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Biden Chooses Antony Blinken for Secretary of State

President-elect Joe Biden has announced several of his top cabinet picks, naming his long-time close adviser and former deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken as his choice to be the next secretary of state. VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine has more on Blinken, who is known as a staunch supporter of international alliances, human rights and refugees.Produced by: Barry Unger

Lockerbie Bomber Appeal Set to Begin at Scotland’s High Court

Scotland’s High Court will begin hearing an appeal Tuesday of the conviction of a Libyan man found guilty of the 1988 Lockerbie aircraft bombing, the deadliest militant attack in British history. Pam Am Flight 103 was blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988 en route from London to New York, an attack that killed 270 people, mostly Americans on their way home for Christmas. In 2001, Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was jailed for life after being found guilty of the murder of 243 passengers, 16 crew and 11 residents of Lockerbie who were killed in the attack. He is the only person to be convicted in the bombing.Megrahi, who denied involvement, died in Libya in 2012 after being released three years earlier by Scotland’s government on compassionate grounds following a diagnosis of terminal cancer.  FILE – Libyan Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was found guilty of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing but released from his Scottish prison on compassionate grounds, is seen below a portrait of Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi, Sept. 9, 2009.In March, an independent Scottish review body ruled his family could launch an appeal after concluding there might have been a miscarriage of justice. “Overturning of the verdict for the Megrahi family and many of the families of British victims also supporting the appeal, would vindicate their belief that the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom stand accused of having lived a monumental lie for 31 years,” the family’s lawyer Aamer Anwar said in a statement. Five judges will hear the appeal, including the head of Scotland’s judiciary, Lord Justice General Colin Sutherland. Megrahi first appealed in 2002 but this was refused by Scotland’s High Court. A second appeal was abandoned in 2009 just before his return to Libya. In 2003, then-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi accepted his country’s responsibility for the bombing and paid compensation to the victims’ families but did not admit personally ordering the attack. However, Megrahi’s family and some relatives of the Scottish victims have always doubted his guilt.  
 

Biden Taps Veteran US Diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield as UN Ambassador 

