By Steve Gorman LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The union for 20,000 dockworkers and a group of their employers at 29 U.S. West Coast ports say they are making slow but steady progress in months-long contract talks seen by the shipping industry as a contributing factor in chronic cargo backups. However, neither side has ventured to say how much longer it might take to reach a settlement, and both parties continued to abide by a news blackout on the details of their talks and the issues that divide them. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, representing terminal operators and shipping lines at the ports, opened their talks in May and mutually agreed to keep negotiating after their old contract expired June 30. The parties said in August they had reached a tentative deal on healthcare benefits, "but apart from that everything else remains on the table," association spokesman Steve Getzug said. Since resuming talks after a hiatus in November, negotiators have met on a fairly regular basis, they said. "Both sides are working hard, and every day they get a little more done, and every day they get closer to a settlement," union spokesman Craig Merrilees said. "Any time you're meeting and talking, that's progress," Getzug said. Ninety union delegates from all 29 ports were expected to review the status of talks when they convened on Monday in San Francisco for a caucus, Merrilees said, adding that the session may be adjourned early to allow negotiations to resume. DELAYS AND DIVERSIONS Management sees an eventual settlement as key to easing severe cargo delays that began in mid-October at several container ports that account for nearly half of U.S. maritime trade and over 70 percent of imports from Asia. The congestion has been most pronounced at Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation's two busiest shipping hubs, which together handle 43 percent of all container cargo entering the United States. The number of freighters stuck waiting at anchor for berths to open in Los Angeles and Long Beach has ranged from about a half dozen to 18 on any given day since backups began. Seven ships were waiting at anchor on Monday, down from 13 on Friday, port officials said. Management has accused the union of orchestrating some slowdowns to bolster leverage at the bargaining table. Union officials deny organizing delays but acknowledge some dockworkers may be acting on their own out of frustration over the pace of contract talks. They point to other factors that port officials cite as the main causes of gridlock. Chief among them is a shortage of tractor-trailer chassis used for hauling cargo from the ports to warehouses, a situation created when shippers decided to sell off their chassis to third-party equipment-leasing companies. Union and port officials also point to record import levels, rail service delays and the advent of super-sized container vessels delivering greater cargo volumes all at once. The port slowdowns, coming just after the peak holiday shipping season, have nevertheless rippled through the commercial supply chain, with prolonged days in the delivery of goods ranging from apparel to apples and grain. Cargo that normally takes two to three days to clear the ports now faces lag times of up to two weeks, and shipments of some goods, such as coffee, are being diverted from the West Coast to other ports, like Houston. Los Angeles port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said congestion was starting to ease and that the backlog hopefully will be cleared before the next heavy cargo season in February. Insisting that labor tensions are distracting from efforts to ease the cargo crunch and could lead to a worsening situation, the National Retail Federation has urged the White House to appoint a federal mediator to help settle the talks. The union has opposed mediation, Merrilees said, because the two sides are still making headway. Getzug said management was open to the idea. (Additional reporting by Josephine Mason)
- 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.
