From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved

    This file is attached to from “Beast That Came Out Of The Sea” - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved.
    This link will return you to Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D.
    This link will take you to King Of The West 2022 February


    To start out with this year 2022 the United States of America has been under attack by the Globalist Socialist One World Government for most of 2021 as the Democrats have controlled it in a majority and many of the Republicans have fought as well as it could against their onslaught of our constitutional rights in an Antichristian Entity which I have discovered has already expanded to all the other countries in the world and many have bought into their Socialism and we the U.S.A. is the last stand for Capitalism and our Repubilic to keep and we must pray to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as in the Bible and the predictions in Revelation which we are in those times at present to give us some protection before what Revelation 3:10 "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."

12/31/2021 Sen. Daines Shares Video Of Mont. Rancher’s View Of ‘Build Back Better’ by OAN Newsroom
WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 04: Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) speaks during a signing ceremony for the Great American Outdoors Act
in the East Room of the White House on August 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
    It appears that if the Build Back Better package were to pass, every day Americans would be the ones to take on the burden. Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) shared a video showcasing the negative impacts Joe Biden’s agenda would have on middle class Americans, specifically.
    Daines posted the video on Twitter Wednesday featuring a farmer and rancher from Montana.    She talks about the struggles she and her family have been facing since Biden has taken office, and what more they would have to live through if his multi-trillion-dollar social spending package is pushed through.
    The Montanan stressed the massive bill will not help middle class Americans and will only make it harder for them to scrape by.
    Daines’ video highlights the reasons many are hesitant to support the bill while the Biden administration claims it will reduce costs for working families.    He asserted Biden and the Democrats’ reckless “build back broke” tax and spending spree will make the inflation crisis worst as well as leave Montana farmers and ranchers in the dust.

12/31/2021 Conservative Protesters Gather Outside New York City Hall To Protest Against Bill De Blasio by OAN Newsroom
NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 03: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks to the media during a press conference
at City Hall on January 3, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
    Protesters gathered outside New York City Hall following New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “walking-out” ceremony.    According to images Thursday, the protesters waved Trump 2024 flags and displayed negative signs about de Blasio as he gave his farewell speech.
    The Democrat, who’s term ended Friday, was reportedly unpopular amongst Trump supporters due to COVID vaccine and mask mandates.    During the press briefing, he reflected on why he chose to run for office.
    “And eight years ago, we had a vision of fighting inequality,” stated de Blasio.    “We really believed it had to be done and we felt it urgently.    And I knew that if this city didn’t change, we weren’t going to make it for the long term.    It just wasn’t going to work.    I really felt the New York City we loved was slipping away.”
    New York mayor-elect Eric Adams will be taking office Saturday.    Adams will reportedly keep the majority of de Blasio’s COVID mandates in place until reassessing this winter.

12/31/2021 Mayor Lightfoot Outlines Chicago NYE COVID Measures by OAN Newsroom
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a press conference at
City Hall. (Anthony Vazquez/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
    In an effort to reaffirm her commitment to public safety Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot outlined the health precautions for the city’s New Year’s eve celebrations. During a Wednesday press conference, the mayor announced the city would be holding its largest firework show ever after suspending the spectacle last year.
    The Democrat voiced her belief that COVID is the largest obstacle inhibiting a safe New Year for Chicagoans.
    Luckily, Lightfoot stated that she is holding the festivities where COVID is least effective: the great outdoors.
    “Number one, let’s keep in mind it’s outdoors and there was a conscious decision made, not only obviously that it’s outdoors, but to spread it out so we don’t have massive crowds gathering in one place.” she stated.    “So people have to be smart, recognize that the pandemic is still with us, that the Omicron variant is real and that they ought to do everything that they can to make sure that they protect yourself.”
    Mayor Lightfoot decided to use her time at the podium to promote COVID vaccines and boosters, which have been proven to be much less effective against Omicron than previous strains.
    “If you’re planning on ringing in the New Year with loved ones in an indoor setting, not only is it vital to be vaccinated and boosted, but also to know your own COVID 19 status,” she continued.
    “That’s why, as Dr. Arwady will explain in more detail shortly, we are recommending to everyone, even those who are vaccinated, to consider getting a COVID 19 test before gathering indoors with a large group.”
    In an effort to drive home her message, Lighfoot brought the city’s public health commissioner, Dr. Allison Arwady, on stage to highlight Chicago’s rising case rates.
    “I have bad news when when we look at our COVID case rates in Chicago; our case rates are rising sharply,” said Arwady.    “Just like nationally, just like across the state of Illinois, here in Chicago our COVID cases right now are higher than they have ever been.”
    Although the Omicron variant has been shown to be far more transmissible than previous COVID strains, it retains a single digit death toll nationally.    Meanwhile, Chicago has suffered more than 800 homicides and over 4,000 shootings in 2021 in addition to a surge in smash-and-grab robberies after Lightfoot proposed to cut $80 million from police funding the previous year.
    The mayor let Chicagoans know she’s focusing on their safety by instituting a vaccine passport for various venues starting January 3.

1/1/2022 Omicron Dampens Global New Year Celebrations, Fewer Watch Ball Drop In Times Square by Daniel Trotta
Fireworks explode in the sky over the Kremlin and St. Basil’s cathedral during the
New Year's celebrations in Moscow, Russia January 1, 2022. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva
    (Reuters) – The Omicron coronavirus variant dampened New Year festivities around much of the world, with Paris cancelling its fireworks show, London relegating its to television, and New York City scaling down its famous ball drop celebration in Times Square.
    The illuminated ball made of Waterford crystal panels slid down its poll at the midnight hour in Times Square, but only 15,000 spectators were allowed into the official viewing area instead of the usual 58,000.
    A year ago, the newly available vaccine offered hope that the COVID-19 pandemic may be under control by the start of 2022.    Instead, the sudden arrival of Omicron has brought a surge in coronavirus cases across the globe.
    Worldwide infections hit a record high over the past seven-day period, with an average of just over a million cases detected a day between Dec. 24 and 30, up some 100,000 on the previous peak posted on Wednesday, according to Reuters data.    Deaths, however, have not risen in kind, bringing hope the new variant is less lethal.
    New York City reported a record 44,000 cases on Wednesday and another 43,000 on Thursday, leading some critics to question whether the celebrations should go ahead at all.
    But officials decided an outdoor party of vaccinated, masked and socially distant revellers was safe, and a better option than the virtually vacant celebration that rung in 2021.
    “I would be lying if I said I’m not concerned,” said Sue Park, a Columbia University student who was one of the 15,000 allowed to watch in person.    “Definitely I think it’s worth it to come and celebrate. It will just be more meaningful to be in the crowd.”
    Elsewhere around the globe, events were scaled back or cancelled outright, such as with the traditional fireworks over the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.
    Midnight passed in Paris without a planned fireworks display or DJ sets, as city officials cancelled events planned on the Champs-Elysees following the advice of a scientific panel that declared mass gatherings would be too risky.
    In the Netherlands, where outside groupings of more than four people are banned, police dispersed several thousand people who had defiantly gathered at Amsterdam’s central Dam Square, ANP news agency reported.
    But in London, where a fireworks display and light show had been cancelled in October, officials announced on Friday the spectacle would come to life on the television screen, as Big Ben rang in the New Year for the first time since 2017 following a restoration.
    BBC images of the fireworks showed very light vehicle traffic and virtually no in-person spectators.
    Earlier, Britain published a study of a million cases that found those with Omicron were around a third as likely to need hospitalisation as those with the previously dominant Delta variant.    The results were “in keeping with the encouraging signs we have already seen,” said Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency.
    In the wake of encouraging data, Cape Town abruptly lifted a curfew just in time for the New Year, after South Africa became the first country to declare its Omicron wave had crested – and with no huge surge in deaths.
    South Africa had first raised the alarm about the new fast-spreading coronavirus variant racing around the world.
    “I’m just hoping that Cape Town goes back to the old Cape Town that we all knew about,” said Michael Mchede, manager of a Hard Rock cafe by the white sands of Camps Bay Beach, who was thrilled to get the place ready to host an unexpected bash.
    Hours earlier, the Australian city of Sydney also feted the New Year with something like full swagger, as spectacular fireworks glittered in the harbour above the Opera House.
    People in Madrid queued for hours to get into the main Puerta del Sol square where celebrations went ahead with multiple security checkpoints, mandatory masks and capacity at 60% of normal levels.
    Saul Pedrero, a 34-year old clerk, made the trip from Barcelona, which has some of Spain’s strictest controls, including a 1 a.m. curfew.
    “It seems like another country.    Here you can do everything and nobody says anything,” he said.
    A lavish firework display lit up the festivities, which Spaniards mark by stuffing 12 grapes into their mouths to accompany each chime of the clock striking midnight.
    In Asia, celebrations were mostly abridged or cancelled.    In South Korea, a traditional midnight bell-ringing ceremony was cancelled for the second year, while festivities were banned in Tokyo’s glittering Shibuya entertainment district, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida took to YouTube to urge people to wear masks and limit numbers at parties.
    China, where the coronavirus first emerged in late 2019, was on high alert, with the city of Xian under lockdown and New Year events in other cities cancelled.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Nick Macfie, Rosalba O’Brien, Chris Reese and Neil Fullick)

