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Europe rushes to woo team Biden in hope of major trade rebalance

BRUSSELS (BLOOMBERG) – France and Germany are leading efforts in Europe to make early contact with President-elect Joe Biden’s team, with the aim of accelerating talks to normalise trade relations between the US and the European Union.

At the top of the agenda for Paris is resolving an aircraft dispute that has seen tariffs imposed on more than 10 billion-euros (S$15.96 billion) of transatlantic goods, while Berlin is keen to revive free-trade talks, according to senior officials in both countries.

“We’re ready and in a position to hold talks immediately,” said Mr Johann Wadephul, a foreign policy expert and deputy caucus leader in Parliament for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who had planned to speak with the president-elect’s team earlier this week, said, “I really hope that this new Biden administration will mean a new start in the relationship between Europe and the US.”

Additional EU trade priorities, which are shared by France and Germany, include removing tariffs the Trump administration put on European steel and aluminum exports; agreeing on new tax rules for digital companies that do business internationally; reaching a limited trade agreement on industrial products; and reforming the World Trade Organisation.

The European overtures come after weeks of uncertainty over the US transition that had many allies in a wait-and-see mode.

Mr Le Maire had been scheduled to speak with Mr Biden’s team on Monday (Nov 23), but the meeting was postponed, according to a French official, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. German officials expect to make contact in the coming days, Mr Wadephul said.

Germany, which relies heavily on export markets and does US$252 billion in bilateral trade with the US each year, is particularly eager to deescalate tensions with the US, which has imposed tariffs on European exports in the name of shoring up American industries. President Donald Trump has threatened multiple times to hit the German auto sector with levies.

Indeed, pressure in Berlin has been mounting for the government to reach out to the incoming US administration on free trade talks, particularly after China sealed another large-scale trade deal in the Asia-Pacific region.

“China is moving forward with an Asian free trade agreement, this is a wake-up call for Europe,” said Mr Matthias Heider, the chief lawmaker in charge of economic affairs in Mrs Merkel’s ruling CDU party. “This should be a top priority for the chancellor.”

While many politicians in Europe expect Mr Biden will make similar demands on them as Mr Trump did in terms of stepping up security and defence efforts, the prospect of having more open ears in Washington is driving expectations.

“There is a lot of optimism on this side of the Atlantic,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikolaos Dendias said, adding that his government had hopes the incoming administration will have a more active presence in the eastern Mediterranean.

Further encouraging signs have come from Mr Biden’s Cabinet appointments, particularly that of Mr Antony Blinken, “who knows Germany and Europe well,” according to Mr Wadephul.

France is pushing for an overhaul of global tax rules to make multinational tech companies pay their fair share, but the talks at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development have dragged on.

In the meantime, the US is threatening tariffs against countries – including France – that go ahead with taxes on the revenues of digital firms.

“I will have a discussion about the best way of reducing inequalities in our economic models and of course I will put on the table the question of trade and the question of digital taxation,” Mr Le Maire said in an interview, referring to talks with the incoming administration. “Our goal remains to have an OECD agreement by the first months of 2021.”

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North Korea's Kim Jong Un likely to let his missiles do the talking with Biden

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) – North Korea has greeted the last two US presidents with tests of missiles or nuclear bombs within weeks of taking office. And experts see the same happening with Mr Joe Biden, whom the regime has called “a rabid dog.”

Mr Kim Jong Un is one of the few world leaders who has yet to congratulate – or even acknowledge – the president-elect, particularly after Chinese President Xi Jinping did so on Wednesday (Nov 25).

While it’s not unusual for North Korea to stay silent on the results of US elections, Mr Kim held unprecedented meetings with President Donald Trump that broke the mold of relations between the long-time adversaries.

Ties now are poised to revert to the frostier days of the Obama administration, when the US deployed “strategic patience” to avoid rewarding North Korea for provocations – a policy that stayed in place after Mr Kim took power in 2011.

For North Korea, it may not make too much of a difference: Under both Mr Barack Obama and Mr Trump, Mr Kim steadily increased his ability to threaten the US homeland with nuclear weapons even in the face of ever-tighter sanctions.

“Regardless of the US presidency, the North Korean regime is unlikely to change its behaviour or shift its strategy toward the US,” said Ms Soo Kim, a Rand Corp policy analyst who previously worked at the Central Intelligence Agency. “The nukes are here to stay, Kim will continue to build and extort, and the strategy has proven to work for decades. So why change what works?”

