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Politics Briefing: Frustrations over slow pace of COVID-19 vaccinations – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Vaccinating against COVID-19 was always going to be a huge task: Not only do you have to invent a vaccine, you have to test it, get it approved, manufacture enough of it, ship it out to distribution centres and then actually stick a needle in someone’s arm to actually deliver it.

Every step of the process has had its own challenges, and while the science and regulatory approval may have moved faster than expected, the final step is raising some fresh concerns.

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Doctors say provinces and territories need to really speed up their distribution of vaccines, many doses of which are sitting in refrigerators and freezers and not being administered. Data gathered by The Globe shows provinces have so far used only between 17 and 38 per cent of the COVID-19 vaccine doses they’ve received by now.

In a news conference today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he understands and shares the “frustration” that Canadians are feeling.

“We have seen some challenges that I think we are all impatient about in terms of getting vaccines into arms,” he told reporters.

Mr. Trudeau said it would be a topic of discussion at the next virtual first ministers’ call on Thursday.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney changed his mind and asked for the resignations of a cabinet minister and his chief of staff because of their recent holiday travels.

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An Alberta mother whose son’s Make-A-Wish trip to Hawaii was cancelled because of the pandemic says she is livid that some politicians still travelled to warm spots in during the holidays.

Travel agents say a new government requirement to get a COVID-19 test before returning to Canada is causing serious difficulty to some Canadians already abroad.

An economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives suggests companies receiving the federal wage subsidy should not give bonuses to highly paid CEOs.

Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq says she has returned to work after taking time off to deal with depression and burnout.

And Georgians vote today in two U.S. Senate runoffs that will decide which party controls the chamber in Washington. Georgia went narrowly for Democrat Joe Biden in November’s presidential election, the first time a Democrat had won the state in a generation. Complicating the Republican efforts to win both Senate seats is that party organizers are deeply divided between those conscerned about winning the race and those who follow Donald Trump’s assertions that the whole electoral process is flawed.

André Picard (The Globe and Mail) on the lack of urgency in Canada’s vaccination plan: “Since it began its vaccine rollout on Dec. 20, Israel has administered as many as 150,000 doses daily. Canada began vaccinating even earlier, on Dec. 14, but since then has immunized only 120,000 people – yes, fewer than Israel does in a day. On Monday morning, we had 300,000 doses languishing in freezers, like old bags of peas.”

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Licia Corbella (Calgary Herald) on politicians caught travelling during the holidays: “Federal and provincial politicians are falling all over the place. It’s bizarre that they haven’t learned that they don’t get to flout the rules they impose on the rest of us. Hypocrisy is often harmful in politics. When that hypocrisy and rule breaking takes place during a deadly pandemic, it’s fatal.”

Tania Cameron (The Globe and Mail) on why the next national chief of the Assembly of First Nations should be a woman: “First Nations women are always fighting for fairness and for a seat at the table. Our mothers and grandmothers had to fight for the right to retain Indian Status if they married a non-status man, for matrimonial property rights, for the right to run for chief and council positions, for the right to vote, and even for the right to enter a bar. It has always been a struggle, even though we are a matrilineal society – and unfortunately, that’s even been the case in our own organizations.”

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on Donald Trump not going gently into that good night: “Egomaniacs can’t accept defeat. Mr. Trump couldn’t go out with dignity, an alien concept for him. Burdened by his narcissism, ensconced in his delusional world, he could only continue to wreak havoc on the republic in a hopeless quest to reverse the election result.”

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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We dropped MyPillow because of weak sales, not politics, retailers say – Financial Times

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Two leading US retailers have countered claims from the head of a pillow company that they dropped the brand over his outspoken support for Donald Trump, saying that the decisions were driven not by politics but by poor demand for the products.

In a series of interviews, Mike Lindell, who runs Minnesota-based MyPillow, accused some of the country’s biggest chains, including Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl’s, of caving to pressure from left-leaning activists over his backing for the outgoing US president.

“They’re scared,” he told the rightwing Right Side Broadcasting Network.

However, two of the retailers named by Mr Lindell said on Tuesday that they were removing the privately owned company’s products because of weak sales.

“There has been decreased customer demand for MyPillow,” department store chain Kohl’s said. Bed Bath & Beyond said: “We have been rationalising our assortment to discontinue a number of underperforming items and brands. This includes the MyPillow product line.”

The dispute, on Mr Trump’s final full day in office, illustrates the difficulties facing corporate America over how to deal with the country’s increasingly divisive politics.

Mr Lindell has for months been among the most vocal of any business chief in his backing for Mr Trump, and repeated the president’s unsubstantiated accusations of widespread voter fraud in the November election. In contrast to other Trump sympathisers who distanced themselves after the attack on the US Capitol this month, the entrepreneur has continued to support the president’s calls to overturn the poll’s results.

Since the Capitol assault, executives across corporate America have been eager to avoid supporting a president accused of undermining the rule of law. Yet they also risk a backlash from the right.

Sebastian Gorka, a former aide to Mr Trump, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday: “If you’re a Patriot, how about you never buy anything from Kohl’s or Bed Bath & Beyond until they stock Mike Lindell’s MyPillow products again.”

Mr Lindell said the online furniture retailer Wayfair and Texas grocery chain H-E-B were also dropping MyPillow. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

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Biden’s pick for director of national intelligence says ‘no place’ for politics in agency – Global News

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President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the intelligence community, Avril Haines, promised Tuesday to “speak truth to power” and keep politics out of intelligence agencies to ensure their work is trusted.

