Millions Hunker Down As Storm Hits Eastern US

Pedestrians walk along the National Mall during a winter storm in Washington, DC, on January 16, 2022. – Millions of Americans were braced for heavy snow and freezing rain Sunday as a major winter storm closed in on the eastern United States, knocking power out to an estimated 200,000 people and counting.  (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP)

 

Millions of Americans hunkered down as a major winter storm hit the eastern United States with heavy snow and ice knocking power out for an estimated 130,000 customers as of early Monday.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said the storm was bringing a miserable combination of heavy snow, freezing rain and high winds, impacting the southeast and coastal mid-Atlantic before moving up to New England and southern Canada.

A swath from the upper Ohio Valley north to the lower Great Lakes region could expect more than a foot (30 centimeters) of snow Monday, it warned.

In all, more than 80 million people fell under the winter weather alerts, US media reported.

About 235,000 were without power Sunday but by early Monday that had fallen to around 130,000 along the east coast and Kentucky as supplies were restored, according to the website PowerOutage.US.

The storm spawned damaging tornadoes in Florida and flooding in coastal areas, while in the Carolinas and up through the Appalachians icy conditions and blustery winds raised concerns.

READ ALSO: China COVID-19 Cases Highest In Nearly Two Years, Weeks Before Olympics

Transport was seriously disrupted, with thousands of flights canceled, and a portion of busy interstate highway I-95 closed in North Carolina.

More than 3,000 flights within, into or out of the United States were canceled Sunday.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina was the worst-affected with 95 percent of its flights grounded, according to the FlightAware website. A further 1,200 flights had been canceled early Monday.

– State of emergency –

Drivers were warned of hazardous road conditions and major travel headaches from Arkansas in the south all the way up to Maine, on the Canadian border.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp had declared a state of emergency on Friday, and snowplows were at work before noon to clear the roads.

Virginia and North Carolina also declared states of emergency.

Virginia State Police said on Twitter they had responded to almost 1,000 crashes and disabled vehicles on Sunday. “Mostly vehicle damage. No reported traffic deaths,” the force said.

A “multi-vehicle backup,” along with minor crashes, had earlier stopped traffic on a major interstate in the southern part of the state.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said on Twitter that up to a foot of snow had fallen in some areas by midday, and that “significant icing is causing trouble in the Central part of the state” as he reminded people to stay inside and avoid travel if possible.

Also in North Carolina, students were shaken up after the storm caused the roof of a college residence hall to collapse, according to a local ABC news station, though no one was hurt.

“Very scary,” Brevard College sophomore Melody Ferguson told the station. “I’m still shaking to this moment.”

The NWS even reported some snow flurries in Pensacola, Florida, while usually mild Atlanta, Georgia also saw snow.

The storm is expected to cause some coastal flooding, and the NWS warned that winds could near hurricane force on the Atlantic coast.

The northeastern United States already experienced snow chaos earlier this month. When a storm blanketed the northeast, hundreds of motorists were stuck for more than 24 hours on a major highway linking to the capital Washington.

US Africa Envoy To Visit Saudi Arabia, Sudan And Ethiopia

In this file photo taken on September 4, 2019 the new US Ambassador to Turkey David M. Satterfield pays his respects as he attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Mausoleum of the Turkish Republic's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (Anitkabir), in Ankara. Adem ALTAN / AFP
In this file photo taken on September 4, 2019 the new US Ambassador to Turkey David M. Satterfield pays his respects as he attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Mausoleum of the Turkish Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (Anitkabir), in Ankara. Adem ALTAN / AFP

 

The US special envoy for the Horn of Africa will visit Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Ethiopia next week amid ongoing crises in the two African nations, the State Department announced Friday.

David Satterfield and Assistant Secretary of State Molly Phee will travel to Riyadh, Khartoum and Addis Ababa from January 17-20.

In Riyadh, the pair will meet with the Friends of Sudan, a group calling for the restoration of the country’s transitional government following a military coup in October.

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The meeting aims to “marshal international support” for the UN mission to “facilitate a renewed civilian-led transition to democracy” in Sudan, according to the statement.

