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Sen. Joe Manchin says he’d ‘absolutely’ oppose Biden’s stimulus checks, then swiftly walks it back after stocks tank

President-elect Joe Biden announced some economic priorities on Friday, but Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) promptly poked some holes in his plans.Biden began laying out his framework for the next round of COVID-19 relief, reports The Washington Post, and said his plans include a multi-trillion-dollar package that would provide “more direct relief flowing to families, small businesses,” in part via $2,000 stimulus checks.But Manchin, who Axios notes will become an increasingly important player as a moderate in the Democrats’ razor-thin Senate majority, seemed taken aback by Biden’s promise. “I don’t know where in the hell $2,000 came from. I swear to God I don’t,” he said. “That’s another $400 billion dollars.” Since Republicans are united in opposing larger checks, resistance from a single Democrat could throw a wrench in Biden’s plans.He told the Post he would “absolutely not” support larger stimulus checks for Americans, but a spokesperson later seemed to walk back his resistance, insisting Manchin “isn’t drawing a red line against” $2,000 checks, but simply “believes vaccine distribution should be a higher priority,” as NBC News’ Sahil Kapur put it. Perhaps realizing how consequential his hardline opposition to the plan may be, Manchin later tweeted to note he was open to discussion. “If the next round of stimulus checks goes out they should be targeted to those who need it,” he wrote. Conspicuously, between Manchin’s initial comments and his clarification, markets seemed to notice the potential roadblock.> Stocks dropped from all-time highs after a report that West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin will oppose further direct aid payments, denting hopes for another sweeping spending bill> > — Bloomberg (@business) January 8, 2021Aside from Manchin’s role in the announcement, Biden’s remarks on his economic plans were noteworthy in that he prioritized extending unemployment insurance, as well as sending billions of dollars in aid to state and local governments, which could help speed up COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Read more at The Washington Post.More stories from Experts express concern about Biden’s plan to release nearly all available vaccine doses 7 scathing cartoons about Trump’s Capitol riot There will be no Trump heir


FAA chief vows tough line after some Trump supporters disrupt flights

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Saturday vowed to take “strong enforcement action” against unruly passengers following reports of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump disrupting flights returning from Washington. The FAA said it shared the concerns raised by airlines and Association of Flight Attendants. “I expect all passengers to follow crew member instructions, which are in place for their safety and the safety of flight,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement.

Associated Press

Australia, US, UK, Canada criticize Hong Kong mass arrests

The foreign ministers of Australia, the United States, Great Britain and Canada issued a joint statement Sunday expressing “serious concern” about the arrest of 55 democracy activists and supporters in Hong Kong last week. The arrests were by far the largest such action taken under a national security law that China imposed on the semi-autonomous territory a little more than six months ago. “It is clear that the National Security Law is being used to eliminate dissent and opposing political views,” the four foreign ministers said.

The Week

Experts express concern about Biden’s plan to release nearly all available vaccine doses

President-elect Joe Biden plans to release nearly every available dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines when he takes office later this month rather than holding back millions of second doses, his transition team said Friday. The decision is meant to “ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible.”The Trump administration has insisted it’s necessary to retain second doses, with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Friday expressing concern that Biden’s plan could backfire if there are any manufacturing mishaps.Outside of the White House, Dr. Leana Wen of George Washington University, was also apprehensive, noting that there is “an ethical consideration” since those who volunteered for the initial dose were reasonably expecting to receive the second in the proper amount of time. Biden does not intend to delay the second shot for those patients, and is instead counting on an increased production to keep pace. But, Wen says, not only is there no guarantee of a smooth manufacturing process, much of the slowdown has occurred between distribution and injection, so until that stage improves the risk of delay remains.> First, the bottleneck now is not supply, but the “last mile” between getting the vaccine to distribution sites & injecting it into people’s arms. Speeding up this process should be the focus, or else vaccines will just sit in different freezers. > > (2/6)> > — Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) January 9, 2021Harvard University’s Juliette Kayyem, however, is more on board with the plan. She believes it’s unlikely there will be a supply problem and is encouraged by recent upticks in actual vaccinations. > Quick thoughts: we are unlikely to have a supply problem by Feb with Biden announcement (he is not changing FDA standards, only distribution timing of first vaccine because of reliance on supply chain per @ScottGottliebMD good idea) and other vaccines (johnson and johnson). 2/> > — Juliette Kayyem (@juliettekayyem) January 9, 2021More stories from 7 scathing cartoons about Trump’s Capitol riot There will be no Trump heir Sympathy for Ashli Babbitt