North Korea tested Mr Obama with the launch of a long-range rocket and a nuclear device within months after he took power in 2009. Mr Trump was welcomed to the White House with a series of ballistic missile tests that culminated with the launch in November 2017 of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that experts said could deliver a nuclear warhead to all of the the US.

The most likely missile test this time will be another ICBM. This could include a new rocket North Korea rolled out at a military parade in October, which is designed to carry multiple nuclear warheads to the US homeland. The Pentagon said earlier this month that it had successfully intercepted a mock ICBM simulating one developed by North Korea.

“They need to test the new ICBM in order to demonstrate it is credible in the eyes of adversaries, and they will likely do so when they are ready,” said weapons expert Melissa Hanham, deputy director of the Open Nuclear Network. “North Korea only needs their ICBMs to be accurate enough to deter the United States.”

North Korea sees its nuclear weapons as insurance against a US attack, and has vowed to maintain its deterrent no matter what. Mr Kim has repeatedly rejected the Trump administration’s call for a “complete, verifiable and irreversible” dismantlement before Pyongyang can receive any rewards.

Mr Biden’s camp has signalled more room for negotiations, saying in a policy paper that he wants to “jump start” a campaign with US allies and others for denuclearisation. At the second presidential debate in October, Mr Biden called Mr Kim a “thug” but said he could meet the North Korean leader if he made moves to reduce his nuclear arsenal.

Mr Biden’s choice for secretary of state, Mr Antony Blinken, has called Mr Trump’s personal diplomacy a failure and advocated for a multilateral approach that seeks disarmament in stages. In a 2017 opinion piece in the New York Times, Mr Blinken backed a negotiated settlement with North Korea “that first freezes and then rolls back North Korea’s nuclear programme, with inspectors to carefully scrutinise compliance” before a more comprehensive deal is reached.

Mr Kim is likely to give clues on how he’ll approach the new Biden administration during an annual New Year’s address – one of the biggest political speeches on the country’s political calendar.

North Korea is also expected to hold a rare ruling party congress at around the time of Mr Biden’s inauguration to lay out a new five year plan for its economy, which is headed for its biggest contraction in more than two decades due to sanctions, the coronavirus and a series of natural disasters.

Pyongyang has made clear that it prefers dealing with Mr Trump, who gave Mr Kim a seat at the table as an equal. His regime has extolled the “mysteriously wonderful” chemistry between the two leaders, while denouncing Mr Biden as an “imbecile bereft of the elementary quality as a human being.”

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And as Mr Biden seeks to work with allies following Mr Trump’s “America First” approach, Mr Kim may also find that he has more friends now than he did a few years ago. He enjoys much better relations with China and Russia, who joined with the the US in 2017 to support unprecedented United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea in response to its nuclear and missile tests.

“This time around, new tests may not have the same effect at the UN,” said Mr Ankit Panda, a Stanton senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, adding that tensions could escalate quickly if Mr Biden responds with a show of military might. “The greatest risk would be that we reenter a crisis cycle with North Korea.”

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Biden Pick to Lead Spy Agencies Played Key Role in Drone Strike Program Under Obama

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s pick for the director of national intelligence, Avril D. Haines, is a politically moderate national security professional who is likely to win confirmation in a sharply divided Senate but encounter hard criticisms from the left.

The choice of Ms. Haines, who would be the first woman to serve as the nation’s top intelligence official, prompted concern from some human rights groups, which questioned her role as the architect of the Obama administration’s program targeting terrorists with drones, some of which killed civilians. But her defenders argue that Ms. Haines helped put in place safeguards on the use of force and greater transparency for the drone program.

Ms. Haines, an expert in international law, has worked for the Obama and Bush administrations in jobs for the National Security Council, the State Department and the C.I.A. She also has one of the most interesting unclassified backgrounds of any top intelligence pick. She is a trained physicist, a brown belt in judo, a pilot who nearly crashed into the North Atlantic with her future husband and a former cafe and bookstore owner who helped revitalize Baltimore as a community activist.

“It’s clear that she has eclectic interests,” said John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. chief who picked her to be the agency’s deputy director. “Even, you know, bohemian.”

If confirmed, Ms. Haines, 51, will have to rebuild an intelligence community that was openly excoriated by President Trump over its assessment that Russia had interfered on his behalf in the 2016 election and to depoliticize the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

While intelligence chiefs have traditionally been nonpartisan and focused on delivering facts, the past two directors of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe and Richard Grenell, who served on an acting basis, were fierce partisan defenders of Mr. Trump.