- The Week
In an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Monday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said his caucus won't allow Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to dictate the agenda in the Democratic-led 50-50 Senate or demand an end to the legislative filibuster as a precondition for a power-sharing pact. "We've told McConnell no on the organizing resolution, and that's that. So there's no negotiations on that," Schumer said, suggesting he had a secret plan. "There are ways to deal with him." Maddow included an update when she broadcast the interview Monday night. "While we were airing that right now, and you were watching it, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell just put out a statement that he is folding on this" and willl "agree to go forward with what Sen. Schumer told him he must," she said. "Sen. Mitch McConnell has caved and Sen. Schumer has won that fight. That was quick. Let's see what else we can do." No sooner has the portion of Rachel Maddow's interview with Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer aired than Mitch McConnell has put out a statement that he is folding, ending the stand-off. pic.twitter.com/9qR1jpKXkf — Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) January 26, 2021 McConnell said he would allow the Senate to move forward because two Democrats had reiterated their opposition to ending the filibuster, effectively taking that option off the table. Maddow asked Schumer about that, too, and he didn't answer directly. "The caucus is united with the belief that I have: We must get big, strong, bold things done," Schumer said. The Democratic caucus is also "totally united" that "we will not let Mitch McConnell dictate to us what we will do and not do," and "we have tools that we can use," notably the budget reconciliation process," he added. "We will come together as a caucus and figure it out." "We will not let Mitch McConnell dictate to us what we will do and not do." Here's Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier in his interview with Rachel Maddow, talking about the filibuster specifically, and getting things done. pic.twitter.com/xOAKWfe2Fu — Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) January 26, 2021 Schumer also suggested he is not interested in playing cat-and-mouse with McConnell's Republicans again. Watch below. "We will not repeat that mistake." Senate Majority Leader Schumer cites Obama era lessons in prioritizing legislation over bad faith Republican 'bipartisanship.' pic.twitter.com/gpc1kBP45w — Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) January 26, 2021 More stories from theweek.comSarah Huckabee Sanders' shameless campaign for governorDemocrats are getting Chuck GrassleyedBiden did not, in fact, remove Trump's 'Diet Coke button' from the Resolute Desk, White House clarifies
- Associated Press
The patter of paws is being heard in the White House again following the arrival of President Joe Biden's dogs Champ and Major. Major burst onto the national scene late last year after Biden, then president-elect, broke his right foot while playing with the dog at their home in Wilmington, Delaware. The Bidens adopted Major in 2018 from the Delaware Humane Association.
- Yahoo News Video
A former pathologist at an Arkansas veterans’ hospital has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient that he misdiagnosed.
- Architectural Digest
Let’s get loudOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
Venezuela's Juan Guaido is a "privileged interlocutor" but no longer considered interim president, European Union states said in a statement on Monday, sticking by their decision to downgrade his status. The EU's 27 states had said on Jan. 6 they could no longer legally recognise Guaido as after he lost his position as head of parliament following legislative elections in Venezuela in December, despite the EU not recognising that vote. Following the disputed re-election of President Nicolas Maduro in 2018, Guaido, as head of parliament, became interim president.
- NBC News
Tommy Frederick Allan said he took the documents because he is a taxpayer, according to an arrest warrant.
- The Week
Biden did not, in fact, remove Trump's 'Diet Coke button' from the Resolute Desk, White House clarifies
The new Biden administration has yet not disclosed the secrets of Area 51 or explained what the Air Force really knows about UFOs, but it did clarify, at least, the mystery of the vanished "Diet Coke button" former President Donald Trump would use to summon refreshments in the Oval Office. The usher button, as it is formally known, is not gone, even if it is no longer used to summon Diet Cokes, a White House official tells Politico. The White House official "unfortunately wouldn't say what Biden will use the button for," Politico's Daniel Lippman writes, suggesting Biden might summon Orange Gatorade and not the obvious answer, ice cream — or, let's get real, coffee. What's more, there are evidently two usher buttons in the Oval Office, one at the Resolute Desk and the other next to the chair by the fireplace, a former White House official told Politico, adding that Trump didn't actually use the Diet Coke button all that much because "he would usually just verbally ask the valets, who were around all day, for what he needed." In any case, it is not the placement of the button that matters, of course, but how you use it. And Biden will presumably know better than to order ice cream treats during a top-secret national security briefing. More stories from theweek.comSarah Huckabee Sanders' shameless campaign for governorDemocrats are getting Chuck GrassleyedTrump himself suggested a former president can be impeached
- Associated Press
A top ally of Alexei Navalny vowed Tuesday to keep up the fight to free the jailed Russian opposition leader and his battle to influence this year's parliamentary election despite a government crackdown on nationwide protests and its attempts to create a climate of fear. U.S. officials said President Joe Biden raised concerns about Navalny's arrest in his call Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the G7 foreign ministers also criticized the jailing of Navalny and the demonstrators demanding his release. Lawyer and politician Lyubov Sobol told a news conference that Navalny's Foundation for Fighting Corruption and his team's regional offices will continue to operate even amid the “arrests of our followers and allies, open criminal probes (and) criminal probes that are yet to come."
