By Antoni Slodkowski TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe headed to Russia on Friday in a show of support for President Vladimir Putin at the Sochi Olympics, just hours after headlining a rally demanding that Moscow return islands seized from Japan. Abe's trip to attend the Games and hold his fifth summit with Putin since taking office 13 months ago, despite the seven-decade territorial dispute, stands in marked contrast to Japan's sharply deteriorating ties with China and South Korea, involving spats over tiny uninhabited islands. For Putin, the appearance of G7 leader Abe at Friday's opening ceremony provides a high-profile seal of approval. The Russian leader faces global criticism over the country's human rights record and a recent law against gay "propaganda," which opponents say curtails the rights of homosexuals. U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German President Joachim Gauck are not attending the Games. The U.S. delegation includes three openly gay representatives. Russia's domestic policies have not provoked controversy in Japan, but the territorial dispute forms the backdrop to Abe's trip. He left after addressing an annual "Northern Territories Day" gathering, meant to pressure Russia to return the islands, which Russia says comprise the southern end of its Kurile chain. "While developing Japan-Russia ties as a whole, we have to finally solve the biggest so-far unresolved issue, that is the Northern Territories issue, and to sign the peace treaty with Russia," said Abe addressing the gathering in Tokyo. "This is why I will engage in tenacious negotiations with Russia," Abe added, speaking from a stage with the slogan "Return the Four Northern Islands" and the Japanese flag at his back. Also attending were ministers, lawmakers and representatives of political parties, as well as former island residents. One woman who used to live on the islands broke down in tears as she recounted how she had been made to leave. Moscow took the islands east of Hokkaido days before Japan surrendered in World War Two, forcing 17,000 Japanese to leave. The often acrimonious dispute has kept the two countries from signing a peace treaty. Abe and Putin - said to be on a first-name basis - have not let the dispute block progress in diplomacy centering on natural gas and other resources. By contrast, the leaders of China and Korea have rebuffed Abe's repeated calls to meet. Besides the isle spats, Abe angered Beijing and Seoul with a December pilgrimage to a shrine they see as a symbol of Tokyo's past militarism. Russia, too, criticized the shrine visit, but did not let it derail ties with Japan. Abe's Sochi trip is "a manifestation that country-to-country relations are moving in a good direction," said former prime minister Yoshiro Mori, who has longstanding ties with Russia and has done much of the legwork for Abe's bilateral diplomacy. Mori told reporters the two sides are trying to arrange for Putin to visit Japan in the autumn. Abe has made ties with Russia a priority, starting with a first-in-a-decade Moscow summit. Talks are to continue this year, although neither side expects a swift end to the dispute. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed the opening of the talks in Moscow last month but stressed that recognition of the outcome of the war would be vital. Moscow wants to bolster its position in East Asia as it warily watches the growth of China's influence in the region. "Putin, for his part, just like Obama, is shifting towards East Asia," said Nobuo Shimotomai, professor at Hosei University in Tokyo. "He aims to do that by playing Russia's soft-power trump card, that is by selling energy to the region's countries," he said. A dramatic transformation is underway in Russia's energy sector, with oil flows being redirected to Asia via the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline. Russia plans to at least double oil and gas flows to Asia over the next 20 years, as it pivots away from export routes to Europe. That spells opportunity for Japan, which has been forced to import huge volumes of fossil fuel to replace its entire nuclear power industry, shut down after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima plant. Japan now consumes a third of global liquefied natural gas shipments, a key reason for its record 18 months of trade deficits. Russian gas lies on Japan's doorstep and already makes up about a tenth of its LNG imports. That could rise as Tokyo is desperate to diversify and slash costs of energy imports. (Editing by William Mallard and Clarence Fernandez)
- The Independent
‘There was a protocol breach when the front doors were not held open’
- The Week
The evenly split Senate is having a hard time agreeing who's in charge.Georgia's two new Democratic senators were sworn in Wednesday, giving Republicans and Democrats 50 senators each, with Vice President Kamala Harris as a Democratic tiebreaker. The two parties are now working out a power-sharing agreement, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) commitment to the filibuster is standing in the way.McConnell on Thursday formally acknowledged Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as the chamber's new majority leader. But as he has been for days, McConnell again implored Democrats to preserve the filibuster that lets a senator extend debate and block a timely vote on a bill if there aren't 60 votes to stop it. Democrats "have no plans to gut the filibuster further, but argue it would be a mistake to take one of their tools off the table just as they're about to govern," Politico reports; More progressive senators do want to remove the option completely.If his filibuster demands aren't met, McConnell has threatened to block the Senate power-sharing agreement that would put Democrats in charge of the body's committees. But Democrats already seem confident in their newfound power, with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) telling Politico that "Chuck Schumer is the majority leader and he should be treated like majority leader." Giving in to McConnell "would be exactly the wrong way to begin," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) echoed.Other Democrats shared their resistance to McConnell's demands in tweets. > McConnell is threatening to filibuster the Organizing Resolution which allows Democrats to assume the committee Chair positions. It's an absolutely unprecedented, wacky, counterproductive request. We won the Senate. We get the gavels.> > -- Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 21, 2021> So after Mitch McConnell changed the Senate rules at a blistering pace during his 6 years in charge, he is threatening to filibuster the Senate's organizing resolution unless the Democratic majority agrees to never change the rules again.> > Huh.> > -- Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 21, 2021More stories from theweek.com McConnell is already moving to strangle the Biden presidency 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Tom Brokaw is retiring from NBC News after 55 years
Beau Biden, who served in the Guard, is buried at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church cemetery in Greenville, Delaware.
