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The Telegraph

Republican senators deliver blow to Donald Trump, overriding his veto for the first time

Donald Trump was dealt a stinging rebuke by Republican senators last night as Congress overrode his veto of a sweeping defence bill. It was the first time in Mr Trump’s four years as president that Congress had blocked his veto power. Many Republican senators joined Democrats in an 81-13 vote to override, well over the two thirds majority required. As a result the annual $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act to fund the military in 2021 will become law. Mr Trump had called the result, which was expected, a “disgraceful act of cowardice” and the Republican leadership in Congress “weak”. The bill will provide a three per cent pay raise for US troops and included elements relating to defence policy, troop levels, weapons systems and military construction. Mr Trump had vetoed it, arguing it allowed for the renaming of military bases that honour Confederate generals, and that it limited his ability to bring troops home from Afghanistan and Germany. He also tried to link passage of the bill to measures targeting social media companies. Throughout Mr Trump’s term Republican senators had been highly reluctant to break so publicly with him. He had vetoed eight previous bills and none were overridden. But with less than three weeks left in office Mr Trump’s influence with Republican senators appeared to have receded markedly. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, said: “It’s time for us to deliver this bill. It’s our chance to remind brave service members and their families that we have their backs.” It came as Republicans also faced a deepening split over Mr Trump’s last ditch attempt to overturn the US presidential election result. Over 140 Republicans in the House of Representatives may be ready to back a move not to certify the outcome at a joint session of Congress on Jan 6, it emerged. But even with that level of support the attempt to block the result still had no chance of success. Mr McConnell privately urged colleagues to accept the election result, and called his own vote on Jan 6 the “most consequential I have ever cast”. In an open letter Ben Sasse, the Republican senator from Nebraska, accused colleagues of “playing with fire”. He said: “Let’s be clear what is happening here. We have a bunch of ambitious politicians who think there’s a quick way to tap into the president’s populist base without doing any real, long-term damage. But they’re wrong. “Adults don’t point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government.” The move to oppose the election results was ignited by Josh Hawley, a Republican senator from Missouri. He will object, forcing a two-hour debate, followed by a vote in the Senate, and in the House of Representatives. The session in Congress will take place a day after two run-off races in Georgia, which will determine whether Republicans or Democrats control the Senate. David Perdue, one of two Republican candidates, announced he would spend the final days of the campaign in quarantine after possible exposure to the coronavirus. Meanwhile, it emerged that staffing changes were to be made to the Secret Service’s presidential detail when Joe Biden takes office on Jan 20. Mr Biden’s camp was said to have expressed concerns that current agents might be politically supportive of Mr Trump. Mr Trump cut short a trip to Florida and headed back to Washington on New Year’s Eve. In a New Year video message he hailed “historic victories” on the economy and fighting the pandemic. He said: “We have to be remembered for what’s been done.” In the final weeks of his term the president was also facing an ongoing battle with Republicans in Congress, including Mr McConnell, after he called for an increase in stimulus cheques to Americans. He also faced growing friction with Iran.

National Review

The Bill Is Coming Due for China’s ‘Capitalist’ Experiment

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has re-awoken to a profound truth: Rich, secure capitalists are the natural enemies of authoritarian regimes. In a hybrid autocratic-capitalist model, capitalism is the means to generate wealth, but power is the end goal. Successful capitalists naturally begin to demand that their personal and property rights be protected from authoritarian fiat. Capital in the hands of entrepreneurs is a political resource; it poses a threat to the implementation of centralized plans.Realizing this, the CCP has begun to assert control over the private sector by “installing . . . Party officials inside private firms” and having state-backed firms invest in private enterprises. In the absence of civil rights or an independent judiciary, “private” companies have no real independence from the government in China. Dissent and demands for civil rights are a threat to the regime and will be crushed.China’s shift from encouraging external investment and internal market competition toward treating capitalism as a threat has an obvious historical precedent. From 1921–1928, the Soviet Union instituted a policy of economic liberalization, which allowed for the privatization of agriculture, retail trade, and light industry. This partial and temporary return to a controlled and limited capitalism, known as the New Economic Policy (NEP), saved the Soviet economy from collapse and enabled Russia to modernize. But, in 1928, Stalin suddenly reversed course: He collectivized agriculture and liquidated the most prosperous farmers, thereby necessitating the frequent resort to grain imports, notably from the United States.China’s own experiment with economic liberalization began in 1981, when Premier Deng Xiaoping began to decentralize and privatize economic activity while continuing to assert the ultimate authority of the CCP. With liberalization, international businesses were invited into China. The price was high: the Chinese regime demanded that they work with and train local firms. This arrangement led to widespread theft of intellectual property, and soon enough, domestic competitors displaced their international rivals in the domestic market, often with the help of government subsidies. CCP-sponsored firms leveraged domestic dominance to enter the international marketplace, undercutting their competitors worldwide. International “partners” were then subjected to asymmetric regulatory action, excluding them from China. (Uber is one recent case of this phenomenon. There are countless others.)Now that the West is waking up to this game, the inflow of capital to China is slowing. Is China’s neo-mercantilist form of capitalism about to end? That seems unlikely; it is too far entrenched to be uprooted quickly. But the freedom of action accorded to Chinese companies and executives is already being dramatically curtailed as Xi Jinping asserts explicit political control over the economy. For example, in November, the CCP unexpectedly prevented the IPO of Ant Group, a company whose business model was considered misaligned with the goals of the party.International businesses that are heavily invested in the PRC must prepare for the worst: “Offers” of the sort that can’t be refused will be made to coerce the sale of onshore facilities and operations. Given the capital controls imposed on the movement of money out of China, it is likely that many Western investments in China will be confiscated as Deng’s experiment is wound down. Western competitors in the global market should finally recognize that their Chinese competitors are both at the mercy of the CCP and backed by instruments of state power.The central conceit of Chinese relations with the West has been that while political authority is monopolized by the CCP, China has a free-market economic system, and should be treated as a free-market trading partner. This was always a convenient fiction. But whatever distance might have existed in the past between economic and political activity in China has disappeared as the party takes control of nominally independent companies.A number of Chinese state-backed companies, including some in strategically important industries, have begun to default on their debt obligations. Will international creditors be allowed to claim the assets? Will the equity holders — in many cases the CCP or regional and local governments in China — be wiped out? If these companies are bailed out by the government, will domestic and foreign debt-holders be treated equally? Or will foreign creditors find their assets wiped out, while these companies continue operating under nominally new ownership and perhaps a new corporate brand? It seems a safe bet that foreign debts will be repudiated, either explicitly or implicitly. What was previously commercial debt now has the risks that are typically associated with sovereign debt, which can be canceled by government fiat. In short, a wave of write-downs is coming for Western businesses invested in China.Western businesses are not competitors operating in a free market in the PRC. As we wrote in a recent article, the CCP consistently treats western firms as adversaries to the sovereign interests of the PRC and uses all the tools at its disposal to target them. Western business executives need to prepare themselves for the very realistic possibility of extensive confiscation of Western assets in China in the near future. Before this happens, the U.S. government should pass legislation allowing Western companies to claim compensation from CCP-controlled entities in U.S. courts for the confiscation of assets. And since the CCP is asserting control over all Chinese companies, all of these companies should be treated as part of a single, government-controlled entity for purposes of litigation and regulation. When the bill comes due for capitalism in China, the West must be ready.Michael Hochberg is a physicist who has founded four successful semiconductor and telecommunications startups. Leonard Hochberg is the Coordinator of the Mackinder Forum-U.S. and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Associated Press

Chicago ends 2020 with 769 homicides as gun violence surges

The number of homicides and shootings in Chicago spiked dramatically in 2020, ending with more bloodshed than in all but one year in more than two decades, statistics released by police on Friday revealed. The number of officers who were struck by bullets doubled from five in 2019 to 10 in 2020.

Reuters

AstraZeneca expects to supply two million doses of COVID-19 vaccine every week in UK -The Times

AstraZeneca expects to supply two million doses of the vaccine in total by next week, the newspaper reported, citing an unnamed member of the Oxford-AstraZeneca team. The report comes after Britain on Wednesday approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, hoping that rapid action will help it stem a record surge of infections driven by a highly contagious form of the virus. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered 100 million doses for the country as part of an agreement with the company.

The Telegraph

Republicans face growing split over attempt to block US Election results

Republicans faced a deepening split last night over whether to back Donald Trump’s last ditch attempt to overturn the US presidential election result. It emerged over 140 Republicans in the House of Representatives may be ready to back a move not to certify the outcome at a joint session of Congress on Jan 6. Senior Republicans tried to rein in colleagues arguing that their bid to publicly show loyalty to Mr Trump was “playing with fire” and would only further undermine public faith in the electoral system. The president cut short a trip to Florida and headed back to Washington on New Year’s Eve. But even with that level of support the attempt to block the result still had no chance of success in Congress. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, privately urged colleagues to accept it. Mr McConnell called his own vote on Jan 6 the “most consequential I have ever cast” – more important than on war or impeachment.

Associated Press

Iran general warns US: Military ready to respond to pressure

The top commander of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said Friday that his country was fully prepared to respond to any U.S. military pressure as tensions between Tehran and Washington remain high in the waning days of President Donald Trump’s administration. Gen. Hossein Salami spoke at a ceremony at Tehran University commemorating the upcoming one-year anniversary of the U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who headed the expeditionary Quds force, on Jan. 3, 2020. At the time, Iran retaliated by launching a ballistic missile strike on a military base in Iraq that caused brain concussion injuries to about 100 U.S. troops.

Reuters

In New Year’s speech, Taiwan president again reaches out to China

TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan is ready to have “meaningful” talks with China as equals as long as they are willing to put aside confrontation, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday, offering another olive branch to Beijing in her New Year’s speech. Democratic Taiwan, claimed by China as its sovereign territory, has come under increasing pressure from Beijing, which has ramped up military activity near the island. China says it is responding to “collusion” between Washington and Taipei, angered at growing U.S. support for the self-governed island.