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has named veteran diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield to join his forthcoming Cabinet as his pick for U.N. ambassador, his transition team announced Monday. The post requires Senate confirmation.Thomas-Greenfield has worked in both Democratic and Republican administrations during her 35-year State Department career. An Africa specialist, she served as U.S. ambassador to Liberia, and held posts in Kenya, The Gambia and Nigeria. Under President Barack Obama, she served as the assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs (2013-2017), developing and managing Washington’s policy toward sub-Saharan Africa. She has also worked in Geneva at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Thomas-Greenfield was a senior manager at the State Department, where she served as director general of the Foreign Service and director of Human Resources from 2012 to 2013, handling matters related to the State Department’s 70,000 employees. She took to Twitter on Tuesday saying she was “blessed for this opportunity.” “I’ve had the privilege to build relationships with leaders around the world for the past thirty-five years. As U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, I’ll work to restore America’s standing in the world and renew relationships with our allies,” the longtime diplomat tweeted. I’ve had the privilege to build relationships with leaders around the world for the past thirty-five years. As U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, I’ll work to restore America’s standing in the world and renew relationships with our allies. Blessed for this opportunity.— Linda Thomas-Greenfield (@LindaT_G) November 23, 2020Earlier, Thomas-Greenfield tweeted her mother taught her to lead with kindness and compassion and she would bring that ethos to her mission at the United Nations if she is confirmed.  
 My mother taught me to lead with the power of kindness and compassion to make the world a better place. I’ve carried that lesson with me throughout my career in Foreign Service – and, if confirmed, will do the same as Ambassador to the United Nations.— Linda Thomas-Greenfield (@LindaT_G) November 23, 2020Former colleagues also responded to her selection alongside long-time Biden foreign policy aide Anthony Blinken as the president-elect’s choice for secretary of state.  
 The choices for the two jobs I know best are outstanding. @ABlinken understands how @joebiden sees the world and will lead @StateDept with vision and respect.@LindaT_G is a valued colleague and veteran diplomat who will restore US leadership and cooperation at the @UN— Madeleine Albright (@madeleine) November 23, 2020I have worked with @ABlinken and w/ Linda Thomas-Greenfield since the Clinton years. What a perfect team – intellect, humanity, decency, care for others, patriots, wisdom. With brilliant Jake Sullivan NSA, US back better.— Wendy R. Sherman (@wendyrsherman) November 23, 2020  
Former U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman told VOA that the choice of the “highly respected” Thomas-Greenfield is “brilliant” and would be a big morale booster for career foreign service officers. Feltman, who was also the United Nation’s political chief from 2012 to 2018, said he saw Thomas-Greenfield in action many times. “I saw Linda work the room at African Union summits, and she is amazingly effective and efficient at pushing her agenda with 54 African leaders,” he said. “She leavened her diplomatic approach with real human empathy and warmth. I think she will be perfect for restoring U.S. leadership at the U.N. and sort of rebooting the U.N. and our multilateral alliances for meeting today’s challenges.”  President-elect Biden is elevating the post of U.N. ambassador to Cabinet level. In recent Democrat administrations the position has been part of the Cabinet. President Donald Trump chose to make his first U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, a Cabinet member, but did not elevate his current envoy, Kelly Craft.   Early life  Born in 1952 in the southern state of Louisiana, Thomas-Greenfield, who is African-American, was one of eight siblings. She said her father left school in the third grade to help support his family.  “He couldn’t read or write, but he was the smartest man I knew,” she said of him in a TED talk last year.   Thomas-Greenfield said her mother also had limited education, but a big heart. In addition to raising her own children, she took in eight siblings who lost their mother so they would not be separated.  “I didn’t have successful, educated role models in my life, but what I did have – I had the hopes and dreams of my mother, who taught me at a very early age that I could face any challenge or adversity put in my path by being compassionate and being kind,” Thomas-Greenfield said.   The former assistant secretary of state grew up during the civil rights era and graduated from a segregated high school. She then went on to Louisiana State University, which had to be forced to accept Black students by a court order.   Thomas-Greenfield said she faced harassment there and noted that David Duke, the former leader of the white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan, was an LSU student at the same time she was, and had already started to preach hatred.   In 2012, LSU asked her back to speak at graduation.   “I thanked the university for giving me the experiences that made me into the successful person that I had become,” she said. “Adversity is a source of strength.”  Life-changing experience  In April 1994, Thomas-Greenfield arrived in Kigali, Rwanda, as ethnic Hutu extremists began their 100-day genocide against minority Tutsis.  She very nearly became a causality of the atrocities, confronted by a “glaze-eyed man” who was ready to kill her. She remained calm and spoke to the man and survived. But of the genocide, she said, “It changed my life forever.”  FILE – United States Secretary of State John Kerry, center, reacts as Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari shakes hands with Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the presidential villa in Abuja, Aug. 23, 2016.Thomas-Greenfield’s deep knowledge of Africa will serve her well at the United Nations, where more than half the peace and security operations the Security Council authorizes are based on the continent.   She has a traditional diplomatic style, said Ambassador Ronald Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, of which Thomas-Greenfield is a member.  “She puts a lot of attention on listening, on understanding where the other person is coming from, and therefore ensuring that she can prepare the best way of persuading them to do what she wants,” Neumann told VOA. He added that she will also be ready to build alliances.   Thomas-Greenfield will need to employ her diplomatic style in coping with challenges to U.S. influence at the United Nations, where the Trump administration has cut funding, withdrawn from agencies and international accords, and pursued an “America first” policy.   “The United States is going to have to compete for influence far more assertively than we are accustomed to doing at the U.N.,” Feltman said. “China has become far more assertive at the U.N. than it was, say at the beginning of Obama administration. You have a lot of middle powers that are not willing to defer to the great powers – they have their own interests in their own region.”   There will also be a long list of other issues awaiting her attention if she is confirmed: COVID-19, climate change, Iran’s nuclear program, the changing Middle East, and the growing refugee and migrant crisis.   
 

