Israel's education minister is banning groups that call Israel an “apartheid state” from lecturing at schools — a move that targets one of the country's leading human rights groups after it began describing both Israel and its control of the Palestinian territories as a single “apartheid” system. The explosive term, long seen as taboo and mostly used by the country's harshest critics, is vehemently rejected by Israel's leaders and many ordinary Israelis. Education Minister Yoav Galant tweeted late on Sunday that he had instructed the ministry’s director general to “prevent the entry of organizations calling Israel ‘an apartheid state’ or demeaning Israeli soldiers from lecturing at schools.”
Saudi Arabia, for years one of the world's most prolific executioners, dramatically reduced the number of people put to death last year, following changes halting executions for non-violent drug-related crimes, according to the government’s tally and independent observers. The Saudi government’s Human Rights Commission said Monday it documented 27 executions in 2020.
Israeli military aircraft struck targets in the Gaza Strip early on Monday in response to two rockets fired from the Palestinian territory, the military said. In a statement, the military said fighter jets hit Hamas military targets, including sites for digging underground tunnels, some of which stretch into Israel. There were also no reports of damage or injury from the rockets launched.
Kamala Harris will make history on Wednesday when she becomes the nation’s first female vice president — and the first Black woman and the first woman of South Asian descent to hold that office. With the confluence of crises confronting Joe Biden's administration — and an evenly divided Senate in which she would deliver the tie-breaking vote — Harris is shaping up to be a central player in addressing everything from the coronavirus pandemic to criminal justice reform. Symone Sanders, Harris' chief spokeswoman, said that while the vice president-elect's portfolio hasn't been fully defined yet, she has a hand in all aspects of Biden's agenda.
As he was preparing to leave the White House in January 1989, President Ronald Reagan wanted to leave a note for his successor, George H.W. Bush, and reached for a pad emblazoned with a cartoon by humorist Sandra Boynton under the phrase, “Don’t Let the Turkeys Get You Down.” Thus was born the tradition of departing presidents leaving a handwritten note in the Oval Office for their successors. President Donald Trump has refused to accept the results of November’s election and vowed not to attend Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.
South Korea’s president on Monday urged the incoming Biden administration to build upon the achievements and learn from the failures of President Donald Trump’s diplomatic engagement with North Korea. A dovish liberal and the son of northern war refugees, Moon Jae-in had lobbied hard to help set up Trump’s three summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but their diplomacy stalemated over disagreements over easing crippling U.S.-led sanctions for the North’s disarmament. Biden has accused Trump of chasing the spectacle of summits rather than meaningful curbs on the North’s nuclear capabilities.
U.S. defense officials say they are worried about an insider attack or other threat from service members involved in securing President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, prompting the FBI to vet all of the 25,000 National Guard troops coming into Washington for the event. The massive undertaking reflects the extraordinary security concerns that have gripped Washington following the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump rioters. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told The Associated Press on Sunday that officials are conscious of the potential threat, and he warned commanders to be on the lookout for any problems within their ranks as the inauguration approaches.
North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament has passed decisions made by a major ruling party meeting where leader Kim Jong Un vowed to bolster his nuclear deterrent and established plans to salvage the country's battered economy. The North’s Korean Central News Agency said Monday that members of the Supreme People’s Assembly during Sunday’s meeting unanimously supported the development plans for the next five years that were revealed during the Workers’ Party congress that ended last week. The assembly also approved a major reshuffle of the Cabinet, which Kim had criticized over failures in economic policies.
The imprisonment of a fourth American could derail a bid by the Biden administration to revive a nuclear agreement with Iran.
America on edge as troops guard state capitols Biden orders will reverse Trump on climate, Iran, CovidUS politics – live coverage Members of the Virginia national guard walk by the US Capitol in Washington on Sunday. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images Joe Biden will deliver a message of national unity when he assumes the presidency on Wednesday, seeking to begin healing a country fractured by the acrimony of Donald Trump’s administration and ongoing threats of violence by his supporters. The preview of the theme of Biden’s inauguration address came as cities across the US braced for violent protests and Washington DC resembled a fortress with up to 25,000 national guard troops deployed. “It’s a message of moving this country forward, it’s a message of unity, it’s a message of getting things done,” Ron Klain, the incoming White House chief of staff, told CNN’s State of the Union. “There’s no question we’ve seen the most divisive four years in over a century from President Trump, it’s one reason Joe Biden ran, to restore the soul of America. The events of the past few weeks have proven out just how damaged the soul of America has been, and how important it is to restore it. That work starts on Wednesday.” Biden will act quickly to reverse many of Trump’s most controversial policies, Klain said, beginning with a 10-day flurry of executive orders that will return the US to the Paris climate agreement and Iran nuclear deal, aim to speed the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines and erase the immigration ban on Muslim-majority countries. The promise of new beginnings, however, is set against the backdrop of threats of domestic terrorism this weekend and around the inauguration. Throughout the day on Sunday, small groups of rightwing protesters gathered outside statehouses across the country, outnumbered by national guard troops and police. By late afternoon Sunday, no incidents were reported. There was an attack on our people. This was the most terrible crime ever by a president against our country Jamie Raskin The Washington DC mayor, Muriel Bowser, told NBC’s Meet the Press she was concerned about several areas of her city following FBI warnings of armed individuals heading there, and to state capitals, bent on repeating the insurrection that left five dead when a mob incited by Trump overran the US Capitol on 6 January. With the massive national guard presence in Washington, and federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies including the Secret Service working with local police, Bowser said she was confident Wednesday’s inauguration would be “a safe event”. But, she said, “this will be an inauguration unlike any other. It was already destined to be given Covid concerns and limited seating and public access. But having our fellow Americans storm the Capitol, in an attempt to overthrow the government, certainly warrants heightened security.” Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House intelligence committee, likened the scene in Washington to Baghdad’s Green Zone, “with so much military presence and barricades”. “I never thought I would see that in our own capital or that it would be necessary, but there was a profound threat from domestic violent extremists of the nature we saw on 6 January,” he said told CBS’s Face the Nation. “There are people coming to the Washington DC area that are bringing weapons, and we see threats to all 50 state capitals. There will be gatherings of individuals and those gatherings could turn violent, so there’s a very high level of risk.” An FBI bulletin warned of the likelihood of violence from armed protesters in Washington and every state capital between 16 and 20 January, Trump’s last day in office. The president, impeached for the second time for inciting the Capitol attack with lies about a stolen election, remained isolated and silent in the White House on Sunday, reportedly assembling a legal team for his Senate trial. Christopher Wray, the FBI director, outlined on Thursday threats by rightwing agitators including QAnon and white supremacist groups such as the Proud Boys. “We are seeing an extensive amount of concerning online chatter,” he said. “One of the real challenges is trying to distinguish what’s aspirational versus what’s intentional.” As a precaution, Capitol buildings were boarded up and extra law enforcement resources deployed in numerous states. On