175729
173612

World  

After G-7, Biden says he's reestablishing US credibility

Biden on the world stage

President Joe Biden on Sunday said the United States had restored its presence on the world stage as he used his first overseas trip since taking office to connect with a new generation of leaders from some of the world’s most powerful countries and more closely unite allies on addressing the coronavirus pandemic and China’s trade and labor practices.

As he wrapped three days of what he called “an extraordinarily collaborative and productive meeting” at the Group of Seven summit of wealthy democracies, Biden said there was “genuine enthusiasm” for his engagement.

“America’s back in the business of leading the world alongside nations who share our most deeply held values,” Biden said at a news conference before leaving Cornwall to pay for a visit with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle. “I think we’ve made progress in reestablishing American credibility among our closest friends.”

The president, who is on an eight-day, three country trip, left his mark on the G-7 by announcing a commitment to share 500 million coronavirus vaccine doses with the world and pressing allies to do the same. The leaders on Sunday confirmed their intent to donate more than 1 billion doses to low-income countries in the next year.

He also fought for the leaders' joint statement to include specific language criticizing China's use of forced labor and other human rights abuses as he worked to cast the rivalry with Beijing as the defining competition for the 21st century. Leaders also embraced his call for a 15% global minimum corporate tax rate.

“We need to be able to deal with China in all of those areas coming from a position of strength and coming from a united position.” U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told CBS News' “Face the Nation” on Sunday. "I think what the president was able to do in these last couple of days was bring countries closer together in dealing with some of the challenges posed by China.”

The other G-7 allies did their part in creating the impression that Biden was part of “the Club” and sought to help reinforce Biden’s “America is back” mantra, including by embracing the his campaign slogan to “Build Back Better” from the pandemic.

“We're totally on the same page,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said of Biden.

At the summit, Biden met France’s Emmanuel Macron for the first time, and the two acted like old friends.

Macron did not utter Donald Trump’s name but offered an unambiguous shot at the former president. Macron noted his his relief that with Biden, he was now working with an American president “willing to cooperate.”

“What you demonstrate is leadership is partnership,” Macron said of Biden.

Most European allies had been disenchanted with Trump’s grumbling of “global freeloaders” and espousing an “America First” policy, so Biden had the challenge of convincing a skeptical audience that the last U.S. administration was not a harbinger of a more insular country.

At the summit, Biden also met with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa.

Following the news conference, Biden planned to travel to Windsor Castle for a private audience with the queen— becoming the 13th president to have met with the 95-year-old monarch during her nearly-70 year reign.

The president was then scheduled to fly Brussels for meetings with NATO and European Union leaders before a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Geneva.



171268


G-7 leaders agree on vaccines, China and taxing corporations

G7 leaders strike deals

The leaders of the world’s richest countries have pledged more than 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses to poorer nations, endorsed a global minimum tax on multinational corporations and agreed they will work together to challenge China’s “non-market economic practices” and to call on Beijing to respect human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

Speaking at the end of a G-7 leaders’ summit in southwest England on Sunday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the promised vaccine doses would come both directly and through the international COVAX program. The commitment falls far short of the 11 billion doses the World Health Organization said is needed to vaccinate at least 70% of the world’s population and truly end the pandemic.

The decision to support a minimum corporate tax had been widely anticipated after finance ministers earlier this month embraced placing a global tax of at least 15% on large multinational companies to stop corporations from using tax havens to avoid taxes.

The minimum rate was championed by the United States and dovetails with the aim of President Joe Biden to focus the summit on ways the democracies can support a more fair global economy by working together.

Biden also wanted to persuade fellow democratic leaders to present a more unified front to compete economically with Beijing and strongly call out China’s “nonmarket policies and human rights abuses.”

In the group’s communique published Sunday, the group said: “With regard to China, and competition in the global economy, we will continue to consult on collective approaches to challenging non-market policies and practices which undermine the fair and transparent operation of the global economy.”

The leaders also said they will promote their values by calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Xinjiang, where Beijing is accused of committing serious human rights abuses against the Uyghur minority, and in the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong.

Johnson, the summit's host, said there was a “fantastic degree of harmony” among the G-7 leaders to demonstrate the value of democracy and human rights to the rest of the world and help “the world’s poorest countries to develop themselves in a way that is clean and green and sustainable.”