1/1/2022 Food disruptions feared as new Brexit rules begin by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    LONDON – New post-Brexit custom rules for goods arriving from the European Union to Britain are taking effect on Saturday, and a leading food industry body warned that the new border controls could lead to food shortages.
    Beginning Saturday, importers must make a full customs declaration on goods entering the U.K. from the EU or other countries.    Businesses will no longer be allowed to delay completing full import customs declarations for up to 175 days – a measure that was introduced to cope with the disruption of Brexit.
    The British Frozen Food Federation said this week the new restrictions on animal and plant products from the EU could result in major delays at ports in the New Year because some in the supply chain, especially logistics companies on the EU side, may not be prepared for the changes.
    “We are concerned that not enough planning has been done to ensure the new requirements are understood by everyone in the food supply chain,” said Richard Harrow, the federation’s chief executive.
    “With only days to go before the new rules, we remain concerned that January could be a fraught month for our members,” he said.
    The new measures require businesses to complete the correct paperwork at least four hours before goods can arrive at U.K. borders, or they risk being turned back at the border.
    Animal and plant-based products must also have statements of origin certificates.
    While drivers must declare their goods and origin certificates, checks are expected to be minimal until the rules ramp up beginning in July 2022, when much stricter checks are expected to come into force.
    The U.K. imports five times the amount of food it exports to the EU.
    Britain left the EU’s single market and customs union on Dec. 31, 2020.    The new rules take effect six months after they were originally scheduled because of the impacts of the pandemic and businesses said they needed more time to prepare.
    Northern Ireland and Ireland are exempt from the changes as political leaders continue negotiating the Northern Ireland protocol.
Beginning Saturday, importers must make a full customs declaration on goods
entering the U.K. from the EU or other countries. FRANK AUGSTEIN/AP

1/1/2022 Japan To Help Build Bill Gates’ High-Tech Nuclear Reactor In Wyoming - Yomiuri
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is seen at the
company's news conference in Tokyo, Japan May 9, 2016. REUTERS/Issei Kato
    TOKYO (Reuters) – The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd are set to cooperate with the United States and Bill Gates’ venture company to build a high-tech nuclear reactor in Wyoming, the daily Yomiuri reported on Saturday.
    The parties will sign an agreement as early as January for JAEA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to provide technical support and data from Japan’s own advanced reactors, the report said citing multiple unidentified sources.
    TerraPower, an advanced nuclear power venture founded by Gates, is set to open its Natrium plant in Wyoming in 2028. The U.S. government will provide funding to cover half of the $4 billion project.
    Terrapower had initially explored the prospect of building an experimental nuclear plant with state-owned China National Nuclear Corp, until it was forced to seek new partners after the administration of     Donald Trump restricted nuclear deals with China.
    The United States has been competing with China and Russia which also hope to build and export advanced reactors.
    Japan, on the other hand, has a bitter history of decommissioning its Monju prototype advanced reactor in 2016, a project which cost $8.5 billion but provided little results and years of controversy.
    The Monju facility saw accidents, regulatory breaches, and cover-ups since its conception, and was closed following public distrust of nuclear energy after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
    Both JAEA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries could not be reached for comment, as their offices were closed for the New Year holidays.
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Kim Coghill)

1/1/2022 U.S. Officials Ask AT&T, Verizon To Delay 5G Wireless Over Aviation Safety Concerns by David Shepardson
FILE PHOTO: A contract crew from Verizon installs 5G telecommunications equipment on a tower in
Orem, Utah, U.S. December 3, 2019. Picture taken December 3, 2019. REUTERS/George Frey/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Friday asked AT&T and Verizon Communications to delay the planned Jan. 5 introduction of new 5G wireless service over aviation safety concerns.
    In a letter Friday seen by Reuters, Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson asked AT&T Chief Executive John Stankey and Verizon Chief Executive Hans Vestberg for a delay of no more than two weeks as part of a “proposal as a near-term solution for advancing the co-existence of 5G deployment in the C-Band and safe flight operations.”
    The aviation industry and FAA have raised concerns about potential interference of 5G with sensitive aircraft electronics like radio altimeters that could disrupt flights.
    “We ask that your companies continue to pause introducing commercial C-Band service for an additional short period of no more than two weeks beyond the currently scheduled deployment date of January 5,,” the letter says.
    Verizon and AT&T both said they received the letter and were reviewing it.    Earlier Friday the two companies accused the aerospace industry of seeking to hold C-Band spectrum deployment “hostage until the wireless industry agrees to cover the costs of upgrading any obsolete altimeters.”
    Buttigieg and Dickson said under the framework “commercial C-band service would begin as planned in January with certain exceptions around priority airports.”
    The FAA and the aviation industry would identify priority airports “where a buffer zone would permit aviation operations to continue safely while the FAA completes its assessments of the interference potential.”
    The government would work to identify “mitigations for all priority airports” to enable most “large commercial aircraft to operate safely in all conditions.”    That would allow deployment around “priority airports on a rolling basis” — aiming to ensure activation by March 31 barring unforeseen issues.
    The carriers, which won the spectrum in an $80 billion government auction, previously agreed to precautionary measures for six months to limit interference.
    On Thursday, trade group Airlines for America asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to halt deployment of new 5G wireless service around many airports, warning thousands of flights could be disrupted: “The potential damage to the airline industry alone is staggering.”
    Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, representing 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines, called the Transportation Department proposal “the right move to successfully implement 5G without using the traveling public (and the crews on their flights) as guinea pigs for two systems that need to coexist without questions for safety.”
    Wireless industry group CTIA said 5G is safe and spectrum is being used in about 40 other countries.
    House Transportation Committee chair Peter DeFazio Friday backed the airline group petition warning “we can’t afford to experiment with aviation safety.”
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Lisa Shumaker)

