By Barbara Liston PLANTATION, Fla. (Reuters) - When it comes to holiday decorations, Kathy and Mark Hyatt go to extremes. In December, they transform their home in Plantation, Florida, into a 200,000-light spectacle, with Santas, reindeer and candy canes blanketing the lawn, snowflakes and angels twinkling in the sky, and a sign over the garage beckoning visitors to "Believe in the Magic of Christmas." The reaction of some neighbors and their city? Bah humbug! "This is a war zone, all because of the ego of that guy," said neighbor Rafael Imbert, 65, who erects a plastic construction fence to keep the thousands of sightseers lured by the lights off his lawn. Disputes over holiday displays go hand in hand with the annual tradition. One person's festive spirit can bring out the Grinch in others, leading to fines, strained relationships and - in rarer cases - lawsuits claiming that decorations have gone too far. The Hyatts are the target of such a lawsuit: The city of Plantation, about 30 miles north of Miami, is seeking to shut down their display that it deems a public nuisance. The couple is not backing down. "They believe it engenders goodwill and a bond between the community," said their Fort Lauderdale-based lawyer, James Helf. In Ohio, a man has disregarded his critics by again erecting a nativity scene on his lawn portraying Jesus, Mary and Joseph as zombies. A Maine homeowner used lights to spell out ISIS, prompting calls to police last week that the person might be a sympathizer of the Islamic State militant group. As it turned out, the display included a Santa appearing to urinate on the letters with a stream of white lights, local media reported. The popular Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights display is ending its run this holiday season after two decades at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando. More than 2 million lights that belonged to late Arkansas philanthropist Jennings Osborne found a home in Florida in 1995 after he was sued by neighbors and ordered by courts to take down most of his decorations. "EXTREME CHRISTMAS" In Plantation, Mark Hyatt, a mortgage banker and father of two, said he caught the decorating bug from his devout Catholic parents. His family starts planning their "Hyatt Extreme Christmas" display in July, begins decorating in October and switches on the lights the day after Thanksgiving. On weekends in December, they welcome visitors inside the gates of their circle driveway for a close-up look at their collection, including a miniature Ferris wheel Hyatt built. "I have kids who came here when they were little and now are coming back with their own kids," he said. "That's the coolest thing of all." His neighbors are less enchanted. They say strangers knock on their doors asking to use the bathroom, cut through their property to see the display and leave trash in the street - complaints Hyatt contends are untrue or exaggerated. Several residents on the cul-de-sac said they are forced to flee their homes when the crowds become unbearable. The city of Plantation sued the Hyatts in 2014 on the grounds that the "carnival-like atmosphere" was incompatible with the neighborhood. A trial has been set for April. A city spokesman declined to comment. Recent visitors were happy to see the lights still shining. "It makes me feel like a kid again," said Chris Coburn, 37, of nearby Davie, Florida. Dennis LaFrance, 40, who drove 30 minutes with his three kids to see the display, said he could understand the frustration of the Hyatts' neighbors. "But to make it go away altogether is kind of Scroogy," he said. (Reporting by Barbara Liston; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Richard Chang)
- 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.
President Joe Biden will continue his flurry of executive orders on Monday, signing a new directive to require the federal government to “buy American” for products and services. Why it matters: The executive action is yet another attempt by Biden to accomplish goals administratively without waiting for the backing of Congress. The new order echoes Biden's $400 billion campaign pledge to increase government purchases of American goods.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.What they're saying: "President Biden is ensuring that when the federal government spends taxpayer dollars they are spent on American made goods by American workers and with American-made component parts," the White House said in a fact sheet.The big picture: Biden’s action kick offs another week in which the president will seek to undo many Trump policies with executive actions, while signaling the direction that he wants to take the country. * Biden will also reaffirm his support for the Jones Act, which requires maritime shipments between American ports to be carried on U.S. vessels. * Last week, Biden signed an order to attempt to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors and workers to $15 an hour.The bottom line: Former President Trump also attempted to force the federal government to rely on U.S. manufacturers for procurement with "buy American" provisions. * But supply chains — with some parts and components made outside of the U.S. — require long and complicated efforts to boost domestic manufacturing. Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- 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. Underlining Mr Trump’s grip on the Republican grassroots, the Arizona party also voted to censure John McCain’s widow, Cindy, former senator Jeff Flake and governor Doug Ducey, who refused to back the former president’s claims of election fraud. Mr Trump’s intervention came amid reports that he is considering setting up a “Patriot Party” which would spearhead primary challenges to his opponents in the 2022 mid-term elections. The former president has already amassed a massive war chest with his Save America political action committee declaring last month that it had raked in $207.5 million in donations.
