VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis, whose criticisms of unbridled capitalism have prompted some to label him a Marxist, said in an interview published on Sunday that communists had stolen the flag of Christianity. The 77-year-old pontiff gave an interview to Il Messaggero, Rome's local newspaper, to mark the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, a Roman holiday. He was asked about a blog post in the Economist magazine that said he sounded like a Leninist when he criticized capitalism and called for radical economic reform. "I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the center of the Gospel," he said, citing Biblical passages about the need to help the poor, the sick and the needy. "Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, twenty centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: 'but then you are Christian'," he said, laughing. Since his election in March 2013, Francis has often attacked the global economic system as being insensitive to the poor and not doing enough to share wealth with those who need it most. Earlier this month, he criticized the wealth made from financial speculation as intolerable and said speculation on commodities was a scandal that compromised the poor's access to food. (Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Stephen Powell)
- The Daily Beast
MATHIEU LEWIS-ROLLANDBy Elaine ShannonThe FBI-Homeland Security intelligence bulletin circulated at midnight Tuesday is ominous, but entirely predictable, given widely published reports of far-right chatter over the past several weeks: It alerts local law enforcement officials that extremists may try to breach the U.S. Capitol on Thursday and attack Democratic lawmakers.The warning is based on a malevolent fantasy spread by followers of QAnon, the cultish pro-Trump movement, that Donald Trump will reemerge to take power as the rightful president on March 4, which was Inauguration Day until 1933. Preposterous, but the FBI has learned not to dismiss any threat, no matter how irrational.“It does not take an armed takeover” by an organized group to do a lot of damage, says Tom O’Connor, an FBI agent who investigated suspected domestic terrorists for 23 years. “It takes one person who believes they need to act. How possible is that, I ask you?”Dead easy, as the FBI knows from the many cases in which lone actors or a couple or three angry people unleashed spectacular destruction, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Charleston church shooter Dylan Roof, and, most recently, Nashville bomber Tony Warner.The FBI’s ability to surveil American citizens and build domestic terrorism dossiers on them is tightly restricted by laws and regulations enacted in the post-Watergate era.Which is why the FBI has developed alternative tools and techniques for finding and discouraging people who might be thinking of escalating from radical anti-government speech, which is protected by the First Amendment, to violent action, which is a crime.FBI agents are currently deploying, among other strategies, preemptive interviews, also known as “knock and talk,” as a tactic for dealing with potential troublemakers when there’s insufficient evidence to file criminal charges—for instance, people who have been out bragging in bars or “shit-posting” online about their determination to come to Washington to help restore Trump to the White House, disrupt Congress or the Biden administration or intimidate lawmakers.The knock-and-talk drill is powerful, requires no intrusive technology and no warrant. It goes like this: FBI agents, sometimes with local police partners, knock on doors of people of interest and ask to interview them. The mere appearance of courteous but unsmiling and obviously well-informed badge-carriers, armed with notebooks and a long list of very specific questions, is often enough to chill someone from carrying out a half-baked scheme.“FBI agents and [Joint Terrorism] Task Force [police] officers routinely conduct these interviews with people who may have information or involvement in activity,” O’Connor told SpyTalk. “The effort is to let the interviewee know the FBI is aware they have potential involvement or information. This may slow the person’s potential involvement and most importantly, after building a relationship with the person, may produce information which will stop potential violence.”