How will we remember January 6?

US & Canada


It is a date that could go down in history as the day the United States started to repair its battered democracy

January 6 was a sad day for President Donald Trump and an exceptionally good day for American democracy. The dead and wounded will be remembered as a tragic outcome of the president’s violent rhetoric. But what happened that day – and I’m not just referring to the takeover of Congress by Trump’s supporters – could very well mark the beginning of an important period of renewal and strengthening of American democracy.

On January 6, the laws, institutions, and norms that limit presidential power in the United States were stress tested. Fortunately, they survived Donald Trump’s attempt to stay in the White House despite losing the election.

This is not to say that American democracy has passed through this crisis unscathed. It had already been weakened, and although the coup failed, Trump and his accomplices have left the country even more vulnerable and divided. What’s more, the blow to America’s international prestige is enormous.

On a day that was full of surprises we also got a letter and a speech that changed the course of history

But, as we have seen, Trump, along with some Republican members of Congress and the anti-democratic forces that actively participated in the coup attempt, were discredited even more. The seizure of the Capitol building by violent rioters incited by the president was, obviously, a historic event. Something like this hasn’t happened since British forces set fire to the Capitol in 1814. Fortunately, this time the occupation was short-lived.

But other very important things happened for US democracy on January 6. That morning we learned that the two Senate candidates running for office in the state of Georgia – Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff – had defeated their Republican rivals. Warnock will be the first black senator from Georgia – a southern state with a long history of segregation and racial discrimination. Jon Ossoff, 33, will be the first Jewish senator elected in a southern state since the 1880s and the youngest senator in the Democratic Party since Joe Biden was elected half a century ago.

The electoral wins of these two candidates mark a milestone that goes beyond the historic nature of their election. With those two additional votes, the Democratic Party, which already has a majority in the House of Representatives, will also have a majority in the Senate. This hasn’t happened since 1995. Control of Congress will give Joe Biden more freedom and accelerate the appointment of government officials that require Congressional approval and that of the federal judges whom the president proposes and the Senate can approve or reject. Of course, Biden also has much better chances of initiating meaningful and long-lasting economic and political reforms.

For the first time in four years, Mike Pence put his country’s democracy before Donald Trump’s personal interests

On a day that was full of surprises we also got a letter and a speech that – albeit not as dramatic as the televised occupation of the Capitol – changed the course of history.

Mike Pence, who as vice-president also serves as president of the Senate, sent a letter to his fellow senators. In the letter, the until-then submissive, obedient, adulating and, surely, long-suffering Mike Pence, informed senators that he would rigorously comply with the limited duty mandated by the Constitution in the process of certifying the electoral college votes for the president and vice-president. What Pence did not say in his letter, but everyone knew, is that this was not what his boss, the president, had ordered. Trump publicly reiterated that he expected Mike Pence (“who owes me so much”) to support the electoral fraud that he had mounted in collusion with Senators Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and other Republican operators. Perhaps for the first time in four years, Mike Pence put his country’s democracy before Donald Trump’s personal interests. Had the opposite happened, the coup would have had a better chance of success.

The other surprise was the speech by Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate. For four years McConnell had loyally supported Donald Trump. On January 6, he stopped. When the counting of the electoral votes began in the Senate, and before the invasion of the Capitol prevented further debate, McConnell gave a devastating speech that exposed, and effectively defeated, the coup that Trump and his allies were trying to perpetrate. If McConnell had aligned himself with the coup-plotters that day, we would now be speaking in a different tone about American democracy.

The defects of this democracy are in plain sight, as are all the challenges it faces. The reforms it urgently needs are also known. But will they be implemented? Will they be successful? We don’t know. But we do know that January 6, 2021 will go down in history as the day the United States began to reshape its democracy.


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US Carnival Company ready to restart cruises to Cuba

Green Destinations


Washington, Jan 14 (Prensa Latina) The Carnival Corporation announced to be prepared to readjust its cruises to Cuba, following the new rules that may arise with the change of the US government.

As reporting on the company’s results at the end of the year and the fourth quarter of 2020, its CEO Arnold Donald ratified that Cuba was a main destination after the known thaw, that is, openness that took place during the administration of President Barack Obama (2009-2017).