The G-7 nations are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

CARBIS BAY, England (AP) — The Group of Seven leaders aim to end their first summit in two years with a punchy set of promises Sunday, including vaccinating the world against coronavirus, making huge corporations pay their fair share of taxes and tackling climate change with a blend of technology and money.

They want to show that international cooperation is back after the upheavals caused by the pandemic and the unpredictability of former U.S. President Donald Trump. And they want to convey that the club of wealthy democracies — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — is a better friend to poorer nations than authoritarian rivals such as China.

But it was uncertain how firm the group’s commitments will be on coronavirus vaccines, the economy and the environment when the leaders issue their final communique. Also unclear was whether all of the leaders would back the United States’ call to chastise China for repressing its Uyghur minority and other abuses.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the summit's host, wanted the three-day meeting to fly the flag for a “Global Britain,” his government's push to give the midsized country outsized global influence.

Yet Brexit cast a shadow over that goal during the summit on the coast of southwest England. European Union leaders and U.S. President Joe Biden voiced concerns about problems with new U.K.-EU trade rules that have heightened tensions in Northern Ireland.

But overall, the mood has been positive: The leaders smiled for the cameras on the beach at cliff-fringed Carbis Bay, a village and resort that became a traffic-clogged fortress for the meeting. The last G-7 summit was in France in 2019, with last year's event in the United States scuttled by the pandemic.

The leaders mingled with Queen Elizabeth II at a royal reception on their first evening and were served steak and lobster at a beach barbecue after watching an aeronautic display by the Royal Air Force Red Arrows on their second.

America’s allies were visibly relieved to have the U.S. back as an engaged international player after the “America First” policy of the Trump administration.

“The United States is back, and democracies of the world are standing together,” Biden said as he arrived in the U.K. on the first foreign trip of his 5-month-old presidency. After the G-7 summit, the president will have tea with the queen on Sunday, attend a NATO summit in Brussels on Monday and hold talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday.

At the G-7, Johnson described Biden as a “breath of fresh air.” French President Emmanuel Macron, after speaking one-to-one with Biden, said, “It’s great to have a U.S. president part of the club and very willing to cooperate.”

The re-energized G-7 made ambitious declarations during their meetings about girls’ education, preventing future pandemics and financing greener infrastructure globally. Above all, they vowed to share vaccine doses with less well-off nations that urgently need them. Johnson said the group would pledge at least 1 billion doses, with half of that coming from the United States and 100 million from Britain.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and other public health officials commended the vaccine pledge but said it's not enough. To truly end the pandemic, he said, 11 billion doses are needed to vaccinate at least 70% of the world's population by mid-2022.

“We need more and we need them faster,” Tedros said.

Climate change is a key focus of the leaders' final day of talks on Sunday, and the group is expected to announce new financing measures to help poorer countries reduce carbon emissions.

The “Build Back Better for the World” plan will promise to offer financing for infrastructure — “from railways in Africa to wind farms in Asia” — to help speed up the global shift to renewable energy. The plan is a response to China’s “belt and road” initiative, which has increased Beijing’s worldwide influence.

Climate activists and analysts say filling a $100 billion annual fund to help poor countries tackle the effects of global warming should be at the top of the G-7?s list.

All G-7 countries have pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but many environmentalists say that will be too little, too late.

Naturalist David Attenborough addressed the leaders by video Sunday, warning that humanity is "on the verge of destabilizing the entire planet.”

“If that is so, then the decisions we make this decade — in particular the decisions made by the most economically advanced nations — are the most important in human history,” the veteran documentary filmmaker said.

Max Lawson, head of inequality policy for Oxfam International, welcomed plans to boost investment to help poor countries reduce their carbon footprints but said "it doesn’t help the poor people that are being hit by climate change right now.”

"So, yes, it’s probably a good thing but is it enough? Absolutely not,” he said.

Large crowds of surfers and kayakers took to the sea in a mass protest Saturday to urge better protections for the world's oceans, while thousands beat drums as they marched outside the summit’s media center in Falmouth.

“G-7 is all greenwashing,” the protesters sang. “We’re drowning in promises, now’s the time to act.”

