Military takes control of Myanmar; Suu Kyi reported detained
NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar military television said Monday that the military was taking control of the country for one year, while reports said many of the country’s senior politicians including Aung San Suu Kyi had been detained.
A presenter on military-owned Myawaddy TV announced the takeover and cited a section of the military-drafted constitution that allows the military to take control in times of national emergency. He said the reason for takeover was in part due to the government’s failure to act on the military’s claims of voter fraud in last November’s election and its failure to postpone the election because of the coronavirus crisis.
The announcement follows days of concern about the threat of a military coup — and military denials that it would stage one — and came on the morning the country’s new Parliament session was to begin.
The takeover is a sharp reversal of the partial yet significant progress toward democracy Myanmar made in recent years following five decades of military rule and international isolation that began in 1962. It would also be shocking fall from power for Suu Kyi, who led the democracy struggle despite years under house arrest and and won a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts.
The military's actions were already receiving widespread international condemnation.
The Latest: UN chief condemns detentions of civilian leaders
NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) — The Latest on Myanmar after the military said it was taking control for one year (all times local):
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has strongly condemned the detention of Myanmar's civilian leaders as the military announced it was taking control of the country for one year.
He expressed “grave concern” about the declaration that all legislative, executive and judicial powers have been transferred to the military. “These developments represent a serious blow to democratic reforms in Myanmar,” said a statement from the U.N. chief's spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric.
Over 5,100 arrested at pro-Navalny protests across Russia
MOSCOW (AP) — Chanting slogans against President Vladimir Putin, tens of thousands took to the streets Sunday across Russia to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, keeping up nationwide protests that have rattled the Kremlin. More than 5,100 people were detained by police, according to a monitoring group, and some were beaten.
The massive protests came despite efforts by Russian authorities to stem the tide of demonstrations after tens of thousands rallied across the country last weekend in the largest, most widespread show of discontent that Russia had seen in years. Despite threats of jail terms, warnings to social media groups and tight police cordons, the protests again engulfed cities across Russia's 11 time zones on Sunday.
Navalny's team quickly called another protest in Moscow for Tuesday, when he is set to face a court hearing that could send him to prison for years.
The 44-year-old Navalny, an anti-corruption investigator who is Putin's best-known critic, was arrested on Jan. 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have rejected the accusations. He was arrested for allegedly violating his parole conditions by not reporting for meetings with law enforcement when he was recuperating in Germany.
The United States urged Russia to release Navalny and criticized the crackdown on protests.
Trump names 2 lawyers to impeachment defense team
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former president Donald Trump announced a new impeachment legal defense team Sunday, one day after it was revealed that he had parted ways with an earlier set of attorneys with just over a week to go before his Senate trial.
The two representing Trump will be defense lawyer David Schoen, a frequent television legal commentator, and Bruce Castor, a former district attorney in Pennsylvania who has faced criticism for his decision to not charge actor Bill Cosby in a sex crimes case.
Both attorneys issued statements through Trump's office saying that they were honored to take the job.
“The strength of our Constitution is about to be tested like never before in our history. It is strong and resilient. A document written for the ages, and it will triumph over partisanship yet again, and always,” said Castor, who served as district attorney for Montgomery County, outside of Philadelphia, from 2000 to 2008.
The announcement Sunday was intended to promote a sense of stability surrounding the Trump defense team as his impeachment trial nears. The former president has struggled to hire and retain attorneys willing to represent him against charges that he incited the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol, which happened when a mob of loyalists stormed Congress as lawmakers met Jan. 6 to certify Joe Biden's electoral victory.
Push to reopen schools could leave out millions of students
President Joe Biden says he wants most schools serving kindergarten through eighth grade to reopen by late April, but even if that happens, it is likely to leave out millions of students, many of them minorities in urban areas.
“We’re going to see kids fall further and further behind, particularly low-income students of color,” said Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform. “There’s potentially a generational level of harm that students have suffered from being out of school for so long.”
Like some other officials and education advocates, Jeffries said powerful teachers unions are standing in the way of bringing back students. The unions insist they are acting to protect teachers and students and their families.
In a call Thursday evening with teachers unions, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government's top infectious disease expert, said the reopening of K-8 classrooms nationally might not be possible on Biden's time frame. He cited concern over new variants of the virus that allow it to spread more quickly and may be more resistant to vaccines.
Biden is asking for $130 billion for schools to address concerns by unions and school officials as part of a broader coronavirus relief package that faces an uncertain fate in Congress. If his reopening goal is realized, millions of students might still have to keep learning from home, possibly for the rest of the school year.
Major storm heads to Northeast after blanketing Midwest
After days of frigid temperatures, the Northeast on Sunday braced for a whopper of a storm that could dump well over a foot of snow in many areas, create blizzard-like conditions and cause travel problems for the next few days.
It was already impacting coronavirus vaccinations in New York and New Jersey, with appointments for Monday needing to be canceled and rescheduled.
The storm system blanketed parts of the Midwest in the most snow some places had seen in several years. Chicago got almost 7 inches (18 centimeters) of snow by Sunday morning, leading to the cancellation of a couple hundred flights at the city's two airports. In Wisconsin, snow depths in some counties near Lake Michigan had reached more than 15 inches (38 centimeters), and the snow was still falling.
