In a video released Tuesday, President Trump blasted the $900 billion Covid-19 relief package, demanding Congress increase stimulus checks to $2,000.
- Yahoo News
Along with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Birx was seen as a potential counter to Trump and those who abetted his worst impulses.
- The Independent
'Is it too late to add something to my Christmas list,’ she wrote.
- National Review
In November, Russia gained a slice of somebody else’s country. It did this not through unidentified troops moving across a border, nor through hybrid warfare. Instead, it negotiated its capture in full view of, and without a single question asked by, the United States or the rest of the world.Fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh preceded the annexation. The mountainous region is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but since a 1994 ceasefire between the two nations has been controlled by ethnic Armenians. The conflict flared up again in September. Two months later came a peace deal, with Russia the winner: It mediated a ceasefire that placed the Kremlin’s ostensibly peacekeeping boots on the ground. America watched idly as this happened.As Armenia’s traditional protector, Russia held the only leverage to convince Armenia to sign this ceasefire. By signing, Yerevan gave up claims to the territories it had occupied within Azerbaijan since 1994 and gained nothing — bar a ceasefire rather than a forced surrender. In return for securing for its ally a marginally smaller humiliation, Moscow gained a present and a presence.In reality — unless America is prepared to engage fully in the peace process — Nagorno-Karabakh is now Russia’s indefinitely. The Kremlin ostensibly controls the territory for five years, with an automatic rollover for an additional five should none of the three parties to the ceasefire object six months before the end of the mandate.Russia certainly won’t. It is now gatekeeper to a region central to Europe’s energy diversification (reducing the role of Russian imports). If the region is strategically important to NATO, that makes it strategically important to the Kremlin.Armenia, for mistrust of Azerbaijan, will want the peacekeepers to stay. The short but brutal conflict has proven conclusively that Armenia cannot win militarily, and that therefore ethnic Armenians must accept either governance by Azerbaijan or the protectorate of Russia. Weak and broken, Yerevan finds it less of a humiliation to accept Russian tutelage in Nagorno-Karabakh, if only to deny an archenemy a complete victory. But this is a longer-term disaster for the Armenians. It means they are effectively trapped in a Russian embrace. They cannot turn west and cannot turn east — either diplomatically or for investment — because the Russians are now in charge.Though traditionally thought of by Moscow as “on the other side,” Azerbaijan — owing to lukewarm support from the United States and EU in recent years — has been steadily deepening diplomatic and economic relations with Russia, in part from necessity and a lack of serious alternatives. Yet now, with Russian military boots on Azerbaijani territory for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, Moscow’s leverage has also become economic leverage: By militarily guaranteeing a transport corridor across Armenia — closed before the ceasefire — to Azerbaijan’s exclave of Nakhichevan, Russia now controls Azerbaijan’s long-sought-after, direct land route from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean and Europe.The West certainly could have seen this coming. This is how it always begins: A toehold soon morphs into a footprint. Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, South Ossetia, Abkhazia — the list of examples goes on. Russian presence becomes Russian control: the only logic of Putin’s neo-czarist ambitions.Indeed, now, only a matter of weeks after troop deployment, the Kremlin is maneuvering: Lines on maps have started to bend and flex. On the Russian Ministry of Defense website, a page shows a map outlining the area where Russian peacekeepers, by the terms of the agreement, are to be stationed and will have jurisdiction within which to operate. On December 13, miraculously, the land they control had expanded. This was changed back to the original on the next day, after Azerbaijani diplomatic pressure. But this activity demonstrates that Kremlin cartographers are getting creative — and very early in this intervention.Rumors now swell of Russian “passportization” in Nagorno-Karabakh. Manufacturing new demographic realities on the ground by granting citizenship has been used to maintain influence in the internal affairs in other post-Soviet nations. Once Russians occupy the area, the Russian state is obliged to step in.It is a classic of the Kremlin repertoire. It preceded the invasion of Crimea. It happened in two regions in Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, again before wars broke out, with Russia coming out as the chief beneficiary. Most recently, passportization has been aggressively deployed in eastern Ukraine, through a helpfully streamlined process. The Kremlin forecasts that there will be over one million Russian citizens bearing newly minted documents by the end of the year. In all of these situations, Russia’s grip is secure.Passportization would mean that a negotiated settlement on the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh — what was supposed to be some form of autonomy within Azerbaijan, as in Soviet days — will never materialize. It will instead turn into a Russian-passport protectorate, giving Russia the pretext — or in Moscow’s lexicon, the legal right — to jump into the region were any imagined threat to its “citizens” to emerge.Considering the U.S.-led assistance now poured into Ukraine in the wake of Russian destabilization, it is surprising that more precautionary measures are not being taken in the South Caucasus.Yet time remains for America to step in: The ceasefire shall give way to negotiations for a final peace deal, with much left to decide. The U.S. must fully and comprehensively oppose passportization. American companies should invest in infrastructure and energy projects in the region so as to limit Russia’s room for maneuver. And U.S.-led joint investment initiatives between Armenia and Azerbaijan would help to cut the dependence of both on Russia.It’s time for America to step up diplomatic and economic efforts and reinsert itself in this process. Otherwise, Russia’s empire will continue to expand unchecked.
