Moving from house to house is challenging under the best of circumstances, and even with movers as first rate as the housekeepers and other staff who work in the White House. The clock would normally start ticking when the outgoing and incoming presidents leave the White House together to head to the Capitol for the swearing-in ceremony. The process would continue during the ceremony and the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.
Michael White's long-anticipated trip to Iran was already a disappointment. At one point, he writes, he fabricated a tale about being tasked to gather intelligence by an acquaintance he said was with the National Security Agency, figuring that interrogators wanted to hear something like that before setting him free.
‘Heart-wrenching milestone’ says UN chief; China reports 130 new cases in flare-up; India starts mass vaccination campaignCoronavirus – latest updates See all our coronavirus coverage Data from Johns Hopkins University showed the latest figure was reached on Friday, with an average of 11,900 daily deaths being recorded this year. Photograph: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images More than two million people have lost their lives to the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide, with the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, lamenting the impact of the “vicious virus”. “Our world has reached a heart-wrenching milestone,” Guterres announced on Friday in a video marking the moment. “Behind this staggering number are names and faces: the smile now only a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one,” he added, calling for greater global solidarity to fund vaccination efforts and urging citizens to stick to containment measures such as physical distancing and masks. Data from Johns Hopkins University showed the latest Covid milestone was reached on Friday, with an average of 11,900 daily deaths being recorded in 2021 so far, according to Reuters – representing somebody currently dying every eight seconds because of Covid. The global death toll hit one million in late September, nine months after the new coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Disturbingly it has taken just over three months for that number to double, with some of the worst hit countries – including the US, Brazil, Mexico and the UK – witnessing a surge in infections and deaths. “What was never on the horizon is that so many of the deaths would be in the richest countries in the world,” said Dr Bharat Pankhania, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Exeter. “That the world’s richest countries would mismanage so badly is just shocking.” The US has the world’s highest official death toll and, with more than 386,000 fatalities, accounts for one in every four deaths reported worldwide each day. The next worst affected countries are Brazil, with more than 207,000 deaths; India with 152,000; Mexico with 138,000; and the UK with more than 86,000. Together those five countries contribute to almost 50% of all Covid-19 deaths in the world but represent just 27% of the global population, Reuters reported. Europe, the worst-affected region in the world, has reported more than 615,000 deaths so far and accounts for nearly 31% of all Covid-related deaths globally. Infection figures are also still soaring in countries including Mexico, which posted a record 21,366 new infections on Friday, around double the daily rate of increase of just a week ago. Brazil, where the city of Manaus was running out of oxygen to treat Covid-19 patients, recorded 69,198 new infections in the previous 24 hours. China, where the disease was first detected, said 130 new cases had been recorded on Friday, as authorities continued to battle a severe outbreak in the north-east that has put more than 28 million people under lockdown. Total case numbers remain well below what China saw at the height of the outbreak in early 2020, but concerns about a new country-wide wave are growing with a major national holiday a month away and estimates of 296 million railway passenger trips during the lunar new year break. In his statement marking two million deaths, Guterres urged world leaders to “boost vaccine confidence and knowledge with effective communication grounded in facts”. But that is not happening everywhere. In Brazil, where an average of more than 1,000 people are dying each day, President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly questioned the safety of vaccines and said he will refuse to be vaccinated himself. “Nobody will be forced to get vaccinated,” Bolsonaro vowed this week during an internet broadcast. “If you don’t want it, don’t have it. That’s your right. After all … we don’t have proof [they are safe].” According to the University of Oxford, 35 million doses of various Covid-19 vaccines have been administered around the world, many of them in rich countries such as the UK. On Friday the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, claimed “the biggest and fastest vaccination campaign in our history” was under way, adding: “The chances are that you know someone personally who has already received a vaccine.” In the United States, the incoming president, Joe Biden, has unveiled ambitious plans to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office. “This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts ever undertaken by our country – but you have my word, we will manage the hell out of this operation,” he said. India on Saturday launched one of the world’s biggest vaccination programmes, aiming to inoculate a quarter of a billion people in the coming months including healthcare workers, people aged over 50 and those at high risk. On the programme’s first day 300,000 people were to be vaccinated at 3,000 centres. But in many developing countries, including Brazil, vaccination has yet to begin, with some specialists convinced government inaction means many countries will fare even worse this year than last. “Of course the pandemic took the whole world by surprise and killed many people – that’s why you call it a pandemic,” said Mariana Varella, a Brazilian public health writer. “But we didn’t need to be in the situation we are in, with his number of dead, with the health system overwhelmed.”
