PolWorld, Author at POLSKA УКРАЇНА

Michigan Man Pleads Guilty in Plot to Kidnap Governor

A man charged in a plot to kidnap the governor of the U.S. state of Michigan pleaded guilty to conspiracy Wednesday.Ty Garbin is one of 14 charged in the scheme.Garbin, 25, faced 25 years to life, but prosecutors said they agreed to lighten the sentence in exchange for his cooperation. That will likely strengthen the government’s case against the remaining defendants.The group was reportedly upset by Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus shutdowns.In a federal court in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, Garbin admitted to training with weapons, discussing a plan to storm the state capitol, and casing the governor’s second home where the group decided to act. They also planned to blow up a bridge near the second home to slow down attempts to capture them.Garbin said he “advocated waiting until after the national election, when the conspirators expected widespread civil unrest to make it easier for them to operate.”The plot was broken up by the FBI, and Garbin reportedly texted details of the plot to a government informant.Last fall, Garbin’s attorney, Mark Satawa, said his client was never was really going to participate in the kidnapping and that it was all “big talk.”“Saying things like, ‘I hate the governor, the governor is tyrannical’ … is not illegal, even if you’re holding a gun and running around the woods when you do it,” Satawa said in October.The other federal defendants are Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr., Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta.   

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Biden Health Official: US to Surpass 500,000 COVID Deaths in February

The new head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted Wednesday that the COVID-19 death toll in the United States would surpass 500,000 by February 20.CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said during the new administration’s first formal briefing on the crisis that within the next three weeks, the U.S. death toll could reach a point between 479,000 and 514,000.President Joe Biden has promised to regularly deliver science-based facts to a public that is increasingly frustrated over the slow pace of the distribution of vaccines.Walensky’s prediction of coronavirs deaths came as White House COVID-19 czar Jeff Zients said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was working to make more health professionals available to administer vaccinations.Zients said the government would authorize retired doctors and nurses to administer vaccines and that professionals licensed in one state would be able to administer doses in other states.Relief billZients also said Congress must approve Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill to maintain momentum on vaccinations and more testing capacity. He said the administration was working to meet Biden’s goal of delivering at least 100 million vaccine doses in 100 days.Most of Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which some Republican lawmakers complain is too costly, aims to help revive an economy severely weakened by the fallout from the pandemic.Some $400 billion is for measures to contain the virus, including dramatically increasing the pace of vaccinations and building an infrastructure for more widespread testing.The update was the first of three weekly briefings the new administration will have on the state of the pandemic, efforts to contain it, and efforts to deliver vaccines and other treatments to end it.Wednesday’s briefing also featured Zients’ deputy, Andy Slavitt, infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and COVID-19 equality task force chair Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith.“The White House respects and will follow the science, and the scientists will speak independently,” Slavitt said.As it has for months, the U.S. leads the world with nearly 25.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 426,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. 

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Florida Says Only State Residents Can Get COVID Vaccine

Florida is cracking down to prevent non-state residents from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine after a large number of people got the shot ahead of Florida residents.  The vaccine rollout in Florida, as in other states, has faced problems – in large part because of vaccine supply shortages.  Liliya Anisimova in Miami has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.

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Newly-Confirmed US Secretary of State Pledges Cooperation on Global Challenges

The new top U.S. diplomat, Antony Blinken, is pledging to work with core allies and partners to confront complex global challenges, while investing in a diverse and inclusive American Foreign Service.Blinken was officially welcomed to the State Department on Wednesday as secretary of state by approximately 30 of the women and men representing a small cross-section of the larger workforce.  “America’s leadership is needed around the world,” said Blinken, adding he will “put a premium on diplomacy” with allies and partners to meet the great challenges, including “the pandemic, climate change, the economic crisis, threats to democracies, fights for racial justice, and the danger to our security and global stability” posed by U.S. adversaries.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken is sworn in as the 71st U.S. Secretary of State by Acting Under Secretary of State for Management Carol Z. Perez, at the Department of State in Washington, Jan. 26, 2021. (State Department photo)The new top U.S. diplomat also encouraged non-partisanship and transparency.   “I will be forthright with you, because transparency makes us stronger. I will seek out dissenting views and listen to the experts, because that’s how the best decisions are made,” said Blinken at the State Department.  The U.S. Senate confirmed him on Tuesday with a 78-22 vote to serve as the country’s 71st secretary of state, filling the most senior Cabinet position and one that is fourth in the line of presidential succession.   US Senate Confirms Blinken to Lead State Department Former deputy secretary of state has pledged to rebuild US diplomatic corps At a confirmation hearing last week, Blinken said he was ready to confront the challenges posed by China, Iran, Russia and North Korea.   He said China “poses the most significant challenge” to U.S. national interests, while noting there is room for cooperation.   “There are rising adversarial aspects of the relationship; certainly, competitive ones, and still some cooperative ones, when it is in our mutual interests,” he said.   Conservative lawmakers’ opposition to Blinken centered on concerns that he may help the new administration reenter the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and that he would halt former president Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the Middle Eastern power.    “The policies that Mr. Blinken has committed to implementing as secretary of state, especially regarding Iran, will dangerously erode America’s national security and will put the Biden administration on a collision course with Congress, and I could not support his confirmation,” said Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  During his confirmation hearing, Blinken vowed to rebuild State Department morale and the diplomatic corps. He said he saw the U.S. standing abroad as leadership based on “humility and confidence.”   The “swift and bipartisan confirmation sends a powerful signal to our nation and the world that American diplomacy and development matter — both on the global stage and here at home,” said the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a broad-based network of 500 businesses and NGOs, in a statement.  The 58-year-old Blinken was deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration and has close ties with President Joe Biden. He was staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel, and later was then-Vice President Biden’s national security adviser.    
 