- The Telegraph
Japan's highest court has upheld a ruling granting a retrial to a man described as the world's longest-serving death row inmate, a lawyer for the 84-year-old said on Wednesday. Iwao Hakamada has lived under a death sentence for more than half a century, after being convicted of robbing and murdering his boss, the man's wife, and their two teenaged children. Mr Hakamada had confessed to the crime but later recanted in court citing his allegedly brutal police interrogation and planted evidence. In a rare about-face for Japan's rigid justice system, a district court in the central city of Shizuoka in 2014 granted his request for a retrial. The court said investigators could have planted evidence and ordered the former boxer freed. Prosecutors appealed the ruling and won at the Tokyo High Court, prompting Mr Hakamada to move the case to the Supreme Court, which on Wednesday ruled in his favour, backing the retrial.
- The Week
The 15 people President Trump pardoned Tuesday evening include the first two congressmen who endorsed him for president — former Reps. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), both convicted of financial crimes — two people jailed in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, and four private guards working for Blackwater who were serving long sentences for an unprovoked and unnecessary 2007 massacre of civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square that left 17 Iraqis dead, including two boys, ages 8 and 11.Blackwater, since sold and renamed Academi, is a private military contractor outfit headed at the time by Erik Prince, brother to Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos. The Nisour Square massacre marked a low point in U.S.-Iraqi relations after the 2003 U.S. invasion, and federal prosecutors spent years bringing the four Blackwater guards — Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard — to justice.After a federal judge in 2009 dismissed the first murder and manslaughter convictions of the Blackwater contractors, ruling the evidence was tainted, then-Vice President Joe Biden said at a press conference in Baghdad that the men had not been acquitted and the U.S. would appeal the decision. "In subsequent years, as the case continued, the contractors became known in conservative media as the 'Biden Four,'" The Washington Post reports. Slatten was eventually sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder, while the other three were convicted of manslaughter and given sentences of 12 to 15 years."Campaigns urging that the four receive presidential pardons began in earnest last year, most arguing that the men were veterans still in engaged in quasi military duties," the Post reports, noting that Trump has already pardoned two Army officers convicted or awaiting trial on murder charges for shooting Afghan civilians. In a 2009 column at Fox News, Duncan Hunter — still in Congress — called "the Biden Four" brave "political pawns" who were "sent to prison for doing their jobs."More stories from theweek.com What would actually happen if Trump tried the 'martial law' idea? House GOP leader McCarthy reportedly nixes Pelosi’s attempt to pass $2,000 payments by unanimous consent Trump shows up too late to his presidency
- The Independent
Authorities have not yet determined motive for attack
The carrier Nimitz and its strike group, as well as the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, are standing by.
- Associated Press
A 71-year-old Black man in South Carolina was embarrassed and feared for his life when a police officer looking for teens who might have been breaking into cars held him outside naked and at gunpoint after he peeked out his door to check on the disturbance, the man said in a lawsuit. Body camera video of the June 2019 encounter in Rock Hill shows Officer Vincent Mentesana cursing at Jethro DeVane and telling him not to close the door. Mentesana orders DeVane to stand outside his home naked at 4 a.m., facing the wall, according to the video, which DeVane and his lawyer obtained through a public records request and released Tuesday.
- Yahoo News Video
South Korea said on Tuesday it had scrambled fighter jets in response to an intrusion into South Korea's air defense identification zone by 19 Russian and Chinese military aircraft.
(Reuters) -Millions of COVID-19 vaccines are sitting unused in U.S. hospitals and elsewhere a week into the massive inoculation campaign, putting the government's target for 20 million vaccinations this month in doubt. As of Wednesday morning, only 1 million shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine had been given, about one-third of the first shipment sent last week. Over 9.5 million doses of vaccines, including Moderna's, have now been sent to states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The Week
Rosemary Vrablic, a managing director and senior banker in Deutsche Bank's wealth management division, has resigned, effective Dec. 31, Vrablic and Deutsche Bank said Tuesday. Vrablic became President Trump's private banker at the German lender in 2011, at a time when Trump was having difficulties borrowing money due to his history of defaulting on loans. Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, already a client of Vrablic's, introduced her to Trump."The reasons for Ms. Vrablic's abrupt resignation were not clear," The New York Times reports. But Deutsche Bank in August opened an internal investigation into a real estate deal in which Vrablic and a longtime colleague at the bank, Dominic Scalzi, invested in an apartment building partly owned by Kushner. Scalzi is also resigning at the end of the year.The status of the internal review is unclear, the Times reports. But the relationship between Trump and Deutsche Bank is the subject of congressional, civil, and criminal investigations, including a criminal inquiry by the Manhattan district attorney. Vrablic is not among the handful of Deutsche Bank employees questioned by New York investigators yet, but her lawyer told CNN that "Ms. Vrablic is committed to cooperating with the authorities if asked."Deutsche Bank has been exploring how it can end its heavily scrutinized relationship with Trump, Reuters reports. But for Trump, his "key contacts at his biggest financial backer are leaving at a perilous time for the departing president," the Times reports. "He owes Deutsche Bank about $330 million, and the loans come due in 2023 and 2024. Mr. Trump provided a personal guarantee to get the loans, meaning that if he fails to pay them back, the bank can pursue his personal assets."More stories from theweek.com What would actually happen if Trump tried the 'martial law' idea? House GOP leader McCarthy reportedly nixes Pelosi’s attempt to pass $2,000 payments by unanimous consent Trump shows up too late to his presidency
- NBC News
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill in the coming days.
- National Review
Congress on Monday night passed a $900 billion coronavirus relief package after months of political gridlock, with the Senate nearly unanimously voting in favor of the measure, save for six Republican senators.The 5,593-page bill handily passed in the House 359-53 before being approved by the Senate 92-6. The six votes against the measure came from Republican Senators Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Rand Paul (Ky.) Rick Scott (Fla.), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Ted Cruz (Texas).The six senators were mostly critical of the financial and physical scale of the bill.Paul called the bill a “spending monstrosity” saying “so-called conservatives” who vote for the measure would be no better than socialist Democrats."When you vote to pass out free money, you lose your soul and you abandon forever any semblance of moral or fiscal integrity," he said.He instead supported opening the economy and trimming wasteful spending in the budget in order to stop creating additional debt for future generations.Johnson similarly said in a statement that the government does “not have an unlimited checking account.”"We must spend federal dollars — money we are borrowing from future generations — more carefully and place limits on how much we are mortgaging our children’s future."He clarified that while he supported the sweeping CARES Act in the spring as swift, massive action was needed then to “prevent an economic meltdown,” that this time around he wanted to take a more targeted approach; In September he proposed a smaller $600 billion relief bill.Scott also pushed against the “massive omnibus spending bill that mortgages our kids & grandkid’s futures.”> We must help Americans & small businesses in need but we can’t keep operating this way. > > Once again, in classic Washington style, vital programs are attached to a massive omnibus spending bill that mortgages our kids & grandkid’s futures. Therefore, I can’t support this bill. pic.twitter.com/poShVDXzHb> > -- Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) December 21, 2020He said in a tweet he would not support the bill, adding in a statement that "Washington doesn’t seem to understand that new spending today will be paid for by increased federal debt and result in a tax increase on families down the road." "The easy route is simply to go along as Congress continues to do harm to future generations of Americans, but I will not be a part of it," he said.However, Johnson said that while he was "glad a government shutdown was avoided and that financial relief will finally reach many who truly need it," he was critical of the “dysfunction” of the process."The dysfunction of Washington, D.C. was on full display as Congress combined covid relief with a massive omnibus spending bill three months past the deadline and into the current fiscal year," Johnson said. "This monstrosity was 5,593 pages long, and passed only nine hours after the Senate first saw it.""I simply could not support this dysfunction, so I voted no," he said.Cruz and Lee also pushed back against lawmakers being given just hours to read several thousand pages of legislation.In response to a tweet by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), in which the progressive lawmaker lamented having to vote on the bill without receiving adequate time to review it, Cruz agreed that the process is “absurd.”"It’s ABSURD to have a $2.5 trillion spending bill negotiated in secret and then—hours later—demand an up-or-down vote on a bill nobody has had time to read," Cruz tweeted.> .@AOC is right.