Ms. Haines co-wrote an article in Foreign Policy this year that raised concerns about the politicization of the intelligence agencies under the Trump administration.

In the Obama White House, Ms. Haines was a national security legal adviser beginning in 2010, a position that helps oversee covert C.I.A. programs, including the drone strikes, and classified Pentagon operations. She then served as a deputy C.I.A. director from 2013 to 2015, after which she returned to the White House as the deputy national security adviser, leading the committee of agency deputies that developed policy options for Mr. Obama in the final years of his administration.

Early in her government career, Ms. Haines developed a reputation for her intellect and for starting work early in the day and continuing late into the night, with only a small break for her husband to deliver dinner.

“She is just a workhorse,” said John B. Bellinger III, a top Bush administration lawyer who promoted Ms. Haines to a senior legal position at the State Department. “She works about 23 hours a day.”

In 2007, while detailed from the State Department to Congress, Ms. Haines worked as a lawyer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Mr. Biden was the chairman, an early chance for her to work closely with the future president-elect.

“She will be Biden’s principal adviser on intelligence issues,” Mr. Bellinger said. “That she has a longstanding relationship of trust with him will make her enormously influential.”

A close study of Ms. Haines’s early life might not suggest that she was bound for the top intelligence job. She attended the University of Chicago as an undergraduate, studying physics and working as an auto mechanic. She also began taking flying lessons from an instructor she would later marry, David Davighi.

A profile of Ms. Haines in Newsweek in 2013 described how Ms. Haines and Mr. Davighi bought a twin-engine plane and began rebuilding it with hopes of flying it from Maine to England. They made it as far as Atlantic Canada when the engines gave out, forcing an emergency landing in Labrador.

After graduating from college, Ms. Haines moved with Mr. Davighi to Baltimore, where they eventually bought a bar that had been seized by the government in a drug raid and remade it into an independent bookstore and cafe.

Years later, when Ms. Haines was named a deputy director of the C.I.A., Washington journalists had fun reporting on the occasional erotic literature nights the bookstore hosted in the mid-1990s. In one session attended by a Baltimore Sun reporter, Ms. Haines kicked off the reading with an Anne Rice fairy tale and then gave the reporter a spirited defense of the “spontaneity, twists and turns” of erotic fiction.

Ownership of the bookstore led to community organizing work, which led Ms. Haines to Georgetown University Law Center, where she discovered international legal work.

While she is a former C.I.A. deputy director, Ms. Haines does not have a long career of working directly for intelligence agencies. Still, she has deep experience overseeing covert programs, leading White House Situation Room discussions of national security problems and translating intelligence issues for political leaders in the White House.

Ms. Haines had been selected to return to the State Department, chosen for the legal adviser’s job, when Mr. Brennan made her his deputy after he was confirmed to lead the C.I.A. in 2013. Mr. Brennan, a career C.I.A. officer, said he wanted an outsider to help him.

“She is not an ideologue by any means,” he said. “She is probably going to be criticized by people at different ends of the spectrum, but she has a very practical and pragmatic view.”

Some human rights organizations expressed worries that Mr. Biden’s choice of Ms. Haines signaled a return to the Obama administration’s national security policies rather than exploring more liberal alternatives. Progressive groups long argued that the Obama administration’s counterterrorism programs amounted to extrajudicial killings and were illegal under international law.

“My concerns about her are more my concerns about the Obama administration,” said Andrea J. Prasow, the deputy Washington director of Human Rights Watch. “With these cabinet picks, we are returning to the previous administration instead of making bold and forward-leaning picks.”

In her Senate confirmation, Ms. Haines is likely to face questions about the drone program and how under her watch the C.I.A. worked with lawmakers investigating the agency’s interrogation program. At the time, senators accused the C.I.A. of breaking into computers they were using to conduct their oversight, setting off a bitter feud between lawmakers and the agency.

Some progressives have also been upset with Ms. Haines’s decision to support the nomination of Gina Haspel as Mr. Trump’s second C.I.A. director. Ms. Haspel’s work on the C.I.A. torture program, progressives said, should have disqualified her.

Other liberals are concerned that Ms. Haines is not someone to make big changes in national security and counterterrorism programs.

Ms. Prasow said that despite her disagreements with Ms. Haines, she had deep respect for her. While some government officials make a show of listening, Ms. Haines not only engaged with human rights groups but tried to incorporate the criticism into her policy work.