America may not have won World War II and landed on the moon later if not for the contributions of a brilliant Chinese scientist named Qian Xuesen. Fearing communist presence after the war, the U.S., however, deported Qian to China, clueless that he would eventually spearhead programs that would target American troops and eventually propel China into space. Born to well-educated parents in 1911, it was evident from an early age that Qian had superior intellect.
- Yahoo News Video
President Joe Biden issued a warning Wednesday to his appointees that a hostile workplace will not be allowed in his administration.
- The Independent
Michael Flynn’s brother reveals he was involved in Capitol riot response after Army denied it, report says
Apparent U-turn by Pentagon officials could pose questions about police response
- Architectural Digest
800 feet up in the sky, the Dreamy 6,000 square foot space offers panoramic views from the East River to the HudsonOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- Associated Press
The master tenant of a San Francisco Bay Area warehouse where 36 people perished when a fire ignited during a 2016 dance party pleaded guilty Friday to the deaths, avoiding a second trial after the first ended in a hung jury. Derick Almena, 50, pleaded guilty to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a 12-year sentence. Already free on bail, Almena likely won't return to jail because of the nearly three years he already spent behind bars and credit for good behavior.
Donald Trump issued a list of pardons during his final hours as U.S. president but did not include himself, his children, or personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, even though advisers said he had privately debated the extraordinary step of a self-pardon. What may have guided Trump's decision not to pardon himself and members of his inner circle? Presidential pardons can only accomplish so much.
- National Review
Biden Admonishes Reporter for Questioning Whether Vaccine Goal Is Ambitious Enough: ‘Give Me a Break’
President Biden pushed back on a reporter at a press briefing on Thursday, who questioned whether the new administration’s coronavirus vaccine goal is ambitious enough. Biden has set a goal to vaccinate 100 million Americans during his first 100 days in office. During the press conference, Biden called the Trump administration’s distribution of coronavirus vaccines a “dismal failure so far,” warning that “things are going to continue to get worse before they get better.” However, the seven-day rolling average for coronavirus vaccine doses administered to Americans currently sits at 912,000, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker. (On Wednesday alone, 1.6 million doses were administered.) This indicates that the Biden administration is not far from its goal of vaccinating one million Americans per day. On Thursday, Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller asked Biden if the vaccination goal was “high enough,” since “that’s basically where the U.S. is right now.” “When I announced it you all said it wasn’t possible. Come on, give me a break, man,” Biden responded. “It’s a good start, a hundred million.” Internal projections from the Trump administration showed that the U.S. could administer at least 170 million doses by the end of April, two Trump administration officials told Bloomberg. During the press conference, Biden also announced that he would invoke the Defense Production Act to “accelerate the making of everything that’s needed to protect, test, and vaccinate and the care of our people.” Biden warned that the death toll from coronavirus infections would hit 500,000 in February. Over 408,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 as of Thursday.
- The Telegraph
Families who lost relatives during Wuhan's initial outbreak of coronavirus are being blocked in their legal efforts to hold the Chinese authorities responsible for the deaths, one year after lockdown first went in place at ground zero of the pandemic. Five families accuse the municipal and provincial governments for covering up the outbreak, neglecting to notify the public, and failing to act swiftly, causing infections to explode. More than two million people globally have died from coronavirus. The Telegraph has interviewed four of the five trying to bring unprecedented lawsuits, most of whom are seeking 2 million yuan (£226,000) each in reparations. They told this newspaper of a campaign of harassment and denial of justice. Chinese courts have rejected all lawsuits they have tried to file, though they continue to persist by attempting to sue at higher courts, defying government threats that have scared dozens of others into giving up. Pursuing their cases poses immense risks as they’re challenging China’s official narrative, which claims authorities acted swiftly and with transparency to contain Covid-19, glossing over missteps and the silencing of whistleblowers.
An initial report said he had been found unresponsive.
Returned Honduran migrants are directing anger against their president this week after their U.S.-bound caravan was blocked by the region's security forces, accusing him of making their county unlivable while thwarting their escape to a better life. Honduras is reeling from two back-to-back hurricanes that devastated Central America in November, as well as an historic economic contraction on the back of coronavirus pandemic. President Juan Orlando Hernandez has also been under fire from U.S. prosecutors that have accused him of having ties to drug cartels, an allegation he has strongly denied.
