BEIRUT (Reuters) - The United Nations envoy for Syria said government air strikes had caused widespread death and destruction in the city of Zabadani, the focus of an offensive by the army and its Hezbollah allies to retake the area from insurgents. Staffan de Mistura, citing local sources, said the Syrian military had dropped a large number of barrel bombs on Zabadani "causing unprecedented levels of destruction and many deaths among the civilian population". Control of the city, about 45 km (30 miles) northwest of the capital Damascus and about 10 km from the border with Turkey, is seen as crucial to consolidating President Bashar al-Assad's control over the border zone between Lebanon and Syria. Fierce clashes continued overnight in the Zabadani area, with heavy aerial bombardments in and around the city and reports of casualties on both sides, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said on Wednesday. It gave no detailed figures. Syrian state television said the army had destroyed a 70 meter-long (77 yards) tunnel used by the insurgents to transport equipment into Zabadani. The Syrian air force has been bombarding areas in and around the city and Sunni insurgents have retaliated by firing rockets and mortar bombs on two villages near Idlib city in the north, the U.N. envoy de Mistura said. An alliance of insurgents known as the "Army of Fatah" (Islamic Conquest) had targeted Al Foua and Kefraya, northern villages where a large number of civilians are trapped, he said. "In both cases, civilians are tragically caught in the middle of the fighting," he said. Al Foua and Kefraya are home to Shi'ite populations. Earlier this week the Syrian army backed by the Lebanese Hezbollah advanced deeper into Zabadani, two weeks into a campaign to capture it from insurgents, rebels and the army said. Rebels say although the army had now encircled the insurgents holed up within a five square km radius inside the city center and cut arms and food supplies from nearby towns, they had so far prevented the army and Hezbollah fighters from storming their defense lines in street fighting. "They have advanced a bit but they have not entered inside the center of city as they had expected they would in just a few days," Abu Ado of the Islamist insurgent group Ahrar al Sham said by phone. Taking Zabadani from the insurgents would be a strategic gain for the Syrian army which is battling on several other fronts with a range of different insurgent groups. Hezbollah's military role inside Syria has been growing steadily since the start of the conflict in 2011. The Syrian government has described the group as its main ally in the fight against the insurgents battling to topple Assad. (Reporting by Sylvia Westall and Suleiman al-Khalidi; Editing by Dominic Evans and Raissa Kasolowsky)
- The Independent
‘There was a protocol breach when the front doors were not held open’
Beau Biden, who served in the Guard, is buried at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church cemetery in Greenville, Delaware.
- The Telegraph
A Republican congresswoman is facing calls to resign over reports that she helped to spread falsehoods about the Parkland school shooting. Marjorie Taylor Greene reportedly agreed with a conspiracy theory about the 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed. Facebook screenshots showed a discussion about why a police officer had not rushed into the building, and someone claimed that the mass shooting was a "false flag planned shooting." Greene replied: “Exactly!" The social media giant later removed the posts after they were reported to them. Cameron Kasky, a former Parkland pupil who co-founded the group Never Again MSD, said: "She should resign. She can apologise. I don’t think anybody will accept it.” The congresswoman was elected in Georgia in November, backed Donald Trump's claims of election fraud, and has previously expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory. Fred Guttenberg, who's 14-year-old daughter Jaime died in the Parkland shooting, said: "Your feelings on gun laws are irrelevant to your claim that Parkland never happened. You are a fraud who must resign. Be prepared to meet me directly in person to explain your conspiracy theory, and soon." The comments by the politician were first reported by Media Matters for America. In a statement Ms Greene accused Media Matters for America of being "communists' and "fake news". Meanwhile, US Capitol Police were investigating an incident in which a Republican congressman was found carrying a concealed gun while trying to enter the floor of the House of Representatives. Andy Harris, a staunch gun-rights advocate, set off a metal detector going through security on his way to the House floor . Metal detectors were installed outside the chamber to beef up security in the aftermath of the Capitol riots on Jan 6.