> > It’s ABSURD to have a $2.5 trillion spending bill negotiated in secret and then—hours later—demand an up-or-down vote on a bill nobody has had time to read. CongressIsBroken https://t.co/EQp8BfRBHj> > -- Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 21, 2020Lee echoed these criticisms, posting a video to Twitter in which he showed how long it took just to print the bill: three minutes for just the first 100 pages of the massive bill."Because of the length it is impossible that anyone will have the opportunity to read it between now and the time that we will vote," Lee said in the video. "And I am absolutely certain that this has been cobbled together by a very small handful of members of Congress and their staffs and to the exclusion of 98% of members of Congress of both political parties in both houses.""This process, by which members of Congress are asked to defer blindly to legislation negotiated entirely in secret by four of their colleagues, must come to an end," he said.> 1/4 This is the spending bill under consideration in Congress today. I received it just moments ago, and will likely be asked to vote on it late tonight. It’s 5,593 pages long. I know there are some good things in it. I’m equally confident that there are bad things in it. pic.twitter.com/SoWXnEWYfV> > -- Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) December 21, 2020Cruz and Blackburn also criticized some of the funding areas that had made their way into the $1.4 trillion spending bill with which the COVID relief legislation was bundled. Cruz said the bill "advances the interests of the radical Left, special interests, and swamp lobbyists, with funding going towards expanding authority for more H-2B visas for foreign workers while a near record number of Americans remain unemployed[.]" It also sets the stage "for Democrats to implement the ‘Green New Deal' by claiming a ‘need' to meet the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, or zero-emission energy sources,” he said.While Blackburn acknowledged that the legislation had a number of positives, including the development and distribution of vaccines, assistance to schools and help for small businesses, she said it came at too high a cost and included a number of measures she could not support."I cannot support nearly $2.4 trillion in spending that will make recovery even harder," she said in a statement. "I have serious concerns with provisions buried in the 5,593 page bill, such as expanded visas, Pell grants for prisoners, and households with illegal aliens receiving economic impact payments. For these reasons, I voted no on passage of this legislation."
- Architectural Digest
7 extended-stay accommodations that transform work-from-home into work-from-anywhereOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- The Telegraph
An animal welfare charity has been sent a Christmas card by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, which features a drawing of the couple with their son Archie and their dogs. It was sent to London-based Mayhew, which was founded in 1886 as a home for starving cats, and whom the Duchess is patron of. The charity also shared the Duchess's message to them, which read: "This year we, as a family, have made donations to several charities with you in mind. From a local California organisation that helps families transition out of homelessness, to two of our U.K. patronages: one that supports animal and community welfare, and the other, a memorial fund for a cherished friend that helps to educate children and fight poverty in Uganda, we have honoured their work on behalf of all of us." In a tweet, the charity added: "We're thrilled to receive wonderful Christmas wishes from our Patron, the Duchess of Sussex, who also made a personal donation, helping dogs, cats and our community. From all of us at Mayhew, thank you and Merry Christmas."
- Associated Press
President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Miguel Cardona, Connecticut's education chief and a lifelong champion of public schools, to serve as education secretary. The selection delivers on Biden’s promise to nominate someone with experience working in public education and would fulfill his goal of installing an education chief who stands in sharp contrast to Secretary Betsy DeVos. Unlike DeVos, a school choice advocate whom Biden says is an opponent of public schools, Cardona is a product of them, starting when he entered kindergarten unable to speak English.
- The Independent
Court documents reveal a teen from Ohio discussed creating Nazi militant cells around the US
- The Week
Israel is headed to its fourth election in under two years, following the government's collapse early Wednesday morning.Because the Knesset, Israel's parliament, was unable to pass a budget by the midnight Tuesday deadline, the government automatically dissolved and elections were set for March 23.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will now have to see if he can fend off challenges from three former aides who broke away from his Likud party. In May, the right-wing Netanyahu formed an alliance with center-left Defense Minister Benny Gantz in order to form an "emergency" government, with Gantz named the "alternate prime minister" under the promise that he would become prime minister at the end of the year. This move alienated many of Gantz's supporters, The Associated Press reports, and his bloc is not expected to do well in the March elections.Last year, Netanyahu was hit with corruption charges, and witnesses will begin appearing in court for his trial in February. Gantz's Blue and White party called Netanyahu out on Tuesday night, saying, "A criminal defendant with three indictments is dragging the country to a fourth round of elections. If there wasn't a trial, there would be a budget and there wouldn't be elections."More stories from theweek.com What would actually happen if Trump tried the 'martial law' idea? House GOP leader McCarthy reportedly nixes Pelosi’s attempt to pass $2,000 payments by unanimous consent Trump shows up too late to his presidency
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) -Brazilian researchers said on Wednesday the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech is more than 50% effective based on trial data, but again withheld full results at the company's request, raising questions about transparency. Brazil is the first country to complete a late-stage trial of the vaccine, called CoronaVac, but a release of the results, first set for early December, has now been delayed three times. The latest delay is a blow to Beijing, which has been racing to catch up with Western drugmakers, and will add to criticism that Chinese vaccine makers have lacked transparency.
- NBC News
The Virginia Beach Police Department will investigate the actions of the officer who arrested a Black man while he ate with his family at a Virginia mall.