Four people died as supporters of President Donald Trump violently occupied the U.S. Capitol.
Washington, D.C., Police Chief Robert Contee said the dead on Wednesday included a woman who was shot by the U.S. Capitol Police, as well as three others who died in “medical emergencies.”
Police said both law enforcement and Trump supporters deployed chemical irritants during the hourslong occupation of the Capitol building before it was cleared Wednesday evening by law enforcement.
The woman was shot earlier Wednesday as the mob tried to break through a barricaded door in the Capitol where police were armed on the other side. She was hospitalized with a gunshot wound and later died.
D.C. police officials also say two pipe bombs were recovered, one outside the Democratic National Committee and one outside the Republican National Committee. Police found a cooler from a vehicle that had a long gun and Molotov cocktail on Capitol grounds.
The pro-Trump mob took over the presiding officer’s chair in the Senate, the offices of the House speaker, and the Senate dais, where one yelled, “Trump won that election.”
They mocked its leaders, posing for photos in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one with his feet propped on her desk, another sitting in the same seat Vice President Mike Pence had occupied only moments before during the proceedings to certify the Electoral College vote.
This began as a day of reckoning for President Donald Trump’s futile attempt to cling to power as Congress took up the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. It devolved into scenes of fear and agony that left a prime ritual of American democracy in tatters.
Trump told his morning crowd at the Ellipse that he would go with them to the Capitol, but he didn’t. Instead he sent them off with incendiary rhetoric.
“If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” he said. “Let the weak ones get out,” he went on. “This is a time for strength.”
His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told the crowd, “Let’s have trial by combat.”
What happened Wednesday was nothing less than an attempted coup, said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., a frequent Trump critic, said: “Today, the United States Capitol — the world’s greatest symbol of self-government — was ransacked while the leader of the free world cowered behind his keyboard.”
Sasse went on: “Lies have consequences. This violence was the inevitable and ugly outcome of the president’s addiction to constantly stoking division.”
Authorities eventually regained control, as night fell, and Congress resumed its process of confirming Biden’s Electoral College win.
Heavily armed officers brought in as reinforcements started using tear gas in a coordinated effort to get people moving toward the door, then combed the halls for stragglers, pushing the mob farther out onto the plaza and lawn, in clouds of tear gas, flash-bangs and percussion grenades.
Video footage also showed officers letting people calmly walk out the doors of the Capitol despite the rioting and vandalism. Only about a dozen arrests were made in the hours after authorities regained control. They said a woman was shot in the chest inside the building during the chaos, was taken to a hospital and died.
Early on, some inside the Capitol saw the trouble coming outside the windows. Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota surveyed the growing crowd on the grounds not long after Trump had addressed his supporters by the Ellipse, fueling their grievances over an election that he and they say he won, against all evidence.
“I looked out the windows and could see how outmanned the Capitol Police were,” Phillips said. Under the very risers set up for Biden’s inauguration, Trump supporters clashed with police who blasted pepper spray in an attempt to hold them back.
It didn’t work. Throngs of maskless MAGA-hatted demonstrators tore down metal barricades at the bottom of the Capitol’s steps. Some in the crowd were shouting “traitors” as officers tried to keep them back. They broke into the building.
Announcements blared: Due to an “external security threat,” no one could enter or exit the Capitol complex, the recording said. A loud bang sounded as officials detonated a suspicious package to make sure it was not dangerous.
It was about 1:15 p.m. when New Hampshire Rep. Chris Pappas, a Democrat, said Capitol Police banged on his door and “told us to drop everything, get out as quickly as we could.”
“It was breathtaking how quickly law enforcement got overwhelmed by these protesters,” he told The Associated Press.
Shortly after 2 p.m., Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Vice President Mike Pence were evacuated from the Senate as protesters and police shouted outside the doors.
“Protesters are in the building,” were the last words picked up by a microphone carrying a live feed of the Senate before it shut off.