California Congresswoman Who Once Questioned Mask-Wearing Catches COVID-19

Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA), who once expressed skepticism about the mask mandate in Orange County last spring, has tested positive for COVID-19. Although she does not show any symptoms, the 65-year-old Korean American politician learned she had been in contact with someone positive with the virus, Steel’s statement said via Associated Press. “At the advice of the Attending Physician, and to protect the health of my colleagues, I will be quarantining,” Steel said via Los Angeles Times.


Scarce doses and empty vaccination centres: Germany’s vaccine rollout headache

Proud of their national reputation for efficiency, Germans are growing increasingly frustrated by the slow rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine its scientists helped develop. Scarce vaccine supply, cumbersome paperwork, a lack of healthcare staff and an aged and immobile population are hampering efforts to get early doses of a vaccine made by U.S.-based Pfizer and German partner BioNTech into the arms of the people. Germany has set up hundreds of vaccination centres in sports halls and concert arenas and has the infrastructure to administer up to 300,000 shots a day, Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

Associated Press

India apprehends Chinese soldier for transgressing border

The Indian army said Saturday that it had apprehended a Chinese soldier in the remote Ladakh region, where the two countries are locked in a monthslong military standoff along their disputed mountain border. An army statement said the Chinese soldier was taken into custody on Friday for transgressing into the Indian side in area South of Pangong Tso lake. China said it informed the Indian side as soon as one of its soldiers went missing “due to darkness and complicated terrain.”


Capitol protests organized by Alabama AG’s nonprofit group

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall plays a key role in the group that helped organize the protest rally that took place in D.C. prior to the deadly revolt at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Marshall is at the helm of the Republican Attorneys General Association’s dark-money nonprofit, Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF), which is listed as a participating organization for the March to Save America on the march’s website. Although the website has been taken down, archived versions confirm RLDF as a participating group, according to Alabama Political Reporter.


First Qatari vehicles cross border into Saudi after Gulf detente

Qatari vehicles crossed into Saudi Arabia through a land border on Saturday for the first time since Arab states severed diplomatic and transport ties with Doha in mid-2017, Saudi state TV said, following a deal this week to restore relations. Saudi Arabia on Tuesday announced a U.S.-backed deal to end a bitter dispute with Qatar that saw Riyadh, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed an embargo on Doha over allegations that it supports terrorism and is cosying up to foe Iran. Qatar denies the charges and says the boycott aimed at curtailing its sovereignty.

The Week

Fox & Friends’ Ainsley Earhardt says Trump supporters stormed Capitol because ‘they don’t want to be forgotten’

Fox & Friends’ Ainsley Earhardt says fear was at the root of Trump supporters’ Wednesday attack on the Capitol and refusal to accept the election results.Since Election Day, President Trump and his allies have insisted something must have gone wrong to cost Trump re-election. They’ve spread false claims of fraud and insisted the 74 million people who voted for Trump had to be listened to, despite the fact that President-elect Joe Biden got 7 million more votes and elections are usually decided by who gets the most votes. So on Wednesday, several thousand of those supporters took their anger out on the U.S. Capitol and the people tasked with protecting it.But as Earhardt put it on Friday’s episode of Fox News’ morning show, those Trump voters are just “scared” and “worried” about the future of the country. “They are confused and heartbroken that their candidate didn’t win and they don’t want to be forgotten,” Earhardt said, with co-host Steve Doocy agreeing with her “confused” assessment.> Ainsley Earhardt: “There are 75 million people that voted for President Trump. And they are scared. They are worried about what the future of this country looks like. They are confused and heartbroken that their candidate didn’t win and they don’t want to be forgotten.”> > — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 8, 2021Fear of “being forgotten” — or rather, of being “replaced” — has been a common theme among white supremacists, who have held high-profile, sometimes deadly demonstrations over the past few years.More stories from Experts express concern about Biden’s plan to release nearly all available vaccine doses 7 scathing cartoons about Trump’s Capitol riot There will be no Trump heir

Associated Press

Pakistani Shiites end protests, hold funeral for 11 miners

Hundreds of Pakistani Shiites gathered Saturday to bury 11 coal miners from the minority Hazara community who were killed by the Islamic State group, ending a week of protests that sought to highlight the community’s plight. Protesters staged a sit-in after the militant group captured and shot the miners last Sunday in Machh, an area some 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s troubled Baluchistan province. Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived Saturday afternoon in Quetta and was expected to meet with a delegation of mourners and Shiite leaders, according to his office.