“She is one of the nicest people I have ever met, and probably the nicest person I’ve ever met who worked for the U.S. government,” Ms. Prasow said.

Veterans of the Obama administration said Ms. Haines’s real skill was listening to and getting buy-in from stakeholders, a critical component to making lasting changes to national security policy. In an interview with The Daily Beast last summer, Ms. Haines said a focus on the process of government was what was needed.

“I can understand people wondering whether I am someone who can help to promote big change where it is needed,” she said. “And for what it is worth, I believe I’m exactly the right person for making such change where appropriate.”

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JFK assassination interest grows as Joe Biden pressured to release CIA files

He may not yet be President of the United States of America, but already Joe Biden is being pressured to release documents relating to the assassination of John F Kennedy.

The circumstances around the 1963 assassination of JFK still holds many secrets – almost 40 years after the tragic event.

President Kennedy was shot dead by former marine Lee Harvey Oswald as he was riding in a presidential motorcade through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, on Friday, November 22, 1963.

Oswald was subsequently shot dead by a nightclub owner named Jack Rudy while in the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters two days after the murder of JFK.

Rudy later died of cancer while awaiting trial four years later – while the series of events has led to rampant conspiracy theories about the assassination.

Documents relating to the assassination were made public as part of the 1992 John F Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act.

While remaining documents were due to be released by October 26, 2017, this was delayed by President Donald Trump at the request of the CIA "to protect against identifiable harm to national security, law enforcement, or foreign affairs".

Newsweek reports that 15,834 of the files still contain redactions and 520 remain unreleased in full.

  • Dog stolen 6 years ago before being found 200 miles from home reunited with owners

There are now hopes that President-elect Biden will release the files.

Biden – who will take office in January 2021 – will be in power when the CIA extension expires on October 26, 2021.

Russ Baker, a journalist, Kennedy and founder of the news website told the Newsweek: "There's optimism that the Biden administration will finally comply with the JFK Records Act to override expected further obstructionism of U.S. intelligence agencies and fully release all documents.

"He actually just needs to do nothing at all. By law, all documents must be released in full, with no redactions, by October 26, 2021."

Jacob Hornberger, president of the Future of Freedom Foundation, has also urged for the documents to be released next year.

He said: "The American people have the right to know all the facts and circumstances surrounding the JFK assassination. The notion that national security will be threatened by the disclosure of records that are almost 60 years old is laughable."

However, he added: "If another extension for secrecy is sought in October 2021, and I believe that such an extension will be sought, Biden will grant the request."

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Without Trump to loathe, US Democrats face troublesome splits

(FINANCIAL TIMES) My first thought was, “only in Washington”. My second was, “where can I get one?” As fans of President-elect Joe Biden cheered his election win near the White House two weekends ago, a journalist photographed one who was cloaked in a Nato flag.

That minatory compass on a blue background would have stood out against the walls of leftist graffiti thereabouts.

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Amid coronavirus spike, pressure grows on US agency to approve Trump-to-Biden transition

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – A little-known agency that keeps the US federal bureaucracy running is the biggest impediment to new efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak, Democratic President-elect Joe Biden said on Wednesday (Nov 18).

“There’s a whole lot of things that we just don’t have available to us,” Mr Biden said, including real-time data on personal protective equipment and the distribution plan for Covid-19 vaccines.

Ms Emily Murphy, administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA), must “ascertain” the winner of the Nov 3 presidential election between Mr Biden and Republican President Donald Trump. That is a condition of releasing funds and resources to the winner, but she has so far not done so.

Despite a clear margin of victory for Mr Biden, Mr Trump has refused to concede, and his legal challenges are fizzling.

Ms Murphy has sole authority to release salaries, office space, official email addresses and intelligence briefings to an incoming administration, which formally takes over with Mr Biden’s inauguration on Jan 20.

“Unless it’s made available soon, we’re going to be behind by weeks or months,” in his administration’s coronavirus effort, Mr Biden told emergency responders, nurses and other frontline workers at an online event in Washington. “So, I just want to tell you that that’s the only slowdown right now that we have.”

A third wave of coronavirus infection has gripped the United States, and the country’s death toll crossed 250,000 people on Wednesday.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Wednesday described a “crazy situation” where he speaks daily with the White House coronavirus experts and has a separate channel of communications with Mr Biden’s advisory board on the virus.