Saturday, Washington police arrested a Virginia man found with a fake inaugural ID, a loaded handgun and ammunition. The man later told the Washington Post the he had been working security in the capital all week and pulled up to the checkpoint after getting lost. He told the paper he forgot the gun was in his truck and denied having so much ammunition. He was released after an initial court appearance and is due back in court in June, records show. “We have intelligence that there’s going to be activity around our capital and capitals across the country,” Asa Hutchinson, the Republican governor of Arkansas, told Fox News Sunday. “We’re taking necessary precautions to protect our capital and our citizens. I know some governors have beefed up even more, but I think the deterrent value hopefully has diminished that threat level.” In Washington, a large area including the White House, the Capitol, the National Mall and several blocks on either side was sealed off by thousands of national guard troops. High steel fences on concrete stands protected government buildings. In the run-up to the inauguration, troops from DC and neighbouring states will garrison the city. By several measures, it is a bigger response than the aftermath of 9/11. Large numbers of soldiers resting in the corridors of the Capitol, have not been seen since the civil war. The protected area was divided into a highly restricted “red zone” and around that a “green zone” accessible to residents, an echo of the Iraq war, and the fortified government and diplomatic area in central Baghdad. By lunchtime on Sunday, the city was quiet, with white supremacist militia leaders telling followers to stay away. A member of the Boogaloo Bois, an anti-government group, speaks to the press in front the Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, on Sunday. Photograph: Seth Herald/AFP/Getty Images In an email to supporters on Thursday, Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, joined other extremists in begging Trump to declare martial law. But he also told supporters they should not gather at state capitols, warning them of “false-flag traps”. Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the neo-fascist Proud Boys, told USA Today his group was not mobilising, saying: “I feel like this part of the battle is over.” A majority of respondents in a USA Today/Suffolk poll published on Sunday said they were still expecting violence. Trump was consumed on Sunday with his Senate trial for “incitement of insurrection”, which could begin as early as Wednesday afternoon. Jamie Raskin, a Democratic congressman from Maryland and the lead impeachment manager, gave a moving interview to CNN in which he recalled the Capitol riot and remembered his son Tommy, who died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 25. “When we went to count the electoral college votes and [the Capitol] came under that ludicrous attack, I felt my son with me and I was most concerned with our youngest daughter and my son in law, who is married to our other daughter, who were with me that day and who got caught in a room off of the House floor,” he said. “In between them and me was a rampaging armed mob, that could have killed them easily. These events are personal to me. There was an attack on our country, there was an attack on our people. “This was the most terrible crime ever by a president of the United States against our country.” Reuters contributed to this report.
Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president. Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.He put the call on speakerphone for the benefit of his audience. Powell was raving about a national security crisis involving the Iranians flipping votes in battleground states. Trump pressed mute and laughed mockingly."So what are we gonna do about it, Sidney?" Trump would say every few seconds, whipping Powell more and more into a frenzy. He was having fun with it. "She really is crazy, huh?" he said, again with his finger on the mute button.It was clear that Trump recognized how unhinged his outside legal advisers were. But he was becoming increasingly desperate about losing to Joe Biden, and Powell and her crew were willing to keep feeding the grand lie that the election could be overturned. They were selling Trump a seductive but delusional vision: a clear and achievable path to victory. The only catch: He'd have to stop listening to his government and campaign staffs, to cross the Rubicon and view them as liars, quitters and traitors.Trump's new gang of advisers shared some common traits. They were sycophants who craved an audience with the president. They were hardcore conspiracy theorists. The other striking commonality within this crew was that all of them had, at one point in their lives, done impressive, professional, mainstream work.Rudy Giuliani once was "America's Mayor," hailed for his handling of 9/11. Powell was a successful attorney who defended Enron. Michael Flynn was a decorated three-star general whom Obama fired and then Trump brought back as his national security adviser, before firing him and ultimately pardoning him. Lin Wood was a nationally known defamation lawyer. Patrick Byrne made a small fortune launching the internet retailer Overstock.com.One exception was Jenna Ellis. She had a thin legal resume, and had in the 2016 campaign season used adjectives like "idiot," "boorish," "arrogant," "bully," and "disgusting" to characterize Trump and his behavior. But during Trump's presidency, she pushed her way into his inner circle, powered by levels of televised obsequiousness remarkable even for Trumpworld.Powell and Wood distinguished themselves with their extremism. Even Giuliani began distancing himself, telling anyone who'd listen that Powell didn't represent the president. But Trump promoted Powell as part of his team, and even though he had privately admitted to aides that he thought she was "crazy," he still wanted to hear what she had to say."Sometimes you need a little crazy," Trump told one official.While Trump's campaign team — experienced attorneys such as Justin Clark and Matt Morgan — were scrutinizing issues such as signature verification and access to room monitoring for vote counting, Powell was appealing to Trump's personal mantra to "Think Big!"She presented the president with a sweeping, multinational conspiracy of foreign interference at a scale never seen before in American history. The fact that she had no evidence that could hold up in court was a minor detail.Powell and Flynn told Trump he couldn't trust his team. That appealed to a paranoid mentality that always lurked beneath his surface: The FBI was corrupt. His CIA was working against him, and his intelligence community was, too. Why else weren't they showing him the evidence that China, Venezuela, Iran and various other communists had stolen his election win?To help him bypass these obstacles, they'd need Trump to give them top-level security clearances so they could get to the bottom of the "stolen" election. Trump liked this idea. Why not make Powell a special counsel in charge of election fraud? Why not give her and Flynn the clearances?Trump's professional staff had learned over time that they had to pick their moments to fight back. On the question of Powell, chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone were of one mind: No way was she getting a top secret clearance.Powell and Flynn sent Trump advisers documents they said contained the evidence of this far-reaching conspiracy. To the White House staff, it was gibberish — the rantings of a QAnon devotee. But these documents — perhaps the most deranged materials to reach a modern U.S. president — found their way to the West Wing.According to documents obtained by Axios, Powell and her crew advised Trump that a foreign conspiracy to steal the election involved a coordinated cyberwarfare attack from China, Russia, Iran, Iraq and North Korea.In arguments in front of Trump in the Oval Office, White House officials pushed back aggressively.What Powell was claiming to have uncovered would have been the greatest foreign attack in American history. Yet the U.S. intelligence community had seen no evidence of it.But Powell had an answer for that too: The reason Trump hadn't heard about this from his intelligence officials was because they were actively subverting him and hiding crucial information from him.His dog whistle to QAnon conspiracy theorists — a curiosity prompted once he learned they "love Trump" — dated back to at least the summer. On July 1, 2020, Trump met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Todd Young of Indiana and top political aides in the Oval Office for an update on Senate races. Trump was holding a printed slide deck showing the latest key data points, like polling and cash on hand, for the closely watched Colorado Senate race between Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat John Hickenlooper.Trump looked at the deck and immediately said, "How about that primary last night?" QAnon-enthusiast Lauren Boebert had won the Republican primary for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District. Consensus in the