“These interviews are related to [uncovering] potential criminal violence,” he stressed, “and not First Amendment-protected activity. The FBI in no way is looking to chill a citizen’s rights to peaceful protest or free speech.”On Wednesday morning, Jill Sanborn, the FBI’s assistant director for counterterrorism, alluded to the FBI uses of the knock-and-talk technique to deter known violent extremists from traveling to the Capitol for the Jan. 6 event. Testifying before a joint session of the Senate Homeland Security and Rules committees, Sanborn explained that of the 257 people charged so far for taking part in the riot, only one person was already under criminal investigation for domestic terrorism-related activities. Asked why so few documented domestic terrorists were in the crowd, Sanborn replied, “We were aware of some of our subjects that intended to come here. We took overt action by going and talking to them to get them to not come. That worked in the majority of our already predicated cases.”FBI director Christopher Wray made a similar disclosure to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. “There were individuals on whom we had previously predicated investigations, that we saw getting ready to travel,” Wray said. “…We had agents…approach those individuals, interview them, and even if we didn’t have the basis to charge somebody, it persuaded a number of those people from traveling.”‘Ready to Die’: Two Months of MAGA Mob Warning SignsWray said the FBI has 2,000 open domestic terrorism investigations, a fourfold increse over 2017.Knock-and-talk is “not new and certainly not just for terrorism,” says a retired agent with extensive experience in domestic and foreign counterterrorism investigations. “It's been done for years on organized crime cases. Sometimes to keep people from possibly doing something and sometimes to shake the bushes and see what reaction you get. Put pressure on a group of people, make them worried, make them suspicious and see what they do. In some cases where you are employing [court approved] Title III judicial wiretaps, you do interviews to see who the guys you talked to call. Do they call their bosses or do they warn people? It's a great technique. It works on different levels and it sends the message, ‘We are watching you. We know who you are.’ People think the Internet makes them invisible. Sometimes they need to be reminded that's not true.”Last week, Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pitman disclosed another malign fantasy reported by a FBI-Homeland Security intelligence bulletin—that some domestic extremists were talking of bombing the U.S. Capitol while President Biden was addressing a joint session of Congress in a State of the Union-style event, to assassinate the president and his cabinet and kill every lawmaker in sight.“The State of the Union is the juiciest target this country ever had, but the logistics are challenging,” says a retired senior FBI counterterrorism agent.“We always took the attitude, if your purpose is to stop the State of the Union, all you have to do is set off a bomb somewhere in D.C. and that will shut everything down,” he said, speaking with SpyTalk on condition of anonymity. “If a car bomb goes off in front of Union Station,” four blocks from the Capitol building, “they’ll stop it.”Presumably, the Secret Service would whisk the president away to a bunker and congressional leaders would also go to ground.But, the ex-G-man adds, “If your mission is to blow up the whole Capitol and decapitate the government, you better use a cruise missile because that’s the only way you’re going to get it.”As during previous State of the Union events, when the president travels to the Hill, streets around the Capitol building will be closed. Many are already closed off from the Jan. 6 event. Some will be blocked with buses and trucks. Secret Service, FBI, Homeland Security and local law enforcement surveillance teams will be everywhere, in patrol cars and on foot.Choppers and SniffersCounterterror veterans say that military aircraft and customs and police helicopters will overfly the Capitol and nearby streets, looking for everything from light aircraft to armed drones. Radiation detectors will be mounted in aircraft, cars and in backpacks shouldered by plainclothes agents, so they can head off “dirty” bombs packed with radioactive trash as shrapnel.The Capitol Police force has the biggest bomb squad in Washington, D.C., the ex-G-man says, and if its bomb techs encounter a device they can’t defuse, they’ll be able to summon backup from the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, which includes specialists trained to render safe unusual explosive devices.“If somebody wanted to put a package bomb on a drone, it would be hard to catch, hard to stop, but it wouldn’t do much damage,” he says. “If somebody wants to put a plane down somewhere, it’s very hard to stop that.”