1/1/2022 Omicron Dampens Global New Year Celebrations, Fewer Watch Ball Drop In Times Square by Daniel Trotta
Revelers gather during New Year's Eve celebrations in Times Square, as the Omicron coronavirus variant
continues to spread, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., January 1, 2022. REUTERS/Dieu-Nalio Chery
    (Reuters) – The Omicron coronavirus variant dampened New Year festivities around much of the world, with Paris cancelling its fireworks show, London relegating its to television, and New York City scaling down its famous ball drop celebration in Times Square.
    The illuminated ball made of Waterford crystal panels slid down its pole at the midnight hour in Times Square, but only 15,000 spectators were allowed into the official viewing area instead of the usual 58,000.
    A year ago, the newly available vaccine offered hope that the COVID-19 pandemic may be under control by the start of 2022. Instead, the sudden arrival of Omicron has brought a surge in coronavirus cases across the globe.
    Worldwide infections hit a record high over the past seven-day period, with an average of just over a million cases detected a day between Dec. 24 and 30, up some 100,000 on the previous peak posted on Wednesday, according to Reuters data.    Deaths, however, have not risen in kind, bringing hope the new variant is less lethal.
    New York City reported a record 44,000 cases on Wednesday and another 43,000 on Thursday, leading some critics to question whether the celebrations should go ahead at all.
    But officials decided an outdoor party of vaccinated, masked and socially distant revellers was safe, and a better option than the virtually vacant celebration that rung in 2021.
    “I would be lying if I said I’m not concerned,” said Sue Park, a Columbia University student who was one of the 15,000 allowed to watch in person.    “Definitely I think it’s worth it to come and celebrate.    It will just be more meaningful to be in the crowd.”
    Elsewhere around the globe, events were scaled back or cancelled outright, such as with the traditional fireworks over the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.
    Midnight passed in Paris without a planned fireworks display or DJ sets, as city officials cancelled events planned on the Champs-Elysees following the advice of a scientific panel that declared mass gatherings would be too risky.
    In the Netherlands, where outside groupings of more than four people are banned, police dispersed several thousand people who had defiantly gathered at Amsterdam’s central Dam Square, ANP news agency reported.
    But in London, where a fireworks display and light show had been cancelled in October, officials announced on Friday the spectacle would come to life on the television screen, as Big Ben rang in the New Year for the first time since 2017 following a restoration.
    BBC images of the fireworks showed very light vehicle traffic and virtually no in-person spectators.
    Earlier, Britain a study of a million cases that found those with Omicron were around a third as likely to need hospitalisation as those with the previously dominant Delta variant.    The results were “in keeping with the encouraging signs we have already seen,” said Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency.
    In the wake of encouraging data, Cape Town abruptly lifted a curfew just in time for the New Year, after South Africa became the first country to declare its Omicron wave had crested – and with no huge surge in deaths.
    South Africa had first raised the alarm about the new fast-spreading coronavirus variant racing around the world.
    “I’m just hoping that Cape Town goes back to the old Cape Town that we all knew about,” said Michael Mchede, manager of a Hard Rock cafe by the white sands of Camps Bay Beach, who was thrilled to get the place ready to host an unexpected bash.
    Hours earlier, the Australian city of Sydney also feted the New Year with something like full swagger, as spectacular fireworks glittered in the harbour above the Opera House.
    People in Madrid queued for hours to get into the main Puerta del Sol square where celebrations went ahead with multiple security checkpoints, mandatory masks and capacity at 60% of normal levels.
    Saul Pedrero, a 34-year old clerk, made the trip from Barcelona, which has some of Spain’s strictest controls, including a 1 a.m. curfew.
    “It seems like another country.    Here you can do everything and nobody says anything,” he said.
    A lavish firework display lit up the festivities, which Spaniards mark by stuffing 12 grapes into their mouths to accompany each chime of the clock striking midnight.
    In Asia, celebrations were mostly abridged or cancelled.    In South Korea, a traditional midnight bell-ringing ceremony was cancelled for the second year, while festivities were banned in Tokyo’s glittering Shibuya entertainment district, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida took to YouTube to urge people to wear masks and limit numbers at parties.
    China, where the coronavirus first emerged in late 2019, was on high alert, with the city of Xian under lockdown and New Year events in other cities cancelled.
(This story was refiled to fix spelling of “pole” in second paragraph.)
(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Nick Macfie, Rosalba O’Brien, Chris Reese and Neil Fullick)

1/1/2022 France Sixth Country With More Than 10 Million COVID Infections
A woman arrives at a mobile coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing booth
in Paris, France, December 31, 2021. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
    PARIS (Reuters) - France became the sixth country in the world to report more than 10 million COVID-19 infections since the outbreak of the pandemic, according to official data published on Saturday.
    French health authorities reported 219,126 new confirmed cases in a 24-hour period, the fourth day in a row that the country has recorded more than 200,000 cases.
    France joined the United States, India, Brazil, Britain and Russia in having had more than 10 million cases.
    Saturday’s figure was the second highest after the 232,200 record on Friday when French President Emmanuel Macron warned the next few weeks would be difficult.
    In his New Year’s Eve address, Macron did not mention a need for more restrictive health measures than those already announced, adding that the government should refrain from further limiting individual freedoms.
    But the government said earlier on Saturday that from Monday wearing masks in public spaces would be mandatory for children as young as six versus 11 before.
    And some big cities, including Paris and Lyon, have re-imposed wearing of masks in the street for everyone.
    The seven-day moving average of new cases in France, which smoothes out daily reporting irregularities, rose to an all-time high of 157,651 – jumping almost five-fold in a month.
    The number of people hospitalised for COVID-19 has increased by 96 over 24 hours, standing at a more than seven-month peak of 18,811.    But that figure is still almost half the record 33,497 reached in November 2020.
    The COVID-19 death toll increased by 110 over 24 hours to 123,851, the 12th highest globally.    The seven-day moving average of new daily deaths has reached 186, a high since May 14.
(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Andrew Cawthorne)

1/1/2022 Jamaica To Deport Colombian Wanted In Haiti President Assassination by Kate Chappell
FILE PHOTO: A picture of the late Haitian President Jovenel Moise hangs on a wall before
a news conference by interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph at his house, almost a week after
his assassination, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo
    KINGSTON (Reuters) – A former Colombian military member implicated in last year’s assassination of Haiti President Jovenel Moise will be deported from Jamaica to his home country on Jan. 3, Jamaica’s attorney general said on Saturday.
    Mario Antonio Palacios, 43, is accused by Haitian authorities of forming part of a mercenary group that assassinated Moise in July during an assault on his private residence, during which his wife was also injured.
    Palacios was arrested in Jamaica last October and convicted for illegally entering the country from the Dominican Republic.
    Jamaica’s government had issued a deportation order for illegally entering the country.    But the island nation has no formal extradition treaty with Haiti, where Palacios is wanted, a local police spokesman said.
    “The information supplied did not link him to the assassination and essentially indicated that he was a suspect for attempted armed robbery, without any detail,” Marlene Malahoo Forte said in a statement to Reuters.
    “Our attempts to get further and better particulars from the Haitian government were unsuccessful.”
    Lawyers for Palacios have asked for his immediate release from Kingston’s Horizon Adult Remand Centre, arguing that his detention is unlawful, she said.
    Neither Palacio’s lawyers nor Haiti government officials immediately responded to requests for comment.
(Reporting by Kate Chappell in Kingston; Additional reporting by Gessika Thomas in Port-au-Prince; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

