Biden Demands Russia and Myanmar Reverse Course


And State Department officials acknowledged on Tuesday that four of the top generals who organized the coup were already under sanction. Needless to say, those sanctions did not deter them from overturning a decade-long, inching move toward democracy. (It also does not help that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the deposed civilian leader, has had her Nobel Peace Prize-winning reputation irreparably tainted by her defense of a military that has committed atrocities against Rohingya Muslims.)

Threatening President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia will be even harder.

Mr. Biden was part of the Obama administration debate in 2014 about whether the United States should impose its harshest sanctions yet on Russia for its invasion of eastern Ukraine, and whether it should sponsor a combination of a physical and virtual war there. More than six years later, that sanctions regimen has failed in its one goal: to force Mr. Putin to reverse course, remove his forces and cease harassing a sovereign former Soviet state.

So when the United States condemned the sentencing of Mr. Navalny, the activist whose poisoning and arrest led to people across Russia to protest — more than 10,000 of whom the authorities rounded up — there was recognition among Mr. Biden’s top aides that, in the words of one of them, that when it comes to the Kremlin, “We’re pretty sanctioned out.”

Mr. Biden’s aides say the difference now is that they will work hard to coordinate pressure with allies, whose views Mr. Trump largely ignored over the past four years, as he reached for his phone to tweet orders for new sanctions or tariffs. (Rarely were those tweets prompted by human rights abuses.)

Mr. Putin, of course, loves nothing more than casting Mr. Navalny and the protesters as instruments of the United States, who are seeking to destabilize the country. The last time the United States came after him so directly for suppressing democratic instincts in Moscow was nearly a decade ago, when the secretary of state at the time, Hillary Rodham Clinton, called out his efforts to rig a parliamentary election.

Mr. Putin accused her of sending “a signal” to “some actors in our country,” and American intelligence analysts later concluded that Russia’s actions to steal emails from the Democrats and release them to embarrass her in the 2016 presidential election constituted direct retribution.

But inside the Biden White House, there is hope that the thousands of Russians who have taken to the streets in protest, electrified by the story of how the government tried to kill Mr. Navalny, may give the United States an opportunity. If executed skillfully and with the help of European allies, Biden administration officials said, many ordinary Russians may welcome sanctions as a sign that the United States is on their side.

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De Kock demands more steel from Proteas


South Africa captain Quinton de Kock says his side’s batsmen will have to be mentally stronger if they are to compete with Pakistan.

The tourists were well beaten in the first Test, losing by seven wickets in Karachi on Friday after coming unstuck against the Pakistan spin duo of Yasir Shah and debutant Nauman Ali, who took 14-206 between them.

With the second and final Test starting in Rawalpindi on Thursday, de Kock has called for a strong response from the Proteas.

He blamed poor shot selection and some anxious cricket in their first innings in particular, where South Africa also had two run-outs in their top six as they were bowled out for 220 after winning the toss and electing to bat.

“We were never really ahead in the game. 220 in the first innings on that wicket is not good enough, especially when you opt to bat first. We let ourselves down,” De Kock told reporters.

“The first innings we gave them our wickets, second innings there were one or two good nuts. We have to go back (to training), prepare and come back mentally stronger.”

South Africa have passed 300 just three times in their last 25 innings on the sub-continent, and more recently have been prone to spectacular collapses.

They crumbled from 1-175 to 245 all out in the second innings in Karachi.

“If we knew how to fix them (the collapses) we wouldn’t be doing them in the first place, but we have spoken about it and are trying to find a way to stop it,” De Kock added.

“In our second innings, we saw the way Aiden (Markram) and Rassie (Van der Dussen) went about it, they took their time and kept the ball on the ground, soaked up the pressure and scored where they could.

“Our record in the sub-continent is not the greatest, but we have won a couple of series. It is just a matter of finding a way to win.”

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Yemen conflict: UN report demands answers about deadly airstrike investigated by Sky News | World News


The United Nations has today demanded more answers about an airstrike on a family home in Yemen which a Sky News investigation highlighted last September.