Michigan Certifies Biden Win Despite Trump’s GOP Overtures

Michigan election officials on Monday certified Democrat Joe Biden’s 154,000-vote victory in the state amid President Donald Trump’s attempts to subvert the results of the election.The Board of State Canvassers, which has two Republicans and two Democrats, confirmed the results on a 3-0 vote with one abstention. Allies of Trump and losing GOP Senate candidate John James had urged the panel to delay voting for two weeks to audit votes in heavily Democratic Wayne County, home to Detroit.The move is another setback in Trump’s efforts to use unconventional means to undermine the results of the November 3 election and comes even after he made direct overtures to Republican officials in the state by inviting them to the White House last week.Under Michigan law, Biden claims all 16 electoral votes. Biden won by 2.8 percentage points — a larger margin than in other states where Trump is contesting the results, like Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.Demonstrators in a car caravan demand the Board of State Canvassers to certify the results of the election in Lansing, Michigan, Nov. 23, 2020.Some Trump allies had expressed hope that state lawmakers could intervene in selecting Republican electors in states that do not certify. That long-shot bid is no longer possible in Michigan.Trump’s efforts to stave off formal recognition of his defeat faced increasingly stiff resistance from the courts and fellow Republicans with just three weeks to go until the Electoral College meets to certify Biden’s victory. Time and again, Trump’s challenges and baseless allegations of widespread conspiracy and fraud have been met with rejection as states move forward with confirming their results.Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers, which has two Republicans and two Democrats, certified the results despite calls by Trump and allies to the GOP members to block the vote to allow for an audit of ballots in heavily Democratic Wayne County, home to Detroit, where Trump has claimed without evidence that he was the victim of fraud.”The board’s duty today is very clear,” said Aaron Van Langevelde, the Republican vice chair. “We have a duty to certify this election based on these returns. That is very clear. We are limited to these returns. I’m not going to argue that we’re not.”Mary Ellen Gurewitz, an attorney for the state Democratic Party, told the canvassers that attacks on the election results “are part of a racist campaign, directed by soon-to-be former President Trump, to disparage the cities in this country with large Black populations, including Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.””It sometimes feels like officials are attempting to tear up my ballot right in front of me by stalling and recounting until they find a way to change the results,” said Wendy Gronbeck, a resident of Douglas. “I’ve been a voter for over 50 years, and I’ve never had to think about whether canvassers will certify an election.”Biden crushed the president by more than 330,000 votes in Wayne County, where two local GOP canvassers who certified the results unsuccessfully tried to reverse course last week after being called by Trump. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, has said an audit must wait until after statewide certification because only then would officials have legal access to documentation needed to conduct such a review.Michigan’s elections bureau has recommended that the November 3 results be certified.Norm Eisen, a constitutional law expert and former counsel to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, said there was no legal basis to do anything other than certify the election.”That is the clear mandate of state law,” he said. Eisen dismissed various claims for why a delay might be necessary, including the need for an audit or time to investigate so-called “out of balance” precincts.”The reasons that they have advanced for doing anything other than (certify) is totally spurious. They carry no legal or factual weight whatsoever under the law,” Eisen added.Trump has tried to defy the results of the election through the courts but has found no luck there. Some Trump allies have expressed hope that state lawmakers could intervene in selecting Republican electors in states that do not certify, as the president and his attorneys have pushed baseless allegations of fraud that have been repeatedly rejected in courtrooms across the country. Trump met with top Michigan GOP legislators at the White House on Friday and tweeted over the weekend: “We will show massive and unprecedented fraud!”Had the board delayed a vote or opposed certification, a lawsuit was expected. Legal experts have said the canvassers’ role is limited and courts would order them to confirm the results. Under state law, it has the narrow responsibilities of reviewing vote numbers from Michigan’s 83 counties and certifying them. It does not have the power to audit returns or investigate complaints of irregularities.In Pennsylvania, a conservative Republican judge shot down the Trump campaign’s biggest legal effort in Pennsylvania with a scathing ruling that questioned why he was supposed to disenfranchise 7 million voters with no evidence to back their claims and an inept legal argument at best.But the lawyers still hope to block the state’s certification, quickly appealing to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, which ordered lawyers to file a brief Monday but did not agree to hear oral arguments.The campaign, in its filings, asked for urgent consideration so they could challenge the state election results before they are certified next month. If not, they will seek to decertify them, the filings said.And they insisted that they did not want to invalidate all of the 6.8 million ballots cast in the state — as Brann concluded based on their arguments in court last week. Instead, they said, they are taking aim only at seven Democratic-leaning counties where they take issue with how mail-in ballots were handled.Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes. The other litigation has failed to change a single vote.In Wisconsin, a recount in the state’s two largest liberal counties moved into its fourth day at a slow pace, with election officials in Milwaukee County complaining that Trump observers were hanging up the process with frequent challenges. Trump’s hope of reversing Biden’s victory there depends on disqualifying thousands of absentee ballots — including the in-person absentee ballot cast by one of Trump’s own campaign attorneys in Dane County.