- The Week
What the Biden administration's first call with South Korea's defense secretary says about the countries' relationship
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had his first call with his South Korean counterpart, Minister of National Defense Suh Wook, this weekend. It sounded like things went pretty well, with the United States government's readout explaining the conversation "underscored the U.S. commitment to defend" South Korea. But Duyeon Kim, a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security noticed South Korea's description of the exchange differed slightly.In a Twitter thread on Monday, Kim explained that she wasn't surprised by what South Korea left out in its own readout. For example, there was no mention of two of the Pentagon's key takeaways, including the promise of "U.S. extended deterrent" and the necessity of maintaining a "rules-based international order." Kim's hunch is that South Korean President Moon Jae-in likely expects extended deterrence would upset North Korea and jeopardize his vision of a peace process with his neighbor. The international order detail, meanwhile, could interfere with Seoul's "strategic ambiguity" approach toward China.> DOD's press release: https://t.co/vZrmCQdX2F > MND's press release (in Korean): https://t.co/8yUcdg4bgT> > The alliance isn't doomed, but coordination will require a delicate dance. This time (vs w/Trump), Moon carries the burden of proof to meet alliance expectations../end> > -- Duyeon Kim (@duyeonkim) January 25, 2021Kim thinks there's time and room for the U.S. and South Korea to find their footing as the Biden administration settles in, but it may not be as easy as either side anticipated, as she explained in a separate thread last week. > SKorean prez Moon, in new year's presser just now, seems to have very high expectations about Biden's Korea policy & may be in for some surprises. My upcoming Foreign Affairs article (stuck in their editing queue since before Christmas) goes into detail, but here's a teaser..1/> > -- Duyeon Kim (@duyeonkim) January 18, 2021More stories from theweek.com Josh Hawley knows exactly what he's doing Trump must be prosecuted 5 scathingly funny cartoons about Biden's COVID-19 push
- Yahoo News Video
Israeli authorities on Monday extradited a former teacher accused of sexually abusing her former students in Australia, capping a six-year legal battle that had strained relations between the two governments and antagonized Australia's Jewish community.
- National Review
President Biden will sign a fresh round of executive orders during his first full week in office, including actions loosening restrictions around abortion and immigration. Biden will issue and order to rescind the Mexico City policy, which prohibits U.S. funding for foreign organizations that perform or promote abortions. The administration also dodged last week on whether Biden plans to scrap the Hyde Amendment, which bars taxpayer funding of elective abortions under Medicaid. On immigration, Biden plans to establish a task force focused on reuniting migrant families who were separated as a result of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, according to a memo outlining the upcoming executive actions obtained by The Hill. Biden will order an immediate review of the public-charge rule, which denies U.S. entry to migrants considered likely to become dependent on the government. The president also plans to roll back Trump administration policies on asylum and take “other actions to remove barriers and restore trust in the legal immigration system, including improving the naturalization process.” At the same time, Biden will take a page from the Trump administration’s playbook and sign an order directing federal agencies to tighten requirements on buying goods and services made in America from American businesses. Trump signed a similar directive during his first months in office. The president will also sign orders related to racial equity, including establishing a commission on police and bringing back Obama-era rules on transferring military-style equipment to local law enforcement. Another order will direct the Justice Department to improve prison conditions and begin the process of eliminating private prisons. Biden may also sign an order reversing a ban on transgender troops serving in the military. On climate change, Biden is expected to sign an order installing regulations to “combat climate change domestically and elevate climate change as a national security priority.”
- Associated Press
Indianapolis police arrested a 17-year-old boy Monday in the killings of five people, including a pregnant woman, who were shot to death inside a home in what the city's mayor called a “devastating act of violence.” The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement that the name of the suspect in Sunday's killings was “not being released at this time since the suspect is a juvenile." As officers were investigating, police received information about 4:40 a.m. that led them to a nearby home, where they found multiple adults dead inside from apparent gunshot wounds, Sgt. Shane Foley said Sunday.
- The Telegraph
Britain's Covid vaccine supply is in jeopardy after the EU threatened to block exports of the Belgian-made Pfizer jabs amid a row with UK-based AstraZeneca. Brussels decided to impose tighter controls on exports after reacting with fury to the news that AstraZeneca will deliver 50 million fewer doses to the EU than it had expected. Ministers now fear deliveries of the Pfizer jabs will – at best – be delayed by extra paperwork and that the EU could try to stop doses being sent to non-EU countries after saying it will "take any action required to protect its citizens". In March, the bloc imposed export restrictions on personal protective equipment after it struggled with supply to its member states. On Monday night, MPs accused the EU of acting out of "spite" and trying to deflect blame for its own mistakes in getting vaccination programmes off the ground.
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.
- The Independent
First family orders sesame bagels with cream cheese
- Associated Press
The impeachment case against Donald Trump is heading toward a historic Senate trial, but Republican senators are easing off their criticism of the former president and shunning calls to convict him over the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. House Democrats were to carry the sole impeachment charge of “ incitement of insurrection ” across the Capitol late Monday, the prosecutors making the ceremonial walk to the Senate.
Tacoma Police spokeswoman Wendy Haddow said police were alerted to the street racers and a 100-person crowd blocking area streets, according to the News Tribune. When the patrol car responded, the crowd began pounding on the vehicle's windows, she told local media. “He was afraid they would break his glass,” Haddow told the News Tribune, saying the officer sped away from the scene for his own safety.
- The Telegraph
A Texan teenager who tipped off the FBI about his father's alleged involvement in the Capitol riots said he would "do it again", despite claiming his father threatened to shoot him for being a "traitor". Jackson Reffitt, 18, said he felt a moral obligation to report his father to the authorities after watching him participate in the violent riots on live TV. His father, Guy, 48, was arrested at his home in Wylie, Texas on January 16 and faces charges of obstruction of justice and knowingly entering a restricted building. According to court documents, Mr Reffitt had allegedly threatened his wife and children, saying: “If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors … traitors get shot”. The younger Mr Reffitt said he was "afraid" of what his father might think of him, but told local station Fox 4 that he had acted according to his "moral compass".
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Monday he will not run for a third term in the U.S. Senate in 2022, citing "partisan gridlock."Why it matters: It's a surprise retirement from a prominent Senate Republican who easily won re-election in 2016 and was expected to do so again in 2022, creating an open Senate seat in a red-leaning swing state.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.Between the lines: Portman was one of the Republican senators who said that former President Trump "bears some responsibility" for the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. His decision not to seek re-election will free him from the political constraints of voting to convict Trump in his upcoming impeachment trial, though it's not yet clear whether he will choose to do so.What they're saying: "I don’t think any Senate office has been more successful in getting things done, but honestly, it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision," Portman said in a statement. * “We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties are being pushed further to the right and further to the left, and that means too few people who are actively looking to find common ground." * "This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but a problem that has gotten worse over the past few decades."Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- Business Insider
Barely any time has passed since President Biden's inauguration, and Republicans have already returned to their bag of shenanigans.
- Associated Press
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 he misdiagnosed. Robert Morris Levy, 54, of Fayetteville was sentenced Friday in federal court. Prosecutors said Levy diagnosed a patient with lymphoma when the patient actually had a small-cell carcinoma.