The Sky team travelled to the remote village of Washah near the Yemeni-Saudi border where 12 members of the Mujali family lived, to examine the area and talk to multiple eyewitnesses as well as survivors of the 12 July 2020 attack.

Nine people died on that day – all women and children. There were only three survivors – a young mother who was breastfeeding her baby son and a teenage boy.

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A Sky News investigation has pieced together the harrowing final few moments before a family was massacred in northern Yemen.

The evidence has finally led to the Saudi-led coalition admitting for the first time it made a mistake and the missile did not hit its intended military target – nearly 800m away from the Mujali family home in a completely separate area called Beit al Qateeb – because of “bad weather”.

Amid allegations it is a possible war crime and demands for justice for the Mujali family, a UN report on Friday into the airstrike, which has largely drawn on the Sky team’s detailed reporting of the incident, says the house “is in an isolated position in a rural area, thus the chances of hitting the house by accident appear to be low”.

UN investigators have written to Saudi Arabia asking for more information about the incident and are awaiting a reply.

One of the three survivors, Nora Ali Muse'ad Mujali, told Sky News she was breastfeeding her baby when the bomb landed
Image:
One of the three survivors, Nora Ali Muse’ad Mujali, told Sky News she was breastfeeding her baby when the bomb landed
Yemen
Image:
The third survivor was a teenager boy. Ghazi spent nearly two months in hospital recovering from his burns and shrapnel wounds and learning to walk again

Under international humanitarian law military commanders and those responsible for planning and executing decisions regarding attacks must “take all feasible precautions to avoid, and in any event to minimise, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects”, the report continues.

“This includes all necessary verification of the material, aircraft and explosive devices to be used, as well as meteorologic conditions at the time and location of the attack,” it adds.

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Survivor seeks apology and demands Federal Government action over abuse claims at Retta Dixon Home in Darwin


It is not easy for Frank Spry to talk about what happened to him at the Retta Dixon Home in Darwin decades ago.

“I was in there from when I was seven until I was just under 18,” he said about the institution that was supposed to care for children.

“There was abuse … physical, mental, sexual.”

Mr Spry is now 69 years old.

He has been a teacher, a musician and a vocal advocate for people from the Stolen Generations.

But when he looks back at his life, it is clear to him what happened at Retta Dixon had a major impact.

“There were times where I basically wanted to commit suicide,” he said.

“I’ve not gone that far, but there were occasions where I felt really deeply hurt by what happened to me.”

In an attempt to seek redress for what he says occurred at the facility, Mr Spry made an application to the National Redress Scheme [NRS] for people who have experienced institutional child abuse.

He was shocked this week to learn that that application has hit major hurdles.

The Retta Dixon Home facility housed mainly Aboriginal children, including many Stolen Generation children.(Credit: Royal Commisson into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse)

The organisation which ran the Retta Dixon Home, Australian Indigenous Ministries [AIM], has been barred from participating in the scheme by the Federal Government, which says the church group does not have the money to pay out potential claimants.

On top of that, no “funder of last resort” has been identified for the Retta Dixon Home survivors, meaning no state, territory or federal government has stepped up to guarantee that any compensation payments ordered through the scheme are fulfilled.

It has left people like Mr Spry in administrative limbo, with no guarantee the National Redress Scheme will deliver compensation or acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

“Some of those people have passed on”

An unidentified girl sits in the dormitory of Darwin's Retta Dixon Home in 1958.
A dormitory in Darwin’s Retta Dixon Home in 1958.(National Archives)

The ABC has asked the Federal Government if it will step in as the funder of last resort for people in Mr Spry’s position, of which there are at least 10.

The Department of Social Services said a decision regarding this would be discussed at a NRS governance board meeting this year.

“The scheme continues to actively explore options, including with state and territory governments, for expanded funder of last resort arrangements,” the department said in a statement.

It suggested a two-year review of the scheme, which is due in the first quarter of this year, could deliver changes to how the funder of last resort provision could be applied.

“Any changes from this review will be considered by the state and territory ministers, who are also required to give approval to substantive redress changes,” it said.

