By Massimiliano Di Giorgio ROME (Reuters) - Police in six European countries arrested at least 15 suspected members of a militant Islamist group that was planning attacks in Norway and the Middle East, Italian authorities said on Thursday. They said the militants planned to strike Norwegian and British diplomats in the Middle East and politicians in Norway but gave no further information about the potential targets or the time frame for any attacks. Police in Oslo said there had never been a "concrete or acute threat" against any Norwegian citizens or interests. Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said preventative measures had worked, but no country was immune. "Our country is exposed to the risk of international terrorism because we are part of the broad international coalition that is fighting (Islamic State's self-proclaimed) caliphate," he said. The early-morning raids targeted the Rawti Shax group, which police said was a Kurdish Sunni Muslim association dedicated to overthrowing the government of Iraq's Kurdistan region and installing rule by sharia, the Islamic code of law and morals. Italy's national Carabinieri police led the investigation, with security forces in Italy, Britain, Norway, Finland, Germany and Switzerland taking part in Thursday's swoop. Rawti Shax, which means "The New Course", also has cells in Greece, Sweden, Iraq, Iran and Syria, according to the European Union's judicial cooperation unit Eurojust. "This was an incredibly difficult and complicated investigation that has been going on for five years," said prosecutor Franco Roberti, the head of Italy's anti-mafia and anti-terrorism unit. A total of 17 arrest warrants were issued, almost all for Iraqi Kurds, and 15 suspects were picked up immediately. One of those wanted was believed to be in Iraq, while it was not yet clear whether another suspect had been found in Switzerland. All of them face international terrorism charges, the Carabinieri said in a statement. As well as the arrests, authorities in the various countries searched 26 premises and seized electronic devices and documents, Eurojust said in a statement. MULLAH KREKAR Among the suspects was Mullah Krekar, the one-time leader of the Ansar al-Islam militant group. He received his arrest warrant in a prison in Norway where he was already serving an 18-month term for making death threats against a Kurdish man and encouraging others to commit criminal acts in a TV interview. Krekar went to Norway as a refugee in 1991 and had earlier been deemed a threat to national security. However, Norwegian authorities did not expel him to Iraq because authorities there could not guarantee he would not be executed. Italy said it would now seek to extradite him. His lawyer Brynjar Meling told Norwegian news agency NTB he saw no grounds for this, adding that Krekar considered the charges "a rehash of old stuff". Italian investigators say Rawti Shax was rooted in Europe and communicated via the Internet, providing logistical and financial support to send fighters to Syria and Iraq. Meling said his client had been in jail for all but one month since early 2012 and did not have Internet access. Rome prosecutor Giancarlo Capaldo said Rawti Shax, which also went by the name Didi Nwe (Towards the Mountain), aimed to train the fighters for future conflict in Iraq's Kurdistan. "During the course of our investigation, we saw some fighters leave for Syria and die in the conflict," Capaldo said. (Additional reporting by Steve Scherer, Philip Pullella, Gwladys Fouche and Nerijus Adomaitis; Writing by Crispian Balmer and Isla Binnie; Editing by Tom Heneghan)
- 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.
- Associated Press
The spokesman for Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert has quit less than two weeks after she was sworn into office, saying he was prompted to by the insurrection at the nation's Capitol. Ben Goldey confirmed his departure to The Colorado Sun after it was first reported on Saturday by Axios. The Sun reported that Goldey did not respond to additional questions, but he told Axios he was leaving in the wake of a deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
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
Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) warned Friday that one-third of Republican voters could leave the party if GOP senators vote in impeachment proceedings to convict President Trump. Paul made the comments in an interview on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle. The senator’s remarks come amid an increasing divide between congressional Republicans who oppose impeaching the president and a smaller number who support the measure following the riots at the Capitol on January 6. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) is reportedly hopeful that Republicans can use impeachment to purge Trump from the GOP, although he would need the support of at least 16 additional Republican senators to vote to convict. “Look, I didn’t agree with the [Capitol] fight that happened last week, and I voted against overturning the election, but at the same time, the impeachment is a wrongheaded, partisan notion, [and] if Republicans go along with it, it’ll destroy the party,” Paul said during the interview. “A third of the Republicans will leave the party,” Paul continued. “This isn’t about, anymore, the Electoral College, this is about the future of the party, and whether you’re going to ostracize and excommunicate President Trump from the party. Well, guess what? Millions of his fans will leave as well.” While a majority of Americans believe Trump should be removed from office immediately, just 17 percent of Republicans support expelling Trump from the presidency, according to an Axios–Ipsos poll released on Thursday. Support for Trump among Republicans has fallen since the Capitol riots; however, 60 percent believe the party should continue to follow Trump once he leaves office, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found.
- 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 Independent
SLC’s ‘Save America’ rally also saw a defiant teenage protester and an attack on a local media member.
- Associated Press
Lebanon finalized a deal with Pfizer on Sunday for 2.1 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine amid surge in infections that has overwhelmed the country's health care system. The doses are to arrive in Lebanon starting early February, according to Lebanon’s health ministry. The government's statement said the Pfizer vaccines will be complemented with another 2.7 million doses from the U.N.-led program to provide for countries in need.
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.