- The Week
The evenly split Senate is having a hard time agreeing who's in charge.Georgia's two new Democratic senators were sworn in Wednesday, giving Republicans and Democrats 50 senators each, with Vice President Kamala Harris as a Democratic tiebreaker. The two parties are now working out a power-sharing agreement, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) commitment to the filibuster is standing in the way.McConnell on Thursday formally acknowledged Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as the chamber's new majority leader. But as he has been for days, McConnell again implored Democrats to preserve the filibuster that lets a senator extend debate and block a timely vote on a bill if there aren't 60 votes to stop it. Democrats "have no plans to gut the filibuster further, but argue it would be a mistake to take one of their tools off the table just as they're about to govern," Politico reports; More progressive senators do want to remove the option completely.If his filibuster demands aren't met, McConnell has threatened to block the Senate power-sharing agreement that would put Democrats in charge of the body's committees. But Democrats already seem confident in their newfound power, with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) telling Politico that "Chuck Schumer is the majority leader and he should be treated like majority leader." Giving in to McConnell "would be exactly the wrong way to begin," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) echoed.Other Democrats shared their resistance to McConnell's demands in tweets. > McConnell is threatening to filibuster the Organizing Resolution which allows Democrats to assume the committee Chair positions. It's an absolutely unprecedented, wacky, counterproductive request. We won the Senate. We get the gavels.> > -- Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 21, 2021> So after Mitch McConnell changed the Senate rules at a blistering pace during his 6 years in charge, he is threatening to filibuster the Senate's organizing resolution unless the Democratic majority agrees to never change the rules again.> > Huh.> > -- Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 21, 2021More stories from theweek.com McConnell is already moving to strangle the Biden presidency 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Nearly 200 National Guard members have reportedly gotten COVID-19 since the Capitol riot
- Reuters Videos
President Joe Biden signed 15 executive actions on Wednesday hours after he was sworn into office, many aimed at sweeping away former President Donald Trump's policies, including mandating masks on federal property.
America may not have won World War II and landed on the moon later if not for the contributions of a brilliant Chinese scientist named Qian Xuesen. Fearing communist presence after the war, the U.S., however, deported Qian to China, clueless that he would eventually spearhead programs that would target American troops and eventually propel China into space. Born to well-educated parents in 1911, it was evident from an early age that Qian had superior intellect.
- The Independent
Judge denies release for 26-year-old accused of taking part in the deadly Capitol attacks then returning to Washington on Inauguration Day
- National Review
President Joe Biden is planning to run for a second term in 2024, according to Senator Chris Coons (D., Del.), a close ally to Biden. “He is planning to run again,” Coons told Politico’s Transition Playbook last weekend. “He knows that we are at the middle of an absolute turning point, a pivot point in American history. And he’s up for the challenge.” Whether Biden will seek a second term has been the subject of much speculation as the Democrat, at 78 years old, became the oldest candidate ever elected to the presidency. Biden’s decision to run for a second term will be of great consequence to those in his party who may look to run after his time in office has ended, including Vice President Kamala Harris. According to Politico, some outside advisers have encouraged the president to declare or file for reelection immediately to silence any lame-duck talk, as former President Donald Trump did on Inauguration Day in 2017. Biden’s team has instead insisted that Biden should focus on COVID-19 and economic recovery efforts rather than 2024. Biden reportedly signaled to aides in December 2019 that he was considering serving just one term or making a one-term pledge, according to Ryan Lizza. Though Biden pushed back against those reports saying, “I don’t have any plans on one term.” After his primary win, he told donors that he views himself as a “transition candidate,” acting as a bridge to a younger generation of leadership. However, aides to Biden say he has been emboldened by his election win, according to Politico. Every newly elected president has run for reelection since Grover Cleveland in 1988 — Calvin Coolidge, Lyndon Johnson and Harry Truman did not run a second time but served partial terms after the deaths of their predecessors, before winning election.
- Associated Press
The three National Guard members killed when a helicopter crashed in an upstate New York field this week were experienced pilots with past deployments to Afghanistan, officials said Friday. Killed in the crash were Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, 54, of Rochester, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch, 39, of Honeoye Falls, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial, 30 of Rochester, according to the National Guard.
- The Telegraph
Families who lost relatives during Wuhan's initial outbreak of coronavirus are being blocked in their legal efforts to hold the Chinese authorities responsible for the deaths, one year after lockdown first went in place at ground zero of the pandemic. Five families accuse the municipal and provincial governments for covering up the outbreak, neglecting to notify the public, and failing to act swiftly, causing infections to explode. More than two million people globally have died from coronavirus. The Telegraph has interviewed four of the five trying to bring unprecedented lawsuits, most of whom are seeking 2 million yuan (£226,000) each in reparations. They told this newspaper of a campaign of harassment and denial of justice. Chinese courts have rejected all lawsuits they have tried to file, though they continue to persist by attempting to sue at higher courts, defying government threats that have scared dozens of others into giving up. Pursuing their cases poses immense risks as they’re challenging China’s official narrative, which claims authorities acted swiftly and with transparency to contain Covid-19, glossing over missteps and the silencing of whistleblowers.
