Welcome to Monday, where Navalny is arrested upon his return to Moscow, Brazil starts its mass vaccination campaign and there are signs of life from China's trapped miners. Meanwhile, Le Monde travels to the French port city of Calais to see how high-tech is being used to ease post-Brexit commerce with the UK.

SPOTLIGHT: ON THE HYPOCRISY OF "AMERICAN DEMOCRACY"

A motley crew barging into the U.S. Capitol can hardly be considered to be an attack on democracy in a country where capitalism has already systematically squeezed the rights of working people, writes Reinaldo Spitaletta in Colombian daily El Espectador.

The assault on the United States Capitol by a horde of President Trump supporters revealed some of the deep-seated, internal contradictions of imperialism and the divisions that exist inside its elites, corporations and power poles. It was a crisis that illustrates the Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef's characterization of the United States as "a country on the road to underdevelopment."

We should look beyond political events to consider, first and foremost, that in the rich tapestry of U.S. history, the one thing that wasn't actually abundant was democracy, despite painting a rosy picture of all the fantasies. What is democratic about a country dominated by a bipartisan system that excludes other political options? What is so democratic about racial exclusion, discrimination against migrants, and the repeated suppression of workers' rights in modern history, be they white, black or any other color?

The U.S. power system is oligarchical. It is designed for interest groups to determine and forge laws, regardless of who is currently in the White House. The present context is a boxing ring that pits in one corner at big-money interests intent on dominating the domestic market unchallenged, currently represented by Trump, against the global power elites that want to keep expanding outwards in the other corner. Either side can dress as a Democrat or Republican at any given time. It's not the issue.

The "Trumpist" side is well-trained in chauvinistic rabble-rousing, fueling xenophobia and spouting white supremacist, Nazi-style "trash-talk." Clearly, they are not only eyeing the domestic market but scheming to make gains abroad, as they maintain a similar, overbearing relationship with other countries. Colombia is a fine example of a pseudo-colony that continues to prostate itself before America's instructions.

The other side, the party of multinationals (which Noam Chomsky believes are the human institutions closest to the totalitarian vision) looks out to see how it can take over other markets, gobble up the world's natural resources and crush the workforce at home and abroad.

Both sides follow the same doctrine they have imposed over 40 years to enrich a privileged minority and impoverish millions, in the United States and abroad.

Inside the United States, there is a fight going on between the powerful elites. And the collision shows both sides manipulating each other's cannon-fodder. The sacrificed pawns are the masses that can be tamed, frightened, distracted with pleasures or alienated with screens and other contraptions. And, crucially, they can be induced to serve one side or the other.

Behind the curtain, we have the giant corporations that quietly run things while people only see the Democrats and Republicans running for office. Who is in charge if not IT, global chains, big drug firms, armies, corporations and banks? You have their bosses, the owners of firms like Twitter, Facebook and Amazon, and magnates like Bill Gates, the Rockefellers and their ilk, and you have their representatives — people like Trump and his successor, President-elect Joe Biden.

So U.S. democracy does not live up to its name, nor has it in the past, despite its constitutional amendments and loud slogans defending freedom. It has left that freedom in tatters every time it invaded a country, launched an airstrike or violated the sovereign rights of other nations. It cannot call itself a democracy because of its enduring racism, the blatant crushing of Native Americans, the oppression of women's rights, and the persecution of workers (like those protesters killed in the Haymarket Affair in 1886).

What kind of democracy will massacre its own workers, or persecute artists or personalities with dissenting political views as happened in the ghastly McCarthy years? What kind of democracy will kill leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, or have a president say, as the gun-slinging Theodore Roosevelt did, that "in strict confidence... I should welcome any war, for I think this country needs one." Howard Zinn relates this slight on democracy in hisPeople's History of the United States.

The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump's white supremacist and neo-nazi sympathizers showed the desperation of elite fighting for internal power. There has even been talk of another secession, showing the extent of the "empire's" degradation.