The United Nations chief urged the world to mark the “heart-wrenching milestone” of 2 million deaths from COVID-19 virus on Friday by acting with far greater solidarity to ensure vaccines are available and affordable in all countries not just rich nations. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video message that governments have a responsibility to protect their people, “but `vaccinationalism’ is self-defeating and will delay a global recovery.” “Vaccines are reaching high income countries quickly, while the world’s poorest have none at all.”
A Chinese lawyer who represented a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist was stripped of his licence amid efforts by Beijing to crush opposition to its tighter control over the territory. Lu Siwei, who represented one of 12 Hong Kong activists who tried to flee to Taiwan, had his licence revoked by the Sichuan Provincial Justice Department in a formal notice given on Friday. Ten of the 12 activists caught at sea in August were sentenced by a Shenzhen court in December to prison terms ranging from seven months to three years for illegally crossing the border and organising illegal border crossings. They are part of an exodus of Hong Kong residents following Beijing's imposition of a tough new security law they say is destroying the territory's Western-style civil liberties. Since the law was introduced in response to anti-government protests that began in 2019, dozens of pro-democracy activists have been arrested or detained. The law has been denounced by European nations, the US and others. Beijing says the legislation allows Hong Kong to "enjoy more social stability, economic development and greater freedom". Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called the 12 activists "elements attempting to separate Hong Kong from China", not democratic activists. Beijing, which requires lawyers to swear an oath of loyalty to the ruling Communist Party, has tightened control over the profession. Other lawyers have been stripped of their licences for representing defendants in politically sensitive cases. Some have been imprisoned. In a notice last week, the Chengdu office of the Sichuan Justice Department said Lu had violated laws on professional legal conduct. It accused him of making comments online that had a "negative impact on society". Also last week, Ren Quanniu, another lawyer for one of the 12 activists, was notified by the Zhengzhou office of the Henan Justice Department that he could lose his license. He was told that comments he made in court had caused a "negative impact on society". His hearing is still pending, but is seen as a formality. On Wednesday, Ren and a small group of supporters showed up at the hearing for Lu's license in Chengdu to back him. They were forcibly separated by police and Lu was taken inside alone, Ren said. Both Lu and Ren were hired by families of the activists, but were blocked from seeing their clients throughout the legal process. "They wouldn't even let me in the front door, much less the door to the administrative area where you deal with the paperwork," Ren said of his attempted first visit to a police station in Shenzhen, where the Hong Kong activists were taken by authorities. On his second visit, he was told that his client had already agreed to a court-appointed lawyer. Throughout the case, families of the activists protested that they should be able to use lawyers they selected instead of the court-appointed lawyers. Lu has been summoned often by the local bureau of the Justice Department in Chengdu for meetings in which the bureau officials told him to leave the case. Neither Lu or Ren backed down. "Why should I quit when there's no legal reason for me to quit? How can I explain myself to the family?" Ren said. A person at the local Justice Department office in Chengdu initially told the AP to call back. Later calls went unanswered. Phone calls to the Justice Department's office in Zhengzhou went unanswered. The two lawyers both have a history of taking on sensitive cases, and of navigating the fraught and murky waters of defending people who are deemed to be political targets by authorities. Ren has handled cases related to the Falun Gong, a spiritual movement which China has labeled a cult and is the subject of persecution after its followers protested in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1999. Most recently, he represented citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, who was sentenced to four years in prison for attempting to report on the situation in the city of Wuhan during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic early last year. Lu, an insurance lawyer by trade, has handled cases in a crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists led by President Xi Jinping which began in 2015. Lu defended prominent human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, who had criticized Xi. Still, neither was prepared for how sensitive the case of the 12 activists would be. "They can't punish anyone else. Can they punish the European media? Can they punish Pompeo? They can only take it out on us because we are lawyers in the mainland," Lu said.
