Joe Biden’s victory confirmed by Congress | Daily News
As pro-Trump violence strikes democracy:

Joe Biden’s victory confirmed by Congress

Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, in Washington.
Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, in Washington.

Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the November presidential election was confirmed by the US Congress, certifying the results of election, after the huge attack on peace and the democratic process in the US, at Capitol Hill. Kamala Harris has also been confirmed as Vice President.

The Mayor of Washington DC has declared a public emergency for 15 days, which will include the January 20 swearing in of the new President Joe Biden. Curfew can also be declared in Washington DC. There are violent protests in several other states in the US by pro-Trump activists.

Pro-Trump rioters attacked the Capitol building in Washington where members of the Congress - House of Representatives and Senate - were meeting to certify the State election results that chose Democrat Joe Biden as the next President, and Kamala Harris as Vice President.

Police fired teargas as the rioters pushed inside the gleaming white edifice of the Capitol. One woman was shot by the US Capitol police and later died of her injuries, according to the Washington police. Three others died in “medical emergencies” throughout the day, authorities said. Rioters attacked TV crews outside the building. Several police officers were also injured. Authorities found pipe bombs outside the offices of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, as well as a cooler with a long gun and Molotov cocktail on the Capitol grounds.

The Republican party that enabled his rise has been left broken, so divided that the Republicans lost both Senate seats in the southern bastion of Georgia.

When the Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, the Republicans had split into duelling factions. A dozen senators and over a hundred representatives were prepared to vote against certifying the confirmed results of November’s presidential election.

US Vice President Mike Pence – who was very to the leader – had said he would follow the constitution and read out the election result, rather than try to change it. This had apparently triggered Trump’s wrath, and set in motion the events that led to the storming of the Capitol.

Less than an hour before the Capitol was breached, Trump had told his supporters to march from the White House along the national mall to the Capitol to “save our democracy”. He even said he would go with them, but did not. Go to the Congress “peacefully and patriotically” he told them, but a matter of minutes later, the barricades outside the Capitol were down and the mob was charging.

Democrats win - Meanwhile, the Democrats won the two runoff elections in the state of Georgia, giving the party control of the Senate for the opening of Joe Biden’s presidency.

With the victories of Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, the US Senate is now 50-50 between the Democrat and Republican parties. Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris will serve as the tie-breaking 51st vote, giving Democrats control of the chamber for the first time since 2015.

Facebook and Twitter have removed posts from President Donald Trump responding to the violence, and are supportive of the activists. Twitter has also temporarily locked his accounts, as the social-media platforms worked to tamp down content that could further fuel riots in the U.S. capital.

World shock

World leaders and governments have expressed shock and outrage at the storming of the US Capitol in Washington by supporters of US President Donald Trump.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Twitter condemned the “disgraceful scenes in US Congress. The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power”.

The European Union’s Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell condemned an “assault on US democracy”. “In the eyes of the world, American democracy tonight appears under siege,” he tweeted. “This is not America. The election results of November 3 must be fully respected,” he added.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “saddened” by the events at the US Capitol, his spokesman said. “It is important that political leaders impress on their followers the need to refrain from violence, as well as to respect democratic processes and the rule of law,” UN spokesman said.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian condemned “a serious attack on democracy”. “The violence against American institutions is a serious attack on democracy. I condemn it.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was “furious and saddened” by the storming of the US Capitol by supporters of. Trump, and said the president shared blame for the unrest. “I deeply regret that President Trump has not conceded his defeat, since November and again yesterday,” she said.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) chief Jens Stoltenberg tweeted: “Shocking scenes in Washington, DC. The outcome of this democratic election must be respected.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Twitter: “Horrible images from Washington D.C. Dear @realDonaldTrump, recognise @JoeBiden as the next president today.”

“Canadians are deeply disturbed and saddened by the attack on democracy in the United States, our closest ally and neighbour,” tweeted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Irish premier Micheal Martin said “The Irish people have a deep connection with the United States of America, built up over many generations. I know that many, like me, will be watching the scenes unfolding in Washington DC with great concern and dismay.”

China - no visas for WHO

China has denied entry visas to the World Health Organization team arriving to probe the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite months of painstaking negotiations.

Ten experts were due to arrive in China this week for the highly politicised task of establishing how and where the virus jumped from animals to humans.

But with a number of the team already in transit, China denied them entry visas, leading WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to say he was “very disappointed”.

The first cases of the coronavirus were recorded in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, prompting accusations of chaotic, secretive handling by Chinese authorities which led to its spread beyond China. US President Donald Trump has called the pandemic the “China virus”, using it for political attacks on China.