Police evacuated the chamber at 2:30 p.m., grabbing boxes of Electoral College certificates as they left.
Phillips yelled at Republicans, “This is because you!”
Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., told reporters he was in the House chamber when protesters began storming it. He said security officers urged lawmakers to put gas masks on and herded them into a corner of the massive room.
“When we got over to other side of the gallery, the Republican side, they made us all get down, you could see that they were fending off some sort of assault, it looked like,” he said. “They had a piece of furniture up against the door, the door, the entry to the floor from the Rotunda, and they had guns pulled.” The officers eventually escorted the lawmakers out of the chamber.
Shortly after being told to put on gas masks, most members were quickly escorted out of the chamber. But some members remained in the upper gallery seats, where they had been seated due to distancing requirements.
Along with a group of reporters who had been escorted from the press area and Capitol workers who act as ushers, the members ducked on the floor as police secured a door to the chamber down below with guns pointed. After making sure the hallways were clear, police swiftly escorted the members and others down a series of hallways and tunnels to a cafeteria in one of the House office buildings.
Describing the scene, Democratic Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut said “there was a point there where officers had their guns and weapons pointed at the door, they were obviously expecting a breach through the door. It was clear that there were pretty close to pulling the trigger so they asked us all to get down in the chamber.”
As he walked out of the Capitol, Himes said he lived in Latin America and “always assumed it could never happen here.”
“We’ve known for for years that our democracy was in peril and this is hopefully the worst and final moment of it,” Himes said. “But with a president egging these people on, with the Republicans doing all they can to try to make people feel like their democracy has been taken away from them even though they’re the ones doing the taking, it’s really hard, really sad. I spent my entire political career reaching out to the other side. And it’s really hard to see this.”
Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley was also in the balcony. “It’s not good to be around terrified colleagues, with guns drawn toward people who have a barricade ... people crying. Not what you want to see.”
“This is how a coup is started,” said Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif. “This is how democracy dies.”
In a race to “save lives, livelihoods and end this pandemic”, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that it's important to remember that COVID-19 is just one of a number of major disease outbreaks facing communities across the world.
In his first regular media briefing of the new year, on Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists that the UN health agency was also “picking up and analysing hundreds of potential signals every week”, concerning other life-threatening illnesses.
But he made it clear the pandemic remains “a major public health crisis”, while assuring that the agency is “working day and night” to accelerate science, provide solutions on the ground and build global solidarity.
“This is as important for tackling the pandemic as it is for getting essential services back up and running again," Tedros was quoted by UN News as saying.
‘Investment in overall development’
Pointing out that WHO’s work stretches “far beyond emergencies”, the UN's top health official explained that its operations encompass improving “human health in all its aspects from birth to old age”.
He also elaborated on the breadth of the agency’s activities – from keeping mothers and babies alive during childbirth to tackling mental health and controlling HIV and other diseases.
“We have learned a lot in the last year; not least that health is an investment in overall development, critical for thriving economies and a key pillar of national security,” said the WHO chief.
Integrated primary healthcare systems are imperative to prevent, screen and treat infectious and noncommunicable diseases.
Citing the pandemic, Tedros said that infectious viruses put those with underlying conditions “at highest risk of dying”, and that the countries with high numbers of people with health conditions put “extra stress on the health system”.
He maintained that health cannot be “an afterthought when we have an emergency” and underscored the need to “invest in preparedness and surveillance to stop the next pandemic”.
New vaccine development standard
At the dawn of 2021, scientists and public health experts from inside and outside WHO are continuing to break down the latest data and put forward solutions to “build back greener and stronger health systems”, Tedros said.
“My one hope is that there’s less politicking about health in the year ahead," he said.
Pointing out that the scientific community has “set a new standard for vaccine development”, he urged the international community to set a new standard for access.
“People must come first over short-term profits. It’s in countries self-interest to shun vaccine nationalism," the WHO chief said.
A shot in the arm
Last week, WHO cleared the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use and this week the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, developed by Oxford University, began in the United Kingdom.
