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Pelosi says spoke with army chief on preventing a Trump nuclear strike

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WASHINGTON: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke to the top U.S. military commander on Friday about taking precautions to ensure that Republican President Donald Trump cannot initiate hostilities or order a nuclear strike in his remaining 12 days in office.
Pelosi said in a letter to Democratic lawmakers that she spoke to Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about what measures are available to rein in the Republican president. Trump, angry about his election loss, incited supporters in the days before an invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
“The situation of this unhinged president could not be more dangerous, and we must do everything that we can to protect the American people from his unbalanced assault on our country and our democracy,” Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues.
While Pelosi‘s letter highlights the concern among lawmakers about what Trump may try to do during his remaining time in office, there are questions about what Milley or anyone could actually do to stop a president from using nuclear weapons.
“There is no legal way to do this. The president has sole, unfettered authority to order the use of nuclear weapons with no ‘second vote’ required,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California.
Milley’s office said that Pelosi had initiated the call and Milley “answered her questions regarding the process of nuclear command authority.”
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that any use of nuclear weapons is a highly deliberative process.
Democratic President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20. Trump said earlier on Friday he would not attend the inauguration, breaking with long-standing tradition in American presidential transitions.
Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, also said she had not heard back from Vice President Mike Pence about whether he would agree to top Democrats’ request that he invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office “for his incitement of insurrection and the danger he still poses.”
She said “we still hope to hear from him as soon as possible with a positive answer.”
Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate have said that if Pence does not agree to the request, Democrats were prepared to impeach Trump a second time.
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SpaceX launches 143 satellites, breaks world space record

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MUMBAI: Nearly a fortnight after Elon Musk’s Tesla entered India on January 8, his SpaceX on Sunday night broke a world space record by launching 143 satellites in quick succession, beating India’s record of deploying 104 satellites in February 2017.
The launch vehicle for the SpaceX record-breaking flight was the Falcon 9 and the mission was designated as Transporter-1. The lift-off at Cape Canaveral in Florida was at 8.31pm IST. At one point, the rocket flew over India and its signal was picked up by Isro’s Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network at Bengaluru. The launch marks the first dedicated mission for SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program, which enables small-satellite customers to book a ride to orbit with SpaceX directly.
The 143 satellites launched on Sunday included commercial and government CubeSats, microsats, what are known as orbiter transfer vehicles and 10 Starlink satellites — the maximum number of spacecraft ever to be deployed in a single mission. This batch of Starlink satellites was the first in the constellation to be placed in the polar orbit.
The nearly 90-minute deployment sequence of the satellites having different roles was nail-biting because they separated in a span of a few seconds and a minute. Onboard was also a spacecraft belonging to Nasa. With these satellites, SpaceX aims to provide near-global broadband internet coverage all over the world by 2021.
About 10 minutes after lift-off, SpaceX recovered the first stage once again on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Then, about an hour after liftoff, the payloads started deploying over the course of about 90 minutes. According to sources, SpaceX offered a very low price of $15,000 per kilogram for each satellite to be delivered to a polar sun-synchronous orbit.
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US passes 25 million confirmed cases of Covid-19

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NEW YORK: The United States has surpassed 25 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began.
The new milestone, reported Sunday by Johns Hopkins University, is a grim reminder of the coronavirus’ wide reach in the US, which has seen far more confirmed cases and deaths than any other country in the world.
The US accounts for roughly one of every four cases reported worldwide and one of every five deaths. India has recorded the second most cases, with about 10.7 million.
The number of new cases in the US has shown signs of slowing recently, with an average of 176,000 reported daily in the past week, down from 244,000 in early January. The country’s first case of the infection was diagnosed almost exactly a year ago.
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Why Biden's immigration plan may be risky for Democrats