We will see what happens with the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden, who will take office on January 20, obviously, we will be well prepared to operate in ‘whatever the guidelines, rules and regulations are,’ Donald said.

In 2015, because of licensing by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control under the Obama administration, cruisers could operate in Cuba after a cessation of such destination for over 50 years.

The Adonia ship, operated by a Carnival brand, was the first to sail from the Port of Miami to Havana in 2016.

We will be prepared to, once again, help people who really want to go to Cuba, see it in the best way we feel, which is to arrive at the cruiser and then experience what that country has to offer, Donald explained.

In June 2019, President Donald Trump’s administration issued new restrictions on Cuba, rescinding his predecessor’s White House measure, and banning cruisers travel to Cuba as part of an extensive list of measures to tighten the US economic, commercial, and financial blockade against the country.

Biden, who served as vice president during Obama’s term, hinted during his campaign that he would reverse Trump’s Cuba policy, calling it a failure and that it ‘inflicted damage on Cubans and their families.’


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Is Cuban cuisine actually to die for?

Cuban cuisine is a blend of Spanish, African, Chinese, and other Caribbean cultures. Some Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. This results in a blend of the several diverse cultural influences, A small but noteworthy Chinese influence can also be accounted for, in the Havana area. There is also some Italian influence. During colonial times, Cuba was an important port for trade, and many Spaniards who lived there brought their culinary traditions with them.


Cuban sandwich

A Cuban sandwich (sometimes called a mixto, especially in Cuba is a popular lunch item that grew out of the once-open flow of cigar workers between Cuba and Florida (specifically Key West and the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa) in the late 1800s and has since spread to other Cuban American communities.

The sandwich is built on a base of lightly buttered Cuban bread and contains sliced roast pork, thinly sliced Serrano ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, and yellow mustard. In Tampa, Genoa salami is traditionally layered in with the other meats, due to influence of Italian immigrants who lived side-by-side with Cubans and Spaniards in Ybor City. Tomatoes and lettuce are available additions in many restaurants, but these are considered by traditionalists as an unacceptable Americanization of the sandwich.

After assembly, the Cuban sandwich may be pressed in a groove-less panini-type grill called a plancha, which both heats and compresses the contents.


 

Ropa Vieja

Ropa vieja is one of the national dishes of Cuba. It consists of shredded or pulled stewed beef with vegetables. In the Cuban cuisine of Miami, Florida, it is typical for ropa vieja to have a sweet undertone. While this is traditionally intended to be due to the use of fully ripe red bell peppers, it is common for recipes to include some quantity of sugar to achieve the correct level of sweetness in the finished dish.


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Tourist operations under strict sanitary protocols in Cuba

Green Travel


Camagüey, Cuba, Jan 13 (Prensa Latina) The resumption of operations on Wednesday to accommodate tourists in the E Hotels, of the Cubanacan Group in Camagüey eastern city, is being carried out under strict hygienic-sanitary protocols to avoid the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Camagüey, which is experiencing a setback in the epidemiological situation with 100 active cases, focuses on the tourism sector as a high priority, since only in the Santa Maria Hotel there have been registered visitors from Russia, Spain, Germany and the Bahamas.

According to statements to the local press by Juan Llambias, director of the Provincial Center of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Microbiology, the setback occurred as of October 20 when the province resumed international flight operations.

Therefore, the Public Health Department, along with the International Airport, is intensifying health protocols, in addition to ensuring the transportation of tourists, especially those who are passing through.

Among the prioritized control measures are the permanent use of facemasks, the cleaning of surfaces, the physical distancing and the application of hydroalcoholic gel.


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Tourism loses 80,000 jobs due to health crisis in Ecuador

Green Travel


Quito, Jan 14 (Prensa Latina) With the loss of about 80,000 jobs, the tourism sector in Ecuador was deeply affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which still affects the life and economy of the country.

The figure was disclosed by Holbach Muñeton, president of the National Federation of Chambers of Tourism, who lamented the complex situation that the country experienced in 2020, when the disease spread throughout the world. According to statistics, from January to December last year, some 50,000 direct jobs and 30,000 indirect employments linked to the so-called leisure industry were lost, due to the restrictions imposed by the Government to confront the health crisis, which started in March 2020.

Muñeton pointed out that the financial damage amounted to 1.9 billion dollars.

