KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Forest fires spread over 500 acres in the north of the Malaysian state of Sarawak in Borneo island have raised air pollution to hazardous levels on Monday in areas close to the inferno, government data showed. The fires have spurred an emergency response from the state fire and rescue department, which is at the same time scrambling to manage nearly 8,000 people displaced by floods in Sarawak's southern region as of Monday morning, according to the Bernama newswire. Sensors located in the coastal town of Miri - which is closest to the fires - registered an air pollutant index reading of over 300 parts per million (ppm) as at 9 a.m., though it went down to 185 ppm as at 3 p.m., the data showed. Readings above 300 ppm are deemed a health hazard. State Fire and Rescue Department director Nor Hisham Mohammad told Reuters that the situation in the north of Malaysia's largest state is "quite bad" and expects the fires to rage for a "minimum of one week". Sarawak's forests are renowned for being home to eight out of the world's 54 species of hornbills, according to the Sarawak Forestry Corporation, and also to the Orang Utan in some regions of the Bornean state. Nor Hisham said the fires are unlikely to have affected the local wildlife as their numbers would be small because most of the timber in the area was already harvested. The fires, however, forced local authorities to evacuate 650 students from an industrial training centre on Sunday, but classes have since resumed on Monday morning, Nor Hisham said. Nor Hisham said a total of 50 personnel along with two helicopters and two excavators have been deployed and are working round the clock to contain the fires. The fire and rescue department believes local hunters had started the fires, but are still investigating the matter. Malaysian Meteorological Department senior officer Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said the severity of the fires was caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon, which typically affects the northern region of Sarawak and the neighbouring state of Sabah. Forest fires have increased in frequency over the past few years in Sarawak, where there are large tracts of peat soil. This year's forest fires, however, cover more than double the 200 acres in the same region scorched by forest fires in July last year. (Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)
- Yahoo News
Republicans built up QAnon backer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, but now are they afraid of what they created?
On the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the combative Georgia Republican known for her association with QAnon, was back on Twitter after a 12-hour suspension, and back to making waves.
- The Independent
‘It’s unfortunate’: Ashley Biden confirms first lady snubbed her mother on traditional White House handover
"I think we’re all OK with it,' says incoming first daughter in first ever TV interview
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 faces fresh charges, according to a criminal complaint amended Tuesday.Driving the news: Riley June Williams, 22, who was arrested in Pennsylvania's Middle District Monday, is suspected of being the woman featured in a video saying, "dude, put on gloves," before a man's gloved hand reaches for the laptop, per the Department of Justice.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America. * She was charged on Tuesday with "Aid Abet Others to Embezzle, Steal, Purloin" and "Obstruct, Influence or Impede any Official Proceeding." * This adds to her earlier charges of illegally entering the Capitol as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct. 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 claiming to be Williams' "former romantic partner" 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. * The allegations concerning Russia remain under investigation.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 chargesEditor's note: This article has been updated with details related to the new charges.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- The Week
President Trump has spent the last few days asking his friends, aides, and associates if they would like pardons — even those who are not facing any charges, a senior administration official told The Washington Post.In one case, the official said, Trump offered a pardon to a person who declined the chance at clemency, saying they weren't in any legal trouble and hadn't committed any crimes. "Trump's response was, 'Yeah, well, but you never know. They're going to come after us all. Maybe it's not a bad idea. Just let me know,'" the official recounted.Trump has taken a great interest in pardoning people, the Post reports, even calling families to personally let them know he granted a pardon. A person familiar with the matter told the Post that Trump was talked out of pardoning himself, family members, and controversial figures like Rudy Giuliani. An aide said there was also a brief discussion about possibly issuing pardons related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, but that idea went nowhere.While Trump has held a few ceremonial events in recent weeks, journalists have been kept away from the White House, largely because the president is "just not in a place where they would go well," one official told the Post. Trump is constantly flip-flopping, another administration official said, talking about his future but uncertain of where he will be. "He goes between, 'Well, I'm going to go to Florida and play golf, and life is honestly better,' and then in the next moment, it's like, 'But don't you think there's a chance to stay?'" the official said. Read more at The Washington Post.More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump issues last-minute order attempting to free his appointees from ethics commitments Lindsey Graham seemed very pleased with Biden's secretary of state nominee
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.
- Yahoo News Video
President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health, leaving her poised to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Thailand's government on Wednesday filed a criminal complaint of defaming the monarchy against banned opposition politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, after he criticised its COVID-19 vaccine strategy. The move could mark the highest-profile lese majeste case since a wave of anti-government protests emerged last year and extended to criticism of King Maha Vajiralongkorn over accusations of meddling in politics and taking too much power. The complaint against Thanathorn under Article 112 of the Thai criminal code came two days after he commented that the government was too reliant on a company owned by the Crown Property Bureau, which is under the king's personal control, to produce vaccines for Thais.
- National Review
A Honduran migrant worker claimed that a migrant caravan was headed to the U.S. because incoming president Joe Biden would give migrants “100 days” to arrive at the country, in an interview with CNN. Biden may seek to enact a 100-day moratorium on deportations, however transition team officials have cautioned that the president-elect will not be able to overhaul immigration policy immediately upon taking office. Even so, a group of about 3,000 migrants from Honduras clashed with Guatemalan security forces on Sunday during their trek north to the U.S.-Mexico border. One migrant claimed the caravan was heading north because Biden had promised to help them, in a CNN interview later reposted by The Hill. Honduran migrant: President-elect Biden is "going to help all of us." pic.twitter.com/LkrVCsXcSb — The Hill (@thehill) January 18, 2021 “I just want patience and prayers that we can get to the U.S. because they [will] have a new president, Biden,” the migrant said. “He’s going to help all of us, he’s giving us 100 days to get to the U.S. and give us [legal] papers, so we can get a better life for our kids, and for our families.” Meanwhile, Guatemala deemed the attempted crossing illegal. “Guatemala’s message is loud and clear: These types of illegal mass movements will not be accepted, that’s why we are working together with the neighboring nations to address this as a regional issue,” the office of Guatemala’s president said in a statement on Sunday.
- Architectural Digest
Mercedes-Benz’s Hyperscreen, General Motors’ Bright Drop, and Jeep’s Electric Wrangler were among the unveils that turned headsOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- NBC News
Court documents recounted the man's telling his children that he would consider them "traitors" if they contacted authorities.
Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken said at a confirmation hearing on Tuesday that it was “extraordinary how frightened Vladimir Putin seems to be of one man” — Alexey Navalny.Why it matters: Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, Navalny, returned to Russia on Sunday and was swiftly arrested. He spent the previous five months recovering in Germany after being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. His detention poses an early foreign policy challenge for the Biden administration.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.What he’s saying: Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Navalny served as a voice for millions of Russians, “and their voice needs to be heard in Russia.” * “The attempts to silence that voice by silencing Mr. Navalny is something that we strongly condemn,” Blinken added, noting that Navalny's arrest and other points of tension with Russia would be “very high on the agenda for an incoming administration.” * Incoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan previously called for Navalny's immediate release.The latest: Navalny was ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days. He was officially arrested for violating the conditions of a suspended prison term by missing an appointment in December.Worth noting: Blinken praised Sen. Mitt Romney, who serves on the committee, for being “prescient” on Russia. Romney was mocked for referring to Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe” in a 2012 presidential debate with Barack Obama, including by Obama himself.Go deeper: Bill Browder on Russia-U.S. relations after Alexei Navalny's arrestGet smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- The Week
President Trump's last big batch of pardons will get most of the attention, but he also issued an executive order in his last few hours in office that seeks to free all current and former hires from the ethics agreements they signed to work in his administration. Trump revoked his January 2017 "Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees" order, the White House announced early Wednesday, so "employees and former employees subject to the commitments in Executive Order 13770 will not be subject to those commitments after noon January 20, 2021."Those commitments included not lobbying the federal agencies they served under for five years after leaving government. The executive order, Yashar Ali notes, was the backbone of Trump's "drain the swamp" pledge.> Forget about draining the swamp...President Trump just filled it up.> > He has revoked his own executive order (13770) which had the following provisions (among others). > > The drain the swamp stuff was all smoke and mirrors anyway but here's Trump walking back his own EO... pic.twitter.com/ZvuW0CwszQ> > — Yashar Ali (@yashar) January 20, 2021President-elect Joe Biden takes office at noon on Wednesday, and presumably he could just issue a new executive order reversing Trump'sNorm Eisen, "ethics czar" to former President Barack Obama, said in a Politico column Tuesday that Obama's clear ethics rules led to "arguably the most scandal-free presidency in memory," but "Trump greatly watered down the standards with scandalous results" and "Biden has done the opposite, restoring the Obama rules and expanding them."Biden's planned executive order, Eisen wrote, "restores the fundamentals of the Obama plan, closing loopholes Trump opened—but going further, including new crackdowns on special interest influence. If implemented rigorously (always a big if) Biden’s plan promises to go further to 'drain the swamp' than either of his predecessors."More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Lindsey Graham seemed very pleased with Biden's secretary of state nominee Colbert's Late Show remixes Biden's inauguration playlist into a not-subtle farewell message for Trump
- Associated Press
Vice President Mike Pence will be returning to his southern Indiana hometown Wednesday afternoon following the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. The Republican former Indiana governor and his wife Karen are expected to attend Biden’s inauguration and will then fly into the Columbus Municipal Airport, where they will be greeted by some supporters, the Indiana Republican Party said Tuesday. Pence grew up in Columbus and some family members still live there.
