Vaccination sites are set to open on Long Island Monday, as the process continues some in New York City locations despite supply shortages.
- USA TODAY
Poll: Americans are more interested in getting stimulus than in seeing bipartisanship support for bill
Americans are more interested in seeing $1,400 stimulus checks issued to Americans faster than see any potential bill receive bipartisan support, according to a recent Monmouth poll.
The U.S. House of Representatives canceled its planned Thursday session, after the Capitol Police warned on Wednesday that a militia group could be plotting to breach the building that was subjected to a deadly attack on Jan. 6. The House had been scheduled to debate and vote on a police reform bill, but a Democratic aide said plans changed due in part to the police warning, based on intelligence that "an identified militia group" could present a security threat. The Senate will convene as planned to begin debating President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19-relief bill on Thursday.
The European Commission said on Tuesday that it was considering emergency approvals for COVID-19 vaccines as a faster alternative to more rigorous conditional marketing authorisations which have been used so far. The move would mark a big shift in approach to vaccine approvals, as it would entail using a procedure that the EU had considered dangerous and that before the COVID-19 pandemic had been reserved for exceptional authorisation at national level of drugs for terminally ill patients, including cancer treatments. The potential change comes as the EU executive and the bloc's drug regulator come under increasing pressure for what some consider slow vaccine approvals, which have contributed to a slower rollout of COVID-19 shots in the 27-nation union, compared to the United States and former EU member Britain.
- Associated Press
Washington will not have cheerleaders for the first time since the NFL’s longest-running cheerleading team was founded in 1962, with a coed dance team taking its place. The move is part of the organization's rebranding effort and not related to a confidential settlement reached with members of the 2008 and 2010 cheerleading teams. Lawyers for the team and those cheerleaders told The Associated Press last month that “the matter has been resolved” but would not say when the settlement was reached.
- The Independent
John Brennan says ‘there are so few Republicans in Congress who value truth, honesty, and integrity’
Police and the FBI are on high alert over a 'possible plot to breach the Capitol' as a QAnon conspiracy theory about March 4 being the 'true inauguration day' looms
Capitol Police said they have made "significant security upgrades" ahead of March 4 to prepare for any demonstrations or violence.
- The Daily Beast
Sergei Ilnitsky/APHe’s sent Wagner mercenaries to Ukraine, Syria, and Libya; faced U.S. indictments for assigning his “troll farm” to interfere in the 2016 presidential election; and even dispatched white supremacists and neo-Nazis to sow anti-Western sentiment in African nations. Now Yevgeny Prigozhin, the catering magnate commonly referred to as “Putin’s chef,” has trained his attention a little closer to Russia’s doorstep: Europe and the Baltic States.A joint investigation by The Daily Beast, the Dossier Center, German broadcaster ARD, Delfi.ee in Estonia, and Siena.lt in Lithuania reveals that operatives closely associated with the Russian oligarch’s previously exposed influence operations organized a two-day conference in Berlin from Jan. 14-15 pegged to economic and environmental issues affecting Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Germany.The Baltic Sea Region Strategic Dialogue was the first of what is meant to be a series of so-called “foresight sessions” to “create a new vision of the post-pandemic future” for the aforementioned countries, with an ostensible focus on COVID-19, Brexit, environmental sustainability, e-governance, and digital technology. Participants included Rihards Kols, the head of the Foreign Relations Committee of Latvia’s parliament, as well as several members of the German Bundestag including Stefan Keuter, a member of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party.The event was organized by two organizations, both of them closely connected to the Association for Free Research and International Cooperation, or AFRIC.As The Daily Beast reported, AFRIC is run by Prigozhin’s St. Petersburg-based organization. According to internal documents obtained by the Dossier Center, AFRIC was conceived as a “network of agents of influence” meant to provide “expert evaluations and opinions beneficial to Russia” in Africa. Founded in 2018, AFRIC sent “election observers”—many of them well-known white supremacists and neo-Nazis from Europe—to try to sway democratic races in Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa, in races in which other arms of Prigozhin’s vast empire often supported one or more of the candidates.Russia Is Using Undercover Racists to Exploit Africa’s Anti-Racist Political RevoltLast week, the FBI announced that Prigozhin had been added to its Most Wanted list for his alleged “conspiracy to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the United States Department of Justice, and the United States Department of State” from 2014 to 2018. A $250,000 award was posted for any information leading to his arrest.As with most of Prigozhin’s foreign influence operations, this one consists of a series of nesting doll structures registered outside of Russian Federation territory and helmed, at least on paper, by non-Russians. The same cast of characters recurs, both at the hierarchical level of these operations and among the Western political figures they aim to cultivate.For instance, one of the organizers of the conference was ADMIS Consultancy, a company founded and operated by Vaiva Adomaityte, a Lithuanian national who is also a member of AFRIC’s administration. An occupational psychologist and self-described “global change expert,” Adomaityte has participated in at least one of AFRIC’s three conferences in Berlin, co-authored its “Africa Vision” report, and has been an AFRIC representative at the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi in 2019. She is also a confidante and associate of Yulia Afanasyeva, the Prigozhin operative who established AFRIC in 2018 out of the oligarch’s “back office” in St. Petersburg, as leaked documents obtained by the Dossier Center demonstrate.Adomaityte previously edited a questionnaire written by Afanasyeva for AFRIC’s similarly named “foresight session” in Berlin in 2019. She also wrote to the Hilton Hotel complaining about substandard accommodations and to settle AFRIC’s billing dispute with the management. Adomaityte even updated her résumé to account for her work on behalf of AFRIC. In one awkwardly worded letter dated March 3, 2020, she wrote to Afanasyeva in English, “Shall I start calling you my God Mother I wonder... sounds much ore badass then God Father.”AFRIC-related events, in fact, appear to be the only ones with which Adomaityte’s ADMIS Consultancy has ever worked. Afanasyeva even hired and paid for a Russian social media expert to work on ADMIS Consultancy’s social media pages, as per the correspondence obtained by the Dossier Center. The Baltic Sea event in January took place in the same Hilton Hotel in Berlin as previous AFRIC conferences. One of the earlier events was presided over by Aleksandr Malkevich, a top Prigozhin operative who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2018 for running a subsidiary company working on behalf of the oligarch’s Project Lakhta, a global political and election interference operation. Malkevich, according to the Treasury Department, ran a company called USA Really, which “engaged in efforts to post content focused on divisive political issues but is generally ridden with inaccuracies. In June 2018, USA Really attempted to hold a political rally in the United States, though its efforts were unsuccessful.”Still another co-organizer of the Baltic Sea conference was the Federal Association for Economic Development and Foreign Trade in Germany, better known by its acronym BWA. BWA and ADMIS consultancy co-hosted AFRIC’s last event in Berlin, an online conference on global consequences of COVID-19 in June 2020.BWA is headed by Michael Schumann, a German business consultant specializing in China. Under Schumann’s leadership, BWA has developed partnerships with a series of Russian outfits in Germany including the Association of Russian Businesses and the Dialogue of Civilizations think tank, which was founded in 2016 by Vladimir Yakunin, a former KGB officer and close confidant of Vladimir Putin. Yakunin was the vice president of Russia’s state rail monopoly until 2015, a year after he was sanctioned by the United States for his alleged involvement in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. So far he has evaded EU sanctions.Two other BWA members, Volker Tschapke and Urs Unkauf, acted as AFRIC election observers in Madagascar, DRC, Zimbabwe and South Africa in the past few years. Tschapke and Unkauf were also present at AFRIC’s second and third conferences in Berlin, in July 2019 and January 2020, respectively. Yulia Afanasyeva, Prigozhin’s St. Petersburg-based operative, is also a member of BWA. Misha Japaridze/AP Afanasyeva did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on this story.Adomaityte said in a Zoom interview that she had no information about Afanasyeva’s involvement in the Baltic Sea conference and that she “felt uncomfortable” talking about AFRIC. She claimed that she was directly hired by BWA in Germany. “We did [earlier] work together with BWA with the AFRIC institution,” she said. “So that was the direct link. However, I was directly requested by the BWA to conduct the research study for the Baltic Sea region.”This account, however, is contradicted by documents obtained by the Dossier Center indicating that not only was Afanasyeva actively involved in organizing the Baltic Sea event, which she attended virtually, but she was in constant communication with Adomaityte about it. Afanasyeva was included in a back-and-forth exchange setting up the venue in the Berlin Hilton; Adomaityte further kept the Russian abreast of how everything had gone.“When we look at the backgrounds [of the people involved], the connection to Prigozhin is clearly visible,” said Indrek Kannik, the former head of analysis of Estonia’s Foreign Intelligence and now the director of the International Centre for Defence and Security in Tallinn. He said the Baltic intelligence services likely follow such influence operations closely.According to a person with direct knowledge of how the Baltic Sea conference was organized, Afanasyeva gave a direct order not to touch on matters of international security and instead focus on economics and ecology. That, too, Kannik said, is textbook tradecraft for the early stages of any successful influence operation.“It is noteworthy that they started with politically uncontroversial topics such as the green deal,” Kannik told The Daily Beast. “They start ‘soft’ and only when they gain some public trustworthiness and a moderately positive image, they take on more relevant topics for the Kremlin such as security, criticism of the Baltic states, Russia’s talking points about dialogue between Europe and Russia, not to mention everything else to do with Crimea and Ukraine.”Another classic tradecraft technique employed by the conferences was employing unwitting foreigners to make the events appear legitimate, in this case by producing ancillary literature. A “strategy recommendation” report, released subsequent to the Berlin conference and branded as an ADMIS Consultancy product, was written by unsuspecting freelancers hired over the internet, The Daily Beast has confirmed. In September, U.S. news outlets reported that Prigozhin’s Internet Research Agency, or “troll farm,” had set up two fake news websites—one catering to the far right, the other to the far left—which hired unwitting American writers to contribute. Even the avatars of the putative editors of these sites were bogus, their faces generated with AI software. The goal was clearly to launder disinformation and propaganda through native participants, whose worldviews intersect with Kremlin interests.The danger with bricks-and-mortar operations like the conferences is that they’re liable to snare respectable and credible participants who are fixtures at similarly themed events. And the participants don’t necessarily have to be influenced or persuaded by Russia propaganda; their mere presence is itself an operational success. Having, say, a government minister from an EU or NATO country photographed alongside a Prigozhin operative