By John Irish PARIS (Reuters) - Syria's opposition co-ordinator Riad Hijab accused Russia of killing dozens of children after a bombing raid on Monday and said such action meant the opposition could not negotiate with President Bashar al-Assad's government. Earlier the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 12 Syrian school children had been killed when suspected Russian warplanes hit a classroom in the rebel-held town of Injara in Aleppo province. Hijab, speaking after talks with French President Francois Hollande in Paris, put the death toll at 35 children and said the Russian strikes had hit three schools in total. There was no immediate comment from Moscow, which denies any targeting of civilians in the conflict. "We want to negotiate, but to do that the conditions have to be there," Hijab told reporters. "We cannot negotiate with the regime when there are foreign forces bombing the Syrian people." Hijab is a former prime minister under Assad who defected to the opposition in 2012. He was chosen in December as coordinator of the opposition negotiating body to lead future Syria talks. Peace talks are scheduled to be held between the government and opposition on Jan. 25 under the auspices of the United Nations. However, opposition officials have already cast doubt on whether the talks will go ahead on schedule, citing a need to see goodwill measures from the government side. "We do not want to go to negotiations that are condemned to failure before they start. We need to create the right climate," Hijab said. "How could we negotiate when the Syrian people are dying? Each day there are massacres." He said the talks had to lead to a transitional government with the president and prime minister's full executive powers. "INADMISSIBLE ATTACKS" Hijab said Russia was flaunting U.N. Security Council resolutions by bombing civilians and urged the world body to ensure Russia respected its humanitarian obligations. He also dismissed Syrian government demands that it see a list of opposition members attending the possible talks, saying the opposition would not have choices imposed on them. Earlier on Monday French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called on Moscow and Damascus to stop "inadmissible" attacks against civilians. Hollande and Fabius reiterated the Western view that Assad, who has strong backing from Moscow and Tehran, must relinquish power under any peace settlement. "Bashar al-Assad has no role in the Syria of tomorrow," Hollande said after his talks with Hijab. Fabius said images from Madaya showing people suffering from starvation in the besieged rebel-held town underscored why the Syrian leader should step down. On Monday an aid convoy entered the town where thousands have been trapped. (Additional reporting By Elizabeth Pineau; Editing by Gareth Jones)
- NBC News
First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
President Joe Biden will continue his flurry of executive orders on Monday, signing a new directive to require the federal government to “buy American” for products and services. Why it matters: The executive action is yet another attempt by Biden to accomplish goals administratively without waiting for the backing of Congress. The new order echoes Biden's $400 billion campaign pledge to increase government purchases of American goods.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.What they're saying: "President Biden is ensuring that when the federal government spends taxpayer dollars they are spent on American made goods by American workers and with American-made component parts," the White House said in a fact sheet.The big picture: Biden’s action kick offs another week in which the president will seek to undo many Trump policies with executive actions, while signaling the direction that he wants to take the country. * Biden will also reaffirm his support for the Jones Act, which requires maritime shipments between American ports to be carried on U.S. vessels. * Last week, Biden signed an order to attempt to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors and workers to $15 an hour.The bottom line: Former President Trump also attempted to force the federal government to rely on U.S. manufacturers for procurement with "buy American" provisions. * But supply chains — with some parts and components made outside of the U.S. — require long and complicated efforts to boost domestic manufacturing. Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
California Governor Gavin Newsom's office has decided to lift the orders as ICU availability in the regions that remained under the stay-at-home order, including the Bay area and Southern California are projected to rise above the 15% threshold that triggered the lockdown measures, according https://bit.ly/3sSPOfp to San Francisco Chronicle. California has reported over 3.1 million cases and 36,745 deaths so far, a Reuters tally showed. Strict stay-at-home orders were renewed for much of California in December to avert a crisis in hospitals.
- The Telegraph
The acrimonious split within Republican ranks widened over the weekend as Donald Trump made his foray back into politics, backing the re-election of a hard-line supporter as chair of the party in Arizona. His wholehearted support for Kelli Ward was seen by allies as the former president firing a warning shot across the bows of any Republican senators considering backing his impeachment. Underlining Mr Trump’s grip on the Republican grassroots, the Arizona party also voted to censure John McCain’s widow, Cindy, former senator Jeff Flake and governor Doug Ducey, who refused to back the former president’s claims of election fraud. Mr Trump’s intervention came amid reports that he is considering setting up a “Patriot Party” which would spearhead primary challenges to his opponents in the 2022 mid-term elections. The former president has already amassed a massive war chest with his Save America political action committee declaring last month that it had raked in $207.5 million in donations.