Germany's Christian Democrats elect a new chairman on Saturday, aiming to unite their conservative party behind a new leader who they hope can succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor when she steps down after federal elections in September. The new CDU leader will be elected by 1,001 delegates at a digital congress. Centrist Armin Laschet, arch-conservative Friedrich Merz and foreign policy expert Norbert Roettgen are vying for the CDU leadership.
At least one peacekeeper was killed and another two were injured on Friday in two successive attacks by armed rebels near the town of Grimari in Central African Republic, the United Nations Mission in the country said. Members from a coalition of armed rebels staged the attacks while peacekeepers from both Burundi and Bangladesh were carrying out a security operation around Grimari, more than 200 kilometers (120 miles) northeast of the capital, Bangui. The Burundian peacekeeper was killed in the second ambush, and two Bangladeshi peacekeepers injured during the attacks and are receiving treatment, the U.N. mission in Central African Republic said in a statement.
The National Rifle Association announced Friday it has filed for bankruptcy protection and will seek to incorporate the nation’s most politically influential gun-rights group in Texas instead of New York, where a state lawsuit is trying to put the organization out of business. The announcement came months after New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the NRA, seeking its dissolution over claims that top executives illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars for lavish personal trips, no-show contracts for associates and other questionable expenditures. The coronavirus pandemic has also upended the NRA, which last year laid off dozens of employees. The group canceled its national convention and scuttled fundraising.
The U.N. General Assembly and Security Council are expected to take the first step toward electing the next head of the global organization this month. Assembly President Volkan Bozkir said Friday that he and Tunisia’s U.N. Ambassador Tarek Ladeb, the current council president, hope to send a letter before Jan. 31 asking the U.N.’s 193 member nations to submit any candidates to challenge Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The former Portuguese prime minister and U.N. refugee chief, whose five-year term at the helm of the United Nations ends on Dec. 31, said in letters to Bozkir and Ladeb on Monday that he will seek a second term.
President Xi Jinping is asking former CEO Howard Schultz of Starbucks to help repair U.S.-Chinese relations that have plunged to their lowest level in decades amid a tariff war and tension over technology and security. A letter from Xi to Schultz reported Friday by the official Xinhua News Agency was a rare direct communication from China's paramount leader to a foreign business figure. Schultz opened Starbucks' first China outlet in 1999 and is a frequent visitor.
Russia will pull out of a longstanding accord that allows countries to conduct fly-over military operations across territories, following in the United States' footsteps after President Trump left the treaty last year, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced Friday. Why it matters: Russia's exit from the Open Skies Treaty could escalate its rivalry with the U.S. as the country transitions to a new administration under President-elect Joe Biden.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.Our thought bubble, via Axios' Dave Lawler: Trump pulled out of several multilateral deals on arms control and related security issues, arguing they no longer served America’s interests. * Biden feels differently, valuing the sort of international assurances that Open Skies represented. * Russian President Vladimir Putin’s action serves as another indication that Biden won’t simply be able to wind the clock back.The big picture: Russian hackers' massive cybersecurity campaign, which breached U.S. government agencies and companies last year, ignited tensions between Russia and Biden, who has said the nation will pay a price for the hack. * Russia's withdrawal from Open Skies appears to be an "opening move" between the two rivals, New York Times reports. It may also undermine European allies' surveillance of Russian movement at their borders. * The formal exit will occur in roughly six months. Go deeper: Biden's hardline Russia resetGet smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
Dorothy Schmidt Cole, recognized last year as the oldest living U.S. Marine, has died at age 107. Beth Kluttz, Cole's only child, confirmed Friday that her mother died of a heart attack at Kluttz's home in Kannapolis, North Carolina, on Jan. 7. The Charlotte Observer reports Cole enlisted as one of the earliest female Marine reservists following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
