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US Capitol attack panel seeks McCarthy’s cooperation | First Thing


Good morning.

Yesterday the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack formally asked the Republican House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, to cooperate with its inquiry into the 6 January insurrection.

“We must learn about how the president’s plans for 6 January came together, and all the other ways he attempted to alter the results of the election,” Congressman Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the select committee, said in a letter to McCarthy.

  • McCarthy responded late Wednesday that he would not cooperate with the investigation, setting the stage for a bitter political showdown.

  • McCarthy had spoken directly to Donald Trump on the day the former president’s supporters stormed the US Capitol to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win.

  • The committee’s request to McCarthy marks a significant political moment for the investigation as they examine potential criminal conduct by the former president.

Omicron so contagious most Americans will get Covid, top US health officials say

Dr Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.
Dr Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Photograph: Greg Nash/AFP/Getty Images

Federal health authorities in the US are now comparing the pandemic to a “natural disaster”, warning that the Omicron Covid-19 variant is so contagious it is likely most people in the US will be infected.

“I think it’s hard to process what’s actually happening right now, which is [that] most people are going to get Covid, all right?” Janet Woodcock, the acting head of the Food and Drug Administration, said at a Senate hearing. “What we need to do is make sure the hospitals can still function … [that] transportation, other essential services are not disrupted while this happens.”

On the day of the Senate hearing, more than 761,000 Americans tested positive for Covid-19. On the same day the previous year, also the peak of a winter surge, an average of 251,232 people tested positive.

Chuck Schumer outlines loophole to open debate on voting rights bill

The US Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, and Washington senator Patty Murray walk past the Senate chamber as people pay their respects to former Senate majority leader Harry Reid as he lies in state in the Rotunda at the US Capitol.
The US Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, and Washington senator Patty Murray walk past the Senate chamber as people pay their respects to former Senate majority leader Harry Reid as he lies in state in the Rotunda at the US Capitol. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

In a leaked memo, the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, detailed a strategy wherein the House would amend an unrelated bill about Nasa to include provisions from two stalled voting reform bills: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

  • This strategy would allow Democrats to evade an initial filibuster from Republicans seeking to block debate on the bill.

  • Senate Democrats at the moment lack the votes to pass filibuster reform, as Schumer vowed to do in order to push forward on voting rights. Moderate Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema remain opposed to amending the filibuster.

  • While the strategy would allow for open debate on the voting reform bills, it wouldn’t ultimately resolve the fact in an evenly split Senate, Republicans could still use the filibuster to block a final vote on passing the legislation.

Ronnie Spector, pop singer who fronted the Ronettes, dies at 78

Ronnie Spector
Ronnie Spector, who has died aged 78. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Ronnie Spector, whose hits included Be My Baby and who defined the sound of mid-century girl groups as the frontwoman of the Ronettes, has died at 78, following a brief battle with cancer.

Trump loyalists form an alliance in a bid to take over election process in key states

Jim Marchant speaking at a Republican election night watch party, on 3 November 2020, in Las Vegas.
Jim Marchant speaking at a Republican election night watch party, on 3 November 2020, in Las Vegas. Photograph: John Locher/AP

Extreme Republicans loyal to Donald Trump – and to his lies that the 2020 presidential election was rigged – have formed a nationwide alliance aiming to take control of the presidential election process in key battleground states.

With at least eight Republicans who are currently running to serve as chief election officials in crucial swing states, this alliance could determine the outcome of the 2024 presidential race.

In other news …

Prince Andrew, pictured in 2019.
Prince Andrew, pictured in 2019. Photograph: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images
  • Prince Andrew remains embroiled in lengthy and embarrassing legal proceedings after a Manhattan judge rejected yesterday the royal’s efforts to dismiss Virginia Giuffre’s sexual abuse lawsuit against him. He denies all her allegations.

  • Donald Trump hung up on a national radio host halfway through a scheduled interview after the host pushed him about his lies about the 2020 presidential election.

  • A woman’s diary has gone viral after lockdown forced her to stay on a blind date in China.

  • 2021 was the worst year on record for online child sex abuse, according to the Internet Watch Foundation.

Stat of the day: positive coronavirus cases on cruise ships have increased ’30-fold’

MS Iona, an Excellence-class cruise ship in service for P&O Cruises, at Lisbon Cruise Terminal.
MS Iona, an Excellence-class cruise ship in service for P&O Cruises, at Lisbon Cruise Terminal. Photograph: Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis/Getty Images

The CDC director, Dr Rochelle Walensky, said at a senate health hearing this week that the infections on cruise ships have continued to skyrocket, upending the industry and leaving passengers stranded aboard ships. At the end of December, cases jumped to 5,013 – up from only 162 in the first two weeks of December.

“Just over the last two weeks with Omicron, we’ve seen a 30-fold increase in cases on ships,” Walensky said.

Don’t miss this: the Texas principal caught in a ‘critical race theory’ firestorm

James Whitfield, 43, principal at Colleyville Heritage high school in Colleyville.
James Whitfield, 43, principal at Colleyville Heritage high school in Colleyville. Photograph: Ben Torres/for the Texas Tribune

Barely a month into the promotion to principal of Colleyville Heritage High, Dr James Whitfield sent a letter to his students in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, hoping to reassure them as protests rocked across the nation. Within months of sending that letter, he’d be put on paid administrative leave pending investigation.

“Nobody in the community was calling me or anything,” he said about the initial response to the letter. “But I started to hear word that: ‘Hey. these people are talking about you and they’re saying you’re doing critical race theory.’”

Climate check: cause for alarm

Demonstrators attending a Fridays for Future climate strike in Washington, DC, last year.
Demonstrators attending a Fridays for Future climate strike in Washington, DC, last year. Photograph: Allison Bailey/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

A record number of Americans are now becoming increasingly alarmed by the climate crisis, according to a new study published by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

The study, which categorized Americans into six groups ranging from the alarmed to the dismissive, found that the alarmed group, at 33%, greatly outnumbered the dismissive group, at 9%, by more than three to one.

Want more environmental stories delivered to your inbox? Sign up to our new newsletter Down to Earth to get original and essential reporting on the climate crisis every week

Last Thing: the smash TV hit that exposed a cultural divide

Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner, is a violent drama about familial legacy and the tides of changes in the mountains of Montana. It’s also the the most-watched show on cable in the US, though depending on where you live, you might not know it.

Despite batting in the same league as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead without a clear streaming outlet, Yellowstone doesn’t court the critical attention or media scrutiny as its ratings predecessors.

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