By Tife Owolabi and Alexis Akwagyiram YENAGOA, Nigeria (Reuters) - The Niger Delta Avengers, a militant group that has been carrying out attacks on Nigerian oil facilities in the past few months, claimed responsibility on Sunday for five new attacks in the southern energy hub since Friday. The group had previously not laid claim to any attacks in the Niger Delta - the source of most of the OPEC member's oil - since June 16. Petroleum Ministry sources said in late June that a month-long truce had been agreed with militants. But the Avengers said they did not "remember" agreeing to a ceasefire. Attacks in the Niger Delta have pushed Nigerian crude production to 30-year lows, although the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said last week that output was rising because of repairs and a fall-off in attacks. In messages posted on Twitter in the early hours of Sunday, the Avengers said they had attacked a pipeline connected to the Warri refinery operated by NNPC on Friday night. They added that they blew up two lines on Saturday night close to Batan flow station in Delta state run by NPDC, a subsidiary of NNPC. The militants also said two Chevron facilities close to Abiteye flow station, in Delta state, came under attack early on Sunday. Residents in some of those areas reported hearing blasts. "All five operations" were carried out by an Avengers "strike team", the group said. Garba Deen Muhammad, a spokesman for state oil company NNPC, whose managing director is the oil minister, confirmed that the crude facilities identified by the Avengers had been attacked. "Government will not be deterred in its efforts to find a lasting solution to these attacks," he said. Chevron spokeswoman Isabel Ordonez said that "as a matter of long-standing policy," the company did not comment on "the safety and security" of its personnel and operations. The militants say they want a greater share of Nigeria's oil wealth, which accounts for around 70 percent of national income, to be passed on to communities in the impoverished region and for areas blighted by oil spills to be cleaned up. On Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari hosted a group of community leaders from the Delta and urged them to pacify people in the restive region where anger is widespread. Eric Omare, of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), which represents the Delta's biggest ethnic group, said the "resumption" of attacks was "worrisome", adding that the government had failed to build on goodwill generated by the oil minister's visit to the region in June. "The federal government has not taken any practical step toward resolving the issues," said Omare, adding that the IYC urged the Avengers not to carry out further attacks in order to "give room for constructive dialogue". (Additional reporting by Anamesere Igboeroteonwu; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Peter Cooney)
- The Independent
First family orders sesame bagels with cream cheese
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), incoming chair of the Senate Budget Committee who caucuses with the Democrats, told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that Democrats plan to push a coronavirus relief package through the chamber with a simple majority vote. Why it matters: "Budget reconciliation" would allow Democrats to forgo the Senate's 60-vote requirement and could potentially speed-up the next relief package for millions of unemployed Americans. Democrats hold the the 50-50 split in the Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.What he's saying: "What we cannot do is wait weeks and weeks and months to go forward. We have got to act now," Sanders said. * "We're going to use reconciliation — that's 50 votes in the Senate, plus the vice president — to pass legislation desperately needed by working families in this country right now." * When asked if he wants a relief bill passed before former President Trump's impeachment trial begins the week of Feb. 8, he said: "We've got to do everything. This is not — you don't have the time to sit around, weeks on impeachment and not get vaccines into the arms of people."Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
- Associated Press
A 34-year-old grizzly bear captured in southwestern Wyoming has been confirmed as the oldest on record in the Yellowstone region, Wyoming wildlife officials said. Grizzly bear 168 was captured last summer after it preyed on calves in the Upper Green River Basin area. Biologists learned of the bear’s longevity after euthanizing the bruin, which had preyed on cattle and then finally, calves.
- NBC News
A motive wasn't immediately known. Mayor Joe Hogsett said the shooting had brought "terror to our community."
- The Telegraph
The acrimonious split within Republican ranks widened over the weekend as Donald Trump made his foray back into politics, backing the re-election of a hard-line supporter as chair of the party in Arizona. His wholehearted support for Kelli Ward was seen by allies as the former president firing a warning shot across the bows of any Republican senators considering backing his impeachment.
U.S. Army Forces Command has reinstated the top enlisted leader at Fort Hood, Texas after an investigation cleared him of allegations that he used unprofessional language with subordinates last year.
- The Week
President Biden reeled in a record-breaking $145 million in so-called dark money from anonymous donors during his presidential campaign, topping the $113 million that went to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) before his failed presidential bid in 2012, Bloomberg reports.It's not surprising that Biden set the mark given that the $1.5 billion he hauled in overall was the most ever for a challenger to an incumbent president, but it's notable in large part because Democrats have been at the forefront of a movement to ban dark money in politics since it means that supporters can back a candidate without scrutiny. Plus, Bloomberg notes, anonymous donors "will have the same access to decision makers as those whose names were disclosed, but without public awareness of who they are or what influence they might wield." As Meredith McGehee, the executive director of campaign finance reform advocacy group Issue One, told Bloomberg, "the whole point of dark money is to avoid public disclosure while getting private credit."Still, it seems the Democratic Party was willing to embrace the strategy in the hopes of defeating former President Donald Trump, who only brought in $28.4 million from anonymous donors. Read more at Bloomberg.More stories from theweek.com 5 scathingly funny cartoons about Biden's COVID-19 push Republicans back Biden's coronavirus response at a surprisingly high rate, poll suggests Trump's pressure on DOJ to sue states over election in Supreme Court reportedly 'got really intense'
- Associated Press
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Sunday he has tested positive for COVID-19 and that the symptoms are mild. Mexico's president, who has been criticized for his handling of his country's pandemic and for not setting an example of prevention in public, said on his official Twitter account that he is under medical treatment. José Luis Alomía Zegarra, Mexico’s director of epidemiology, said López Obrador had a “light” case of COVID-19 and was “isolating at home.”
A prominent U.S. Senate Republican warned on Saturday that former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial could lead to the prosecution of former Democratic presidents if Republicans retake the chamber in two years. Trump this month became the first U.S. president to be impeached twice after the Democratic-controlled House, with the support of 10 Republicans, voted to charge him with incitement of insurrection for a fiery Jan. 6 speech to his followers before they launched a deadly assault on the Capitol.
- The Telegraph
Britain faces a three-month lockdown "halfway house" after Easter, with a full reopening delayed until all over-50s have had their second dose of the vaccine, The Telegraph understands. Ministers are considering proposals to begin reopening swathes of the economy in April under similar restrictions to those in place over the summer, with “rule of six” and social distancing measures in force in pubs and restaurants. A return to full normality will be delayed for at least 12 to 14 weeks to allow for all over-50s to have their second dose of the vaccine, according to a source familiar with the discussions. Ministers are keen to reopen hospitality venues in some capacity before the G7 summit in the second week of June, when the UK will host world leaders in Carbis Bay, Cornwall. National measures will be eased in advance of the summit, allowing pubs, restaurants and tourism to begin to trade again. Boris Johnson has previously suggested that England will return to the geographic tier system after the lockdown ends, but sources suggested the tiers may apply to the whole country rather than to specific areas. “The appetite for regional tiers will only come if you have large swathes of the country that are significantly lower in case numbers and new variant case numbers and hospitalisations,” a source said.
- NBC News
The Biden administration aims for 100 million vaccinations within his first 100 days as president.
- Associated Press
Indonesian authorities said that they seized an Iranian tanker and Panamanian tanker suspected of carrying out the illegal transfer of oil in their country's waters Sunday. The tankers — the Iranian-flagged MT Horse and the Panamanian-flagged MT Frea — were seized in waters off Indonesia's West Kalimantan province, said Wisnu Pramadita, a spokesman for the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency.
- Yahoo News Video
It's a club Donald Trump was never really interested in joining and certainly not so soon: the cadre of former commanders in chief who revere the presidency enough to put aside often bitter political differences and even join together in common cause.
- The Week
In candid interview, Birx says she knew working with Trump White House would be the end of her federal career
Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as the White House coronavirus response coordinator while former President Donald Trump was still in office, opened up about her time working with the Trump administration during an exclusive interview with CBS News' Margaret Brennan on Sunday.Birx was often criticized for not pushing back enough on Trump's comments about the pandemic, and while she suggested her reactions could be misinterpreted -- like the time Trump asked her about whether COVID-19 could be treated with a bleach injection -- she did anticipate the gig would likely be the end of her federal career. "You can't go into something that's that polarized and not believe you won't be tainted by that experience," she told Brennan, adding that she'll "need to retire" within the next few weeks.> WATCH: Birx reacts to claims that she became an "apologist" for Trump and *that* moment where the former president suggested using disinfectant as a potential treatment for COVID19> > "I wasn't prepared for that. I didn't even know what to do in that moment." pic.twitter.com/2ddCblGllH> > -- Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) January 24, 2021> "I know that I wouldn't be allowed to really continue successfully within the federal government," Birx tells @margbrennan, calling her role leading the COVID19 task force a "terminal event" for her career> > Adds she will probably retire in the next 4-6 weeks from @cdcgov pic.twitter.com/dHHT2styEN> > -- Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) January 24, 2021Birx did say she wished she had "been more publicly outspoken" about certain things like COVID-19 testing, especially because she's been known to "push the envelope" in private. But she suggested that, ultimately, the culture of the White House proved too unfamiliar. > Birx's biggest mistake leading the Trump coronavirus task force? > > "I always feel like I could have done more, been more outspoken, maybe been more outspoken publicly. I didn't know all the consequences of all of these issues."> > More of her interview on today's @FaceTheNation pic.twitter.com/egZeFZCQ0W> > -- Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) January 24, 2021More stories from theweek.com 5 scathingly funny cartoons about Biden's COVID-19 push Republicans back Biden's coronavirus response at a surprisingly high rate, poll suggests Trump's pressure on DOJ to sue states over election in Supreme Court reportedly 'got really intense'
A Colorado geophysicist who participated in the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6 and allegedly assaulted a police officer, attempted to flee to Switzerland and attempted suicide. Jeffrey Sabol, 51, was held without bail on Friday and remains behind bars after being arrested at the Westchester Medical Center, according to The Associated Press. U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Krause of White Plains said the allegations against Sabol were “very disturbing, deeply troubling” during a virtual hearing in White Plains Federal Court.