“Those two camps aren’t speaking. And that’s a big problem,” Mr Murphy, a Democrat, told CNN. “That is a major problem that could put both the distribution of the vaccine at risk and, more broadly, lives at risk.”

The GSA’s Ms Murphy is under mounting pressure from election watchdogs, Democrats, a growing number of Republicans, the American Medical Association and her predecessor to recognise Mr Biden as the winner.

“She’s going to make an ascertainment when the winner is clear, as laid out in the Constitution,” a GSA spokeswoman said before Mr Biden’s remarks.

The bipartisan National Task Force on Election Crises said on Tuesday it was “past time” for the GSA administrator to certify Mr Biden.

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“This isn’t about politics. It’s about honouring free and fair elections. It’s also about lost lives,” the group said.

Mr Trump claims, without providing evidence, that he was cheated out of a victory by widespread fraud and has fired off a flurry of lawsuits that judges have mostly rejected.

An administration official said the White House was not pressuring Ms Murphy to withhold recognition of Mr Biden as the winner.

2000 versus 2020

Ms Murphy is relying on precedent, her office said, citing the five-week delay after the 2000 election before Republican George W. Bush was declared the winner.

While the 2000 result hung on 537 votes in just one state – Florida – Mr Trump would need to reverse Mr Biden’s large margins in three of four closely contested states, something election experts and a growing number of Republicans say is virtually impossible.

The GSA did not say how or when Ms Murphy would make her decision, and the agency has not responded to a congressional letter asking the same questions, a House of Representatives Subcommittee on Government Operations official said.

Mr Trump administration sources said it was reasonable to wait until vote recounts are completed and the legal challenges have been resolved – a process that is continuing.

On Wednesday, the Trump campaign requested a partial recount in Wisconsin in two heavily Democratic counties.

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Mr Dave Barram, who was GSA administrator in 2000, said Ms Murphy contacted him shortly before the election to discuss a possible repeat of a contested scenario like that between Democrat Al Gore and Mr Bush.

“In 2000, there was no clear winner, and both Gore and Bush knew it. This is different. It’s getting overwhelmingly evident that Trump should concede,” Mr Barram said.

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Why Biden will be tougher on China than Obama

American presidents traditionally have the most leeway in the realm of foreign policy. President-elect Joe Biden’s hand when it comes to China policy, however, will be constrained by both internal and external forces.

Expect the Biden administration to take on a more confrontational approach with China than seen during the Barack Obama years when Mr Biden was vice-president, a time during which holding Beijing accountable sometimes took a backseat to seeking cooperation with it on transnational issues.

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Opinion | Goodbye, Golden Goose

WASHINGTON — Many see a wannabe despot barricaded in the bunker, stubby fingers clinging to the levers of power as words that mean nothing to him — democracy, electoral integrity, peaceful transition, constitutionality — swirl above.

One presidential historian sees something different in Donald Trump’s swan song. Michael Beschloss has been tweeting pictures of Hollywood’s most famous divas, shut-ins and head cases.

Norma Desmond watching movies of herself, hour after hour, shrouded in her mansion on Sunset Boulevard as “the dream she had clung to so desperately enfolded her.” Howard Hughes, descending into germaphobia, madness and seclusion. Greta Garbo, sequestered behind her hat and sunglasses. Charles Foster Kane, missing the roar of the crowd as he spirals at Xanadu, his dilapidated pleasure palace.

The president and his cronies are likely to do real damage and major grifting in the next two months. But in other ways, the picture of the president as a pathetic, unraveling diva is apt.

Trump has said in interviews and at rallies that two of his favorite movies are the black-and-white classics about stars collapsing in on themselves, “Citizen Kane” and “Sunset Boulevard.”

In “Sunset Boulevard,” Max the butler and a camera crew conspire to make the demented silent film star believe she’s getting her close-up when she’s actually just being lured down the staircase to answer for her sins.

The Republicans enabling Trump’s delusion are like the camera crew, filming a scene with the disintegrating diva that is never going to be seen.

“What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?” a senior Republican official told The Washington Post. “No one seriously thinks the results will change.”

Trump, who once wanted to be a Hollywood producer and considered attending U.S.C. film school, never made the pivot to being a politician. He got elected because he played a competent boss and wily megabillionaire on a reality TV show — pretty good acting now that we know he is neither — and he has stayed a performance artist and a ratings-obsessed showman.

Even after Georgia and Arizona were called and Joe Biden clinched 306 electoral votes — the same number Trump declared “a massive landslide victory” when he reached it in 2016 — the president is putting on a play within the play, one in which he’s still the star.