White House officials also said Biden wants the G-7 leaders to speak in a single voice against the forced labor practices targeting China’s Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities. Biden hopes the denunciation will be part of a joint statement Sunday, but some European allies are reluctant to split so forcefully with Beijing.

Canada, Britain and France largely endorsed Biden’s position on China, while Germany, Italy and the European Union showed more hesitancy, according to two senior Biden administration officials.

The leaders’ final communique is also expected to formally embrace placing a global minimum tax of at least 15% on large multinational companies to stop corporations from using tax havens to avoid taxes.

The minimum rate was championed by the U.S., and dovetails with the aim of Biden — and Johnson — to focus the summit on ways the democracies can collaborate to build a more inclusive, fair global economy and to compete with rising autocracies like China.

Non-G-7 nations India, South Korea, Australia and South Africa were invited to attend as guests to bolster the group’s support for fellow democracies.



Swiss narrowly reject tax hike to fight climate change

Swiss reject carbon tax

Exit polls on Sunday indicated that Swiss voters appear to have narrowly rejected a proposed “carbon dioxide law” that would have hiked fees and taxes on fuels that produce greenhouse gases.

The Alpine country has been experiencing an outsized impact from climate change. Switzerland has faced a rise in temperatures that is twice as fast as the global average, the government says. Greenhouse gases — notably carbon dioxide — are seen as the primary culprit.

The proposal would have revised and strengthened an existing law that was aimed at reducing CO2 emissions by 2030. It would have enacted new taxes on CO2-generating fuel and natural gas, as well as on airline tickets.

The proposal was rejected by 51% of the vote, Swiss public broadcaster SRF reported. However, local media said not all votes had been counted and the final result was not expected before late Sunday or Monday.

The climate proposal was one of several measures that Swiss voters cast their ballots nationwide on Sunday.

Critics of the proposal called it ineffective since Switzerland’s carbon-dioxide emissions amount to a mere 0.1% of the global tally.

Among other issues on the nationwide ballot was a referendum on the government’s COVID-19 law, which was accepted. It will generate a surge in state spending.

Another initiative to improve the quality of drinking water in Switzerland was rejected — it would have made it harder for farmers to get state subsidies if they use some types of pesticides and antibiotics. A ban on the use of pesticides was also rejected.

A majority of Swiss voters supported an initiative to grant police enhanced surveillance powers and take preventative actions to help fight terrorism.



173611


Israel set to swear in government, end Netanyahu's long rule

Netanyahu's reign to end

Israel is set to swear in a new government on Sunday that will send Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into the opposition after a record 12 years in office and a political crisis that sparked four elections in two years.

Naftali Bennett, the head of a small ultranationalist party, will take over as prime minister. But if he wants to keep the job, he will have to maintain an unwieldy coalition of parties from the political right, left and center.

The eight parties, including a small Arab faction that is making history by sitting in the ruling coalition, are united in their opposition to Netanyahu and new elections but agree on little else. They are likely to pursue a modest agenda that seeks to reduce tensions with the Palestinians and maintain good relations with the U.S. without launching any major initiatives.

Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, remains the head of the largest party in parliament and is expected to vigorously oppose the new government. If just one faction bolts, it could lose its majority and would be at risk of collapse, giving him an opening to return to power.

The country's deep divisions were on vivid display as Bennett addressed parliament ahead of the vote. He was repeatedly interrupted and loudly heckled by supporters of Netanyahu, several of whom were escorted out of the chamber.

Bennett's speech mostly dwelled on domestic issues, but he expressed opposition to U.S. efforts to revive Iran's nuclear deal with world powers.

“Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons,” Bennett said, vowing to maintain Netanyahu's confrontational policy. “Israel will not be a party to the agreement and will continue to preserve full freedom of action.”

Bennett nevertheless thanked President Joe Biden and the U.S. for its decades of support for Israel.

Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, said the new government will likely be more stable than it appears.

“Even though it has a very narrow majority, it will be very difficult to topple and replace because the opposition is not cohesive," he said. Each party in the coalition will want to prove that it can deliver, and for that they need “time and achievements."

Still, Netanyahu "will continue to cast a shadow,” Plesner said. He expects the incoming opposition leader to exploit events and propose legislation that right-wing coalition members would like to support but can't — all in order to embarrass and undermine them.

The new government is meanwhile promising a return to normalcy after a tumultuous two years that saw four elections, an 11-day Gaza war last month and a coronavirus outbreak that devastated the economy before it was largely brought under control by a successful vaccination campaign.

The driving force behind the coalition is Yair Lapid, a political centrist who will become prime minister in two years, if the government lasts that long.

Israel's parliament, known as the Knesset, will convene to vote on the new government at 4 p.m. (1300 GMT). It is expected to win a narrow majority in the 120-member assembly, after which it will be sworn in. The government plans to hold its first official meeting later this evening.

It's unclear if Netanyahu will attend the ceremony or when he will move out of the official residence. He has lashed out at the new government in apocalyptic terms and accused Bennett of defrauding voters by running as a right-wing stalwart and then partnering with the left.

Netanyahu's supporters have held angry protests outside the homes of rival lawmakers, who say they have received death threats naming their family members. Israel's Shin Bet internal security service issued a rare public warning about the incitement earlier this month, saying it could lead to violence.

Netanyahu has condemned the incitement while noting that he has also been a target.

His place in Israeli history is secure, having served as prime minister for a total of 15 years — more than any other, including the country's founder, David Ben-Gurion.

Netanyahu began his long rule by defying the Obama administration, refusing to freeze settlement construction as it tried unsuccessfully to revive the peace process. Relations with Israel's closest ally grew even rockier when Netanyahu vigorously campaigned against President Barack Obama's emerging nuclear deal with Iran, even denouncing it in an address to the U.S. Congress.

But he suffered few if any consequences from those clashes and was richly rewarded by the Trump administration, which recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital, helped broker normalization agreements with four Arab states and withdrew the U.S. from the Iran deal.

Netanyahu has portrayed himself as a world-class statesman, boasting of his close ties with Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has also cultivated ties with Arab and African countries that long shunned Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians.

But he has gotten a far chillier reception from the Biden administration and is widely seen as having undermined the long tradition of bipartisan support for Israel in the United States.

His reputation as a political magician has also faded at home, where he has become a deeply polarizing figure. Critics say he has long pursued a divide-and-conquer strategy that aggravated rifts in Israeli society between Jews and Arabs and between his close ultra-Orthodox allies and secular Jews.

In November 2019, he was indicted for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes. He refused calls to step down, instead lashing out at the media, judiciary and law enforcement, going so far as to accuse his political opponents of orchestrating an attempted coup. Last year, protesters began holding weekly rallies across the country calling on him to resign.

Netanyahu remains popular among the hard-line nationalists who dominate Israeli politics, but he could soon face a leadership challenge from within his own party. A less polarizing Likud leader would stand a good chance of assembling a coalition that is both farther to the right and more stable than the government that is set to be sworn in.



G-7 pledge to share, but jostle for ground in the sandbox

G-7 pledge to share

Group of Seven leaders brought pledges to share vaccine doses and make a fairer global economy Friday to a seaside summit in England, where British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the coronavirus pandemic should not be allowed to leave a “lasting scar” on the world.

The wealthy nations’ leaders were all smiles and unity as Johnson greeted them on the freshly raked sand of Carbis Bay, but they jostled over who was doing most to help the world’s poorer nations fight COVID-19.

Recovery from the pandemic was set to dominate their discussions, and members of the wealthy democracies club committed to sharing at least 1 billion vaccine shots with struggling countries. That includes a pledge from U.S. President Joe Biden to share 500 million doses, and a promise from Johnson for another 100 million shots.

Opening three days of talks in Cornwall, in southwest England, Johnson warned that world leaders must not repeat errors made over the past 18 months — or those made in the recovery from the 2008 global financial crisis.

“It is vital that we don’t repeat the mistake of the last great crisis, the last great economic recession in 2008, when the recovery was not uniform across all parts of society,” he said after leaders posed for a formal “family photo” by the sea.

“And I think what’s gone wrong with this pandemic, and what risks being a lasting scar, is that I think the inequalities may be entrenched,” Johnson added.

The leaders of the G-7 — which also includes the United States Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — hope the meeting at the resort will also energize the global economy. Beneath moody dark skies, the group walked away from the photo as cheerful as children who had just built a sand castle.

As Johnson led the politicians off the beach, French President Emmanuel Macron threw his arm around the shoulders of Biden, whom he was meeting for the first time. The White House later said the two men discussed COVID-19 and counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel region of Africa and would have a meeting on Saturday.

Facing criticism that they are hogging vaccines, the leaders are competing to be the global champion of so many wounded by the virus. With 3.7 million people lost in the pandemic, the world’s richest democracies are eager to show themselves the champions of the afflicted.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she hoped the summit would show the world “we’re not just thinking of ourselves." Macron sought to underscore that, noting that France had already shipped vaccine doses to the world’s poor — and gently chiding countries that have not by urging in a tweet for “clear goals” and “concrete commitments.”

For Johnson, the first G-7 summit in two years — last year’s was scuttled by the pandemic — is a chance to set out his vision of a post-Brexit “global Britain” as a mid-sized country with an outsized role in international problem-solving.

On Friday Queen Elizabeth II — Britain's biggest global star — traveled from Windsor Castle near London for a reception with the leaders and their spouses at the Eden Project, a futuristic botanical garden housed inside domes that features the world's largest indoor rainforest.

Senior royals — including heir to the throne Prince Charles, his son Prince William and William’s wife, Kate — joined the leaders for the reception and a dinner of roasted turbot, Cornish new potatoes and greens with wild garlic pesto cooked by a local chef.

The choice of an ecologically themed venue was deliberate. Climate change is also a top issue on the agenda, and hundreds of protesters gathered in Cornwall to urge the leaders to act, some dressed as sea creatures such as jellyfish. Demonstrators deployed a barge off the coast with two large inflatable figures depicting Biden and Johnson on board.

The G-7 is also set to formally embrace a global minimum tax of at least 15% on multinational corporations, following an agreement reached a week ago by their finance ministers. The minimum is meant to stop companies from using tax havens to shift profits and to avoid taxes.

It represents a potential win for the Biden administration, which has proposed a global minimum tax as a way to pay for infrastructure projects, and it dovetails with the president's hope to focus the summit on ways the democracies can collaborate to build a more inclusive and fair global economy to help compete with rising autocracies like China.

The minimum tax idea also creates an alternative that could remove some European countries’ digital services taxes that largely hit U.S. tech firms. But the endorsement from the G-7 is just one step in the process. The hope is to get many more countries to sign on — a fraught proposal in nations whose economies are based on attracting business with low corporate taxes.

But the main issue of the day was vaccines and the mounting pressure to outline global vaccine-sharing plans, especially as inequities in supply around the world have become more pronounced. In the U.S., there is a large vaccine stockpile, and the demand for shots has dropped precipitously in recent weeks.

Biden said the U.S. will donate 500 million Pfizer vaccine doses in the next year, 200 million of them by the end of 2021. That commitment was on top of 80 million doses Biden has already pledged to donate by the end of June. A price tag for the doses was not released, but the U.S. is now set to be the larges donor to the international COVAX vaccine effort, as well as its biggest funder.

Johnson said the first 5 million U.K. doses would be shared in the coming weeks, with the remainder coming over the next year. Macron said France would share at least 30 million doses globally by year’s end. Germany plans to donate the same amount. White House officials said the G-7 leaders on Friday committed to 1 billion doses in all.

The COVAX vaccination campaign got off to a slow start as richer nations locked up billions of doses through contracts directly with drug manufacturers. The alliance has distributed just 81 million doses globally, and large parts of the world, particularly in Africa, remain vaccine deserts.

Humanitarian workers welcomed the new donations but said the world needs more doses and sooner.

“We are still far from getting there,” said United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who is due to attend the summit Saturday as a guest.

“We need a concerted effort. We need a global vaccination plan,” he added. “If not the risk is there will still be large areas of the developing world where the virus spreads like wildfire.”



Lobster diver injured when caught in whale's mouth

Man almost eaten by whale

A commercial lobster diver who got caught in the mouth of a humpback whale off the coast of Cape Cod on Friday morning said he thought he was going to die.

Michael Packard, 56, of Wellfleet, told WBZ-TV after he was released from Cape Cod Hospital that he was about 45 feet (14 meters) deep in the waters off Provincetown when “all of a sudden I felt this huge bump, and everything went dark."

He thought he had been attacked by a shark, common in area waters, but then realized he could not feel any teeth and he wasn't in any pain.

“Then I realized, oh my God, I'm in a whale's mouth ... and he's trying to swallow me," he said. “And I thought to myself OK, this is it — I'm finally — I'm gonna die." His thoughts went to his wife and children.

He estimates he was in the whale's mouth for about 30 seconds, but continued to breathe because he still had his breathing apparatus in.

Then the whale surfaced, shook its head, and spit him out. He was rescued by his crewmate in the surface boat.

His sister, Cynthia Packard, originally told the Cape Cod Times that her brother broke a leg, but he said later that his legs are just bruised.

Charles “Stormy” Mayo, a senior scientist and whale expert at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, told the newspaper that such human-whale encounters are rare.

Humpbacks are not aggressive and Mayo thinks it was an accidental encounter while the whale was feeding on fish, likely sand lance.



Senate demands former AGs testify about Trump data seizure

Demand that AGs testify

Senate Democratic leaders are demanding that Trump-era Attorneys General Bill Barr and Jeff Sessions testify about the secret seizure of data from House Democrats in 2018, calling it “shocking” and a “gross abuse of power.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Illinois. Sen. Dick Durbin said in a statement Friday that Barr and Sessions “must testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee" and are subject to a subpoena if they refuse. The demands came after Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell were notified that the Justice Department under former President Donald Trump had seized their metadata from Apple three years ago.

The Justice Department under former President Donald Trump secretly seized data from the accounts of at least two Democratic lawmakers in 2018 as part of an aggressive crackdown on leaks related to the Russia investigation and other national security matters, according to three people familiar with the seizures.

Prosecutors from Trump’s Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for the data from at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, said a committee official and two other people with inside knowledge. The records of at least 12 people connected to the intelligence panel were eventually shared by the company. Among them: Rep. Adam Schiff, then the top Democrat on the committee and now its chairman, and Rep. Eric Swalwell.

The committee official and the two others with knowledge of the data seizures were granted anonymity to discuss them.

While the Justice Department routinely conducts investigations of leaked information, including classified intelligence, opening such an investigation into members of Congress is extraordinarily rare. The disclosures reveal one branch of the government using its powers of investigation and prosecution to spy on another.

Schiff said the seizures suggest "the weaponization of law enforcement by a corrupt president.”

Apple informed the committee last month that the records had been shared and that the investigation had been closed, but did not give extensive detail. Also seized were the records of aides, former aides and family members, one of them a minor, according to the committee official.

The Justice Department obtained metadata — probably records of calls, texts and locations — but not other content from the devices, like photos, messages or emails, according to one of the people. Another said that Apple complied with the subpoena, providing the information to the Justice Department, and did not immediately notify the members of Congress or the committee about the disclosure.

The Trump administration’s attempt to secretly gain access to the data came as the president was fuming publicly and privately over investigations — in Congress and by then-special counsel Robert Mueller — into his campaign’s ties to Russia.

Trump called the probes a “witch hunt," regularly criticized Democrats and Mueller on Twitter and repeatedly dismissed as “fake news” leaks he found harmful to his agenda. As the investigations swirled around him, he demanded loyalty from a Justice Department he often regarded as his personal law firm.



Lawmakers remove state legislator over Oregon Capitol breach

Oregon legislator expelled

Lawmakers in Oregon on Thursday night expelled a Republican legislator who let violent, far-right protesters into the Statehouse.

Rep. Mike Nearman was the first member of the House to be expelled in its 160-year history. The House voted 59-1 to remove him from the Legislature for disorderly behavior.

At an earlier hearing Rep. Paul Holvey said Nearman let in protesters who had planned to occupy the Capitol. Some were armed.

Nearman was seen on security video opening a door to protesters on Dec. 21 as lawmakers met in emergency session to deal with economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Protesters barged into the building, which was closed to the public because of coronavirus safety protocols, got into shoving matches with police and sprayed officers with bear spray.

“It’s impossible to overstate the seriousness of the reason we are here today,” Holvey said. “Rep. Nearman enabled armed, violent protesters to enter the Capitol, breaching the security of the Capitol, which was officially closed to the public, and also endangered the authorized staff and legislators inside the building.”