is a great way to signal back to Moscow that these exercises pay off.In October 2014, months after Russia’s invasion and occupation of Crimea, the psychological warfare of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, orchestrated an entire security conference in Athens using cut-outs and front groups including a local Greek think tank and a Russian institute purportedly devoted to Russian diaspora issues. According to Estonia’s foreign intelligence service, an officer from GRU Unit 54777 even participated in a panel discussion next to Panos Kammenos, a Moscow-friendly Greek politician who subsequently became Greece’s defense minister.One of the people invited to give a presentation at the Baltic Sea event was Mihkel Krusberg, an Estonian official from the Ministry of Environment. He received a personal invitation from Adomaityte a little over two weeks ahead of the conference. Because Krusberg is frequently asked to attend such forums and the other publicly named guests appeared legitimate, Krusberg told The Daily Beast he didn’t see any red flags in the offer. “Had I known about the background of the organizers, I would have politely turned down their invitation,” he said.The Baltic Sea Region Strategic Dialogue was not envisaged as a one-off affair. The same group of organizers is already planning a follow-up conference to focus on the relationship between the Baltic and Nordic countries. According to Adomaityte, it’s scheduled to take place online in late March. “However we are really hoping to have a physical conference in the summer,” she said.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.
- Reuters Videos
India says it will offer incentives to ensure Tesla's cost of production in the country would be less than in China.The country's transport minister told Reuters it would be in return for Tesla making its vehicles there. His pitch comes weeks after Elon Musk's pioneering car firm registered a company in India.Sources familiar with the matter have said Tesla plans to start by importing and selling its Model 3 electric sedan.But Nitin Gadkari told Reuters that Tesla should "make the entire product in the country by hiring local vendors".Adding that India would then give higher concessions, although he didn't give any details on what they would be.He did however say that India would make the production costs for Tesla lower than in China.India wants to boost local manufacturing of EVs, batteries and other components to cut costly imports and curb pollution in its major cities.But India faces a big challenge to win a production commitment from Tesla.The country's fledgling EV market is still a long way behind China, where Tesla already makes cars.Just 5,000 electric vehicles were sold in India last year, versus over 1 million new energy cars in China. The automaker did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment about its plans for India.
- Associated Press
It was Mursal Wahidi’s dream job, landed right after finishing her studies in journalism — working at a local TV station in her home city in eastern Afghanistan. The coordinated killings of the three women were the latest in a bloody campaign against journalists in Afghanistan, a country that was already considered one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. In just the last six months, 15 journalists and media workers have been killed in a series of targeted killings.
- LA Times
Op-Ed: It's official. Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for Jamal Khashoggi's murder. Hold him accountable
President Biden's failure to punish the Saudi crown prince defies justice and weakens the rule of law everywhere.
- 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
‘Let’s just call this what it is — a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation,’ said the rep. Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, is pushing back against a report that she “bullied” her palace aides while in her role as a senior royal. In that interview, the Duke and Duchess are expected to respond to the bullying complaint reportedly filed against her by a staff member at Kensington Palace.
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday that the National Assembly would consider reforms to oil legislation that he said would allow for "new business models" in the crisis-stricken South American country's crucial oil industry. Maduro did not provide details about what changes might be made by the congress, controlled by allies of his ruling socialist party after a December vote widely boycotted by the opposition. Venezuela's crude output has plunged in recent years due to under-investment and mismanagement, and more recently due to U.S. sanctions aimed at ousting Maduro, labeled a dictator by Washington.
- Business Insider
10 Senate Democrats tell Biden to implement recurring stimulus checks after $1.9 trillion bill is passed
A group of senators thinks direct payments should be sent out regularly as the US economy gets back on its feet.
- 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.
During a recent interview on Good Morning America with host Robin Roberts, former First Lady Michelle Obama opened up about how she and her husband, former President Barack Obama, have open communications with their two young-adult daughters. “I always have wanted them to start practicing the power of their voices very early on,” Mrs. Obama shared of Sasha, 19, and Malia, 22.
- 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 appearanceInspector general found Elaine Chao used office to benefit her familyThe lost art of being reasonable
- NBC News
All federal government agencies have until noon Friday to download the latest software update to block the perpetrator.
- 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.
- Associated Press
The Biden administration sanctioned seven mid-level and senior Russian officials on Tuesday, along with more than a dozen government entities, over a nearly fatal nerve-agent attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing. The measures, emphasizing the use of the Russian nerve agent as a banned chemical weapon, marked the Biden administration's first sanctions against associates of President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader was a favorite of former President Donald Trump even during covert Russian hacking and social media campaigns aimed at destabilizing the U.S.