Tourism was not the only sector affected in 2020, since according to data from the Central Bank of Ecuador (BCE), other sectors such as manufacturing, commerce, professional, technical and administrative activities, construction and oil refining, also reported decreases. According to the BCE, in the second quarter of 2020 the economy contracted 12.4%, while in the third quarter, it fell 8.8 %.


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European Left describes aggression against Cuba as inadmissible

Latin America


Brussels, Jan 13 (Prensa Latina) The Party of the European Left on Wednesday described as inadmissible the incorporation of Cuba to the US list of countries sponsoring terrorism and denounced the tightening of the US blockade, which it implies.

The organization founded in 2004, which includes European communist and socialist parties, repudiated the fact that the new hostile measure towards Cuba comes from an outgoing administration since Donald Trump ends his mandate on January 20, and from a country ‘with a past and present plagued by terrorist activities.’

It is inadmissible that a country that has distributed ‘democracy’ by means of cannon shots and coups d’états dares to accuse Cuba that spreads solidarity throughout the world by means of multiple actions, among them its medical brigades, of being a sponsor of terrorism, the party referred.

According to the European Left, the inclusion of Cuba on the list brings consequences, in particular the tightening of the economic, commercial and financial blockade against the country, a policy that the organization depicted as criminal.

We condemn this cynical, opportunistic, inhumane and interfering decision, which violates International Law, and which constitutes another message of hatred for an administration that has shamed the United States, the European Left’s members pointed out.

Likewise, the organization’s representatives also expressed their expectation that the incoming government will reverse the Trump measure and that the European Union will take a stand against it.

The Party of the European Left reiterated in the text its solidarity with the people and government of Cuba and support for their right to peace and development.

‘Enough of the criminal blockade,’ the European Left’s members concluded.


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Syria war: Suspected Israeli strikes on Iran-linked targets ‘kill dozens’

Love & Peace


Israel has carried out a wave of air strikes on Iran-backed militia positions in Syria overnight, in the fourth such attack in two weeks.

The Syrian state news agency Sana said Israeli aircraft attacked the eastern Deir al-Zour and Albu Kamal regions.

It did not mention any casualties, but the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 14 Syrian soldiers and 43 allied militiamen were killed.

Israel has not commented, but it often attacks Iran-linked targets in Syria.

The chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Gen Aviv Kochavi, told Israeli media last month that it had struck more than 500 targets during 2020 “on all fronts, in addition to multiple clandestine missions”.

“The Iranian entrenchment in Syria is in a clear slowdown as a result of IDF activity, but we still have a long way to go to complete our goals,” he said.

Israel has accused its enemy of building up a force inside Syria and using the country to smuggle advanced weapons to Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.

Iran is believed to have deployed hundreds of troops to Syria and to have armed, trained and financed thousands of Shia Muslim militiamen – from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen – to support forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the nine-year Syrian civil war.

Sana reported that Israel had carried out “air aggression” around the city of Deir al-Zour and the town of Albu Kamal, which is near the Iraqi border, at 01:10 on Wednesday (23:10 GMT on Tuesday).

It said the damage was still being assessed and accused Israel of “directly interfering to support terrorist organisations”, particularly the jihadist group Islamic State (IS), which is active in the area.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in Syria through a network of sources on the ground, reported that 18 Israeli strikes had targeted military storage facilities and a base on the outskirts of Deir al-Zour, military installations in Albu Kamal, and warehouses outside Mayadin.

At least 57 people were killed, including 14 Syrian soldiers, 16 Iraqi fighters and 11 Afghans, and many others were wounded, the group said.

Forces linked to Hezbollah and the Fatemiyoun Brigade, an Afghan Shia militia, operated in the areas that were attacked, it added.

Iran’s state-run Arabic TV channel, Al-Alam, quoted a source as saying, “no Iranians, Syrians, or members of the Fatemiyoun Brigade were martyred”.

An unnamed senior US intelligence official told the Associated Press that the air strikes had been carried out with intelligence provided by the US and that they had targeted warehouses being used as part of a pipeline to store and stage Iranian weapons.

The warehouses also served as a pipeline for components that supported Iran’s nuclear programme, according to the official.

