By Jessica Donati and Mirwais Harooni KABUL (Reuters) - A Taliban suicide bomber and gunmen attacked a restaurant popular with foreigners in the heart of the Afghan capital Kabul, killing 21 people including three United Nations staff and the International Monetary Fund's top representative in Afghanistan. Gunmen burst into the Lebanese restaurant spraying diners with bullets after the bomber blew himself up near the entrance around 7:30 p.m. local time on Friday, just as people had sat down for dinner. Thirteen foreigners were among those killed, according to police, and details about the victims began to trickle through on Saturday. The U.S. State Department said three U.S. private citizens were killed. Britain and Canada confirmed they each lost two nationals and Denmark said one of its citizens also died. The American University of Afghanistan said two of its U.S. employees died in the attack on La Taverna du Liban, a popular dining spot whose charismatic owner, Kamal Hamade, was also killed. "We are devastated by the news," Michael Smith, president of AUAF, said in a statement. After the initial blast, sporadic bursts of gunfire were heard over the next hour. The two gunmen inside the Lebanese restaurant, located in Kabul's diplomatic enclave, were shot dead by police, an Afghan official said. Most foreign forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan this year after more than a decade of war. Afghanistan watchers fear the Taliban will intensify attacks in the run-up to an election in April to find a successor to President Hamid Karzai. At odds with Washington over the terms of the bilateral security pact that governs the withdrawal, Karzai is still deliberating whether to allow some U.S. troops to stay on. If no agreement is reached, Afghan forces could be left to fight the insurgents on their own. The Taliban claimed responsibility for Friday's attack, calling it revenge for a U.S. air strike earlier this week that had also drawn condemnation from Karzai as eight civilians were killed. The White House condemned the violence. "There is no possible justification for this attack, which has killed innocent civilians, including Americans, working every day to help the Afghan people achieve a better future with higher education and economic assistance at the American University, United Nations, International Monetary Fund and other organizations," it said in a statement. FAVOURITE HAUNT Several kitchen staff survived by fleeing to the roof, where they hid until they were rescued by police. "When I was in the kitchen, I heard an explosion outside. Then all the guys escaped up and I went to the roof and stayed with my back to the chimney for two or three hours," said Suleiman, a cook at the Lebanese restaurant. By midnight, the operation to clear the area was still under way, with police nervously flashing lasers at passing cars and people on the dark, dusty streets. The restaurant had been running for several years, and was a favourite haunt for foreigners, including diplomats, contractors, journalists and aid workers. A couple of armed guards were usually on duty at the front entrance, which led to a courtyard in front of the main ground floor dining room. The suicide bomb attack took place at that entrance, but accounts differed over where the gunmen had entered from. "The target of the attack was a restaurant frequented by high-ranking foreigners ... where the invaders used to dine with booze and liquor in the plenty," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in an e-mailed statement, written in English. Karzai issued a statement on Saturday condemning the attack, using the opportunity to swipe at the United States for not doing enough to fight "terrorism." "If NATO forces led by the United States of America want to be united and partner with the Afghan people, they have to target terrorism," he said in a statement. Karzai believes Washington could do more to persuade the Taliban to begin direct peace talks with his government. UN PEACE SEEKER KILLED The IMF's representative in Afghanistan, 60-year-old Lebanese national Wabel Abdallah, was one of the diners killed. He had led the fund's office in Kabul since 2008. "This is tragic news, and we at the fund are all devastated," Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in a statement. "Our hearts go out to Wabel's family and friends, as well as the other victims of this attack." The United Nations initially said four staff were killed, counting the IMF's representative in the total. The other three included a Russian, an American and a Pakistani. The Russian was a senior U.N. political officer trying to negotiate a start to peace talks with the Taliban. "You can imagine the effect it has had on staff members here," U.N. spokesman Ari Gaitanis told Reuters. A British Foreign Office spokeswoman said two Britons were killed in the attack. Del Singh, a British opposition Labour Party candidate for the European Parliament, was one of British victims, and the other was serving with the EU Police Mission in Afghanistan. A Dane serving with the mission also died. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said two Canadians were killed, but it was unclear which organisation they worked for. Foreign casualties were taken to a military base in Kabul. At a hospital morgue near the attack, Afghans screamed and cried as they mourned attack victims, some pressing scarves to their faces to stifle sobs. One young man, grieving for his dead father, kicked a wall and howled. "One of the restaurant's cooks was wounded," said a doctor, Abdul Bashir. "Two dead bodies have been taken to the morgue." While the south and southeast of Afghanistan have been the main theatres of action in a war that has dragged on for more than a decade, Kabul has suffered regular attacks. Taliban fighters mounted several attacks in the capital during the summer months last year, but the assault on Friday inflicted far higher casualties. (Writing by Maria Golovnina, additional reporting by Erik Kirschbaum in Berlin, Louis Charbonneau in New York, Anna Yukhananov, Lesley Wroughton and Steve Holland in Washington; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Sonya Hepinstall and G Crosse)
- The Independent
Nancy Pelosi called pro-Trump rioters ‘Putin puppets’ and the Capitol siege a ‘gift’ to the Russian president
A boy who was killed in an alleged murder-suicide by his father has been identified as 9-year-old Pierce O’Loughlin. Family tragedy: The boy and his father, Stephen O'Loughlin, 49, were both found dead at their home on Scott Street, Marina District in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, SF Chronicle reports. The boy’s mother, Lesley Hu, asked authorities to check on her son after learning that he did not show up for school that day.
- NBC News
Court documents recounted the man's telling his children that he would consider them "traitors" if they contacted authorities.
The United States called on China on Monday to allow an expert team from the World Health Organization (WHO) to interview "care givers, former patients and lab workers" in the central city of Wuhan, drawing a rebuke from Beijing. The team of WHO-led independent experts trying to determine the origins of the new coronavirus arrived on Jan. 14 in Wuhan where they are holding teleconferences with Chinese counterparts during a two-week quarantine before starting work on the ground. The United States, which has accused China of hiding the extent of its initial outbreak, has called for a "transparent" WHO-led investigation and criticised the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts have done the first phase of research.
- Associated Press
Pakistan’s prime minister reacted angrily Monday to media reports of a text exchange between an Indian TV anchor and a former media industry executive that suggests a 2019 Indian airstrike inside Pakistan was designed to boost Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chances for reelection. Imran Khan took to Twitter to respond to Indian media reports of an exchange on the WhatsApp messaging service between popular Indian TV anchor Arnab Goswami and Partho Dasgupta, the former head of a TV rating company.
- The Telegraph
A woman identified as having taken part in the storming of the US Capitol is accused of stealing a laptop belonging to top Democrat Nancy Pelosi which she hoped to sell to a Russian spy agency, according to the FBI. There is no indication Riley June Williams, a 22-year-old careworker from Pennsylvania, took a laptop from Ms Pelosi's office. The FBI, which is working off a tip, said in the court record the "matter remains under investigation." The complaint, filed late Sunday in US District Court in Washington, sought the arrest of Williams on grounds including "violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds." Relying on several photos and videos of the chaotic January 6 riot, an FBI agent said Williams was seen near the office of Ms Pelosi, US House Speaker. A witness, identified in the court document only as W1 but who claimed to be "the former romantic partner of Riley June Williams," alleged that Williams planned to send the laptop to a friend in Russia to sell it to the SVR foreign intelligence agency. That sale "fell through for unknown reasons, and Williams still has the computer device or destroyed it," the affidavit says.