“That’s more snow than we’ve seen in a decade,” Chris Stumpf, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sullivan, Wisconsin, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Three to 5 inches (8 to 13 centimeters) of snow arrived in central Ohio by early Sunday, making for some slippery roads. Washington, D.C., and parts of Virginia had also received some snow, with up to 3 inches in some areas. By the afternoon, the snow reached Pennsylvania.
Biden to meet with GOP lawmakers to discuss virus relief
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is set to meet Monday afternoon with a group of 10 Republican senators who have proposed spending about one-third of the $1.9 trillion he is seeking in coronavirus aid, though congressional Democrats are poised to move ahead without Republican support.
An invitation to the White House came hours after the lawmakers sent Biden a letter Sunday urging him to negotiate rather than try to ram through his relief package solely on Democratic votes. The House and Senate are on track to vote as soon as this week on a budget resolution, which would lay the groundwork for passing an aid package under rules requiring only a simple majority vote in the closely divided Senate.
The goal is for passage by March, when extra unemployment assistance and other pandemic aid expires. The meeting to be hosted by Biden would amount to the most public involvement for the president in the negotiations for the next round of virus relief. Democratic and Republican lawmakers are far apart in their proposals for assistance.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Sunday that Biden had spoken with the leader of the group, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. Though Biden is wanting “a full exchange of views," Psaki reiterated that the president remains in favor of moving forward with a far-reaching relief package.
“With the virus posing a grave threat to the country, and economic conditions grim for so many, the need for action is urgent, and the scale of what must be done is large," Psaki said.
Thousands join in Jerusalem funerals, flout pandemic rules
JERUSALEM (AP) — Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Israelis thronged a pair of funerals for two prominent rabbis in Jerusalem on Sunday, flouting the country's ban on large public gatherings during the pandemic.
The initial funeral procession, for Rabbi Meshulam Soloveitchik, who died at age 99, wended its way through the streets of Jerusalem in the latest display of ultra-Orthodox Israelis' refusal to honor coronavirus restrictions.
The phenomenon has undermined the country's aggressive vaccination campaign to bring a raging outbreak under control and threatened to hurt Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in March elections. Two challengers accused Netanyahu of failing to enforce the law due to political pressure from his ultra-Orthodox political allies.
Densely packed throngs of people gathered outside the rabbi’s home, ignoring restrictions on outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people. Many did not wear masks. Thousands of black-garbed ultra-Orthodox funeral-goers coursed past the city's main entrance toward the cemetery where Soloveitchik was to be buried. A handful of police officers blocked intersections to traffic to allow participants to pass, but appeared to take no action to prevent the illegal assembly.
Israeli media said Soloveitchik, a leading religious scholar who headed a number of well-known seminaries, had recently suffered from COVID-19.
Trump loyalists in South Dakota turn on home state senator
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Longtime South Dakota Republican voter Jim Thompson is ready to leave the GOP, hoping that an exodus of Donald Trump supporters like him will punish the state's preeminent politician, Sen. John Thune, for defying Trump.
Thompson, a retired rodeo announcer and broadcaster, watched Trump’s calls for supporters to come to Washington to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden's election victory and he saw the ensuing assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 . But as Congress tries to hold Trump accountable for his actions, Thompson sees an agenda to banish the former president from politics and return the party to establishment figures such as Thune, the second-ranking GOP leader in the Senate.
“We were tired of the way things were going, we were tired of political answers and spin,” Thompson said.
Thune was among the Republicans who condemned the insurrection at the Capitol, calling it “horrific” and pledging to “hold those responsible to account.” But like most of his GOP colleagues, the senator this past week signaled he was not speaking about Trump.
Thune and all the Republican senators except five voted against holding an impeachment trial. While their votes were not enough to stop the upcoming trial, the tally was a rapid climbdown from the talk of punishing Trump. It's easy to find the political incentives behind their decision in the small towns of South Dakota, where voters still loyal to Trump will decide whether to send Thune back to the Senate next year.
Impeachment fever hits Kentucky with efforts to oust leaders
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Impeachment fever has struck Kentucky, where grievances over coronavirus restrictions and the outcome of the Breonna Taylor death investigation have spurred petitions to oust both the governor and the attorney general.
It's a card rarely played in any serious way in the Bluegrass State, though Kentucky has had its share of provocative elected officials. In the two new cases, the effort to impeach was triggered by disagreements over policy or executive decisions at the highest levels of Kentucky government.
Experts say the frenzy reflects the bitter political divide dominating public discourse nationally, and some worry that it weaponizes a tool of last resort normally reserved for egregious misbehavior to address political grievances. But some also see it as a sign that newcomers to politics are intent on shaking up the system.
“In the age of social media and Donald Trump appealing to people who think they’ve been disregarded or dispossessed, a lot of people who would not have felt comfortable engaging in the process now feel comfortable in not only engaging in it but challenging it," said longtime political commentator Al Cross.
Only a handful of Kentuckians submitted each petition, and it remains to be seen how seriously lawmakers take them. Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature.