President’s Fiery Speech Marks Day of Reckoning – OZY

President Joe Biden placed the blame squarely on former President Donald Trump yesterday in a powerful speech marking the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection. At least 26 people have died as Russian troops rolled into Kazakhstan on Thursday to help subdue protests that began over the weekend. Former Vice President Mike Pence is cooperating with the House committee investigation into the Jan. 6 attacks in which he narrowly escaped an angry mob calling for his death. Infectious disease experts believe we will keep fighting new COVID-19 variants unless more people worldwide get access to first and second doses of the vaccine. All this and more in today’s Presidential Daily Brief.

IMPORTANT

1 – Never Again

President Biden excoriates the former president in his Jan. 6 speech

In a speech marking the anniversary of the attacks of Jan. 6, President Biden was unequivocal in his condemnation of the violence and its primary perpetrator — former President Donald Trump. Though Biden referred to Trump only as “the former president,” his language reflected his — and the nation’s — frustration over “a battle for the soul of America” and democracy itself. In a poignant editorial timed for the anniversary, former President Jimmy Carter laid out the steps “for American democracy to endure,” saying we must put aside our differences to protect our most cherished ideals: “fairness, civility and respect for the rule of law.” (Sources: NPR, WSJ, NYT)

2 – Crisis Deepens in Kazakhstan

Dozens are dead at the hands of security forces as Russia steps into the fray

Russian “peacekeeping” troops rolled into Kazakhstan on Thursday after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called on President Vladimir Putin to help subdue protests that began over the weekend. The protestors, originally expressing outrage over a hike in fuel prices, have channeled their rage against a regime that has remained in place since before the fall of the Soviet Union. Witnesses say dozens of protesters and at least 12 police have died in the clashes. The timing of the unrest is delicate for Russia, ahead of negotiations with the U.S. over troop buildups at the Ukraine border next week. (Sources: Wapo, Guardian)

3 – Repentant Pence?

As the Jan. 6 investigations deepen, the former VP steps up

Former Vice President Mike Pence has been “particularly cooperative” with the House committee investigation, said a source with direct knowledge of the hearings. Pence narrowly escaped the Senate chamber before Trump supporters overcame police, breached security and broke through the Capitol building’s windows during the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. Videos show rioters chanting “hang Pence” as they storm the building, while others construct a gallows outside. Pence is joined by several close associates, including his former chief of staff and press secretary, who have agreed to testify without a subpoena. The committee may hold hearings as early as this spring. (Sources: Axios, Fox News)

4 – No End in Sight

Vaccinations are our great hope for keeping COVID in check worldwide

Experts studying infectious diseases believe we will keep fighting new COVID-19 variants unless more people worldwide get vaccinated. Many countries around the world, including India, Ukraine, Bangladesh and South Africa — where omicron began — remain below the 50% vaccination rate, increasing the likelihood of mutating variants and creating greater risk for everyone. Some experts have argued that it’s imperative for wealthier nations to help lower-income countries receive enough first doses for their citizenry before booster shots are made available to wealthier populations. But other scientists believe that no matter what we do, COVID is here to stay. (Sources: Scientific American, The Hill)

5 – Briefly

Here are some things you should know about today: 

Hollywood filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich dies at 82. The legendary director of such American classics as The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon died Thursday in Los Angeles. (Source: LATimes) New winter storm expected to blanket Mid-Atlantic states and Northeast for the second time in 10 days. Expect snowfall of about an inch an hour in New York and winter storm warnings throughout New England (Source: NYT) Iran says nuclear deal can be reached only if US lifts all sanctions. Negotiations, now in their eighth round, hope to restore the landmark deal, viewed by world powers as integral to global security. (Source: Aljazeera)

Watch Bill Gates on the COVID Vaccine

INTRIGUING

1 – A Matter of Principle

The Duchess of Sussex settles privacy suit with British tabloid for $1.35

No, you read that right, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, has won not $1.35 million, but $1.35 in her privacy suit against the Daily Mail, the U.K.’s notoriously aggressive newspaper. But that’s only half the story. The duchess also sued the tabloid for copyright infringement plus her lawyer fees, according to court documents. The tabloid, which will not appeal the ruling, will also pay out a much heftier amount to the duchess based on profits earned by publishing a confidential letter she sent to her father. The duchess says she’ll donate all of the settlement to anti-bullying charities. (Source: Harper’s Bazaar)

2 – Now You See It

US Armed forces grapple with mysterious, unresolved UFO sightings

For several weeks in 2019, Navy warships stationed off the coast of southern California were “stalked” by clearly visible unidentified flying objects that were tracked by Navy radar operators. A high-level investigation ruled out every possibility but two: a foreign spy or, well … aliens. These were only the latest in decades of UFO sightings around California’s Channel Islands, where some of the country’s most experienced pilots and aerospace engineers have documented seeing bizarre and inexplicable objects that defy the laws of aerodynamics. Despite years of secret U.S. government investigations, the Navy and the Air Force continue to debunk the sightings. (Sources: TheHill, New Yorker)

3 – Bourbon Buyers Beware

High-end bourbons enter the Wild Wild West of counterfeiting

Whiskey drinkers beware, the amber nectar glimmering from that $1,000 bottle of luxury bourbon might be a turkey — Wild Turkey, that is. Counterfeiters are now turning from vintage wines and single-malt scotches to artisanal bourbons, as the buyers at a high-end Manhattan wine store discovered after paying top dollar for a private collection riddled with fake bottles. With domestic sales of premium whiskeys nearly doubling in four years, bourbon is a market ripe for scammers. So what are buyers to do? Do your homework, don’t buy online, and if a bottle looks too good to be true, it probably is. (Source: NYT)

4 – Baby It’s Cold Outside

A timeless remedy for when it’s not COVID just the flu, whew!

With our focus riveted on alpha (remember that one?), delta and omicron we’ve barely tended to the mundane miseries of the common cold. Enter spicy ginger tea. Grandma’s go-to recipe of ginger, lemon and honey was great, but add a pinch of turmeric and a dash of hot chile pepper to this tried-and-true remedy and you’ve got a high-performance, anti-inflammatory cold-buster. Just add a 1- to 3-inch piece of ginger, any fresh hot pepper, half a lemon thinly sliced, a dash of ground turmeric and honey to taste to a French press, fill with boiling water and squeeze. You’ll be breathing again in no time! (Source: Bon Appetit)

5 – Olympic Glory

American women skaters compete for a rare spot on US Olympic Team

Alysa Liu, 16, is shaping up as a favorite to win one of three spots on Olympic Team USA after her stellar performances at the Figure Skating Championships, held from Jan. 3 to  9 in Nashville, Tennessee. For her part, Liu is staying cool, “I don’t really feel that much pressure,” she said. But for Karen Chen, who represented the U.S. Olympic team in 2018, it’s a different ball game: “All of us are working for the (same) goal, and only three of us ladies get to be on the Olympic team.” The championships represent the final competition before the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing in February. (Sources: USA Today, SportingNews)

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