Beijing Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying confirmed the WHO team had not been admitted as planned, and it was “not just a visa issue”. “The issue of origin-tracing is incredibly complicated,” she told reporters at a regular news briefing. “To ensure the work of the international expert team in China goes smoothly, we have to carry out necessary procedures and make relevant arrangements.”

Talks were continuing over “the specific date and specific arrangement of the expert group’s visit,” Hua added, despite the months of negotiations already spent on setting up the trip.

The origins of COVID-19 remain bitterly contested, lost in a fog of recriminations and conjecture from the international community. The WHO trip was seen as an important way to cut through the rancour and seek clear answers on how it started.

“We were all operating on the understanding that the team would begin deployment today,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said Tuesday. He stressed the “absolute critical nature” of the mission, acknowledging that the situation was “frustrating and... disappointing”.

Experts say geopolitics hollowed out the global cooperation needed to head off the virus in its early stages. At the time of the outbreak the Trump administration was locked in a brutal trade war with China and the US president used it as a political bludgeon, which soured Beijing’s mood for compromise and communication.

Julian Assange - no extradition

The Westminster Magistrates Court in London has refused to permit the Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange being extradited to the US on charges of espionage and hacking government computers. He was later refused bail and will be held awaiting an appeal by the US.

The district judge, Vanessa Baraitser, initially knocked down arguments by Assange’s lawyers accepting the US authorities’ assertion that his alleged activities fell outside of the realm of journalism. But turning to evidence by medical experts about Assange’s precarious mental health, she said: “The overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man, who is genuinely fearful about his future. I find that the mental condition of Mr. Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America”.

In April 2010 WikiLeaks made international headlines when it published a classified US military video showing an Apache attack helicopter gunning down 12 civilians, including two Reuters journalists, on a street in Baghdad in 2007, and later released hundreds of thousands of US military messages and cables in a leak that saw former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning jailed.

In the decade since then, Assange has been embroiled in legal drama and political controversy. He spent most of that time holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London to escape being extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault in a case that has since been dropped. But that changed in April 2019 when the Ecuadorian government withdrew its asylum and invited Scotland Yard in to arrest him for failing to surrender to the court.

He was found guilty, and in May 2019 was sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching bail conditions.

During that time the US Justice Department brought 18 charges against him. Prosecutors said Assange helped the US defence analyst Chelsea Manning breach the US Espionage Act, was complicit in hacking by others and published classified information that endangered informants.

Assange denies plotting with Manning to crack an encrypted password on US computers and says there is no evidence anyone’s safety was compromised. His lawyers argue the prosecution is politically motivated, and that he is being pursued because WikiLeaks published US government documents that revealed evidence of war crimes and human rights abuses.

His extradition was prevented on the basis that procedures in prisons there would not prevent him from potentially taking his own life.

US prosecutors have indicated they would appeal the decision, which could take the matter to London’s High Court and eventually the UK’s Supreme Court, meaning it could drag on for many more months.

Saudi - Qatar

Saudi Arabia and its three Arab allies have agreed to restore full ties with Qatar at a summit in the kingdom.

The Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud told a news conference after the gathering of Gulf Arab states, also attended by Egypt, that there was political will and good faith to guarantee implementation of the agreement to restore diplomatic and other ties, including resumption of flights.

The meeting came a day after Kuwait, another GCC member, announced a Saudi decision to open its airspace and borders to Qatar following an embargo that began in mid-2017.

Qatar’s only land border has been mostly closed since June mid-2017, when Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain launched a blockade against the small, but influential Persian Gulf country. The Saudi border, which Qatar relied on for the import of dairy products, construction materials and other goods, opened briefly during the past three years to allow Qataris into Saudi Arabia to perform the Islamic Hajj pilgrimage.

The Qatari emir has only attended a GCC summit once — when it was hosted by Kuwait — since the blockade was launched. The following two summits were held in Saudi Arabia and he instead sent an envoy.

At heart over the dispute with Qatar have been concerns that Qatar’s close relations with Turkey and Iran have undermined regional security. Egypt and the UAE view Qatar and Turkey’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood as a security threat and have deemed the group a terrorist organisation. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are primarily concerned with Qatar’s close ties with regional foe Iran.

Those simmering tensions came to a boil in the summer of 2017, when the four countries announced their stunning blockade on Qatar and cut all transport and diplomatic links with it.

Gas-rich Qatar also took an economic hit from the blockade, and its national airline was forced to take longer and more costly routes. It was unclear how the blockade would impact its ability to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The blockading countries made a list of demands on Qatar that included shuttering its flagship Al-Jazeera news network and terminating Turkish military presence in Qatar, which is also home to a major US military base. Qatar has outright rejected the demands, and has denied that its support of Islamist groups indicates support for violent extremists.

The Saudi move toward reconciliation with Qatar comes just weeks after President Donald Trump’s advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, visited the kingdom and Qatar to secure an end to the rift. Normalisation with Qatar could buy Saudi Arabia time to strike compromises with the Biden administration on other issues, like its war in Yemen and potential US re-engagement with Iran, said Samuel Ramani, a non-resident fellow at the Gulf International Forum.

China - Hong Kong

China’s crackdown in Hong Kong escalated dramatically this week with police arresting more than 50 opposition figures in their largest operation since the security law was imposed on the financial hub.

The sweep is the latest move in Beijing’s battle to stamp out opposition in the semi-autonomous business hub, after millions hit the streets in 2019 with huge and sometimes violent democracy protests.

Police sources told AFP “around 50” had been arrested by the city’s new national security unit on Wednesday morning.

The detentions sparked a rebuke from Antony Blinken, US President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for Secretary of State, who decried the police action as “an assault on those bravely advocating for universal rights”. “The Biden-Harris administration will stand with the people of Hong Kong and against Beijing’s crackdown on democracy,” he added.

Those detained represented a broad cross-section of Hong Kong’s opposition, from veteran former pro-democracy lawmakers to a host of younger activists. John Clancey, an American lawyer working for a law firm on human rights, was arrested on suspicion of subversion, the first time a US national has been detained under the new law.

The national security law was adopted by Beijing in late June in response to the 2019 protests, targeting acts Beijing deems to be secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

The European Union, UK, US and Australia have objected to the arrests of these Hong Kong citizens and called for their immediate release.

India - farmers protests

The ongoing farmers’ agitation against the three contentious agricultural laws passed by the Centre in September entered day 41 on Tuesday, and will continue as the seventh round of talks between the government and the farm union leaders failed to resolve the deadlock between the two sides. PM Narendra Modi remains firm on not repealing the laws passed that have led to the protests.

Monday’s talks saw both sides stick to their stand, with the government once again reiterating the laws won’t be repealed and insisting on a clause-by-clause discussion, while the farm unions stressed they want nothing short of a rollback. The unions also demanded a legal guarantee on the Minimum Support Price (MSP). There will be more talks this week.

For two weeks this week protests will intensify throughout the country, said Swaraj India’s Yogendra Yadav. “We have decided that on January 7, we will take out a tractor march at four borders of Delhi including Eastern and Western peripheral. This will be a trailer for what lies ahead on January 26,” he added.

The Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has called for an inter-session consultative committee meeting on January 11 to discuss agriculture’s role and contribution to the Atma Nirbhar Bharat mission and how the new reforms will aid the process, reports ANI.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has said that the central government should regularly talk to farmers, accept their demands of repealing the new farm laws and not make it a prestige issue.

On January 1, the farm union leaders announced a ‘Kisan tractor parade’ on the occasion of Republic Day on January 26, if their demands to repeal the farm laws are not repealed.

COVID surge

Coronavirus is continuing its spread across the world with more than 87 million confirmed cases in 190 countries and nearly two million deaths. The virus is surging in many regions and countries that had apparent success in suppressing initial outbreaks are also seeing infections rise again.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the virus will continue to spread rapidly in the coming months. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “There will be setbacks and new challenges in the year ahead - for example new variants of COVID-19 and helping people who are tired of the pandemic continue to combat it.”

Several countries have now approved coronavirus vaccines for use but as populations await their roll-out, cases remain high across many parts of the world. The vaccine is seen as the main hope of the world being able to curb the spread of the coronavirus. There are rising concerns that the poorer countries will not be able to get the vaccines in time, or in sufficient quantities.

In the spread of the pandemic, the US has recorded more than 21 million cases and more than 360,000 deaths, having the highest infected and deceased in the world, and the figures keep rising.

Many European countries see a resurgence in cases during the autumn, and have brought back lockdowns and other restrictions to curb infections. The UK is experiencing the worst rise in the region, with a new, more easily spread, variant of the disease. More than 2,845,000 are infected with more than 361,000 deaths, and deaths rising by more than a 1,000 per day. France, Italy and Germany are also seeing a sharp rise in infections.

In Asia, the number of cases there was relatively low, but India has recorded more than 10 million cases, the second-highest official total in the world after the US, but the numbers are comparatively low.

In Latin America, Brazil is near eight million confirmed with a rising death toll of more than 198,000, and seeing a second surge in infections.

Africa has recorded nearly three million cases, but the true extent of the pandemic there is not known as testing rates are low. Concern is growing about a South African variant of the disease, having some similarities with the new UK strain, also more easily transmissible. South Africa, with more than one million cases and 31,000 deaths, is the worst affected country on the continent.