- National Review
At the outset of the pandemic, the government undertook a deliberate effort to reduce economic activity in what was widely thought to be a necessary measure to slow the spread of COVID-19. Whereas most recessions call for policy that stimulates the economy, the COVID-19 recession called for the opposite — measures that would enable workers and businesses to hit pause until a vaccine or therapeutic became widely available. Now that vaccines are being administered, policy-makers face a different challenge — not keeping Americans inside, but getting them back to work as quickly as possible. In this context, President-elect Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package misses the mark. The proposal gives a nod to public health — with $20 billion allocated to vaccine distribution, $50 billion to testing, and $40 billion to medical supplies and emergency-response teams — but fails to address the most pressing hurdles to COVID-19 immunity. Vaccines sit unused not for lack of funding but thanks to burdensome rules determining which patients can receive shots and which doctors can administer them. Additional spending to speed up vaccine distribution is welcome, but its effects will be muted if bureaucratic hurdles remain in place. Even if the public-health provisions were to succeed in reopening the economy, much of the rest of Biden’s plan guarantees that it will reopen weaker. For one, an expanded unemployment-insurance top-up of $400 a week would mean more than 40 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits would make more off-the-job than on-the-job at least until September, and possibly for longer. The food-service and retail industries hit hardest by the pandemic would see the largest shortfalls in labor, exacerbating the challenges they’ve faced over the past year. Enhanced unemployment may have been reasonable when we wanted workers to stay home, but it’s catastrophic when we want them to go back to work. Meanwhile, Biden’s proposed minimum-wage increase to $15 nationally would eliminate an estimated 1.3 million jobs, hitting low-income states hardest. In Mississippi, where the median wage is $15, as many as half the state’s workers would be at risk. A minimum-wage hike may be high on the Democratic wish list, but it does not belong in an emergency-relief bill. The Biden plan isn’t all Democratic priorities, though. He took a page from Trump’s book and proposed $1,400 checks to households, bringing the second-round total to $2,000. With household income now 8 percent above the pre-pandemic trend, additional checks would do little more than pad savings accounts. Indeed, 80 percent of the recipients of last year’s checks put the money into savings or debt payments, not consumption. The flagship item in Biden’s plan would do little to spur economic growth even on Keynesian assumptions. The same goes for state and local aid, for which Biden is seeking $370 billion on top of $170 billion in public-education grants. The total of $540 billion far surpasses the roughly $50 billion hit to state and local tax revenues last year. As we wrote in December, states and cities are slow to spend federal grants, so the lion’s share of this stimulus would not show up until 2023. Rather than attempting to stimulate the economy, Biden is hoping to launder bailouts of profligate Democratic states through COVID-19 relief. Other parts of the bill — expansions of the earned-income and child-tax credits — are defensible long-term structural reforms, but as year-long emergency measures, they will have the same muted effect as direct checks. By including a slew of proposals unrelated to the pandemic, Biden has weakened his hand in negotiations and made it less likely that urgent measures pass quickly. In the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic policy-makers rose to the occasion. Following an unprecedented external shock, the U.S. economy has emerged in relatively good shape, with less unemployment and bankruptcy than most feared. But the policies implemented to curb COVID-19 are not suited for what will begin to become, over the course of this year, a post-pandemic economy. Biden may have campaigned during a recession, but he is taking office during a recovery. He should govern accordingly.
- The Independent
‘If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors...traitors get shot,' he told his children
China's Sinovac Biotech said on Monday that a clinical trial in Brazil showed its COVID-19 vaccine was almost 20 percentage points more effective in a small sub-group of patients who received their two doses longer apart. The protection rate for 1,394 participants who received doses of either CoronaVac or placebo three weeks apart was nearly 70%, a Sinovac spokesman said. Brazilian researchers announced last week that the vaccine's overall efficacy was 50.4% based on results from more than 9,000 volunteers, most of whom received doses 14 days apart, as outlined in the trial protocol.
Yosemite National Park officials are asking the public’s help for any information regarding a 41-year-old Asian woman who went missing after going on a day hike to the Upper Yosemite Fall last week. The woman was identified as "Alice" Yu Xie, a Chinese national living in the United States, according to a post shared by the park on Saturday. “If you were on the trail to the top of Yosemite Falls on January 14 or 15, 2021, even if you did not see this individual, or have any information regarding this individual, please call 209/372-0216 during business hours, or Yosemite Emergency Communications Center at 209/379-1992 after hours,” the park said.