With 190 “countries and economies” backing the COVAX international vaccines-for-all initiative, Tedros wants to see all manufacturers quickly channel supplies there, to enable rollouts to protect high-risk people globally.
“We owe it morally to health workers everywhere who have been fighting this pandemic round the clock for the best part of a year, to vaccinate them all as soon as possible," he said.
Georgia officials began counting the final votes of the nation’s turbulent 2020 election season on Tuesday night as polls closed in two critical races that will determine control of the U.S. Senate and, in turn, the fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
The two Senate runoff elections are leftovers from the November general election, when none of the candidates hit the 50% threshold. Democrats need to win both races to seize the Senate majority — and, with it, control of the new Congress when Biden takes office in two weeks.
President Donald Trump encouraged his loyalists to turn out in force even as he undermined the integrity of the electoral system by pressing unfounded claims of voter fraud to explain away his own defeat in Georgia.
Around 9 p.m. Tuesday, the race was too early to call.
Both Democrats had a small lead in votes counted, but much of that vote came from ballots cast before Election Day, which generally favor Democratic candidates. That left room for the Republicans to catch up as more votes cast on Election Day, which tend to favor the GOP, were added to the count.
In one contest, Republican Kelly Loeffler, a 50-year-old former businesswoman who was appointed to the Senate less than a year ago by the state’s governor, faced Democrat Raphael Warnock, 51, who serves as the senior pastor of the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. grew up and preached.
The other election pitted 71-year-old former business executive David Perdue, a Republican who held his Senate seat until his term expired on Sunday, against Democrat Jon Ossoff, a former congressional aide and journalist. At just 33 years old, Ossoff would be the Senate’s youngest member.
The heightened significance of the runoffs has transformed Georgia, once a solidly Republican state, into one of the nation’s premier battlegrounds during the final days of Trump’s presidency.
Biden and Trump campaigned for their candidates in person on the eve of the election, though some Republicans feared Trump may have confused voters by continuing to make wild claims of voter fraud as he tries to undermine Biden’s victory. The president has assailed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, repeatedly for rejecting his fraud contentions and raised the prospect that some ballots might not be counted even as votes were being cast Tuesday afternoon.
State officials said there were no major problems with voting on Tuesday.
Gabriel Sterling, a top official with the Georgia secretary of state’s office, said voting was smooth across the state with minimal wait times, though lines of around an hour built up in Republican-leaning Houston, Cherokee, Paulding and Forsyth counties.
While they have no merit, Trump’s claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election have resonated with Republican voters in Georgia. About 7 in 10 agree with his false assertion that Biden was not the legitimately elected president, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 3,600 voters in the runoff elections.
Election officials across the country, including the Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, as well as Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have confirmed that there was no widespread fraud in the November election. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, where three Trump-nominated justices preside.
Even with Trump’s claims, voters in both parties were drawn to the polls because of the high stakes. AP VoteCast found that 6 in 10 Georgia voters say Senate party control was the most important factor in their vote.
In Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood, 37-year-old Kari Callaghan said she voted “all Democrat” on Tuesday, an experience that was new for her.
“I’ve always been Republican, but I’ve been pretty disgusted by Trump and just the way the Republicans are working and especially the news this weekend about everything happening in Georgia,” she said. “I feel like for the Republican candidates to still stand there with Trump and campaign with Trump feels pretty rotten. This isn’t the conservative values that I grew up with.”
But 56-year-old Will James said he voted “straight GOP.”
He said he was concerned by the Republican candidates’ recent support of Trump’s challenges of the presidential election results in Georgia, “but it didn’t really change the reasons I voted.”
“I believe in balance of power, and I don’t want either party to have a referendum, basically,” he said.
Even before Tuesday, Georgia had shattered its turnout record for a runoff with more than 3 million votes by mail or during in-person advance voting in December. The state’s previous record was 2.1 million in a 2008 Senate runoff.