White House Turkey Pardon Set for Tuesday

For now, Corn and Cob are living in luxury in Washington’s Willard Intercontinental Hotel, but on Tuesday, at a Rose Garden event, only one of the turkeys will receive a presidential pardon ahead of Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday.The broad-breasted white turkeys, which are bred and fed for size, were raised by Ron Kardel, National Turkey Federation chairman and a sixth-generation turkey, corn and soybean farmer from Walcott, Iowa.According to the White House website, Corn, whose favorite snack is sweet corn, was hatched on July 20, 2020 and weighs just over 19 kilograms. Cob, whose favorite food is soybeans, was hatched on the same day and weighs just over 18.5 kilos.As has been the case since 1947, the two were introduced to the public Nov. 23 in a hotel event.The White House is running an online poll for people to choose which bird to pardon.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 8 MB480p | 11 MB540p | 16 MB720p | 31 MB1080p | 60 MBOriginal | 175 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioThe tradition of turkey farmers giving presidents the birds as gifts for Thanksgiving dates to the 1870s, but according to the White House site, so many turkeys were being sent that in 1923, then-President Calvin Coolidge discouraged farmers from sending them.However, the tradition was already established, and by the 1940s, farmers were once again sending turkeys to the president.The first official turkey pardoning was done in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush.While you might think the unpardoned turkey will end up as the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving Day feast, all the turkeys since 2016 have gone to Virginia Tech’s “Gobblers Rest” exhibit in the school’s Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences. Before that, the turkeys had been sent to other locations for exhibit, not eating.“Virginia Tech has a long tradition of supporting the turkey industry through research and outreach, so it’s fitting that the Presidential Turkeys becoming part of the Hokie Nation is a new tradition,” said Rami Dalloul, a professor in the school’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a world-renowned poultry immunologist, in a 2019 news release. The school says he was the lead member of a consortium that sequenced the turkey genome.
 

Millions of Americans Flying, Despite CDC Guidance

The CDC has urged Americans not to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday this week as COVID-19 cases continue to surge, but millions are ignoring recommendations. Roughly 1 million Americans passed through airport security nationwide Sunday, according to the Transportation Security Administration, which cited similar numbers throughout the weekend. The United States continues to record the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 as well as resulting deaths, having surpassed a quarter of a million fatalities last week. According to a Reuters tally, the seven-day average number of U.S. COVID-19 deaths rose for a 12th straight day, reaching 1,500 as of Monday. Healthcare workers across the country have reported overflowing hospitals and staffing shortages, urging the public to avoid large gatherings indoors. “I’m asking Americans, I’m begging you: hold on a little bit longer,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams told the ABC News show Good Morning America on Monday. “We want everyone to understand that these holiday celebrations can be superspreader events.” But some state lawmakers have spoken out against the recommendations of scientists. Presumably in response to calls to “cancel” Thanksgiving, Texas Senator Ted Cruz tweeted a graphic of a turkey with the caption “come and take it”. pic.twitter.com/HSCSdXkst9— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) November 22, 2020Even the White House is reportedly planning events, with ABC News and Axios reporting first lady Melania Trump is hosting a November 30 holiday celebration celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah. Chief of staff to the first lady Stepanie Grisham detailed to Axios precautions being taken by the White House for the celebration, including smaller guest lists, mask requirements, and social distancing “encouraged.” Several White House staffers have recently tested positive for COVID-19. Donald Trump Jr. also recently tested positive. 
 