- The Telegraph
Joe Biden’s second son was a primary target for attacks by Donald Trump during the bitter 2020 presidential campaign. Indeed, it was Trump’s accusations of impropriety on behalf of Hunter Biden that led him to threaten to withhold $391 million (£289 million) in military aid to Ukraine unless they investigated the Biden family’s business dealings. That threat led to the first impeachment of Trump. Born in 1970 to Joe and his first wife Neilia, Hunter’s early life was marred by tragedy. When he was just two years old, he was seriously injured in a car crash that killed his mother and younger sister, Naomi. Family tragedy would strike again in 2015, when his older brother Beau, who served as the Attorney General for the state of Delaware, died of brain cancer aged just 46. Unlike his father and brother, Hunter Biden has attempted to stay away from front-line politics. After graduating from Yale Law School, he joined MBNA Bank, which provided significant contributions to his father’s political campaigns. After a brief stint as a lobbyist, he was appointed by George W Bush to the board of directors of Amtrak, the state-owned railway network company. Live US news updates as Trump leaves office and Biden prepares to be sworn in
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned Monday the world is "on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure" because of unequal COVID-19 vaccine distribution.Why it matters: Tedros noted during an executive session that 39 million vaccine doses had been administered in 49 higher-income countries, while one lowest-income nation had "just 25 doses." Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America. * This "me-first" approach will ultimately "prolong the pandemic, the restrictions needed to contain it, and human and economic suffering," he added.Of note: The WHO itself faced criticism in an interim report on Monday for being slow to respond to the outbreak after it was first detected in late 2019 in China, which was also singled out for failings early on. * "The global pandemic alert system is not fit for purpose," said the preliminary report by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, an independent panel commissioned by the WHO. * "The WHO has been underpowered to do the job."What they're saying: China's public health measures "could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities" in January, said the report's panel of experts, led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. * The experts noted it was unclear why the WHO did not meet until the third week of January 2020, nor why it was unable to agree to declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern until a week later.What to watch: A World Health Organization team of researchers is in Wuhan, China, investigating the origins of the pandemic. * Tedros said his focus is on the roll-out of the global vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX, which is due to begin next month. Over 180 countries have signed up to the WHO-led scheme. * He hopes that by World Health Day on April 7, COVID-19 vaccines "are being administered in every country, as a symbol of hope for overcoming both the pandemic and the inequalities that lie at the root of so many global health challenges."Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
Uganda accused the U.S. ambassador on Tuesday of seeking to subvert last week's presidential election by trying to visit the main opposition candidate at his home, which has been surrounded by security forces since the vote. Troops prevented pop star-turned-legislator Bobi Wine from leaving his house shortly after he returned from voting in Thursday's presidential election, in which he ran against incumbent Yoweri Museveni. On Tuesday Wine said he and his wife had run out of food, and milk for her 18-month-old niece.
- Yahoo News Video
The spokesman for Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert has quit less than two weeks after she was sworn into office, saying he felt like he need to due to the insurrection at the nation's Capitol.
- National Review
President Trump signed an executive order on Monday expanding access to personal firearms for federal law enforcement officials. The order is one of the last of Trump’s presidency, with Joe Biden set to be sworn into office on Wednesday. The purpose of the order is to remove “undue obstacles” for law enforcement officers and prosecutors to obtain concealed carry licenses, as well as to expand protections for prosecutors and judges. “It shall be the policy of the United States to remove any undue obstacle preventing current or retired Federal law enforcement officers from carrying a concealed firearm,” the order states. The order also directs the U.S. Attorney General to “propose a regulation…to provide that the special deputation as a Deputy United States Marshall shall be granted upon request to any Federal prosecutor” who faces risk of harm as a result of his or her work. The special deputation would grant a prosecutor the right to concealed carry of a firearm. It is unclear if the incoming Biden administration will work to carry out the order. Biden announced earlier this month that he will nominate Merrick Garland, the prosecutor who headed the investigation against Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, to the position of attorney general. Biden himself is preparing several executive orders for the first days of his presidency, in an attempt to reverse several Trump administration policies. Among other issues, Biden will rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and end Trump’s immigration restrictions on some Muslim-majority nations.
