The Washington Post – Annie Gowen, Andrew Freedman, Tim Craig and Fenit Nirappil / Dangerous Arctic chill leaves more than a dozen dead, widespread power outages across the Southern US
- A crippling Arctic blast continued to wreak havoc across a large swath of the United States on Tuesday after a snowstorm left more than a dozen dead and millions without power, with officials in some places saying residents might be in the dark for days.
- With nearly three-quarters of the continental United States blanketed by snow, at midafternoon Tuesday, there were 3.8 million still without power in Texas, and thousands more in 16 states, including Oregon, Kentucky, Louisiana and West Virginia, according to the website PowerOutage.us.In many places, temperatures were colder than in Alaska.
- The storm also threw the nation’s coronavirus vaccination plans into disarray as inoculation sites across the country are shut down because of power outages and hazardous weather, while shipments are delayed because of poor road conditions.
- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) declared reform of the state’s grid operator an emergency item for this legislative session, and the speaker of the Texas House called for hearings on what went wrong. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather,” Abbott said in a statement. “This is unacceptable.”
- Bloomberg – Rachel Adams-Heard, Naureen S. Malik and Brian Eckhouse / In Texas’s Black-Swan blackout, everything went wrong at once
The New York Times – Roger Cohen / French National Assembly backs law to combat Islam extremism
- The French National Assembly, after 135 hours of sometimes heated debate, adopted legislation with the anodyne official purpose of reinforcing “Republican principles” but the tough real objective of shutting down the sources of Islamist terrorism across the country.
- With 15 months remaining before the presidential election, the left is in disarray, unable to identify a viable candidate. This has prompted Mr. Macron to embrace center-right territory for now. He hopes to lure voters who might otherwise vote for the right-wing Republicans or even for Marine Le Pen, the perennial rightist candidate whose weaknesses were again revealed in a televised debate last week.
- The legislation, even in its more moderate final form, constitutes part of this strategy. It extends the requirement of strict religious neutrality beyond civil servants to anyone who is a private contractor of a public service — like bus drivers. It also creates a new offense of “separatism,” defined as threatening, intimidating or assaulting an elected official or a public-sector employee.
- In the article that prompted the most virulent debate, and over 400 proposed amendments, it places severe limits on home-schooling without banning it, as originally proposed. Educating children at home is viewed by the government as a source of the “separatism” that undermines French values, as well as a means for conservative Muslim families to keep young girls from what they see as corrupting influences.
- Politico – Rym Momtaz / 5 things to know about France’s bill to combat Islamist radicalism
- North Korean hackers tried to break into the computer systems of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in a search for information on a coronavirus vaccine and treatment technology, South Korea’s spy agency said Tuesday (16 February), according to reports.
- The impoverished, nuclear-armed North has been under self-imposed isolation since closing its borders in January last year to try to protect itself from the virus that first emerged in neighbouring China and has gone on to sweep the world, killing more than two million people. Leader Kim Jong Un has repeatedly insisted that the country has had no coronavirus cases, although outside experts doubt those assertions.
- The allegations come only a week after a confidential UN report seen by AFP said North Korea had stolen more than $300 million worth of cryptocurrencies through cyberattacks in recent months to support its weapons programmes.
- Pyongyang has denied the accusations, saying it has “nothing to do with cyber-attacks”. Nuclear talks between it and Washington have been stalled since a summit between Kim and then-president Donald Trump in February 2019 broke down over sanctions relief and what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in return.
- Foreign Policy – Yaron Rosen / The world needs a cyber-WHO to counter viruses in cyberspace
Financial Times – Lauren Fedor / Republican schism deepens as Trump launches blistering attack on McConnell
- The schism within the Republican party deepened on Tuesday after Donald Trump launched a blistering attack on Mitch McConnell, calling the senior Senate Republican a “dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack”.
- “He will never do what needs to be done, or what is right for our country,” Trump said in a statement issued through his Save America political action committee. He vowed to support candidates “who espouse Making America Great Again” in Republican primary contests ahead of next year’s midterm elections, when the GOP will seek to win back control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
- Trump has not ruled out running for president again in 2024, but is facing several criminal investigations as well as civil litigation that could hamper his political ambitions.
- The Senate minority leader is keen to win back the support of moderate Republicans and independent voters who abandoned the party in November’s general election and the Georgia run-offs. But public opinion polling indicates Trump still has a strong grip on the GOP base. A Morning Consult/Politico poll published on Tuesday found 59 per cent of Republican voters said Trump should play a “major role” in the party.
- The Atlantic – Yasmeen Serhan / What history tells us will happen with Trumpism
- Euractiv/ Barnier launches political faction, fueling French presidential bid rumours
- Foreign Policy – Brenna Artinger and Michael Rowand / When Buddhists back the army