Cut Off: School Closings Leave Rural Students Isolated

The midday arrival of a school bus at Cyliss Castillo’s home on the remote edge of a mesa breaks up the long days of boredom and isolation for the high school senior.
 
The driver hands over food in white plastic bags, collects Castillo’s school assignments and offers some welcome conversation before setting out for another home.
 
The closing of classrooms and the switch to remote learning because of the coronavirus have left Castillo and other students in this school district on the sparsely populated fringe of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico profoundly isolated — cut off from direct human contact and, in many cases, unconnected to the grid.
 
Like many of his neighbors, Castillo does not have electricity, let alone internet.
It is yet another way in which the pandemic has exposed the gap between the haves and have-nots in the U.S.
 
“There’s not a lot to do here. You clean up, pick up trash or build stuff. Like, I built that shed right there,” the 18-year-old Castillo said, pointing at a pitched-roof plywood shed.
“Hopefully, hopefully by next semester we’ll be going back into school,” he said. “I don’t like online. I like to be, you know, in school, learning. That’s just not me. I just find it a lot easier and a lot better than just out here, not doing nothing.”
 
The Cuba Independent School District, centered in a village of 800 people, has kept the buses running to bring school to far-flung students who live on a vast checkboard of tribal, federal and county land.  
 
On their routes, the buses carry school assignments, art supplies, meals and counselors who check in with students who are struggling with online bullying, abuse, thoughts of suicide or other problems.
 
The buses are a lifeline for families in the Cuba school district, of whom nearly half are Hispanic, and half are Native American, including many Navajo-speaking English-language learners.  
 
Many do not have running water. Castillo and others with no electricity charge their school-issued laptops with car batteries or at a relative’s house. One student has sent her laptop on the buses to be charged at school. This far out, internet service is unavailable or prohibitively expensive.
 
For students without home internet, the buses bring USB drives loaded with assignments and video lessons from teachers. Some students like Castillo eventually asked for paper packets because of the difficulty in charging laptops.
 
With COVID-19 cases spiking in New Mexico to their highest levels yet, it is unclear when the district will begin offering in-person classes again.
 
The district has a record of adapting to challenges, and a high school graduation rate of 83% — well above the state average — to show for it. It has long employed a “community school” approach in which social workers, nurses and teachers help students around the clock, not just during the school day, on the theory that they will do better academically if their home life can be made better.
 
All students were issued Chromebooks in 2019, well before the coronavirus outbreak. That made the shift to distance learning easier in March when school buildings shut down.  
 
Other rural districts around the country have likewise been engineering ways to connect with students who are otherwise disengaged during the pandemic.  
 
In San Joaquin, California, about 48 kilometers west of Fresno, the Golden Plains Unified School District found early in the pandemic that students were out working rather than doing schoolwork.  
 
“We would have kids call from the fields. They were picking peaches,” said Andre Pecina, an assistant superintendent, who noted only 40% of high school students were participating in distance learning. “Once COVID happened, parents were like, `Let’s go to work.’”
 
To bring students back into the fold, the district reached out to parents by phone to set teacher conferences early in the school year and ordered hundreds of internet hot spots. It is also delivering school materials and electronic devices to students.
 
