A Howard County man is charged with making a threat against a federal official over concerns the representative would "mess with" his vote.
- NBC News
Mexico's president said on Monday the U.S. government understood his administration's stance on the case of ex-defence minister Salvador Cienfuegos, who Mexico decided not to prosecute after U.S. authorities had built a case against him. Speaking at a news conference, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Washington understood that Mexico had to defend its authority and prestige in the matter of Cienfuegos, whom U.S. prosecutors had accused of working with drug traffickers. Cienfuegos has denied any wrongdoing.
- Associated Press
- National Review
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The imprisonment of a fourth American could derail a bid by the Biden administration to revive a nuclear agreement with Iran.
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China stands ready to help Kenya deal with its debt challenges, it's embassy in Nairobi said on Monday (January 18) adding that both sides are holding "smooth" talks over the issues. Beijing is one of Kenya's biggest external creditors, having lent billions of dollars for the construction of rail lines and other infrastructure projects in the past decade. But after months of lockdown measures, the East African country's revenues have been pummeled, its debts are falling due and it is grappling with gaping fiscal deficits. In a statement the embassy in Nairobi said China attaches "great importance" to debt suspension and alleviation in African countries, including Kenya. The embassy said China has signed debt service suspension agreements with 12 African countries and provided waivers of matured interest-free loans for 15 under the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative. That scheme allows the world's poorer countries to defer official bilateral payments through to the end of June but last week World Bank President David Malpass, speaking at the Reuters Next conference, expressed frustration at a lack of private sector support for the initiative at a time when many countries are grappling with economic and health crises. "Looking at it from the standpoint of the private sector, they say a contract is a contract. But I guess I would push back and say throughout history there have been occasions where there needs to be deep debt reduction and this clearly is one of those occasions. So I'm, I'm, I urge the private sector to take a look country by country at the over-indebtedness and look for ways to share the burden with the official bilateral creditors." The Chinese embassy did not say whether Kenya will get relief through the same G20 initiative or a separate deal. Last week Kenya secured a debt repayment relief deal with the Paris Club of international lenders and is seeking further relief from other bilateral creditors.
After a probe found "significant errors of judgment and procedure" in the termination of the employee, GitHub's head of human resources resigned, GitHub Chief Operating Officer Erica Brescia said on Sunday. "In light of these findings, we immediately reversed the decision to separate with the employee and are in communication with his representative," Brescia said in a blog https://bit.ly/2KnkVhI, adding that the company apologized to that employee.
- National Review
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- The Telegraph
Conservative MPs were last night ordered by the Government's chief whip to boycott two politically charged votes on Universal Credit and free school meals. Labour has organised debate in the House of Commons Monday on stopping a planned cut to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit in April and free school meals for eligible families during holidays. Conservative MPs had been told that Monday's vote would be a three line whip, requiring them to vote against the motion with the Government. However, Mark Spencer, the Chief Whip, said last night he wanted Tory MPs to abstain altogether although whipping arrangements are yet to be decided. He told The Sunday Telegraph: "We won’t be indulging this party political stunt by Labour which will have no statutory impact. "The last time they did this many female MPs faced harassment, intimidation and even death threats in the aftermath. We are focused on supporting those who need it most through the pandemic, and ensuring no child goes hungry." The votes - which Labour are now likely to win - have no force in law. A Tory source added: “Opposition Day Debates are non-binding and rather than affecting change they stoke political division. “Each time Labour pulls these political stunts Conservative MPs are subjected to verbal abuse, social media threats and criminal damage. “Labour claims it wants to be constructive at this time, if that’s the case it should focus their attention on the national efforts to beat the Coronavirus. We will need to act collectively." The decision came after 50 Conservative members of the Northern Research Group threatened to abstain rather than vote for a cut in Universal Credit and hand ammunition to Labour at the next general election. Last week Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow work and pensions secretary, had urged "Conservative MPs to vote with Labour on Monday to protect families’ incomes". One source at the group claimed that it had forced the Government's hand, saying: "It is first blood to the NRG." Yesterday Robert Halfon MP, the Tory chairman of the Education select committee, also made clear he could not vote against the cut in a message to Tory MPs. Separately the Government is facing a defeat on Tuesday when more than 30 Tory MPs are expected to join Labour MPs and expected back a Lords amendment to give British courts a new role in determining if the Uighur people are suffering genocide in China. Mr Spencer is understood to have held a Zoom meeting for 2019 MPs at 4.30pm yesterday to put pressure on them not to join the rebellion. Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, has been battling to overturn an all party amendment passed in the Lords giving victims of genocide the power to ask the UK high court to determine if genocide is taking place.
- The Independent
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- The Telegraph
To carry out her work, Evgenia Markova had to use an assumed name and keep below the radar of authorities. The 36-year-old is not a spy but rather a truck driver - a profession that was banned for women in Russia until the start of this year. While the early Soviet Union was ahead of much of the West in bringing women into the workplace, a decree in the 1970s barred them from hundreds of professions, supposedly for their safety and to protect their “reproductive abilities”. The law was updated by President Vladimir Putin in 2000, covering not just jobs in heavy industry and transport but also positions as varied as parachutist, car mechanic, and even maker of certain musical instruments. As of this month more than 300 jobs have been opened up to women, following a campaign, meaning Ms Markova's work is now entirely above board. “These changes are really important, they show what is possible and that even the strict Russian law can be rewritten” Ms Markova told the Telegraph.
- 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, policymakers 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 policymakers 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.
- NBC News
Federal law enforcement hasn't had to use significant legal and technical resources at its disposal because of online documentation.
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 Week
Israel has vaccinated at least 25 percent of its population against the coronavirus so far, which leads the world and makes it "the country to watch for herd effects from" the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, says infectious disease expert David Fishman. Recently, the case rate in Israel appears to have declined sharply, and while there could be a few reasons for that, it's possible the vaccination effort is beginning to play a role.> Israel's reproduction number appears to have declined rather sharply in recent days, with around 25% of the country vaccinated, and some additional percentage having at least partial immunity via prior infection. pic.twitter.com/sVyCYYd9dj> > — David Fisman (@DFisman) January 17, 2021One study from Clalit that was published last week reports that 14 days after receiving the first Pfizer-BioNTech shot, infection rates among 200,000 Israelis older than 60 fell 33 percent among those vaccinated compared to 200,000 from the same demographic who hadn't received a jab.At first glance, Fishman writes, that might seem disappointing since clinical trials suggested the vaccine was more than 90 percent effective. But he actually believes the 33 percent figure is "auspicious." Because vaccinated and non-vaccinated people are mingling, there could be "herd effects of immunization." In other words, when inoculated people interact with people who haven't had their shot, the latter individual may still be protected because the other person is. On a larger scale, that would drive down the number of infections among non-vaccinated people, thus shrinking the gap between the two groups' infection rates.> Estimated vaccine efficacy is a function of relative risk of infection in the vaccinated...when there is indirect protection via herd effects, we expect efficacy estimates to decrease because the risk among unvaccinated individuals declines.> > — David Fisman (@DFisman) January 17, 2021More data needs to come in, and Fishman thinks "we'll know more" this week, but he's cautiously optimistic about how things are going.More stories from theweek.com Statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico only needs 50 votes 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump's vaccine delay is getting suspicious
- The Telegraph