Satterfield and Phee will then travel to Khartoum, where they will meet with pro-democracy activists, women’s and youth groups, civil organizations and military and political figures.

“Their message will be clear: the United States is committed to freedom, peace, and justice for the Sudanese people,” the statement read.

In Ethiopia, the pair will talk with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to seek a resolution to the deepening civil war.

“They will encourage government officials to seize the current opening for peace by ending the air strikes and other hostilities,” the statement read.

They will also ask for the establishment of a ceasefire, the release of political prisoners and the restoration of humanitarian access.

Satterfield, the former US ambassador to Turkey, was appointed to replace Jeffrey Feltman as special envoy on January 6.

Feltman quit just as he visited Ethiopia in a bid to encourage peace talks to end more than a year of war following the withdrawal of Tigrayan rebels.

The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, which last year threatened to march on Addis Ababa, by December had withdrawn to its stronghold, and the government has not pursued the rebels further on the ground.

Feltman had also sought to tackle the crisis in Sudan, but he was treated unceremoniously in October when Sudan’s military ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, carried out a coup just after the US envoy had left the country.

Feltman’s resignation came days after Sudan’s civilian prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, quit, leaving Burhan as the undisputed leader of the country despite Western calls to preserve a democratic transition launched in 2019.

 

AFP

US Sanctions Five North Koreans After Missile Launch

This picture taken on January 11, 2022, and released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 12, 2022, shows what North Korea says a hypersonic missile test-fire conducted by the Academy of Defence Science of the DPRK at an undisclosed location.
STR / AFP / KCNA VIA KNS

 

 

The United States imposed sanctions Wednesday on five North Koreans linked to the country’s ballistic missile program, a day after Pyongyang carried out what it said was the launch of a hypersonic missile.

The Treasury Department said the five North Koreans being sanctioned were “responsible for procuring goods for the DPRK’s (North Korea’s) weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile-related programs.”

“Today’s actions, part of the United States’ ongoing efforts to counter the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, target its continued use of overseas representatives to illegally procure goods for weapons,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement.

The latest launches “are further evidence that it continues to advance prohibited programs despite the international community’s calls for diplomacy and denuclearization,” Nelson said.

North Korean state media reported on Wednesday that the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, personally oversaw the successful test of the hypersonic missile, the second such launch by the nuclear-armed nation in less than a week.

State news agency KCNA said the most recent test demonstrated “the superior manoeuverability of the hypersonic glide vehicle.” It claimed it hit a target some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) away.

The Treasury Department said the sanctions follow the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s “six ballistic missile launches since September 2021, each of which violated multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions.”

“The United States remains committed to seeking dialogue and diplomacy with the DPRK, but will continue to address the threat posed by the DPRK’s unlawful weapons programs to the United States and the international community,” it said.

The Treasury Department said one of the North Koreans being sanctioned, Choe Myong Hyon, was based in Russia and had provided support to North Korea’s Second Academy of Natural Sciences (SANS), which is already subject to sanctions.

Also targeted were four China-based North Korean representatives of SANS-subordinate organizations, the Treasury Department said: Sim Kwang Sok, Kim Song Hun, Kang Chol Hak, and Pyon Kwang Chol.

In a related action, Treasury said the Department of State had designated another North Korean, O Yong Ho, a Russian national, Roman Anatolyevich Alar, and a Russian company, Parsek LLC, for having “materially contributed to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery by (North Korea).”

The Treasury move prohibits any dealings by US nationals with the designated individuals and foreign companies that engage with them could also be subject to sanctions.

Surgeons Successfully Implant Pig Heart In Human

Surgeons perform a transplant of a heart from a genetically modified pig to patient David Bennett, Sr., in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 7, 2022.  AFP

 

US surgeons have successfully implanted a heart from a genetically modified pig in a 57-year-old man, a medical first that could one day help solve the chronic shortage of organ donations.

The “historic” procedure took place Friday, the University of Maryland Medical School said in a statement on Monday. While the patient’s prognosis is far from certain, it represents a major milestone for animal-to-human transplantation.

The patient, David Bennett, had been deemed ineligible for human transplant — a decision that is often taken when the recipient has very poor underlying health.

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He is now recovering and being carefully monitored to determine how the new organ performs.