Today, the United States doesn't look like one of the "banana republics" it liked to set up elsewhere, but a country showing every symptom of backwardness.

— Reinaldo Spitaletta / El Espectador



7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW:

• Navalny's arrest: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has appeared in court this morning after his arrest at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport late Sunday. The leading critic of President Vladimir Putin was returning to his country after recovering in Germany for several months from his poisoning with a nerve agent that Navalny and international observers have blamed on Russian agents. The United States and several European governments have condemned his arrest and demanded his release.

• COVID-19 latest: Brazil begins vaccination campaign after the country's health regulators gave emergency approval to Oxford's AstraZeneca and China's Sinovac jabs. Meanwhile, an Australian Open player tests positive, amid growing controversy about the tennis Grand Slam event being held during the pandemic.

• Trump's pardons: As his hours in the Oval Office draws to a close, U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to issue more than 100 pardons and sentence commutations.

• Uganda election unrest: Opposition party led by Bobi Wine announced it would challenge President Yoweri Museveni's election win, saying it has "evidence of ballot stuffing and other forms of election malpractice." Wine said he was confined to his house, surrounded by army and police, as clashes between opposition protesters and security forces led to at least two deaths.

• Samsung heir sentenced (again): Samsung vice chairman Lee Jae-yong returns to prison after he was sentenced to two years and six months for embezzlement and bribery, during a retrial ordered by South Korea's Supreme Court.

• Trapped miners in China: Miners trapped at a gold mine in Qixia, eastern China, for the past eight days manage to send a note to rescue teams, saying 12 of them are still alive. On Jan. 10, an explosion trapped 22 people working at a depth of more than 600 metres.

• Trump baby balloon lands in museum: The 6-meter-high Donald Trump baby blimp, which had been displayed in Parliament Square during the U.S. President's visit to the UK in 2018, has been bought by the Museum of London to go in its protest collection.


"Thank you, science," titles Brazilian daily Extra after Monica Calazans, a 54-year-old nurse in São Paulo, received Brazil's first vaccine dose following the emergency approval of AstraZeneca and Sinovac jabs.


POST-BREXIT, TECH AND TRUCKS MAKE THE PORT OF CALAIS "SMARTER"

The customs border between the UK and the EU is back, with new rules and regulations, an influx of hastily trained agents, and a technology overhaul in the port of Calais in northern France, reports Louisa Benchabane in French daily Le Monde.

Dozens of trucks are stuck in an immense car park after they arrived from Dover, UK. In a cold and wet wind, they are waiting near the ferry landing for authorization to get back on the road — clearance they can only obtain once the operator whose goods they are transporting provides customs with all the necessary documents.

To avoid having all these trucks at a standstill — and be overwhelmed with a colossal amount of paperwork and endless traffic jams — French customs have devised what is called a smart border. The system is based on software that generates a barcode for each shipment, after the expeditors have filled a declaration form. This code, which is linked to the truck's license plate, is an identity card for the vehicles allowing them to avoid customs formalities.

The software analyzes the plates inside the ferry. Once they arrive at the port, drivers can see on a screen whether they must follow the green marking that will lead them to the exit or the orange marking that takes them to the customs parking lot for a physical inspection. "For now, we rarely have to stop trucks," says Marc Declunder, head of the customs office at the port of Calais. "The smart border is working well."

Fluidity is an obsession for all of the port's managers. "The port's economic balance is based on continuous smooth movement, so it would be unthinkable to create endless traffic jams," explains Thibaut Rougelot, a member of Dunkirk's regional customs management. But for now the port is calm, as the British built up unprecedented stocks before Brexit. The discovery of the highly contagious "British" variant of the coronavirus has also slowed down trade.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com here.


89 days

A 36-year-old man was arrested over the weekend after living at Chicago O'Hare International Airport for almost three months, reportedly out of fear to go back to his Los Angeles home due to COVID-19.


This is my home. I'm not afraid.

— Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said upon being arrested at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, as he was returning to Russia after recovering in Berlin from reported Novichok poisoning by state agents.


See more from World Affairs here