“It is possible [to hit the Capitol building] with an improvised missile,” Dave Williams, a retired FBI bomb tech who now consults on security, told SpyTalk. “The payload would be limited depending on the delivery system, but 20 pounds of high explosive would get some attention. A drone attack is unlikely, due to electronic jamming systems that could/will be in place. But a homemade rocket/missile has been made by a number of people. And they could easily fire it from a good distance away, a mile or so. It’s not out of the question.”That’s a chilling scenario, because the domestic extremist movement has attracted a significant number of military veterans. Some of them, or some to be recruited in coming months, could have useful artillery skills. Any explosion would yield the kind of publicity terrorists crave.Nightmares of Bombings PastA truck bomb would be a terrorist’s preferred, low-tech method for demolishing part of a massive stone building. The bomb that blew up about a third of the Oklahoma City federal building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people, consisted of about 4,000 pounds of ANFO— ammonium nitrate fertilizer mixed with fuel oil—concealed in a Ryder moving truck. Williams says it would take at least that much ANFO or another homemade explosive to wreak equivalent damage on the hallowed Capitol building. A car, pickup or van couldn’t hold that much. Large trucks are impossible to hide, and they’re under routine scrutiny in Washington, especially during special events.A smaller amount of stolen military high explosives such as C4, PETN or TNT might do the job, but Williams doubts a terror group could get its hands on enough to create a catastrophic event in Washington.The most diabolical scenario is an explosion, or a series of them, detonated by an insider— or an outsider who has gained access to the building.The pros say that’s been considered. They say that since the anthrax attacks in 2001, the Capitol complex’s air conditioning system has been outfitted with filters that capture particles down to nanograms. These filters are regularly checked with forensic instruments that can detect particles of chemical explosives and also biological and radiological agents.As well, the Capitol Police make regular rounds with dogs trained to sniff explosives. Dog’s noses are often more sensitive than machines, and they like the job.“It’s like play for these dogs,” says Williams.Buzz Kill“They have all kinds of detectors within the Capitol, with all kinds of different levels of sensors,” says the ex-G-man. “The military has mobile systems that you can run out of a Humvee to detect explosives. They’re designed to protect troops out in the field. They work in fields, jungle, deserts.” So, the thinking goes, they’ll work well on Capitol Hill.“At this point, all threats have to be run to ground,” says O’Connor, who retired from the FBI in 2019. “The threat does not have to be fully vetted and confirmed to have actions taken to guard against potential attacks. The threats of overrunning the Capitol were thought by many to be along the same lines. No agencies will be writing off any threats until they are proven non-credible.”Privately, though, some FBI counter-terror hands expect the attack-the-Capitol moment to go sideways.“Guys like this don't want to go toe-to-toe with security forces and police that they know are waiting for them and really, really want another shot at the rioters,” says a retired FBI agent. “The Capitol Police and the National Guard both want to prove to the world that they can do the job and would love for people to try and breach the Capitol again. I expect lots of online rhetoric. I expect several groups to declare Trump is president again. I expect stories of a ‘secret Inauguration' taking place.”And then?Nothing for a while. Then maybe a change of venue.“If I was Capitol Police,” says the ex-Gman, “I would be more concerned about direct actions taken against specific congressional leaders when they are at home or traveling back to their home offices. That is when they are most vulnerable now.”Co-published with SpyTalk, where Jeff Stein leads an all-star team of veteran investigative reporters, writers, and subject-matter experts who will take you behind the scenes of the national security state. Subscribe to get full access to the newsletter and website.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- Business Insider
A succession of communication blunders about the vaccine has led some Europeans to see it as second rate.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday withdrew the nomination of Neera Tanden to be his budget director after she ran into stiff opposition over tweets that upset lawmakers, in the first Capitol Hill rebuff of one of his nominees. "I have accepted Neera Tanden’s request to withdraw her name from nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget," Biden said in a short statement on Tuesday. The decision to withdraw Tanden's nomination reflected the tenuous hold his Democrats have on the Senate.
