Trump to leave town early Wednesday before Biden inauguration

People hold a protest on January 15, 2021 against outgoing President Donald Trump near the White House in the US capital ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. (REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)
People hold a protest on January 15, 2021 against outgoing President Donald Trump near the White House in the US capital ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. (REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)
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Updated 16 January 2021

Trump to leave town early Wednesday before Biden inauguration

People hold a protest on January 15, 2021 against outgoing President Donald Trump near the White House in the US capital ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. (REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)
  • Trump will be the first president in a century and a half to snub the inauguration of his successor
  • He had spent the past two months trying to overturn the results of the November election

WASHINGTON: By the time Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th US president Wednesday, his scandal-tainted predecessor Donald Trump will already be far away, having helicoptered out of the White House a last time earlier that morning, an official said Friday.
Trump will be the first president in a century and a half to snub the inauguration of his successor.
An official who asked not to be identified said Trump would go to his Mar-a-Lago golf club in Florida, which is his legal residence and will become home after the White House.
He is expected to be out of town well before Biden is sworn in on the steps of the Capitol building at exactly noon.
After spending more than two months trying to overturn the results of the November election, pushing false conspiracy theories about fraud, Trump’s presence had not been expected at the inauguration.
The final straw came on January 6 when Trump gathered a huge crowd of supporters on the National Mall and once more claimed that they had to fight to stop a fraudulent election. A mob then stormed Congress, halting proceedings underway to certify Biden’s win.
For longer than anyone can remember, outgoing presidents have stood by their replacement on the Capitol steps, watching them take the oath — and in so doing showing visible support for the peaceful transfer of power.
Trump, who was impeached for a record second time in the wake of the Congress storming, has also broken with more discreet protocol by refusing to invite Biden and his wife Jill Biden to the White House for a traditional cup of tea in the Oval Office.
On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence did make the gesture of telephoning his incoming counterpart Kamala Harris, a source said.
Although this came only five days before inauguration day — and more than two months after the election — The New York Times said Pence offered his congratulations and belated assistance to Harris, describing the exchange as “gracious and pleasant.”
Recriminations over the January 6 attack continued to reverberate on Friday, however, when Trump’s health secretary criticized “the actions and rhetoric following the election.”
In a letter confirming he would step down when Biden takes office on January 20, Alex Azar called the violence “an assault on our democracy and on the tradition of peaceful transitions of power,” urging Trump to condemn all violence and help ensure a smooth handover to Biden.

Good riddance
Trump’s extraordinary exit adds to the nervous atmosphere around an inauguration that was already set to be like no other.
In the wake of the Congress attack, thousands of National Guard troops have taken up position around central Washington. And even before the security nightmare, organizers had been forced by Covid-19 safety measures to nix the traditional big crowds and long guest lists.
For Biden, the subdued ceremonies will quickly be followed by a mammoth To Do list. His administration faces multiple crises on day one, including the stumbling national Covid vaccination project, a precarious economic recovery and Trump’s looming impeachment trial in the Senate.
At the same time, Biden will have to cajole the Senate into rapidly confirming his cabinet appointees, allowing him to form a government and bring stability back to the country.
Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday that the Senate is fully capable of juggling the impeachment trial along with the urgent confirmations.
“The Senate can do its constitutional duty while continuing to conduct the business of the people,” she said.
“Our expectation and hope and belief is that we need to walk and chew gum at the same time.”