MOSCOW — Russia said Friday that it was pulling out of a decades-old treaty that allowed countries to make military reconnaissance flights over each other’s territory, escalating its growing military competition with the United States and Europe just weeks before the incoming Biden administration will have to negotiate the extension of the central nuclear arms control treaty between the two countries. The decision by President Vladimir Putin to leave the accord, the Open Skies Treaty, matches an action taken by President Donald Trump in May. While the treaty, which dates back to 1992, is of limited use to the United States, which has a network of spy satellites, it has been important to European allies as a way of keeping track of Russian troop movements along their borders. When Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal, which was completed late last year, he predicted Putin was “going to come back and want to make a deal.” He did not. And Russia’s move signaled that the country did not intend to make it easy for the administration of Joe Biden to reverse Trump’s rejection of a series of arms control and military monitoring treaties. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times The Russian announcement, if followed by an official notification to the other remaining parties in the treaty, starts a six-month clock toward final withdrawal. The notification would also require a meeting of all the signatories — including the European nations who are most concerned about Russian activity after its years of incursions into Ukraine — within 60 days. But Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that U.S. allies did not appear willing to save the treaty by satisfying Russia’s demands in recent months that with the United States out of the treaty, they no longer pass along any intelligence gathered through it to Washington. “The Russian side offered concrete proposals to sustain the treaty under new conditions that corresponded to its foundational provisions,” the Foreign Ministry said. “We are disappointed to note that they did not receive support from allies of the United States.” But the announcement may also be viewed as an opening move in an intense initial encounter that is coming between Russia and the new Biden administration. On Feb. 5, the New START nuclear arms control agreement expires, unless both governments agree to a five-year extension. That accord is the last major remaining limit on nuclear competition between the two countries; it restricts both nations to 1,550 deployed nuclear weapons each. Both Putin and Biden have said that, in principle, they want to invoke a provision of the treaty that allows for an extension of up to five years. Because that provision is contained in the original treaty negotiated by the Obama administration, it would not require a new vote in the U.S. Senate. But it is unclear if Russia may introduce new demands. And Biden has promised that Russia will “pay a price” for its broad hacking of U.S. government agencies and corporations, revealed last month — meaning he will almost certainly be threatening the country with sanctions at a moment he is also negotiating the treaty extension. Another complicating factor is that key members of Biden’s Cabinet may not yet be confirmed by the Senate in time for the negotiation. The task of dealing with Russia, therefore, will most likely fall to Jake Sullivan, the incoming national security adviser, who does not require Senate confirmation. “I think our diplomats, before making this decision, became convinced that the United States’ return is extremely unlikely,” Fyodor Lukyanov, a foreign-policy analyst who advises the Kremlin, was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti state news agency. “This treaty did not figure among that which Biden wanted to change.” The Open Skies Treaty, which has nearly three dozen signatories, was negotiated under President George H.W. Bush in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The treaty aimed to prevent military tensions from escalating into war by allowing former Cold War adversaries to fly over each other’s territories using planes equipped with sophisticated sensors. While most modern-day military intelligence is gleaned through satellites, some information can only be gathered by airplane sensors. Perhaps most important, the treaty — which allowed specially designated U.S. military planes to roam deep into Russian airspace and vice versa — was a symbol of a determination to avoid war. Long before the U.S. withdrawal last year, American officials complained that Moscow was violating the Open Skies accord by not permitting flights over Kaliningrad, the region where Russia was believed to be deploying nuclear weapons that could reach Europe, as well as forbidding flights over major Russian military exercises. Russia has denied violating the treaty and claimed that the United States had breached it. The Foreign Ministry said Friday that it was starting the process of withdrawing from the agreement but had not yet officially notified the other signatories. Russia’s withdrawal had been anticipated in recent months, though Russian news reports as recently as this week said that the Kremlin was also considering a softer move: suspending Russia’s participation in the treaty rather than departing it altogether. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
When a former Michigan public health director was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Flint water crisis, the man who previously held the job says a chilling thought crossed his mind: It could have been me. Prosecutors, however, say this is no ordinary matter of well-meant decisions that backfired.