- National Review
Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) on Sunday advised the president not to grant presidential pardons to the rioters who stormed the Capitol this month, warning that doing so would “destroy” Trump. “Mr. President, your policies will stand the test of time. You’re the most important figure in the Republican party. You can shape the direction of the party. Keep your movement alive,” Graham said on Fox News. “There are a lot of people urging the president to pardon folks who participated in defiling the Capitol, the rioters,” Graham continued. “I don’t care if you went there and spread flowers on the floor, you breached the security of the Capitol, you interrupted a joint session of Congress, you tried to intimidate us all, you should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and to seek a pardon of these people would be wrong. I think it would destroy President Trump and I hope we don’t go down that road.” On Wednesday, a large group of Trump supporters overpowered Capitol Police and forced their way into the halls of Congress. Pence and the assembled lawmakers evacuated the Senate floor, where a joint session of Congress was being held to certify the presidential election results. The violence followed a rally outside the White House earlier in the day where President Trump addressed the “Save America March” and repeated his claims that November’s election was rife with voter fraud that threatened to deprive him of his rightful second term. The violence on January 6 resulted in five dead, including a Capitol Police officer. Since then, dozens of criminal cases have been brought in connection with the riot. Graham defended Trump’s rhetoric at the rally, which received bipartisan condemnation and sparked a second impeachment against the president by House Democrats. “President Trump never said, ‘Go into the capitol and try to interrupt a joint session of Congress.’ That was the choice they made and they need to live with that choice,” Graham said. Graham added that there were “irregularities in mail-in voting,” but said “the election is over,” noting that the electoral votes have been certified.” “It is now time to move on,” the South Carolina Republican said. Graham also had a message for incoming president Joe Biden, calling on him to stand up against the second impeachment of Trump, which the Senate is expected to take up after he leaves office.
- NBC News
She displayed "a round metallic object later identified as a Military Police Challenge Coin" and said she was part of law enforcement, police said.
- 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
- Associated Press
Brazil’s health regulator on Sunday approved the urgent use of coronavirus vaccines made by Sinovac and AstraZeneca, enabling Latin America’s largest nation to begin an immunization program that’s been subject to delay and political disputes. Brazil currently has 6 million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine ready to distribute in the next few days and is awaiting the arrival of 2 million doses of the vaccine made by AstraZeneca and partner Oxford University.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) called on his Republican Party to rebuild itself and "repudiate the nonsense that has set our party on fire" in an in an op-ed for The Atlantic Saturday on the QAnon conspiracy theory.Why it matters: Many of the mob involved in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riots wore items signaling their support for the far-right QAnon and a prominent member of the cult was among those arrested following the siege.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here. * Several Republicans who ran for Congress last year publicly supported or defended the QAnon movement or some of its tenets — something Sasee noted in his op-ed, headlined "QAnon is Destroying the GOP From Within." * Sasse blames the violence on "the blossoming of a rotten seed that took root in the Republican Party some time ago and has been nourished by treachery, poor political judgment, and cowardice."Driving the news: Sasse wrote in his op-ed that "until last week, many party leaders and consultants thought they could preach the Constitution while winking at QAnon." * "They can't," he added. "The GOP must reject conspiracy theories or be consumed by them. Now is the time to decide what this party is about." * Sasse criticized House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for not denouncing QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) when she was running for Congress in 2020. * "She's already announced plans to try to impeach Joe Biden on his first full day as president," Sasse wrote. "She'll keep making fools out of herself, her constituents, and the Republican Party."Worth noting: Sasse said before the House impeached President Trump for a second time he'd consider "definitely consider" any articles of impeachment against him over his conduct and comments at a rally before the riots. * The Nebraska senator criticized Trump's embrace of QAnon supporters last August, warning that Democrats could "take the Senate" this "will be a big part of why they won." * Months later, the Democrats went on to win control of the Senate.The bottom line: Sasse wrote that his party faces a choice when Trump leaves office: "We can dedicate ourselves to defending the Constitution and perpetuating our best American institutions and traditions, or we can be a party of conspiracy theories."Go deeper: * The Capitol siege's QAnon roots * House freshmen at war after Capitol siegeSupport safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
U.S. President Donald Trump at this point is opting not to issue a pardon for himself as he prepares an expansive list of more than 100 pardons and commutations for release on Tuesday, a source familiar with the effort said. White House advisers have said Trump has privately debated with advisers whether to take the extraordinary step of issuing a pardon for himself but some administration officials have cautioned Trump against a self-pardon because it would make him look guilty. Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House of Representatives last week on charges of inciting the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by pro-Trump protesters.
- The Independent
Man arrested at inauguration checkpoint with gun and ammo says he was lost and did not mean to bring weapon to DC
The man said he got lost driving around Washington DC
The U.S. Army has identified a 1st Armored Division staff sergeant from Fort Bliss, Texas found dead at his home Thursday.
- Associated Press
Kamala Harris will make history on Wednesday when she becomes the nation’s first female vice president — and the first Black woman and the first woman of South Asian descent to hold that office. With the confluence of crises confronting Joe Biden's administration — and an evenly divided Senate in which she would deliver the tie-breaking vote — Harris is shaping up to be a central player in addressing everything from the coronavirus pandemic to criminal justice reform. Symone Sanders, Harris' chief spokeswoman, said that while the vice president-elect's portfolio hasn't been fully defined yet, she has a hand in all aspects of Biden's agenda.
- Reuters Videos
The protesters had gathered on a square in front of the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum art galleries, carrying signs reading "Freedom: stop this siege" and chanting "What do we want? Freedom!". None wore masks, which are not mandatory, and few respected social distancing rules. Authorities had declined an application for the protest to be held on Museum Square. The demonstrators refused to leave when police told them to do so, and some threw fireworks.
U.S. officials who have engaged in "nasty behaviour" over Chinese-claimed Taiwan will face sanctions, China's Foreign Ministry said on Monday, after Washington lifted curbs on exchanges between U.S. and Taiwanese officials. Sino-U.S. ties have worsened as China has already condemned this month's easing, announced by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the waning days of President Donald Trump's presidency. Further adding to China's anger, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, spoke last week to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, after a planned trip to Taipei was called off.
- 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.