1/1/2021 England Reports 162,572 New COVID-19 Cases, Another Record
FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a face mask, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), walks past
the ambulances at the Royal London Hospital, in London, Britain December 31, 2021. REUTERS/May James
    LONDON (Reuters) – England reported a record high daily total of 162,572 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, up from 160,276 the previous day, official data showed.
    The daily update also showed 154 new deaths from the virus in England within 28 days of a positive test, down from 178 on Friday.
    The data normally also includes Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but did not on Saturday because of differences in reporting schedules over the New Year weekend.
    The daily number of confirmed infections across the United Kingdom repeatedly broke records in December as the Omicron variant spread rapidly.    However, hospitalisations and deaths have remained at lower levels than during previous waves.
    Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all introduced restrictions such as nightclub closures, social distancing rules in pubs and limits on the number of people allowed to gather.
    But England, which accounts for more than 80% of the UK population, has not brought in any restrictions.    Health Secretary Sajid Javid said any new curbs would only be introduced as an “absolute last resort.”
(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Gareth Jones)

1/1/2022 Charity Boat With 440 Migrants To Dock In Italy
FILE PHOTO: Migrants walk towards the quarantine ship Snav Adriatico after disembarking from the
German NGO migrant rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 after it arrived with 257 rescued migrants on board, in
Trapani on the island of Sicily, Italy August 7, 2021. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi/File Photo
    CATANIA, Italy (Reuters) – The German charity vessel Sea Watch 3, carrying hundreds of migrants rescued at sea, will dock in the Italian port of Pozzallo, in Sicily, the charity group operating it wrote on Twitter on Friday.
    The vessel has been seeking a port to disembark for the past week, since rescuing the migrants from the Mediterranean.
    “The 440 people on board will finally be able to disembark,” Sea Watch said.
    Those onboard, mostly from Africa, were rescued late last week in five separate operations.    They include around 200 minors, most of them unaccompanied, a Sea Watch spokesperson said.
    On Tuesday, Italy allowed more than 550 people onboard another charity boat to disembark in the Sicilian port of Augusta.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Alex Richardson)

1/2/2022 No Oil or DOW info.

1/2/2022 Statue Of Mexico President In Opposition Stronghold Toppled After Two Days
FILE PHOTO: Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks on the third anniversary
of his government in Mexico City, Mexico December 1, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Romero
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A statue of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador that had been erected in an important opposition stronghold lasted just two days, the state prosecutor said, after photographs of the apparent vandalism were shared on social media.
    The statue had been unveiled on Thursday by outgoing Mayor Roberto Tellez Monroy in the municipality of Atlacomulco in the central State of Mexico, the hometown of Lopez Obrador’s predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto.
    The National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party Lopez Obrador heads had governed the municipality until recently before it fell back to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, that has long ruled it.
    “The statue was demolished,” a spokesman at the state prosecutor’s office said.    “It was an apparent act of vandalism.”
    In order to start an investigation, the prosecutor’s office needs a complaint he said has so far not been presented.
    Photographs shared on social media showed the headless statue lying on the ground.
    Lopez Obrador remains popular in Mexico, with his approval rating at 64.3%, according to the latest Mitofsky poll on Saturday.
    Atlacomulco city council did not immediately respond to requests for information on the incident.
    In the past, Lopez Obrador has said that he does not agree with the erection of images of his person.
(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Sandra Maler)

1/2/2022 French Far-Right Wants EU Flag Off Arc De Triomphe
The European flag flies under the Arc de Triomphe to celebrate the start of the French presidency
of the European Union, in Paris, France, January 1, 2022. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
    PARIS (Reuters) – Far-right leader Marine Le Pen protested on Saturday against the placing of a European Union flag on the Arc de Triomphe for the start of Paris’ six-month presidency of the bloc.
    Le Pen, whom polls show to be President Emmanuel Macron’s main rival for the spring presidential election, was joined by other right-wing politicians in outrage against the EU flag fluttering on the Paris landmark.
    “To adorn the Arc de Triomphe with the sole colours of the European Union, without the presence of a national flag, is a real attack on our nation’s identity, because this monument honours our military victories and houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” she said in a statement.
    There was no immediate comment from the pro-EU Macron, whom Le Pen accused of giving a “direct order” to hang the flag.
    But Junior European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said the display was only temporary.    “The French flag has not been replaced.    The election campaign is not a free pass for petty lies and controversies,” he tweeted.
    Macron, who has yet to say if he will run for re-election in April, defeated Le Pen in the 2017 run-off by 66%-34%.    All polls show him favourite to win another five-year term.
    Le Pen said she would appeal to the Council of State, which acts as legal adviser of the executive, to remove the EU flag.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

1/2/2022 Germans See Pandemic, Pensions As Biggest Topics For 2022-Poll
FILE PHOTO: People receive a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during a
vaccination event in the Cologne Cathedral on Christmas Eve amid the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) pandemic in Cologne, Germany, December 24, 2021. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen
    BERLIN (Reuters) – Germans want their new government to focus on fighting the coronavirus pandemic and safeguarding pensions in 2022, with fewer people wanting them to prioritise the climate crisis, an opinion poll showed on Sunday.
    The survey by pollsters Insa for the Bild am Sonntag newspaper showed that 61% of the 2,004 people questioned think combating the pandemic is the most important task of the government, followed by securing pensions.
    Germans also want the government to deal with a shortage of staff in nursing homes, provide affordable housing and limit the rise in energy prices.    Dealing with the impact of climate change only ranks sixth in their list of priorities.
    “Direct, concrete concern about one’s own livelihood comes ahead of the often more abstract concern about the consequences of climate change,” said Insa head Hermann Binkert.
    Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in his first New Year’s address that Germany wants to use its presidency of the Group of Seven (G7) to develop it into a club that is pioneering in its efforts to achieve green growth and a socially just world.
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson, Editing by Louise Heavens)

1/2/2022 English School Children To Wear Masks To Tackle Omicron Surge
FILE PHOTO: Year 9 students wear protective face masks as they take part in lessons on the
first day back at school, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown begins to ease at
Harris Academy Sutton, south London, Britain, March 8, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville
    LONDON (Reuters) – Children in secondary schools in England will be told to wear face coverings when they return after the Christmas holiday next week to tackle a surge in cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday.
    “We want to maximise the number of children in school and college for the maximum amount of time,” he said in an article in the Sunday Telegraph.
    “One of the additional, temporary measures that will help achieve this in light of the omicron surge is recommending face coverings are worn in secondary school classrooms and teaching spaces for the coming weeks – although not for longer than they are needed.”
    England was the only one of the four UK nations where face coverings were not previously recommended in the classroom.
    With daily infection numbers at record highs and people who test positive required to isolate for at least seven days, schools and other public services are facing disruption from staff shortages.
    The government has asked public sector managers to prepare for a worst-case scenario of 25% of staff absent in the weeks ahead.
    Zahawi said some remote learning would be necessary given the number of pupils and teachers who would have to self-isolate.
    But he added that face-to-face teaching would continue to be the expected norm and exams would go ahead as planned this month.
(Reporting by Paul Sandle, Editing by Louise Heavens)

