By Alexei Anishchuk LAURA Russia (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the United States on Friday of endangering global security by imposing a "unilateral diktat" on the rest of the world and shifted blame for the Ukraine crisis onto the West. In a 40-minute diatribe against the West that was reminiscent of the Cold War and underlined the depth of the rift between Moscow and the West, Putin also denied trying to rebuild the Soviet empire at the expense of Russia's neighbors. "We did not start this," Putin told an informal group of experts on Russia that includes many Western specialists critical of him, warning that Washington was trying to "remake the whole world" based on its own interests. "Statements that Russia is trying to reinstate some sort of empire, that it is encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbors, are groundless," the former KGB spy declared in a speech delivered standing at a podium, without a smile, in a ski resort in mountains above the Black Sea city of Sochi. Listing a series of conflicts in which he faulted U.S. actions, including Libya, Syria and Iraq, Putin asked whether Washington's policies had strengthened peace and democracy. "No," he declared. "The unilateral diktat and the imposing of schemes (on others) have exactly the opposite effect." Putin, 62, has stepped up anti-Western rhetoric since returning to the Kremlin as president in 2012, helping push up his popularity ratings since the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March. Even so, the speech was one of the most hostile Putin has delivered against the West and it appeared partly intended to show Russian voters he will stand up to the rest of the world and defend their interests. The criticisms of a world order dominated by Washington, more than two decades after the Cold War, recalled a 2007 speech in Munich in which Putin shocked the West by lambasting Washington's "unipolar" world view. The speech prompted many Western leaders to reassess their view of Putin. SHIFTING THE BLAME The annual meetings of what is known as the Valdai Club have rarely featured such open, direct and tough language in their debates on Russian policy. Critics say the meetings have become a showcase for Kremlin policy, with the session attended by Putin shown live on state television and little discussion of Russia's record on human rights and democracy, which is criticized in the West. Putin rejected criticism over the Ukraine crisis, in which Moscow has sided with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, and threw the West's criticisms of Moscow back in its face. Repeating accusations that Western governments helped pro-Western groups stage a coup d'etat that ousted a pro-Moscow president in Kiev in February, Putin said: "No one wanted to listen to us and no one wanted to talk to us." "Instead of a difficult but, I underline, civilized dialogue they brought about a state coup. They pushed the country into chaos, economic and social collapse, and civil war with huge losses," he said. Dismissing U.S. and European Union sanctions imposed on Moscow as a mistake, he said: "Russia will not be posturing, get offended, ask someone for anything. Russia is self-sufficient." He made only passing references to the decline of Russia's $2 trillion economy, which is in danger of sliding into recession as its currency tumbles along with the price of oil, its main export item. But he said in a question and answer session after his speech that Russia would not burn though its gold and foreign currency reserves thoughtlessly to prop up the economy. Putin has increasingly sought to shift blame for the economic crisis onto global problems, the sanctions and the oil price. He and other Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have also used increasingly tough language to blame the West for the Ukraine crisis. A ceasefire has been in force in Ukraine since Sept. 5, but it has been violated daily and the West says Moscow continues to have troops and weapons in east Ukraine. Russia denies this. (Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly, Vladimir Soldatkin, Alexander Winning, Jason Bush and Gabriela Baczynska; Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Giles Elgood)
- USA TODAY Opinion
The problem in 2020 was with the Republican candidate. That won't change in 2024 if Trump stays on top.