- NBC News
A woman has been arrested and charged with murder after the dismembered remains of her missing roommate, Talina Galloway, were found in a freezer in the woods of Polk County, Arkansas last week. Talina, 53, was reported missing by her roommate, Kore Bommeli on April 17, 2020. Talina’s remains were found in the freezer on January 14, 2021. Bommeli, who has been a person of interest throughout the investigation, was located in Wisconsin and faces charges of murder and desecration of a corpse. Th
Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa will resign next week to campaign in regional elections in Catalonia, an official from his party said on Thursday, while national authorities reported a record 44,357 new daily coronavirus cases. Illa, who has overseen Spain's response to the coronavirus pandemic, had said he would step down when campaigning got underway for the election, which is set to take place on Feb. 14. Spain has been routinely reporting record daily coronavirus infections since the end of December, but a top health official said the recent surge appeared to be stabilising.
With the dawn of the Biden administration comes Cholleti Vinay Reddy, the country’s first Indian American presidential speechwriter. Reddy’s roots originate from Pothireddypeta, a rural village in the Indian state of Telangana, whose residents have been celebrating his latest milestone: Biden’s inaugural address. Born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, Reddy is believed to have acquired his political acumen from his grandfather, Tirupathi, who served as the village sarpanch (head) for 30 years.
- The Week
Majority of House GOP reportedly supports removing Liz Cheney from leadership after impeachment vote
House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney is facing an internal resistance after splitting from her party on former President Donald Trump's impeachment.Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House, was one of only a handful of Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over his role in inciting the Capitol riot. More than a majority of GOP House members have since indicated they'd support ousting Cheney from her leadership spot, while at least two other Republicans have lined up to replace her, Politico reports.At least 107 House members — more than half the caucus — privately support removing Cheney from power, multiple GOP sources involved in the effort told Politico. Meanwhile New York Reps. Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin, who defended Trump during both of his impeachments, are reportedly looking to replace her.House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) have said they don't intend to remove Cheney. But McCarthy also echoed Republicans' reported anger that Cheney voiced her support of impeachment the day before the House vote, giving Democrats time to use her views in their own arguments. "Questions need to be answered," such as the "style in which things were delivered," McCarthy told reporters Thursday.Many other Republicans, including some who voted against impeachment, meanwhile don't want Cheney removed just for "vot[ing] her conscience," as Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) put it. Others argue removing Cheney would fly in the face of the party's unification message in the post-Trump era — something Cheney herself is trying to counter by making "making calls to all corners of the conference to hear lawmakers out," Politico reports.More stories from theweek.com McConnell is already moving to strangle the Biden presidency 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Nearly 200 National Guard members have reportedly gotten COVID-19 since the Capitol riot
- Architectural Digest
800 feet up in the sky, the Dreamy 6,000 square foot space offers panoramic views from the East River to the HudsonOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- Associated Press
The master tenant of a San Francisco Bay Area warehouse where 36 people perished when a fire ignited during a 2016 dance party pleaded guilty Friday to the deaths, avoiding a second trial after the first ended in a hung jury. Derick Almena, 50, pleaded guilty to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a 12-year sentence. Already free on bail, Almena likely won't return to jail because of the nearly three years he already spent behind bars and credit for good behavior.
- NBC News
Jenna Ryan was charged last week after federal authorities said she breached the Capitol on Jan. 6.
- The Independent
Sean Hannity denounces Biden’s first week as ‘disastrous’ before the president completed a full day of work
‘The Biden administration is off to a very rocky start,’ Fox News host says
- The Telegraph
Thousands of national guardsmen were turfed out of the Capitol building on Thursday and sent to sleep in car parks, before being allowed back in late at night after complaints from lawmakers. Despite the quick reversal, two Republican governors commanded their troops home in protest. US Capitol police had ordered the reservists to vacate the building and set up camp outdoors or in nearby hotels, with thousands ending up stationed outside or in car parks. “Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service. Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed,” one of the guardsmen told Politico. The National Guard were brought into the US capital to provide security after Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6.
"He said: 'Choose, either I kill you or rape you'," the 25-year-old told Reuters at the Hamdayet refugee camp in Sudan where she had fled from conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region. The doctor who treated her when she arrived at the camp in December, Tewadrous Tefera Limeuh, confirmed to Reuters that he provided pills to stop pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases, and guided her to a psychotherapist. "The soldier ... forced a gun on her and raped her," Limeuh, who was volunteering with the Sudanese Red Crescent, said the woman told him.