“It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice,” the Maryland resident said a day before the surgery.

Surgeons perform a transplant of a heart from a genetically modified pig to patient David Bennett, Sr., in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 7, 2022.  AFP

 

Bennett, who has spent the last several months bedridden on a heart-lung bypass machine, added: “I look forward to getting out of bed after I recover.”

The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for the surgery on New Year’s Eve, as a last-ditch effort for a patient who was unsuitable for a conventional transplant.

“This was a breakthrough surgery and brings us one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis,” said Bartley Griffith, who surgically transplanted the pig heart.

“We are proceeding cautiously, but we are also optimistic that this first-in-the-world surgery will provide an important new option for patients in the future.”

Muhammad Mohiuddin, who co-founded the university’s cardiac xenotransplantation program, added the surgery was the culmination of years or research, involving pig-to-baboon transplants, with survival times that exceeded nine months.

“The successful procedure provided valuable information to help the medical community improve this potentially life-saving method in future patients,” he said.

 10 unique gene edits

Bennett’s donor pig belonged to a herd that had undergone genetic editing procedures.

Three genes that would have led to the rejection of pig organs by humans were “knocked out,” as was a gene that would have led to excessive growth of pig heart tissue.

Six human genes responsible for human acceptance were inserted into the genome, for a total of 10 unique gene edits.

The editing was performed by Virginia-based biotech firm Revivicor, which also supplied the pig used in a breakthrough kidney transplant on a brain-dead patient in New York in October.

But while that surgery was purely a proof-of-concept experiment, and the kidney was connected outside the patient’s body, the new surgery is intended to save a person’s life.

The donated organ was kept in an organ-preservation machine ahead of the surgery, and the team also used an experimental new drug made by Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals along with conventional anti-rejection drugs to suppress the immune system.

About 110,000 Americans are currently waiting for an organ transplant, and more than 6,000 patients die each year before getting one, according to official figures.

To meet demand, doctors have long been interested in so-called xenotransplantation, or cross-species organ donation, with experiments tracing back to the 17th century.

Early research focused on harvesting organs from primates — for example, a baboon heart was transplanted into a newborn known as “Baby Fae” in 1984, but she survived only 20 days.

Today, pig heart valves are widely used in humans, and pigskin is grafted on human burn victims.

Pigs make the ideal donors because of their size, their rapid growth and large litters, and the fact they are already raised as a food source.

AFP

Actor And Comedian Bob Saget Dies At 65

FILES) In this file photo taken on December 8, 2021 US actor Bob Saget attends the “MacGruber” screening and premiere at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.  Michael Tran / AFP

 

Bob Saget, the US comedian who delighted millions as the star of television’s “Full House” in the 1980s and 1990s, has died, his family said Sunday. He was 65.

“We are devastated to confirm that our beloved Bob passed away today,” Saget’s family said in a statement published by People magazine.

“He was everything to us and we want you to know how much he loved his fans, performing live and bringing people from all walks of life together with laughter.”

READ ALSO: Pioneering Black Movie Star Sidney Poitier Is Dead

Saget, often heralded as “America’s dad” and one of the most ubiquitous faces on US television in the 1990s, was found dead in a Florida hotel room on Sunday, the Orange County Sheriff’s office said.

It was unclear how he died.

Detectives saw no sign of foul play or drugs when they were called to the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, where Saget had been found “unresponsive,” according to police.

He had been touring the country and had done a show in Jacksonville the night before his body was found. He tweeted after the performance that he had “loved” it, telling fans to check his website for 2022 tour dates.

Tributes poured in, including from his Full House co-stars.

Saget starred in the show as Danny Tanner, the widowed father of three girls, and his efforts to raise them — assisted by his brother-in-law Jesse and friend Joey — formed the heart of the popular sitcom.

“I am broken. I am gutted. I am in complete and utter shock. I will never ever have another friend like him. I love you so much Bobby,” tweeted actor John Stamos, who played Jesse.

Candace Cameron Bure, who played Saget’s eldest daughter on the show, tweeted: “I have no words. Bob was one of the best human beings I’ve ever known in my life. I loved him so much.”

Fellow co-stars the Olsen twins also expressed their condolences.

“We are deeply saddened that he is no longer with us but know that he will continue to be by our side to guide us as gracefully as he always has,” Mary-Kate and Ashley said in a statement carried by US media.

“Full House” ran for eight seasons, from 1987 to 1995, on ABC, which said it was “deeply saddened” by Saget’s passing.

“Whether playing a loving father on ‘Full House’ or hosting the early years of ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ with his signature wit and charm, Bob always knew how to connect with families through heart and humor,” the network said in a statement.

“Our thoughts are with his family as we mourn the passing of such an incredibly gifted comedian and talent.”

 ‘Gone too soon’

Though his television persona was “America’s dad,” his stand-up comedy was known for being far more raunchy.

Saget was also a host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos”, wildly popular in the pre-YouTube era, and had been the voice of the narrator on the CBS hit show “How I Met Your Mother.”

From 2005 to 2010 he had a recurring role on the HBO hit “Entourage,” playing a parody of himself.

Star Trek actor George Takei said Saget was “a regular presence in our living rooms, bringing to us the funniest videos and countless belly laughs.”

“Gone too soon, like so many of the brightest souls,” he wrote.

“Still in shock. I just spoke with Bob a few days ago. We stayed on the phone as usual making each other laugh,” comic Gilbert Gottfried wrote on Twitter.

Actor and director B.J. Novak tweeted: “I have always and will always love Bob Saget.”

Fellow comedians lined up to pay tribute to his kindness as well as his craft.

In a tweet, Richard Lewis remembered Saget as “not just hilarious but more importantly one of the kindest human beings I ever met in my career.”

“Bob Saget… Just the funniest and nicest…” wrote Jon Stewart.

Saget was born in Philadelphia in 1956. He had three children — twins Aubrey and Lara, and Jennifer — with his first wife, Sherri Kramer Saget.

He is survived by his children and his second wife, Kelly Rizzo.

AFP

Three White Men Sentenced To Life In Jail For Killing Black American Jogger

 In this file photo taken on May 23, 2021 a woman holds portraits of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd during an event in remembrance of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Kerem Yucel / AFP
In this file photo taken on May 23, 2021 a woman holds portraits of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd during an event in remembrance of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Kerem Yucel / AFP

 

Three white men convicted of murdering African American jogger Ahmaud Arbery after chasing him in their pickup trucks were sentenced to life in prison Friday in a case that highlighted US tensions over racial justice.

Travis McMichael, 35, and his father Gregory McMichael, 66, were sentenced to life without parole, while their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, who had a less direct role in the murder and cooperated with investigators, was given life with the possibility of parole.

The three were convicted in November of multiple counts of murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment for chasing down 25-year-old Arbery on February 23, 2020 as he ran through their Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick, in the US state of Georgia.

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Pronouncing the sentence, Georgia Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley called the murder “a tragedy on many, many levels.”

Weighing the verdict, Walmsley said he kept thinking of “the terror of the young man running through Satilla Shores.”

“He left his home apparently to go for a run and he ended up running for his life,” Walmsley said.

“He was killed because individuals here in this courtroom took the law into their own hands.”

Cellphone video

Before the sentencing, members of Arbery’s family asked the court to give the three the harshest possible penalty.

“They each have no remorse and do not deserve any leniency,” said his mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones.

“This wasn’t a case of mistaken identity…. They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community.”

“The man who killed my son has sat in this courtroom every single day next to his father. I’ll never get that chance to sit next to my son ever again, not at a dinner table, not at a holiday, and not at a wedding,” said his father Marcus Arbery.

Graphic cellphone video taken by Bryan showed the armed men following Arbery in their trucks for about five minutes, suspecting with no evidence that he might have been a burglar.

Arbery repeatedly tried to avoid them, but was blocked by the trucks and then shot and killed by Travis McMichael.

They claimed they were trying to make a “citizens’ arrest”, which was legal in Georgia at the time.

But a mostly white jury rejected that argument.

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski called their actions “vigilantism.”

“Vigilantism always goes wrong,” she said Friday.

The investigation into the original incident was stalled by local law enforcement for three months until the video was leaked, sparking national outrage.

A local prosecutor, Jackie Johnson, has been indicted for violating her oath of office and allegedly hindering the investigation into Arbery’s death.

AFP

Trump ‘Tried To Prevent Peaceful Transfer Of Power’ – Biden

This combination of file pictures created on October 22, 2020 shows US President Donald Trump (L) and former Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. JIM WATSON, Morry GASH / AFP
This combination of file pictures created on October 22, 2020, shows ex-US President Donald Trump (L) and  President Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. JIM WATSON, Morry GASH / AFP

 

US President Joe Biden accused his predecessor Donald Trump Thursday of attempting to block the democratic transfer of power on January 6, 2021, after losing the presidential election.

“For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election; he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol,” Biden said in a speech marking the first anniversary of the attack on the US Congress.

“This wasn’t a group of tourists. This was an armed insurrection,” he said.

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In a powerful speech at Congress’s Statuary Hall, one of the very spots where a pro-Trump mob ran amok a year ago, Biden took off the gloves after a year of largely ignoring Trump.

“The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election,” Biden said, alluding to Trump’s repeated false claim that the election was stolen from him through fraud — an assertion that many Republicans still embrace.

“He’s done so because he values power over principle because he sees his own interest as more important than his country’s interest,” Biden said.

Biden said the United States and much of the world is locked in a battle between democracy and autocracy.

“I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy,” Biden said at the Capitol. “I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation.”

AFP

Nowhere To Hide: Abused Afghan Women Find Shelter Dwindling

Women hold placards during a protest in Kabul on October 26, 2021, calling for the international community to speak out in support of Afghans living under Taliban rule. (Photo by James EDGAR / AFP)

 

Married off at seven to a man old enough to be her great-grandfather, Fatema endured rapes, beatings, and starvation until she could take no more and tried to kill herself.

Through tears she recalls the beatings she received — like the time, aged 10, she was flung against a wall and “my head crashed against a nail… I almost died”.

Today the 22-year-old is living in one of the few shelters for battered women still open in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s August return to power but is fearful she could lose her place at any time.

If the refuge closes, Fatema will have nowhere to go. She has lost touch with her own family, while in-laws have vowed to kill her for dishonouring their name.

Fatema’s plight is shared by millions in Afghanistan, where patriarchal tradition, poverty, and a lack of education have held back women’s rights for decades.

According to the United Nations, 87 percent of Afghan women have experienced some form of physical, sexual, or psychological violence.

Despite this, the country of 38 million had only 24 shelters dedicated to their care before the Taliban’s return — almost all financed by the international community and frowned upon by many locals.

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‘Start From Scratch’ 

Some NGOs running shelters stepped up their work long before the Taliban takeover.

The director of one organisation told AFP she began moving women away from shelters in unstable provinces in advance of the US troop withdrawal.

Some were sent back to their blood relatives in the hope they would be offered protection from vengeful in-laws. Others were sent to shelters in bigger provincial capitals.

As the Taliban onslaught continued the situation became desperate, and around 100 women were transferred to Kabul — only for the capital to fall.

“We have to start from scratch,” says the director, who asked not to be named or the organisation identified while they navigated how to operate under the new regime.

The Taliban insist their strict interpretation of the Koran provides women with rights and protection, but the reality is very different and they are slowly being squeezed out of public life.

Most secondary schools for girls are shut, women are barred from government employment apart from select specialised areas, and this week new guidelines stated they cannot undertake long journeys unless accompanied by a male relative.

There has been some glimmer of light.

Earlier this month supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada denounced forced marriage, while Suhail Shaheen — the Taliban’s would-be ambassador to the UN — told Amnesty International that women could go to court if they were victims of violence.

The regime has not made any formal pronouncement on the future of shelters, although the refuges have not escaped their notice.

Taliban fighters and officials have paid several visits to the one housing Fatema and around 20 other women, according to employees.

“They came in, looked at the rooms, checked there were no men,” said one worker.

“They said this is not a safe place for women, that their place is at home,” said another.

Still, it gave one woman hope.

“It was much better than we expected,” the first worker told AFP.

‘Accused Of Lying’ 

Even before the Taliban takeover, many women in abusive households had little recourse.

