January 13, 2021

Snapchat announced on Wednesday it has permanently banned President Trump, basing its decision on his attempts to "incite violence" while spreading "misinformation" and "hate speech."

These are "clear violations of our guidelines," the social media company said in a statement to Politico, and it is "in the interest of public safety" to permanently terminate Trump's account. The company also added that its platform is primarily used by friends connecting with each other, rather than people who want to interact with public figures.

After a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol last Wednesday, stirred by comments Trump made online and during a rally in D.C., Snapchat suspended the president's account. They weren't the only social media company to act: in the wake of the riot, Trump was permanently banned by Twitter and his Facebook and YouTube accounts have also been suspended. Catherine Garcia

8:17 p.m.

The Minnesota Department of Health announced on Monday it has recorded the first known case in the United States of the highly transmissible COVID-19 variant that has been spreading through Brazil.

Known as the P.1 variant, it was detected amid a surge of cases in Manaus, Brazil. Minnesota health officials said the patient is a resident of the Twin Cities area who recently traveled to Brazil, and the strain was found via genomic sequencing of random blood samples. The person was tested on Jan. 9, and is now in isolation. Ruth Lynfield, Minnesota's state epidemiologist, said this is a reminder why "it is so important to limit travel during a pandemic as much as possible."

Scientists are closely studying three COVID-19 variants: P. 1, as well as B.1.1.7, first detected in the United Kingdom, and B1.351, first identified in South Africa. Virologists said the variants are independent of each other but there is some overlap in the mutations. The U.K. variant is spreading now in the U.S., but the South Africa variant has not yet been detected. Virologists are especially concerned that the Brazil and South Africa variants contain mutations that may evade the effects of some antibodies.

William Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, told The Washington Post on Monday the Brazil variant is "probably the one causing the most concern among people watching this. It is fair to say that P.1 is the object of very, very serious attention and concern among epidemiologists. We don't know why it has been so successful in Manaus." Catherine Garcia

7:20 p.m.

The nine House impeachment managers on Monday evening delivered the article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump to the Senate.

On Jan. 13, the House impeached Trump on a charge of inciting an insurrection, in connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), serving as lead impeachment manager, made the transfer official by reading the article on the Senate floor.

Trump's second impeachment trial is set to begin the week of Feb. 8, giving both sides time to prepare. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), president pro tempore of the Senate, will preside over the trial; Chief Justice John Roberts presided over Trump's 2020 impeachment trial, but because Trump is out of office, Roberts is no longer constitutionally obligated to take on this role. On Tuesday, the senators will be sworn in as jurors. Catherine Garcia

6:46 p.m.

The Senate on Monday voted 84-15 to confirm Janet Yellen as secretary of the Treasury, making her the first woman in United States history to ever hold the job.

As Treasury secretary, Yellen, a labor economist and former Federal Reserve chair, will work closely with President Biden as he works on getting Congress to pass his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. If approved, she will also be responsible for ensuring direct relief payments are distributed to Americans.

During her confirmation hearing, Yellen said Congress must "act big" in order to get the economy going and to ease the suffering of American workers and families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. "The relief bill late last year was just a down payment to get us through the next few months," Yellen said. "We have a long way to go before our economy fully recovers." Catherine Garcia

6:09 p.m.

The possibility of conflict with Iran prompted the United States military to begin using several extra ports and bases in Saudi Arabia for the first time over the course of the last year, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The decision is seemingly all about expanding the ability to operate militarily and complicating Iran's options in Saudi Arabia should tensions with Tehran, which is at odds with both Washington and Riyadh, boil over in the future. "What it does is to give us options, and options are always a good thing for a commander to have," Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command told the Journal.

McKenzie explained that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are negotiating infrastructure plans for the coastal port of Yanbu as well as two air bases to make them more usual for the U.S. military, and additional sites that have not been revealed are under consideration.

As the Journal notes, the Biden administration has promised to take a tougher stance on human rights issues within Saudi Arabia, but the military base expansion effort — which began under the Trump administration — does suggest Washington will continue to count Saudi Arabia as a key ally. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

5:46 p.m.

The world's ice is melting so fast that sea level rise predictions can't keep up.

In the 1990s, the Earth's ice was melting at a rate of about 760 billion tons per year. That has surged 60 percent to an average of 1.2 trillion tons per year in the 2010s, a study published Monday in the journal The Cryosphere estimates. And as another study published earlier this month in Science Advances makes clear, the problem is feeding into itself.

Climate change is largely responsible for the huge ice melt surge, the Cryosphere study reports. In fact, about three percent of all the energy trapped within the Earth's systems because of climate change has gone toward that ice melt, the study estimates. "That’s like more than 10,000 'Back to the Future' lightning strikes per second of energy melting ice around-the-clock since 1994," William Colgan, an ice-sheet expert at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, told The Washington Post. "That is just a bonkers amount of energy."

Climate change not only melts ice sheets on land, but also warms ocean waters to melt glaciers from the bottom up as well. Past sea level rise projections have failed to account for this glacial undercutting by "at least a factor of 2" the Science Advances study found.

"Together, the two studies present a worrying picture," the Post writes. The first study found "the ice sheets are now following the worst-case climate warming scenarios set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change," study author Thomas Slater said in a statement. But the second reveals that the panel's sea level projections, which were already criticized as too conservative, may have underestimated the role of glacial undercutting in accelerating ice melt even more. Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:52 p.m.

President Biden has pledged to get 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Americans in his first 100 days in office. And when reporters asked Biden if that plan was ambitious enough last week, he doubled down on the original plan.

Even though the U.S. hasn't reached Biden's goal of giving 1 million vaccines each day, Biden still seemed ready to push forward on Monday. "I am quite confident that in the next three weeks or so," the U.S. will get that pace up to 1 million per day, and quickly after could make it to 1.5 million, the president said in a press conference. Every American who wants to get a vaccine will be able to do so by spring, Biden promised, though the COVID-19 pandemic itself could rage through summer and "early fall," he added. Immunologists meanwhile contend distributing only 1 million vaccines per day will drag the pandemic into 2022.

Biden is pushing to get Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill after signing a series of coronavirus-related executive orders last week. He declared "time is of the essence" when it comes to passing the bill, but wouldn't pull out specific pieces of the legislation to prioritize on Monday.

Biden also gave a confusing interpretation of his calls for unity, suggesting that a bill that doesn't have bipartisan support doesn't necessarily lack unity.

That comment comes as the Senate tries to work out a power-sharing agreement that's essentially at a standstill. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:27 p.m.

President Biden's administration is hoping to "speed up" efforts to get Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during a briefing Monday said the Treasury Department is "taking steps to resume efforts" to put Tubman on the $20 bill, a plan that was originally announced under former President Barack Obama, and is "exploring ways to speed up that effort."

Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin previously announced in 2019 that the planned $20 bill redesign with Tubman replacing former President Andrew Jackson on the front had been delayed until 2028. At the time, Mnuchin said he would focus on a security feature redesign.

"The primary reason we've looked at redesigning the currency is for counterfeiting issues," Mnuchin said. "Based upon this, the $20 bill will now not come out until 2028."

The original plan was for the Tubman redesign to be unveiled in time for the 19th Amendment's 100th anniversary in 2020, The New York Times notes. Former President Donald Trump dismissed the efforts to put Tubman on the $20 bill as "pure political correctness" during his 2016 campaign. In Monday's briefing, Psaki said that it's "important" for U.S. currency to "reflect the history and diversity of our country," adding that "Harriet Tubman's image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that." Brendan Morrow

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