- The Week
Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough on Thursday effectively killed a Democratic push to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, ruling that the measure doesn't pass muster under the budget reconciliation rules Democrats are using to pass the package with a simple majority in the Senate. Two Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), have already said they would vote against including the $15 minimum wage provision in the relief package, dealing it a near-fatal blow in the 50-50 Senate. But many supporters of the wage hike were nonetheless irritated that an obscure, unelected Senate official was the one to ax the broadly popular measure. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was among them, but he also had a Plan B. "In the coming days, I will be working with my colleagues in the Senate to move forward with an amendment to take tax deductions away from large, profitable corporations that don't pay workers at least $15 an hour and to provide small businesses with the incentives they need to raise wages," Sanders said in a statement. "That amendment must be included in the reconciliation bill." Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) echoed Sanders, saying he's "looking at a tax penalty for mega-corporations that refuse to pay a living wage." The House is scheduled to vote on the $1.9 trillion package, including the $15 minimum wage, on Friday, but the measure can be amended when it arrives in the Senate. If they reconfigure the minimum wage increase as a tax penalty, which is "likely to qualify under the reconciliation rules," Bloomberg News reports, "Democrats have less than three weeks to draft the changes, convince all 50 senators who caucus with the party to support the tax increases — and the specifics of the minimum-wage hike. ... Targeting only large, profitable companies could help assuage concerns from some moderate Democrats who are hesitant to support large-scale tax increases." More stories from theweek.comJosh Hawley, Senator NoPandemic experts are starting to sound increasingly optimistic. Is it safe to make plans for a summer vacation?Journalist Tim O'Brien, who's seen Trump's taxes, thinks Trump's accountant will now flip in D.A. inquiry
- The Daily Beast
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty/TwitterA pickup truck parked at the United States Capitol and bearing a Three Percenter militia sticker on the day of the Jan. 6 riot belongs to the husband of freshman U.S. Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois, who approvingly quoted Adolf Hitler a day earlier.Researchers on Twitter first noticed the Ford pickup truck with the far-right militia’s decal parked on the Capitol grounds in footage posted to social media and taken by CBS News.The presence of a vehicle with a militia decal so close to the Capitol, inaccessible to normal vehicle traffic, raised questions about how it got there—and whether it belonged to any of the hundreds of suspects involved in the deadly riot.But in an email to The Daily Beast, Chris Miller, Rep. Miller’s husband and a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, conceded the truck belonged to him even as he pleaded ignorance about the militia group.Mitch McConnell Says He’ll Support Trump in 2024 After Blaming Him for Capitol Riot“Army friend gave me decal. Thought it was a cool decal. Took it off because of negative pub,” Miller wrote in an email late Thursday. He says he “never was member” of the militia and “didn’t know anything about 3% till fake news started this fake story and read about them.” A request for comment to the office of U.S. Rep. Miller was not returned prior to publication.The link between the truck and Rep. Miller was first reported on Twitter on Thursday by the @capitolhunters account, which is organizing research about rioters seen in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot from a large community of volunteers reviewing thousands of hours of footage.The #Sedition3PTruck with government plates parked in a restricted zone from 1:02. #SeditionHunters #Sedition3PSource: https://t.co/DubmxJhjSZ pic.twitter.com/INCs6geEYg— Phoenix on Wheels (@phoenixonwheels) February 25, 2021 A pickup truck with the same make, model, color, and Illinois plate number as the one at the Capitol on Jan. 6 is also visible in a July 2020 photo carrying Mary Miller for Congress banners during a Fourth of July parade in Illinois. That same day, Rep. Miller’s Facebook page posted a picture of what appeared to be the same truck with the same Trump-Pence and Mary Miller for Congress banners attached to the same PVC pipe frame as she campaigned in the towns of Mattoon, Sullivan, Herrick, and Moweaqua.https://www.facebook.com/BaileyforIllinois/photos/888345101571058Previously, the Millers have proudly posted pictures of the same model of Ford pickup truck, often emblazoned with the same stickers—like “herd quitter” and Guns Save Life, a website affiliated with an Illinois-based gun rights group—as the truck at the Capitol bore on Jan. 6. In at least one case, before Chris Miller’s election to the State House in 2018, the truck in question had a different license plate.The couple have appeared with that truck at campaign events, sometimes with the vehicle plastered in pictures of their faces or “taxpayers lives matter” posters. The license plate of the vehicle at the Capitol on Jan. 6—registered to Illinois, but with a drawing of the state’s Capitol building—appears to be a design reserved for Illinois politicians, like Chris Miller, who took office in 2019.The Three Percenter