- Associated Press
The Supreme Court declined Monday to take up the case of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is serving a 6 1/2-year prison sentence after being convicted in a corruption case. The high court's decision not to hear Silver's appeal is another sharp blow to the Manhattan Democrat, who was once one of the three most powerful state officials. Silver was ousted as speaker in 2015 and was convicted later that year.
- The Independent
First family orders sesame bagels with cream cheese
- Yahoo News Video
Israeli authorities on Monday extradited a former teacher accused of sexually abusing her former students in Australia, capping a six-year legal battle that had strained relations between the two governments and antagonized Australia's Jewish community.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Monday he will not run for a third term in the U.S. Senate in 2022, citing "partisan gridlock."Why it matters: It's a surprise retirement from a prominent Senate Republican who easily won re-election in 2016 and was expected to do so again in 2022, creating an open Senate seat in a red-leaning swing state.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.Between the lines: Portman was one of the Republican senators who said that former President Trump "bears some responsibility" for the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. His decision not to seek re-election will free him from the political constraints of voting to convict Trump in his upcoming impeachment trial, though it's not yet clear whether he will choose to do so.What they're saying: "I don’t think any Senate office has been more successful in getting things done, but honestly, it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision," Portman said in a statement. * “We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties are being pushed further to the right and further to the left, and that means too few people who are actively looking to find common ground." * "This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but a problem that has gotten worse over the past few decades."Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
Tacoma Police spokeswoman Wendy Haddow said police were alerted to the street racers and a 100-person crowd blocking area streets, according to the News Tribune. When the patrol car responded, the crowd began pounding on the vehicle's windows, she told local media. “He was afraid they would break his glass,” Haddow told the News Tribune, saying the officer sped away from the scene for his own safety.
- The Week
Senate Democrats are drawing a line at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) demand that a power-sharing agreement in the 50-50 Senate include a pledge to retain the legislative filibuster. "If we gave him that, then the filibuster would be on everything, every day," Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) told NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday's Meet the Press. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered McConnell "word for word" the same power-sharing agreement used in the first half of 2001, and McConnell's insistence on adding the filibuster pledge is "a non-starter."But until Schumer and McConnell reach agreement on the Senate's operating rules, Republicans still retain much of the majority they lost last Wednesday."Without an organizing accord, Republicans remain in the majority of most Senate committees," and "veteran Democrats eager to seize the gavels and advance their long dormant agendas can only wait and wonder," The Washington Post explains. "Newly sworn-in Democratic senators cannot get committee assignments until an organizational deal is struck," leaving the old GOP-majority structures in place, and "Democrats can't unilaterally impose an organizing agreement because they would need Republican support to block a filibuster."The filibuster has evolved into a sclerotic de facto requirement for a 60-senator supermajority on all legislation. Frustration with obstruction by the minority led Senate Democrats to end the filibuster for some presidential appointees and lower-court judges in 2013, and McConnell continued eroding the filibuster as majority leader, killing it for Supreme Court nominees and further easing the confirmation of presidential appointees.A handful of Democratic centrists would prefer to keep the filibuster — for now. But there is mounting pressure from inside and outside the chamber. "There is absolutely no reason to give Sen. McConnell months and months to prove what we absolutely know — that he is going to continue his gridlock and dysfunction from the minority," said Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for the anti-filibuster liberal coalition Fix Our Senate.More stories from theweek.com Trump must be prosecuted Josh Hawley knows exactly what he's doing Moderna working on booster shot to increase protection against South African coronavirus variant
- The Telegraph
Italy’s interior minister has intervened in a row in Naples over the painting of giant murals that pay tribute to the blighted lives and violent exploits of teenage criminals. Italians have adopted a curious English phrase, “baby bosses”, to describe the young gangsters, who frequently lose their lives in confrontations with police on the streets of the southern city. Such “bosses” are said to be members of “baby gangs” – another curious Italo-English invention that denotes groups of delinquents and drifters. Authorities in Naples want to scrub out or paint over two large murals which adorn the sides of buildings. They depict two young men, Ugo Russo and Luigi Caiafa, who were shot dead in separate incidents last year by police officers during robbery attempts. A mural dedicated to Russo depicts his face and the words Verità e Giustizia – Truth and Justice. He was killed when he tried to rob an off-duty police officer last year.
