Donald Trump impeachment trial: Moment Mike Pence fled for safety during Capitol riots shown to Senate
Chilling footage of Mike Pence, the former US vice president, being evacuated from the Senate chamber as a violent mob approached on January 6 was played to senators for the first time at Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Wednesday.
The footage, taken from the Capitol’s CCTV cameras, showed a group of Secret Service agents rushing Mr Pence and his family away from the Senate floor as rioters drew nearer and chanted threats. One agent could be seen carrying the nuclear football as they made their escape.
The graphic footage showed the rioters spreading through the halls of Congress even as Mr Pence was swept to safety. Some in the mob shouted “hang Mike Pence”.
Democrat prosecutors played the footage for the first time as they argued Mr Trump had “summoned the mob” behind last month’s riot and “channelled the rage” in a violent attempt to steal the election for himself.
“The mob was looking for Vice President Pence because of his patriotism, because the vice president refused to do what the president demanded and overturn the election results,” Stacey Plaskett, one of the Democrat prosecutors, told the Senate.
Ms Plaskett also detailed how the mob had attempted to find Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker and the third in line to the presidency.
Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt Jr, the self-described “smut peddler who cares” who used his pornography empire and flair for the outrageous to push the limits of free speech, has died at the age of 78, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
The newspaper said Flynt’s brother Jimmy Flynt confirmed his death but did not cite a specific cause. Flynt suffered from a variety of health problems since a 1978 assassination attempt that left him a paraplegic.
Flynt loved to aggravate his critics with stunts such as wearing a diaper made from an American flag to court and was involved in a number of legal battles.
In the most famous, the US Supreme Court made an important First Amendment ruling in favor of Flynt in a libel battle with evangelist Jerry Falwell.
His life was the basis of the 1996 movie The People vs. Larry Flynt, which starred Woody Harrelson and was based in part on Flynt’s Supreme Court case.
Last summer some people posted a listing for a fake Asian restaurant near my university on Google Maps and Instagram, with a name insulting to Asians and a menu that included horrible-sounding items such as “mouse tail salad” and “marinated ostrich foreheads.” The fake name, menu and reviews—even if they were intended as a joke—were all despicable examples of anti-Asian racism that has always been present in the U.S. and has been brought to the forefront amid the COVID outbreak.
Such behavior creates a hostile environment for researchers of Asian ancestry such as myself. It turned out that the Instagram account was linked to students who are predominantly from my college. Knowing that my fellow students have such offensive views has heightened my anxiety, which surfaced early in the pandemic.
Because the disease was first reported in China, I have had to struggle with growing bigotry toward Asians in addition to avoiding the virus itself. There have been many reports about Asians facing verbal and physical attacks, fueled by disturbingly common terms like “Chinese virus” and “kung flu,” hate-inspiring language frequently used by Donald Trump and others. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that Asian-Americans report a higher level of negative experiences, including racist jokes and slurs or feeling fear of threats or physical attacks, than Black, Hispanic or white respondents in a survey conducted after the pandemic began. Moreover, a recent Stop Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Hate National Report by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council found more than 2,500 reports of anti-Asian incidents across 47 states in a five-month period (from March to August 2020). Of these, 70 percent involved verbal harassment, and 9 percent of them were physical assaults. More undoubtedly go unreported.
When news of these attacks became public, my family and friends warned me to be alert and careful when I was anywhere outside my home. At the beginning of the pandemic, mask wearing was not required, but to protect people and myself against the spread of the coronavirus, it was something I wanted to do in our laboratory and around campus. But I didn’t, because I was told that co-workers and colleagues might avoid or harass me. My family and friends cautioned me not to stay out late and to avoid sparsely populated areas on campus; they and I worried other people might hurt me because I was Asian. I ended up going home early most days, shortening my time for experiments and work.
I endured these limitations because of the xenophobia toward Asians worldwide, but the heightened anxiety became burdensome and made research (as well as nonresearch and leisure activities) more difficult. And I kept quiet about my concerns around the lab because I thought that speaking up could make me a target of jokes among colleagues and lead to alienation and loss of collaboration.
These concerns were magnified because I had faced frequent microaggressions even before the outbreak, such as being asked about where I am “originally from,” although I am from the U.S., or if I was related to someone because we shared a common name. Non-Asians too often presume—and say—that my Asian peers and I are pursuing STEM careers because we were forced to by our families. Asians are also often (inaccurately) viewed as the model minority and falsely thought not to suffer from discrimination.
