Feds warn of domestic terror threat. Dems float Trump censure. China begins anal swab COVID test. EU-UK vaccine squabble continues.
Feds: threat of politically-motivated violence remains high
The Department of Homeland Security has issued a heightened terrorism threat warning to the law enforcement community. The bulletin warns that the threat of politically-motivated right-wing terrorism will remain high for weeks to come. The agency says that the attention garnered by the Capitol riot may embolden extremist elements still seething after Donald Trump’s election defeat.
DHS did not address any specific known plots, but merely advised law enforcement to stay on its toes. This bulletin is significant because it essentially equates these extremist uprisings to acts of domestic terrorism. This is a classification federal agencies have long shied away from, even in the wake of the Capitol riot.
Senate Dems look to censure Trump as impeachment alternative
After all but 5 GOP Senators voted this week to block an impeachment trial against Donald Trump, Democratic hopes of a conviction are waning. The trial is still scheduled to go ahead on Feb. 9, but Democrats, and some Republicans, are looking for a more feasible and less divisive alternative.
Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Susan Collins are putting together a motion to censure Donald Trump. A Congressional censure, they stay, is a more viable option to hold Trump officially accountable for his part in inciting the Capitol riot. It would also not require a two-thirds vote as an impeachment conviction would. Sources indicate Kaine and Collins may include wording in the censure barring Trump from holding high office again. However, it’s unclear whether or not this ban would be as enforceable as one following an impeachment conviction.
China introduces anal swab COVID test
Chinese health officials have begun using anal swabs to test people it considers to be at “high-risk” for COVID. The method is more accurate than nasal swabs as COVID virus can live longer in the colon than in the respiratory tract. However, officials say the anal test will not be used as widely as other testing methods as it is “not convenient”.
For now, the method is reserved for people living in areas considered to have a high risk of transmission. China is introducing more stringent testing protocols and travel restrictions ahead of the Lunar New Year celebrations in early February. Last year, that event contributed to a massive spread of the still-emerging epidemic as millions traveled to be with loved ones for the celebration.
EU demands UK-made vaccines from AstraZeneca amid row
The failure of British-Swedish vaccine producer AstraZeneca to meet hoped-for EU production and distribution targets has triggered an all-out vaccine rivalry between the EU and UK. The vaccine is produced in two UK sites and two EU facilities. Production at the UK facilities has been humming along nicely, while the two EU sites have been falling behind. AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot attempted to cool tempers earlier this week by explaining that the UK had signed their contract three full months ahead of the EU, allowing more time for production hiccups to shake out.
EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides dismissed this explanation, saying, “We reject the logic of first come, first served”. Kyriakides demanded yesterday that AstraZeneca redirect doses produced in the UK to meet the firm’s obligations to the EU. Only last week, the EU said they were considering a ban on exporting any EU-made doses to outside countries, which now includes the UK.
Unsurprisingly, AstraZeneca and the British Home Secretary Michael Gove have rejected this baffling and hypocritical demand. Gove says the UK will only send vaccines to the EU if they have a surplus. In response, Belgium has dispatched inspectors to a Belgian AstraZeneca facility, looking for evidence that vaccines produced there had been diverted to the UK.
Unable to resist a rare opportunity to direct a thinly-veiled and well-deserved jibe at his EU rivals, British PM Boris Johnson says, “I’m confident of our supplies and we’ll keep rolling out vaccines as fast we possibly can. I am very pleased at the moment that we have the fastest rollout of vaccines in Europe by some way”.
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