- National Review
President Joe Biden is planning to run for a second term in 2024, according to Senator Chris Coons (D., Del.), a close ally to Biden. “He is planning to run again,” Coons told Politico’s Transition Playbook last weekend. “He knows that we are at the middle of an absolute turning point, a pivot point in American history. And he’s up for the challenge.” Whether Biden will seek a second term has been the subject of much speculation as the Democrat, at 78 years old, became the oldest candidate ever elected to the presidency. Biden’s decision to run for a second term will be of great consequence to those in his party who may look to run after his time in office has ended, including Vice President Kamala Harris. According to Politico, some outside advisers have encouraged the president to declare or file for reelection immediately to silence any lame-duck talk, as former President Donald Trump did on Inauguration Day in 2017. Biden’s team has instead insisted that Biden should focus on COVID-19 and economic recovery efforts rather than 2024. Biden reportedly signaled to aides in December 2019 that he was considering serving just one term or making a one-term pledge, according to Ryan Lizza. Though Biden pushed back against those reports saying, “I don’t have any plans on one term.” After his primary win, he told donors that he views himself as a “transition candidate,” acting as a bridge to a younger generation of leadership. However, aides to Biden say he has been emboldened by his election win, according to Politico. Every newly elected president has run for reelection since Grover Cleveland in 1988 — Calvin Coolidge, Lyndon Johnson and Harry Truman did not run a second time but served partial terms after the deaths of their predecessors, before winning election.
- The Telegraph
The South African Covid variant could make current vaccines 50 per cent less effective, Matt Hancock has claimed. In video footage of a webinar with travel agents, the Health Secretary warned that the importation of the variant could ruin Britain's vaccination drive and send the country "back to square one" without tough travel restrictions. Mr Hancock is among a number of ministers pushing for tougher travel restrictions modelled on Australia and New Zealand, which have closed their borders to non-residents and require all returning nationals to quarantine in Government-approved hotels. Speaking ahead of a Cabinet Covid-O Cabinet meeting at which ministers will consider similar UK border closures and quarantine hotels, Mr Hancock admitted that the data showing the South African variant reduced vaccine efficacy by 50 per cent was not certain "so I wouldn’t say this in public". He added: "Nevertheless, if you vaccinate the entire population and then you get in a new variant that evaded the vaccine, then you'd be back to square one. And so tougher international restrictions are the price that, for instance, Australia has paid for stronger domestic protection, as in more life getting back to normal domestically."
- NBC News
A woman has been arrested and charged with murder after the dismembered remains of her missing roommate, Talina Galloway, were found in a freezer in the woods of Polk County, Arkansas last week. Talina, 53, was reported missing by her roommate, Kore Bommeli on April 17, 2020. Talina’s remains were found in the freezer on January 14, 2021. Bommeli, who has been a person of interest throughout the investigation, was located in Wisconsin and faces charges of murder and desecration of a corpse. Th
- The Week
Majority of House GOP reportedly supports removing Liz Cheney from leadership after impeachment vote
House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney is facing an internal resistance after splitting from her party on former President Donald Trump's impeachment.Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House, was one of only a handful of Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over his role in inciting the Capitol riot. More than a majority of GOP House members have since indicated they'd support ousting Cheney from her leadership spot, while at least two other Republicans have lined up to replace her, Politico reports.At least 107 House members — more than half the caucus — privately support removing Cheney from power, multiple GOP sources involved in the effort told Politico. Meanwhile New York Reps. Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin, who defended Trump during both of his impeachments, are reportedly looking to replace her.House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) have said they don't intend to remove Cheney. But McCarthy also echoed Republicans' reported anger that Cheney voiced her support of impeachment the day before the House vote, giving Democrats time to use her views in their own arguments. "Questions need to be answered," such as the "style in which things were delivered," McCarthy told reporters Thursday.Many other Republicans, including some who voted against impeachment, meanwhile don't want Cheney removed just for "vot[ing] her conscience," as Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) put it. Others argue removing Cheney would fly in the face of the party's unification message in the post-Trump era — something Cheney herself is trying to counter by making "making calls to all corners of the conference to hear lawmakers out," Politico reports.More stories from theweek.com McConnell is already moving to strangle the Biden presidency 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Tom Brokaw is retiring from NBC News after 55 years
A man who went missing while snorkelling off the Australian coast may have been taken by a shark, authorities said on Friday, after a search operation found pieces of diving equipment. The man went missing late on Thursday while snorkelling near Port MacDonnell, on the country's south coast, sparking an air and sea search, police said. "We haven't recovered any remains but there are a few remaining areas of interest that we want to explore, but the search will be scaled down," the Australian Broadcasting Corp quoted South Australia Police Limestone Coast operations manager Campbell Hill as saying.
- The Independent
Sean Hannity denounces Biden’s first week as ‘disastrous’ before the president completed a full day of work
‘The Biden administration is off to a very rocky start,’ Fox News host says
- Associated Press
The three National Guard members killed when a helicopter crashed in an upstate New York field this week were experienced pilots with past deployments to Afghanistan, officials said Friday. Killed in the crash were Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, 54, of Rochester, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch, 39, of Honeoye Falls, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial, 30 of Rochester, according to the National Guard.