By Dasha Afanasieva ANKARA (Reuters) - Russian air strikes in northwest Syria which Moscow said targeted Islamic State fighters hit a rebel group supported by Western opponents of President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, wounding eight, the group's commander said. He said the fighters were hit in the countryside of Hama province, where the group has a headquarters. "The northern countryside of Hama has no presence of ISIS at all and is under the control of the Free Syrian Army," Major Jamil al-Saleh, who defected from the Syrian army in 2012, told Reuters via Skype. Saleh said his group had been supplied with advanced anti-tank missiles by foreign powers opposed to Assad. Russia's defense ministry said it launched air strikes against Islamic State in Syria after President Vladimir Putin secured his parliament's unanimous backing to intervene to prop up Kremlin's closest Middle East ally. Although a U.S. official said targets in Homs area appeared to have been struck by Russian warplanes, instead of areas held by Islamic State. The Homs area is crucial to President Bashar al-Assad's control of western Syria. Insurgent control of that area would bisect the Assad-held west, separating Damascus from the coastal cities of Latakia and Tartous, where Russia operates a naval facility. "In the early morning this aircraft conducted air strikes in Latamneh city. One targeted a civilian area, and the other targeted al-Izza," Saleh said, referring to his group which he said were set up around two years ago and has 1,500 fighters. He declined to give further details on the exact location of the strike but said the bombs hit a cave which the group used as a headquarters and was near the front line with the regime in northern Hama countryside. "Each strike had 8-10 missiles and there were two strikes so there is no way it was an accident," he added. Moscow gave Washington an hour's notice of the strikes, which set in train Russia's biggest play in the region since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, a U.S. official said. A U.S.-led coalition has already been bombing Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but Putin derided U.S. efforts to end the Syria war at the United Nations on Monday, suggesting a broader and more coordinated coalition was needed to defeat the militants. (Reporting by Dasha Afanasieva; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; editing by Dominic Evans)
- NBC News
"The situation at the border isn't going to be transformed overnight," a senior Biden transition official told NBC News in an exclusive interview.
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.
- The Week
The FBI on Monday shared with law enforcement agencies an intelligence report warning that far-right extremists have talked about going to D.C. for the inauguration and posing as National Guard members, The Washington Post reports.The Post obtained a copy of the document, which said "lone wolves" and QAnon followers — including some who participated in the mob that stormed the Capitol earlier this month — have indicated they intend on traveling to Washington for the inauguration. The report also said people have been observed downloading and distributing maps of sensitive locations in D.C.The briefing did not include any specific plots, the Post reports, and noted that "numerous" extremist groups and militias have publicly stated they don't want to see any violence targeting the transition of power. At the request of the FBI, the Post did not share all of the details inside the intelligence report, in order to protect intelligence-gathering methods and avoid publicizing security vulnerabilities.The Secret Service coordinates all security for the inauguration, while the FBI gathers intelligence on threats made against the event. Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray said agents are monitoring an "extensive amount of concerning online chatter" and it can be difficult to "distinguish what's aspirational versus what's intentional."More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico only needs 50 votes What the Constitution really says about removal from office
- Associated Press
A court in Thailand on Tuesday sentenced a former civil servant to a record prison term of 43 years and six months for breaching the country's strict law on insulting or defaming the monarchy, lawyers said. The Bangkok Criminal Court found the woman guilty on 29 counts of violating the country’s lese majeste law for posting audio clips to Facebook and YouTube with comments deemed critical of the monarchy, the group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said. “Today’s court verdict is shocking and sends a spine-chilling signal that not only criticisms of the monarchy won’t be tolerated, but they will also be severely punished,” said Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for the group Human Rights Watch.
Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sydney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America. * The letter also orders Lindell to "preserve and retain all documents relating to Dominion and your smear campaign against the company." * Lindell also must preserve all communications with any member of the Trump campaign, in addition to communications with Rudy Giuliani, Powell, Jenna Ellis and Lin Wood. The big picture: Lindell met with Trump last week and was caught by photographers with notes referencing martial law and Sidney Powell. The CEO has become known for pedaling election-overturning conspiracies and last year promoted a fake cure to the coronavirus. What they're saying: Dominion's letter reads... "Despite knowing your implausible attacks against Dominion have no basis in reality, you have participated in the vast and concerted misinformation campaign to slander Dominion ... Litigation regarding these issues is imminent."A spokesperson for My Pillow did not immediately return a request for comment. Read the full letter here: Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
During an interview, he recalls his colleague ‘taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the 3rd and before the 6th.’ Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) revealed he witnessed Congresswoman Lauren Boebert leading a group through the Capitol building in the days before the riot. “We saw Congressman Boebert taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the 3rd and before the 6th,” Cohen remarked on CNN.
- National Review
A senior Biden transition official is warning migrants hoping to cross the southern border into the U.S. during the early days of the new administration that “now is not the time” to come. “There’s help on the way, but now is not the time to make the journey,” an unnamed Biden official said, NBC News reported. The Biden administration is looking to end the Trump administration’s policy of requiring that migrants wait in Mexico as immigration courts consider their asylum applications. Those who have been waiting at the border will be considered first for entry over migrants who only recently arrived. Additionally, the Biden administration will scrap the stricter restrictions the previous administration imposed on asylum seekers, which limit who is eligible for entry. However, any immigration legislation proposed by the Biden administration will address illegal immigrants living in the U.S. rather than new migrants arriving at the border, the official said. “The situation at the border isn’t going to be transformed overnight,” the official explained, saying that migrants seeking to gain asylum right away “need to understand they’re not going to be able to come into the United States immediately.” A caravan of about 2,000 Honduran migrants desperate to reach the U.S. forced their way past Guatemalan authorities Friday night and are expected to reach the southern border within the next few weeks. The caravan “will not find when they get to the U.S. border that from Tuesday to Wednesday, things have changed overnight and ports are all open and they can come into the United States,” the official cautioned. “We have to provide a message that help and hope is on the way, but coming right now does not make sense for their own safety … while we put into place processes that they may be able to access in the future,” the official said. In 2018, just before the midterm elections, a caravan of thousands of Central American migrants headed for America’s southern border. Similarly, in early 2017, just before President Trump took office, a caravan made its way to the border, drawing the ire of Trump.
- The Telegraph
Miners trapped underground in eastern China for more than a week after a blast at a gold mine have managed to send up a note to rescuers, the local government said on Monday. The blast occurred eight days ago on Sunday afternoon at a mine near Qixia city in eastern Shandong province, leaving 22 miners trapped underground more than 600 metres from the mine’s entrance. After a long period without any contact, rescuers were able to drill through the mine on Sunday afternoon and said they heard "knocking sounds". A note was then sent up from the trapped miners saying that 12 were still alive, the local government said in a statement Monday. "We are in urgent need of cold medicine, painkillers, medical tape, external anti-inflammatory drugs, and three people have high blood pressure," the note read.
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.
The officer who may have saved the life of Vice President Mike Pence could now be giving him the side-eye. The cop hailed as a hero for leading a crowd of insurrectionists away from the Senate floor and potentially saving hundreds of lawmakers’ lives has, perhaps, left the vice president on read. Vice President Mike Pence has reportedly reached out to thank Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman for his heroism on Jan. 6, but they have yet to connect.
- The Independent
‘I really can’t keep the ARs on the wall’ gun store manager says as enthusiasts stock up over fears new administration will enact gun-control laws
- 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.