room was that Boebert's victory was a stunner. The president then addressed McConnell. "You know she’s a believer in that QAnon," he said. "Are you familiar with that, Mitch?" McConnell sat there stone-faced. He didn't move a muscle."You know, people say they're into all kinds of bad things and say all kinds of terrible things about them," Trump added. "But, you know, my understanding is they basically are just people who want good government."The room fell silent. Nobody knew how to respond. Then all of a sudden Meadows burst out laughing. "I have heard them described a lot of ways, but never quite like that," he said. The meeting participants broke down laughing. "In terror, quite candidly," said a source in the room.Powell filled the Trumpian Venn diagram between conspiracy theorists and sycophants. She offered the comforting deceptions that Trump was craving in his desperate post-election days and that the people on his team who had actual experience in election law refused to serve him.In the false and baseless theory she crafted, America's enemies had used two CIA programs — a foreign surveillance program called the "Hammer" and a cyberwarfare weapon called "Scorecard" — to steal U.S. elections. Her evidence was based on claims from a California computer programmer with a long track record of hawking fantastic-sounding technology. Powell and Flynn claimed that the CIA had been using these programs nefariously since 2009. Documents her team shared with Trump advisers falsely claimed that top Obama administration intelligence officials John Brennan and Jim Clapper — both enemies of Trump's — had illegally commandeered Hammer to advance Obama's supposed ambition of turning America into a communist client state. They further claimed that Brennan and Clapper had taken the program's source code with them when they left office. China had now mysteriously acquired Hammer, Powell argued.They described this as an act of war during in an Oval Office appearance on Dec. 18. No response should be considered too bold, they said. Trump needed to use the full force of the U.S. government to seize Dominion voting machines and catch the "traitors."That an American president was even entertaining any of this, raised questions about the state of his mind and his capacity to fulfill his duties.The evening before that meeting, Giuliani had phoned his old friend, Ken Cuccinelli, second in command at the Department of Homeland Security, asking him whether DHS could seize voting machines. "No," Cuccinelli told Giuliani, politely but firmly. His department did not have that legal authority.By this point, Trump was mainlining conspiracies. Many of his longest-serving advisers had all but given up trying to reason with him.His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, billed once by Newsweek as the most influential presidential relative since Bobby Kennedy, receded from the discussions when it came to countering the crazies. Once Giuliani took over, Kushner subsided from view, trying to cut last minute deals in the Middle East and burnish his foreign policy legacy. This frustrated some of his colleagues. Serious intervention was required on the domestic front.Whether Trump himself was still in charge, or had ceded decision-making to the bottom feeders, was at least an open question.🎧 Listen to Jonathan Swan on Axios' new investigative podcast series, called "How it happened: Trump's last stand."About this series: Our reporting is based on interviews with current and former White House, campaign, government and congressional officials as well as eyewitnesses and people close to the president. Sources have been granted anonymity to share sensitive observations or details they would not be authorized to disclose. President Trump and other officials to whom quotes and actions have been attributed by others were provided the opportunity to confirm, deny or respond to reporting elements prior to publication. "Off the rails" is reported by White House reporter Jonathan Swan, with reporting and research assistance by Zach Basu. It was edited by Margaret Talev and Mike Allen. Illustrations by Sarah Grillo, Aïda Amer and Eniola Odetunde.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
The public won’t see President Donald Trump’s White House records for years, but there’s growing concern the collection won’t be complete, leaving a hole in the history of one of America’s most tumultuous presidencies. Trump has been cavalier about the law requiring that records be preserved. The president also confiscated an interpreter’s notes after Trump had a chat with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
The public will not see President Donald Trump’s White House records for years, but there’s growing concern that the collection will not be complete, leaving a hole in the history of one of America’s most tumultuous presidencies. Mr Trump has been cavalier about the law requiring records to be preserved. He has a habit of ripping up documents before tossing them out, forcing White House staff to spend hours taping them back together. "They told him to stop doing it. He didn’t want to stop," said Solomon Lartey, a former White House records analyst who spent hours taping documents back together well into 2018. The president also confiscated an interpreter’s notes after Mr Trump had a chat with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Mr Trump scolded his White House counsel for taking notes at a meeting. Top executive branch officials had to be reminded more than once not to conduct official business on private email or encrypted text messaging systems and to preserve it if they did. Mr Trump’s baseless claim of widespread voter fraud, which postponed for weeks an acknowledgement of president-elect Joe Biden’s victory, is delaying the transfer of documents to the National Archives and Records Administration, further heightening concern about the integrity of the records. "Historians are likely to suffer from far more holes than has been the norm," said Richard Immerman at the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. In the Trump White House, "not only has record-keeping not been a priority, but we have multiple examples of it seeking to conceal or destroy that record". Even with requests by lawmakers and lawsuits by government transparency groups, there is an acknowledgment that non-compliance with the Presidential Records Act carries little consequence for Mr Trump. The Presidential Records Act states that a president cannot destroy records until he seeks the advice of the national archivist and notifies Congress. But the law doesn’t require him to heed the archivist’s advice. Most presidential records today are electronic, and records experts estimate that automatic backup computer systems capture a vast majority of them, but cannot capture records that a White House chooses not to create or log into those systems. Moving a president’s trail of paper and electronic records is a laborious task. President Barack Obama left about 30 million pages of paper documents and 250 terabytes of electronic records, including the equivalent of about 1.5 billion pages of emails. When Mr Trump lost the November election, records staffers were in position to transfer electronic records, pack up the paper ones and move them to the National Archives by January 20 as required by law. But Mr Trump’s reluctance to concede has meant they will miss the deadline. "Necessary funding from the (White House) Office of Management and Budget was delayed for many weeks after the election, which has caused delays in arranging for the transfer of the Trump presidential records into the National Archives’ custody," the National Archives said in a statement to The Associated Press. "Even though the transfer of these records will not be completed until after January 20, the National Archives will assume legal custody of them on January 20 in accordance with the Presidential Records Act." White House spokesman Judd Deere said on Saturday that contesting the election did not cause the delay in getting the president’s records transferred to the archives and that guidance was available to staffers on how to pack up their materials. One person familiar with the transition said guidance typically emailed to executive branch employees, explaining how to turn in equipment and pack up their offices, was sent out in December, but quickly rescinded because Mr Trump insisted on contesting the election. With little guidance, some staffers in the White House started quietly calling records workers to find out what to do. Departing employees are instructed to create a list of folders in each box and make a spreadsheet to give the National Archives a way to track and retrieve the information for the incoming Biden team. The public must wait five years before submitting Freedom of Information Act requests to see the Trump material. Even then, Mr Trump - like other presidents before him - is invoking six specific restrictions to public access of his records for up to 12 years. On impeachment and other sensitive issues, some normal workflow practices were bypassed, a second person familiar with the