Omar Abu Layla, the Europe-based head of the activist DeirEzzor24 news website, tweeted that the warehouses had contained a shipment of missiles and other weapons brought to the Deir al-Zour area by the Fatemiyoun Brigade in recent weeks for distribution among Iran-backed militias.

He described the air strikes as “a painful blow that indicates how much the Israelis are monitoring Iranian movements in every inch of Syria”.


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The Catalan cyclist who visited 43 countries during the Covid-19 pandemic

United Kingdom & EU


An engineer caught by the lockdowns on his way to Singapore instead covered 25,700 km by bike on a European tour that allowed him to compare national attitudes to the coronavirus

About 20 people clap as a weary-looking cyclist pedals into a square in Barcelona. A small banner scrawled with the words “25,700 kilometers and 43 countries” welcomes him home. Nil Cabutí, 30, smiles as his feet touch the ground. It’s December 28 and he’s just finished a 10-month cycling trip through Europe in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cabutí’s original plan had been to travel from the Catalan capital to Singapore, but the pandemic caught up with him a few days into his journey. The day after entering Italy, the country started closing its borders. “It was March and they were stopping all the cars at the police checkpoints, but they didn’t stop me,” he recalls. “The police took a look at me, but they let me go. Every day seemed like it could be the last, that they would send me home.”

His journey became extremely challenging with the general shutdown in the hospitality sector. “I had booked hotels through Booking.com, but when I arrived, they were closed,” he says. “I had already paid, but they told me they couldn’t let me stay. People were afraid of Covid-19.”

He adapted his routine and began to spend the first hour of each day looking for accommodation before starting out. “Only about 10% of places were still open, and I would call them directly,” he says. It wasn’t easy for him to find places to eat in lockdown, either. “One day, a man had to give me some cans of tuna fish and toast at a gas station because Italian supermarkets close on Sundays,” he says. “I couldn’t buy anything!”

Cabutí had been planning to do a big cycling trip for a long time because, as he says, “my two great passions are cycling and traveling.” After seven years working abroad as a civil engineer, he took a sabbatical. “I soon realized that it would be impossible to get to Singapore,” he says. “In Slovenia, things were as bad as in Italy, and in Croatia they wouldn’t let me cross the border at any of the 10 border control points I turned up at.” Foiled at every turn, Asia was quickly ruled out.

Things changed when he headed north towards the Scandinavian countries, which were being praised in Spain at the time as examples of how to manage the public health crisis; the reality, however, was quite different. “In Germany and Switzerland people didn’t even wear masks, and in Sweden all the restaurants were full,” says Cabutí. “It was as if Covid-19 didn’t exist.”

In Sweden, he noted a huge discrepancy between what he was actually seeing and what he was hearing about Sweden on Catalan talk shows. “It was being said that the Swedish were complying with safety measures, but it wasn’t true,” he says. “I was there and people underrated the virus; they thought it was like a flu and that it only affected old people. And on the train they didn’t even take my temperature. Maybe the capacity of their health system allowed them to be more relaxed about it.”

There was also a discrepancy between what he heard about Ukraine and what he actually experienced. “I was told it would be impossible to enter, but I got in,” he says. “You come to realize that everything is relative.”

In Sweden all the restaurants were full. It was as if Covid-19 didn’t exist
The radio was one of his favorite tools for fending off loneliness. “I spent 95% of the trip alone,” he says, adding that he also relied heavily on social media, sharing his experiences on Instagram. In Belarus, technology was a lifeline: “Nobody speaks English! I used screenshots of Google translate to communicate. There were almost no restrictions there.”

According to Cabutí, euros were preferred in Belarus to the local currency. “I got a puncture and the people who helped me asked for euros instead of rubles.”

One of the few times he was stopped by the police was in Paris, on his way back to Catalonia. When the officers asked him to return home, he replied: “I’m already going home.” At that point, he was still more than 1,000 kilometers away, but they let him go.

At the end of the journey, the cyclist considers the trip to have been a bittersweet experience. “I didn’t get to see a lot of things,” he says. “Amsterdam was like a ghost town, and I did the Camino de Santiago [pilgrimage route in Spain] without being able to enjoy the anthropological aspect of it.”

So what’s next? “The trip to Singapore is still pending,” he says. Ideally, when he undertakes it, it will be in a Covid-free world.


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Cuba reduces taxes on private sector as part of monetary overhaul

Latin America


Havana, Jan 13 (Prensa Latina) As part of its ongoing currency reordering Cuba is reducing the tax burden on the private sector, Yoandra Cruz, First Deputy Chief of the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT), said.

According to the official, there are shifts in place that favor non-state businesses, such as the increase in the minimum tax exemption which goes from 10,000 pesos to 39,120 pesos annually.

Speaking on national television, Cruz stated that 100 percent of the deductible expenses of the income obtained is also recognized, as part of the changes introduced by the monetary overhaul process.

However, she clarified that they must justify 80 percent of the amount as a control measure.

These measures will take effect in 2022, when the declaration of facts corresponding to the current year is presented, Cruz pointed out.

The campaign to pay taxes on the preceding 12 months will begin on January 28 and those self-employed workers who canceled their permits for 180 days or more because of the Covid-19 pandemic will be exonerated from this procedure.

The economic reform includes, in addition to the elimination of the two-tier currency system, the increase of the income of workers, pensioners and beneficiaries of social security, as well as the elimination of excessive subsidies and undue gratuities.


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Capitol riots: Trump says his speech was totally appropriate


US President Donald Trump has said his speech before last week’s deadly Capitol riot, when he urged his supporters to march on Congress, was “totally appropriate”.

Mr Trump dismissed as “ridiculous” efforts by Democrats in Congress to impeach him for inciting insurrection.

He leaves office on 20 January, when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on an article of impeachment on Wednesday.

“I think it’s [the impeachment procedure] causing tremendous danger to our country and it’s causing tremendous anger. I want no violence,” Mr Trump said.

He was speaking as he left the White House for a visit to Texas to inspect a section of the border wall with Mexico. It was his first public appearance since the violence at the Capitol, in which five people died and dozens of people were injured, including at least 60 police officers.

What did Mr Trump say in his speech?

During his speech at the rally in Washington on 6 January, Mr Trump repeated his unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud during the 3 November presidential election and urged his supporters to march on Congress.

“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength,” he told the crowd of several thousand supporters.

He said Vice-President Mike Pence should have “the courage to do what he has to do”, claiming without foundation that Mr Pence had the constitutional power to overturn the votes which were being formally tallied in Congress that day.

“I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” Mr Trump said.

Dozens of people have since been detained in connection with last week’s violence. Of the five who lost their lives, one was a police officer and one was a rioter shot dead by police.

Meanwhile, a third US lawmaker has said he has Covid-19 after sheltering with maskless Republicans in a safe room during the events of 6 January.

What is happening with efforts to remove Trump from office?

The House of Representatives will vote on Tuesday to ask Mr Pence to invoke the 25th amendment to the constitution to remove Mr Trump from office – an idea Mr Pence is said to oppose.

That vote is expected to fail, and so the House will then consider an article of impeachment against Mr Trump for “incitement of insurrection”.

Democrats have the majority in the House, so the impeachment vote is likely to pass. If it does, Mr Trump will become the first president in US history to be impeached twice.

However, the impeachment will only lead to his removal from office if a two-thirds majority votes in favour of his conviction in the Senate.

That would need the assent of a substantial number of Republicans and so far, few have shown any willingness to vote against a president from their own party.

Speaking on his visit to Texas, Mr Trump brushed off the threat of removal from office under the constitution.

“The 25th amendment is of zero risk to me but will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration,” he said.

Do Republicans leaders back impeachment?

According to the New York Times, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has told confidants he is pleased Democrats want to impeach the president.

The Kentucky senator believes the punishment will make it easier to cleanse Mr Trump from the Republican party, reports the newspaper.

Mr McConnell has also told associates he believes the president committed impeachable offences, reports the Washington Post.

Neither Mr McConnell nor his Republican counterpart in the House, Kevin McCarthy, plan to whip votes for or against impeachment, according to US media.

On Tuesday afternoon, one of the most senior House Republicans, Liz Cheney, said she would vote to impeach Mr Trump.

The Wyoming representative said in a statement: “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Ms Cheney, the number three Republican in the lower chamber and the daughter of former Vice-President Dick Cheney, said Mr Trump had “summoned this mob, assembled the mob, lit the flame of this attack”.


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