House speeding to impeach Trump for Capitol ‘insurrection’

WASHINGTON (AP) - Poised to impeach, the House sped ahead Monday with plans to oust President Donald Trump from office, warning he is a threat to democracy and pushing the vice president and Cabinet to act even more quickly in an extraordinary effort to remove Trump in the final days of his presidency.

Trump faces a single charge -- “incitement of insurrection” - after the deadly Capitol riot in an impeachment resolution that the House will begin debating Wednesday.

At the same time, the FBI warned ominously on Monday of potential armed protests in Washington and many states by Trump loyalists ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, Jan. 20. In a dark foreshadowing, the Washington Monument was being closed to the public amid the threats of disruption.

It all adds up to stunning final moments for Trump’s presidency as Democrats and a growing number of Republicans declare that he is unfit for office and could do more damage after inciting a mob that violently ransacked the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday.

“President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government,” reads the four-page impeachment bill.

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FBI warns of plans for nationwide armed protests next week

WASHINGTON (AP) - The FBI is warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C., in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, stoking fears of more bloodshed after last week’s deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol.

An internal FBI bulletin warned, as of Sunday, that the nationwide protests may start later this week and extend through Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, according to two law enforcement officials who read details of the memo to The Associated Press. Investigators believe some of the people are members of extremist groups, the officials said. The bulletin was first reported by ABC.

“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the bulletin said, according to one official. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The FBI issued at least one other bulletin - they go out to law enforcement nationwide on the topic - before the riots last week. On Dec. 29, it warned of the potential for armed demonstrators targeting legislatures, the second official said.

Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters Monday that the Guard is also looking at any issues across the country,

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Going big: US dispensing shots at stadiums and fairgrounds

The U.S. is entering the second month of the biggest vaccination drive in history with a major expansion of the campaign, opening football stadiums, major league ballparks, fairgrounds and convention centers to inoculate a larger and more diverse pool of people.

After a frustratingly slow rollout involving primarily health care workers and nursing home residents, states are moving on to the next phase before the first one is complete, making COVID-19 shots available to such groups as senior citizens, teachers, bus drivers, police officers and firefighters.

Emily Alexander, a fourth-grade teacher in hard-hit Arizona, got vaccinated in a round-the-clock, drive-thru operation that opened Monday at the suburban Phoenix stadium where the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals play. She said she hopes it means she can be reunited in person with her students and colleagues before the end of the year.

“I miss the kids so much,” the 37-year-old Alexander said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing them and their families, being able to hug them. That has just been so tough.”

Similarly, in Britain, where a more contagious variant of the virus is raging out of control and deaths are soaring, seven large-scale vaccination sites opened Monday at such places as a big convention center in London, a racecourse in Surrey and a tennis and soccer complex in Manchester.

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Trump hits Cuba with new terrorism sanctions in waning days

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Trump administration on Monday re-designated Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” hitting the country with new sanctions that could hamstring President-elect Joe Biden’s promise to renew relations with the communist-governed island.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the step, citing in particular Cuba’s continued harboring of U.S. fugitives, its refusal to extradite a coterie of Colombian guerrilla commanders as well as its support for Venezuelan leader Nicols Maduro.

The designation, which had been discussed for years, is one of several last-minute foreign policy moves that the Trump administration is making before Biden takes office Jan. 20.

Removing Cuba from the blacklist had been one of former President Barack Obama’s main foreign policy achievements as he sought better relations with the island, an effort endorsed by Biden as his vice president. Ties had been essentially frozen after Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

As he has with Iran, Trump has sought to reverse many of Obama’s decisions involving Cuba. He has taken a tough line on Havana and rolled back many of the sanctions that the Obama administration had eased or lifted after the restoration of full diplomatic relations in 2015.

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Law enforcement: We’ll be ready for Joe Biden’s inauguration

WASHINGTON (AP) - This time, they’ll be ready.

The inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden will be held on the same risers in the same spot at the U.S. Capitol where a violent, pro-Trump mob descended last week. But the two events aren’t even comparable from a security standpoint, said Michael Plati, U.S. Secret Service special agent in charge, who is leading the inauguration security.

The inauguration is designated as a “national special security event,” which clears the way for communication, funding and preparation between multiple agencies in Washington, like the Capitol Police, Pentagon, Homeland Security and District-area police. Other such events are the State of the Union, the Super Bowl and the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

Last week’s rally turned violent siege was viewed as a free speech event in the days before, despite multiple warnings about the potential for violence from right-wing extremist groups. Egged on by President Donald Trump and his repeated attempts to delegitimize Biden’s win, the violent mob marched from the White House to the Capitol, where they occupied the building for hours to try to stop lawmakers from certifying Biden’s win. Five people died, including a police officer. Two explosive devices were found, but they did not go off.

“I don’t want to use the expression that we’re comparing apples to oranges,” Plati said, but the event is planned over a year with contingencies, and they anticipate the possibility of extreme violence.

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Business grows skittish about Trump and GOP after riots

WASHINGTON (AP) - Corporate America is quickly distancing itself from President Donald Trump and his Republican allies, with many of the biggest names in business - Goldman Sachs, Coca Cola, Ford and Comcast - suspending political donations after a Trump-inspired mob ransacked the U.S. Capitol in a deadly and violent spree last Wednesday.