Northern Territory's Retta Dixon Home
Frank Spry is demanding an apology from the operator of Retta Dixon Home.(National Archives of Australia)

For Mr Spry, who previously received some compensation from a 2017 class action regarding Retta Dixon Home, accessing the full amount of compensation he may be entitled to under the law is important.

But equally pressing for him is a desire to have his story acknowledged.

It is for this reason he is asking AIM to apologise to him and others who might be in his situation.

“They must wear it and take it on the chin.”

The church group, which rebranded from Aborigines Inland Mission in 1998, maintains that it did all it could to join the National Redress Scheme.

In a statement, AIM said it would like to find ways to meaningfully apologise to Mr Spry and any others in comparable situations.

“We would like to explore with them how they would like to have us make a relevant apology,” AIM’s acting general director Cliff Letcher said.

Frank Spry stands with his hands on his hips as he looks ahead with several trees in the background.
Frank Spry recalls harrowing times at the Retta Dixon Home, where he spent most of his childhood.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

Mr Spry is yet to respond to AIM’s offer but given the Federal Government has decided to allow AIM to stay off the scheme, he believes the onus is now on it to help people like him find justice.

“If they’ve said to AIM and Retta Dixon Home: ‘Because you don’t have enough money, you can cop out of it’, then the Federal Government needs to be [the] owner of this,” he said.

“Own what happened to these little children, to us, in this institution.”

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Novak Djokovic’s demands land wide


“I liken it more to show business,’’ McNamee says. “You can’t tell me that when Kylie Minogue comes here she hasn’t got green room demands. It’s an entertainment industry.”

The demands of the world’s best player, including his suggestion that Tennis Australia shift players out of hard quarantine into private houses with a tennis court, landed well wide. As Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews put it: “People are free to provide a list of demands but the answer is no.”

Daniel Andrews says players are free to make demands about changes to quarantine — and the answer is no.Credit:Joe Armao

The Victorian position, one shared by the government, its public health advisers and Tennis Australia, is that all players competing at next month’s Open came here forewarned about what might happen if the virus boarded their plane.

Artem Sitak, a pragmatic Russian-turned-New Zealand doubles specialist, has emerged as a spokesperson for the game’s normally silent majority. “We were aware of the risks before coming in so that is how it is,” he said.

Yet no one should expect Djokovic to retreat quietly to a practice court.

Players have 50 per cent control over the affairs of the ATP Tour, the governing body of men’s tennis. Djokovic, until recently the president of the ATP players’ council, has launched a breakaway union to give players, particularly those outside the top 100 ranked, greater sway.

His actions in co-founding the Professional Tennis Players Association have split the sport.

The ATP moved a resolution late last year forcing him to relinquish his position on the players’ council. Djokovic’s most celebrated peers – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray – are backing the status quo. So far, the nascent association has made no serious appeal to women players.

Roger Federer is not backing the breakaway Professional Tennis Players Association.

Roger Federer is not backing the breakaway Professional Tennis Players Association.Credit:Getty Images

The issue he is now pushing – for all players to be given the opportunity to train and prepare properly for the year’s first major tournament while in quarantine – is consistent with this political play.

Djokovic and fellow superstars Nadal, Serena Williams, Dominic Thiem and Naomi Osaka are all safely quarantining in Adelaide, with daily access to practice courts, ahead of a one-off exhibition tournament at Memorial Drive. Their preparations for the Australian Open haven’t been compromised.

Many of the names in hard quarantine, like Artem Sitak, are those only tennis aficionados would know. One of them is Canadian Vasek Pospisil, Djokovic’s co-founder of the rival players’ union.

These are the people Djokovic is campaigning to get a better deal for, along with the legion of players who haven’t qualified for the Australian Open and, due to COVID-19 shutdowns around the world, have had no lower-tier tournaments to play and no tennis income for the best part of a year.

“The basis of starting the association was to give a voice and better conditions for lower-ranked players,’’ McNamee says. “You can’t say he is just wheeling it out now because it suits that agenda; that was the agenda from the beginning.”