1/2/2022 Unvaccinated U.S. Travellers Added To French Quarantine List
FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks walk at as they arrive at Charles de Gaulle
airport in Paris, France, February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
    PARIS (Reuters) – France has put the United States on its COVID-19 travel “red list,” meaning unvaccinated people coming into the country will have to quarantine for 10 days.
    The rules will not change for fully vaccinated people coming into France from the United States: they still have to show proof of a negative test before boarding their flight.
    The move puts the United States, where new infections are topping 300,000 a day due to the Omicron variant, on the same list as countries such as Russia, Afghanistan, Belarus and Serbia.
    France is also grappling with record levels of new infections, with 200,000 cases reported daily over the last four days.
(Reporting by Marc Angrand; Writing by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Alison Williams)

1/2/2022 England Reports 162,572 New COVID-19 Cases, Another Record
FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a face mask, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), walks
past the ambulances at the Royal London Hospital, in London, Britain December 31, 2021. REUTERS/May James
    LONDON (Reuters) – England reported a record high daily total of 162,572 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, up from 160,276 the previous day, official data showed.
    The daily update also showed 154 new deaths from the virus in England within 28 days of a positive test, down from 178 on Friday.
    The data normally also includes Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but did not on Saturday because of differences in reporting schedules over the New Year weekend.
    The daily number of confirmed infections across the United Kingdom repeatedly broke records in December as the Omicron variant spread rapidly.    However, hospitalisations and deaths have remained at lower levels than during previous waves.
    Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all introduced restrictions such as nightclub closures, social distancing rules in pubs and limits on the number of people allowed to gather.
    But England, which accounts for more than 80% of the UK population, has not brought in any restrictions.    Health Secretary Sajid Javid said any new curbs would only be introduced as an “absolute last resort
(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Gareth Jones)

1/3/2022 No Oil or DOW info.

1/3/2022 Biden Tells Ukraine That U.S. Will ‘Respond Decisively’ If Russia Further Invades by Jarrett Renshaw
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the country's fight against the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
    WILMINGTON, De. (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden on Sunday told Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy the United States and its allies will “respond decisively” if Russia further invades Ukraine, the White House said in a statement.
    The call came days after Biden held a second conversation in a month with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid tensions on Russia’s border with Ukraine, where Russia has massed some 100,000 troops.
    “President Biden made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement following the call.
    Biden and Zelenskiy discussed preparations for a series of upcoming diplomatic meetings to address the crisis, according to the White House.
    Zelenskiy said on Twitter that they discussed joint actions on keeping peace in Europe and preventing further escalation.
    “The first international talk of the year with @POTUS proves the special nature of our relations,” Zelenskiy tweeted.    He said the joint actions of Ukraine, the United States “and partners in keeping peace in Europe, preventing further escalation, reforms, deoligarchization were discussed.    We appreciate the unwavering support of Ukraine.”
    Representatives from U.S. and Russia are set to hold talks on Jan. 9-10 in Geneva, followed by Russia-NATO Council talks and a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
    Biden has said he told Putin it was important for the Russians to take steps toward easing the crisis before those meetings.
    Putin’s foreign affairs adviser told reporters last week that Putin warned Biden that pursuit of sanctions “could lead to a complete rupture of relations between out countries and Russia-West relations will be severely damaged.”
    Kremlin officials have stressed they want guarantees that any future expansion of NATO must exclude Ukraine and other former Soviet countries.    The Russians have demanded that the military alliance remove offensive weaponry from countries in the region.
    Biden expressed support for diplomatic measures to ease tensions while also reaffirming “the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the White House said.
(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Jan Wolfe; Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Matthias Williams; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

1/3/2022 Brazil Health Agency Warns Against Boarding Cruise Ships Amid COVID-19 Outbreaks
FILE PHOTO: A passenger is seen on the balcony of the Costa Fascinosa cruise ship anchored at the Santos port, amid the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Santos, Sao Paulo state, Brazil, March 30, 2020. REUTERS/Rahel Patrasso
    SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazilian health agency Anvisa on Sunday warned passengers against boarding cruise ships operating along the Brazilian coast after outbreaks of COVID-19 affecting crew and customers, according to a statement on its website.
    The move follows a call for the “immediate temporary interruption of the cruise ship season in Brazil” as they pose a risk to public health.
    “In view of recent events, Anvisa does not recommend the embarkation of passengers who have trips scheduled on cruise ships for the next few days,” the statement said.
    “This recommendation takes into account the rapid change in the epidemiological scenario, the risk to the health of passengers and the unpredictability of operations at this time.”
    There are five cruise liners operating on the Brazilian coast being monitored by Anvisa, the agency said.
    The MSC Splendida, anchored at Santos, was banned from embarking new passengers from late Saturday and the vessel was quarantined from Sunday.    The Diadema was ordered to suspend service and all passengers will need to disembark when it arrives at Santos, Anvisa said.
    The other three are the MSC Preziosa, Costa Fascinosa, and MSC Seaside, which face a potential boarding ban and service suspension pending further epidemiological investigation, Anvisa said.
(Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Stephen Coates)

1/3/2022 COVID Outbreak Ends Cruise For Thousands On German Ship In Lisbon
The AIDAnova cruise ship is docked in Lisbon's port, as passengers are leaving the cruise during the day due to an outbreak of
the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) among its crew, in Lisbon, Portugal, January 3, 2022. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
    LISBON (Reuters) – The German operator of a cruise ship that has been stuck in Lisbon’s port due to an outbreak of the coronavirus among its crew pulled the plug on the voyage on Sunday after some passengers tested positive, port authorities said.
    The AIDAnova, with 2,844 passengers and 1,353 crew onboard docked in Lisbon on Dec. 29 while en route to the island of Madeira for New Year’s Eve celebrations, but was unable to continue the journey after 52 cases of COVID-19 were detected among the fully-vaccinated crew.
    It had been allowed to leave port and head to the Spanish island of Lanzarote on Sunday, but now another 12 people have tested positive, including four passengers, captain of the port Diogo Vieira Branco told TSF radio.
    “The company’s protocol was immediately actioned, with those infected, who are asymptomatic or displaying light symptoms, immediately isolated on the ship … and the company decided to end the cruise and disembark the passengers,” he said.
    The passengers would be transported home by air, he added, without specifying when.
    The company, AIDA Cruises, which is a subsidiary of Carnival Corp, did not reply to a Reuters request for comment.
    Reuters footage showed passengers still enjoying afternoon sun on decks with their drinks, and local media said the disembarking would begin after 6 a.m. on Monday.
    The crew who had tested positive between Wednesday and Friday were transferred to Lisbon hotels and were in isolation there.
    On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised people to avoid travelling on cruise ships regardless of their vaccination status.
    The move delivered another blow to the industry that only returned to the seas in June after a months-long suspension of voyages caused by the pandemic.
(Reporting by Andrei Khalip and Miguel Pereira; Editing by Alison Williams)

