January 13, 2021

In an extraordinary letter Tuesday, all eight of the top U.S. military officers told U.S. service members that last week's deadly mob attack on the U.S. Capitol was an illegal "direct assault" on not just Congress but also America's constitutional order, and "the rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition, and insurrection."

The letter from the Joint Chiefs of Staff followed Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy's approval of 15,000 National Guardsmen, some armed with lethal weapons, to help secure the Capitol amid credible threats of violence from armed militia groups leading up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration next Tuesday. Biden, the four-star generals reminded U.S. forces in their letter, "will be inaugurated and will become our 46th commander in chief."

"As service members, we must embody the values and ideals of the nation," the Joint Chiefs said. "We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law."

Some retired military officers participated in Wednesday's insurrection, and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) asked the Pentagon on Monday to cooperate with the FBI and Capitol Police to determine the extent of participation in the "seditious conspiracy" by current and former service members. Another veteran, Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), said Sunday that McCarthy should screen any military personnel involved in inauguration security to make sure none are "sympathetic to domestic terrorists." Peter Weber

7:12 a.m.

President Biden is preparing to nominate a slate of ambassadors, and among them will be Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and a key Biden backer in Arizona last year, Politico reports. McCain is being vetted as the U.S. envoy to the United Nations Food Programme in Rome, a "coveted ambassador post in Western Europe in what would be his administration's first Republican appointee to a Senate-confirmed position," Politico says.

McCain, 66, has worked on global food scarcity and hunger issues, including collaborating with the World Food Programme in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Georgia. The three presidents before former President Donald Trump all appointed at least one member of the other party to their Cabinet, and Biden has not resumed that tradition. The Arizona Republican Party censured McCain in January, along with former Sen. Jeff Flake (R) and Gov. Doug Ducey (R), for insufficient fealty to Trump. Biden won Arizona in November, becoming the first Democrat to do so since 1996. Peter Weber

6:21 a.m.

President Biden signed an executive order Feb. 4 revoking the historically low cap on refugees and other related restrictions put in place by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, and pledged to raise that limit to 125,000 a year. But he "has yet to do one thing that would make all of those changes official: sign what is known as a presidential determination," The Washington Post reported Sunday. Until he does, Trump's cap of 15,000 refugees in the 2020-21 fiscal year will remain in place.

In a report released Friday, the humanitarian nonprofit International Rescue Committee said Biden is on track to admit the fewest number of refugees of any modern president, including Trump. In its first two and a half months, the Biden administration has admitted 2,050 refugees, the IRC said, and without a change in policy, that will result in just 4,510 refugees this fiscal year.

Biden's effort to sharply raise the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. is supposed to take effect in "the first full fiscal year of the Biden-Harris administration," which begins in October. Biden "also intends to propose a raise in refugee admissions for this fiscal year, after appropriate consultation with Congress," the White House said in its Feb. 4 fact sheet.

Refugee advocacy groups have "deep concern" about Biden's delay in ramping up refugee resettlement, said Nazanin Ash, the IRC's vice president for global policy and advocacy, and "tens of thousands of already cleared refugees" are stuck "in uncertain limbo." Biden's fiscal 2021-22 budge calls for large increases in refugee resettlement funds, but "refugee advocates say those in limbo often cannot afford to wait weeks, let alone months, until the next fiscal year," the Post reports.

At Friday's White House press briefing, a reporter noted that Biden hasn't formally signed the paperwork on refugees and asked if he's "still committed to raising that cap to 62,500 by this fiscal year." White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said yes, "the president remains committed to raising the cap." Peter Weber

4:41 a.m.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) may have only briefly figured in the cold open of this week's Saturday Night Live, but he was the lead story on "Weekend Update" again. "Matt Gaetz, who looks like all the dudes from American Pie combined, reportedly sent $900 on Venmo to an alleged sex trafficker, who then forwarded that same exact amount to three young women in payments labeled 'tuition' and 'school' — which, if true, would make him the only congressman actually helping with student loans," joked anchor Colin Jost.

"But at least Gaetz is taking the allegations seriously," Jost added. "That's why yesterday he spoke at the Women for America First summit — which was a nice changes to see women pay for an hour with Matt Gaetz." The best part was when Gaetz boasted of the support he's getting from former President Trump and GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (Ga.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio), he said. "Oh no, did he think those were good character references? Who was next on his list, the ghost of Jeffrey Epstein?"

Jost also pointed to President Biden's order to regulate make-at-home gun kits. "Remember how frustrated and angry you get assembling a dresser? Now imagine at the end of that you had a gun," he said. "Also, I gotta say, it's weird seeing a guy who's basically doing a Clint Eastwood impression be pro-gun control. I mean, look at him, you could put him into Gran Torino and no one would know the difference."

Jost and co-anchor Michael Che also interviewed the unrepentant iceberg that sank the Titanic (Bowen Yang), but all the iceberg wanted to talk about was his new album. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:53 a.m.

"Nursing homes, and long-term care in general, are something that we tend to try to avoid thinking about, but the truth is, whether due to old age or disability, many of us do — or will — require help with daily living," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "For the rich, there are plenty of options," but "the vast majority of people receive long-term care at home," not retirement palaces with $200 Versace plates.

About 80 percent of home care is provided by unpaid caregivers, typically family members trying to keep their loved ones out of institutional care. But "taking care of someone at home can be an incredibly complicated full-time job that is almost always unpaid," Oliver said. "In fact, in terms of lost wages, the labor of family caregivers totals about $67 billion annually," or roughly the GDP of Bulgaria.