- National Review
Russian security forces detained Alexei Navalny on Sunday immediately upon his return to Moscow, where he traveled after recovering in Germany from a near-fatal poisoning attack, and placed him before a judge Monday morning at a police station. Navalny’s lawyers learned of the hearing just minutes before it began at a police station, instead of a normal courtroom, in the outskirts of Moscow. The judge allotted the attorneys just 30 minutes to familiarize themselves with the case and another 20 minutes to speak to their client. “I’ve seen a lot of mockery of justice… But this is impossible what is happening now,” Navalny said in a video posted by his press secretary before the hearing. “It is the highest degree of lawlessness.” Police asked the court for Navalny to be formally placed under arrest for 30 days, according to the director of Navalny’s foundation. Navalny was already scheduled to appear at a January 29 hearing on charges that he had violated the parole terms of a previous suspended sentence by staying in Germany while undergoing treatment, the reason for which he was officially detained. He received the earlier suspended prison sentence and probation order in 2014 for embezzlement and money laundering, a case which the European Court of Human Rights in 2018 called politically motivated. He has called the criminal cases against him “fabricated” and said the authorities’ intent is to deter him from returning. Russian prosecutors opened a new criminal investigation into Navalny in December, accusing him of taking donations from his Anti-Corruption Foundation. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday called for the opposition leader’s “immediate and unconditional release,” and said his detention was “the latest in a series of attempts to silence Navalny and other opposition figures.” Jake Sullivan, the incoming national security adviser for President-elect Joe Biden, also called for Navalny’s immediate release, tweeting that “the perpetrators of the outrageous attack on his life must be held accountable.” Navalny nearly died over the summer after being poisoned by Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent. He had been on a flight to Moscow after meeting with supporters in Siberia when he fell ill. The Russian dissident blames Russian President Vladimir Putin for the poisoning, though the Kremlin has denied having any involvement. Putin said last month that if Russian intelligence agents had sought to kill Navalny, “we would have finished the job.” Meanwhile, western intelligence officials and scientists who helped develop the nerve agent say it can only be obtained through military and security circles.
Uganda's government spokesman accused the United States on Tuesday of trying to subvert last week's presidential elections after the U.S. ambassador attempted to visit an opposition leader being held under house arrest. The military surrounded the home of popstar-turned-legislator Bobi Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, shortly after he cast his ballot in Thursday's presidential elections. Incumbent Yoweri Museveni, 76, who has been in power since 1986, was declared winner of the poll with 59% of the vote against Wine's 35%.
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 Independent
Trump news – live: Biden team hits back at decision to reopen travel to UK and Brazil despite Covid surge
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U.S. President-elect Joe Biden may end the Keystone XL pipeline project as one of his first acts in office, a source familiar with his thinking told Reuters it could happen as early as day one. Biden, who will be inaugurated on Wednesday, was vice president when Barack Obama rejected the $9 billion project in 2015. Then two years later, Donald Trump issued a presidential permit that allowed the line to move forward. Since then the project has seen opposition by environmentalists seeking to check Canada's oil industry and Native Americans whose land faced encroachment. Construction of the pipeline is well underway and if completed, would move oil from Canada's Alberta province to the U.S. state of Nebraska. In his 2020 run for president, Biden vowed to scrap its permit once elected. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Saturday, the words 'rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit' appeared on his list of Biden's executive actions likely scheduled for his first day. Biden's team did not respond to a request for comment, but Canada's ambassador to the U.S. said she looks forward to a decision that fits both countries' environmental protection plans. In a statement, Ambassador Kirsten Hillman said: "There is no better partner for the U.S. on climate action than Canada as we work together for green transition." Meanwhile Alberta's Premier tweeted he was "deeply concerned" by the report, adding the decision would kill jobs, increase U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and weaken U.S.-Canada relations.
- The Telegraph
A beauty firm executive has been ordered to pay £600 costs after his Irish Setter puppy mauled a deer in Richmond Park leading bystanders to form a human shield around the wounded animal. Franck Hiribarne was training his pet Alfie in the royal park in south-west London when the gun dog gave chase to the deer forcing it to run onto the road where it was struck by a car. Footage shared on social media showed Alfie circling the injured deer before biting and dragging in front of bystanders who responded by attempting to protect the animal by forming a human shield around it.
"This is also a desire that's shared by other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries," he told Bloomberg TV https://bloom.bg/369WLz9 in an interview. The Qatari foreign minister added that his government was supporting ongoing discussions between Iran and South Korea to secure the release of an oil tanker seized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard early this month.
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.