Joe Biden gave his most forceful endorsement of changing the Senate filibuster rule in order to pass sweeping voting rights legislation, saying he was “tired of being quiet” in a high-profile speech in Georgia on Tuesday.
In one of the most significant speeches of his presidency, Biden drew a connection in history between the civil rights movement, the 6 January attack on the US Capitol by extremist supporters of Donald Trump, and the unprecedented efforts in many states to restrict the vote over the last year.
He said America was at a moment to choose “democracy over autocracy”.
But despite the passion, some prominent Georgia civil rights activists, proclaiming themselves more interested in action than speeches, declined to attend the event in Atlanta, where Biden and the vice-president, Kamala Harris, urged progress in Congress to pass key legislation currently stalled there.
What did Kamala Harris say? Speaking before Biden, she said: “Do not succumb to those who would dismiss this assault on voting rights as an unfounded threat. The Senate must act.”
Capitol attack panel closes in on Trump inner circle with three new subpoenas
The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack closed in on Donald Trump’s inner circle on Tuesday, issuing new subpoenas to three White House officials involved in planning the former president’s appearance at the rally that preceded the 6 January insurrection.
The subpoenas show the select committee is moving ever nearer to Trump in its investigation and suggests the panel is examining whether the former president’s speech suggested that the White House had advance knowledge of plans to attack the Capitol.
Congressman Bennie Thompson, the chair of the select committee, issued subpoenas to the former White House strategists Andy Surabian and Arthur Schwartz, suggesting they helped coordinate Trump’s appearance by communicating with the organizers and speakers at the rally.
Thompson also authorized a subpoena for Ross Worthington, the former White House official who drafted the speech Trump delivered at the rally.
What did Thompson say? “The select committee is seeking information from individuals who were involved with the rally. Protests that day escalated into an attack on our democracy.”
Fauci clashes with Rand Paul at Senate hearing as daily Covid cases soar
The US recorded a record number of hospital admissions due to Covid-19, the Biden administration said, as daily infections soared to more than 1.35 million. Nonetheless, politics dominated a Senate hearing on the pandemic on Tuesday, as Republicans attempted to use the disease for political gain.
Rand Paul of Kentucky clashed once again with Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser.
“In usual fashion, Senator, you are distorting everything about me,” Fauci said. “You keep coming back to personal attacks on me that have absolutely no relevance.”
Paul, who has repeatedly used public health hearings for political grandstanding and launching personal attacks on Fauci, variously accused the immunologist of working to smear scientists and being responsible for school closures, while reiterating rightwing theories about the origin of Covid-19.
Fauci has been subjected to death threats and said his family had been harassed “because people are lying about me”.
How many cases of Covid are there in the US? According to Reuters there were 1.35 million new Covid infections on Monday, which is a record high.
How many people with Covid are in hospital? There were 145,982 people hospitalised with coronavirus in the US on Monday, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. Reuters reported that the previous high was 132,051, set in January 2021.
In other news …
British prime minister Boris Johnson faces a make-or-break session of prime minister’s questions today, with furious Conservative MPs awaiting his explanation of the “bring your own booze” garden party in May 2020 when the UK was still in lockdown.
A mass of Arctic air swept into the US north-east on Tuesday, bringing bone-chilling sub-zero temperatures and closing schools for the second time in less than a week. Schools in Massachusetts’ three largest cities, Boston, Worcester and Springfield, canceled classes.
Protesters gathered in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for a second night in a row on Monday after a man was killed by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy. The man killed on Saturday was Jason Walker, a 37-year-old Black man who the deputy told authorities ran into traffic and jumped on to his vehicle.
The landmark trial of a Greek sailing coach accused of raping a child has opened in Athens, a year after an Olympic champion effectively launched the #MeToo movement in the country by speaking out about her experiences.
Stat of the day: Covid loses 90% of ability to infect within 20 minutes in air
Coronavirus loses 90% of its ability to infect us within 20 minutes of becoming airborne – with most of the loss occurring within the first five minutes, the world’s first simulations of how the virus survives in exhaled air suggest. The findings re-emphasise the importance of short-range Covid transmission, with physical distancing and mask-wearing likely to be the most effective means of preventing infection. Ventilation, though still worthwhile, is likely to have a lesser impact.
Don’t miss this: the men getting vasectomies to save the world
A study in 2017 said the single most effective action an individual could take in terms of helping the planet was having one fewer child; this would save more than 25 times the emissions of the next biggest undertakings (living without a car and avoiding long-haul flights). With the climate crisis becoming ever more urgent, a growing number of young, childless men are taking the drastic decision of being sterilised for environmental reasons.
… Or this: Trump’s new bar serves rip-off drinks and a side of narcissism
The bar, named 45 Wine and Whiskey, in a nod to Trump having served as the 45th president, promises handcrafted cocktails in “the most exclusive setting”. It serves a range of president-themed drinks and is, according to the marketing material, a place to “relax and unwind”. That may have been the intention, but a recent visit by the Guardian revealed it mainly serves as an ode to narcissism, or as a world record attempt to cram the most black-and-white photos of one man into quite a small space.
Climate check: Winter is fastest-heating season in most of US
American winters are rapidly warming and December 2021 was no exception. In New York, last month’s average temperature was 43.8F (6.5C) – 4.7F above the 1991-to-2020 average, according to analysis by Climate Central. The American south had an especially warm December, with Shreveport, Louisiana (+13.4F), Dallas, Texas (+13.2F), and Memphis, Tennessee (+12.4F). “Winter is the season when we don’t think about heat the way we do in July or August – this is a sign that we live on a planet that’s changing,” a scientist said.
Last Thing: Landmine-hunting hero rat dies in Cambodia after stellar career
A landmine-hunting rat that was awarded a gold medal for heroism for clearing ordnance from the Cambodian countryside has died. Magawa, a giant African pouched rat originally from Tanzania, helped clear mines from about 225,000 sq m of land – the equivalent of 42 football pitches – over the course of his career. After detecting more than 100 landmines and other explosives, Magawa retired in June last year and died “peacefully” this weekend.
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( Information from theguardian.com was used in this report. To Read More, click here )