CAPITOL RIOTS: FBI WARNINGS AMID FEARS OF MORE
The FBI is warning of the possibility of armed protests being held across the US in the days before Joe Biden is sworn in as president. There are reports of armed groups planning to gather at all 50 state capitols and in Washington DC in the run-up to his 20 January inauguration. The fears come as security plans are hardened for the event itself.
On Monday, Mr Biden told reporters he was not afraid to take the oath of office outside of the US Capitol. Both he and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris are still expected to be sworn in outside the building, only two weeks after it was the site of a deadly raid by radical supporters of President Donald Trump opposing the election result.
Security officials are resolute there will be no repeat of the breach seen on 6 January - when thousands of pro-Trump supporters were able to break into the grounds of the complex where members of Congress were voting to certify the election result.
Chad Wolf, acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, said Monday that he had instructed the US Secret Service to begin special operations for the inauguration on Wednesday - six days early - "in light of events of the past week and the evolving security landscape".
Officials say up to 15,000 National Guard troops could be made available to fortify the event. Later on Monday, Mr Wolf became the third Trump cabinet secretary to step down since the Capitol riots, after Betsy DeVos and Elaine Chao.
Mr. Wolf's exit plunged his department into turmoil just as it gears up to handle security for the Biden inauguration. Mr Wolf last week called on Mr Trump to "strongly condemn" the protesters who stormed Congress.
The outgoing secretary said his departure had been prompted by "recent events", including court rulings challenging the legal validity of his appointment.
What further protests are planned?
Law enforcement around the country are said to be bracing for the possibility of further violence in the days before Joe Biden takes office. Posts on pro-Trump and far-right online networks have called for protest action on a number of dates, including armed demonstrations in cities across the country on 17 January and a march in Washington DC on inauguration day itself.
An internal FBI bulletin, reported by ABC News and other outlets, carries a warning that one group is calling for the "storming" of state, local and federal courthouses around the country if Mr Trump is removed from office early and on inauguration day if he is not.
Calls for Mr Trump's resignation, removal from office or impeachment have grown among Democrats and some Republicans in the days following the riots.
Local police agencies have been told by federal law enforcement to increase security at statehouses following last week's violence, according to US media. The Reuters news agency, citing a federal law enforcement official, said the FBI warnings are in place for all state capitals from 16 to 20 January itself and in Washington DC at least three days before the inauguration.
Although the violence at the US Capitol dominated headlines last week, similar smaller incidents were reported elsewhere in the country at the same time.
What security is planned for the inauguration?
The US Department of Homeland Security confirmed on Monday that it would begin National Special Security Event (NSSE) operations for the inauguration six days early, starting Wednesday.
Mr Trump has made no public statements since he was banned from several social media platforms - including Twitter - on Friday. It comes as websites and social media networks crackdown against other users and websites seen to be encouraging violence - including social network Parler, which said Monday it was suing Amazon for removing it from its web hosting service.
The designation allows a wide range of security and law enforcement agencies to coordinate together on special protective measures, like enforcing road closures and a secure perimeter.
The announcement came after Washington DC's Mayor, Ms Bowser, went public with her appeal to bolster security after what she described as an "unprecedented terrorist attack" at the US Capitol last week.
She has also asked Americans to avoid travel to Washington DC for the event. Inaugurations traditionally draw hundreds of thousands to the streets of the capital, but the coronavirus pandemic had already curtailed those plans before security fears were heightened.
The Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Daniel Hokanson, said Monday that 10,000 troops will be in Washington DC by the weekend, with about 5,000 more available if requested by local officials.
Elsewhere, the National Park Service announced that it has closed the Washington Monument to visitors amid "credible threats" of further violence.
"Groups involved in the January 6 2021 riots at the US Capitol continue to threaten to disrupt the 59th presidential inauguration on January 20," the service said in a statement, adding it could institute further temporary closures to other areas within the National Mall and Memorial Parks.
Speaking as he got his second Covid-19 vaccine on Monday, Mr Biden said he was "not afraid" to take his oath of office outside despite security fears.
His inauguration committee has announced that the ceremony will be themed around "America United".
After being sworn in as president, Mr Biden is expected to take part in a wreath-laying ceremony alongside former presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton to help underscore his message of unity.
Donald Trump has said he will not attend the inauguration - becoming the first president in more than 150 years not to do so.
What is the latest on impeachment efforts?
The warnings about further pro-Trump violence come as efforts move forward to impeach the president for his role in last week's deadly invasion of the Capitol.
An article filed in the House on Monday accuses Mr Trump of "incitement of insurrection" during a rally in which Mr Trump alleged, without evidence, that November's presidential election was "stolen" from him.
Democrats say a vote on the article will go ahead in the House on Wednesday unless Vice-President Mike Pence invokes constitutional powers to remove Mr Trump from office. –BBCi
JBS CONGRATULATES PRESIDENT ELECT JOE BIDEN AND MADAM VICE PRESIDENT ELECT KAMALA HARRIS
By RABBI MARK S. GOLUB, President and CEO of JBS
As the President of the Jewish Broadcasting Service (JBS), America’s national Jewish television channel, it is an honor for me to congratulate former Vice President Joe Biden on his formal election as the next President of the United States, and to congratulate former Senator Kamala Harris on her becoming the next Vice President of the United States.
