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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
A coup took place in Myanmar on Monday, with the military seizing power and detaining senior politicians, including Aung San Suu Kyi, in early morning raids. The army announced it was retaining power for one year, claiming state-of-emergency powers, and that it was taking over because the government had failed to respond to the military’s claims of “voter fraud” in last November’s election, in which Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won 83 percent of the vote. It was the second election that took place since the country’s military agreed to share power in 2011.
“Suu Kyi’s party published comments on Facebook that it said had been written in anticipation of a coup, quoting her as saying people should protest against the military takeover,” Reuters reports.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the military to release “all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people of Burma as expressed in democratic elections on November 8.” You can read his full statement here.
Internet disruptions are occurring across the country and domestic flights have been suspended, Hannah Beech reports for the New York Times.
President Joe Biden was expected to give a major foreign policy speech today at the State Department, but it’s been postponed until later in the week due to a snowstorm in Washington, D.C.
“A White House official said Sunday night that the visit would be rescheduled for later in the week when the agency’s staff and diplomats could more safely commute to attend,” the Associated Press reports.
The snowstorm is also delaying the Senate’s confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas, President Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security. A final vote to confirm him is being pushed to Tuesday, Jordain Carney reports for The Hill.
A group of 10 Republican senators have accepted Biden’s invitation to come to the White House on Monday afternoon to discuss a COVID relief bill. Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, including money to step up vaccine distribution as well as direct financial support for certain Americans via a $1,400 per-person stimulus check. Republicans are objecting and have put forward an alternative $600 billion relief package, Jack Turman reports for CBSNews.
Large protests in support of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny broke out across Russia this weekend, with more than 5,000 people being arrested. “In a massive show of force, police imposed a sweeping security lockdown in the heart of Moscow, sealing off streets to pedestrians near the Kremlin, closing metro stations and deploying hundreds of riot police as snow fell,” Polina Nikolskaya and Tom Balmforth report for Reuters.
Navalny’s Jan. 17 arrest sparked the recent protests, but declining wages and other economic anxieties are also fueling Russians’ disappointment with President Vladimir Putin’s government, Andrew E. Kramer reports for the New York Times.
Vaccine distribution is in a race against time as new variants of COVID spread in the United States. New variants first found in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil have officials worried, as they appear to be more infectious, plus there’s concern that current vaccines may be less effective against some of them. Cases of all of these variants have already been detected in the United States. Several experts say that “while Covid-19 numbers may be trending in the right direction for now, the next few weeks could be a different story unless Americans double down on safety measures and vaccinations ramp up,” Christina Maxouris reports for CNN.
Israel extended its national lockdown on Sunday as the new variants offset the country’s vaccination drive, Dan Williams reports for Reuters.
Israel also says it’s transferring 5,000 doses of COVID vaccine to the Palestinian Authority to immunize frontline Palestinian health workers, the BBC reports.
The new COVID variants are threatening to slow the world’s economic recovery from the virus. The new, more infectious variants could require stronger restrictions on activities, pushing some economies back into recession. The other threat is that a variant that is resistant to today’s vaccines could emerge, which would also force a new round of restrictions as updated vaccines are developed and distributed. Greg Ip reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The disparity in access to vaccines between rich and poor countries threatens to prolong the pandemic for everyone. “The more the virus spreads, and the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the greater chance it has to continue to mutate in ways that put the whole world at risk,” Lynsey Chutel and Marc Santora report for the New York Times.
The Defense Department is pausing its plan to vaccinate the 40 prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. The Associated Press reports.
A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the US is available at the New York Times.
US and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.
A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.
Latest updates on the pandemic at The Guardian.
U.S. CAPITOL ATTACK
The New York Times has reconstructed former President Donald Trump’s efforts to subvert the results of the presidential election, starting in November and leading up to Jan. 6, the day a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol at his urging.
“A New York Times examination of the 77 democracy-bending days between election and inauguration shows how, with conspiratorial belief rife in a country ravaged by pandemic, a lie that Mr. Trump had been grooming for years finally overwhelmed the Republican Party and, as brake after brake fell away, was propelled forward by new and more radical lawyers, political organizers, financiers and the surround-sound right-wing media,” Jim Rutenberg, Jo Becker, Eric Lipton, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Martin, Matthew Rosenberg and Michael S. Schmidt report for the New York Times.
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones helped facilitate funding for the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., which preceded the attack on the Capitol, Shalini Ramachandran, Alexandra Berzon and Rebecca Ballhaus report for the Wall Street Journal.
The FBI investigation into the attack on the Capitol is uncovering some evidence of coordination in carrying out the assault. “Investigators caution there is an important legal distinction between gathering like-minded people for a political rally — which is protected by the First Amendment — and organizing an armed assault on the seat of American government. The task now is to distinguish which people belong in each category, and who played key roles in committing or coordinating the violence,” Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu, and Aaron C. Davis report for the Washington Post.
Facebook is clamping down on Groups, a feature of the platform the company once lauded as the “heart of the app,” but that became “a vector for the rabid partisanship and even calls for violence that inflamed the country after the election,” Jeff Horwitz reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Trump’s legal team for his impeachment trial has imploded after several lawyers objected to Trump’s idea that they build their defense of him around the false premise that he won the election. “South Carolina lawyer Karl S. ‘Butch’ Bowers Jr. and four other attorneys who recently signed on to represent the former president abruptly parted ways with him this weekend, days before his Feb. 9 Senate trial for his role in inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol. On Sunday evening, Trump’s office announced two new lawyers were taking over his defense,” Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, and Amy Gardner report for the Washington Post.
The Russian SolarWinds hack has led to new rules for filing sensitive documents in the U.S. courts system, Maryclaire Dale reports for the AP.
Ex-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith was sentenced to one-year probation for altering a Russia probe email, Kristine Phillips and Kevin Johnson report for USA Today.
On Friday, a week before it was due to expire, Putin signed a bill extending the New START treaty for five years. It is the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and the United States, the Associated Press reports.
The U.S. military says a U.S.-led coalition air strike killed Abu Yasir, the top remaining Islamic State leader in Iraq, Howard Altman reports for Military Times.
Senior NATO officials say international troops will stay in Afghanistan past the May deadline, because conditions for withdrawal have not been met, Rupam Jain and Charlotte Greenfield report for Reuters.