Democrats counted on driving a huge turnout of African Americans, young voters, college-educated Georgians and women, all groups that helped Biden win the state. Republicans, meanwhile, have been focused on energizing their own base of white men and voters beyond the core of metro Atlanta.
If Republicans win either seat, Biden would be the first incoming president in more than a century to enter the Oval Office facing a divided Congress. In that case, he would have little shot for swift votes on his most ambitious plans to expand government-backed health care coverage, address racial inequality and combat climate change.
A Republican-controlled Senate also would create a rougher path to confirmation for Biden’s Cabinet picks and judicial nominees.
This week’s elections mark the formal finale to the heated 2020 election season more than two months after the rest of the nation finished voting. The results also will help demonstrate whether the political coalition that fueled Biden’s victory was an anti-Trump anomaly or part of a new landscape.
Biden won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes by about 12,000 votes out of 5 million cast in November.
Mexico approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for emergency use Monday, hoping to spur a halting vaccination effort that has only given about 44,000 shots since the third week of December, about 82% of the doses the country has received.
The Pfizer vaccine had been the only one approved for use in Mexico, until Mexican regulators approved the AstraZeneca shot Monday.
Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard wrote in his Twitter account Monday that “the emergency approval for the AstraZeneca vaccine is very good news ... with this, production will begin very soon in Mexico!”
A Mexican firm has arranged to do part of the finishing and packaging of the vaccine.
Assistant Health Secretariat Hugo López-Gatell said he erroneously reported approval for Chinese vaccine maker CanSino, noting it had not yet submitted full study results for safety and efficacy.
Mexico has pinned much of its hopes on the inexpensive, one-shot CanSino vaccine. “It will makes things a lot easier for us,” López-Gatell said.
The Mexican Social Security Institute also released more information about a doctor in northern Mexico who had such a severe allergic reaction to the Pfizer vaccine last week that she was hospitalized in intensive care.
The doctor suffered difficulty breathing, brain inflammation and convulsions a half-hour after getting the shot. Experts are running tests to determine whether she suffered a rare inflammation of the spinal cord called transverse myelitis. She is reportedly recovering.
López-Gatell, who heads up efforts to deal with the pandemic, had to explain why he was spotted at a Pacific coast beach, apparently sitting at sea-side restaurant without a face mask on.
López-Gatell has repeatedly counselled Mexicans to stay at home. He has also cast doubt on how whether face masks protect people from catching coronavirus.
López-Gatell said he saw nothing wrong with going to the Pacific coast state of Oaxaca to see friends and relatives, noting that the virus alert level was lower there.
Over the weekend, local media posted photos of López-Gatell sitting in the open-air restaurant, reportedly in the laid-back beach resort of Zipolite, in southern Oaxaca state, which has mandatory rules about face masks.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called López-Gatell “a good public servant.” Mexico has nearly 1.45 million coronavirus cases and 127,757 deaths.
“It’s a good thing that there is this scrutiny, but a public servant has rights, too,” said López Obrador.
The first Americans inoculated against COVID-19 began rolling up their sleeves for their second and final dose Monday, while Britain introduced another vaccine on the same day it imposed a new nationwide lockdown against the rapidly surging virus.
New York State, meanwhile, announced its first known case of the new and seemingly more contagious variant, detected in a man in his 60s in Saratoga Springs. Colorado, California and Florida previously reported infections involving the mutant version that has been circulating in England.
The emergence of the variant has added even more urgency to the worldwide race to vaccinate people against the scourge.
In Southern California, intensive care nurse Helen Cordova got her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center along with other doctors and nurses, who bared their arms the prescribed three weeks after they received their first shot. The second round of shots began in various locations around the country as the U.S. death toll surpassed 352,000.
“I’m really excited because that means I’m just that much closer to having the immunity and being a little safer when I come to work and, you know, just being around my family,” Cordova said.
