Inauguration Day will be a muted event in Washington, DC, as reports suggest the US National Park Service is considering fully closing the National Mall for the Jan. 20 ceremony. The 300-acre area between the US Capitol building and the Lincoln Memorial has seen up to 1.8 million visitors for past events—a record set at former President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration. The potential decision follows last week's storming of the Capitol and comes amid reported threats of violence in the city over the next week.
The National Guard's presence in the nation's capital increased to more than 26,000 members, in addition to local law enforcement. State capitols are also preparing, with many planning to simply close, after the FBI warned of potential armed protests in every state on or around Wednesday. President Trump—whose Senate trial on an article of impeachment may begin on Inauguration Day—released a video statement earlier this week denouncing threats of violence.
Finally, a new report identified at least 21 highly trained former members of the US military or law enforcement at or near the breach of the US Capitol building last week. More than 170 people have been arrested—including at least one left-wing activist—on charges stemming from the Jan. 6 siege; see a list of key cases here.
More Charges in Flint
Two former Michigan public health officials were charged yesterday with involuntary manslaughter for their role in the Flint water crisis that began in 2014. Prosecutors allege inadequate levels of chlorine led to 12 deaths from Legionnaires' disease, caused by waterborne bacteria. Former Gov. Rick Snyder separately pleaded not guilty to two counts of negligence for his role in the overall crisis.
The crisis began in 2014 when state officials switched the city's water source from Lake
Huron (treated in Detroit) to the Flint River (treated in Flint) in a cost-cutting measure. Officials, however, failed to add anticorrosion chemicals to the new treatment, causing lead and other contaminants to leach from aging pipes into the water supply. Young people are particularly susceptible to lead, a known toxin, which can cause irreversible damage to brain development. A study found a 58% increase in fetal deaths in the majority-Black city following the water switch.
Ugandans went to the polls yesterday, casting ballots in a highly anticipated election that pitted, among other candidates, the country's most popular singer against a strongman president seeking his sixth term. The 38-year-old challenger, Robert Kyagulanyi—known by his stage name, Bobi Wine—has positioned himself as a champion of the poor, campaigning for access to healthcare, clean water, and education. The incumbent, 76-year-old Yoweri Museveni, has led Uganda since an armed uprising in 1986.
The Museveni government has been accused of cracking down on political opposition in the run-up to the election. Security forces have reportedly harassed Wine for months under the guise of violating COVID-19 restrictions. His arrest in November sparked a riot in which 37 people were killed and more than 500 injured. As of Wednesday, government officials had shut down the country's internet, citing security concerns.
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Especially in the past several months, we’ve loved the idea of getting everything, including pantry and household staples, delivered to us quickly and easily. But we also worry about constantly using the big guys to get things that we should be buying from a small business. Well, good news for us. Public Goods is our new "everything" store, thoughtfully designed for the conscious consumer. Public Goods stocks their virtual shelves to include everyday essentials like coffee, toilet tissue, shampoo, pet food, and more, all in low-waste, beautiful-looking packaging.
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>NFL playoffs continue tomorrow as eight teams compete in the divisional round over the weekend; see full schedule and preview (More)
>Siegfried Fischbacher of entertainment duo Siegfried & Roy dies at 81 from pancreatic cancer; his counterpart Roy Horn died of COVID-19 last year (More)
>Urban Meyer, who won three national titles as a college football head coach, hired by NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars(More)
Science & Technology
>MIT professor charged with concealing funding ties to the Chinese government; follows charges against prominent Harvard chemist Charles Lieber last year (More) | Background on China's Thousand Talents program, which seeks to absorb foreign-funded research (More)
>NASA data reveal 2020 tied 2016 for the warmest year on record, with the global average 1.84 degrees warmer than the 1951-80 baseline (More)
>Scientists uncover the defensive compounds that allow plants to produce toxins without harming themselves (More)
>Initial unemploymentclaims increase to 965,000 filed during the previous week; figure is the highest since late August (More) | Fed Chairman Jerome Powell states interest rates
will be kept low for the foreseeable future (More)
>US venture capital funding hits all-time high topping previous mark set in 2000, as startups raise $130B in 2020 (More)
>Shares of Poshmark, the online clothing reseller, surge 141% in first day trading as a public company (More) | Shares of plant-based meat maker Beyond Meat soar 14% after announcing Taco Bell partnership (More)
>President-elect Joe Biden to push for another round of stimulus; $1.9T plan would include $1,400 stimulus checks (More) | US reports 388,692 total COVID-19 deaths, with 3,769 yesterday; see rolling averages (cases, deaths) | More than 30.6 million vaccine doses distributed, with 11.1 million doses administered (More)
>At least 34 people dead and more than 600 injured after 6.2 magnitude earthquake rocks Indonesia (More) | What is the Ring of Fire, the world's most seismically active
>Jaime Harrison, South Carolina senate candidate who lost bid against incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), tapped to lead Democratic National Committee (More)
BBC | Myriam Lahouari. No time to spare, and failure means death: What it's like to catch a child jumping from a building. (Read)
The Serendipitous Startup
Der Spiegel | Steffen Klusmann, Thomas Schulz. An interview with Özlem Türeci and Uğur Şahin, founders of the German biotech startup BioNTech. Founded in 2008 and with no other major projects, the company partnered with pharma giant Pfizer to produce the first Western COVID-19 vaccine. (Read)
Wired | Nicholas Thompson. For years, the identity of an emaciated hiker found dead in 2018 eluded officials. Internet sleuths cracked the case in December, but the truth was harsher than expected. (Read, $$)
The Squeeze of Life
Nature | Amber Dance. The mechanical forces—the pushing, pulling, and squeezing—responsible for turning a clump of cells into something resembling an embryo still largely remain a mystery. (Read)
Historybook: Coca-Cola Co. is incorporated (1889); Martin Luther King Jr. born (1929); First Super Bowl is played (1967); Wikipedia is launched (2001); RIP Cranberries lead singer Dolores O’Riordan (2018).
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that."
- Martin Luther King Jr.
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