Djokovic’s problem is that, on matters COVID-19, he doesn’t bring a strong game to the table. At the height of the European summer last year, he organised a series of tournaments across the former Yugoslav republics that became super-spreader events.

Djokovic, who has declared himself opposed to mandatory vaccines, confirmed he was among the players infected with COVID-19 and that he in turn infected his wife. Footage of him dancing shirtless in a crowded Belgrade nightclub went suitably viral.

Nick Kyrgios doffed his cap to Djokovic for scaling heights of stupidity beyond his own considerable reach. “This takes the cake,” he tweeted after seeing the nightclub. Djokovic apologised for promoting the tournaments, which he conceded were a mistake.

Although Djokovic’s latest intervention will be similarly ridiculed, McNamee says many players arriving in Australia, whether to a hard or soft quarantine, will experience a form of COVID culture shock.

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No European country would contemplate locking down a city the size of Brisbane in response to a single COVID case, and internal border travel restrictions between jurisdictions each with low numbers of active cases would be perplexing to anyone arriving from the US.

McNamee, a consultant to Tennis Australia and the coach of world No.1 doubles player Su-wei Hsieh, has just emerged from two weeks of quarantine in an Adelaide hotel after returning to Australia from Bulgaria, a Balkans country that couldn’t afford to shut its economy against COVID-19 even if it wanted to.

“It is a shock to many players that we are so pedantic about it,’’ he says. “They are not used to that.”

Not for the first time, some visiting players may struggle to adjust to local conditions.

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Adam Schiff demands Trump is stripped of ability to get intelligence briefings when he leaves office


Adam Schiff says Trump should be barred from post-presidency intelligence briefings because ‘he cannot be trusted’ with nation’s secrets

  • Adam Schiff said Sunday that Donald Trump should be stripped from receiving post-presidency intelligence briefings because he is a threat to national security 
  • ‘There’s no circumstance in which this president should get another intelligence briefing, not now, not in the future,’ the Intelligence Committee chairman said 
  • ‘I don’t think he can be trusted with it now and in the future,’ Schiff continued
  • Former FBI Director James Comey described that past presidents receive occasional briefings on the state of the world and if there are any direct threats

Adam Schiff said Sunday that Donald Trump should no longer receive intelligence briefing whether before or after his term ends as he cites national security concerns.

‘There’s no circumstance in which this president should get another intelligence briefing, not now, not in the future,’ the House Intelligence Committee chairman told CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’ on Sunday morning.

‘I don’t think he can be trusted with it now and in the future, he certainly can’t be trusted,’ Schiff continued. ‘Indeed, there were, I think, any number of intelligence partners of ours around the world who probably started withholding information from us because they didn’t trust the president would safeguard that information and protect their sources and methods. And that makes us less safe.’

Although there are only three days left of Trump’s presidency, former FBI director James Comey said that former presidents are sometimes given intelligence briefings about the state of the world and potential threats.

‘My understanding is,’ Comey said during an interview with ABC’s ‘The View’ on Friday, ‘former presidents are, not all the time but on a regular basis, given general intelligence briefings about the state of the world and threats to the country.’

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Sunday that Donald Trump should be stripped from receiving post-presidency intelligence briefings because he is a threat to national security

The House voted Wednesday to impeach Trump for 'inciting an insurrection' by riling up a crowd before they stormed the Capitol. They now claim he should be convicted and no longer receive any post-presidency benefits, like pension, Secret Service detail or briefings

The House voted Wednesday to impeach Trump for ‘inciting an insurrection’ by riling up a crowd before they stormed the Capitol. They now claim he should be convicted and no longer receive any post-presidency benefits, like pension, Secret Service detail or briefings

Comey revealed that the intelligence community wants to give former presidents ‘a picture of what’s going on in the world.’

‘They’re also given specific information if there’s a threat to them,’ he added.

Other than risking releasing future information, there are concerns from Democrats and from within the intelligence community that Trump could divulge sensitive information he learned as president to people who aren’t authorized to receive it.

Some have even raised the potential of him selling information to foreign adversaries.

‘We’ve seen this president politicize intelligence, and that’s another risk to the country,’ Schiff told CBS’ Margaret Brennen.