1/3/2022 Passengers Leave COVID-Hit Cruise Ship After 5 Days Stuck In Lisbon
AIDAnova cruise passengers leave Lisbon's port due to an outbreak of the coronavirus among
the cruise's crew in Lisbon, Portugal, January 3, 2022. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
    LISBON (Reuters) – Disconsolate passengers stuck on a cruise ship moored in Lisbon’s port for five days due to a COVID-19 outbreak began disembarking early on Monday, focused on clearing the final hurdle of a negative test before boarding homebound flights.
    The AIDAnova, carrying 2,844 passengers and 1,353 crew, had docked in Portugal’s capital on Wednesday.
    The ship was en route to the island of Madeira for New Year’s Eve celebrations, but its German operator decided to cut the cruise short after COVID-19 was detected among what it said was a fully vaccinated crew, 52 of whom tested positive between Wednesday and Friday.
    By Monday 68 positive cases, including a handful among the passengers, had been detected, port captain Diogo Vieira Branco told the Lusa news agency.
    Passengers who had tested negative in the past 48 hours started to disembark before dawn and were being transported by bus to the city’s airport in an operation expected to last most of the day.
    “We’re living in this situation and it can always happen.    Of course it’s not nice, we imagined something else,” one calm but disappointed passenger said as he disembarked.
    “We all want this to end.    We’re going home,” added another.
    The company, AIDA Cruises, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp, did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment.
(Reporting by Miguel Pereira, Pedro Nunes and Catarina Demony; Additional reporting by Victoria Waldersee; Editing by Aislinn Laing and John Stonestreet)

1/3/2022 French Lawmakers To Vote On COVID Vaccine Pass Amid Death Threats
FILE PHOTO: French police officers inspect the health pass compliance of a restaurant customer as checks on the implementation of the
health pass are expected to be intensified in Paris, France, August 18, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/File Photo
    PARIS (Reuters) – Dozens of French lawmakers have reported receiving death threats from suspected anti-vaccination protesters, as parliament starts to debate legislation that would require people to show proof of vaccination to go to a restaurant or cinema or take the train.
    The new law, which would do away with the option to show a negative test instead of having the jabs, has the backing of most parties and is almost certain to be passed by the lower house in a vote late on Monday or early on Tuesday.
    France has traditionally had more vaccine sceptics than many of its EU neighbours, but has one of the bloc’s highest COVID-19 vaccination rates, with nearly 90% of those aged 12 and over now fully vaccinated.
    The proposed tightening of the rules has nevertheless caused an upsurge of anger among anti-vaxxers, with some lawmakers saying they have been subject to aggression including vandalism of property and violent threats.
    Last week, the garage of a ruling party lawmaker was set on fire, with graffiti by suspected anti-vaccination protesters scrawled on an adjacent wall.
    “Our democracy is in danger,” said centre-right lawmaker Agnes Firmin Le Bodo, who on Sunday posted on Twitter an email she received containing graphic threats to kill her over her support for the vaccination pass.
    Firmin Le Bodo, who is also a pharmacist and vaccinates people against COVID-19, said she would not back down on her support for vaccination or for the vaccine pass.    But she told BFM TV on Monday that the threats did make her wonder whether to run for a second term as a lawmaker in June.
    “These are extremely violent words,” she said.
    Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said last week that police would strengthen protections for lawmakers after other members of parliament, including Barbara Bessot Ballot, of ruling party La Republique en Marche, also went public with death threats.
    Bessot Ballot said a total of 52 lawmakers had received messages threatening to kill them for “attacking our freedom,” adding on Twitter:
    “Those death threats are unacceptable.”
    “Our battle is against Covid, and not against liberties,” she said.
    France has for months asked people to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to go to a wide array of public venues.
    But amid a huge surge in infections with the Delta and Omicron variants, and with most people vaccinated, the government has decided to do away with the negative test option.
    It aims for the vaccine pass to enter into force in mid-January, once it has been approved by both houses of parliament.
    Protesters are due to gather in front of parliament at 5 p.m. on Monday, as the debate takes place inside.
    France saw large crowds rally to protest against the health pass when it was first introduced over the summer, but the numbers of those attending weekend rallies has dwindled as acceptance of the vaccine has risen.
(Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Catherine Evans)

1/3/2022 German Foreign Minister Heads To Washington On Wednesday; Russia On Agenda
Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock arrives at the G7 Foreign Ministers
meeting in Liverpool, Britain December 12, 2021. Jon Super/Pool via REUTERS
    BERLIN (Reuters) – German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will travel to Washington on Wednesday, where she will discuss topics including the Russia-Ukraine conflict with her U.S. counterpart, Antony Blinken, and other politicians, a ministry spokesperson said on Monday.
    Other topics on Baerbock’s first official visit to the United States will include future dialogue with Russia, climate, foreign policy and strengthening democracies, the spokesperson said.
    German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s foreign policy advisor will also meet his Russian and French counterparts this week, government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit told a regular news conference.
(Reporting by Zuzanna Szymanska, Editing by Miranda Murray)

1/3/2021 Portugal’s Impresa Media Outlets Hit By Hackers
FILE PHOTO: A man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him
in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    LISBON (Reuters) – The websites of one of Portugal’s biggest newspapers and of a major broadcaster, both owned by the country’s largest media conglomerate Impresa, were down on Monday after being hit by a hacker attack over the weekend.
    Expresso newspaper and SIC TV station both said they reported the incident to the criminal investigation police agency PJ and the National Cybersecurity Centre (CNCS) and would file a complaint.
    The alleged hackers, calling themselves Lapsus$ Group, published a message on the websites saying internal data would be leaked if the media group failed to pay a ransom.    The message included e-mail and Telegram contact info.
    The group did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment.
    Lapsus$, which claims that it gained access to Impresa’s Amazon Web Services account, also sent a phishing e-mail to Expresso subscribers and tweeted from the newspaper’s verified Twitter account.
    The same group allegedly hacked Brazil’s health ministry website last month, taking several systems down, including one with information about the national immunization program and another used to issue digital vaccination certificates.
    CNCS’s coordinator, Lino Santos, told Observador newspaper it was the first time the group launched an attack in the country.
    Websites of Expresso and SIC are have been offline since Sunday, with the pages showing a message saying they are “temporarily unavailable” following the attack and would return “as soon as possible.”
    In the meantime, both media organisations are publishing news stories on their social media channels.    They described it as an “unprecedented attack on press freedom in the digital age.”
(Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Inti Landauro and Louise Heavens)

1/3/2022 Brazil’s Bolsonaro Hospitalized With Abdominal Pain, Condition Stable
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro walks before a ceremony to celebrate the International day against
corruption 2021 at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, December 9, 2021. REUTERS/Adriano Machado
    SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was hospitalized on Monday with an intestinal blockage but is in stable condition, the hospital said in a medical note.
    The president’s office said earlier that he had been suffering abdominal pain.
    The Vila Nova Star hospital in Sao Paulo said in its note that he was admitted there in the early hours of Monday due to an intestinal obstruction.
    “He is in stable condition, undergoing treatment and will be re-evaluated this morning by Doctor Antonio Luiz de Vasconcellos Macedo’s team.    At the moment, there is no forecast for him being discharged,” it said.
    TV network Globo showed images of Bolsonaro walking down the stairs of the presidential plane after landing in Sao Paulo at about 1:30 a.m. (0430 GMT) He was then taken to the Vila Nova Star hospital, Globo said.
    Bolsonaro has been hospitalized several times since he was stabbed during his presidential campaign in 2018.    In July 2021, he was taken to Vila Nova Star due to an intestinal blockage after suffering from chronic hiccups.
    Bolsonaro had been vacationing in the southern state of Santa Catarina.
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito in Brasilia and Gabriel Araujo in Sao Paulo; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Angus MacSwan)

1/3/2022 Omicron ‘Plainly Milder’; New Measures Not Needed, UK’s Johnson Says
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on during a visit to a COVID-19 vaccination hub in the Guttman Centre
at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Britain January 3, 2022. Steve Parsons/Pool via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) -New measures are not needed now in Britain to fight the Omicron variant, which is “plainly milder” than earlier forms of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday.
    “The way forward for the country as a whole is to continue with the path that we are on,” he told broadcasters.    “Of course we will keep all measures under review, but the mixture of things that we are doing at the moment is I think the right one.”
    Despite a huge surge in infections, Johnson has so far mainly resisted imposing new restrictions in England, which accounts for more than 80 percent of the UK population.    Scotland, Wales and     Northern Ireland, which control their own rules, have imposed some new measures.
    Johnson said pressure on hospitals would be “considerable” in the next couple of weeks, but Omicron was “plainly milder” than previous variants, and the country was in a stronger position than it was earlier in the pandemic.
    Britain had a “very, very high level” of vaccination, he said, and it was continuing to build up its defences with the booster programme.
    “The majority of people who are in ICU (intensive care) have not been vaccinated and the vast majority – about 90% – have not been boosted,” he said during a visit to a vaccination centre in Buckinghamshire, south east England.
    Johnson imposed limited measures in England, known as “Plan B,” last month, including the wearing of face coverings on public transport and in shops, but stopped short of ordering restrictions on gatherings or closing businesses.
    The government said on Sunday that older school children in England would be required to wear face coverings when they return after the Christmas break.
(Reporting by Paul SandleEditing by Kevin Liffey and Peter Graff)

1/3/2022 Biden’s COVID-19 Response Continues To Be Called Into Question by OAN Newsroom
Jane Ellen Norman, 12, holds vaccination cards for her and her 14-year-old brother Owen
outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Angie Wang)
    The federal response to the coronavirus pandemic has continued to fall short.    According to MRNA vaccine inventor and virologist Dr. Robert Malone, the government officials have mishandled the federal response to COVID-19.
    “They are lawless, they completely disregard bio-ethics, they’ve broken all the rules that I know, that I’ve been trained on for years,” he stated.
    In an interview with Joe Rogan, Dr. Malone said vaccine mandates are “explicitly illegal” while claiming they violate the Nuremberg Code and international law.    The Nuremberg Code was adopted in 1947 and bans medical experiments without the patient’s consent.
    Malone also said the COVID-19 crisis has been very profitable for the Big Pharma and hospital systems.
    “The thing that ties all this little part of this story together, including the suppression through the government of early treatment, hospitals are incentivized financially to treat COVID patients,” he explained.    “…And if people are given treatments that are keeping people out of of hospitals, they (hospitals) are not getting that revenue.”
    Dr. Malone also said the Biden administration is suppressing safe and effective COVID-19 treatments such as Ivermectin to promote mass vaccination.    In the meantime, reliance on masks and social distancing rules are also being challenged.
    Pfizer board member and former FDA Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb admitted face masks do not prevent the transmission of COVID-19.    In an interview Sunday, Gottlieb said masks could be somewhat effective against droplets, but COVID-19 is an airborn virus that goes easily through a mask.    He suggested masks could work against regular flu, but not the coronavirus.
    “Cloth masks aren’t going to provide a lot of protection, that’s the bottom line,” Gottlieb explained.    “This is an airborne illness, we now understand that, and a cloth mask is not going to protect you from a virus that is spread through airborne transmission.”
    Gottlieb also said mandating booster shots in schools is not the right thing to do.
    “I certainly don’t think schools should be mandating boosters,” he stated.    “I think this should be left up to the discretion of parents and their physicians.    You know, it’s going to depend on the individual circumstance.    What is the risk that the child’s facing?
    Gottlieb also noted that the Omicron variant is causing mild symptoms, if any, and there is no reason to keep schools closed.

1/3/2022 Biden Talks Russian Invasion With Ukraine President Zelensky, Vows U.S. Support by OAN Newsroom
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with U.S. President Joe Biden over the telephone
in his office in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
    Joe Biden has continued to discuss a possible Russian invasion in his talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.    The White House released a statement Sunday, confirming Biden spoke with Zelensky earlier in the day and reassured Ukraine of U.S. support if Russia were to invade.
Biden also promised Ukraine support by NATO and the OSCE.    This comes as the White House, European allies and congressional lawmakers have expressed concerns over a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.
    “I think that it would require enormous sanctions on Russia to deter what appears to be a very likely Russian invasion of Ukraine again,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).    “And I think our allies need to be solidly on board with it.    Russia needs to understand we are united in this.”
    However, Moscow has denied reports of a potential invasion.    Russian officials are demanding NATO personnel be withdrawn from Ukraine and they are asking the U.S. to halt NATO expansion in Eastern Europe.

1/3/2022 Mexico President Says He Sought Assange Pardon From Trump, Renews Asylum Offer
FILE PHOTO: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian
Embassy, in central London, Britain February 5, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he had sought a pardon for Julian Assange from former U.S. President Donald Trump before he left office last year and repeated his offer of asylum for the Wikileaks founder on Monday.
    Last month, the Australian-born Assange moved closer to facing criminal charges in the United States for one of the biggest leaks of classified information after Washington won an appeal over his extradition in an English court.
    U.S. authorities accuse Assange of 18 counts relating to WikiLeaks’ release of confidential U.S. military records and diplomatic cables which they said had put lives in danger.
    Lopez Obrador reiterated the asylum offer he had made for Assange a year ago, and said that before Trump was replaced as U.S. president by Joe Biden last January, he had written him a letter recommending that Assange be pardoned.
    Mexico did not receive a reply to the letter, Lopez Obrador told a regular government news conference.
    “It would be a sign of solidarity, of fraternity to allow him asylum in the country that Assange decides to live in, including Mexico,” Lopez Obrador said.
    If granted asylum in Mexico, Assange would not be able to interfere in the affairs of other countries, and would not represent any sort of threat, Lopez Obrador added.
    More hurdles remain before Assange could be sent to the United States after an odyssey which has taken him from teenage hacker in Melbourne to years holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London and then incarcerated in a maximum-security prison.
    Supporters of the 50-year-old Assange cast him as an anti-establishment hero who has been persecuted by the United States for exposing U.S. wrongdoing and double-dealing across the world from Afghanistan and Iraq to Washington.
(Reporting by Dave Graham; editing by Grant McCool)

1/3/2022 Mexican President, Ex-Labour Leader Corbyn Trade Plaudits At News Conference
Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and former leader of Britain's Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn attend a news conference
at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico January 3, 2022. Mexico's Presidency/Handout via REUTERS
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador hosted former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn at his morning news conference on Monday, praising the veteran socialist and receiving warm words from the Englishman in return.
    Lopez Obrador, a fellow leftist, has for several years maintained a friendship with Corbyn, who attended the news conference with Laura Alvarez, his Mexican wife.
    “We identify with each other because Jeremy is a defender of just causes, he’s a defender of workers in the United Kingdom,” said Lopez Obrador, who also expressed admiration for the confrontational debating style of the British parliament.
    Corbyn, wearing a tie and an olive green suit, and Alvarez sat on a stage in the National Palace in Mexico City, where Lopez Obrador holds news conferences from 7 a.m. daily.
    Lopez Obrador has on a few occasions hosted heads of state from allies of Mexico or visiting dignitaries at his news conferences, but the reception accorded Corbyn was unusual for a politician who is no longer a party leader.
    Corbyn was invited to comment on the morning conferences, which Lopez Obrador has used to set the news agenda, often strongly supported by journalists sympathetic to his administration, as well as to hit back against critics.
    After saying a few words in Spanish, Corbyn said the fact Lopez Obrador held the news conferences was “very impressive and shows a degree of openness in government which is not … found in many countries, indeed anywhere at all in the world.”
    Speaking at what was Lopez Obrador’s first news conference of the year, Corbyn said he was also impressed with many of the changes under way in Mexico, praising Lopez Obrador’s efforts to tackle chronic poverty and inequality.
    “We’re all damaged by inequality,” Corbyn said.
    Corbyn attended Lopez Obrador’s inauguration in December 2018, while Lopez Obrador visited the British parliament with the then Labour leader in 2017.
(Reporting by Dave Graham in Mexico City; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