- Associated Press
At least four people were injured Monday in a string of shootings that prompted an order to shelter in place for a Pennsylvania community in the Pocono Mountains, authorities said. Shots rang out not far from each other in at least four different areas of Monroe County, Pennsylvania. A woman was flown to a hospital with a gunshot wound to her back, while another victim appeared to be shot in the head, Pocono Mountain Regional Police Chief Chris Wagner said at a Monday night news conference, during which he said no suspects had been arrested.
- The Telegraph
Scientists say Colombia must cull its so-called “cocaine hippos” that roam the Magdalena river basin as they are breeding voraciously and are an increasing menace. The marshlands of Colombia have been home to these giant mammals since they were illegally imported in the late 1980s by the notorious drug lord, Pablo Escobar. When he was shot dead in 1993, the Colombian government took control of his extravagant estate, including his personal zoo. Most of the animals were shipped away, but four hippos were left to fend for themselves in a pond, and now there are dozens of them living in the wild. Although nobody knows exactly how many there are, estimates put the total number between 80 and 100, making them the largest invasive species on the planet. Scientists forecast that the number of hippos will swell to almost 1,500 by 2040. They conclude, that at that point, environmental impacts will be irreversible and numbers impossible to control. “Nobody likes the idea of shooting a hippo, but we have to accept that no other strategy is going to work,” ecologist Nataly Castelblanco-Martínez told The Telegraph.
Kevin McCarthy warned members to not call out colleagues by name, citing potential political violence
Members of the House Republican Conference ignored leader Kevin McCarthy last week when he warned them against criticizing colleagues by name based on intelligence that doing so could trigger more political violence. Why it matters: McCarthy made clear that name-dropping opponents, instead of spelling out complaints in more general terms, can put a literal target on a politician, especially with tensions so high following the events of Jan. 6.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.That's what happened to Rep. Liz Cheney, the GOP conference chairperson, after she said she would support impeaching President Trump. * She and several other members had to increase their security and take extra precautions because of death threats and other alarming warnings after their colleagues singled them out in their complaints.What McCarthy said: The House minority leader issued his warning during a conference call last Monday. He said his concern was driven by the FBI briefings he receives. * "It doesn’t matter which side of the position you were: I respect it, I respect why you did what you did. But what we are saying on television, when we say a member’s name. ... This is not the moment in time to do it." * "You can incite something else. The country is very divided and we know this. Let’s not put any member, I don’t care who they are Republican, Democrat or any person not even in Congress. Watch our words closely. I get these reports on a weekly basis. I’ve seen something I haven’t seen before.”Several minutes later, McCarthy repeated the message: “Emotions are high. What you say matters. Let’s not put other people in danger. Let’s watch what words we’re using and definitely not be using other members' names in any media.”Days later, some GOP members ignored him and openly criticized their colleagues * Rep. Adam Kinzinger tweeted that the name of his Republican colleague, Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene, "will be one forgotten by next January." * Rep. Lauren Boebart (R-Colo.) mocked Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the House's new mask fines.One of the most blatant attacks, leading to a media firestorm, was when several members of the House Freedom Caucus went after Cheney for voting to impeach Trump. * On the day of the vote, the members circulated a petition to remove her from her leadership role. * Cheney is now fielding a series of threats against her, many from fiery Trump supporters angered by her vote, a source with direct knowledge of the threat said. * “We don’t comment on security matters,” Cheney’s communications director, Jeremy Adler, told Axios.What we’re hearing: McCarthy's team told Axios he isn't looking for repercussions. Spokesman Matt Sparks said the leader wants to lower the temperature and is encouraging members to be mindful of the current environment.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
- The Independent
Trump news – live: Biden team hits back at decision to reopen travel to UK and Brazil despite Covid surge
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Analysts said the short-lived impact of Lee's detention on share prices is similar to what happened the first time Lee was imprisoned in 2017, despite what may be more reactivity to news and rumours because of increased retail investor participation in the stock market. But corporate governance experts fear Lee's pledge to make compliance a top priority may lose steam, especially because it is no longer a part of his case for leniency. Lee entered a detention centre on Monday after the Seoul High Court sentenced him to prison for bribing an associate of former President Park Geun-hye and other charges.