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US Aims to Advance Racial Equity

President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed a series of executive orders that the White House says will advance “racial equity for Americans who have been underserved and left behind.” Biden’s moves disavow racism and xenophobia, including of the type directed at Asian Americans following the rise of the coronavirus pandemic. White House Correspondent Patsy Widakuswara has this story.

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Biden’s Commerce Pick, Raimondo, Voices Tough Line on China

President Joe Biden’s pick to oversee the Commerce Department took a tough line on China in her confirmation hearing Tuesday, though she stopped short of singling out which Chinese companies should remain on a list that limits their access to advanced U.S. technology. If confirmed, as expected, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, a former venture capitalist, would be responsible for promoting opportunities for economic growth domestically and overseas. Raimondo focused her testimony before a Senate panel Tuesday on the need to help those sectors of the economy and the workers hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. “COVID has shined a light on the inequities in our economy,” Raimondo said. “The president has been very clear, we’re going to build back better and more equitably, and I strongly support that.” She would inherit a department that took actions during the Trump administration that heightened tensions with China, namely through tariffs and the blacklisting of companies by placing them on the U.S. government’s so-called Entity List. U.S. companies need to get a license to sell sophisticated technology to companies on the list. “China’s actions have been anti-competitive, hurtful to American workers and businesses, coercive, and, as you point out, they’re culpable for atrocious human rights abuses,” Raimondo said in response to a question from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. “So whether it’s the entities list, or tariffs, or countervailing duties, I intend to use all those tools to the fullest extent possible to level the playing field for the American worker.”Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., questions nominee for Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, during her Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing, Jan. 26, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.When Cruz pressed Raimondo on whether certain companies would remain on the Entity List, Raimondo said she would consult with lawmakers, industry and allies and “make an assessment as to what’s best for American national and economic security.” Raimondo similarly demurred on a question about the tariffs the Trump administration had placed on imported steel and aluminum in the name of national security. Those tariffs have raised costs for metal-using industries. She told Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., that she would listen to him and manufacturers in his state and “take their needs into account.” Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., also voiced concerns about tariffs the Trump administration enacted on solar panels, which Rosen said cost the country tens of thousands of solar jobs. Again, Raimondo said she would work with her and she didn’t take a direct stand. “I understand it’s time-sensitive and challenging and a lot of jobs are at stake,” Raimondo assured her. Raimondo was elected governor in 2014 and won reelection in 2018. She’s expected to handily win a confirmation vote, but it’s unclear when that vote will occur. Nominations pertaining to national security generally take precedent. The vote may also have to wait on former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, which will dominate the Senate’s attention starting the week of Feb. 8. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who chairs the commerce committee, wrapped up the hearing on an encouraging note, telling Raimondo, “I do not believe you will be serving as governor of the state of Rhode Island for very much longer.” Raimondo, 49, is the first woman elected governor of Rhode Island. She is a Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of Yale Law School who recalls her father losing his job at a Bulova watch factory in Providence to show she can connect with those worried about jobs in the U.S. being moved to other countries. Much of her hearing was focused on regional issues, with lawmakers from coastal states focused on protecting valuable fishing industries and lawmakers for rural states calling for enhanced access to broadband. She confirmed her interest in working with them on those issues and emphasized the need to tackle climate change. She noted as governor that she oversaw construction of the nation’s first offshore wind farm. “Like President Biden, I know the climate crisis poses an existential threat to our economic security, and we must meet this challenge by creating millions of good, union jobs that power a more sustainable economy,” Raimondo said. The Commerce Department comprises a dozen bureaus and agencies, including the National Weather Service, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Minority Business Development Agency. If confirmed, Raimondo would oversee the work of more than 40,000 employees. 

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Biden to Target Climate Change

U.S. President Joe Biden is set to sign a series of actions Wednesday to combat climate change. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday that Biden believes climate change is one of the top crises to address during his time in office. Biden has appointed former Secretary of State John Kerry to serve as his climate envoy.   Kerry was the nation’s top diplomat during the crafting of the Paris climate agreement, a pact Biden recommitted the United States to on his first day in office in a reversal of former President Donald Trump’s policy. The steps Biden is expected to take include a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on U.S. lands and waters, and regulatory actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It will also include directing officials to set aside more area for conservation and establishing a White House office to serve low-income and minority communities that disproportionately suffer from air and water pollution. Biden is also expected to direct federal agencies to use science-based decision-making for federal rules, and to announce the United States will host a climate leaders summit in April. 

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US Senate Confirms Biden Nominee as Secretary of State

The U.S. Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s nominee Antony Blinken to lead the U.S. State Department on Tuesday. As VOA’s Congressional Correspondent Katherine Gypson reports, Blinken faces numerous challenges worldwide as the nation’s top diplomat.
Camera: Adam Greenbaum   Produced by: Katherine Gypson
 

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