Trump Boswell Maggie Haberman reported that there is no grand strategy and the president “is simply trying to survive from one news cycle to the next,” playing his familiar game of creating a controversy and watching it play out.

As a growing number of Trump advisers and Republican Party leaders privately admitted the end was nigh — and as the Secret Service was rocked by coronavirus infections and quarantine orders from the president’s mask-defying, super-spreader campaign travel — White House officials propped up Donald’s grand illusions. This, even as his lawyers deserted him and judges ruled against him.

“We are moving forward here at the White House under the assumption there will be a second Trump term,” Peter Navarro, the White House trade adviser, said on Fox Business Friday.

Kayleigh McEnany chimed in that the president would “attend his own inauguration.”

In his remarks about Operation Warp Speed Friday afternoon in the Rose Garden, Trump showed how tortoise-slow he has been about accepting that he’s out.

“I will not go, this administration will not be going to a lockdown,” he said. “Hopefully, the — the, uh, whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration it will be — I guess time will tell.”

Time has told. Do we detect a sliver of reality creeping in?

The president, who has never shown much interest in governing, has finally dropped all pretense to focus on the core tenets of the Trump Doctrine: himself, cable news, Twitter, self-pity, and caterwauling about perceived slights.

[email protected] daytime ratings have completely collapsed,” he tweeted. “Weekend daytime even WORSE. Very sad to watch this happen, but they forgot what made them successful, what got them there. They forgot the Golden Goose. The biggest difference between the 2016 Election, and 2020, was @FoxNews!”

The goose was at Fox’s neck. What an unnatural and delicious sight.

The network helped Trump become president and allowed him to maintain his viselike grip on his base. Fox was the oxygen inside his alternate-reality bubble.

But because Trump is 100 percent transactional, he couldn’t accept pure math, training his laser beam on Fox when it dared to veer ever so slightly from total fealty by correctly calling the race early in Arizona.

Trump is right about this one thing: He has been a Golden Goose for the news business. Every time he opens his mouth, 50 headlines jump out.

But the Golden Goose is also a Silly Goose. He should just recognize that Biden winning is actually the best outcome for him. He doesn’t have to do the job anymore and can simply get on with the branding and the whining and the pot-stirring — the parts that interest him.

He certainly branded the Democrats very effectively with socialism, defunding the police, shutting down the country and ending fracking. Biden escaped but a lot of down-ballot Democrats didn’t.

Now Trump should move on and stick to what he knows best: promoting himself. Like Norma Desmond, he should give in to the fantasy of his life that he is so devoted to and leave the rest of us to live in the cold, cruel, unforgiving, inconvenient reality.

Mr. DeMille just called, Mr. President. He says he’s ready for your close-up. Keep your pancake makeup on and step on out of the house now. The cameras will be waiting.

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Biden Asked Republicans to Give Him a Chance. They’re Not Interested.

MASON, Texas — The change at the Sunday prayer service was so subtle it went unnoticed by several congregants. Tucked in between calls for divine health and wisdom, the Rev. Fred Krebs of St. Paul Lutheran Church, who rarely brings up politics, fleetingly mentioned this month’s presidential election.

“We pray for a peaceful transition,” he told his congregation of 50 people. The carefully chosen words underscored the political reality in Mason, a rural, conservative town of roughly 2,000 people, after Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory over President Trump. Not everyone thought the election was over, and not everyone said they would respect the results.

“My Democratic friends think Biden is going to heal everything and unify everyone,” said Jeanie Smith, who attends the more conservative Spring Street Gospel Church in Mason, which is about 100 miles west of Austin. “They are deceived.”

“Now you want healing,” she added. “Now you want to come together. You have not earned it.”

That is the hard reality Mr. Biden is facing, even after winning a race in which he secured a larger share of the popular vote than any challenger since 1932. Towering before him is a wall of Republican resistance, starting with Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede, extending to G.O.P. lawmakers’ reluctance to acknowledge his victory and stretching, perhaps most significantly for American politics in the long term, to ordinary voters who steadfastly deny the election’s outcome.

It is all a far cry from how Mr. Biden framed this election, from the Democratic primary race through his victory speech last weekend. He cast the moment as a chance for the country to excise the political division Mr. Trump has stoked, promising to repair the ideological, racial and geographic fissures that have grown into chasms since 2016. Announcing his campaign, he called it an opportunity to restore “the soul of the nation.” Last weekend, he declared, “Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end here and now.”