- NBC News
Suspect William McCall Calhoun Jr. faces a host of charges stemming from the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol Building.
A prominent Iranian-born scholar arrested Monday was secretly paid to write columns favorable to Tehran and lobby at least one U.S. lawmaker on its behalf, federal prosecutors say.Why it matters: Kaveh Afrasiabi’s writings showed up in prominent publications such as the New York Times and the Guardian as, the Justice Department says, he drew regular payments from the Iranian government and communicated frequently with the country’s diplomatic staff. None of these professional or financial conflicts was disclosed.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.What’s new: Federal officers charged Afrasiabi with acting as an unregistered foreign agent. * Prosecutors say Iran’s mission to the United Nations paid him more than $265,000 from July 2007 through November 2020. Many of the checks described payments to Afrasiabi as a “salary.” * Prosecutors say Afrasiabi also received health insurance benefits from the Iranian U.N. mission since 2011.During that time, Afrasiabi made media appearances and published writings in major publications that described him as an independent scholar and expert on Iranian affairs. * Afrasiabi’s columns have appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, and HuffPost. He’s also appeared on Chinese and Russian state media in the U.S. * His writings uniformly aligned with Tehran’s position on world affairs, and, according to the indictment, were often written in consultation with Iranian diplomatic staff. * Prosecutors say Afrasiabi also helped craft an April 2015 column in the New York Times written by Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif.Afrasiabi’s work also included direct communications with an unidentified member of Congress and his staff, prosecutors say. * According to the indictment, Afrasiabi helped write a December 2009 letter from the unnamed congressman to then-President Barack Obama regarding Iranian nuclear negotiations.Be smart: DOJ’s indictment was unsealed on Tuesday, as the Trump administration unveils last-minute measures going after foreign powers it considers top U.S. adversaries.Go deeper: "U.S. declares China's actions against Uighurs 'genocide'"Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
- The Telegraph
Drug kingpins are to be targeted by the Government in a £148 million bid to “cut the head off the snake” and combat addiction in an operation dubbed “Project Adder". Boris Johnson announced that £68 million of the extra money will be used to take on county lines gangs which have grown into a £500 million criminal industry distributing illegal drugs from cities to suburban and rural towns throughout the UK. A further £80 million will be invested in drug treatment services to try to halt re-offending, and slash demand from addicts who are fuelling the gangs and the violence they use to stake out their territories. Part of the money will go to “Project Adder” – an acronym for Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recovery – which will direct money into policing and treatment in five drug blackspots. The Prime Minister said: “It is clear that drugs are a serious driver of the violence which devastates communities and robs young lives. That is why we must take action to cut off supply and cut the head off the snake by tackling the criminal gangs which exploit young people. “We must also help people to get off drugs in the first place and that is why we are launching Project Adder, a new, targeted approach which will ramp up local enforcement, while at the same time diverting more people into recovery, backed up by the largest investment in treatment in 15 years.” The cash injection follows a damning report by Prof Carole Black for the Home Office that warned the heroin and crack retail market has been transformed by county lines gangs driving increased violence and the exploitation of young people and vulnerable drug users. She also warned that funding for drug treatment had fallen dramatically in recent years and in some local authorities by as much as 40 per cent, denying many drug users the support they needed to escape their habit. Some £40 million of the new money will go to police and other law enforcement agencies to take down county lines gangs and drug kingpins. It brings the total invested to £65 million since November 2019. The Home Office said the funding had already seen more than 3,400 people arrested, more than 550 county lines closed, drugs with a street value of £9 million, and £1.5 million cash seized, and more than 770 vulnerable people safeguarded. The extra £28 million for Project Adder will run for three financial years in five areas with some of the highest rates of drug misuse: Blackpool, Hastings, Middlesbrough, Norwich and Swansea Bay.