There are more than 2 million people in long-term care facilities, though, and that 0.63 percent of the U.S. population accounts for about 33 percent of COVID-19 deaths, Oliver noted. "The truth is, COVID just exposed what we've basically known for years: that the way the elderly and disabled are treated in far too many of these facilities is with, at best, indifference, and at worst abuse and neglect. So tonight let's talk about long-term care: how the industry is structured, how that structure creates bad incentives, and what we can do going forward."

There are different issues depending on whether you are underserved on Medicaid or inappropriately over-treated on Medicare — for the short period Medicare covers nursing home care, at least, Oliver said. But partly because of the myriad problems at both kinds of facilities, 90 percent of people 65 and older want to stay in their homes for as long as possible, something Medicaid generally doesn't cover. There are bills to fix that, and President Biden's infrastructure plan would help a lot, he said, "but we do need to do something, and it all starts with showing we give a sh-t about what happens to the elderly and people with disabilities in this country. Because right now, evidence points to the fact that we absolutely don't, and all the other problems are stemming from that." There is some off-color language, disturbing tales, and one Andrew Cuomo joke. Peter Weber

2:25 a.m.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on Sunday night to protest the fatal officer-involved shooting of a Black man earlier in the day during a traffic stop.

The motorist was identified by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) and relatives as 20-year-old Daunte Wright. Outside of the Brooklyn Center Police Department headquarters, people chanted Wright's name, and some covered the building's sign with graffiti. Officers in riot gear fired a chemical irritant and rubber bullets at the crowd, hitting at least two people and leaving one bleeding from the head, a witness told Reuters. Several people were also seen looting at a nearby Walmart and shopping mall, the Star Tribune reports, and National Guard troops — already in Minneapolis for the Derek Chauvin trial — were dispatched.

The Brooklyn Center Police Department released a statement saying a motorist was pulled over shortly before 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon for a traffic violation. The officers found that the driver had an outstanding arrest warrant, the police department said, and while trying to arrest him, the man got back into his car. One of the officers then shot the motorist, who died after driving several blocks and hitting another vehicle. The department said the officers involved were wearing body cameras that captured the incident.

Wright's mother, Katie Wright, told reporters her son called to let her know he was being pulled over for having air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror, which is illegal in Minnesota, Reuters reports.

Brooklyn Center is a Minneapolis suburb, about 10 miles from where George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old Black man, was killed last May while being arrested. Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis police officer, is now on trial, charged with murder and manslaughter for kneeling on Floyd's neck while he was on the ground and handcuffed. Catherine Garcia

2:08 a.m.

Ecuador elected Guillermo Lasso, a conservative former banker, as its next president on Sunday, giving him about 52 percent of the vote in a runoff against Andrés Arauz, the handpicked candidate of leftist former President Rafael Correa. Arauz, a 36-year-old economist, conceded Sunday night. Lasso, 65, narrowly lost the 2017 election.

"For years, I have dreamed of the possibility of serving Ecuadorians so that the country progresses, so that we can all live better," Lasso said Sunday night. "Today, you have resolved that this be so." He will be sworn in May 24. Correa, who governed from 2007 to 2017, congratulated Lasso from Belgium, where he is living in exile to avoid jail after being convicted of corruption in absentia. "Your success will be Ecuador's," Correa said. "I just ask that he stops the lawfare, which destroys lives and families."

Lasso, a member of the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei, has pledged to raise the minimum wage and promote foreign investment in mining and oil sectors, among other changes. He inherits a weak economy and bad COVID-19 outbreak, and he will likely face resistance from the National Assembly. Lasso barely finished in second place in the first round of voting, narrowly edging out environmentalist Yaku Pérez.

Peru also went to the polls Sunday to elect a new president and Congress. Voters appear to have selected socialist candidate Pedro Castillo for the June runoff, where he will face one of two conservative candidates: right-wing economist Hernando de Soto or Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of polarizing former strongman Alberto Fujimori.

Political analysts don't give the eventual winner great odds of finishing his or her term, given the impeachment-happy Congress and Peru's recent history. "The country's political chaos reached a new level in November, when three men were president in a single week after one was impeached by Congress over corruption allegations and protests forced his successor to resign in favor of the third," The Associated Press notes. "All former Peruvian presidents who governed since 1985 have been ensnared in corruption allegation, some imprisoned or arrested in their mansions. One died by suicide before police could arrest him." Peter Weber

1:39 a.m.

Carole Hopson is blazing a trail in the sky, showing other Black women that they belong in the cockpit.

The Federal Aviation Administration says that Black women make up less than 1 percent of all certified pilots, and Hopson — a pilot with United Airlines — is one of them. Hopson, 56, told People that as a kid, she would spend her summers mesmerized by the planes taking off and landing at Philadelphia International Airport. She went to college, studying Spanish and journalism, and started a career in human resources, but "the revelry and imagination of flying just stuck with me," Hopson said.

When they were dating, Hopson's husband, Michael, surprised her with flight lessons. Her husband and teenage sons have been "absolutely" supportive of Hopson following her dream of becoming a pilot, and since 2018, she's been full-time with United. A lot of people aren't used to seeing a Black woman as a pilot, she told People. Many do a double take, or ask her for a drink, thinking she's a flight attendant. Recently, a woman pulled Hopson aside at the airport and asked her, "'How does my daughter get to be like you?'" Hopson said. "It was a special moment."

United is launching a flight school to train 5,000 pilots by 2030, with half of them being women and people of color. Hopson — who was one of only two women, and the only Black woman, in her pilot class — is working with United and the nonprofit Sisters of the Skies to get 100 Black women enrolled in flight school by 2035. She is excited about this challenge, telling People, "Watching the sunrise above the clouds never gets old. That experience is one we should be exposing all women to." Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads