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WASHINGTON ― The Senate acquitted former President Donald Trump on Saturday for the second time, letting him off the hook for inciting his supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol a little more than five weeks ago, leading to an insurrection that left five people dead and imperiled the lives of his vice president, countless lawmakers, staffers, and Capitol Police officers.

A majority of senators voted to convict Trump, including seven Republicans and every Democrat, but that still fell far short of the necessary two-thirds of the chamber required.

The final vote was 57 to 43. The Republicans to vote for conviction were Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).

Because Trump was not convicted, he will be eligible to run for office again ― and provoke violence again, Democratic impeachment managers warned before the vote on Saturday. It would also set a dangerous precedent for the future, they said.

“The stakes could not be higher,” impeachment manager Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) said. “Because the cold, hard truth is that what happened on Jan. 6 can happen again. I fear, like many of you do, that the violence we saw on that terrible day may be just the beginning.”

The Senate wrapped up the dramatic proceedings in less than a week, with two days of arguments from House Democratic impeachment managers and less than three hours of arguments from Trump’s legal team. It was the shortest impeachment trial in history.

The result was preordained from the start: Most Senate Republicans called the proceedings unconstitutional because Trump was already out of office by the time of the trial, although he was still president when the House voted to impeach him in January. The Senate rejected that argument in a bipartisan vote before the trial, affirming its constitutional power to try “all” impeachments, but many GOP senators cited procedure to oppose Trump’s conviction anyway.

Senate Republicans had already acquitted Trump in his first impeachment trial in 2020 for his efforts to pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate President Joe Biden, who was at the time a Democratic presidential candidate. But the gravity of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol ― and the fact that the senators-turned-jurors experienced it firsthand ― made this impeachment different. In the House, 10 members of the president’s own party voted in favor of impeachment, a record.

On that day, Trump spoke to supporters at a “stop the steal” rally, following weeks of claiming the election had been stolen from him. He encouraged his supporters to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” Trump’s defense team said that he was not encouraging literal fighting, but his supporters have said they were acting on his orders when they stormed the building to stop Congress from certifying electoral votes for Biden.

“If that’s not ground for conviction, if that’s not a high crime and misdemeanor against the republic and the United States of America, then nothing is,” impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said during closing remarks on Saturday. “President Trump must be convicted for the safety and security of our democracy and our people.”

After the insurrection, numerous Republican senators criticized Trump. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Jan. 6 that the mob was “provoked by the president and other powerful people.”

On Saturday morning, however, McConnell told colleagues that while it was “a close call,” he would vote to acquit Trump because he believed the Senate lacked jurisdiction. Notably, McConnell was majority leader at the time of the House impeachment vote, but signaled that he would not begin a trial while Trump remained in office.

The final acquittal vote on Saturday took place after a few hours of chaos in the morning, when Democratic impeachment managers unexpectedly announced they wanted to call in a witness, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), and the Senate voted to approve witnesses in the trial.

Herrera Beutler, one of 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment, issued a statement on Friday night corroborating a CNN report about a call between Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) during the insurrection.

“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump said as McCarthy urged him to call off his supporters, according to lawmakers McCarthy told about the call afterward, CNN reported.

Democratic impeachment managers argued that the call showed Trump cared more about himself than he did about stopping the violence.

“He chose retaining his own power over the safety of Americans,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said. “I can’t imagine more damning evidence of his state of mind.”

Trump’s legal team threatened to call in hundreds of witnesses. This wouldn’t have happened; each witness subpoena would have required a majority vote, which Republicans likely did not have. Still, debating each witness could have eaten up time, and any potential testimony wasn’t likely to change the outcome anyway. Senators from both parties were eager to wrap the trial ahead of a weeklong recess.

Ultimately, both sides agreed to enter Herrera Beutler’s statement into the record and move on. A senior aide to Democratic impeachment managers told reporters that adding the statement would supplement plentiful evidence against Trump, the strongest being his “own public statements on that day and his own deafening refusal to say ‘stop the attack.’”

There were several revelations from the trial. Democratic impeachment managers laid out how close Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers were to danger. (Some insurrectionists chanted about wanting to hang Pence as they walked through the Capitol.) Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), a Trump ally, told reporters that he spoke to the president on Jan. 6 and said Pence had been evacuated from the floor. Soon after, Trump sent out a tweet attacking Pence for not objecting to the electoral results ― meaning he likely did so while knowing Pence was in danger.

Trump’s defense team refused to answer questions about when Trump learned of the attack and what he did to stop it, although it insisted that he was unaware that Pence was in danger when he criticized him.

Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen also pushed conspiracy theories to the end, including a suggestion that the Jan. 6 rally was hijacked by people “on the left and right,” repeating on his past suggestions that antifa was heavily involved in the riot. There is no evidence of this, but ample evidence of Trump supporters’ involvement.

Van der Veen also claimed that Democrats had encouraged violence last summer during Black Lives Matter protests — even though many Democrats, Biden included, condemned such violence — and insisted that the Jan. 6 riot was actually Democrats’ fault.

“How did we arrive at this place where rioting and pillaging would become commonplace?” he said. “I submit to you that it was month after month of political leaders and media personalities, blood thirsty for ratings, glorifying civil unrest and condemning the reasonable law enforcement measures that are required to quell violent mobs.” Yahoo News

Cargo handling at the Port of Mombasa. Photo The Star

 

The value of Kenya's domestic exports rose 6.4 per cent in 10 months to October last year despite Covid-19 disruption on international trade.

Latest Kenya National Bureau of Statistics–Leading Economic Indicators, shows total exports (including re-exports) hit a high of Sh532.9 billion in value compared to Sh499.9 billion in a similar period the previous year.

Domestic exports ( originating from Kenya) for January to October closed at Sh464.9 billion, an increase compared to Sh437 billion worth of exports shipped out of the country in a similar period in 2019.

Imports during the period went down, improving the balance of trade deficit which stood at about Sh6.5 billion from h8 billion, even as total volumes of trade dropped.

Total import value for the year to October was Sh1.341 trillion, a drop compared to Sh1.486 trillion the country spent on imports in a similar period the previous year.

The Covid-19 pandemic which reduced global industrial output while affecting international trade patterns, including shipments, however saw volumes of trade between the country and its major trading partners fall to Sh1.874 trillion.

This is from Sh1.987 trillion recorded in a similar period in 2019.

Uganda was the leading destination for the country's domestic exports with food and beverages, industrial supplies (non-food), fuel and lubricants, machinery and transport equipment as top exports for the country.

Pakistan which takes up 38 per cent of Kenya's tea exports was the second export market despite a drop in volumes of teas exported since the onset of the pandemic in March.

Other top export destinations were Netherlands(mainly flowers), UK, US, Tanzania, Egypt, Rwanda, UAE, Germany and France.

“The quantity of tea exported decreased from 44,724.70 metric tonnes in September 2020 to 43,655.91 metric tonnes in October 2020. The value of exported tea also dropped from Sh10.1 billion to Sh 9.9 billion over the same period,” KNBS notes in its data.

China continued to dominate as the top import source market for Kenya during the period, accounting for Sh293.1 billion worth of goods that came into the country, followed by India where the country purchased Sh156.8 billion worth of goods.

Other leading market sources were UAE, Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Africa, US and the UK.

International trade was disrupted in March with import volumes falling between April and July, before starting to pick towards the end of the year.

“Non-food industrial supplies was the main import category in October 2020 with a share of 42.08 per cent. Machinery and other capital equipment, fuel and lubricants, and transport equipment accounted for 16.61, 12.33 and 10.02, per cent of the total value of imports, respectively,” KNBS notes in its latest data.

Foods and beverages accounted for 10.21 per cent of the total imports in October 2020.