In New Mexico, before the buses set out from Cuba High School each day, about 25 cafeteria workers, bus drivers and other staff spend over an hour loading them with milk, produce, prepared meals, toilet paper and other necessities for the families.
 
On board one day in late October was head district counselor Victoria Dominguez, who was checking on two students who had suicidal thoughts. She was bringing one a pair of skateboard shoes. In the spring, a screening system for messages sent by students flagged one or two a week as showing signs of possible emotional trouble. Now she is seeing dozens in single week.  
 
“I’m worried for the winter months. It’s going to get darker. It’s going to get colder and you can’t go outside,” Dominguez said.  
 
As COVID-19 rates spiked, the school switched to making bus deliveries every other day, instead of every day.
 
“They’ll still get the same amount of food, but they won’t get the same amount of human contact,” she said.
 
The road from the high school turned from asphalt to gravel to deeply rutted dirt. The oak and pine trees gave way to sagebrush and gaunt junipers before the bus came to halt in front of a cluster of houses.
 
Students poured out to greet the bus driver, Kelly Maestas. He asked them how they were doing and handed out lunches. Dominguez went to shoot baskets with some of the older kids.
 
Among them was 15-year-old Autumn Wilson, a shy sophomore whose father died after she started high school last year. Then school shut down. Now she can’t play on the volleyball team anymore. Dominguez connected her with a therapist on an earlier visit.  
 
Autumn said the sadness over the loss makes it difficult for her to finish schoolwork. But she finds joy riding horses when her grandfather takes her to the family corral. And she looks forward to the visits from Maestas, who brought her candy for her birthday.  
 
“Kelly, he’s really funny to talk to. And if you’re feeling sad you can really talk to him,” she said, “and you can trust him.”