Schiff wants Joe Biden’s administration to ‘absolutely’ bar Trump from receiving any post-presidency briefings, claiming he is a security threat.

Post-presidential briefings, Comey said, are usually controlled by the director of national intelligence.

He said whoever fills that fole should ‘take a very hard look at whether Donald Trump should be given information, including any information that might be sensitive to the security of the United States.’

‘The guy’s a lying demagogue who you can’t trust,’ Comey said. ‘You want to be very, very careful about what you give him.’

Former FBI Director James Comey described Friday that past presidency do receive some briefings on the state of the world and, especially, if there are any direct threats to them

Former FBI Director James Comey described Friday that past presidency do receive some briefings on the state of the world and, especially, if there are any direct threats to them

‘I’m hoping that he will have been stripped of the perks of a former president by being convicted by the U.S. Senate and barred from further participation in public office,’ he said. ‘Maybe that will be a reason for them to cut him off entirely.’

The House impeached Trump on Wednesday for ‘incitement of insurrection’ after he riled up a crowd before they marched over to the Capitol and breached the building. Trump is now the only president to be impeached twice.

It is not clear if the Senate will vote to convict but all Democrats and 17 Republicans would need to vote in favor of the measure. If this were to happen, Trump would be stripped of his post-presidency benefits, like his pension and Secret Service detail, and would be barred from running for office again in the future.

Schiff served as lead manager for the first impeachment trial where the Senate did not vote to convict Trump on either of the two articles sent to the upper chamber from the House.

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Sen. Tammy Duckworth demands probe of military members in Capitol riots


Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraqi War veteran who lost both her legs in an insurgent attack, is pressing acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller to investigate the involvement of any current or retired military personnel in last week’s riots at the Capitol. 

AIR FORCE VETERAN IDENTIFIED AS CAPITOL RIOTER CARRYING ZIP TIES ON SENATE FLOOR

Miller should demand each branch of the military cooperate with the FBI and Capitol Police to investigate reports that several of the pro-Trump supporters were veterans, the Illinois Democrat said in a letter to the Pentagon chief on Monday.

“If accurate, it would be a disgraceful insult to the vast majority of service members who honorably serve our nation in accordance with the core values of their respective services,” Duckworth wrote. 

TWO CAPITOL POLICE OFFICERS SUSPENDED, SEVERAL MORE ARE UNDER INVESTIGATION AFTER RIOT

“Upholding good order and discipline demands that the U.S. Armed Forces root out extremists that infiltrate the military and threaten our national security,” she added, urging Miller to take action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice if any service members or retirees are identified.

Doing so would allow the military to prosecute retirees by recalling them to active service. 

The Justice Department has already obtained indictments against several former Air Force and Army service members in the attack on the Capitol, as the FBI works to identify participants.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., has requested a review of troops headed to the Capitol ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, to ensure that members deployed to the inauguration are not “sympathetic to domestic terrorists.”

Other law enforcement agencies are also under investigation and facing heavy scrutiny about their response to the violent insurgency as lawmakers gathered to certify the results of the presidential election. 

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Two Capitol Police officers have been suspended for their actions — which included taking selfies with protesters and opening the gates to let mobsters into the building. Several more are under investigation. 

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Iran leader bans import of U.S., UK COVID-19 vaccines, demands sanctions end



Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a televised speech, in Tehran, Iran January 8, 2021. Official Khamenei Website/Handout via REUTERS

January 8, 2021

By Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s Supreme Leader on Friday banned the government from importing COVID-19 vaccines from the United States and Britain, labelling the Western powers “untrustworthy”, as the infection spreads in the Middle East’s hardest-hit country.

In a live televised speech, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei raised the prospect of the two Western countries, long-time adversaries of the Islamic Republic, possibly seeking to spread the infection to other countries.

He added however that Iran could obtain vaccines “from other reliable places”. He gave no details, but China and Russia are both allies of Iran.

“Imports of U.S. and British vaccines into the country are forbidden … They’re completely untrustworthy. It’s not unlikely they would want to contaminate other nations,” said Khamenei, the country’s highest authority.

