AP PHOTO/MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ
Biden unveils $1.9T plan to stem pandemic and steady economy; World nears 2M dead; Amazon city in Brazil scrambles to provide oxygen to COVID-19 patients
President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan to end “a crisis of deep human suffering” by speeding up vaccines and pumping out financial help to Americans struggling with the pandemic’s prolonged and devastating economic fallout.
Biden said he hopes his multipronged strategy will put the country on the path to recovery by the end of his administration’s first 100 days, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Bill Barrow report.
The plan includes $1,400 checks for individuals, on top of $600 provided in the last COVID-19 bill. There’s also money for a mass vaccination campaign and a major expansion of local public health efforts.
The rapid expansion of vaccinations to senior citizens across the U.S. has led to bottlenecks, system crashes and hard feelings in many states because of overwhelming demand for the shots.
The vaccines have been rolled out unevenly across the U.S., but some states in the Deep South have had particularly dismal inoculation rates.
Global Deaths: The world is approaching the unfathomable and bleak milestone of 2 million dead from the coronavirus. Follow all that coverage here in the coming hours.
Brazil Oxygen: Hospital staffers and relatives of COVID-19 patients are rushing to provide facilities with oxygen cylinders just flown into the Amazon rainforest’s biggest city as doctors choose which patients will get to breathe amid dwindling stocks and an effort to airlift some of them out. The shortage of oxygen in Manaus is such that the local government’s provider is considering diversion some of the supply from neighboring Venezuela. Brazil’s government says a second plane with medical supplies including oxygen will arrive today, and more later, Mauricio Savarese and David Biller report.
Europe Lockdowns: Most of Europe kicked off 2021 with earlier curfews or stay-at-home orders amid sharp spikes in infections increasingly blamed on the more contagious variant first detected in the U.K. But authorities in Spain say the variant causing havoc elsewhere is not to blame for its sharp resurgence of cases and that the country can avoid a full lockdown even as its hospitals fill up. The government has been tirelessly fending off drastic home confinement like the one that paralyzed the economy for nearly three months in the spring of 2020, Aritz Parra reports from Madrid.
China Outbreak: A city in northern China is building a 3,000-unit quarantine facility to deal with an anticipated overflow of patients as COVID-19 cases rise ahead of the Lunar New Year travel rush. State media showed crews leveling earth, pouring concrete and assembling pre-fabricated rooms in farmland outside Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital of Hebei province that has seen the bulk of new cases. It evoked scenes from last year, when China rapidly built field hospitals and turned gymnasiums into isolation centers to cope with the initial outbreak in Wuhan.
AP PHOTO/JOHN MINCHILLO
Years of white supremacy threats culminated in Capitol riots; Insurrectionists included highly trained ex-military and cops
Both inside and outside the walls of the U.S. Capitol, along with the American flags and Trump 2020 posters, banners and symbols of white supremacy and anti-government extremism were on display as an insurrectionist mob swarmed Congress last week.
But the hate-filled symbolism was not new: It was the culmination of a series of earlier displays of white supremacy during the Trump administration, Christine Fernando and Noreen Nasir report.
As the riots gathered a number of extremist factions under one banner, observers say it echoed the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville, Virginia, which brought neo-Nazi, white supremacist and other extremist groups together.
Extremist groups, including the pro-Trump, far-right, anti-government Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, a loose anti-government network that’s part of the militia movement, were among those descending on the halls of power on Jan. 6.
The hateful imagery included an anti-Semitic “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt created years ago by white supremacists, who sold them on the now-defunct website Aryanwear.
There are fears it could happen again in the days before Joe Biden’s inauguration.
The FBI is tracking an “extensive amount of concerning online chatter,” including calls for armed protests leading up to next week’s presidential inauguration. That’s according to FBI Director Chris Wray, who participated in a law enforcement and military briefing for Vice President Mike Pence, reports Eric Tucker.
Military & Police Involvement: At least 21 current or former members of the U.S. military or law enforcement have been identified as being at or near last week’s Capitol riot, with more than a dozen others under investigation. That’s what an AP review of public records and social media found. In many cases, those who stormed the Capitol appeared to employ tactics, body armor and radio headsets that were similar to those of the police they were confronting. Experts have long warned about extremists recruiting people with military and law enforcement training, and they say the Jan. 6 insurrection saw some of their worst fears realized, Michael Biesecker, Jake Bleiberg and James Laporta report.
