DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has not halted its most sensitive uranium enrichment work, a senior Iranian parliamentarian said, contradicting a statement by another lawmaker last week. Diplomats accredited to the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Friday they had no information to substantiate the report that Tehran had halted enrichment of uranium to 20 percent. Israel also dismissed the original report as "irrelevant". Any halt of enrichment would be a big surprise, as Western experts believe Iran would want to use such activity as a bargaining chip to win relief from international sanctions. An end to Iran's higher-grade enrichment of uranium is a main demand of world powers negotiating with Tehran over its disputed nuclear work. Enriching uranium to 20 percent is sensitive as it is a relatively short technical step to increase that to the 90 percent needed for making a nuclear weapon. "Enrichment to 20 percent is continuing," state news agency IRNA quoted Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, as saying on Saturday. His statement contradicted that of another senior lawmaker, Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, who had said Iran had stopped enriching uranium above 5 percent because it already had all the 20 percent enriched fuel it needs for a medical research reactor in Tehran. In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the real debate should be about dismantling Iran's entire nuclear program. "We are not impressed by the discourse around the issue of 20 percent enrichment. The Iranians are deliberately focusing the debate on this issue - it is irrelevant," Netanyahu said in public remarks to his cabinet. At the United Nations last year, Netanyahu focused on stockpiles of uranium enriched to 20 percent in drawing a red line on a cartoon bomb that set a threshold for possible Israeli military action against Iran. But Netanyahu told the cabinet that technological advances in Iran in the past year, in the form of advanced centrifuges, enabled it to "leap above the barrier of 20 percent enrichment and go directly from 3.5 percent enrichment to (military-grade) 90 percent within weeks". Iran and six world powers, known as the P5+1, are engaged in negotiations to bring about a diplomatic resolution to the dispute, which has raised fears of a new conflict in the Middle East and brought punishing sanctions on Iran's energy, shipping, and banking sectors. Their last meeting was held in October in Geneva, and another one is scheduled for November. Netanyahu, whose country is widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, has cautioned against any premature lifting of sanctions in the new diplomatic engagement with Iran. "Iran must be stripped of its enrichment capability and its heavy water plant," said Netanyahu, who discussed Iran with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on Wednesday. (Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati in Dubai and Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; editing by Mike Collett-White)
A boy who was killed in an alleged murder-suicide by his father has been identified as 9-year-old Pierce O’Loughlin. Family tragedy: The boy and his father, Stephen O'Loughlin, 49, were both found dead at their home on Scott Street, Marina District in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, SF Chronicle reports. The boy’s mother, Lesley Hu, asked authorities to check on her son after learning that he did not show up for school that day.
- NBC News
Court documents recounted the man's telling his children that he would consider them "traitors" if they contacted authorities.
- National Review
At the outset of the pandemic, the government undertook a deliberate effort to reduce economic activity in what was widely thought to be a necessary measure to slow the spread of COVID-19. Whereas most recessions call for policy that stimulates the economy, the COVID-19 recession called for the opposite — measures that would enable workers and businesses to hit pause until a vaccine or therapeutic became widely available. Now that vaccines are being administered, policy-makers face a different challenge — not keeping Americans inside, but getting them back to work as quickly as possible. In this context, President-elect Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package misses the mark. The proposal gives a nod to public health — with $20 billion allocated to vaccine distribution, $50 billion to testing, and $40 billion to medical supplies and emergency-response teams — but fails to address the most pressing hurdles to COVID-19 immunity. Vaccines sit unused not for lack of funding but thanks to burdensome rules determining which patients can receive shots and which doctors can administer them. Additional spending to speed up vaccine distribution is welcome, but its effects will be muted if bureaucratic hurdles remain in place. Even if the public-health provisions were to succeed in reopening the economy, much of the rest of Biden’s plan guarantees that it will reopen weaker. For one, an expanded unemployment-insurance top-up of $400 a week would mean more than 40 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits would make more off-the-job than on-the-job at least until September, and possibly for longer. The food-service and retail industries hit hardest by the pandemic would see the largest shortfalls in labor, exacerbating the challenges they’ve faced over the past year. Enhanced unemployment may have been reasonable when we wanted workers to stay home, but it’s catastrophic when we want them to go back to work. Meanwhile, Biden’s proposed minimum-wage increase to $15 nationally would eliminate an estimated 1.3 million jobs, hitting low-income states hardest. In Mississippi, where the median wage is $15, as many as half the state’s workers would be at risk. A minimum-wage hike may be high on the Democratic wish list, but it does not belong in an emergency-relief bill. The Biden plan isn’t all Democratic priorities, though. He took a page from Trump’s book and proposed $1,400 checks to households, bringing the second-round total to $2,000. With household income now 8 percent above the pre-pandemic trend, additional checks would do little more than pad savings accounts. Indeed, 80 percent of the recipients of last year’s checks put the money into savings or debt payments, not consumption. The flagship item in Biden’s plan would do little to spur economic growth even on Keynesian assumptions. The same goes for state and local aid, for which Biden is seeking $370 billion on top of $170 billion in public-education grants. The total of $540 billion far surpasses the roughly $50 billion hit to state and local tax revenues last year. As we wrote in December, states and cities are slow to spend federal grants, so the lion’s share of this stimulus would not show up until 2023. Rather than attempting to stimulate the economy, Biden is hoping to launder bailouts of profligate Democratic states through COVID-19 relief. Other parts of the bill — expansions of the earned-income and child-tax credits — are defensible long-term structural reforms, but as year-long emergency measures, they will have the same muted effect as direct checks. By including a slew of proposals unrelated to the pandemic, Biden has weakened his hand in negotiations and made it less likely that urgent measures pass quickly. In the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic policy-makers rose to the occasion. Following an unprecedented external shock, the U.S. economy has emerged in relatively good shape, with less unemployment and bankruptcy than most feared. But the policies implemented to curb COVID-19 are not suited for what will begin to become, over the course of this year, a post-pandemic economy. Biden may have campaigned during a recession, but he is taking office during a recovery. He should govern accordingly.
Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sydney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America. * The letter also orders Lindell to "preserve and retain all documents relating to Dominion and your smear campaign against the company." * Lindell also must preserve all communications with any member of the Trump campaign, in addition to communications with Rudy Giuliani, Powell, Jenna Ellis and Lin Wood. The big picture: Lindell met with Trump last week and was caught by photographers with notes referencing martial law and Sidney Powell. The CEO has become known for pedaling election-overturning conspiracies and last year promoted a fake cure to the coronavirus. What they're saying: Dominion's letter reads... "Despite knowing your implausible attacks against Dominion have no basis in reality, you have participated in the vast and concerted misinformation campaign to slander Dominion ... Litigation regarding these issues is imminent."A spokesperson for My Pillow did not immediately return a request for comment. Read the full letter here: Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- The Telegraph
A woman identified as having taken part in the storming of the US Capitol is accused of stealing a laptop belonging to top Democrat Nancy Pelosi which she hoped to sell to a Russian spy agency, according to the FBI. There is no indication Riley June Williams, a 22-year-old careworker from Pennsylvania, took a laptop from Ms Pelosi's office. The FBI, which is working off a tip, said in the court record the "matter remains under investigation." The complaint, filed late Sunday in US District Court in Washington, sought the arrest of Williams on grounds including "violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds." Relying on several photos and videos of the chaotic January 6 riot, an FBI agent said Williams was seen near the office of Ms Pelosi, US House Speaker. A witness, identified in the court document only as W1 but who claimed to be "the former romantic partner of Riley June Williams," alleged that Williams planned to send the laptop to a friend in Russia to sell it to the SVR foreign intelligence agency. That sale "fell through for unknown reasons, and Williams still has the computer device or destroyed it," the affidavit says.
Armenia has returned all Azeri prisoners who were captured during last year's conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, but the process with Armenian prisoners has been held up, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday. The six-week conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh was brought to a halt in November by a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement under which Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces were expected to exchange all captives. Armenia has said that many of its prisoners of war remain in Azerbaijan, a problem it has raised with the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk group.
- The Independent
In further snub, Melania Trump has not given Jill Biden traditional tour of family wing of White House
- Associated Press
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has authorized the dispatch of oxygen to Brazil to help its South American neighbor treat people sickened amid another wave of the coronavirus, despite frosty relations between the two governments and Venezuela's own lack of hospital supplies. Maduro approved departure for a convoy of six tanker trucks loaded with oxygen in a national broadcast Sunday on state TV. It's destined for the city of Manaus in the northern state of Amazonas.
Yosemite National Park officials are asking the public’s help for any information regarding a 41-year-old Asian woman who went missing after going on a day hike to the Upper Yosemite Fall last week. The woman was identified as "Alice" Yu Xie, a Chinese national living in the United States, according to a post shared by the park on Saturday. “If you were on the trail to the top of Yosemite Falls on January 14 or 15, 2021, even if you did not see this individual, or have any information regarding this individual, please call 209/372-0216 during business hours, or Yosemite Emergency Communications Center at 209/379-1992 after hours,” the park said.