- Business Insider
Barely any time has passed since President Biden's inauguration, and Republicans have already returned to their bag of shenanigans.
Pacific island nations are turning to China-led agencies to plug funding gaps in their pandemic-ravaged budgets after exhausting financing options from traditional western partners, stoking fears the region is becoming more dependent on Beijing. The Cook Islands, a tiny country of around 20,000 people in the South Pacific, turned to the Beijing-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) late last year after loans from the U.S. and Japanese-led Asian Development Bank (ADB) and grant from close ally New Zealand fell short. The US$20 million AIIB loan to the Cook Islands was the second to a strained Pacific economy in the last few months, after Fiji secured a US$50 million facility, signalling the arrival of a development bank closely linked to China's Belt and Road Initiative to the Pacific.
- The Telegraph
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced the establishment of its embassy in Tel Aviv as the US national security advisor announced that America hopes to build “on the success of Israel’s normalisation agreements” under the Biden administration. The UAE cabinet decision to approve establishing the embassy comes after they signed the Abraham Accords in September, becoming the first Gulf state to establish a full diplomatic relationship with Israel. No further details about the embassy were given in UAE media. While Israel’s government recognises Jerusalem as its capital, the international community does not, with Palestinians claiming East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Most countries base their embassies in Tel Aviv. Before the deal, Israel only had peace deals with only two Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan - where it has fortified embassies. Most Arab countries had previously refrained from recognising Israel, believing that recognition should only be granted if serious concessions are made in the Palestinian peace process. Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco later agreed to follow in the UAE’s footsteps and normalise ties with Israel under US-brokered deals.
- Associated Press
Ailing Pope Francis, who this week is making limited public appearances due to persistent pain, has drawn attention to the plight of homeless people in winter, including a Nigerian man who froze to death near the Vatican. Francis on Sunday asked for prayers for the 46-year-old man named Edwin who he said was “ignored by all, abandoned, even by us.” The pontiff said on Jan. 20 “a few meters away from St. Peter's Square, because of the cold, a Nigerian homeless man was found dead.”
- The Week
President Biden is enjoying a honeymoon period, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday suggests.Just a few days after assuming office, Biden has received high marks for his response to the coronavirus pandemic and his handling of the presidential transition. More than half of those polled also think he has a chance to unify the country, although only 22 percent have a "great deal" of confidence he'll be able to pull off that feat.Per the poll, Republicans don't seem pleased with some of the executive orders Biden has issued so far, including his reversal of a travel ban on several Muslim-majority nations and the termination of the national emergency declaration at the southern border, but GOP voters are, relatively speaking, somewhat amenable to his coronavirus response. The poll shows 40 percent of Republicans approve of Biden's pandemic leadership. For context, former President Donald Trump's highest approval rating (in regards to his COVID-19 response) among Democrats in the same poll was 30 percent, and that was all the way back in mid-March of 2020.> The more than two-thirds of Americans who approve of Pres. Biden's leadership on the coronavirus includes 40% of Republicans -- a notably high level of support from across the aisle a year into the pandemic. https://t.co/Foyzv1E8Ji> > — Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) January 24, 2021The friendly numbers may give Biden some breathing room, ABC News notes, but early tenure bliss generally doesn't last forever.The ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs' KnowledgePanel between Jan. 22 to 23, 2021 among a random national sample of 504 adults. The margin of error is 5 percentage points. Read more at ABC News.More stories from theweek.com 5 scathingly funny cartoons about Biden's COVID-19 push Trump's pressure on DOJ to sue states over election in Supreme Court reportedly 'got really intense' Biden foolishly low-balls America's COVID response