“Given our experience with France’s HIV-tainted blood supplies, French vaccines aren’t trustworthy either,” Khamenei said, referring to the country’s contaminated blood scandal of the 1980s and 1990s.

Khamenei repeated the accusations in a tweet that was removed by Twitter along with a message saying it violated the platform’s rules against misinformation.

Iran launched human trials of its first domestic COVID-19 vaccine candidate late last month, saying it could help Iran defeat the pandemic despite U.S. sanctions that affect its ability to import vaccines.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen since 2018, when President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions to pressure Iran into negotiating stricter curbs on its nuclear program, ballistic missile development and support for regional proxy forces.

In retaliation for U.S. sanctions, which were lifted under the nuclear deal, Tehran has gradually violated the accord. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on Jan. 20, has pledged to rejoin the agreement if Tehran also returns to full compliance.

Khamenei said Tehran was in no rush for the United States to re-enter the deal, but that sanctions on the Islamic Republic must be lifted immediately.

Iran’s utmost authority, Khamenei ruled out any talks over Tehran’s missile programme and Iran’s involvement in the Middle East, as demanded by the United States and some other major powers.

“Contrary to the U.S., Iran’s involvement in the region creates stability and is aimed at preventing instability … Iran’s involvement in the region is definite and will continue.”

Shortly before Khamenei’s speech, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards unveiled an underground missile base at an undisclosed Gulf location.

The West sees Iran’s missiles both as a conventional military threat to regional stability and a possible delivery mechanism for nuclear weapons should Tehran develop them.

But Iran, which has one of the biggest missile programmes in the Middle East, regards the programme as an important deterrent and retaliatory force against the United States and other adversaries – primarily Gulf Arabs – in the region in the event of war.

(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Toby Chopra, Timothy Heritage, William Maclean and Sonya Hepinstall)



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NY attorney general demands investigation of Trump’s, family members’ role in fomenting riots


New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday called for a full investigation into the riots that ravaged Capitol Hill on Wednesday, urging federal officials to hold anyone in the White House or Congress responsible who may have played a role in encouraging violence.

James is also asking acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to probe the legal culpability of President Trump, his family members and associates, in peddling what she termed “wild conspiracy theories that led to these acts of terror and sedition.” 

“The president swore an oath to protect this nation against all enemies, foreign or domestic, but this week he led an attack on the greatest symbol of our democratic republic,” James said in a statement. “Not since foreign invaders attacked the Capitol more than 200 years ago has Washington, DC been attacked.”

James pointed to Trump’s words to supporters that they would never “take back our country with weakness” as inflammatory, and seeming to invite insurrection.

Further, James said the government needs to identify and investigate each participant in the riot who can be prosecuted for “a violent incursion onto government property with the express intention of hindering the certification of a lawful election.”

MICHELLE OBAMA CALLS ON TECH GIANTS TO PERMANENTLY BAN TRUMP 

Trump released a second video message on Twitter on Thursday in which he condemned the rioters and promised that participants who “broke the law” would “pay.”

He also acknowledged that President-elect Joe Biden would take over the presidency later this month, after weeks of repeating unproven claims that he has been fraudulently cheated out of victory. With an eye toward the future, Trump called for calm and a peaceful transition of power.

But for many lawmakers, and members of his administration, the message is too little too late. Trump’s refusal to condemn the violence on Wednesday led some to resign from their administrative posts, while longtime Republican allies, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., repudiated his rhetoric.

There are calls to invoke the 25th Amendment or to impeach Trump in order to remove himfrom office less than two weeks before Biden’s inauguration day.

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EU demands China release citizen reporter Zhang Zhan and 12 Hong Kong activists detained at sea




The European Union on Tuesday demanded China release citizen journalist Zhang Zhan and 12 Hong Kong activists detained at sea, as it looks to seal an investment deal with Beijing.The flurry of EU statements came as the bloc gears up to agree the pact with China after seven years of painstaking negotiations, despite concerns about China’s labour and civil rights record.Zhang was jailed on Monday for four years over allegations of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” during her coverage of…



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