But on Election Day, Republican turnout surged across the country — particularly in rural areas like Mason, which along with its surrounding county had among the largest percentage increases in voter participation in Texas. Democratic dreams of a landslide were thwarted as Republicans notched surprise victories in the House and emerged as the favorite to retain control of the Senate. In the days since, thousands of Mr. Trump’s most fervent supporters have gathered across the country, including in Texas, to protest Mr. Biden’s triumph as illegitimate.

“We’re willing to accept the results, as long as it’s fair and done correctly and certified correctly,” said Sherrie Strong, another supporter of the president’s. She, like others, took Mr. Trump’s position that it was strange that he had been leading in numerous places because of in-person votes on Election Day, only to be overtaken once mail-in ballots were counted on election night and over the days that followed. (The delay in counting mail-in ballots in several states was because of restrictions imposed by Republican state legislatures.)

“It’s just a little upsetting when you go to bed at night, and all of a sudden, four days later, these votes are magically appearing,” Ms. Strong said.

Mr. Biden’s message did have political appeal, motivating a crucial slice of voters who helped him lead Democrats back into power.

Ann Mahnken, a 72-year-old lifelong conservative who attends the Lutheran church, said the prospect of his bringing the country together was why, after voting for Mr. Trump in 2016, she chose the Democratic candidate this time.

“I could not stand the way our country is,” she said. “I didn’t want to go through four more years of that, not in my senior citizen lifetime. I didn’t want to go through four more years of the chaos and the division.”

Mark Lehmberg, a fellow parishioner who voted for Mr. Trump this year after sitting out 2016, said he had given up on the concept of unity — and he advised Ms. Mahnken to do the same. He backed the president because he did not want the economy to shut down over the coronavirus.

“The relationships have already been jeopardized,” Mr. Lehmberg said. “It’s going be hard — impossible — to get people to come together.”

On Monday in Dallas, hundreds of Mr. Trump’s supporters gathered outside the city’s election office in a “Stop the Steal” protest promoted by the state Republican Party. The message from speakers and attendees went further than expressing fears of election fraud, amounting to a wholesale rejection of a Biden presidency and of the Republican elected officials who acknowledged it. One speaker said of the Republican lawmakers who had called Mr. Biden the president-elect, “Remember who they are when you go to the polls next.”

“This is contempt of half of the country by the other half of the country,” said Paul Feeser, 61, who attended the protest in Dallas. “So if the conclusion was for Biden, I would look at it as illegitimate, and I and many others expect to be part of the so-called resistance — as Trump resisted.”

Karen Bell, who was also at the rally, said her distrust centered on mail voting.

“In these swing states, he was ahead, and then all of a sudden in Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania, they stopped counting,” Ms. Bell said, echoing conspiracy theories about vote counting. “And then we wake up and suddenly Biden is ahead. These mystery votes all came in for Biden and zero for Trump. Something is definitely fishy there.”

Asked for any evidence of widespread election fraud, in light of the fact that election officials including Republicans have consistently dismissed such claims, Ms. Bell cited conspiratorial right-wing sites like Infowars. Election officials have made it clear: There is no evidence of widespread election fraud.

No matter what happens next, “I will not believe that the election was fair,” Ms. Bell said. “I will not believe that he is a legitimate winner.”

The feeling that Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede is justified, and that Mr. Biden’s rise to the presidency should not be recognized, is not universal for Republicans. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that nearly 80 percent of Americans believe Mr. Biden won, including about 60 percent of Republicans.

But other polling has provided mixed results, including a survey from Politico/Morning Consult showing that the number of Republicans who do not believe this year’s election was free and fair has doubled, from 35 percent before Election Day to 70 percent.

In Texas, conservatives have been crowing after Democratic hopes of flipping the state blue and winning control of the Legislature failed to materialize. Even so, state leaders have also fallen in line with the president’s baseless attempts to paint the election as unfair — and the state’s Republican lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, has offered $1 million for anyone who produces evidence of voter fraud.

But even in Mason, some who supported the president urged the party to move on. “This is over — it’s just what it is,” said Jay Curry, 44, who was arriving to eat at the Willow Creek Cafe and Club with his wife and two children.

The president’s refusal to concede “just means more turmoil and more division,” Mr. Curry said. “We’re divided. It’s red and blue. And they’re against each other more than they’re trying to help anybody.”

His wife, Andrea, was more optimistic.