California Governor Gavin Newsom's office has decided to lift the orders as ICU availability in the regions that remained under the stay-at-home order, including the Bay area and Southern California are projected to rise above the 15% threshold that triggered the lockdown measures, according https://bit.ly/3sSPOfp to San Francisco Chronicle. California has reported over 3.1 million cases and 36,745 deaths so far, a Reuters tally showed. Strict stay-at-home orders were renewed for much of California in December to avert a crisis in hospitals.
- The Telegraph
Fourteen multinationals went on trial on Monday accused of causing grievous harm to a French-Vietnamese woman by selling Agent Orange to the US whose military used millions of tons of the toxic chemical in the Vietnam War. Lawyers for the plaintiff and NGOs have hailed the trial in France as potentially “historic” as a guilty verdict would be the first time a Vietnamese civilian was deemed a victim of the defoliant, which contains harmful dioxins. As part of American’s Ranch Hand military campaign to halt the advance of Communist North Vietnamese troops, the US military sprayed an estimated 76 million litres (20 million gallons) of Agent Orange between 1961 and 1971. The stated aim was to deprive enemy combatants of cover and destroy crops. But NGOs say that as well as destroying plants, polluting the soil and poisoning animals, it also caused health problems such as cancer and malformations in up to three million humans in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The US officially ended the use of defoliant chemicals in the war in 1971, and withdrew from Vietnam in 1975, defeated by the Viet Cong after 20 years of conflict. To date, only military veterans - from the US, Australia and Korea - have won compensation for the after-effects of the chemical whose toxicity is estimated to be around 13 times that of herbicides in civilian use such as glyphosate. In 1984, seven chemical companies settled with US veteran plaintiffs to the tune of $250 million after 16,000 complained exposure had caused rare forms of cancers, nerve damage, liver disorders and skin problems. They also claimed it resulted in miscarriages by their spouses and birth defects in their children. However, civilian lawsuits have so far failed.
- The Week
Colleagues shocked that 'nerdy' Justice Department official joined Trump's election overthrow effort
Former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and other top Justice Department officials spent New Year's Eve berating Jeffrey Clark, the acting head of the DOJ's civil division, for repeatedly pushing them to help former President Donald Trump overturn his clear electoral loss and secretly meeting with Trump, The New York Times reports, citing six people with knowledge of the meeting. Rosen thought the matter was settled that night, the Times reports, but Clark continued secretly planning with Trump to intervene in Georgia, including a plot where Trump would fire Rosen and put Clark in his place.Clark has said the reporting by the Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post about his role in an effort to replace Rosen and meddle in Georgia to undo Trump's loss is inaccurate, and he claims his discussions with Trump are shielded under "legal privileges." Only intervention by Justice Department officials and Trump's White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, plus the threat of mass resignations, stopped Trump from firing Rosen and elevating Clark, all three newspapers report.Even before "Clark's machinations came to light" in the new year, it was clear from "his willingness to entertain conspiracy theories about voting booth hacks and election fraud" that Clark "was not the establishment lawyer they thought him to be," the Times reports. "Some senior department leaders had considered him quiet, hard-working, and detail-oriented. Others said they knew nothing about him, so low was his profile. He struck neither his fans in the department nor his detractors as being part of the Trumpist faction of the party."Clark's friends and critics alike, the Times reports, described him as "nerdy" and "thoughtful," a Republican lawyer and Federalist Society member with the usual skeptical view of regulations, not an operator. Now Clark, 53, is "notorious" and unlikely to be hired back at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, where he spent his career outside his stints in the Trump and George W. Bush administrations, the Times reports. Read more about Clark — an alumnus of Harvard, Georgetown Law, and the Biden School of Public Policy at the University of Delaware — at The New York Times.More stories from theweek.com Josh Hawley knows exactly what he's doing Trump must be prosecuted 5 scathingly funny cartoons about Biden's COVID-19 push
- NBC News
The fate of top Democratic priorities like $1,400 checks and an immigration overhaul could hang in the balance.