process said. Higher-ups and White House lawyers became more involved in deciding which materials were catalogued and scanned into White House computer networks where they are automatically saved, the person said. The individuals, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to publicly discuss the inner workings of the White House, said that if uncatalogued materials ended up in an office safe, for instance, they would at least be temporarily preserved. But if they were never catalogued in the first place, staffers wouldn’t know they existed, making them untraceable. Mr Trump’s staff also engaged in questionable practises by using private emails and messaging apps. Former White House counsel Don McGahn in February 2017 sent a memo that instructed employees not to use non-official text messaging apps or private email accounts. If they did, he said, they had to take screenshots of the material and copy it into official email accounts, which are preserved. He sent the memo back out in September 2017. Government transparency groups say the screenshots are not adequate because they do not capture attachments or information such as who contacted whom, phone identifiers and other online information. "It’s an open question to me about how serious or conscientious any of those people have been about moving them over," said Tom Blanton, who directs the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which was founded in 1985 to combat government secrecy. Mr Trump was criticised for confiscating the notes of an interpreter who was with him in 2017 when Mr Trump talked with Mr Putin in Hamburg, Germany. Lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to obtain the notes of another interpreter who was with Mr Trump in 2018 when he met with Mr Putin in Helsinki, Finland. Several weeks ago, the National Security Archive, two historical associations and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued to prevent the Trump White House from destroying any electronic communications or records sent or received on non-official accounts, such as personal email or WhatsApp. The court refused to issue a temporary restraining order after government lawyers told the judge that they had instructed the White House to notify all employees to preserve all electronic communications in their original format until the lawsuit was settled. Anne Weismann, one of the lawyers representing the groups in their lawsuit, suspects "serious non-compliance" of the Presidential Records Act. "I believe we will find that there’s going to be a huge hole in the historical record of this president," Weismann said.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Sunday that his government has agreed with a U.N. proposal to delay shipments of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to countries like Mexico that had exiting purchase agreements, in order to get more doses to poorer countries quicker. López Obrador said the delayed shipments would be made up later. “Anyway, that won't change our plan, because we are already seeking out other vaccines,”' López Obrador said, referring to the AstraZeneca vaccine as well as the Chinese CanSino and Russian Sputnik V vaccines, neither of which has been approved for use yet.
Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit reached space on Sunday, eight months after the first demonstration flight of its air-launched rocket system failed, the company said. A 70-foot-long (21.34-meter-long) LauncherOne rocket was released from beneath the wing of a Boeing 747 carrier aircraft off the coast of Southern California, ignited moments later and soared toward space. The two-stage rocket carried a cluster of very small satellites known as CubeSats developed and built as part of a NASA educational program involving U.S. universities.
Alexey Navalny, a Russian opposition leader and fierce critic of the Kremlin, flew back to Moscow following five months in Berlin, where he was recovering after he was allegedly poisoned by Russia's FSB spy agency. At airport border control, Navalny kissed his wife goodbye before Russian law enforcement promptly detained him, as expected.> BREAKING: Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny detained at border control by policeman pic.twitter.com/P2zpnfOtNN> > -- Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) January 17, 2021Moscow's prison service said it had orders to arrest Navalny because he violated conditions after an embezzlement conviction. Navalny, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's top rivals, has maintained the charges were politically motivated. Still, while he was always aware of his impending detainment, he told reporters who traveled with him it never crossed his mind not to return home to Moscow. "This is my home," he said. "I'm not scared of anything."Alexei Makarin, the deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow, told Bloomberg that Navalny could have stayed in Germany, but in that case the Russian people "would quickly lose interest in him." Now, the anti-corruption activist may be seen as a "symbol of resistance behind bars and a big risk for Putin."Navalny's wife and lawyer, however, opted to wait behind passport control where Navalny was taken, which reportedly suggests there's a chance he'll be released "with a writ of summons."As far as the United States is concerned, if Russia does continue to hold Navalny, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul argues it will be the first big foreign policy test for the Biden administration. > Three days before his swearing in, @JoeBiden and his new national security team was just handed their first major foreign policy crisis from Putin- how to respond to @navalny arrest.> > -- Michael McFaul (@McFaul) January 17, 2021More stories from theweek.com Statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico only needs 50 votes 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump's vaccine delay is getting suspicious
A double homicide of sisters in Albania on New Year’s Eve has prompted a judicial investigation into an alleged illegal adoption ring in northern Greece. It is the third illegal adoption ring that authorities in northern Greece have investigated in the last two years. According to testimonies by relatives after the incident, the sisters were made by their alleged killer to give birth in hospitals in Thessaloniki to infants that were then illegally adopted by Greek couples. In her statements in Albanian media, the victims’ sister has claimed that over the years, the two women gave birth to more than ten babies that were then sold to foster parents from inside the hospital. Surviving relatives have also testified that a lawyer in Thessaloniki, who is now apparently dead, participated in the infant trafficking operation. An investigation has been launched by the district attorney of Thessaloniki. A 2015 investigation by the Balkan Investigative Research Network found Greece was a "booming black market" for hundreds of babies sold by mainly Roma women from Bulgaria every year. Adoptive parents pay up to 40,000 euros per baby from mothers from Greece’s poorer neighbouring countries. In 2019, authorities in Thessaloniki busted another infant trafficking ring of 66 members, involving personnel in private maternity wards, lawyers and doctors. The ring had been bringing in women, mostly Roma, from Bulgaria, Albania and Georgia to give birth in Thessaloniki. The infants were privately adopted with the assistance of the members of the ring who falsified documents so that foster parents would appear to be the children’s biological parents. The authorities estimated the group made more than 500,000 euros. “When some things cannot be achieved in a transparent manner, they will happen in the dark” says Eleni Georgarou, a lawyer and head of the Foster Parents Network in Thessaloniki. “There is a whole industry for women to sell their babies, while intermediaries get rich”. Illegal adoption rings are attributed to Greece’s problematic framework for adoptions, where official processes can last between three to five years. After repeated calls for decades by International organisations such as the United Nations, a new law voted in 2018 attempted to streamline the process, but its implementation remains incomplete
Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny returned to Moscow on Sunday, five months after being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok and despite being warned that he faced arrest upon his return.The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here. * Vnukovo airport — where Navalny was scheduled to land and a group of supporters had gathered — was closed to arriving aircraft shortly before his flight was set to land. He landed instead at Sheremetyevo airport. Flashback: In August, Navalny collapsed on a flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk, and was taken to a local hospital before being allowed to travel on to Germany for treatment. * German authorities said he'd been poisoned with Novichok, which is developed exclusively by the Russian military. One of the Russian agents involved in the operation was later duped into revealing how the botched operation was carried out — on a call with Navalny himself. * The Kremlin has denied any role in the poisoning, but did warn that Navalny would face arrest upon his return to Russia — officially for violating the terms of a suspended prison term he received in 2014.On the scene: A large police presence awaited Navalny at Vnukovo airport, and several of his aides and supporters were arrested prior to his arrival. * The airport was reportedly cleared of all non-passengers, with riot police also on hand. * Those steps, in addition to the last-minute change in the arrival airport, undercut the Kremlin narrative that Navalny is a figure of little concern.The backstory: Navalny made his name as a video blogger and anti-corruption activist. He has organized some of the largest protests against Putin, who refuses to refer to him by name.This is a developing story and will be updated.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
REUTERSMOSCOW—Five months after surviving an assassination attempt, the Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, returned to Russia on Sunday amid chaotic scenes as cops—some of who were dressed in riot gear—arrested supporters and tried to prevent people entering the airport where their returning hero was scheduled to land.Upon arrival, he was promptly detained by authorities and is being held until a court hearing.A German medical rescue plane had evacuated Navalny from Russia in August while he lay in a coma. He flew back on budget Russian airline, Pobeda, five months later. The flight finally landed after circling Moscow for an hour while authorities refused to allow it to touch down at Vnukovo airport as expected. Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to dismiss Navalny as merely a “blogger,” but that is a hard claim to make with a straight face when law enforcement services have deployed dozens of police vehicles to greet you at an airport that descended into anarchy with cops trying to herd supporters and journalists back out of the building after many had forced their way inside. Several thousand supporters were standing outside Vnukovo airport, chanting “Russia will be free!” Just ten minutes before Navalny’s plane was due to land, four riot police dragged a young woman away from the airport, her long hair was trailing along the ground and she was screaming at the top of her lungs.As time ticked on, still there was no sign of Navalny’s flight at Vnukovo. Flight trackers showed the plane veering away from the besieged airport. Eventually, word filtered out that Navalny’s plane was being redirected to Sheremetyevo, a Moscow airport that was not surrounded by Navalny supporters. Navalny’s supporters celebrated as he landed, mocking the authorities for forcing the flight to be diverted: “We scared them! They are afraid of us!”On the way from the plane to the terminal at Sheremetyevo, Navalny was the first passenger to step off the bus. “I apologize—so many passengers, thousands of people suffered as a result of Vnukovo airport being closed, roads blocked,” he said. “It demonstrates what is happening in Russia, shows how much we need to fight... This is the power of the crooks, they endangered people in this huge city. This is the best day in months, I am happy I came back home. I am not afraid. I will go to passport control, I will walk out and go home. Because I know that the truth is on my side.”As Navalny kissed his wife, Yulia, goodbye, uniformed men detained him at passport control. In a press release, Russian prison authorities said Navalny had been wanted since Dec. 29 for repeated violations of his probation. He will now remain in jail until a court hearing in the next 48 hours.The prospect of another assassination attempt loomed over his return, but his supporters argued he was doing the right thing.A politician can only win the trust of a nation on the ground, not in exile. Navalny’s friends and allies told The Daily Beast that nobody had tried to talk him out of the plan and they said his return marked a new phase of even more intense struggle in opposition to Putin.Navalny’s top lieutenant, Lyubov Sobol, was snatched by Putin’s officials at Vnukovo on Sunday as she waited for his flight to land. She was arrested along with dozens of Navalny supporters. A group of policemen walked into the crowd. “Grab that one and take that blond one,” one of the policemen said. As they were briskly walked away from the arrival area and into a police vehicle parked outside, Sobol demanded: “What are you detaining me for?” Earlier in the week, Sobol spoke to The Daily Beast: “The authorities seem hysterical about Navalny’s return, they release late-night statements about his unavoidable arrest,” she said. “[But] this is not going to interrupt our agenda, and Navalny and our team have huge plans.”One of those plans is for Sobol to run in the parliamentary elections this year, and she played down talk of further efforts to kill her colleague.“We see no reason to talk about one more attempt to murder Alexei; we saw that authorities sent agents to his room, put Novichok poison in his underwear to kill him; nevertheless, it would be meaningless to worry, to think when they might try to do that again,” she said.Navalny’s No. 2 Suspects ‘Putin’s Chef’ Ordered Novichok Hit on Opposition LeaderThe prospect of ending up in prison has never stopped Navalny—he spent months behind bars for his political activity in the past decade. Coming home, he continued to call on Russians to protest against “Putin, the thief.”Speaking on the plane just before it took off from Berlin, he pointed out that there was nothing to arrest him for. Ever since his release from a hospital in Germany in late September, Navalny has been accusing Putin of his attempted assassination with the notorious Novichok nerve agent. “I assert that Putin is behind this attack,” he said in his first interview in Der Spiegel soon after emerging from a 32-day coma.Navalny has never considered exile as an option for his future, and he did not change his mind after German, French, and Swedish labs found traces of the Soviet chemical weapon early September tests. “No police raids, no pressure will make us stop or escape abroad. Let Putin and his cronies emigrate. This is our city, our country, we are patriots of Russia,” Navalny told The Daily Beast in February, soon after police confiscated the computers, photo, and video equipment from his studio in Moscow.Gennady Gudkov, a former KGB agent now aligned with the opposition, said he respects Navalny’s brave decision to return to his country but did not believe the opposition leader would walk free for long. “The Kremlin is struggling to present him as a marginalized personality precisely because Navalny has consolidated huge public support. Millions of Russians know him, his popularity is rapidly growing,” Gudkov told The Daily Beast. “We expect messages, signals from Navalny to fulfill the opposition’s major goal, to change power.”Putin Rumors Run Wild as He Shrouds Himself in SecrecyRussia’s state news outlets are struggling to work out how to portray Navalny. Since the attack on the U.S. Capitol last week, state-controlled media have been attacking “liberal fascists” who block President Donald Trump and his supporters on social media, but Navalny confounded that narrative by speaking out against Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s decision to ban Trump.Navalny has greatly increased his own following online after the attempt on his life. A few weeks ago, he managed to reach one of his suspected assassins on the phone and recorded the dramatic conversation. More than 22 million people viewed Navalny’s report, titled “I Called My Killer and He Confessed.” The opposition leader insists there are enough details in the report to arrest not only the killers but also those who helped to hide evidence of the crime.But Russia is obviously not going to investigate the assassination attempt on Navalny, especially after Putin noted with a laugh at a recent press conference that if Russian special services had wanted to kill Navalny, “they would have finished it.”Gudkov, the former KGB agent, said the authorities would do everything to isolate Navalny. “They will put him under home arrest or in jail, so he is left without internet. Do they plan to turn him into a Russian Nelson Mandela? I hope Russia is more developed than South Africa was half a century ago.”Ilya Yashin has already lost one close friend, Boris Nemtsov, to an assassination. He was shot to death in Moscow in 2015. The opposition council official told The Daily Beast he feared for Navalny’s life.Boris Nemtsov, Heart of Russia’s Opposition, Gunned Down in Moscow“Putin hates Navalny, shakes with fury when he talks about him. Just recently nobody would think authorities could poison the opposition with a Novichok agent. Now we know they can,” he said. “Boris Nemtsov once said, ‘We should not underestimate their outrageous nature.’”Yashin is still mourning Nemtsov. But he said, “I did not try to stop Alexei from coming back: Politics in Russia is his fate; he is a real patriot. No officials, no special services, protect him. He is coming to fight on his own.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