I am thankful that my institution and college have condemned racist behavior. They have contacted Google and Instagram to remove the fake restaurant listing; have expressed concern and willingness to take action against racism; and are holding journal club discussions and diversity symposiums about race. I deeply appreciate these efforts and the care taken to create a more inclusive and safe space. Institutions in general should require bias training and should develop spaces such as “life issues” groups (my department has one), journal clubs and symposia designed to educate the community about racism. Faculty and administration should welcome discussions about race issues and be more transparent in addressing them. I also think that social media campaigns by institutions have the potential to raise awareness and educate others.
We have a lot of work ahead of us, but inclusion and positive change within our institutions and in STEM are achievable if we unite against racism. Greater inclusion will lead to more sharing of ideas that will help science, technology and medicine flourish, at a time when we dearly need them.
Prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia, are investigating Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the Southern state’s 2020 presidential election results, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Wednesday, in the second criminal probe faced by the former president.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has sent a letter asking state government officials to preserve documents, including those related to then-President Trump’s call to Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pressuring him to “find” more votes.
“This matter is of high priority, and I am confident that as fellow law enforcement officers sworn to uphold the Constitutions of the United States and Georgia, our acquisition of information and evidence of potential crimes via interviews, documents, videos and electronic records will be cooperative,” said the letter dated Feb 10.
“This letter is notification that all records potentially related to the administration of the 2020 General Election must be preserved, with particular care being given to set aside and preserve those that may be evidence of attempts to influence the actions of persons who were administering that election.”
Representatives for the county prosecutor’s office and for Mr Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
On Monday, Raffensperger’s office opened its own probe into Mr Trump’s Jan 2 phone call pressuring him to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s Nov. 3 victory in the state based on unfounded voter fraud claims, saying any further legal efforts would be up to the state’s attorney general.
New York prosecutors have also opened criminal and civil investigations into Mr Trump over his businesses.
The New York Times first reported the investigation.
Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, for inciting a violent insurrection on the US Capitol, will move ahead today after senators rejected the defence’s claim that the proceedings are unconstitutional.
Democrats, who hold the balance of power in the Senate, won a 56-44 vote on Tuesday allowing opening arguments to begin. Six Republicans backed the motion.
Yesterday, after a shocking 13-minute video showing the violence on January 6, Democrat prosecutors argued that Mr Trump was America’s Founding Fathers’ “worst nightmare come to life.”
The prosecution will make their opening statements at about 5pm UK time.
Follow the latest updates below.
For the first time ever, astronomers may have glimpsed light from a world in a life-friendly orbit around another star.
The planet candidate remains unverified and formally unnamed, little more than a small clump of pixels on a computer screen, a potential signal surfacing from a sea of background noise. If proved genuine, the newly reported find would in most respects not be particularly remarkable: a “warm Neptune” estimated to be five to seven times larger than Earth, the sort of world that galactic census-takers such as NASA’s Kepler and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite missions have revealed to be common throughout the Milky Way. But even though it would be shrouded in gas and essentially bereft of any surface to stand on, its distance from its star would place it in the so-called “habitable zone” where liquid water could exist. No other planet has been directly seen in this starlight-drenched region around any other star, because of the associated glare. And this world’s celestial coordinates would be straight out of astronomers’ wildest dreams—it would orbit a near-twin of the sun called Alpha Centauri A, which also happens to be a member of a triple-star system that, at just shy of 4.5 light-years away, is the closest one to our own.
Because of its proximity, the system’s other members—a slightly smaller sunlike star called Alpha Centauri B, and the diminutive red dwarf star Proxima Centauri—are also high-priority targets for astronomers, who have already indirectly detected the presence of two worlds around Proxima (including one that is likely rocky and within that star’s habitable zone). Whether looking for real estate across town or around another star, location really is everything. The Centauri system is so close that it offers a unique front-row seat for scientists seeking to study the atmospheres and surfaces of any worlds that exist there, especially to seek out possible signs of life. And astronomers long ago learned that planets are, in some respects, like household pests: where one is seen, others are likely to be found. Which is why, as tentative as they may be, the burgeoning crop of Centauri worlds hints at untold discoveries that are yet to be made and could profoundly transform views of our place in the universe.