Zakia approached the Ministry of Women’s Affairs — since shut down by the Taliban — for advice on how to escape a father-in-law who had threatened to kill her.

“They didn’t even listen to me,” she said and told her that her situation was not that bad.

Mina, 17, who ran away from an abusive uncle seven years ago with her younger sister, had a similar reception.

“The ministry accused me of lying,” she told AFP.

And it is not just the women seeking shelter who are vulnerable, with Amnesty International saying shelter workers also “risk violence and death”.

Several staffers said they had been threatened over the phone by people claiming to be Taliban seeking the whereabouts of women who had fled their households.

Cases of abuse are likely to rise with the virtual collapse of the economy bringing soaring unemployment, a cash-flow crisis and mounting hunger.

“When the economic situation worsens, men are out of work, and cases of violence increase,” one shelter worker said.

“The situation has probably worsened… services have generally decreased,” said Alison Davidian, interim representative for UN Women in Afghanistan.

One of the few shelters open — albeit discretely —  is run by Mahbouba Seraj, a pioneer in the struggle for women’s rights in the country.

After being inspected by the Taliban it was “kind of left alone”, she says, but her concern is now for the women trapped in abusive households who have nowhere to go.

Zakia, at least, has shelter for now — but for how long?

“My own father said he didn’t care about me,” she says.

AFP

Trump Cancels Press Conference, Biden To Address Divided Nation

This combination of file pictures created on October 22, 2020 shows US President Donald Trump (L) and former Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. JIM WATSON, Morry GASH / AFP
This combination of file pictures created on October 22, 2020, shows ex-US President Donald Trump (L) and President Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. JIM WATSON, Morry GASH / AFP

 

Donald Trump on Tuesday abruptly gave up his plan to steal the limelight on the anniversary of the January 6th assault against Congress, leaving President Joe Biden to address a divided nation.

Trump’s decision to ditch his controversial press conference in Florida means Americans will be spared a bitter split-screen moment on Thursday.

If it had gone ahead, Biden would have marked what he calls “one of the darkest days” in US history, while Trump, just a few hours later, was due to promote his lie about being cheated out of victory in the 2020 presidential election.

No question, though, that Trump will be looming over Biden.

In a statement announcing the demise of his press conference, Trump yet again pushed his conspiracy theory that “fraud” accounted for his defeat to Biden, calling it “the Crime of the Century.”

The statement underlined how one year after a mob of Trump supporters marched on Congress to try and prevent lawmakers from certifying Biden’s victory, political wounds remain far from healed.

READ ALSO: [Trumpism Without Trump] The Republican Playbook For 2022?

‘Unprecedented’ 

On Thursday, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will speak from inside the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, the setting during the unrest of almost unbelievable scenes as Trump supporters fought past police to invade the heart of US democracy.

As a veteran politician who came out of retirement to take on what he saw as Trump’s authoritarian presidency, Biden has often warned during his first year in the White House of an “existential” threat to political freedoms that until now most Americans took for granted.

His speech is set to take that warning to a new level.

“He’ll speak to the historical significance of January 6, what it means for the country one year later,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

Congress will later hold a prayer vigil.

While Trump is retreating on the day itself, he said he would tout some “important topics” at a rally planned in Arizona on January 15th.

Those “topics” are now familiar to all Americans.

Despite losing by more than seven million votes to Biden, and despite losing multiple court challenges around the country, Trump continues to say he was the real winner in 2020.

And the accusations are only the most incendiary element of a broader attack against Biden on everything from immigration to Covid-19, all adding up to what looks very much like an as-yet undeclared bid to take back power in 2024.

It’s a campaign that Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, calls “unprecedented in US history.”

“No former president has attempted to do so much to discredit his successor and the democratic process,” Tobias said.

What Can Biden Do? 

However ludicrous the election conspiracy theory may be — one federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled Trump’s case “strained” and “speculative” — it is seen as truth by millions of Americans.

Polls consistently show that around 70 percent of Republicans think Biden was elected illegitimately.

And fighting what Trump, the master brander, popularizes as “the Steal,” has become a political ideology in its own right, with nearly all Republican lawmakers either squirming to avoid criticizing what happened on January 6 — or actively defending the attack.

