the peaceful transfer of power to the next duly elected administration. It stunned America and shamed us before the world. It made us look like a banana republic. It resulted in several deaths and might have led to a physical attack on, or even the murder of, the vice president as he was conducting the most important business of his term. Trump’s actions may not have met the legal definition of incitement, but he tossed a match on kindling he had carefully placed and thoroughly soaked with kerosene. As Dan McLaughlin has written, Trump must face consequences “sufficiently spectacular to deter any repetition so long as our national memory endures.” But if Senator Paul has his way, apparently, Trump will suffer no consequences whatsoever and reenter private life as the heavy favorite to be the next Republican presidential nominee. This is madness. Abraham Lincoln’s party was fine without Trump for 150 years and it will long survive him. The parties being largely ruled from the ground up, it’s not feasible to eject Trump from a GOP he seized control of in 2015 and has since disgraced, but it is possible for 17 Republican senators to convict and disqualify him from holding any future high office in the United States. This is the right thing to do and it’s also the prudent thing to do, for the sake of the party as well as the country. The GOP cannot afford to spend the next four years trying to explain away Trump’s indefensible actions. It has to move on, and there is only one way to do that. Paul foresees a colossal schism in the party should Trump be convicted and barred from future office-holding, warning that one-third of the party will walk away from the GOP in that scenario. He’s wrong: One of the curses (but also, sometimes, one of the blessings) of our culture is our notoriously short collective memory. Should Trump be disqualified this winter, the discussion will quickly move on to other topics. Who should be the new party’s standard-bearer? Don Jr.? I very much doubt it. It’s unclear that even Trump Sr. would be enthusiastic about that, having repeatedly ridiculed his younger namesake as, among many other things, “not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” For five years we’ve seen various other Republican politicians attempt to ape Trump’s combination of posturing and populism, and it never works. Senator Josh Hawley has spent two years reverse-mortgaging his reputation in an attempt to extract equity out of the Trump bank, and it has gotten him nowhere. A Politico/Morning Consult poll taken in November put him at 1 percent in the polls, and that was before his shameful performance on January 6. Though some of Trump’s ideas about trade and immigration may continue to have sway in some parts of the party, Trumpism as a whole is too closely tied up with one man to be handed off to a new leader. It would die with Trump’s political career, and the party would move on. A disqualified Trump would, of course, rain hellfire on the senators who disqualified him, as well as any other perceived backstabbers. But four years from now, when ten Republican senators face reelection, Trump’s rage will be background noise at worst. Six years from now, when Ben Sasse, Mitch McConnell, Susan Collins, and 17 of their Republican colleagues face the voters, it won’t be any noise at all. Trump himself has a short attention span and a fear of being boring; even he won’t be able to keep up the insults for four years, much less six, on whatever cable-news perch from which he chooses to harangue the nation. It is true that Trump is the only thing that consistently fascinates Trump. But America does not love a sore loser, and his victim act will begin to go stale by the next time voters go to the polls. Gradually, even many of his most ardent supporters will begin to realize the man is embarrassing. Among those who persist in believing the fantasy that Trump was robbed and that any lawmakers who voted against him are sworn enemies, how will this play out at the ballot box? It won’t, because voting will remain a binary choice. Trump, being disqualified, won’t be able to run as a third-party candidate and divide the party. The primary motivating force for voters will continue to be, as it has been for years, visceral dislike for one party’s style and policies. Joe Biden has signaled in many ways that, far from being a unifying president, he will consider it a core duty to focus on punishing and antagonizing Trump supporters via appointments and policies specifically designed to irritate them. Biden has watched Trump play the role of Troll-in-Chief for the last four years and decided he wants in on the action. Kamala Harris, should she become president, would be even more despised by both conventional Republicans and Trumpists. So never fear, Senator Paul: Post-Trump, Republicans will close ranks quickly. The main thing the American Right stands for is hating what Democrats do, and Democrats are preparing to embark on a presidency full of policies that are easy to hate.