decal may have been a relatively new addition to the car, as it was not visible in images from this summer.https://www.facebook.com/ChrisMillerForStateRep/photos/2438928539529305Elected last November, Mary Miller, a Republican, is perhaps best known for speaking at a “Moms for America” rally in front of the Capitol one day before the riot. “Hitler was right on one thing: whoever has the youth has the future," she told the crowd. She later apologized for the remarks and said “some are trying to intentionally twist my words to mean something antithetical to my beliefs.”Militia groups have garnered new attention from law enforcement given the number of members arrested and charged with riot-related crimes since Jan. 6. Robert Gieswein, an alleged rioter identified by The Daily Beast who’s visible in footage of the first rioters to break into the Capitol, "appears to be affiliated with the radical militia group known as the Three Percenters," according to an FBI affidavit filed in the court case against him.The group, which first formed in 2008, is part of a loose network of “anti-government extremists” who liken their crusade against the U.S. government to that of Revolutionary War-era patriots, according to the Anti Defamation League. Their name comes from the false claim that only 3 percent of U.S. colonists fought in that war.Ties between militia groups and Congress have also come under greater scrutiny after some lawmakers suggested their colleagues may have played a role in the riot. Rep. Steve Cohen pointedly claimed that U.S. Rep Lauren Boebert led a “large” tour through the Capitol shortly before the riot. Boebert said she gave no tours to anyone outside her family at the time and there is no evidence as yet that any of the rioters benefited from inside help.Boebert has, however, been criticized for her links to militia groups after she posed for a picture at a December 2019 gun rights rally where rally-goers flashed Three Percenter hand signs.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet 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.
United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Friday that China is restricting basic civil and political freedoms in the name of national security and COVID-19 measures, adding to a wave of criticism of the country's rights record. "Activists, lawyers and human rights defenders – as well as some foreign nationals – face arbitrary criminal charges, detention or unfair trials," Bachelet told the Human Rights Council. More than 600 people in Hong Kong are being investigated for taking part in protests, some under the new national security law imposed by mainland China on the former British colony, she said.
- Business Insider
Bernie Sanders says Democrats will try to devise a backdoor to implement a $15 minimum wage after major stimulus setback
Sanders said he would introduce a plan to end tax breaks for large corporations and set up incentives for small businesses to implement a pay hike.
- USA TODAY
A pilot at American Airlines radioed Sunday that an unidentified object flew over their jet during a flight while they were over New Mexico.
- Business Insider
While Biden visits storm-torn Texas, Sen. Ted Cruz will be giving a speech on 'cancel culture' in Florida
The president is set to tour the state with Gov. Greg Abbott.
- The Independent
Former House speaker previously referred to Texas senator as ‘Lucifer in the flesh’
The Biden administration announced sanctions and visa bans on Friday targeting Saudi Arabian citizens over the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but stopped short of imposing sanctions on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself. U.S. President Joe Biden's actions in the first weeks of his administration appear aimed at fulfilling campaign promises to realign Saudi ties after critics accused his predecessor, Donald Trump, of giving the Arab ally and major oil producer a pass on gross human rights violations. A senior Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the approach aims to create a new launching-off point for ties with the kingdom without breaking a core relationship in the Middle East.
- Business Insider
Merkel says she won't take AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine because she's too old, as 1.4 million jabs are left unused
The German chancellor said she wasn't eligible because the vaccine isn't approved for people over 65 in Germany.
- Associated Press
Three family members of an assassinated journalist in western Afghanistan have been killed by gunmen, local officials said Friday, amid a rising wave of attacks targeting journalists and civil society actors. Ghor provincial council member Hamidullah Mutahid said that at least five others were wounded in the attack late Thursday. The gunmen stormed the family home of Afghan journalist and activist Bismillah Adil Aimaq, who was shot dead in an unclaimed attack nearby Ghor on Jan. 1.
The militaries of India and Pakistan said in a rare joint statement on Thursday that they had agreed to observe a ceasefire along the disputed border in Kashmir, having exchanged fire hundreds of times in recent months. The nuclear-armed neighbours signed a ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Kashmir region in 2003, but the truce has frayed in recent years, and there have been mounting casualties among villagers living close to the de facto border. "Both sides agreed for strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing along the Line of Control and all other sectors with effect from midnight 24/25 Feb 2021," the joint statement said.