27 still missing after Indonesia volcanic eruption kills 15

27 still missing after Indonesia volcanic eruption kills 15
Updated 4 sec ago

27 still missing after Indonesia volcanic eruption kills 15

27 still missing after Indonesia volcanic eruption kills 15
  • Mount Semeru spewed thick columns of ash as high as 12,000 meters into the sky in a sudden eruption triggered by heavy rain
SUMBERWULUH, Indonesia: Rescuers dug out the body of 13-year-old boy with their bare hands on Monday, as improved weather conditions allowed them to resume their search after the highest volcano on Indonesia’s Java island erupted with fury, killing at least 15 people with searing gas and ash and leaving 27 others missing.
Mount Semeru in Lumajang district in East Java province spewed thick columns of ash as high as 12,000 meters into the sky in a sudden eruption Saturday triggered by heavy rain. Villages and nearby towns were blanketed by tons of volcanic debris.
Searing gas raced down the sides of the mountain, smothering entire villages and killing or seriously burning those caught in its path.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari said 56 people had been hospitalized, mostly with burns. He said rescuers were still searching for 27 villagers reported missing. Nearly 3,000 houses and 38 schools were damaged, Muhari said.
The body of the 13-year-old boy was recovered in the worst-hit village of Sumberwuluh, where houses were buried to their rooftops and cars were submerged. Crumpled roofs, charred carcasses of cattle and broken chairs covered in gray ash and soot dotted the smoldering landscape.
Search and rescue efforts were temporarily suspended Sunday afternoon because of fears that heavy rain would cause more hot ash and debris to fall from the crater.
The eruption of the 3,676-meter-high mountain eased pressure that had been building under a lava dome in the crater. But experts warned that the dome could further collapse, causing an avalanche of blistering gas and debris trapped beneath it.
More than 1,700 villagers escaped to makeshift emergency shelters after Saturday’s powerful eruption, but many others defied official warnings and chose to remain in their homes to tend their livestock and protect their property.
Semeru, also known as Mahameru, has erupted many times in the last 200 years. Still, as on many of the 129 volcanoes monitored in Indonesia, tens of thousands of people live on its fertile slopes. It last erupted in January, with no casualties.
Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped series of fault lines.

Next pandemic could be more lethal than COVID-19, Oxford vaccine creator says

Next pandemic could be more lethal than COVID-19, Oxford vaccine creator says
Updated 40 min 34 sec ago

Next pandemic could be more lethal than COVID-19, Oxford vaccine creator says

Next pandemic could be more lethal than COVID-19, Oxford vaccine creator says

LONDON: Future pandemics could be even more lethal than COVID-19 so the lessons learned from the pandemic must not be squandered, one of the creators of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine said.
“This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods,” Sarah Gilbert said in the Richard Dimbleby Lecture, the BBC reported. “The truth is, the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious, or more lethal, or both.”
“We cannot allow a situation where we have gone through all we have gone through, and then find that the enormous economic losses we have sustained mean that there is still no funding for pandemic preparedness,” she said. “The advances we have made, and the knowledge we have gained, must not be lost.”


Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi jailed for four years: Junta spokesman

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi jailed for four years: Junta spokesman
Updated 06 December 2021

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi jailed for four years: Junta spokesman

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi jailed for four years: Junta spokesman
  • For inciting dissent against the military and breaching COVID-19 rules
  • Former president Win Myint was also jailed for four years under the same charges

YANGON: A Myanmar court on Monday jailed ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for four years for inciting dissent against the military and breaching COVID-19 rules, a spokesman for the ruling junta SAID.
Suu Kyi “was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment under section 505(b) and two years’ imprisonment under natural disaster law,” junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said.
Former president Win Myint was also jailed for four years under the same charges, he said, adding that they would not yet be taken to prison.
“They will face other charges from the places where they are staying now” in the capital Naypyidaw, he added, without giving further details.
The 76-year-old Suu Kyi has been detained since the generals ousted her government in the early hours of February 1, ending Myanmar’s brief democratic interlude.
The junta has since added a slew of other indictments, including violating the official secrets act, corruption and electoral fraud. The Nobel laureate faces decades in jail if convicted on all counts.
Journalists have been barred from proceedings in the special court in the military-built capital, and Suu Kyi’s lawyers were recently banned from speaking to the media.
More than 1,300 people have been killed and over 10,000 arrested in a crackdown on dissent since the coup, according to a local monitoring group.