The new findings were reported Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications. They come from an international consortium of planet hunters called Breakthrough Watch, via the inaugural science run of a one-of-a-kind “direct imaging” instrument called NEAR (New Earths in the AlphaCen Region), which operates on the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. The effort is named for its chief funding organization, Breakthrough Initiatives—the brainchild of the Silicon Valley billionaire Yuri Milner, who also sponsors related projects to search the heavens for signs of alien civilizations and to send pint-sized interstellar probes to the Alpha Centauri system.
“Alpha Centauri presents us with a magical opportunity, because there is no better place in the sky to try to directly image small, potentially habitable planets,” says Pete Klupar, Breakthrough Initiatives’ chief engineer. “This was in some sense low-hanging fruit—for just $3 million, we were with our international partners able to build an instrument to take advantage of ESO’s billions of dollars invested in its telescopes. But it’s also like going after a needle in a haystack, which is why no one has ever done this before. Governments tend to build survey instruments, to look at large numbers of stars and guarantee a return on investment, whereas NEAR was purpose-built to just do this one, risky thing.”
“When we collaborate on a global scale, we discover new worlds, and we keep advancing,” Milner says. “The identification of a candidate habitable-zone planet in our celestial backyard will continue to power our curiosity.”
The candidate’s tantalizing signal emerged from 100 hours of observations on the VLT, stretched across a total of 10 nights in the spring of 2019. By June of that year, as the Breakthrough Watch team members sifted through their observations, they began to realize they might have found something. Kevin Wagner, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral Sagan Fellow at the University of Arizona, first saw the telltale evidence of a planet-like blip cresting far above NEAR’s instrumental noise. It happened while he was remotely processing a batch of data during a family vacation in Lake Jocassee, S.C. Measuring its brightness and sandwiching it between limits on planet masses and sizes calculated in previous studies by other groups, the Breakthrough Watch team estimated that—if the blip were indeed a planet—it would most likely be somewhere between Neptune and Saturn in size. By November, he and his colleagues were certain the find was worth publishing, even if it proved not to be a world at all. (It would not be the first time our neighboring star system has fooled astronomers. Peer-reviewed claims of a small planet around Alpha Centauri B in 2012 evaporated a few years later, found to be products of stellar noise.)
“In a way, I hope we haven’t detected anything this time, too,” Wagner says. “Because what I’m most excited to find is an Earthlike planet in the habitable zone. The presence of a Neptune in the habitable zone of Alpha Centauri A would not rule out something smaller nearby, but it would limit some of the area in which we could hope for rocky worlds to exist there in the first place.”
There is no shortage of other possible explanations for the weak signal, which is essentially a thermal wisp of infrared photons—that is, of heat—that seems to originate from a source at the outer edge of Alpha Centauri A’s habitable zone. In visible light, a sunlike star outshines a small, rocky planet by a factor of billions. But in infrared the star is dimmer and the planet is at its brightest, so this contrast ratio is “only” measured in millions. For decades, the difficulty of achieving even this more modest measurement limited direct imaging to hot giant planets orbiting far from their stars. That is, until NEAR was built. It is a mid-infrared coronagraph, a specialized instrument designed to blot out the bulk of a star’s thermal glow at a tight wavelength of 10 microns. Augmented by adaptive optics to compensate for the blurring turbulence of Earth’s atmosphere, in operation it switches its focus between Alpha Centauri A and B every tenth of a second, using observations of each star to help calibrate those of the other. It progressively winnows out starlight, and stacks frame after frame to allow any faint planetary light to accumulate and eventually be seen. But rather than betraying the presence of a planet, any resulting blip could instead be a far-distant background object, a clump of starlight-warmed dust or an asteroid belt circling around a star, or even the errant play of stray photons leaking from beamlines and spraying across sensitive optics inside the instrument. Wagner and his co-authors have already ruled out the first possibility (no known background star or galaxy can account for the blip), but the others remain in play to various degrees.