- The Independent
Texas senator shamed for Cancun trip delivered a high-energy CPAC speech studded with Star Wars references
- The Daily Beast
Prince Harry Tells Friend James Corden He Left the Royal Family Because It Was Destroying His Mental Health
KOEN VAN WEELPrince Harry has said that he stepped back from royal duties because the British press was “toxic” and “destroying” his mental health.In an extraordinary interview unparalleled in the annals of royal history, Harry gave a candid interview to his close friend James Corden on The Late Late Show while they toured Los Angeles on an open-air double-decker bus. Corden was a guest at Harry and Meghan’s wedding in 2018 and arrived at the evening reception dressed as Henry VIII. Another guest at the wedding, Oprah Winfrey, has taped an interview primarily with Meghan that will be screened next weekend.Oprah Winfrey’s Interview With Meghan Markle and Harry Will ‘Shine a Light on What They Have Been Through’The two men were served afternoon tea, which Corden said he had provided to remind Harry of home, however the tea service was abandoned after the bus braked sharply, depositing the contents of a tea trolley on top of the prince.“Clear it up, Harry,” Corden joked as the prince picked up tea cups and scones.While the 17-minute long package had a humorous tone and was packed with jokes and gags, it also provided the most candid insight yet into why Harry withdrew from royal duties.Asked about his decision to leave royal life, Harry said he was left with no choice because the British press “was destroying my mental health.”He said of the “toxic” situation: “I did what any husband and father would do—I need to get my family out of here.”In what will be perceived as a dig at the royal establishment that refused to accept Harry and Meghan’s proposal of a hybrid public-private role, Harry said: “We never walked away, and as far as I’m concerned, what decisions are made on that side, I will never walk away.”Royal Family ‘Wringing Their Hands’ at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s ActivismHarry said that his life now would continue to be about “public service” and added that he and Meghan were “trying to bring some compassion and try to make people happy and try to change the world in any small way we can.”When Harry said he and Meghan often watched Jeopardy! and Netflix (with whom the couple recently signed a $100 million production deal) in the evenings after putting Archie to bed, Corden asked him about The Crown and its controversial portrayal of his family’s history.Harry, who joked he would like to be played in the series by Damian Lewis, said he preferred it to the tabloid media coverage of the royals because it “does not pretend to be news.”He added: “It’s fictional. But it’s loosely based on the truth.“Of course it’s not strictly accurate, but it gives you a rough idea about what that lifestyle—the pressures of putting duty and service above family and everything else—what can come from that.”He continued: “I’m way more comfortable with The Crown than I am seeing the stories written about my family, or my wife or myself, because it’s the difference between fiction—take it how you will—and being reported on as fact because you’re supposedly news. I have a real issue with that.”Harry also opened up about meeting Meghan and how he knew she was the one on their second date.“We hit it off with each other, and we were just so comfortable in each other’s company,” he said.“Dating me or any member of the royal family is kind of flipped upside down. All the dates become dinners or watching the TV or chatting at home.“We went from zero to 60 in the first two months.”Meghan, who is pregnant with the couple’s second child, made a cameo in the interview via FaceTime when Harry and Corden paid a trip to the house from the ’90s TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.When Corden suggested the couple should buy the house, Meghan said: “I think we’ve done enough moving.”During the visit to the house, Corden and Harry spoke to the owner and jokingly made an offer to buy it, before Harry asked if he could use the toilet.“I’m actually dying for a pee. Can I use your bathroom?” he asked.Showing that family relations are at least still somewhat functional, Harry said his grandmother, the queen, bought his son Archie a waffle maker for Christmas.He revealed Meghan now makes waffles with a “beautiful organic mix” and they eat them for breakfast with toppings including berries and syrup.He also said that both his grandparents know how to use Zoom, but joked that his grandfather slams the laptop shut physically to finish a call.Over to you, Oprah.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.
At least two political rights groups advocating democracy have quietly quit Hong Kong and moved overseas, unnerved by a national security law that has fanned fears over the erosion of freedoms under China’s rule, sources told Reuters. In the past, China-focused rights groups had valued the wide-ranging autonomy, including freedom of speech and assembly, guaranteed for Hong Kong when control over the former British colony was returned to Beijing in 1997. But some non-government organisations (NGOs) say the new legislation means they face a choice of either having to leave Hong Kong or work with the same kind of fears and constraints they would encounter in mainland China.