1.Statehouses across the United States are bracing for demonstrations in support of President Trump and his unfounded allegations of election fraud on Sunday. Security officials have pegged Sunday as a potentially "major flashpoint," Reuters reports, prompting more than a dozen states to activate National Guard troops to help protect their capitol buildings. Some states have put up fences or other barriers around their statehouses while also boarding up windows, and others, including Kentucky and Texas, have simply closed their capitol grounds to the public. The nationwide measures come after a pro-Trump mob forced its way inside the United States Capitol earlier this month, and the FBI quickly warned of the potential for subsequent violence, though it's possible increased security will deter larger gatherings. Per Reuters, some militias and extremist groups have already told followers to stay home this weekend. [The Associated Press, Reuters] 2.President-elect Joe Biden is planning to spend his first 10 days in the Oval Office issuing dozens of executive orders, a memo circulated by incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain on Saturday and obtained by The New York Times revealed. The memo appears to back up earlier reporting about how Biden envisioned the early stages of his presidency. On his first day alone, Biden will reportedly rescind President Trump's travel ban on several majority Muslim countries, rejoin the Paris climate change agreement, extend pandemic-related limits on evictions and student loan payments, issue a mask mandate for federal property and interstate travel, and reunite children who were separated from their families while crossing the United States-Mexico border. He will also reportedly send Congress immigration legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million people. [The New York Times] 3.President-elect Joe Biden's inaugural address will outline how he plans to handle the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic fallout while in office, and he will also urge Americans to move on from their current political divisions and unify, advisers and allies told Bloomberg. Although those sources anticipate Biden to acknowledge the difficulties of the moment, they expect the overall tone of the speech to be optimistic in contrast to President Trump's "American carnage" speech in 2017. "People want to know someone is in charge, help is on the way, chaos is behind us now," said Matt Teper, who served as Biden's chief speech writer at the beginning of his tenure as former President Barack Obama's vice president. "There's a recognition that things aren't great right now, but there's definitely hope that they're going to get better." [Bloomberg] 4.President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday officially introduced members of his administration's Office of Science and Technology Policy, headlined by his nominee to lead the team, Eric Lander, who will be a presidential science adviser, a position Biden is elevating to be a member of the Cabinet for the first time. "In a way ... this is the most exciting announcement that I've gotten to make in the entire Cabinet, raising this to a Cabinet-level position in one case," Biden said. Lander, who is considered a pioneer in the field of genomic science, is the president and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and was an adviser to the Obama administration. Biden also introduced Alondra Nelson, his pick to be the OSTP deputy director for science and society, as well as Maria Zuber and Frances Arnold, who will be co-chairs of the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. [CNN, CBS News] 5.Alexey Navalny, a Russian opposition leader and fierce Kremlin critic, departed Berlin on Sunday and is headed for Moscow several months after he was nearly killed following an alleged poisoned by Russia's FSB spy agency. It's likely Navalny, who has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his murder, will be taken into custody when he lands, The Guardian reports. Moscow's prison service says it has orders to detain Navalny for violating conditions after he was convicted for embezzlement and received a suspended sentence. He could face up to three-and-a-half years in prison. Navalny has continually dismissed the case as politically motivated, and he says he never considered not returning home. He's called on his supporters to greet him at the airport, although Russian police said they've begun detaining people traveling to Moscow for the "illegal" rally. [The Guardian, BBC] 6.Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will swear in Vice President-elect Kamala Harris during Wednesday's inauguration ceremony. A source with knowledge of Harris' thinking told ABC News that she was inspired by Sotomayor, who, like her, once served as a prosecutor. Harris will make history as the first female, Black, and South Asian vice president in the U.S., while Sotomayor was the first Hispanic and third female justice to sit on the Supreme Court. Other details of Harris' swearing-in have become available, as well, including the report that she will take her oath of office using two bibles — one belonging to a former neighbor and family friend, Regina Shelton, and the other to the late civil rights icon and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. [ABC News, CNN] 7.Iran on Sunday called on the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to "avoid providing unnecessary details and prevent paving ground for misunderstanding" about Tehran's nuclear program. The statement did not elaborate, but it comes a day after France, Germany, and the United Kingdom urged Iran to retreat from its plan to develop uranium metal. "Iran has no credible civilian use for uranium metal," the European powers said in a joint statement, hinting at fears Tehran is preparing to build a nuclear weapon. "The production of uranium metal has potentially grave military implications." Iran denies it's developing a bomb, and on Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif described the accusations as "absurd nonsense" and, in turn, criticized the European countries for destabilizing the Middle East. [Reuters, The Associated Press] 8.Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller ordered National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone to immediately install Michael Ellis, a former Republican Party political operative, as the NSA's general counsel, a career civilian post. Miller gave Nakasone until 6 p.m. on Saturday to follow through, The Washington Post reports, but he did not act and is reportedly not in favor of Ellis' selection, leaving it unclear as to how the Pentagon will proceed. Ellis was tapped for the position in November after pressure from the White House, where he used to work. The Trump administration has been criticized for naming Ellis, and Miller's recent order is considered troubling, as Nakasone and others reportedly consider it an attempt by the White House to "burrow" him into the job before the Biden administration takes over. [The Washington Post] 9.Unidentified gunmen killed two female judges from Afghanistan's Supreme Court in Kabul on Sunday morning. The victims have not been named. The attack took place as the judges were driving to their office in a court vehicle. Two gunmen riding a motorcycle ambushed them. The driver of the judge's car was wounded. Afghan officials have blamed the Taliban for the attack, though the group denies involvement. The shooting is the latest in a series of assassinations that have taken place across Afghanistan in recent months, even as the government has been engaged in peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar. [Reuters, The Guardian] 10.The NFC's top-seeded Green Bay Packers are headed back to the conference championship for the second consecutive season after defeating the Los Angeles Rams 32-18 on Saturday. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a leading MVP candidate, put together a typically efficient, mistake-free performance, throwing for 296 yards and two touchdowns. The Packers will host the winner of Sunday's showdown between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints next week at Lambeau Field. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills beat the Baltimore Ravens 17-3 to advance to their first AFC title game since 1993. They await either the Cleveland Browns or Kansas City Chiefs who square off Sunday afternoon. [ESPN]More stories from theweek.com Statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico only needs 50 votes 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump's vaccine delay is getting suspicious