Swift Wins Top Prize At AMAs, Says She’s Re-Recording Music

Taylor Swift won her third consecutive artist of the year prize at the American Music Awards, but she missed the show for a good reason: She said she’s busy re-recording her early music after her catalog was sold.
In a video that aired during Sunday’s awards show, the pop star said “the reason I’m not there tonight is I’m actually re-recording all of my old music in the studio where we originally recorded it. So it’s been amazing. And I can’t wait for you to hear it.”
Last year music manager Scooter Braun — who manages Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande — announced that his Ithaca Holdings company had acquired Big Machine Label Group, the home to Swift’s first six albums. This month Braun said he has sold the master rights to Swift’s first six albums to an investment company; Swift acknowledged the sale on social media and said she would not work with the new buyers because Braun was still involved.
Instead, she headed back to the studio.
Swift beat out Bieber, Post Malone and Roddy Ricch to win the top award. She also won favorite music video and favorite pop/rock female artist, winning three honors and tying Bieber, Dan + Shay and the Weeknd for most wins Sunday.
The Weeknd lost artist of the year, but he still kicked off his all-star week as a big winner: Days before he’s expected to land multiple Grammy nominations, he won favorite soul/R&B male artist, favorite soul/R&B album for “After Hours” and favorite soul/R&B song for “Heartless” two days before the 2021 Grammy nominations are announced.
“The last time I received this award it was given to me by the late, great Prince,” he said after winning favorite soul/R&B album. “And, you know, he’s the reason I get to constantly challenge the genre of R&B and yeah, I’d like to dedicate this to him.”
The Weeknd didn’t break character throughout the three-hour show with his gauze-wrapped face, which matched the vibe of his recent album and music videos where he appears blooded and bruised. He accepted his awards and performed with his face wrapped in gauze.
Kenny G joined the Weeknd for his performance, playing the sax in downtown Los Angeles as the Weeknd walked across a bridge singing “In Your Eyes.” He finished the performance singing “Save Your Tears.”
The Weeknd was one of several artists who appeared live at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles for the fan-voted awards show. Others recently taped their performances because of the coronavirus pandemic, though host Taraji P. Henson — who appeared live from the venue — said the few audience members sitting in the mezzanine practiced social distancing, wore masks and were tested for the virus.
Henson joked that A-list celebrities were in the audience, including Beyoncé, though cardboard cut-out of the singer, Jay-Z and other stars appeared in seats.
But a good number of chart-toppers were in the building. Breakthrough singer-rapper Doja Cat performed and won new artist of the year and favorite soul/R&B female artist. Grammy-winning country duo Dan + Shay beautifully performed “I Should Probably Go to Bed” and won favorite country duo or group, collaboration of the year and favorite country song for “10,000 Hours,” the latter two shared with Bieber. And Megan Thee Stallion — won favorite rap/hip-hop songs for “WAP” with Cardi B — performed “Body” from her recently released debut album “Good News.”
Bieber and Shawn Mendes kicked off the AMAs with a pre-taped performance of their new duet “Monster,” marking the first time they performed the song together. It began with a stripped-down Bieber singing his recent hit “Lonely,” with songwriter-producer Benny Blanco on piano, and “Holy,” where background dancers wearing masks joined him.
Mendes, strumming his guitar, then appeared for “Monster,” which featured the twentysomethings singing lyrics about about fame and growing up as celebrities who attracted massive public attention. Mendes later sang his song “Wonder” during the show, which aired on ABC.
Katy Perry, in her first performance since giving birth to her first child, gave a strong performance of the emotional and hopeful song “Only Love,” which featured a surprise guest appearance from Darius Rucker, who sang and played guitar. With flaming red lights glaring behind her, Billie Eilish sang her new song “Therefore I Am,” as her brother-songwriter-producer Finneas backed her on guitar. Jennifer Lopez and Maluma teamed up to perform their new songs “Pa’ Ti” and “Lonely” from the film “Marry Me,” which both of them star in, while Dua Lipa — who won favorite pop/rock song — floated in the air during her performance of “Levitating.”
24kGoldn and Iann Dior — who currently have the country’s No. 1 song with the smash hit “Mood,” also performed. The multi-genre track is the rare song that has reached No. 1 on both the rap and rock charts.
Other performers included BTS, Lewis Capaldi, Machine Gun Kelly, Lil Baby, Bell Biv DeVoe and Nelly, who performed hits from his diamond-certified debut album “Country Grammar,” which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
This year the AMAs, which typically awards one Latin honor, launched more categories in the genre. Becky G — who burst on the music scene in 2014 with the pop hit “Shower” but has recently had success singing in Spanish and launching hits on the Latin charts — won favorite Latin female artist.
She used her speech to honor immigrant families.
“I proudly wave both flags, Mexican and American. And like many, many children and grandchildren of immigrants, no matter where they’re from, we have learned from the ones before us what sacrifice and hard work looks like,” she said. “And I dedicate this award to all of our immigrant workers in this pandemic; the students and immigrant families. It’s because of my family, my abuelitos, that I stand here today.”
Nominees for the AMAs were based on streaming, album and digital sales, radio airplay and social activity, and reflect the time period of Sept. 27, 2019, through Sept. 24, 2020.