- The Daily Beast
ABCMarjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican representative from Georgia, was recently stripped of her committee duties after it emerged that she’d pushed a whole range of wacko conspiracy theories—the Pizzagate and QAnon conspiracies, or that a cabal of Democrats are “Satan-worshipping pedophiles” (her words) trafficking children out of D.C. pizza parlors and harvesting their blood for a substance called “Adrenochrome,” a plotline straight out of the Pixar film Monsters Inc. (really); that the Parkland and Sandy Hook shootings were “false flag” operations; that “Zionist supremacists” are lording over a plot to push immigration all over the world; that the 9/11 attacks may not have happened, referring to a “so-called plane that crashed into the Pentagon”—and called for the execution of Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and FBI agents. She’s also, despite presenting as a God-fearing Christian, been accused of conducting a number of affairs (she’s denied the allegations).Well, this week, she attempted to outdo herself in the “terrible” department by hanging an anti-transgender sign outside her office in order to taunt a congresswoman across the hall who has a trans child—and this before fighting against the Equality Act.“The frontrunner for Worst Human of 2021 is working to defeat the Equality Act right now. This is an act that would ban discrimination against Americans based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” explained Jimmy Kimmel on Thursday night, before throwing to footage of Illinois Rep. Marie Newman hanging a transgender flag outside of her office as a message to Greene.“Of course Marjorie could not let this go,” Kimmel continued. “She had to respond by putting up a sign outside her office that said, ‘There are two genders: male and female. Trust the science.’ Now she trusts the science. Because that wasn’t enough scumbaggery for one day, QAnon Marj had the audacity to say this on the floor of the House.”Shockingly Real Tom Cruise Deepfakes Are Invading TikTokKimmel then cut to video of Greene offering this rather unconvincing argument: “I’d like to point out to my Democrat colleagues that there is no Republican member of Congress that condones the attack on the Capitol on January 6. I was also a victim in this chamber when it happened, and we are very offended at your constant attacks on us for claiming we had anything to do with it. So, that needs to stop.” The late-night host was less than convinced, to say the least. “My god. We’ve got a Karen in Congress now. She’s so awful,” said Kimmel. “And by the way, what she said is interesting because yesterday, we learned that one of her closest friends and allies, a guy named Anthony Aguero, was in the Capitol on January 6. This is a guy who, when she was banned from Facebook, she appeared on his Facebook account. They’re very good friends. But she’s offended, because she had nothing to do with what happened! And not only that, one of her other close friends is the guy who actually planned and incited the riot at the Capitol. This guy,” he added, pointing to a photo of Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene together at a rally. Despite Greene’s hateful theatrics, the Equality Act passed the House on Thursday.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.
- Associated Press
A U.S. airstrike targeting facilities used by Iran-backed militias in Syria appears to be a message to Tehran delivered by a new American administration still figuring out its approach to the Middle East. The strike was seemingly a response to stepped-up rocket attacks by such militias that have targeted U.S. interests in Iraq, where the armed groups are based. It comes even as Washington and Tehran consider a return to the 2015 accord meant to rein in Iran’s nuclear program.
- FOX News Videos
Fox News senior strategic analyst Gen. Jack Keane breaks down the Biden administration's first known military action.
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday announced it will hold a confirmation hearing on March 9 for President Joe Biden's nominees to serve in the No. 2 and No. 3 top jobs at the U.S. Justice Department. Lisa Monaco, a former federal prosecutor who also previously advised former FBI Director Robert Mueller and former President Barack Obama, is nominated to serve as Deputy Attorney General. Vanita Gupta, a long-time civil rights attorney who previously led the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, is nominated to serve as Associate Attorney General.
- Associated Press
The House is expected to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package late Friday that includes $1,400 checks for most Americans and billions of dollars for schools, state and local governments and businesses. Republicans are overwhelmingly against the bill, raising concerns that the spending is vastly more than necessary and designed to advance policy priorities that go beyond helping Americans get through the pandemic. Democrats and President Joe Biden counter that a robust aid package is necessary to prevent a long and painful recovery from the pandemic.