An explosion was heard in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh on Tuesday and the cause was not immediately known. Several witnesses also reported hearing two loud bangs and seeing a small plume of smoke above the capital just before 1 P.M. local time (10 A.M. GMT). Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV cited local reports of an explosion and videos circulating on social media purporting to show a missile being intercepted over Riyadh.
- The Independent
‘There appeared to be no remorse,’ says Calcasieu Parish sheriff Tony Mancus
- The Week
The CEO of MyPillow will no longer be able to use his Twitter. MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has been permanently banned from Twitter for "repeated violations of our Civic Integrity Policy," the company told CNN. While Twitter didn't specify what tweet prompted Lindell's final suspension, he has in recent weeks been pushing false claims about widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Twitter's Civic Integrity Policy states that users may not use the platform "for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes," including by posting "false or misleading information about the procedures or circumstances around participation in" elections. Under this policy, five or more strikes will lead to a permanent suspension. Lindell, who visited former President Donald Trump at the White House earlier this month and was seen with notes referencing "martial law," also could soon be hit with a potential defamation lawsuit for his election claims. Dominion Voting Systems has threatened to sue the MyPillow boss over his promotion of a false conspiracy theory that the company's machines were used to change the outcome of the presidential race. Dominion on Monday sued Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who also promoted the false claims. Lindell told The New York Times he would "welcome" a lawsuit from Dominion. Twitter's suspension of Lindell comes after the company earlier this month permanently banned Trump due to the "risk of further incitement of violence" following the deadly Capitol riot. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has defended the decision, while at the same time saying that "a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation." More stories from theweek.comSarah Huckabee Sanders' shameless campaign for governorDemocrats are getting Chuck GrassleyedBiden did not, in fact, remove Trump's 'Diet Coke button' from the Resolute Desk, White House clarifies
- Associated Press
Israel's military chief Tuesday warned the Biden administration against rejoining the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, even if it toughens its terms, adding he's ordered his forces to step up preparations for possible offensive action against Iran during the coming year. The comments by Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi came as Israel and Iran both seek to put pressure on President Joe Biden ahead of his expected announcement on his approach for dealing with the Iranian nuclear program.
- The Week
With former President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial looming, several Republicans in the upper chamber are reportedly rallying around the argument that impeaching a president who is already out of office is unconstitutional. As The Dispatch and Politico note, scholars in legal circles that span the political spectrum generally disagree, and Trump himself suggested ex-presidents could be tried a year ago. Per The Washington Post, when Trump was impeached for the first time, he complained that Congress should be going after former President Barack Obama instead over comments he made about health care. "We should impeach him for that," Trump said. "Why aren't we impeaching him?" Some of his staunchest allies in Congress concurred, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who stated explicitly in 2019 that former presidents are subject to impeachment. Gaetz didn't change his mind this time around, though he made the case Trump's actions aren't impeachment-worthy. Regardless, the comments raise questions about the sincerity of the argument. Can’t overstate the importance of reporters conveying that this position was fabricated rapidly to give Republican senators dishonest cover to acquit Trump. Clearly evident in the genesis of the talking point. https://t.co/pC0nmIADoP — Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) January 26, 2021 More stories from theweek.comSarah Huckabee Sanders' shameless campaign for governorDemocrats are getting Chuck GrassleyedBiden did not, in fact, remove Trump's 'Diet Coke button' from the Resolute Desk, White House clarifies
- Associated Press
The Biden administration on Monday suspended some of the terrorism sanctions that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo imposed on Yemen’s Houthi rebels in his waning days in office. The Treasury Department said it would exempt certain transactions involving the Houthis from sanctions resulting from Pompeo's designation of the group as a “foreign terrorist organization” on Jan. 10. The exemption will expire Feb. 26, according to a statement from Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control announcing a general license for transactions that involve entities owned by the Iran-backed Houthis.