Some of the protesters had guns. Among those who gathered outside the Capitol in Salem that day were people espousing false QAnon conspiracy theories about Democrats kidnapping babies. They carried American flags and banners for former President Donald Trump. One carried a sign calling for the arrest of Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, Holvey said.

Nearman was unapologetic as he read a statement to the committee.

“The fact is that I exited the building and members of the public entered into the Capitol building, a place they had a right to be — a place the Legislative Assembly had no right to exclude them from,” Nearman said. He said that on the advice of his attorney he would not answer questions.

Hundreds of people provided written testimony to the House Special Committee On December 21, 2020, which is composed of three democrats and three Republicans.

Some people who testified excoriated Nearman as a seditionist. Others praised him for letting people into the Capitol, saying residents should be allowed to attend even though hearings are livestreamed on video.

“Mike Nearman’s behavior ... was abhorrent and anti-democratic,” David Alba said. “Furthermore, by aiding and supporting extremists, he has placed people’s lives in danger. He should be removed from office and he is not fit to represent my district.”

After video emerged in local news reports Friday showing Nearman choreographing how he would let protesters into the Capitol, pinpointing the door he would open for them and disclosing his cellphone number so protesters could text him, all of his House GOP colleagues on Monday strongly recommended he step down.



G7 nations expected to pledge 1B vaccine doses for world

G7 to pledge vaccines

The Group of Seven nations are set to commit to sharing at least 1 billion coronavirus shots with the world, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Thursday, with half coming from the U.S. and 100 million from the U.K. as President Joe Biden urged allies to join in speeding the pandemic’s end and bolstering the strategic position of the world's wealthiest democracies.

Johnson's announcement on the eve of the G7 leaders' summit in England came hours after Biden committed to donating 500 million COVID-19 vaccine doses and previewed a coordinated effort by the advanced economies to make vaccination widely and speedily available everywhere.

“We’re going to help lead the world out of this pandemic working alongside our global partners,” Biden said, adding that on Friday the G7 nations would join the U.S. in outlining their vaccine donation commitments. The G7 also includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

The prime minister's office said the first 5 million U.K. doses would be shared in the coming weeks, with the remainder coming over the next year. Biden's own commitment was on top of the 80 million doses he has already pledged to donate by the end of June.

“At the G7 Summit I hope my fellow leaders will make similar pledges so that, together, we can vaccinate the world by the end of next year and build back better from coronavirus," Johnson said in a statement referencing the U.S. president's campaign slogan.

Earlier Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the U.S. commitment and said Europe should do the same. He said France would share at least 30 million doses globally by year's end.

“I think the European Union needs to have at least the same level of ambition as the United States,” he said at a news conference. He added that time was of the essence, saying, “It’s almost more important to say how many (doses) we deliver the next month than making promises to be fulfilled in 18 months from now."

The G7 leaders have faced mounting pressure to outline their global vaccine sharing plans, especially as inequities in supply around the world have become more pronounced. In the U.S., there is a large vaccine stockpile and the demand for shots has dropped precipitously in recent weeks.

Biden predicted the U.S. doses and the overall G7 commitment would “supercharge” the global vaccination campaign, adding that the U.S. doses come with no strings attached.

“Our vaccine donations don't include pressure for favors or potential concessions,” Biden said. "We’re doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic, that’s it."



NY Times: Trump DOJ investigated House Dems, seized data

Trump investigated Dems

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats called for an investigation on Thursday after The New York Times reported that the Justice Department under President Donald Trump seized the communications data of members of the House Intelligence Committee.

“The news about the politicization of the Trump Administration Justice Department is harrowing," Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. “These actions appear to be yet another egregious assault on our democracy waged by the former president.”

The Times reported Thursday that the DOJ subpoenaed Apple for data from at least two committee members, as well as aides and family members, in 2017 and 2018. The Times report anonymously cited committee officials and two other people briefed on the inquiry.

Among those whose records were seized was California Rep. Adam Schiff, then the top Democrat on the committee.

Schiff, now the panel's chair, said in a statement Thursday night: "Though we were informed by the Department in May that this investigation is closed, I believe more answers are needed, which is why I believe the Inspector General should investigate this and other cases that suggest the weaponization of law enforcement by a corrupt president.”

The Times reported that the subpoenas came as the DOJ was trying to hunt down the sources of leaks that had led to news stories about contacts between Trump associates and Russia.