Confirmation of the blip’s planetary status should have been relatively straightforward: simply attempt to observe it again after sufficient time has passed; if it is in fact a planet, its orbital motion will have swept it to a new and very different position around its star. Subsequent, more time-intensive studies with NEAR could then crudely measure the blip’s colors to help eliminate the “dust cloud” hypothesis. But this was not to be—not yet, anyway—as the ensuing COVID pandemic shut down astronomical observatories and most everything else around the globe. Wagner says the team has applied for additional time to use NEAR on the VLT, but the proposal has yet to be approved.
“The timing is such a shame,” says Debra Fischer, a veteran planet hunter at Yale University. She is unaffiliated with the study, but her work with her student Lily Zhao has placed the best-yet constraints on the planets that may or may not exist in the Alpha Centauri system. “If it’s in the habitable zone around Alpha Centauri A, that’s an Earthlike orbit, so observing six months later would probably have nailed it,” Fischer says. “Without that, this isn’t a planet detection paper, it’s a demonstration of NEAR’s capability to monitor Alpha Centauri in the mid-infrared. But if this turns out to be right—oh my God, it’s huge.”
Brave New Worlds
For now, NEAR is the only coronagraph on Earth with a realistic chance of imaging Alpha Centauri’s hidden worlds. But other instruments and facilities are already waiting in the wings to apply their own scrutiny to the system. Fischer’s high-precision EXPRES radial velocity spectrograph—and an even more advanced European counterpart, ESPRESSO—are both already operational. They could help indirectly confirm the planet candidate and others, and could estimate their masses, by watching for periodic wobbles each world’s orbital tugging induces upon its host star. A related technique, astrometry, could do much the same thing, pinpointing planetary masses by measuring how each world’s gravitational influence slightly shifts its star’s position in the plane of the sky. Such observations using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile, or even a modest, Breakthrough-funded dedicated space mission, could occur later this decade.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, slated to launch in late October, would also be capable of directly imaging the candidate planet given one full day of observing time, according to a recent study led by one of Webb’s foremost scientists, Charles Beichman of the California Institute of Technology. “Because Alpha Centauri A is a twin of our own sun and less than five light-years away, it really is our closest solar neighbor,” Beichman says. “That makes it first among equals, of all the stars in the sky. No other system will lend itself to more detailed possible studies over the next several decades.”
The space agency’s follow-up mission to Webb, the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, will also carry a coronagraph as a technology demonstration that could (with certain tweaks now being actively considered) potentially snap pictures of the candidate.
And, around the same time Roman may launch, a new generation of sophisticated coronagraphs mated to gargantuan ground-based observatories should begin operations that could in mere minutes produce images of Centauri planets that would currently require hours upon hours of NEAR’s time on the VLT. Armed with starlight-gathering mirrors 30 meters or more across, ESO’s European Extremely Large Telescope and its American counterpart, the Giant Magellan Telescope, could both in theory gather enough light from a habitable-zone Neptune around Alpha Centauri A to study its atmosphere, sniffing out what familiar or alien chemistry occurs there. (A third behemoth, the U.S.’s Thirty Meter Telescope, is presently planned for a site in the Northern Hemisphere from which Alpha Centauri would not be visible.) Finally, NASA and other space agencies are now studying concepts for multibillion-dollar space telescopes for the 2030s and beyond. Some of these could image and search for signs of life on small rocky planets around Alpha Centauri as well as many other nearby stars.
All of which means that, even if this latest candidate from Alpha Centauri proves spurious, it still signals something quite real: a looming sea change, in which planet-hunting astronomers shift from safe, statistical surveys to the more daring in-depth study of individual worlds, some of which might harbor life.
“Whether this thing is real is, to me, almost secondary,” says study co-author Olivier Guyon, an innovator in direct imaging and chair of Breakthrough Watch. “Because either way it shows we’re clearly opening a new area in the history of astronomy where, finally, after more than 20 years of hard work, we can at last perform direct imaging of another star’s habitable zone. This is the ‘game on’ moment for the field.”
Donald Trump was “borderline screaming” at his lawyer’s “disorganised” performance in the Senate, as his impeachment trial defence team praised a graphic video attacking the former President.
Holed up in his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, the 74-year-old was reportedly infuriated at Bruce Castor’s opening argument, in which he admitted that he was supposed to speak second, but that the legal team “changed what we were going to do on account that we thought that the House managers’ presentation was well done.”
Two sources close to the former President told CNN that he was “deeply unhappy” and “borderline screaming” at his television while his lawyers argued that an impeachment trial for a non-sitting president would be unconstitutional.