We all wish them both four years of great success in leading our country. We especially look to their restoring a sense of unity among the polarized populations of our land in which those who supported their election as well as those who supported the re-election of Donald Trump are all embraced as patriotic Americans.
And we look to their unequivocal condemnation of any expression of political violence, be it from the right or from the left.
We also wish them every success in winning the battle with the Coronavirus, in effectively administering nation-wide the various vaccines, and in reestablishing a sense of normalcy once again to American life.
We wish them god-speed in their every attempt to help elevate the wellbeing of all of the American people, especially those who are burdened by poverty and disease.
And we look to their Administration to maintain and expand cooperation and solidarity with America’s greatest ally and friend in the Middle East, the State of Israel – doing all that is possible to ensure the safety and well-being of the Jewish State.
And may both President Elect Biden and Vice President Elect Harris be inspired by the words of the Jewish Tradition: “It is not your responsibility to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
Congratulations and Mazal Tov!
Rabbi Mark S. Golub, President & CEO, JBS
AGUDATH ISRAEL CONDEMNS EU COURT FOR UPHOLDING BELGIUM SHECHITA BAN
Nearly two years ago, Agudath Israel of America expressed its grave concern over laws passed in the Flanders and Wallonia regions of Belgium that effectively prohibited the slaughter of animals according to kosher ritual requirements (shechita). The law, Agudath Israel asserted, placed a substantial burden on religious liberty and on Jewish life in Belgium, as well as on those dependent on Belgian shechita living in other affected European countries. At the time of the ban, Agudath Israel expressed its hope that the judicial system would recognize this serious infringement on the rights of the Jewish community and strike down the grievous statute.
Unfortunately, this past Thursday, December 17, 2020, the European Union Court of Justice, located in Luxembourg, issued its decision to uphold the ban.
Jewish law scrupulously safeguards the humane treatment of animals, and its rules regarding kosher slaughter require a swift and painless kill. There is no need to require – as the Belgian laws do – prior stunning, a practice which compromises Jewish law and makes kosher certification impossible. Many countries, including the United States, recognize in their law the humane nature of the millennia-old practice of kosher slaughter and have exempted it from further religiously-problematic regulation.
Leaders of the Belgian Jewish community have indicated that the laws in Flanders and Wallonia already have had a clear negative impact on the kosher food industry and on the availability and accessibility of kosher meat and poultry. Moreover, the necessary relocation of facilities will be disruptive to companies, workers and consumers and result in possible shortages, and an attendant rise in costs, that will be detrimental to those wishing to live in line with Jewish belief and practice.
Muslim leaders have also condemned the ban, which effectively prohibited halal slaughter as well, as an infringement of their religious rights and religious life.
Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s Vice President of Government Affairs and Washington Director, said, “Since its European origins, Agudath Israel has always spoken out against bans on ritual slaughter as a serious blow to Jewish life and religious rights. But it is even more than that. The outlawing of ritual slaughter – and circumcision – have become ominous precursors to the darkest times of Jewish history. And that is what makes this ban and this decision so chilling.”
CORONAVIRUS: ISRAEL LEADS VACCINE RACE WITH 12% GIVEN JAB
Israel has given vaccinations against coronavirus to more than one million people, the highest rate in the world, as global immunization efforts step up.
Israel has a rate of 11.55 vaccination doses per 100 people, followed by Bahrain at 3.49 and the UK at 1.47, according to a global tracking website affiliated with Oxford University.
In comparison, France had vaccinated 138 people in total by 30 December.
More than 1.8m people have now died of the virus around the world.
The comparative figures on vaccination are put together by Our World in Data, which is a collaboration between Oxford University and an educational charity.
They measure the number of people who have received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Most of the vaccines approved for use so far rely on two doses, given more than a week apart.
The US fell far short of its target of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020, with just 2.78 million having received a jab by 30 December.
Meanwhile, the US government's top infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, has said he does not agree with UK plans to give as many people as possible a first vaccine dose, while delaying second doses.
Dr Fauci said the US would not be adopting a similar strategy.
India has meanwhile approved two vaccines for emergency use - the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and the Covaxin vaccine, developed locally by Bharat Biotech and the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research.
Two further vaccines are awaiting approval. The country aims to vaccinate 300 million people by the middle of the year and has been staging drills to prepare for mass distribution.
How has Israel got so far ahead?
Israel began vaccinations on 19 December and is delivering jabs to about 150,000 people a day, with priority given to the over-60s, health workers and people who are clinically vulnerable.
It secured supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine following negotiations early on in the pandemic. It is contacting people with priority access to the vaccine through its health care system - by law all Israelis must register with a recognised health care provider.
Israel has safely subdivided shipments of the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at -70C, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told YNet TV news. This means smaller batches of the vaccine can be sent out to remote communities. --BBCi
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