No criminal charges will be filed against a former temporary elections worker authorities have said mistakenly discarded nine military ballots ahead of the November presidential election, a federal prosecutor announced Friday. Officials have previously blamed the decision to toss out the ballots on an unidentified and improperly trained contract worker who had been handling mail-in ballots for the county for two days. The ballots were later retrieved from the trash and were counted with other mailed ballots after the Nov. 3 election.
In the summer of 2000, I was among a group of foreign correspondents, photographers and video journalists who went to England to attend a hostile environment-first aid training course. The trainers, all former Royal Marine commandos, taught us how to gingerly probe our way out of a minefield, about booby traps and treating gunshot and shrapnel wounds. This week, now as a reporter in Oregon, I attended virtual training by the state police on what to do if there's a shooting rampage in the Oregon Capitol.
Scotland's fishermen have told Boris Johnson his Brexit trade deal leaves them with the "worst of both worlds" amid export delays and collapsing market prices. In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) said the industry was facing "mounting financial losses" and the only way to ensure a fair price was a 72-hour round trip to land catch in Denmark. Elspeth Macdonald, the trade group's chief executive, said there was "huge disappointment and a great deal of anger about your failure to deliver on promises made repeatedly to this industry." She accused him of having "spun a line" about a 25 per cent uplift in the UK's quota and demanded urgent details of promised compensation for the disruption. Her concerns were echoed by Scotland's seafood processors, who said ministers in both London and Edinburgh need to "get a grip" of the long delays exporters are facing. A third of fishing boats in Scotland are tied up at harbours and the industry is estimated to be losing £1 million per day. Exporters warned they face possible bankruptcy amid a suspension of road deliveries due to border delays. Transport company DFDS stopped exports last week after delays in getting new paperwork introduced following the expiry of the Brexit transition period for EU border posts in France. It aims to resume the service on Monday. Paperwork has to be approved before consignments can be sent to DFDS's warehouse in South Lanarkshire and then on to English Channel ports. In her letter to the Prime Minister, Ms McDonald said: "Many fishing vessels are tied to the quay wall.” She added: "This industry now finds itself in the worst of both worlds. Your deal leaves us with shares that not only fall very far short of zonal attachment, but in many cases fail to ‘bridge the gap’ compared to historic catches, and with no ability to leverage more fish from the EU, as they have full access to our waters. "This, coupled with the chaos experienced since 1st January in getting fish to market means that many in our industry now fear for their future, rather than look forward to it with optimism and ambition."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday decreed parliamentary and presidential elections for later this year in what would be the first vote of its kind since 2006, when the Islamic militant group Hamas won a landslide victory. Elections would pose a major risk for Abbas' Fatah party and also for Hamas, which welcomed the decree. Fatah and Hamas have been publicly calling for elections for more than a decade but have never been able to mend their rift or agree on a process for holding them, and despite Friday's decree, it remained far from clear whether the voting would actually be held.
Transgender athletes are getting an ally in the White House next week as they seek to participate as their identified gender in high school and college sports — although state legislatures, Congress and the courts are all expected to have their say this year, too. Attorneys on both sides say they expect President-elect Joe Biden’s Department of Education will switch sides in two key legal battles — one in Connecticut, the other in Idaho — that could go a long way in determining whether transgender athletes are treated by the sex on their birth certificates or by how they identify. Last year, bills to restrict transgender athletes' participation to their gender assigned at birth were brought up in 17 states, although only one, Idaho's, became law.
The worldwide coronavirus death toll surpassed 2 million on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, as nations around the world are trying to procure multiple vaccines and detect new COVID-19 variants. It took nine months for the world to record the first 1 million deaths from the novel coronavirus but only three months to go from 1 million to 2 million deaths, illustrating an accelerating rate of fatalities. "Our world has reached a heart-wrenching milestone ," United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said in a video statement.
The global death toll from COVID-19 topped 2 million Friday as vaccines developed at breakneck speed are being rolled out around the world in an all-out campaign to vanquish the threat. The milestone was reached just over a year after the coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The number of dead, compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the population of Brussels, Mecca, Minsk or Vienna.
“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.”