- The Independent
5,000 National Guard troops remain in DC amid QAnon frenzy that Trump will be inaugurated again this week
QAnon followers believe that on 4 March, which was once the inauguration date of US presidents, Donald Trump will become president again
- Reuters Videos
Students leading a class action against a coal mine extension in Australia had their first day of hearing on Tuesday.The landmark claim by a group of eight teenagers all under the age of 18, argues that the expansion of Whitehaven's Vickery coal mine will contribute to climate change and that Australia’s Environment Minister has a duty of care to them as young people.Anjali Sharma said that the mine expansion will endanger their future:“We face an increasing amount of natural disasters, and the climate is becoming unlivable for us. This is a crisis that disproportionately affects people of colour, young people and marginalised people around the world. So yes I'm terrified. Their case is being heard in Melbourne’s Federal Court and is expected to last five days, but a judgement may not be made for several months.David Barnden from Equity Generation Lawyers is representing the students:"This is a unique action in Australia, there's never been a case like it. What it does, is it says that the law must develop in order to protect younger people, to protect vulnerable people, from these impacts. It asks the law to catch up to the modern problems in society."Climate change has been a divisive topic in Australia, one of the world's largest per capita carbon emitters.More than 70 countries have signed up to net-zero emissions by 2050, but not Australia.The country's conservative government has won successive elections on a platform of supporting Australia's mining.
- Associated Press Videos
Texas, where the coronavirus has killed more than 42,000 people, is becoming the largest state to end its mask mandate. Gov. Greg Abbott says all limits on indoor dining are also being lifted starting next week. (March 2)
- Reuters Videos
This comes as foreign ministers of neighboring countries prepare to hold talks with the junta in a bid to find a peaceful way out of the crisis.The coup halted Myanmar's tentative steps towards democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule, and has drawn condemnation and sanctions from the United States and other Western countries, and growing concern among its neighbors.Hundreds of people have been arrested, according to activists, among them six journalists, one of whom works for the Associated Press.
President Biden recently gave a pass to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his role in the 2018 murder of journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi. In so doing, he also gave a pass to U.S. companies and investment firms that continue to do business with MBS.Why it matters: The wheels of capitalism and convenience ran over justice.Get market news worthy of your time with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free.Driving the news: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence last week released an unclassified report assessing that MBS approved the operation to "capture or kill" Khashoggi, despite public denials from MBS. The White House announced sanctions on numerous individuals and entities implicated in the murder, but not on MBS. During a November 2019 Democratic debate, Biden said: "Khashoggi was, in fact, murdered and dismembered, and I believe on the order of the crown prince. And I would make it very clear we were not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them, we were going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are."No sanctions were placed on the Public Investment Fund, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund controlled by MBS. PIF was not cited in the ODNI report, but documents disclosed in a Canadian court case allege that a PIF portfolio company owned two private jets used by Khashoggi assassins, per CNN.Big money: PIF, with around $350 billion in assets under management, is a giant player in the U.S. investment markets.For example, it's the majority owner of California electric vehicle maker Lucid Motors, and is anchoring a $2.5 billion PIPE for Lucid's record-breaking SPAC deal.It's still the third-largest outside shareholder in Uber, and maintains a board seat.It's also invested hundreds of millions of dollars into such private companies as Magic Leap, Penske Media and real estate giant The Related Cos. Plus it's an indirect director in many more, via its role as the largest outside investor in SoftBank Vision Fund and The Blackstone Group's infrastructure fund.It seemed in late 2018 that Khashoggi's murder might cause U.S. firms to back away from PIF, particularly judging by how many CEOs bailed on the so-called "Davos in the Desert" conference. But it seems the courage of their convictions was contingent on political cover they never got, first from former President Trump and now from Biden.Many of those conference cancelers returned for this year's virtual event, apparently deciding there's a two-year statute of limitation on murder.The head of one large American company with Saudi ties told me prior to the report's release that if the U.S. government put sanctions on PIF, of course the company would comply. Otherwise, he argued, it'll take money from the Saudis, just as it would from any other U.S. ally.The bottom line, per Axios World editor David Lawler: "Biden decided it was better to preserve a relationship with MBS than send a message by cutting him off. U.S. companies now have license to follow suit."Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.
- Associated Press
A national panel of vaccine experts in Canada recommended Wednesday that provinces extend the interval between the two doses of a COVID-19 shot to four months to quickly inoculate more people amid a shortage of doses in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also expressed optimism that vaccination timelines could be sped up. The current protocol is an interval of three to four weeks between doses for the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.