Lara Brown, director of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, said the combination of political grifters looking to get into Trump’s good books and the masses of voters deluded into believing what they’re told amounts to a considerable force.

“What is so frightful about where we are right now isn’t just that these are elite attacks, but they are being fueled by a grass roots movement,” she said.

“It wasn’t just far-right win groups who had organized” on January 6, she said. “It was average, everyday Americans who had bought into this whole notion.”

It’s unclear what, if anything, Biden can do to change these dynamics.

Political scientist and Democratic pollster Rachel Bitecofer urged Biden to take on Trump more aggressively, rather than stick to pretending that the man Psaki has referred to as “the former guy” no longer matters.

Biden “is not commemorating an event that ended. He is commemorating the event that is in process and threatens to get worse,” she said.

“There’s a real hesitancy to accept how virulent the right is in coming after democracy here.”

Brown said, however, that Biden has little room for maneuver, because a direct attack on Trump risks looking like a “political witch hunt” — exactly what the former president claims in his conspiracy theories.

AFP

California Twins Born In Different Years

Greenfield twins Aylin and Alfredo Trujillo were born just 15 minutes apart. Source: Natividad Medical Centre
Greenfield twins Aylin and Alfredo Trujillo were born just 15 minutes apart. Source: Natividad Medical Centre

 

A set of twins born 15 minutes apart in California have very different birthdays — one in 2021 and the other in 2022.

Alfredo Antonio Trujillo came into the world at 11:45 pm on New Year’s Eve in the city of Salinas.

A quarter of an hour later, on New Year’s Day, his sister Aylin Yolanda Trujillo was born.

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The Natividad Medical Center, where the babies were delivered, said in a statement last week that some estimates suggest there is a one-in-two-million chance of twins being born in different years.

“It’s crazy to me that they are twins and have different birthdays,” the babies’ mother, Fatima Madrigal, was quoted as saying in the statement.

Dr. Ana Abril Arias described the births as “one of the most memorable deliveries of my career.”

“It was an absolute pleasure to help these little ones arrive here safely in 2021 and 2022.”

Big brother Alfredo tipped the scales at six pounds and one ounce (2.75 kilograms) while the baby of the family, Aylin, was a healthy five pounds and 14 ounces.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says around 120,000 twins are born every year in the United States, representing roughly three percent of births.

 

AFP

‘I Don’t Consider Him President,’ Trump Backer Says Of Biden

US President Joe Biden addresses a press conference at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on November 2, 2021. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
US President Joe Biden addresses a press conference at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on November 2, 2021. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

Jim Wood has thought a lot about it and he just does not believe that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. 

“I don’t consider him the president of the United States,” the retired US Air Force veteran told AFP at his New Hampshire home surrounded by oak and birch trees and houses displaying “TRUMP” signs.

“I don’t believe he was elected,” said the 62-year-old Wood, a Republican stalwart who joined thousands of other supporters of Donald Trump in marching on the US Capitol a year ago.

Voting machines which failed to count votes, fraudulent mail-in ballots, “phantom” voters are among what he cites as evidence the White House race was “stolen” from Trump.

“I had seen the election results and I thought things don’t seem that right,” said Wood, a grey-haired man with a piercing gaze who spent years repairing B-52 bombers as an Air Force mechanic.

Although no credible evidence of 2020 election fraud has emerged, Wood insisted it has been “suppressed by the mainstream media.”

READ ALSO: [Trumpism Without Trump] The Republican Playbook For 2022?

He said he no longer watches the news on television except for the weather “and I don’t believe that almost anymore.”

When Trump called on his supporters to rally in Washington on January 6, the day Congress was set to certify Biden’s victory, Wood heeded the call.

“It was just amazing,” he said.

 ‘Get more involved’ 

Wood said he was not among the hundreds of Trump supporters who entered the Capitol building itself and he condemned the violence that marked the day.

He said he returned from Washington with a newfound purpose.

“I came back home and I made a promise to myself I’d get more involved,” he said.

Several months later, Wood discovered a Facebook group which claims to “protect” the elections in his home state and shed light on the alleged fraud in the 2020 vote.

