Headlines: January 15, 2021
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President elect Joe Biden on Thursday gave a major speech outlining an ambitious economic stimulus package he calls the “American Rescue Plan.” The proposal includes a substantial amount to tackling the pandemic and also providing direct aid to Americans and to state and local governments. Here is Mr. Biden listing the highlights of a massive economic package totaling nearly $2 trillion. Progressive Democratic Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush called out the fact that the plan included $1,400 stimulus checks to Americans even though Biden had promised $2,000 checks. However the Biden team has countered that the $1,400 would be in addition to the $600 checks that Trump signed into law in December. As Trump leaves office more signs emerge of a serious economic downturn with retail sales dropping for the third month in a row as per newly released Commerce Department data. But billionaires are thriving having sucked up a trillion dollars from the economy into their coffers over the past year alone.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during her weekly news conference on Friday named Lt. General Russel Honore to head a probe of the security failures in the January 6th Capitol attack. She said, “There is strong interest in the Congress in a 9/11 type commission” to examine the violent white supremacist riot. Pelosi even hinted that some lawmakers themselves may be under scrutiny. The Speaker did not reveal when she would send to the U.S. Senate the Article of Impeachment that a majority of House Representatives voted on against President Donald Trump. According to a New York Times report, “Some Democrats said she might wait until Monday, Jan. 25, or longer to allow more time for the Senate to put in place Mr. Biden’s national security team to respond to continued threats of violence from pro-Trump extremists.” A new poll by the Washington Post and ABC News has found that a majority of Americans—56%–think Trump should be removed from office and disqualified from running again. A small majority of 52% blame Republicans for backing Trump in his untrue claims about election theft.
There continue to be repercussions from the January 6th Capitol attack. Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a member of the House Financial Services Committee has called for companies to stop processing financial transactions for those known to have participated in the riot. A retired Air Force officer was among those that have been arrested most recently for their role in the attack. The man, retired Lt. Col. Larry Rendall Brock Jr. had been documented carrying masses of plastic handcuffs in the Capitol and a federal prosecutor in Texas said, “He means to take hostages. He means to kidnap, restrain, perhaps try, perhaps execute members of the U.S. government.” The QAnon leader who goes by the name Jake Angeli and went viral for his fur and horns assemblage is facing similar charges. The man’s real name is Jacob Anthony Chansley, and according to a federal prosecutor in Arizona, there is “strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government.” Chansley, who is apparently being fed organic food in jail, left a note at Vice President Mike Pence’s desk reading, “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.” He is now reportedly asking Trump for a pardon. Retired fire fighter Robert Sanford of Pennsylvania has been charged with assault for throwing a fire extinguisher at a Capitol Police officers. Sanford is not linked to the death of officer Brian Sicknick who later died after being hit by a fire extinguisher. The FBI has also arrested a former school counselor named Christine Priola who was photographed in the Senate chamber. In a separate incident, a member of the pro-Trump Proud Boys hate group has been arrested after making threats against newly elected Senator Raphael Warnock online. He was found with a massive cache of weapons.
In fact, Mr. Pence we now know, came dangerously close to the armed rioters on January 6th, some of whom had been chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” Looking ahead to the Biden inauguration, federal authorities are reportedly concerned about the disturbing number of former military and law enforcement officers involved in the Capitol riot, as they make their security preparations. The FBI is monitoring tremendous activity online ahead of the planned armed protests by pro-Trump hate groups.
In news from the pandemic, just days after Health Secretary Alex Azar announced a new policy to release all vaccines instead of holding back half for second doses, it has now been revealed that there were no second doses. In a stunning development, the federal government’s vaccine stockpile has been found to not exist, dashing the hopes of state and local authorities that had begun taking appointments for people over the age of 65 as per the CDC’s new recommendations. Even incoming President Biden’s ambitious vaccination plan faces uncertainty as direct result of the Trump administration’s refusal to coordinate a proper transition. Still, Dr. Anthony Fauci is hopeful that the Biden team’s goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in the first 100 days of the new Presidential term is a doable one. So far only about 10 million people have received vaccines. Biden has picked former FDA chief Dr. David Kessler to lead the nation’s vaccination program. A newly published study has found that the pandemic will shave off a year from the average American life expectancy. Life expectancy for Black and brown Americans will be reduced by about 3-4 times compared to whites.
A new survey has found that a majority of Americans now support ambitious efforts to fight climate change. Two thirds of respondents in the survey by Yale University and others, support the development of clean energy sources.
The Trump administration has executed its 12th federal death row inmate on Thursday. Corey Johnson had been convicted of numerous murders and leading a drug trafficking ring. But his lawyers say he had a serious intellectual disability and could not have been the drug “kingpin” that prosecutors had labeled him. Trump has killed more death row inmates than any other president in more than half a century.
In international news, Russia has announced it plans to withdraw from the Open Skies treaty after the U.S. pulled out under Trump. The treaty had allowed surveillance flights over military installations. The pullout won’t happen for 6 months which means the incoming Biden-Harris administration may have a chance to salvage it.
Finally, the Pentagon on Friday announced that it had reduced U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan down to 2,500. According to AP, the drawdown, “may have violated a last-minute congressional prohibition.” Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said the move brings the U.S. “closer than ever to ending nearly two decades of war.”