His team lost the argument, with the Senate voting 56 to 44 in favour of proceeding to trial – six Republicans backing the motion.
The Democrat prosecutors, led by Jamie Raskin, presented a slick 13-minute video, cleverly splicing Donald Trump’s speech on January 6, in which he told supporters to “fight like hell,” with the shocking, deadly violence which then ensued.
After a nail-biting 27 minutes, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first-ever interplanetary mission has successfully reached orbit around Mars.
The spacecraft, dubbed Hope, launched July 19, 2020, atop a Japanese H-IIA rocket, then spent seven months trekking to the Red Planet. Today (Feb. 9), Hope needed to fire its thrusters for nearly half an hour straight to slow down enough to slip into orbit around the Red Planet, from 75,000 mph to 11,000 mph (121,000 kph to 18,000 kph). Mission personnel on the ground could only watch what happened and hope for the best.
“This has been a remarkable journey of humanity,” UAE Space Agency chairperson Sarah Al Amiri said during preparations for the orbital insertion maneuver.
With the successful Mars orbit insertion, the UAE becomes the fifth entity to reach the Red Planet, joining NASA, the Soviet Union, the European Space Agency and India. Today’s success also puts the $200 million Hope spacecraft on the bright side of grim Mars mission statistics: About half of flights to the Red Planet fail.
Mars orbit insertion was a critical step that, for Hope, required a 27-minute burn of its six thrusters that the mission team could not precisely practice in advance. Hope is now in a temporary orbit that it will retain for a few months as it powers on its instruments and settles into its new home.
Mission personnel plan to relocate the spacecraft to its science orbit in May. That science orbit will see the spacecraft circling high over the planet’s equator every 55 hours, a new orbit for a Mars spacecraft that will give Hope a unique opportunity to study large-scale atmospheric phenomena on Mars. The Hope mission is scheduled to last for a full Martian year (687 Earth days).
The Hope spacecraft carries three instruments that will allow scientists to study the weather near the surface of Mars, the connections between different layers of the atmosphere, and how Mars loses atmosphere to space. Scientists leading the mission hope that this data will help them understand, for example, how dust storms at the surface of Mars affect atmospheric loss and how weather systems around the globe relate to each other.
The UAE has sped into the space sector: Hope launched a little more than a decade after the nation’s first Earth-orbiting satellite, DubaiSat 1, did so. The nation has pushed space exploration as a way to develop its science and technology know-how and to buffer its economy, which is largely built on oil.
In addition to the Hope mission, the UAE is recruiting new astronauts in the wake, plans to launch a technology lander to the moon in 2024, and has a century-long Red Planet strategy dubbed Mars 2117, which incorporates both terrestrial priorities and long-term exploration goals.
Hope’s Mars orbit insertion was the first of three Red Planet arrivals this month. Tomorrow (Feb. 10), China’s Tianwen-1 mission will conduct the same maneuver; the mission’s rover will attempt to land on Mars in May. Then, NASA’s Perseverance rover will attempt to land near Jezero Crater on Feb. 18.
The three arrivals bookend a rush to Mars that began in July, when all three spacecraft launched to take advantage of the alignment of Mars and Earth that made the journey most feasible. Visit Space.com for continuing updates about the trio of missions.
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Donald Trump’s impeachment trial has begun in Washington.
Mr Trump is the first former president to face an impeachment trial and the first to be impeached twice.
The charge relates to a provocative speech delivered by Mr Trump ahead of the Jan 6 assault on the US Capitol – an address Democrats argue incited the riots.
If convicted, the trial could bar Mr Trump from running for, or holding, public office again.
What has happened so far?
On the trial’s first day on Tuesday, the Senate voted on whether it was constitutional to impeach Mr Trump.
As expected, this vote passed. Democrats and a couple of Republicans voted 56 to 44 in favour of continuing with the impeachment proceedings. Six Republicans crossed the floor to back the trial – but many more will need to be convinced of Mr Trump’s wrongdoing if prosecutors can have any hope of convicting him.
Earlier, the prosecution and defence teams made brief opening statements. The Democrats posted a slick video which featured harrowing footage of the attack on the US Capitol.
Read more: Senators vote for ex-president to face ‘insurrection’ trial