“I think every president that we’ve had has never intentionally hurt our country,” she said. “They’re going to do their best and that’s all we can hope for.”

Mr. Biden, she added, “is not going to do some intentional crash of our country.”

Her hopefulness stood out in a landscape of dread. Pastor Krebs, the Lutheran minister, said the reason the election felt existential to some was that it represented a referendum on more than just politics.

As a community leader who arrived in Mason shortly before the 2016 election, he said, he has seen how the city’s views of the president are wrapped up in other issues, including the white majority’s relationship with Latino residents and a backlash to Black Lives Matter protesters striving for political power.

At the same time, Pastor Krebs said, sweeping generalities don’t do justice to the complexity of the community.

“Defining people strictly by their parties is not a good thing,” he said. “And I’ve learned that sometimes people think more deeply when they get into a conversation than when we just start labeling one another.”

Ms. Smith, 67, and her husband, Dennis, 69, tied their unequivocal support for the president — even in defeat — to larger cultural concerns.

Like Mr. Biden and his supporters, the Smiths saw this election as a battle for the country’s soul. To unify with Mr. Biden would be an admission that the battle is lost, and that the multicultural tide powering his victory will continue its ascension.

“Everything I worked for, Biden wants to give to the immigrants to help them live, when they don’t do nothing but sit on their butts,” Mr. Smith said.

“And if those protesters come here, if they go tearing up stuff, I guarantee you they won’t be in this town very long,” he added. “We’ll string them up and send them out of here — and it won’t be the same way they came in.”

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World News

Biden's possible India links spark genealogical frenzy

MUMBAI (AFP) – Already bursting with pride at Ms Kamala Harris’s ancestry, India has now started digging up potential local roots for US President-elect Joe Biden.

The next leader of the United States has speculated that he might have had relatives in colonial India. While there is no proof, the Biden name has become a genealogical target of investigation across the country.

A plaque commemorating 19th-century British ship captain Christopher Biden has been a popular selfie spot in the eastern city of Chennai since the US election.

And a Biden family in western India says it has become “exhausted” by calls since their namesake staked his claim to the White House.

The American vote has been under the spotlight in India because Mr Biden’s running mate is the daughter of a migrant from Tamil Nadu state.

The 56-year-old Ms Harris has made much of her Indian connections and how she likes to eat “idli with a really good sambar” – typical food from the south.

Less attention has been paid to Mr Biden, who has established Irish links. But he spoke of possible Indian connections on a trip to Mumbai in 2013 when he was vice-president.

Mr Biden said in a speech that he had received a letter from an Indian Biden after becoming a senator in 1972, suggesting they could be related.

“One of the first letters I received and I regret I never followed up on it,” he said.

Mumbai Bidens lie low

The letter said their “mutual, great, great, great, something or other worked for the East India Trading Company back in the 1700s”.

It sparked excitement in Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu state, which is also home to Ms Harris’s Indian relatives.

A plaque at St George’s Cathedral in Chennai that celebrates Christopher Biden, born in 1789, has suddenly become a local tourist draw.

“We’ve come to know the records of two Bidens – William Biden and Christopher Biden – who were brothers and became captains of the East India Company on merchant ships in the 19th century,” the Bishop of Madras, Reverend J. George Stephen, told AFP.

“While William Biden died at an early age, Christopher Biden went on to captain several ships, and eventually settled down in Madras,” which is now known as Chennai.

Despite the speculation, there has been no confirmation that the Biden brothers are related to the 77-year-old American.

If the president-elect does have an Indian ancestor, Christopher is considered the most likely candidate, according to experts who have studied family records.

There are also Bidens in Mumbai and Nagpur in Maharashtra state who could be descendants of Christopher, one of eight children of a John Biden who could be the common link.

The media attention has been overwhelming, according to the Maharashtra Bidens. Indian media has speculated that their late grandfather Leslie wrote to the US politician.

Ms Rowena Biden, a family member in Mumbai, insisted that they were not trying to establish any relationship.

“We wish Mr Joe Biden all the best for his new role as president of the USA but we are not trying to establish any connections or linkages,” she told AFP.

“We share a last name and that’s about it,” she said.

“All of us are well-to-do financially and have well-settled lives so we don’t need any gains – monetary or non-monetary.”

Ms Rowena Biden said that after the first reports came out about the possible links, “people started tracking us to our house and everyone in the family had to bear the brunt of it”.

The “undue limelight” had cast a shadow over “the primacy of Mr Biden’s win and our privacy as well”, she said.

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