Martin Luther King Jr.’s words resonate, decades later
Across the nation, scores of marches, parades and other events to mark the holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. have been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has especially devastated Black Americans. Many events have moved online, offered virtually through Zoom or other apps, but organizers hope public enthusiasm will remain high given the extra resonance that his message to end racial discrimination carries in a time of social unrest. Organizations in some cities, meanwhile, are moving forward with plans for in-person events – including a pair of annual marches in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle. The gatherings come after the FBI warned last week of possible armed protests in all 50 states and experts have worried that domestic terrorists might turn their attention to state capitols.
US nears another somber, unthinkable threshold in COVID-19 battle
The United States is expected to cross 400,000 deaths from COVID-19, likely by Monday, yet another reminder of how poorly the nation has fared during the pandemic. The current COVID-19 death toll is about 398,000. That total is fast approaching the 405,000 U.S. fatalities from World War II – thousands of them recorded when Harry Truman was president after Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in April 1945. The USA, the undisputed global leader in coronavirus infections and fatalities, has averaged more than 230,000 new infections and 3,000 deaths per day in January — part of a powerful winter surge that has overwhelmed hospitals in many regions and is likely to last through the rest of the month despite the arrival of vaccines.
UK to require all incoming travelers to have negative COVID-19 test, quarantine
Beginning Monday, the United Kingdom for at least the next month will require all incoming travelers to present a negative COVID-19 test and quarantine. Children under 11 and people traveling for urgent medical treatment are exempt from the testing requirement, as well as certain essential workers. This means that any existing travel corridors or “bubbles” – agreements between the U.K. and other countries that allowed travelers moving between certain airports to skip quarantine as long as they have a negative test – are temporarily revoked. England itself entered a new, nationwide lockdown on Jan. 6. Under the measure, people living in England cannot leave their residences without an “reasonable excuse.”
Virginia pro-gun lobby plans caravans bound for Richmond
Despite tensions in state capitals everywhere, the Virginia Citizens Defense League says it plans on having its voice heard on Monday, the pro-gun group’s annual Lobby Day at the state Capitol. “We will form caravans coming from all four corners of the state, with people joining in all along the way,” the group said on its website. The group, whose rally drew 20,000 last year, notes that it is legal to carry a firearm for self-defense in Richmond. However, police posted notices on social media warning that signs have been put up throughout the city to “inform those who may gather that firearms are prohibited at permitted events and events that would otherwise require a permit, as well as areas adjacent to such events.”
Kamala Harris will resign her Senate seat
On Monday, Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris will resign from the Senate, trading in her seat for a higher role: When she’s inaugurated with President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday, she will also take over as president of the Senate. California’s secretary of state, Alex Padilla, will be appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to serve the remainder of Harris’ term, which was set to end in 2022. As a senator, Harris served on several Senate committees, including Budget, Judiciary, Intelligence and Homeland Security. On Wednesday, she will be sworn in as vice president by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor — the nation’s first Latina justice. According to a source, Harris chose Sotomayor to administer the oath because both of them represent “firsts.” Harris will not only be the first female vice president, but also the first Black and South Asian woman to hold the job.
Contributing: The Associated Press