Latest High-Level US Visit to Asia Seen Locking in Trump’s Tough China Policy

U.S. national security advisor Robert O’Brien is visiting Vietnam and the Philippines this month to help bulk up international resistance against Chinese maritime expansion, a sore spot between the superpowers, in ways that outlast President Donald Trump’s term in office, analysts say.   O’Brien met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc during a November 20-22 trip. The national security advisor “reaffirmed U.S. support for a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam that contributes to international security and respects the rule of law,” the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam said in a statement.   U.S. officials often cite rule of law and security cooperation to contrast what they like about Southeast Asian states against Washington’s view of China as a country that does things its own way.  The U.S. official’s trip following a Vietnam U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo poses for a photo with Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc after their meeting at the Government Office in Hanoi, Vietnam, Oct. 30, 2020.Vietnam and the Philippines have faced off over the years against Chinese fishing, energy exploration and military activities in the contested South China Sea. Both say China is operating in their exclusive economic zones, which extend 370 kilometers offshore.   “Hanoi and Manila are the only claimants to have ever really stood up to Beijing on the South China Sea, so it stands to reason these are the two countries O’Brien’s chosen to visit,” said Sean King, vice president of the Park Strategies political consultancy in New York. Pompeo set the tone for visits such as O’Brien’s in July by calling the Chinese maritime claims illegal and vowing support for countries that dispute sovereignty with China. Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam each call all or part of the South China Sea their own in the search for fish and undersea energy reserves.    Vietnam’s prime minister and his guest agreed to continue cooperating “in order to cope with common challenges, thus significantly contributing to peace” in Asia, the Communist Party of Vietnam’s news website Nhan Dan Online reported Sunday.   People in Vietnam saw the O’Brien visit as one in a series by American officials, but hope it helps lock in a U.S. foreign policy that continues after Joe Biden takes office as U.S. president, said Jack Nguyen, a partner with the business advisory firm Mazars in Ho Chi Minh City.   The visit had probably been on the books for a while and will inspire the U.S. Congress into next year rather than influencing Biden, said Nguyen Thanh Trung, Center for International Studies director at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City. Biden will focus on domestic U.S. issues rather than Asia at the start, he predicted. Congress has been aligned with Trump on Asia policy over the current presidential term. “I think [the impetus for the O’Brien trip] comes from the bipartisan policy on China and also on the South China Sea,” he said. “I think it mainly comes from the Congress rather than from the (Trump) Administration.”National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien speaks during a news conference on Sept. 21, 2020, at the U.S. State Department in Washington, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, right, listen.China has alarmed Southeast Asian claimants to the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea by landfilling disputed islets for its own use, including military purposes.  Trump’s government regularly sends Navy vessels into the sea, sells arms to countries that have disputes with China and confers with pro-Western allies such as Australia and Japan on China matters. China cites historic documents to back its maritime claims and accuses the United States of trying to contain Chinese expansion.  Washington is separately vying with Beijing over trade and the sharing of technology — all hallmarks of the Trump years. Trump is due to leave office in January.  Vietnam has clashed with China at sea since the 1970s and and in April  a Chinese surveillance vessel caused a Vietnamese fishing boat to capsize. Despite the U.S.’s wartime history with Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, the two sides began collaborating more on defense in 2016.   Manila and Beijing got into a standoff in 2012 over the disputed sea’s Scarborough Shoal, where Chinese ships pushed Philippine vessels out of a rich fishing ground. Manila won world court arbitration four years later, but China snubbed the outcome and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte looks to Beijing today for development aid.    The Philippines has sent “contradictory messages on the South China Sea” though the population and military “remain pro-American”, King said. A U.S.-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement still hangs in the balance after Duterte’s government said earlier this year that Manila would cancel it – but announced this month a second six-month extension.    “Relations thus, need to be kept up and maintained,” King said. “After all, Manila’s a U.S. treaty ally.” The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs had not posted information on O’Brien’s visit as of mid-Monday. 

Israel Media Report Netanyahu Met with Saudi Crown Prince

Israeli media reported Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a secret visit Sunday to Saudi Arabia for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The reports said the Israel delegation also included Yossi Cohen, the chief of Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency and cited flight tracking data showing a private jet traveling from Tel Aviv to Neom, Saudi Arabia and returning hours later.U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visit to the country, in Riyadh, Nov. 22, 2020.Netanyahu’s office did not make any public comment about any such trip. The U.S. State Department did not include any mention of Netanyahu in its Sunday statement about Pompeo’s meeting with Mohammed bin Salman, which took place in Neom. “They discussed the need for Gulf unity to counter Iran’s aggressive behavior in the region and the need to achieve a political solution to the conflict in Yemen,” Principal Deputy Spokesperson Cale Brown said. Pompeo visited Israel last week and celebrated with Netanyahu the recent agreements Israel signed normalizing relations with Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates. Pompeo has urged Saudi Arabia to normalize its ties with Israel as well. The United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia also share a strong interest in countering Iran.