- NBC News
The Biden administration aims for 100 million vaccinations within his first 100 days as president.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), incoming chair of the Senate Budget Committee who caucuses with the Democrats, told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that Democrats plan to push a coronavirus relief package through the chamber with a simple majority vote. Why it matters: "Budget reconciliation" would allow Democrats to forgo the Senate's 60-vote requirement and could potentially speed-up the next relief package for millions of unemployed Americans. Democrats hold the the 50-50 split in the Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.What he's saying: "What we cannot do is wait weeks and weeks and months to go forward. We have got to act now," Sanders said. * "We're going to use reconciliation — that's 50 votes in the Senate, plus the vice president — to pass legislation desperately needed by working families in this country right now." * When asked if he wants a relief bill passed before former President Trump's impeachment trial begins the week of Feb. 8, he said: "We've got to do everything. This is not — you don't have the time to sit around, weeks on impeachment and not get vaccines into the arms of people."Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
The European Union urged AstraZeneca on Monday to find ways to swiftly deliver vaccines after the company announced a large cut in supplies of its COVID-19 shot to the bloc, as news emerged the drugmaker also faced supply problems elsewhere. In a sign of the EU's frustration - after Pfizer also announced supply delays earlier in January - a senior EU official told Reuters the bloc would in the coming days require pharmaceutical companies to register COVID-19 vaccine exports. AstraZeneca, which developed its shot with Oxford University, told the EU on Friday it could not meet agreed supply targets up to the end of March, with an EU official involved in the talks telling Reuters that meant a 60% cut to 31 million doses.
- Associated Press
A 34-year-old grizzly bear captured in southwestern Wyoming has been confirmed as the oldest on record in the Yellowstone region, Wyoming wildlife officials said. Grizzly bear 168 was captured last summer after it preyed on calves in the Upper Green River Basin area. Biologists learned of the bear’s longevity after euthanizing the bruin, which had preyed on cattle and then finally, calves.
- Business Insider
Barely any time has passed since President Biden's inauguration, and Republicans have already returned to their bag of shenanigans.
New Zealand on Monday confirmed its first case of COVID-19 in the community in months in a 56-year-old woman, but said close contacts of the recently returned traveller had so far tested negative. The woman, who returned to New Zealand on Dec. 30, had tested positive for the South African strain of the virus after leaving a two-week mandatory quarantine where she had twice tested negative, COVID-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said. China reported a climb in new COVID-19 cases driven by a spike in infections among previously symptomless patients in northeastern Jilin province, official data showed on Monday.
- The Independent
Michael Cohen said the ‘pocket pardon’ could be the ‘get out of jail free card’ for Donald Trump
- Associated Press
California lifted regional stay-at-home orders across the state Monday in response to improving coronavirus conditions, returning the state to a system of county-by-county restrictions, state health officials announced. The order had been in place in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, covering the majority of the state's counties.
- The Telegraph
China ramped up its pressure on democratic Taiwan over the weekend, with an unusually large number of fighter jets approaching the island in a "test" for the new administration of US President Joe Biden. On Sunday, 12 Chinese fighter jets entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, along with a reconnaissance aircraft and two anti-submarine aircraft, Taiwan’s defence ministry said. A day earlier, China sent eight bomber planes capable of carrying nuclear weapons and four fighter jets to the same area to the southwest of the island, as well as one reconnaissance aircraft. On both occasions, Taiwan sent up aircraft, issued radio warnings to the Chinese aircraft, and deployed air defence missile systems to monitor their activity. Beijing claims self-governing Taiwan as part of its territory, and has been angered by a show of increased US support for Taiwan during Donald Trump’s administration. In recent months, China has carried out frequent, at times daily, incursions aimed at pressuring President Tsai Ing-wen’s government to accept Beijing’s demand that it recognise Taiwan as part of China. These incursions have usually consisted of just one or two reconnaissance planes in recent weeks, rather than the warplanes seen over the weekend.