- USA TODAY
Sen. Chuck Schumer said Democrats would be "on track" to pass the bill by March 14, when a federal boost to unemployment benefits expires.
- The Week
During the campaign for the two Georgia Senate races, Joe Biden repeatedly promised to pass $2,000 stimulus checks if the Democrats won. After they did, the administration argued that $2,000 really meant $1,400 in addition to the $600 that had already gone out in the December rescue package. Whether that is true or not, now Biden is inarguably breaking his promise. Under pressure from moderate Senate Democrats, he has reportedly agreed to cut down the formula under which the checks will be sent out. In the previous packages, the amount started phasing out at $75,000 in income for individuals and $150,000 for joint filers, and vanished entirely at $100,000 and $200,000 respectively (as of 2019). Now the phase-out will start start in the same place but end at $80,000 for singles and $160,000 for couples. The $1,400 promise clearly implied at least that the checks would go out according to the previous formula used under Trump. But now singles making between $80,000-100,000 and couples making between $160,000-200,000 will get nothing. The Washington Post's Jeff Stein reports that roughly 17 million people who previously got checks now will not. The supposed justification here is that moderates want the aid to be more "targeted." In fact this formula is horribly inaccurate, because the income data the IRS uses is from the year before the pandemic (unless people have already filed their taxes — and by the way, if your income decreased in 2020, you should do that immediately). This formula is therefore doubly wrong — there are no doubt millions of people who have lost jobs and should qualify but won't, and a smaller number that have gotten raises and shouldn't qualify but will. And this change will only save a pitiful $12 billion. The survival checks are one of the most popular government programs in American history. Polls have them at something like 4-1 approval. "Moderation," for Senate Democrats, apparently means breaking their party's promises in the service of unpopular, pointless actions that make their president seem less generous than Donald Trump. More stories from theweek.com7 scathingly funny cartoons about Trump's CPAC appearanceDisney to close at least 60 retail stores in U.S. and CanadaThe lost art of being reasonable
- The Telegraph
The Duchess of Sussex wore earrings given to her by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia three weeks after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, against advice from palace aides, The Telegraph understands. The Duchess, 39, had been given the Butani earrings as an official wedding present from the Saudi Royal Family. When she wore them to a formal dinner in Fiji in October 2018, during a royal tour, the media were told that they were “borrowed” but unusually, declined to offer further information or guidance. The dinner took place three weeks after Mr Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Duchess’s lawyers insisted that at the time of the dinner, she was unaware of speculation that the crown prince was involved in the murder of the journalist. However, a royal source claimed that palace staff had advised the Duchess not to wear the jewellery. “Members of Royal Household staff sometimes advise people on their options,” one said. “But what they choose to do with that advice is a very different matter.” The earrings were accepted as a wedding gift by the prince, known as MBS, in March 2018, when he had lunch with the Queen during a three-day visit to London. They were among a series of wedding gifts that were then transferred to Kensington Palace in June, the month after the wedding, which was when the Sussexes first knew of their existence. A source close to the Duchess said members of her staff were aware that the earrings had been chosen as part of the Duchess’s tour wardrobe. Saudi Arabia admitted on October 20, three days before the dinner in Fiji, that its officials were responsible for Khashoggi’s death. Staff in London were concerned when they saw the Duchess’s earrings in the media and alerted Kensington Palace, according to The Times. But it was claimed they decided not to take it up with the Sussexes while they were on tour “for fear for what their reaction would be." The following month, the Duchess wore them again to the Prince of Wales's 70th birthday party at Buckingham Palace and at that point, an aide is said to have confronted the Duke about the issue. He reportedly looked "shocked" when approached about the concerns. Lawyers for the Sussexes’ denied he was questioned about their provenance, which they said was well known.