For now, the move is about affirming the rule of law and the clear results of an election that will elevate Democrat Joe Biden to the presidency. But it also signals that companies are growing skittish about lawmakers who backed Trump’s false claims of election fraud, possibly depriving Republicans of public backing from business groups who until recently were the heart of the GOP’s political brand.

“This is spreading like wildfire,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at Yale University’s management school who consults with CEOs. “The U.S. business community has interests fully in alignment with the American public and not with Trump’s autocratic bigoted wing of the GOP.”

Yet the “pausing” of donations announced by many companies - including Marriott, American Express, AT&T, JPMorgan Chase, Dow and others - was unlikely to deliver a serious blow to Republicans in Congress who voted to overturn Biden’s win.

“These are symbolic pledges,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that traces the role money plays in politics. “This is just one source of revenue and for some it’s vanishingly small, particularly in the Senate.”

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State capitols step up security amid new safety concerns

State capitols across the nation stepped up security Monday, deploying National Guard units, SWAT teams and extra police officers while several legislatures convened amid heightened safety concerns following last week’s violence at the U.S. Capitol.

The protections came as the FBI issued a bulletin warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee activated hundreds of National Guard troops to help state police keep order at the state Capitol. At least two people were arrested, including a man who tried to walk past authorities as lawmakers were to begin their session and shouted: “I have every right to witness this.”

At the Georgia Capitol, a state patrol SWAT team walked the perimeter wearing fatigues and carrying rifles while lawmakers gathered inside for the start of a two-year term. State troopers were stationed throughout the Iowa Capitol for opening day as more than 200 people opposing coronavirus mask mandates chanted “freedom” during a peaceful rally.

Legislatures convened in more than a half dozen states Monday. By week’s end, three-fourths of all state legislatures will have opened their sessions. Because of concerns about the coronavirus, many state capitols had already adopted procedures to curb the potential for large crowds, including arranging for lawmakers to meet remotely. Those steps greatly reduced the number of people who are actually working in capitol buildings.

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Right-wing app Parler booted off internet over ties to siege

The conservative-friendly social network Parler was booted off the internet Monday over ties to last week’s siege on the U.S. Capitol, but not before digital activists made off with an archive of its posts, including any that might have helped organize or document the riot.

Amazon kicked Parler off its web-hosting service, and the social media app promptly sued to get back online, telling a federal judge that the tech giant had breached its contract and abused its market power.

It was a roller coaster of activity for Parler, a 2-year-old magnet for the far right that welcomed a surge of new users and became the No. 1 free app on iPhones late last week, after Facebook, Twitter and other mainstream social media platforms silenced President Donald Trump’s accounts over comments that seemed to incite Wednesday’s violent insurrection.

The wave of Trump followers flocking to the service was short-lived. Google yanked Parler’s smartphone app from its app store Friday for allowing postings that seek “to incite ongoing violence in the U.S.”

Apple followed suit on Saturday after giving Parler a day to address complaints it was being used to “plan and facilitate yet further illegal and dangerous activities.” It was later joined by Amazon Web Services, the leading provider of cloud computing infrastructure, which informed Parler it would need to look for a new web-hosting service after Sunday.

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Woman hedges apology in tense interview on hotel attack

NEW YORK (AP) - A white woman who wrongly accused a Black teenager of stealing her cellphone and tackled him at a New York City hotel appeared to back off her apology in a TV interview that aired Monday, suggesting without evidence that maybe he did try to steal her phone after all.

“So, maybe it wasn’t him but at the same time how is it so that as soon as I get asked to leave the premises after I had accused this person of stealing my phone, how is that all of a sudden they just miraculously have my phone at the back?” 22-year-old Miya Ponsetto said in the interview on “CBS This Morning.”

The interview was conducted Thursday, hours before Ponsetto was arrested in Ventura County, California, over the Dec. 26 confrontation with 14-year-old Keyon Harrold Jr. Ponsetto was charged Saturday in New York with attempted robbery, grand larceny, acting in a manner injurious to a child and two counts of attempted assault, according to city police.

Security video released by the police shows Ponsetto frantically grabbing at Harrold as he tries to get away from her through the front door of Manhattan’s Arlo Hotel. The teen’s father, jazz trumpeter Keyon Harrold, has said that Ponsetto’s phone had actually been left in an Uber and was returned by the driver.

In the first part of the CBS interview, broadcast Friday, Ponsetto told host Gayle King, “I don’t feel that that is who I am as a person. I don’t feel like this one mistake does define me.”

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Scientists decry death by 1,000 cuts for world’s insects

The world’s vital insect kingdom is undergoing “death by a thousand cuts,” the world’s top bug experts said.

Climate change, insecticides, herbicides, light pollution, invasive species and changes in agriculture and land use are causing Earth to lose probably 1% to 2% of its insects each year, said University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner, lead author in the special package of 12 studies in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences written by 56 scientists from around the globe.

The problem, sometimes called the insect apocalypse, is like a jigsaw puzzle. And scientists say they still don’t have all the pieces, so they have trouble grasping its enormity and complexity and getting the world to notice and do something.

Wagner said scientists need to figure out if the rate of the insect loss is bigger than with other species. “There is some reason to worry more,” he added, “because they are the target of attack” with insecticides, herbicides and light pollution.

Co-author and University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum, a National Medal of Science winner, said, “Insect decline is kind of comparable to climate change 30 years ago because the methods to assess the extent, the rate (of loss) were difficult.”

Connecticut Media Group