- Reuters Videos
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden may end the Keystone XL pipeline project as one of his first acts in office, a source familiar with his thinking told Reuters it could happen as early as day one. Biden, who will be inaugurated on Wednesday, was vice president when Barack Obama rejected the $9 billion project in 2015. Then two years later, Donald Trump issued a presidential permit that allowed the line to move forward. Since then the project has seen opposition by environmentalists seeking to check Canada's oil industry and Native Americans whose land faced encroachment. Construction of the pipeline is well underway and if completed, would move oil from Canada's Alberta province to the U.S. state of Nebraska. In his 2020 run for president, Biden vowed to scrap its permit once elected. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Saturday, the words 'rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit' appeared on his list of Biden's executive actions likely scheduled for his first day. Biden's team did not respond to a request for comment, but Canada's ambassador to the U.S. said she looks forward to a decision that fits both countries' environmental protection plans. In a statement, Ambassador Kirsten Hillman said: "There is no better partner for the U.S. on climate action than Canada as we work together for green transition." Meanwhile Alberta's Premier tweeted he was "deeply concerned" by the report, adding the decision would kill jobs, increase U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and weaken U.S.-Canada relations.
An independent panel said on Monday that Chinese officials could have applied public health measures more forcefully in January to curb the initial COVID-19 outbreak, and criticised the World Health Organization (WHO) for not declaring an international emergency until Jan. 30. The experts reviewing the global handling of the pandemic, led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, called for reforms to the Geneva-based United Nations agency.Their interim report was published hours after the WHO's top emergency expert, Mike Ryan, said that global deaths from COVID-19 were expected to top 100,000 per week "very soon". "What is clear to the Panel is that public health measures could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities in China in January," the report said, referring to the initial outbreak of the new disease in the central city of Wuhan, in Hubei province.
During an interview, he recalls his colleague ‘taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the 3rd and before the 6th.’ Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) revealed he witnessed Congresswoman Lauren Boebert leading a group through the Capitol building in the days before the riot. “We saw Congressman Boebert taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the 3rd and before the 6th,” Cohen remarked on CNN.
- National Review
A Honduran migrant worker claimed that a migrant caravan was headed to the U.S. because incoming president Joe Biden would give migrants “100 days” to arrive at the country, in an interview with CNN. Biden may seek to enact a 100-day moratorium on deportations, however transition team officials have cautioned that the president-elect will not be able to overhaul immigration policy immediately upon taking office. Even so, a group of about 3,000 migrants from Honduras clashed with Guatemalan security forces on Sunday during their trek north to the U.S.-Mexico border. One migrant claimed the caravan was heading north because Biden had promised to help them, in a CNN interview later reposted by The Hill. Honduran migrant: President-elect Biden is "going to help all of us." pic.twitter.com/LkrVCsXcSb — The Hill (@thehill) January 18, 2021 “I just want patience and prayers that we can get to the U.S. because they [will] have a new president, Biden,” the migrant said. “He’s going to help all of us, he’s giving us 100 days to get to the U.S. and give us [legal] papers, so we can get a better life for our kids, and for our families.” Meanwhile, Guatemala deemed the attempted crossing illegal. “Guatemala’s message is loud and clear: These types of illegal mass movements will not be accepted, that’s why we are working together with the neighboring nations to address this as a regional issue,” the office of Guatemala’s president said in a statement on Sunday.
- Associated Press
South Korea’s president on Monday urged the incoming Biden administration to build upon the achievements and learn from the failures of President Donald Trump’s diplomatic engagement with North Korea. A dovish liberal and the son of northern war refugees, Moon Jae-in had lobbied hard to help set up Trump’s three summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but their diplomacy stalemated over disagreements over easing crippling U.S.-led sanctions for the North’s disarmament. Biden has accused Trump of chasing the spectacle of summits rather than meaningful curbs on the North’s nuclear capabilities.