Social Media Extremism: Online supporters of Trump are scattering to smaller and more secretive social media platforms. They’re fleeing what they say is unfair treatment by Facebook, Twitter and other big tech firms who have tried to squelch violent threats and misinformation after the deadly siege. Experts say those efforts could send some of Trump’s fiercest supporters to the internet’s dark spaces where conspiracy theories and violent rhetoric run rampant, David Klepper and Amanda Seitz report.
Lone Officer: Amid all the noise since a mob laid siege, an officer hailed as a hero for confronting the insurrectionists and leading them away from Senate chambers has remained silent. But the video speaks volumes. Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, a Black man facing an overwhelmingly white mob, is the only officer seen for a full minute of the footage. He retreated upstairs and led them away from Senate chambers where senators were still meeting at the time.
Some believe he saved their lives. Goodman hasn’t publicly discussed his actions and he’s asked those who know him to help him maintain privacy. A House bill introduced would give him the Congressional Gold Medal, Jeffrey Collins reports.
Racism Protests: Black activists have denounced a growing narrative among conservatives that equates the deadly siege with last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. Republican lawmakers defending Donald Trump made the comparison again while building their case against impeachment. The two events were fundamentally different. One was an intentional, direct attack on a democratic institution, with the goal of overturning a fair and free election. The other was a nationwide protest movement focused on racial injustice that occasionally, but not frequently, turned violent, Julie Watson reports.
Sedition: A little-used Civil War-era statute that outlaws waging war against the United States is getting a fresh look after the attacks on the Capitol. The last successful prosecution for seditious conspiracy in the U.S. was in 1995 in a case involving Islamic militants who plotted to bomb New York City landmarks. An Egyptian sheikh who died in prison in 2017 and nine of his followers were convicted, Larry Neumeister reports.
AP PHOTO/SUSAN WALSH
Impeachment complicates the early days of Biden’s presidency; Lingering questions about how Trump will finish out his term
President-elect Joe Biden already faces the daunting task of steering a massive coronavirus relief bill through a closely divided Congress as the pandemic and its economic fallout grow.
And now he’ll also have to do it with Donald Trump’s impeachment trial looming. While the timing for the trial depends on when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sends the article of impeachment to the Senate, it could happen as soon as Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.
But even with a delay, the impeachment will create fresh complications for the president-elect, Alexandra Jaffe reports.
Democrats on Capitol Hill say they largely want to see Biden continue his even-keeled approach and focus on his agenda, rather than on impeachment, once he enters office.
But once the proceedings start, it’s certain to be tougher for Biden to completely avoid them, with the trial dominating the news cycle and forcing his former opponent back into the spotlight, even as Biden tries to stay focused on the pandemic.
Trump faces a single charge of “incitement of insurrection.” In pursuing conviction, House impeachment managers will be making the case that Trump’s incendiary rhetoric before last week’s mob attack was not isolated. Rather, they will say, it was part of an escalating campaign to question the integrity of the U.S. election and overturn the results, Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick report.
Who Presides? The Constitution says the chief justice is to preside at the impeachment trial of a president. But what about an ex-president? Like so much else about the Constitution, the answer is subject to interpretation. If Trump’s trial begins after Jan. 20, it’s not clear whether Chief Justice John Roberts would make his way to the Senate chamber as he did last year for Trump’s first trial. Impeachment scholars, law professors and political scientists offer differing views, Mark Sherman reports.
Lingering Questions: As President Trump’s turbulent term draws to a close, his highly unconventional approach to the office and its protocols linger over the usually carefully choreographed transfer of power. There are plenty of unanswered questions about how he will spend his last days in office. More pardons may be afoot. There’s also uncertainty about when he will leave town and whether he will reach out to Biden. Last week the White House invited Biden to spend the night of Jan. 19 at Blair House. Officials do not expect Trump to invite Biden to the White House for the traditional pre-inauguration tea, but they said it is still a remote possibility, Zeke Miller reports.
“It’s like the film ‘Groundhog Day.’ Another year, same story — record global warmth, ” one climate scientist says. “As we continue to generate carbon pollution, we expect the planet to warm up. And that’s precisely what we’re seeing.”
Scientists say 2020 was either the hottest year on record or a close second or third, Seth Borenstein reports.
Several weather groups calculated that 2020 globally was extremely hot, but just how hot depended on who was measuring and how they were doing it. Some groups, including NASA, said it was the hottest year, while others including the U.S. and British weather agencies, said it was a close No. 2.
Either way, they said the hottest six years on record have been the past six, and that Earth is clearly warming because of the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.