Incoming chief of staff trails flurry of action in first daysRobert Reich: Biden cannot govern from the centerUS politics – live coverage Joe Biden announces his science team in Wilmington, Delaware on Saturday. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters Joe Biden will sign a series of executive orders in his first days in office, attempting to roll back damage done at home and abroad by Donald Trump, whom the Democrat will replace as president on Wednesday. Biden, 78, has already outlined plans to send an immigration bill and a Covid stimulus and relief package to a newly Democratic-controlled Congress. On Friday he said he would shake up the delivery of vaccines against Covid-19, mired in chaos under Trump. Biden plans to return the US to the Paris climate accords and the Iran nuclear deal, overturn Trump’s travel ban against some Muslim-majority countries, restrict evictions and foreclosures under the pandemic and institute a mask mandate on federal property. In a memo released on Saturday, the incoming White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, said: “These actions will change the course of Covid-19, combat climate change, promote racial equity and support other underserved communities, and rebuild our economy in ways that strengthen the backbone of this country: the working men and women who built our nation. “While the policy objectives in these executive actions are bold, I want to be clear: the legal theory behind them is well-founded and represents a restoration of an appropriate, constitutional role for the president.” Most of today’s GOP live in a parallel universe. There’s no ‘centre’ between the reality-based world and theirs Robert Reich The memo did not mention rejoining the World Health Organization, previously mentioned as a priority. Klain said subsequent orders would address “equity and support communities of color” and address criminal justice reform, access to healthcare and other priorities. Trump leaves office impeached twice, the second time over an attack on the US Capitol he incited and which left five people dead. The coronavirus pandemic is out of control, the death toll approaching 400,000, the caseload close to 24m. There were nearly 3,300 deaths on Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The economy has cratered, unemployment rising steeply. Among historians assessing the challenge faced by Biden, the Roosevelt and Lincoln biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin told the Washington Post it was “huge”. “History has shown when you have crises like this,” she said, “it’s an opportunity for leaders to mobilise resources of the federal government. All the presidents we remember, they dealt with a crisis. When you’re given that chance, the question is: are you fitted for that moment?” Biden will enjoy Democratic control of both houses of Congress, if by a slender margin in the House and by Kamala Harris’s casting vote as vice-president in a 50-50 Senate. But Senate business, including confirmation for Biden’s cabinet nominees, will soon be dominated by Trump’s impeachment trial. On Sunday Klain told CNN’s State of the Union: “It’s important for the Senate to do its constitutional duty, but also to do its constitutional duty to move forward on these appointments, on the urgent action the country needs. “During the last time President Trump was tried the Senate was able to hold confirmation hearings for nominees during the morning [and] was able to conduct other business. I hope that the Senate leaders on a bipartisan basis find a way to move forward on all their responsibilities. This impeachment trial is one of them but getting people into the government and getting action on coronavirus is another one of those responsibilities.” If Trump is convicted, he could be barred from running for office again. Ten Republican House members voted to impeach over the Capitol riot, making Trump’s second impeachment the most bipartisan in history. Senior party figures are anxious to move on but a clear majority of Republican voters support Trump and back his baseless claim the election was stolen through voter fraud. In Congress, 147 Republicans in the House and Senate objected to electoral college results. Biden has urged unity and pledged to use his experience in Congress – he was a senator for 36 years – to reach across the aisle. But in the Guardian on Sunday, former US labor secretary Robert Reich sought to urge the new president towards radical action and away from seeking significant Republican support. “I keep hearing that Joe Biden will govern from the ‘center’,” Reich wrote. “He has no choice, they say, because he’ll have razor-thin majorities in Congress, and the Republican party has moved to the right. “Rubbish. I’ve served several Democratic presidents who have needed Republican votes for what they’ve wanted to do. But the Republicans now in Congress are nothing like those I’ve dealt with. Most of today’s GOP live in a parallel universe. There’s no ‘centre’ between the reality-based world and theirs.” Speaking to the Post, House majority James Clyburn, a key Biden ally and a leading African American voice, said he had reminded the president-elect of the power of executive orders, which Harry Truman used to desegregate the military and Lincoln used to begin the end of slavery. The new White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, is scheduled to give a briefing on Wednesday, inauguration day – four years after Sean Spicer kicked off the Trump presidency by aggressively lying about the size of the crowd for Trump’s inaugural address. Biden will speak and take the oath of office amid massive security, a Washington lockdown prompted by fears of new attacks in the wake of the Capitol riot. Clyburn urged Biden to “lay out your vision and invite people to join you in the effort. But if they don’t join you, whatever authority you’ve got, use it.”
In recent years, the conversation around free speech – and arguments to protect it – have been dominated by the right. Should liberals try and reclaim the value for themselves? ‘When we talk about free speech as a regulatory matter, someone has to be the great arbiter.’ Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images Last week, as Twitter permanently banned Trump from its platform, critics from the right have been quick to blame a “leftist” culture within tech companies for a crackdown on free speech. That is not without its contradictions – many people have expressed concerns about the decision, including Alexei Navalny and Angela Merkel. But it does raise an uncomfortable issue: in recent years, the conversation around free speech – and arguments to protect it – have been dominated by the right. So what do experts make of it – and should liberals try and reclaim the value for themselves? We asked five defenders of free speech to weigh in. Ben Wizner, director, ACLU speech and privacy project; counsel to Edward Snowden Is Trump a good example of where free speech should be limited? One of the challenges about free speech is that almost everyone thinks they know what it means; they’re sure it applies to their own speech; and equally sure that it doesn’t apply to speech they consider offensive or dangerous. But when we talk about free speech as a regulatory matter, someone has to be the great arbiter. People pointed to the rise of a bigot like Trump as a justification for curtailing free speech, while ignoring the reality that if we did begin to roll back first amendment rights, Trump would be at the top of the enforcement structure. So you don’t think Trump should have been banned from Twitter sooner? If Trump had only communicated to the public through White House press channels that were heavily edited, redacted and managed, we would have known a lot less about who he was. His visceral, impulsive tweets ended up being important evidence in lawsuits that we (the ACLU) and others brought against him. We were able to show courts that the motivations behind his policies were not what his lawyers pretended they were. [Keeping him on Twitter for so long] was really in the public interest. A large banner with the impeachment clause of the US constitution near the US Capitol. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA How do we move forward? Facebook has 2.5bn users. If it had 2m users, I wouldn’t care about its moderation policies. If it was just for people who were very interested in yarn, there would be no basis whatsoever for me to tell them what their standards should be. But the fact that it has become the dominant platform for certain kinds of debate means we all have a stake. We need to use the law to prevent companies from consolidating that amount of power over our public discourse. That does not mean regulation of content. It would mean enforcing our anti-trust laws in the US. We should never have allowed a handful of companies to achieve the market dominance they have over such important public spaces. Suzanne Nossell, CEO of Pen America How do you feel about social media platforms having the right to decide who says what? While I believe the government should not be legislating what can and can’t be published on a platform like Twitter, we need far more robust protections for the public in terms of transparency: how these decisions are made, what the rules are, what the basis of adjudication is in an individual instance. If you have a valid claim that you shouldn’t have been kicked off, there really is no recourse; often an appeal can go into a black hole, people can’t get answers and don’t even know what rule they are accused of violating. There needs to be a robust process accessible to people in real time. How involved should the government be, exactly? One analogy is financial regulation, where there are elaborate disclosure agreements. These are private companies – investment banks, commercial banks – but there are meticulous obligations in terms of public accountability. Social media companies should be required to make public how their algorithms are configured, what kinds of content is disappearing and when, what gets amplified and propagated across the network and why. The contention between opposing ideas is a catalyst to get to the truth Suzanne Nossell Do people know what free speech is anymore? I worry that many Americans are confused and under-informed. You see people arguing that Tump’s ban from Twitter, or not publishing Josh Hawley, constitutes first amendment violations – but that’s just completely baseless. People tend to be unfamiliar with what the exceptions and limitations are to the first amendment, and in many ways have lost sight of why we protect free speech. Which is … ? The contention between opposing ideas is a catalyst to get to the truth. If people can call into question your claims and bring to light contrary evidence, that pushes forward debate. Free speech promotes tolerance and civil engagement. It is part of individual autonomy and how each of us expresses our identities. It’s an underpinning for artistic achievements, for scientific progress, for economic prosperity. Branko Marcetic, writer and author, Jacobin magazine What’s the leftwing case for free speech? Censorship – and any type of oppression, really – always begins by targeting particularly unsympathetic people, those who it is uncontroversial to censor. But once you set that precedent, inevitably, the bounds of what is considered acceptable or wrong always ends up expanding. Protester Kenneth Lundgreen holds up a sign as police put together barricades outside Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco on 11 January. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images Those censoring are liable to political pressure. They may want to temper criticism or ingratiate themselves with a new regime. When Facebook started factchecking due to concerns about fake news, some of the fact checkers that got on board were from rightwing news outlets like the Weekly Standard, a long-standing neo-conservative magazine, and the Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson’s old media entity. There were several instances where fact checkers from those outlets “factchecked” stories where there was strong disagreement [about their conclusions]. And in 2017, when Germany purged some violent far-right websites, it also took off a leftwing website because it was an anti-capitalist website. That’s an attempt to look even handed so it does not look like you are merely prosecuting the right. So how should we feel abut the Trump twitter ban? Trump didn’t really incite the violence via Twitter – he tweeted, but people saw that speech on TV. There is so much focus on social media companies, when arguably the media most important for Trump’s rise was television and the massive amount of earned media and free media he got in 2015 and 2016. . It was on conservative news outlets that he said the election was being stolen. Even without a Twitter account, the president is going to be able to go on TV. So, if we believe he should be banned from Twitter surely he should be banned from TV too? Censorship – and any type of oppression, really – always begins by targeting particularly unsympathetic people Branko Marcetic How is the curtailment of free speech used against minorities?Look at how hate speech has been used against Palestinians, who are agitating for their rights and freedoms against the Israeli government. That has been very cynically used – people have been claiming antisemitism or saying that the speech is violent or out of bounds. In the same way there have been people on Facebook who were taken off social media for expressing – they didn’t do anything – language around the police which came across as violent or threatening. Similar hate speech laws or legislation have been used against people of color if they say something offensive to a police officer. Jameel Jaffer, director, Knight First Amendment Institute Is free speech the preserve of the right? No, but the courts have shifted to the right so it seems that way. The first amendment libertarian justices are enthusiastic about is much more concerned with the rights of, for example, corporations and political donors than it is about the rights of political dissidents or whistleblowers. So the right doesn’t support all versions of the first amendment? Many on the left see the first amendment as not protecting them. When it came to the Black Lives Matters protests, the first amendment seemed to do very little to prevent government officials making their lives difficult and even dangerous; it seemed to be absent when journalists were arrested during those protests and yet it is available to neo-Nazis who want to hold a rally in Charlottesville. That’s not an entirely unjustified critique. Donald Trump walks out from back stage to cheering supporters in October 2018. Photograph: Craig Lassig/EPA What would life look like without the first amendment? As terrible as Trump’s administration has been for the first amendment, things would have been immeasurably worse without it. There were lines he couldn’t possibly cross – lines that don’t exist elsewhere. Trump says journalists are enemies of the state; the next step in other countries is they can be rounded up and arrested for their journalism. This can’t happen here. When he kicked reporters out of the White House press briefing, the supreme court ruled he violated the first amendment. We take that for granted, and we shouldn’t. Joan Donovan, sociologist, Harvard Kennedy School Does Trump being banned from Twitter have anything to do with free speech? It’s a different question than free speech. Any hesitation from platform companies realizing what it is that they have built – and the years of focusing on growth over community protection and safety – has led us here. Any attempts to disrupt the infrastructure that this Maga movement has built is so they cannot mount a second attack during the inauguration – this is big, this is different. This moment is going to be one of the most important moments in internet history because it only happened through years of inaction. It’s about prosecuting crimes? Yes. Alongside the imagery of guns and talk of this “being our 1776”, [the attack on the Capitol] was a direct threat to journalists and Congress members. Many years ago, I was part of a punk rock message board where someone said they wanted to kill George Bush. The FBI showed up to his little apartment. That was the reality back then. If you threatened somebody online and the FBI found out about it, you got a personal visit. So there is reason for alarm when platforms consider [threats of violence] to be within the realm of free speech. Fantasizing that Mike Pence would be arrested and executed – that should have consequences. How do you balance the rights of people over the need to hear from the president?Trump is the sitting president, so he’s not some private individual who is using social media to say “we need to hold these corrupt governors and politicians to account”. He is a politician and there are many avenues through which he can seek legal recourse for the allegations [that the election was fraudulent] and he did all of that, and lost. Platform companies provide anyone and everyone with the infrastructure to reach potentially millions all at once. When that power is utilized by people with enormous political importance [to overturn an election], it is oppression.
President-elect Joe Biden will deliver an appeal to national unity when he is sworn in Wednesday and plans immediate moves to combat the coronavirus pandemic and undo some of President Donald Trump’s most controversial policies, his incoming chief of staff said Sunday. Biden intends a series of executive actions in his first hours after his inauguration, an opening salvo in what is shaping up as a 10-day blitz of steps to reorient the country without waiting for Congress, aide Ron Klain said. Biden will end Trump’s restriction on immigration to the U.S. from some Muslim-majority countries, move to rejoin the Paris climate accord and mandate mask-wearing on federal property and during interstate travel.
“If you’re looking to win elections, it is probably best not to urge your supporters not to vote.”
“Warnock’s portrayal of himself as a dog lover, a means of overcoming white suspicions of Black men, smacked of pure genius.”
“Trump has done damage to the Republican brand among suburban voters that goes well beyond just races where he is on the ballot.”
“Once more, Democrats must profusely thank activist Stacey Abrams.”
“Overall, demographic trends show that the state’s electorate is becoming younger and more diverse each year.”