Vanessa Bryant, on the latest cover of PEOPLE Magazine, says that her pain is still “unimaginable” after the loss of her husband Kobe Bryant and her daughter Gianna Bryant, but that they still “motivate her.” It’s been over a year since Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, 13, tragically passed in a helicopter crash last Jan. 26. While the world publicly mourned the loss of an icon, Vanessa is opening up to the outlet about her terrible loss and how she has coped through the past year.
- The Telegraph
Buckingham Palace is to investigate claims that the Duchess of Sussex bullied several members of her staff, it has been announced. A spokesman said they were “clearly very concerned” about allegations that Meghan, 39, had forced out two PAs and undermined the confidence of a third during her time as a working royal. Aides had expressed concerns about how such matters were handled by the palace, expressing concern that nothing was done at the time to investigate the situation, and that nothing had been done since to protect staff against the possibility of bullying by a member of the Royal Family. Buckingham Palace confirmed that its HR team would now look into the circumstances outlined in various allegations leaked to The Times. It said: “Members of staff involved at the time, including those who have left the Household, will be invited to participate to see if lessons can be learned. “The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace.” While the palace did not reveal a timetable for its investigation, it is understood that HR staff hope to begin soon. Any resulting change in policy or procedure will be shared in its annual Sovereign Grant report, which highlights significant changes in operations. Read more: Sussex society: The key figures at the centre of the Meghan bullying claims The provenance of the leaked allegations caused the battle between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Royal Household to escalate as palace aides branded allegations they had leaked the claims as “untrue” and “disingenuous”. The revelation that Meghan faced several complaints of bullying from members of her own staff also thwarted hopes of a reconciliation between Prince Harry and Prince William. Instead, the disclosures about the Duchess’s behaviour provoked another bitter war of words, as palace aides sought to distance themselves from the leak and staff on both sides scrambled to establish who was responsible. The claims are thought to have been carefully and deliberately collated, with multiple sources briefing against her. Jason Knauf, the Sussexes’ communications secretary at the time, submitted a formal complaint in October 2018, describing her treatment of one employee as “totally unacceptable.” He added: “ The Duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights.” The Sussexes are convinced that senior Buckingham Palace aides leaked the allegations as part of an orchestrated defence because they are “nervous” about revelations made in their forthcoming Oprah Winfrey interview, to be broadcast in the US on Sunday.
QAnon influencers are attacking their movement's hyped March 4 event, calling it a false flag conspiracy theory
QAnon planned for March 4 as its next big date. The movement's influencers are already looking forward to the next goal post.
- Business Insider
The Trumps are trying to sell a Florida home for $49 million after buying it from the former president's sister for $18 million in 2018
Eric Trump tweeted a listing for a home that the family is trying to sell through a limited liability company for more than twice its 2018 value.
- NY Daily News
NEW YORK — Jets GM Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh haven’t quite tipped their hand for their plans at quarterback yet, but those plans are becoming increasingly clear. Sam Darnold is on the block. Trading for Deshaun Watson is unlikely. Perhaps the clearest statement came from Douglas when he was asked a leading question about trading the Jets’ boatload of picks for a player. ...
- The Telegraph
Buckingham Palace is to investigate claims that the Duchess of Sussex bullied members of her staff. These are the key figures at the centre of the allegations. Simon Case Briefly director of strategy at GCHQ before going on to work for the Duke of Cambridge as his private secretary (pictured below). He then returned to government, first as permanent secretary in Downing Street to Boris Johnson and then more recently as Cabinet Secretary.
- Business Insider
Dr. Fauci has a stunningly simple way to explain how Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine differs from Pfizer's and Moderna's shots
All three of the COVID-19 shots authorized for use in the US train the body to recognize the coronavirus, but J&J's uses a cold virus instead of mRNA.
- Business Insider
Court docs reveal Saudi wealth fund courted by Hollywood and Wall Street owned planes used in Jamal Khashoggi's killing
A Saudi investment fund courted by Hollywood and Silicon Valley owns two planes used to fly Jamal Khashoggi's killers to and from Istanbul.