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WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden is confronting the political risk that comes with grand ambition.
As one of his first acts, Biden offered a sweeping immigration overhaul last week that would provide a path to US citizenship for the estimated 11 million people who are in the United States illegally.
It would also codify provisions wiping out some of President Donald Trump‘s signature hard-line policies, including trying to end existing, protected legal status for many immigrants brought to the US as children and crackdowns on asylum rules.
It’s precisely the type of measure that many Latino activists have longed for, particularly after the tough approach of the Trump era. But it must compete with Biden’s other marquee legislative goals, including a $1.9 trillion plan to combat the coronavirus, an infrastructure package that promotes green energy initiatives and a “public option” to expand health insurance.
In the best of circumstances, enacting such a broad range of legislation would be difficult. But in a narrowly divided Congress, it could be impossible. And that has Latinos, the nation’s fastest growing voting bloc, worried that Biden and congressional leaders could cut deals that weaken the finished product too much — or fail to pass anything at all.
“This cannot be a situation where simply a visionary bill — a message bill — gets sent to Congress and nothing happens with it,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, which advocates for low-income immigrants.
“There’s an expectation that they will deliver and that there is a mandate now for Biden to be unapologetically pro-immigrant and have a political imperative to do so, and the Democrats do as well.”
If Latinos ultimately feel betrayed, the political consequences for Democrats could be long-lasting. The 2020 election provided several warning signs that, despite Democratic efforts to build a multiracial coalition, Latino support could be at risk.
Biden already was viewed skeptically by some Latino activists for his association with former President Barack Obama, who was called the “deporter in chief” for the record number of immigrants who were removed from the country during his administration. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont defeated Biden in last year’s Nevada caucuses and California primary, which served as early barometers of the Latino vote.
In his race against Trump, Biden won the support of 63% of Latino voters compared with Trump’s 35%, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 110,000 voters nationwide. But Trump narrowed the margin somewhat in some swing states such as Nevada and also got a bump from Latino men, 39% of whom backed him compared with 33% of Latino women.
Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate since 1996 to carry Arizona, in part because of strong grassroots backing from Mexican American groups opposed to strict GOP immigration policies going back decades. But he lost Florida by underperforming in its largest Hispanic county, Miami-Dade, where the Trump campaign’s anti-socialism message resonated with Cuban- and some Venezuelan Americans.
Biden also fell short in Texas even though running mate Kamala Harris devoted valuable, late campaign time there. The ticket lost some sparsely populated but heavily Mexican American counties along the Mexican border, where law enforcement agencies are major employers and the GOP’s zero-tolerance immigration policy resonated.
There were more warning signs for House Democrats, who lost four California seats and two in South Florida while failing to pick up any in Texas. Booming Hispanic populations reflected in new U.S. census figures may see Texas and Florida gain congressional districts before 2022’s midterm elections, which could make correcting the problem all the more pressing for Democrats.
The urgency isn’t lost on Biden. He privately spent months telling immigration advocates that major overhauls would be at the top of his to-do list. As vice president, he watched while the Obama administration used larger congressional majorities to speed passage of a financial crisis stimulus bill and its signature health care law while letting an immigration overhaul languish.
“It means so much to us to have a new president propose bold, visionary immigration reform on Day 1. Not Day 2. Not Day 3. Not a year later,” said New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, his chamber’s lead sponsor of the Biden package.
Menendez was part of a bipartisan immigration plan championed by the “Gang of Eight” senators that collapsed in 2013. Obama then resorted to executive action to offer legal status to millions of young immigrants. President George W. Bush also pushed an immigration package — with an eye toward boosting Latino support for Republicans before the 2008 election — only to see it fail in Congress.
Menendez acknowledged that the latest bill will have to find at least 10 Republican senators’ support to clear the 60-vote hurdle to reach the floor, and that he’s “under no illusions” how difficult that will be.
Former Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a moderate Republican from Florida, said Biden may find some GOP support but probably will have to settle for far less than what’s in his original proposal.
“Many Republicans are worried about primary challenges,” Curbelo said, adding that Trump and his supporters’ championing of immigration crackdowns means there’s “political peril there for Republicans.”
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