- The Independent
‘I put my emotions behind me to do what I thought was right,’ Jackson Reffitt says
Backers of the union of the United Kingdom's four nations should boycott any "wildcat" independence referendum for Scotland, the leader of the Scottish Conservative Party said on Monday, after the nation's first minister pressed ahead with plans for a vote. Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said on Sunday she was hoping a strong performance by her Scottish National Party (SNP) in an election in May would give her the mandate to hold a second referendum. To get a legal referendum, any such vote must be approved by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has ruled out doing so.
- The Week
President Biden's administration is hoping to "speed up" efforts to get Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during a briefing Monday said the Treasury Department is "taking steps to resume efforts" to put Tubman on the $20 bill, a plan that was originally announced under former President Barack Obama, and is "exploring ways to speed up that effort." Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin previously announced in 2019 that the planned $20 bill redesign with Tubman replacing former President Andrew Jackson on the front had been delayed until 2028. At the time, Mnuchin said he would focus on a security feature redesign. "The primary reason we've looked at redesigning the currency is for counterfeiting issues," Mnuchin said. "Based upon this, the $20 bill will now not come out until 2028." The original plan was for the Tubman redesign to be unveiled in time for the 19th Amendment's 100th anniversary in 2020, The New York Times notes. Former President Donald Trump dismissed the efforts to put Tubman on the $20 bill as "pure political correctness" during his 2016 campaign. In Monday's briefing, Psaki said that it's "important" for U.S. currency to "reflect the history and diversity of our country," adding that "Harriet Tubman's image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that." NEW: White House says Treasury Dept. is "taking steps to resume efforts" to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. Press Sec. Psaki says the Biden admin. is "exploring ways to speed up that effort." pic.twitter.com/z7Jw5CqXP0 — MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 25, 2021 More stories from theweek.comSarah Huckabee Sanders' shameless campaign for governorDemocrats are getting Chuck GrassleyedBiden did not, in fact, remove Trump's 'Diet Coke button' from the Resolute Desk, White House clarifies
- Associated Press
Chinese state media have stoked concerns about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, despite rigorous trials indicating it is safe. A government spokesperson has raised the unsubstantiated theory that the coronavirus could have emerged from a U.S. military lab, giving it more credence in China. As the ruling Communist Party faces growing questioning about China's vaccines and renewed criticism of its early COVID-19 response, it is hitting back by encouraging conspiracy theories that some experts say could cause harm.
- The Telegraph
Indian and Chinese soldiers armed with sticks and stones have brawled again along their disputed frontier, Delhi said, as the neighbours' months-long border stand-off continued. Indian security officials said there were clashes after at least 18 Chinese soldiers tried to cross into Indian-claimed territory at Naku La in Sikkim on January 20. Soldiers on both sides were carrying firearms, but did not use them. A senior Indian Army official told the Telegraph that four Indian soldiers were wounded after they challenged the Chinese PLA soldiers. All four Indian wounded had been hospitalised, and their condition was described as stable. The officer said the number of injured Chinese was “in double figures”. An official army statement gave few details, describing the clash as a minor stand-off and saying it had been "resolved by local commanders as per established protocols". The military asked journalists "to refrain from overplaying or exaggerating" the incident. Zhao Lijian, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, urged India "not to take any unilateral action that may further complicate or exacerbate the border tension." Yet an opinion piece in China's Global Times, a hawkish state-owned tabloid, said the reports were false and blamed Indian rumour-mongering. Tensions have been high since May when deadly clashes erupted high in the Karakoram mountains along the poorly defined frontier between the rivals. Both sides have mobilized tens of thousands of soldiers, artillery and fighter aircraft along the fiercely contested border known as the Line of Actual Control, or LAC, that separates Chinese and Indian-held territories from Ladakh in the west to India's eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety. May's brawl exploded into hand-to-hand combat with clubs, stones and fists on June 15 that left 20 Indian soldiers dead. China is believed to also have had casualties, but has not given any details. Indian and Chinese army commanders met for the ninth round of talks after a gap of two-and-a-half months in Ladakh on Sunday but neither side released any details of the outcome.