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Over the weekend, U.S. government officials reported that vaccinations had accelerated significantly. As of Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said nearly 4.6 million shots had been dispensed in the U.S., after a slow and uneven start to the campaign, marked by confusion, logistical hurdles and a patchwork of approaches by state and local authorities.
Britain, meanwhile, became the first nation to start using the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, ramping up its nationwide inoculation campaign amid soaring infection rates blamed on the new variant. Britain’s vaccination program began Dec. 8 with the shot developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.
Brian Pinker, an 82-year-old dialysis patient, received the first Oxford-AstraZeneca shot at Oxford University Hospital, saying in a statement: “I can now really look forward to celebrating my 48th wedding anniversary.”
The rollout came the same day Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new lockdown for England until at least mid-February. Britain has recorded more than 50,000 new coronavirus infections a day over the past six days, and deaths have climbed past 75,000, one of the worst tolls in Europe.
Schools and colleges will generally be closed for face-to-face instruction. Nonessential stores and services like hairdressers will be shut down, and restaurants can offer only takeout.
“As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from COVID than at any time since the start of the pandemic,” Johnson said.
Elsewhere around the world, France and other parts of Europe have come under fire over slow vaccine rollouts and delays.
France’s cautious approach appears to have backfired, leaving just a few hundred people vaccinated after the first week and rekindling anger over the government’s handling of the pandemic. The slow rollout has been blamed on mismanagement, staffing shortages over the holidays and a complex consent policy designed to accommodate vaccine skepticism among the French.
“It’s a state scandal,” Jean Rottner, president of the Grand-Est region of eastern France, said on France-2 television. “Getting vaccinated is becoming more complicated than buying a car.”
Health Minister Olivier Veran promised that by the end of Monday, several thousand people would be vaccinated, with the tempo picking up through the week. But that would still leave France well behind its neighbors.
French media broadcast charts comparing vaccine figures in various countries: In France, a nation of 67 million people, just 516 people were vaccinated in the first six days, according to the French Health Ministry. Germany’s first-week total surpassed 200,000, and Italy’s was over 100,000. Millions have been vaccinated in the U.S. and China.
The European Union likewise faced growing criticism about the slow rollout of COVID-19 shots across the 27-nation bloc of 450 million inhabitants. EU Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said the main problem “is an issue of production capacity, an issue that everybody is facing.”
The EU has sealed six vaccine contracts with a variety of manufacturers. But only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use so far across the EU. The EU’s drug regulators are expected to decide on Wednesday whether to recommend authorizing the Moderna vaccine.
In the U.S., Dr. Mysheika Roberts, health commissioner in Columbus, Ohio, said demand has been lower than expected among the people given top priority for the vaccine. For example, the city’s 2,000 emergency medical workers are all eligible, but the health department has vaccinated only 850 of them.
She said some people were hesitant to get the vaccine and wanted to see how others handled it. The vaccine also arrived the week of Christmas, and a lot of people were on vacation and didn’t want to be bothered during the holiday, she said.
“I think we all assumed that people would want this vaccine so badly, that when it became available, people would just come get it,” Roberts said.
Roberts noted there has been no effective mass marketing campaign explaining why people should get vaccinated.
“From the president on down, so many people have been touting the fact that we’re going to have a vaccine and get this vaccine out. But so many of those same people who were talking about it now have gone silent,” she said. “That could help if those same people would be more vocal about it.”
Elsewhere around the globe, Israel appears to be among the world leaders in the vaccination campaign, inoculating over 1 million people, or roughly 12% of its population, in just over two weeks. The effort has been boosted by a high-quality, centralized health system and the country’s small size and concentrated population.
On Sunday, India, the world’s second-most populous country, authorized its first two COVID-19 vaccines — the Oxford-AstraZeneca one and another developed by an Indian company. The move paves the way for a huge inoculation program in the desperately poor nation of 1.4 billion people.
India has confirmed more than 10.3 million cases of the virus, second in the world behind the U.S. It also has reported about 150,000 deaths.