- The Guardian
Financial consultant Paul Pierrilus came to the US with his parents, who are both US citizens, when he was five Paul Pierrilus, a man due to be deported from the US to Haiti – a country he has never lived in Photograph: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) is to carry out a final deportation flight of the Trump era on Tuesday, with a plane bound for Haiti whose passengers include a man who is not a Haitian citizen, and who has never been there. Paul Pierrilus, a 40-year-old financial consultant from Rockland County, New York, was born in the French Caribbean territory of Saint Martin, according to a birth certificate supplied by his family, who said he came to the US with his parents when he was five. His sister and parents are US citizens. He was picked up on 11 January, as part of what human rights advocates say is a last sweep of black migrants in the final days of the Trump administration. He has told his family he was being transferred to an Ice holding facility in Alexandria, Louisiana, which is a typical precursor to deportation. According to his sister, Neomie, he was seized when he went to an immigration office on Federal Plaza in Manhattan on 11 January, for what he thought would be a routine visit. “He went there for the appointment and while he was there, he was detained, and he was informed that they have documents stating that he’s a Haitian citizen,” Neomie Pierrilus said. She said their parents were Haitian but never applied for Paul’s Haitian citizenship. “We don’t really understand how documents were obtained to say that my brother was a citizen of Haiti. “My brother has never even been to Haiti,” she said. “He has the bare minimum of the language, he doesn’t know the culture, he doesn’t know anyone there. So my brother cannot go there.” Neomie Pierrilus supplied copies of emails last year from the then Haitian ambassador, Hervé Denis, confirming that her brother was not a Haitian citizen. Nor did Paul’s birth in Saint Martin confer French citizenship, making him stateless. Guerline Jozef, head of the community group Haitian Bridge Alliance, said that the intense level of political violence in Haiti represented a serious threat to Pierrilus’s life. “Sending him to Haiti, first of all, is not legal,” Jozef said. “And with what’s going on in Haiti right now, there is no way they should be deporting people there period, especially him because he is not Haitian, has never been there and has no connections there. So they cannot just drop him at the airport.” Ice has been running removal flights to Haiti every second Tuesday, and appears ready to press ahead with this week’s scheduled flight on the eve of Joe Biden’s inauguration. Biden has promised a 100-day suspension of deportations on taking office, while immigration and Ice procedures are reviewed. There have been calls for the agency to be dissolved for its role in enforcing Trump’s anti-immigration policies, including the separation of migrant children from their parents. Ice has also been accused of torturing African asylum-seekers to make them sign waivers allowing for their deportation, as part of a sweep particularly targeting African and Caribbean migrants. Another flight is due to leave Arizona on Tuesday, heading to Mauritania, carrying Black Mauritanian deportees, despite well-documented persecution and enslavement of their community there. Deportations of Black Mauritanians were rare before the Trump administration, under which they have increased more than tenfold. An Ice spokeswoman said that she could not confirm any deportation flight until it had landed, for reasons of operational security. “That being said, it’s not uncommon for removal flights to stop in multiple locations,” the spokeswoman said. The Ice Twitter account celebrated Martin Luther King day on Monday saying that it honoured his “message of hope, justice and equality”. Jozef said that the agency’s relentless deportation of Haitians and Africans – despite the endemic violence there and the risks of spreading coronavirus – made a mockery of that claim. “They have been targeting black communities. They have been targeting black immigrants. So this is the last attempt of destroying lives,” she said. “As we celebrate the life of MLK who has been fighting for justice and on the eve of the inauguration, this cannot happen. This should not be happening.”
Brazil's health regulator is seeking further data on Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine before considering its approval for emergency use. Documents supporting drugmaker Uniao Quimica's application for emergency use of the vaccine have been returned to the company because they did not meet its minimum criteria, the watchdog said on Saturday. In a statement on the Health Ministry's website, regulator Anvisa said the request failed to provide adequate assurances on Phase III clinical trials and issues related to the manufacture of the vaccine.
- The Telegraph
Pfizer vaccine recipients are unlikely to transmit the virus to others, according to the author of an Israeli study. Participants in the survey developed up to 20 times more antibodies within a week of receiving the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The survey, which reviewed data from 102 of about 1,000 of the Sheba Medical Centre’s medical staff who have received both shots, showed that only two subjects have developed low amounts of antibodies - one of the subjects suffered from a compromised immune system. There was no explanation for why the second person did not develop antibodies, and the hospital said it was investigating the matter. The rest - 98 per cent - have developed levels of antibodies that were even higher than patients who have recovered from a serious coronavirus-induced condition, the hospital said in a statement released on Monday.
- The Independent
Trump news – live: Biden team hits back at decision to reopen travel to UK and Brazil despite Covid surge
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- Associated Press
Pakistan’s prime minister reacted angrily Monday to media reports of a text exchange between an Indian TV anchor and a former media industry executive that suggests a 2019 Indian airstrike inside Pakistan was designed to boost Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chances for reelection. Imran Khan took to Twitter to respond to Indian media reports of an exchange on the WhatsApp messaging service between popular Indian TV anchor Arnab Goswami and Partho Dasgupta, the former head of a TV rating company.
China's Sinovac Biotech said on Monday that a clinical trial in Brazil showed its COVID-19 vaccine was almost 20 percentage points more effective in a small sub-group of patients who received their two doses longer apart. The protection rate for 1,394 participants who received doses of either CoronaVac or placebo three weeks apart was nearly 70%, a Sinovac spokesman said. Brazilian researchers announced last week that the vaccine's overall efficacy was 50.4% based on results from more than 9,000 volunteers, most of whom received doses 14 days apart, as outlined in the trial protocol.