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Stockholm (AFP) – Peter Higgs of Britain and Francois Englert of Belgium won the Nobel Prize for Physics on Tuesday for conceiving of the so-called “God particle” which confers mass.

Higgs, 84, and Englert, 80, were honored for theorising a particle — discovered last year after an agonising quest — that explains why the Universe has any substance at all.

“This particle originates from an invisible field that fills up all space. Even when the Universe seems empty this field is there,” the jury said in a statement.

“Without it, we would not exist, because it is from contact with the field that particles acquire mass.”

Shortly after the announcement, the University of Edinburgh posted a statement from Higgs saying he was “overwhelmed”by the honor.

“I would also like to congratulate all those who have contributed to the discovery of this new particle and to thank my family, friends and colleagues for their support,” Higgs said.

“I hope this recognition of fundamental science will help raise awareness of the value of blue-sky research.”

Englert told AFP in a brief comment: “I’m very happy to have received the prize.”

Known as a boson, the discovery was popularly dubbed the “God Particle” on the grounds that it is everywhere yet baffingly elusive to find.

Without it, say theorists, we and all the other joined-up atoms in the Universe would not exist.

The presumed particle was discovered last year by Europe’s mega-scale physics lab at CERN, near Geneva, after a decades-long search.

“As an achievement, it ranks alongside the confirmation that the Earth is round or Man’s first steps on the Moon,” Canadian particle physicist Pauline Gagnon told AFP.

Higgs and Englert, at the Free University of Brussels, were honoured for “the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles,” the jury said in its formal citation.

The duo received the world’s most prestigious award for excellence in physics nearly a half century after they and others set down the theoretical groundwork.

The history of the discovery dates back to 1964, when six physicists, working independently in three groups, published a flurry of papers.

The first were Belgians Robert Brout, who died in 2011, and Englert, who proposed a mechanism by which a mass-giving field of particles invaded the early Universe, which until then was filled only with massless particles.

This was followed by Higgs, who was the first to suggest that mass could only occur through the existence of a hitherto unknown particle.

Because of this, the particle has been named after him, although Higgs has always been swift to acknowledge vital contributions from others.

At the heart of the search for the “Higgs,” was a drive to fill the so-called Standard Model, a conceptual framework of the fundamental particles of matter.

The model, designed in the 1970s, failed to explain why some particles have substance, and others, such as light, have none.

The answer, according to the theories, lies in an invisible field of bosons, or force carriers, that was created after the Big Bang.

Fundamental particles travel through this field. Some interact with the Higgs to a greater or lesser degree, which thus confers mass, while others do not.

On July 4 last year, physicists at CERN announced to rousing applause that they had found an elementary particle “consistent with” the Higgs boson.

CERN Director General Rolf Heuer, in a statement on Tuesday, gave the biggest sign yet that the presumed particle is indeed the right one.

“The discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN last year, which validates the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism, marks the culmination of decades of intellectual effort by many people around the world,” he said.

In line with tradition, the laureates will receive their prize at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.

The pair will share the prize sum of eight million Swedish kronor ($1.25 million, 925,000 euros), reduced because of the economic crisis last year from the 10 million kronor awarded since 2001.

AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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