Norwegian Cruise ship detects one probable case of omicron variant

Norwegian Cruise ship detects one probable case of omicron variant
Updated 06 December 2021

Norwegian Cruise ship detects one probable case of omicron variant

Norwegian Cruise ship detects one probable case of omicron variant
  • The probable case was found among 10 people who tested positive for the virus on Saturday

A probable case of the omicron variant has been identified in a crew member of a Norwegian Cruise ship that reached New Orleans on Sunday after detecting COVID-19 among some crew and guests, the Louisiana Department of Health said.
The probable case was found among 10 people who tested positive for the virus on Saturday, the health agency said in a tweet on Sunday.
Another seven cases have since been reported, it added, taking the total number of cases among passengers and crew of Norwegian Breakaway, a cruise ship owned by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. , to 17.
“At this time, there have been no changes to scheduled future sailings on Norwegian Breakaway,” a spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement to Reuters.
The cruise ship departed New Orleans on a week-long cruise on Nov. 28 and had stops in Belize, Honduras and Mexico, the health agency said.
“NCL has been adhering to appropriate quarantine and isolation protocols,” the department said in an earlier tweet.


Gambian President Barrow wins re-election; opposition cries foul

Gambia's president-elect Adama Barrow waves to his supporters after he gives a victory speech in Banjul, Gambia December 5, 2021. Picture taken December 5, 2021. (REUTERS)
Gambia's president-elect Adama Barrow waves to his supporters after he gives a victory speech in Banjul, Gambia December 5, 2021. Picture taken December 5, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 December 2021

Gambian President Barrow wins re-election; opposition cries foul

Gambia's president-elect Adama Barrow waves to his supporters after he gives a victory speech in Banjul, Gambia December 5, 2021. Picture taken December 5, 2021. (REUTERS)

BANJUL: Gambian President Adama Barrow has comfortably won re-election, the electoral commission said on Sunday, though he may face a legal challenge from opposition candidates who rejected the results because of unspecified irregularities.
The vote was the first in 27 years without disgraced former President Yahya Jammeh, who was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea after refusing to accept defeat to Barrow in 2016.
Jammeh’s despotic 22-year rule over the small West African nation of 2.5 million people, which began with a 1994 coup, was characterised by killings and torture of political opponents.
Saturday’s peaceful election was seen by many as a victory for democracy that helped draw a line under that troublesome period.
Once cowed by Jammeh’s omnipresent secret police, crowds of people hit the streets of Banjul on Sunday night to celebrate, or drove around in their cars, honking horns. Hundreds gathered in a park opposite the presidential palace to listen to Barrow speak.
“Democracy has taken its course,” Barrow told the cheering crowd after the results were announced. “I have been the lucky person to be chosen by you. I’ll use all the resources to make Gambia a better place for all.”
Barrow’s first term provided a welcome change for many to Jammeh’s brutal tenure. But progress was hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic, which damaged an economy that relies heavily on tourism, as well as exports of peanuts and fish.
In the run-up to the election, Jammeh had tried to persuade supporters to vote for an opposition coalition in telephoned speeches that were relayed to campaign rallies.
But he failed to dent Barrow’s following. The president received around 53 percent of Saturday’s vote, far outstripping his nearest rival, political veteran Ousainou Darboe, who won about 28 percent.
As results came in on Sunday, representatives from all opposition parties signed off on nearly all the tally sheets read to the election commission.
But later in the day, Darboe and two other candidates, Mama Kandeh and Essa Mbye Faal, said they would not accept the results because the results took longer than expected and because of problems at polling stations.
They did not provide specifics or evidence of wrongdoing.
“We are concerned that there had been an inordinate delay in the announcement of results,” their statement said. “A number of issues have been raised by our party agents and representatives at the polling stations.”
The statement did not say what they would do now, only stating that “all actions are on the table.”