“When it comes to intelligence, there is simply no place for politics — ever,” she told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Haines, a former CIA deputy director and former deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration, would enter the job as director of national intelligence, or DNI, following a Trump administration that saw repeated pressure on intelligence officials to shape intelligence to the Republican president’s liking.

Read more:
Biden plans to roll back a lengthy list of Trump policies. Here’s what may happen

The committee’s lead Republican, Marco Rubio of Florida, and its ranking Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia, both indicated they expect Haines to win confirmation. Her hearing kicked off a series of Senate confirmation hearings Tuesday, including those for Biden’s picks to lead the State Department, the Pentagon, and the departments of Homeland Security and Treasury. While most of those nominees are unlikely to be confirmed by the time Biden takes the oath of office at noon Wednesday, some could be in place within days.

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A former director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, who served in the Trump administration, introduced Haines with an emphasis on her commitment to de-politicizing the job. He called her an “exceptional choice” for the position.

Also testifying Tuesday at his confirmation hearing was Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s nominee for secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. He would be the first Latino and first immigrant to lead the agency.

In opening remarks, Mayorkas addressed the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. He said in prepared remarks released ahead of the hearing that the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot is “horrifying” and the authorities still have much to learn about what happened that day and what led to the insurrection.






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Inauguration of U.S. president-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday


Inauguration of U.S. president-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday

The Senate typically confirms some nominees, particularly the secretaries of defence, on Inauguration Day, though raw feelings about President Donald Trump four years ago led to Democratic-caused delays, except for James Mattis at the Pentagon. This year, the tension is heightened by Trump’s impeachment and an extraordinary military presence in Washington because of fears of extremist violence.

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Putting his national security team in place quickly is a high priority for Biden, not only because of his hopes for reversing or modifying Trump administration policy shifts but also because of diplomatic, military and intelligence problems around the world that may create challenges early in his tenure.

The most controversial of the group may be Lloyd Austin, the recently retired Army general whom Biden selected to lead the Pentagon. Austin will need not only a favourable confirmation vote in the Senate but also a waiver by both the House and the Senate because he has been out of uniform only four years.

The last time a new president did not have his secretary of defence confirmed by Inauguration Day was in 1989. President George H.W. Bush’s nominee, John Tower, had run into opposition and ended up rejected by the Senate several weeks later.

Read more:
No sign of ‘insider threat’ among troops protecting Biden inauguration: Pentagon chief

Also facing confirmation hearings were Biden confidant Antony Blinken to lead the State Department, and Janet Yellen as treasury secretary, another first for a woman.

In prepared remarks, Blinken said he is ready to confront challenges posed by China, Iran, North Korea and Russia and is committed to rebuilding the State Department after four years of atrophy under the Trump administration.

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Ahead of the Blinken hearing, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, said he expects the committee to vote on the nomination on Monday.

Blinken will tell the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday that he sees a world of rising nationalism and receding democracy. In remarks prepared for his confirmation hearing, Blinken will say that mounting threats from authoritarian states are reshaping all aspects of human lives, particularly in cyberspace. He’ll say that American global leadership still matters and without it rivals will either step in to fill the vacuum or there will be chaos _ and neither is a palatable choice.


Click to play video '‘Let’s get to work’: Harris thanks supporters ahead of inauguration'



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‘Let’s get to work’: Harris thanks supporters ahead of inauguration


‘Let’s get to work’: Harris thanks supporters ahead of inauguration

Blinken also promises to bring Congress in as a full foreign policy partner, a subtle jab at the Trump administration and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who routinely ignored or bypassed lawmakers in policy-making. He called the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill “senseless and searing” and pledged to work with Congress.

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Austin was testifying later Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, but the panel will not be in position to vote until he gets the waiver. Republicans are expected to broadly support the Austin nomination, as are Democrats.

Biden’s emerging Cabinet marks a return to a more traditional approach to governing, relying on veteran policymakers with deep expertise and strong relationships in Washington and global capitals. Austin is something of an exception in that only twice in history has a recently retired general served as defence secretary — most recently Mattis.

Austin, who would be the first Black secretary of defence, retired from the military as a four-star general in 2016. The law requires a minimum seven-year waiting period.

Read more:
A look at how, when Trump’s 2nd Senate impeachment trial will take place

Doubts about the wisdom of having a recently retired officer running the Pentagon are rooted in an American tradition of protecting against excessive military influence by ensuring that civilians are in control. When he announced Austin as his pick in December, Biden insisted he is “uniquely suited” for the job.

Lindsay P. Cohn, an expert on civil-military relations and an associate professor at the U.S. Naval War College, said at a Senate hearing on the subject last week that an Austin waiver raises worrying risks.

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“Choosing a recently retired general officer and arguing that he is uniquely qualified for the current challenges furthers the narrative that military officers are better at things and more reliable or trustworthy than civil servants or other civilians,” she said. “This is hugely problematic at a time when one of the biggest challenges facing the country is the need to restore trust and faith in the political system. Implying that only a military officer can do this job at this time is counterproductive to that goal.”

Some Democrats have already said they will oppose a waiver. They argue that granting it for two administrations in a row makes the exception more like a rule. Even so, a favourable vote seems likely.

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., on Friday introduced waiver legislation for Austin.

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Associated Press writers Ben Fox, Eric Tucker and Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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How President Trump's Rhetoric Has Affected U.S. Politics – NPR

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NPR’s Ari Shapiro talks with Jennifer Mercieca, a historian of American political rhetoric, about how President Trump has changed the way Americans talk about politics, the government and each other.

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