Using a mobile app, members of the “New Hampshire Voter Integrity Group” knock on doors of residents of the northern state bordering Canada asking about reports of electoral fraud.

“There’s about 5,200 of us now,” Wood said. “I’m just another small cog in the wheel.”

Allegations of 2020 election fraud have been dismissed by the courts and state authorities but polls have found that as many as two-thirds of Republicans believe the election was “stolen” from Trump.

Marylyn Todd, an accountant who heads the New Hampshire Voter Integrity Group and described herself as an “independent,” said the organization was dedicated to finding the “truth.”

Similar initiatives are underway in other states — Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Utah — and have received backing from Trump.

‘Do what I need to do’

Wood also has an eye on the 2022 midterm elections and is dedicating his time to replacing candidates who he says are “not following the Constitution.”

“We have a bunch of people running for everything now between school boards and stuff like that,” he said. “It’s actually taking hold at the lower levels and working our way up from there.”

“We’re actually going out supporting candidates now to replace the people that are in office,” he said. “We’re going to support them both financially and practically by getting out on the streets and actively campaigning for them.”

Wood said he was proud of his fellow citizens who responded to the “wake-up call” of January 6.

He said he was prepared that day in Washington to “ultimately sacrifice myself to save my rights.”

And he remains so a year later.

“I’ll do what I need to do,” he said.

AFP

A Year After Capitol Riot, Americans Fear For Their Democracy – Polls

In this file photo taken on January 6, 2021 riot police push back a crowd of supporters of ex-US President Donald Trump after they stormed the Capitol building in Washington, DC. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)

 

One year after the violent assault on the US Capitol, Americans remain deeply concerned about the health of their democracy, and about a third say violence against the government can sometimes be justified, according to two polls published Sunday. 

The January 6 attack on the seat of Congress, led by supporters of Donald Trump, was “a harbinger of increasing political violence,” and American democracy “is threatened,” according to two-thirds of those surveyed for a CBS News poll.

Meantime, Americans’ “pride” in their democracy has dropped sharply, from 90 percent in 2002 to 54 percent now, a Washington Post/University of Maryland survey found.

With the January 6 anniversary nearing, the polls offer specific causes for concern: CBS found that 28 percent of respondents believe force can be used to defend the result of an election, while 34 percent told The Washington Post that a violent action against the government can sometimes be justified — the largest percentage in decades.

READ ALSO: [Trumpism Without Trump] The Republican Playbook For 2022?

The results underscore the seemingly almost irreconcilable views dividing American society, which President Joe Biden — who took office 14 days after the Capitol rioting — has promised to overcome.

Two-thirds of Trump supporters continue to believe his baseless charge that Biden is not the legitimately elected president.

Trump had addressed thousands of supporters shortly before the Capitol assault, telling them the election had been “rigged” and that they should “fight like hell.”

Some 60 percent of those polled say Trump bears heavy responsibility for the invasion of the Capitol just as lawmakers were set to certify Biden’s victory.

‘Coordinated Effort’

There again, opinion follows partisan lines: 83 percent of Trump voters placed his level of responsibility at only “some” or “none,” the Post survey found.

And 26 percent of Americans want him to run again in 2024, according to CBS.

A select committee of the House of Representatives has spent months working to establish the roles and responsibilities of those who incited or may have organized the protest.

Despite limited cooperation from Trump’s inner circle, the panel has conducted more than 300 interviews and collected thousands of documents.

“We have uncovered some things that cause us real concern, things like people trying to … undermine the integrity of our democracy,” the panel’s chairman, Representative Bennie Thompson, said Sunday on ABC.

“It appeared to be a coordinated effort on the part of a number of people to undermine the election,” he said.

“It could be people in the executive branch. It could be people in the Department of Defense… and some very wealthy individuals.”

He said he would not hesitate to refer any evidence of illegality to the Justice Department.

Liz Cheney, one of only two Republicans on the panel, on Sunday strongly condemned Trump for waiting hours before urging the Capitol rioters to stand down.

He could easily have issued such a call, she told ABC.

“He failed to do so. It’s hard to imagine a more significant and more serious dereliction of duty.”

AFP