Dog ejected from vehicle in Idaho crash found herding sheep

Ejected dog found herding

A pet dog who vanished for two days after being ejected from a vehicle during an accident has been found apparently doing the job it was bred to do — herding sheep.

Linda Oswald's family and their dog, Tilly, were driving along Idaho State Highway 41 on Sunday when they crashed into another car, launching the dog through the rear window, The Spokesman-Review reported.

The unharmed but stunned dog then ran away, prompting an immediate search with at least six complete strangers who witnessed the crash and pulled over along the highway to help, Oswald said.

“People just kept going out,” Oswald said, noting that the search lasted about 10 hours on Sunday before the family went home. “We were sore and exhausted.”

Oswald said the family then wrote a Facebook post that included a picture of the 2-year-old border collie and red heeler mix and more than 3,000 people shared the post. That's when Tyler, Travis and Zane Potter recognized the dog in the photo as the same dog they saw on their family farm south of Rathdrum on Tuesday.

Both the Potters and Oswald think Tilly was drawn to the farm and their sheep.

“I think that dog was trying to herd,” Travis Potter said.

Oswald said if it weren't for the post, he would still be out there.



French man gets 4-month prison sentence for slapping Macron

4-months Macron slap

A 28-year-old Frenchman who described himself as a right-wing or extreme-right “patriot” was sentenced to four months in prison Thursday for slapping President Emmanuel Macron in the face.

Damien Tarel was also banned from ever holding public office in France and from owning weapons for five years over the swipe Tuesday, which caught Macron’s left cheek with an audible thwack as the French leader was greeting a crowd.

During Thursday’s trial, Tarel testified that the attack was impulsive and unplanned, and prompted by anger at France’s “decline.”

He sat straight and showed no emotion as the court in the southeastern city of Valence convicted him on a charge of violence against a person invested with public authority. He was sentenced to four months in prison and handed an additional 14-month suspended sentence. His girlfriend broke down in tears.

Tarel, who shouted a centuries-old royalist war cry as he hit the president, described himself as a right-wing or extreme-right “patriot” and member of the yellow vest economic protest movement that shook Macron’s presidency in 2018 and 2019.

Poised and calm, he firmly defended his action and his views on Macron, without providing details of what policies he wants France to change.

Tarel acknowledged hitting the president with a “rather violent” slap. “When I saw his friendly, lying look, I felt disgust, and I had a violent reaction,” he told the court. “It was an impulsive reaction... I was surprised myself by the violence.”

While he said he and his friends had considered bringing an egg or a cream pie to throw at the president, he said they dropped the idea — and insisted that the slap wasn’t premeditated.

“I think that Emmanuel Macron represents the decline of our country,” he said, without explaining what he meant.

He told investigators that he held right- or ultra-right political convictions without being a member of a party or group, according to the prosecutor’s office.

The slap called attention to an assortment of ultra-right groups bubbling beneath France’s political landscape, which are considered increasingly dangerous despite their small following.

Macron wouldn’t comment Thursday on the trial, but insisted that “nothing justifies violence in a democratic society, ever.”

“It’s not such a big deal to get a slap when you go toward a crowd to say hello to some people who were waiting for a long time,” he said in an interview with broadcaster BFM-TV. “We must not make that stupid and violent act more important than it is.”

At the same time, the president added, “we must not make it banal, because anyone with public authority is entitled to respect.”

Another man arrested in the ruckus that followed the slap, identified by the prosecutor as Arthur C., will be judged at a later date, in 2022, for illegal possession of weapons.

The prosecutor’s office said as well as finding weapons, police who searched the home of Arthur C. also found books on the art of war, a copy of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf,” and two flags, one symbolizing Communists and another of the Russian revolution.

Neither Tarel nor Arthur C., also 28, had police records, the prosecutor said.

Videos showed Macron’s attacker slapping the French leader’s left cheek and his bodyguards pushing the man away during a quick meet-and-greet with members of the public, who were kept back behind traffic barriers in the winemaking town of Tain-l’Hermitage.

The attacker was heard to cry out “Montjoie! Saint Denis!” a centuries-old royalist war cry, before finishing with “A bas la Macronie,” or “Down with Macron.”



More World News

173612