- The Week
Constitutionally-speaking, Chief Justice John Roberts is meant to preside over President Trump's impeachment trial, but he apparently wants out, Politico reports.Multiple Republican and Democratic sources have reportedly told Politico that Roberts is seeking a way to avoid the job because of how things played out when he oversaw Trump's first impeachment trial last year. Roberts, Politico notes, has worked hard to keep the Supreme Court apolitical during his tenure, so he was reportedly displeased that he "became a top target of the left" during the proceedings. "He wants no further part of this," one source told Politico, although there's been no official word from Roberts' camp about what he'll ultimately do.Trump's trial is a bit of a constitutional oddity. On the one hand, it's a presidential impeachment, but on the other hand, the trial will take place after he leaves office, which is why there's a chance Roberts may have some wiggle room. Historically, either the vice president or the longest-serving member of the Senate have taken up the mantle for lower-level impeachments, per Politico. That means Vice President-elect Kamala Harris or Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) could be the choice. Read more at Politico.More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump issues last-minute order attempting to free his appointees from ethics commitments Lindsey Graham seemed very pleased with Biden's secretary of state nominee
- National Review
President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health, setting her up to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate. Levine, a pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general, will serve as the top deputy to Health and Human Services Secretary-designee Xavier Becerra. “Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a press release. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.” Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said that Levine is “a remarkable public servant with the knowledge and experience to help us contain this pandemic, and protect and improve the health and well-being of the American people.” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, appointed Levine to her current position in 2017. She was confirmed by the Republican-majority Pennsylvania Senate for her roles as health secretary and physician general. Levine, a graduate of Harvard University and Tulane University School of Medicine, has become the public face of the state’s coronavirus pandemic response. She faced calls to resign from her post last spring after reports that she had removed her 95-year-old mother from her personal care home after ordering all nursing homes and long-term facilities in the state to accept coronavirus patients from hospitals, despite concerns about older people’s vulnerability to the virus. She defended the decision, saying her mother who is “more than competent to make her own decisions” had requested the move.
- Associated Press
A California sheriff’s deputy was killed and another deputy was wounded in a shootout with a suspect who gunned down a K-9 dog before he was fatally shot, authorities said. The gunbattle erupted in Sacramento near a racetrack at the Cal Expo event venue after a vehicle pursuit late Monday, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said. The deputy who died was identified as Adam Gibson, a six-year veteran of the department, Jones said.
President Trump could be an "accessory" to murder after over the deadly Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC Tuesday night.Why it matters: Trump faced intense criticism after a crowd of his supporters breached the Capitol and broke into chambers, including Pelosi’s office. Five people died as a result of the insurrection.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here. * Trump had spread false claims of election fraud online and urged supporters to march to the Capitol in a speech at a "Save America" rally shortly before rioters broke into the building.What she’s saying: "Presidents' words are important. They weigh a ton," Pelosi said. "And they used his words to come here." * Any Congress member proven to have colluded with rioters could be accessories to crimes committed during the events — like Trump, she added. * "And the crime, in some cases, was murder," Pelosi said. "And this president is an accessory to that crime because he instigated that insurrection that caused those deaths and this destruction."The big picture: Trump said a week after the riots that he "unequivocally" condemned the violence. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, once a Trump loyalist, said on Tuesday the mob was "provoked by the president and other powerful people." * The House voted to impeach Trump last week on one charge: incitement of insurrection. It now goes to the Senate for trial. * The White House did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment on Pelosi's remarks.Go deeper: In photos: Protesters storm U.S. CapitolSupport safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.