South Korea Monday reported its 16th death in an expanding MERS outbreak, as President Park Geun-Hye called for efforts to shore up the economy against what she called "excessive" public alarm. Seoul also declared five new patients -- bringing the total number of cases including the deaths to 150 -- as fears grew over the impact of the outbreak on Asia's fourth-largest economy. More than 2,000 schools, which had been closed nationwide, reopened Monday as the outbreak showed signs of slowing, the education ministry said, adding 329 schools and 126 kindergartens were still shut. Park, whose popularity has plunged due to the crisis, urged efforts to minimise the damage to the economy, saying consumer spending had dipped and the number of foreign tourists had plunged. "I am afraid the unexpected outbreak of MERS will quash the momentum of economic recovery," she told a meeting with advisers. "It is important to prevent the spread of excessive public anxiety and allow normal economic activities to resume quickly." More than 100,000 foreigners have cancelled trips to South Korea since the beginning of June, vice tourism minister Kim Chong said, adding foreign currency earnings would dwindle by $2.3 billion if the number plunges by 50 percent. "Our tourism industry is faced with a very dire situation," he said, promising financial aid worth 72 billion won ($64 million) to help tourism-related businesses. About 14.2 million foreigners, or about 1.18 million people a month on average, visited the country last year. A 58-year-old man who had been suffering from diabetes was the latest victim of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which broke out in South Korea less than a month ago. The country now has the largest outbreak outside Saudi Arabia and it is spreading unusually rapidly. The five new patients -- aged from 39 to 84 -- were infected in hospitals in cities including Seoul and Daejeon, 140 kilometres (90 miles) south of the capital. Among them was a nurse who had performed CPR on an infected patient in Daejeon and a man who was infected at Samsung Medical Centre in Seoul after accompanying his sick mother there. She later died of MERS. The hospital is the epicentre of the outbreak and more than 70 patients, visitors and medical staff there have contracted the virus. The health ministry said 17 patients remained in an unstable condition. - Storm of criticism - The outbreak started on May 20 when a 68-year-old man was diagnosed after returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia. Since then more than 5,200 people have been placed in quarantine. Park's administration has suffered a storm of criticism for what critics describe as a slow and inadequate response to the crisis. A survey by polling agency Realmeter showed Monday that Park's job approval ratings had plummeted by 10 percentage points over the past two weeks to 34.6 percent. Local businesses have reported a sharp drop in sales as people shunned crowded venues. Sales at department stores in the first week of June fell 25 percent from a month earlier, while the number of moviegoers dropped 55 percent, according to government data. A Morgan Stanley report showed last week that the outbreak -- if sustained for a month -- could trim the country's growth by 0.15 percentage points for this year. Concern over economic damage prompted the central Bank of Korea to slash its key interest rate by 0.25 basis points last week. However experts from the World Health Organisation said Saturday they had found no evidence to indicate transmission of the virus in communities outside hospitals. The Samsung hospital -- one of the country's largest -- suspended most services Sunday to help curb the spread of the virus. There is no vaccine for MERS which has a mortality rate of 35 percent, according to the WHO. In Saudi Arabia more than 950 people have been infected and 412 died from the disease. The South Korean outbreak has triggered concern elsewhere in Asia. Hong Kong last week advised its residents against non-essential travel to the South. North Korea has urged the South to ban trips to the Kaesong joint industrial zone in the North by southerners who had visited MERS-affected venues, Seoul's unification ministry said Monday.
- The Independent
Nancy Pelosi called pro-Trump rioters ‘Putin puppets’ and the Capitol siege a ‘gift’ to the Russian president
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.
- 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.
- The Independent
In further snub, Melania Trump has not given Jill Biden traditional tour of family wing of White House
- 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 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.
- Yahoo News Video
The spokesman for Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert has quit less than two weeks after she was sworn into office, saying he felt like he need to due to the insurrection at the nation's Capitol.
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.
A woman accused of breaching the Capitol and planning to sell to Russia a laptop or hard drive she allegedly stole from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office was arrested in Pennsylvania's Middle District Monday, the Department of Justice said.Driving the news: Riley June Williams, 22, is charged with illegally entering the Capitol as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct. She has not been charged over the laptop allegation and the case remains under investigation, per the DOJ.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.The big picture: Video footage appears to show Williams entering the Capitol with other rioters on Jan. 6. She appears to direct them up a staircase in the building. * Following the siege, a person called the FBI tip line to identify Williams and claimed that she told them she planned to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, per a DOJ statement of facts. It's alleged the friend planned to then sell it to Russia’s foreign intelligence service. * The caller said the transfer fell through and alleged that Williams either still has the device or destroyed it. Of note: Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff confirmed the laptop's disappearance on Jan. 8 but said it was "only used for presentations." For the record: Williams had developed a sudden interest in President Trump's politics and "far-right message boards," her mother told ITV News on Jan. 16. * Her mother said her daughter fled after the insurrection. * Williams also deleted her social media accounts and changed her phone number, according to FBI officials.Go deeper: Deadly Capitol riot: The people facing federal chargesBe smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
- 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
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, policy-makers 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 policy-makers 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.
- The Independent
‘If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors...traitors get shot,' he told his children
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.
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%.
- National Review
President Trump signed an executive order on Monday expanding access to personal firearms for federal law enforcement officials. The order is one of the last of Trump’s presidency, with Joe Biden set to be sworn into office on Wednesday. The purpose of the order is to remove “undue obstacles” for law enforcement officers and prosecutors to obtain concealed carry licenses, as well as to expand protections for prosecutors and judges. “It shall be the policy of the United States to remove any undue obstacle preventing current or retired Federal law enforcement officers from carrying a concealed firearm,” the order states. The order also directs the U.S. Attorney General to “propose a regulation…to provide that the special deputation as a Deputy United States Marshall shall be granted upon request to any Federal prosecutor” who faces risk of harm as a result of his or her work. The special deputation would grant a prosecutor the right to concealed carry of a firearm. It is unclear if the incoming Biden administration will work to carry out the order. Biden announced earlier this month that he will nominate Merrick Garland, the prosecutor who headed the investigation against Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, to the position of attorney general. Biden himself is preparing several executive orders for the first days of his presidency, in an attempt to reverse several Trump administration policies. Among other issues, Biden will rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and end Trump’s immigration restrictions on some Muslim-majority nations.
- The Independent
Tennessee mother and son pictured with zip-ties in Senate are charged with conspiracy following Capitol riot
Both wore bulletproof vests when they entered the Capitol
- 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.
- 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.