The Industrialisation, Trade and Enterprise Development ministry is counting on the recent Economic Partnership Agreement with the UK, the existing EU  agreement and the ongoing talks with the US, to help secure more market for Kenyan exports, in a bid to cut on the huge balance of trade deficit.

“These agreements open up markets and give a predictable environment to do business,” CS Betty Maina told local manufacturers on Wednesday, during the launch of the Manufacturing Priority Agenda (MPA) 2021, by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers.

The country is also keen to grow her exports within Africa under the African Continental Free Trade Area which came into effect on January 1, this year, the CS said. - Martin Mwita, The Star

CNSA/AP
A view of the planet Mars is captured by China's Tianwen-1 Mars probe from a distance of 2.2 million kilometres. 

Tianwen-1, China's Mars mission

China's Tianwen-1 probe has sent back its first image of Mars, the national space agency said, as the mission prepares to touch down on the Red Planet later this year. Short videographic with images of Tianwen-1.

A Chinese spacecraft has gone into orbit around Mars on an expedition to land a rover on the surface and scout for signs of ancient life.

Chinese authorities announced in a landmark step in the country's most ambitious deep-space mission yet.

The arrival of Tianwen-1 after a journey of seven months and nearly 475 million kilometres is part of an unusual burst of activity at Mars: A spacecraft from the United Arab Emirates swung into orbit around the red planet on Wednesday, and a US rover is set to arrive next week. 

China's space agency said the five-ton combination orbiter and rover fired its engine to reduce its speed, allowing it to be captured by Mars' gravity. 

READ MORE:
As new probes reach Mars, here’s what we know so far from trips to the red planet
Next stop Mars: 3 spacecraft arriving in quick succession
Chinese moon probe begins return to Earth with lunar samples
Nasa Mars rover launches to look for signs of life

“Entering orbit has been successful ... making it our country’s first artificial Mars satellite,” the agency announced.

 

The mission is bold even for a space programme that has racked up a steady stream of achievements and brought prestige to China's ruling Communist Party.

If all goes as planned, the rover will separate from the spacecraft in a few months and touch down safely on Mars, making China only the second nation to pull off such a feat.

The rover, a solar-powered vehicle about the size of a golf cart, will collect data on underground water and look for evidence that the planet may have once harboured microscopic life.

Tianwen, the title of an ancient poem, means “Quest for Heavenly Truth.”

Landing a spacecraft on Mars is notoriously difficult. Smashed Russian and European spacecraft litter the landscape along with a failed US lander.

About a dozen orbiters missed the mark. In 2011, a Mars-bound Chinese orbiter that was part of a Russian mission didn’t make it out of Earth orbit.

Only the US has successfully touched down on Mars – eight times, beginning with two Viking missions in the 1970s. An American lander and rover are in operation today.

China’s attempt will involve a parachute, rocket firings and airbags. Its proposed landing site is a vast, rock-strewn plain called Utopia Planitia, where the US Viking 2 lander touched down in 1976.

Before the arrival this week of the Chinese spacecraft and the UAE’s orbiter, six other spacecraft were already operating around Mars: three US, two European and one Indian.

All three of the latest missions were launched in July to take advantage of the close alignment between Earth and Mars that happens only once every two years.

A Nasa rover called Perseverance is aiming for a February 18 landing. It, too, will search for signs of ancient microscopic life, collecting rocks that will be returned to Earth in about a decade.

China’s secretive, military-linked space programme has racked up a series of achievements. In December, it brought moon rocks back to Earth for the first time since the 1970s. China was also the first country to land a spacecraft on the little-explored far side of the moon in 2019.

China is also building a permanent space station and planning a crewed lunar mission and a possible permanent research base on the moon, though no dates have yet been proposed.

While most contacts with Nasa are blocked by Congress and China is not a participant in the International Space Station, it has increasingly cooperated with the European Space Agency and countries such as Argentina, France and Austria. Early on, China cooperated with the Soviet Union and then Russia. AP/Stuff

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