Scottish nationalists demand billions in ‘Brexit compensation’ for Scotland

Brexit has strained the bonds that tie together the United Kingdom: England and Wales voted to leave but London, Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to stay. The SNP, which wants independence for Scotland and is pushing for a second referendum, said Scottish fishermen faced grave disruption due to Brexit.

The Week

Pence unlikely to invoke 25th Amendment, but option reportedly remains on the table

Things have reportedly not been going well between President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence since Wednesday’s deadly Capitol riot.As of Saturday night, the two men, who have for more than four years enjoyed a publicly harmonious relationship, had not spoken since the incident — Trump is reportedly angry at Pence for blocking the Electoral College certification (a power which he does not have), while Pence has finally “gotten a glimpse” of the president’s “vindictiveness,” a source told CNN.Still, Pence doesn’t seem inclined to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump, an unprecedented act that would require support from the majority of the Cabinet. Pence instead prefers, per CNN, to focus on providing a helpful “bridge” to President-elect Joe Biden, whose inauguration he plans to attend, unlike Trump.But while his preference may be to run out the clock until Jan. 20, a source close to Pence told CNN the vice president has not taken the 25th Amendment route off the table and is keeping an eye on whether Trump becomes more unstable. The decision, the source reportedly said, will ultimately depend on Trump’s actions over the next few days. Read more at CNN.More stories from Experts express concern about Biden’s plan to release nearly all available vaccine doses 7 scathing cartoons about Trump’s Capitol riot There will be no Trump heir

Associated Press

Lawyers: Woman on US death row not competent for execution

Lawyers for the only woman on federal death row are asking a judge to halt her execution and arguing she isn’t competent and can’t be put to death. Lisa Montgomery’s lawyers filed a petition Friday in federal court in Indiana seeking to halt the execution, which is scheduled for Tuesday at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. Biden opposes the death penalty, and his spokesman has said he’ll work to end its use.

The Telegraph

Switzerland’s decision to close schools was one of most effective measures of reducing Covid spread, study says

Switzerland’s decision in the spring to shutter schools was one of measures that was most effective in reducing mobility and thus also transmission of Covid-19, a study showed Sunday. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, ETH, determined that the closure of Swiss schools last March was responsible for cutting mobility by more than a fifth. “School closures reduced mobility by 21.6 percent,” Stefan Feuerriegel, an ETH professor of management information systems who headed the study.” “School closures reduce mobility, (which) then reduces new cases” of Covid-19, he said. His team analysed some 1.5 billion movements in Swiss telecommunication data between February 10 and April 26 last year to evaluate the impact on mobility as various anti-Covid measures were introduced. In decentralised Switzerland, its 26 cantons introduced measures at different paces before a country-wide partial lockdown, including school closures, was ordered on March 16. Schools across the country remained closed for about two months before gradually opening up again. The study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, found school closures ranked third in terms of reducing mobility. At the top of the list was a ban on gatherings of more than five people, which was seen slashing mobility by 24.9 percent, and the closure of restaurants, bars and non-essential shops, which caused people to move about 22.3 percent less, the study shows. Feuerriegel said it was not surprising that school closures had such a big impact on people’s movements. “If schools are closed, we can expect a large change in behaviour,” he said, pointing out that “not only will kids stay home, but sometimes it also requires their parents to change their mobility as well.” School closures have been among the most controversial measures introduced around the world to help rein in the pandemic. Children are far less likely to develop severe illness from Covid-19 than older people, but it remains unclear how much they transmit the virus. The ETH study does not address that, but indicates that school closures can significantly reduce transmission by prompting people to move about and mingle less. “Our analysis confirms school closure as a measure to slow the spread, through reduced mobility,” Feuerriegel said.


Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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