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First Thing: Trump called aides at command center hours before Capitol riot

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<span>Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Good morning.

Sources have told the Guardian that just hours before the deadly attack on the US Capitol this year, Donald Trump made several calls from the White House to top lieutenants at the Willard hotel in Washington to discuss ways to stop or delay the certification of Joe Biden’s election win from taking place on 6 January.

The former president relayed that his vice-president, Mike Pence, was reluctant to go along with the plan to commandeer his largely ceremonial role at the joint session of Congress in a way that would allow Trump to retain the presidency for a second term.

He then pressed his aides about how to stop Biden’s certification from taking place, and delay the certification process to get alternate slates of electors for Trump sent to Congress.

  • Why is this significant? Trump’s remarks reveal a direct line from the White House and the command center at the Willard. The conversations also show Trump’s thoughts appear to be in line with the motivations of the pro-Trump mob that carried out the Capitol attack.

  • When did Trump make the calls? He phoned his lieutenants at the Willard sometime between the late evening on 5 January and the early hours of 6 January after becoming furious at Pence for refusing to do him a final favor.

  • Meanwhile, the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack has recommended the criminal prosecution of Jeffrey Clark.

Biden advises ‘concern, not panic’ over Omicron and says no to lockdowns

Joe Biden said yesterday that the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus was a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic” and ruled out a further lockdown, as the US implemented restrictions on travel from South Africa and several other countries.

In remarks from the White House, Biden urged all Americans to get vaccinated, including booster shots, saying it was the best protection against the new variant.

He warned that travel restrictions which took effect yesterday would not prevent the spread of the virus in the US. He also said the ban would give public health officials “time to take more actions, to move quicker, to make sure people understand you have to get your vaccine”.

No cases of the variant have yet been identified in the US. Biden said it was only a matter of time.

“Sooner or later, we are going to see new cases of this new variant here in the United States, and we’re going to have to face this new threat, just as we have faced the ones that came before it,” Biden said after meeting his Covid-19 advisers.

  • What else is the government going to do? Biden promised to put forward a more detailed strategy on Thursday. “Not with shutdowns or lockdowns,” he said of the forthcoming plan, “but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more.”

Jack Dorsey steps down as Twitter chief executive and is replaced by Parag Agrawal

Parag Agrawal and Jack Dorsey
Parag Agrawal and Jack Dorsey. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

The co-founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, has announced he is stepping down from his executive role at the social media company and will be replaced by the chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal.

The surprise move ends Dorsey’s much-criticized tenure as chief executive officer of both Twitter and Square, his digital payments company, which led to Twitter stakeholders Elliott Management and billionaire investor Paul Singer calling on him to step down from one of those roles.

“I’ve decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders. My trust in Parag as Twitter’s CEO is deep. His work over the past 10 years has been transformational. I’m deeply grateful for his skill, heart and soul. It’s his time to lead,” said Dorsey.

  • Why has he been criticized? Investors and some staff have questioned Dorsey’s management style and have worried that he is stretched too thin by his roles at both companies.

  • Who is the new chief executive? Agrawal is a 37-year-old immigrant from India and relatively unknown executive who has been at Twitter for 10 years. He is considered a “‘safe’ pick who should be looked upon as favorably by investors”.

In other news …

Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes in July 2019
The former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes in July 2019. Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters

Stat of the day: Merriam-Webster’s word of the year follows 1,048% rise in searches

A sign directs motorist to a vaccination site at National Jewish Hospital on March 6, 2021, in east Denver
‘This was a word that was extremely high in our data every single day in 2021.’ Photograph: David Zalubowski/AP

From questions over mandates to concerns over global distribution, “vaccine” has been the clear word of the year, according to dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster. The choice of word of 2021 was a seemingly obvious one for the US publisher, which said searches for “vaccine” on its website increased by 601% compared with last year, amid a broad rollout of vaccinations for Covid-19. The change from the pre-pandemic days of 2019 is even more stark, said the dictionary maker, with searches for the word soaring by 1,048%.

Don’t miss this: How activism helps undocumented immigrants cope with trauma

For at least a decade, researchers have documented mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, PTSD and feelings of low self-worth in America’s immigrant communities. In Arizona, the center of the US’s immigration wars, those who have experienced such traumas first hand have also pioneered ways to respond to it and are training others seeking to treat it. The stories told by immigrants in Maricopa county illustrate the power of activism to reshape trauma and cope with it.

… Or this: The plan to transform one of New York City’s dirtiest freeways into green space

It’s an appalling freeway. It’s loud, congested, and contributes to some of the nation’s highest asthma rates. Residents and activists have long described it as a form of environmental racism that in effect splits the Bronx in two. But now, after years of organizing from community groups and state lawmakers, there’s federal funding to develop a plan: cover portions of the highway with green space and reconnect neighborhoods separated by the structure.

Climate check: World’s vast networks of underground fungi to be mapped for first time

A circle of mushrooms around a tree
Fungi are vital to the biodiversity of soils and soil fertility, but little is known about them. Photograph: Biosphoto/Alamy

Vast networks of underground fungi – the “circulatory system of the planet” – are to be mapped for the first time, in an attempt to protect them from damage and improve their ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide. Fungi use carbon to build networks in the soil, which connect to plant roots and act as nutrient “highways”, exchanging carbon from plant roots for nutrients. Hotspots of mycorrhizal fungi are thought to be under threat, from agriculture, urbanisation, pollution, water scarcity and changes to the climate.

Want more environmental stories delivered to your inbox? Sign up to our new newsletter Down to Earth to get original and essential reporting on the climate crisis every week.

Last Thing: David Attenborough intervenes after Adelaide shopping centre bee plaque misquotes him

David Attenborough
Sir David Attenborough stepped in after being wrongly attributed in a quote about bees at Adelaide’s Westfield Tea Tree Plaza. Photograph: David Parry/PA

A suburban South Australian shopping centre has created a buzz after it falsely attributed a quote about bees, written on a plaque in a bathroom hallway, to the famous British naturalist Sir David Attenborough. The plaque, labelled “honeybee propaganda”, has been removed after Attenborough himself intervened. It all started in July when wildlife sciences graduate Heath Hunter alerted the shopping centre’s management that the quote has been misattributed. When nothing happened he wrote to the broadcaster. “I thought, bugger it, I’ll send a letter to the great man himself,” Hunter said.

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