The Telegraph

US admits vaccination rollout is slower than hoped – and ‘normality’ may not return until autumn

The US government has admitted its coronavirus vaccine rollout is going too slowly, as the country’s top infectious disease expert warned the nation may not reach “some semblance of normality” until the autumn. As of Thursday morning, just 2.8 million Americans had received a Covid-19 vaccine, far short of the government’s goal of immunising 20 million people this month. The rollout has been particularly slow moving in nursing homes, where only 170,000 residents had been vaccinated as of December 30, despite patients in the facilities being among the most vulnerable to the virus. It comes as a more infectious coronavirus strain first detected in the UK has been identified in Colorado and California. Neither patient identified with the strain has a known travel history, leading to concerns the new strain was already spreading within those communities.

The Week

Bernie Sanders rails against McConnell’s assertion that $2000 checks are ‘socialism for rich people’

After Congress agreed to send $600 stimulus checks to Americans, President Trump decided he wanted to push for $2,000 checks instead, launching Trump and some Republicans into an unlikely alliance with Democrats. But the proposal likely won’t even get to the Senate floor thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who spent Thursday once again railing against the proposal with a pointed hit at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).In his Thursday floor speech, McConnell declared Democrats took Trump’s proposal and “skewed it so the checks would benefit even more high-earning households,” calling the whole thing “socialism for rich people.” McConnell has refused to put the $2,000 checks up for a vote, lumping them in with a repeal of protections for social media companies and other unrelated legislation despite bipartisan criticism.Sanders meanwhile took a more direct approach, capping off a week of fiery floor speeches with a harsh response to McConnell on Thursday. “The majority leader helped lead this body to pass Trump’s tax bill. You want to talk about socialism for the rich, Mr. Majority Leader?” Sanders exclaimed. He likewise criticized McConnell’s focus on Section 230, sarcastically calling it something “that is absolutely on the minds” of struggling Americans.> Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Sen. McConnell has some other concerns, concerns about Section 230 of the 1996 Federal Telecommunications Act. I’m sure that that is absolutely on the minds of everybody in Vermont, New York, and Kentucky.” pic.twitter.com/IOitS8qsPd> > — The Hill (@thehill) December 31, 2020Sanders previously tried to filibuster a vote to override President Trump’s veto of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, trying to hold it up until McConnell brought up a standalone vote on the $2,000 checks. But most Republicans and even more Democrats voted to proceed with the vote anyway on Wednesday, stripping Sanders of some of his leverage.More stories from theweek.com Mitch McConnell’s amazing filibuster of his own bill 5 cartoons about the end of a very, very bad year 4 predictions for 2021

Associated Press

France praises nationality bid by British leader’s dad

France’s government cast a favorable light Friday on a reported bid by the father of Britain’s prime minister to take up French nationality, saying it shows how attached Britons are to the European Union that they’re no longer part of. Reports that Stanley Johnson, the father of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is seeking to keep a foot in Europe by taking up French citizenship made headlines just as his son lead Britain’s split Thursday from the EU.

Reuters

British family doctors criticise change of plan on vaccine boosters

British doctors have said a government decision to delay giving a coronavirus vaccine booster shot to vulnerable patients who have already had a first dose will be distressing and disruptive, their trade union said on Thursday. But Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) committee for local family doctors, said it was “grossly and patently unfair to tens of thousands of our most at-risk patients to now try to reschedule their appointments”. For the newly approved vaccine developed by Oxford University and made by AstraZeneca being rolled out in Britain next week, the plan is consistent with a finding that waiting 12 weeks maximises protection against the virus.

The Telegraph

Teachers demand that all schools stay closed

Teaching unions have demanded the closure of every school in the country after Gavin Williamson caved in to pressure to shut all primaries in London. The Education Secretary was forced into a U-turn after councils threatened legal action over his decision to keep some schools in the capital open. The move raises the prospect that pupils in other areas could also be kept at home, as a leading union insisted that “what is right for London is right for the rest of the country”. Dr Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the Government had corrected “an obviously nonsensical position”, adding that ministers must “do their duty” by closing all primary and secondary schools to contain the virus. The union is holding an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the “chaos which is engulfing our schools”. It left the Government’s policy on school reopenings in tatters just two days after Mr Williamson had resisted pressure from Cabinet colleagues to close schools on a region-by-region basis. The development comes after government scientific advisers warned that the spread of the new strain of coronavirus was unlikely to be halted if schools reopened, while an Imperial College study published on Friday said it may not be possible to “control transmission” if children go back to classes as planned. There were fresh warnings on Friday night that the closure of schools to all but vulnerable children and the children of key workers will prove disastrous for students’ education, with new questions about whether exams will go ahead as planned later in the year.

Associated Press

Texas county official suspect in defacing old ‘Negroes’ sign

Controversy over a segregation-era “Negroes” sign in a Texas courthouse has taken an unusual turn after a top county official was identified as a suspect in a criminal investigation into the historical sign being vandalized. The sign in a courthouse in Waxahachie, a city of 36,000 about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Dallas, drew attention in November when a Black constable spoke out over being moved to a shared office near it. That issue was resolved amicably when Ellis County Judge Todd Little gave Constable Curtis Polk Jr. another office.

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