1/3/2022 Settlement Agreement Between Epstein And Accuser Made Public In Prince Andrew Case
FILE PHOTO: Lawyer David Boies arrives with his client Virginia Giuffre for hearing in the criminal case
against Jeffrey Epstein, at Federal Court in New York, U.S., August 27, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo
    NEW YORK (Reuters) – A 2009 settlement agreement between financier Jeffrey Epstein and Virginia Giuffre, who accused him of sexual abuse, was made public on Monday as part of Giuffre’s civil lawsuit against Britain’s Prince Andrew.
    The agreement said Giuffre would be paid $500,000 as part of the deal.
    It provided a release for “any other person or entity who could have been included as a potential defendant” against various claims by Giuffre.
    U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, will now have to decide whether that clause blocks Giuffre’s lawsuit against Andrew for allegedly forcing her to have sex two decades ago when she was 17.
    Andrew has denied the allegations and is seeking to dismiss the lawsuit.    A hearing over his motion to dismiss is scheduled for Tuesday.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Writing by Luc Cohen; editing by Grant McCool)

1/3/2022 Haitian PM Survived Assassination Attempt At Weekend: PM’s Office
FILE PHOTO: Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry speaks at a ceremony for his inauguration as Minister
of Culture and Communication, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti November 26, 2021. REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol
    PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Gunmen made an unsuccessful attempt to take the life of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry during a public event on Jan. 1, his office said in a statement on Monday.
(Reporting by Gessika Thomas)

1/3/2022 Reports: Biden’s Immigration Amnesty Failed In 2021 by OAN Newsroom
(Wilfredo Lee/AP)
    Joe Biden’s proposals of amnesty for illegal immigrants are found to have failed throughout the past year.    According to recent reports, Biden and top Democrats promised to quickly pass immigration amnesty laws when they took control of U.S. government last January.
    However, the proposed U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 failed to garner potential support by 60 senators in the equally split upper chamber.    In addition to this, 2 million immigrants reportedly entered the U.S. illegally last year, in turn, growing dysfunction in the U.S. immigration system.
    Despite this, Democrats have insisted on adding a sweeping immigration amnesty as part of their social spending agenda.
    “And the entire purpose of the hearing was to draft an amnesty plan onto to this massive omnibus spending package,” explained Republican Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.).    “But we proved to all the American people and anyone who care to pay attention to this that our colleagues have an unlimited insatiable appetite for amnesty.”
    Immigration analysts have also said an amnesty bill is deemed not viable, legally or financially, amid the Biden border crisis.

1/3/2022 Jan. 6 Committee Seeks To Expand Govt. Authority To Spy On Citizens by OAN Newsroom
Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is pictured. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
    The Democrat-controlled January 6 committee is proposing a new expansion to government surveillance programs.    In an interview on Sunday, committee chairman Benny Thompson (D-Miss.) said the Democrat panel will recommend new legislation to boost government spying on citizens to prevent future protests at the U.S. Capitol.
    The Mississippi Democrat claimed broader surveillance is necessary to ensure security of the U.S. government.    Thompson also denounced the January 6 protests, adding similar events must never happen again.
    “As you know, it was clear that we were not apprised that something would happen,” he stated,     “But, for the most part, it was the worst kept secret in America that people were coming to Washington, and the potential for coordination and what we saw was there.    So, we want to make sure that never happens again.”
    Thompson’s remarks sparked controversy with critics saying government surveillance is unconstitutional while the right to peaceful political protests is guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.

1/3/2022 U.S. Capitol Police Chief Says Force Remains Short-Staffed by OAN Newsroom
US Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger speaks to the press near the US Capitol
in Washington, DC, on August 19, 2021. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
    Chief of U.S. Capitol Police, Thomas Manger said the force continues to face staffing shortages.    During an interview Sunday, he said more than 130 officers have left the organization either through retirement or resignation since January 6.
    “When we look at the events of the 6th and we saw that operational planning failed, there were intelligence failures, those things have been addressed, those things have been largely fixed at this point,” Chief Manger stated.    “The one thing that we have not been able to fix, so to speak, are the staffing issues.”
    A COVID shutdown at the National Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy in 2020 resulted in fewer trainees and the police chief also noted an increase in threats against Congress.
    “We’ve had to really shift the focus of just doing the typical job that we would do normally and put more resources toward investigating those complaints,” Chief Manger continued.    “Ensuring that members of     Congress are safe, not only when they are at the Capitol, but when they are traveling within their home districts as well.”
    The Capitol Police Chief said the force is about 400 officers short of where they need to be, adding it’s a critical issue.    He assured a long-term plan for this fiscal year is in store to put more than 280 officers through the academy.
    Still, he said the fact that Capitol Police now have the authority to call the National Guard out in case of an emergency is a big improvement and will be beneficial.    He added, it would have been able to prevent something like January 6 from happening.

1/3/2022 Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Booted From Twitter, Sparks Renewed Calls For Big Tech Oversight by OAN Newsroom
FILE – Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., listens during a news conference in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.
Twitter on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, banned the personal account of Greene for alleged violations of its
COVID-19 misinformation policy, according to a statement from the company. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
    Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga) has been permanently removed from Twitter, in turn, reigniting calls for an end to political censorship.    The congresswoman released a powerful message in response to her ban.    The Georgia Republican took to Telegram Sunday, saying Big Tech will not stop the truth “from being spread far and wide.”
    Taylor Greene also said Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Vice President Kamala Harris are bailing out violent Black Lives Matter activists and the Democrat propaganda machine in spreading lies about the Russia hoax, but Twitter does not mind.
    The congresswoman was banned after demanding congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) apologize to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) for trying to smear him.    Taylor Greene added, Twitter is an enemy to America and it can’t handle the truth.
    Meanwhile, investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald is denouncing Twitter’s move to ban Greene.    In a series of tweets Sunday, Greenwald said Twitter banning a duly-elected U.S. representative is an abusive, dangerous and ill-conceived act.    He stressed, Democrats and liberals are relying on the corporate power of Big Tech to silence their political opponents.
    Greenwald added, Twitter bans of U.S. officials gives a bad example to autocratic regimes overseas who will increase crackdowns on dissent in a similar manner.    He also said this union of state and corporate power endorsed by Democrats is in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution.

1/3/2022 Ariz. GOP Candidates Run To Replace Termed-Out Gov. Doug Ducey by OAN Newsroom
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey is pictured. (AP Photo)
    With Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) terming out, the stage is set for a crowded GOP primary.     Six Republicans are on track to battle it out ahead of the gubernatorial election.    According to Ballotpedia, there are three declared candidates for the Democrat primary with one independent and one libertarian participating in the general election.
    Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee was among the first Republicans to announce a bid.    Yee is endorsed by Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), but could face an uphill battle as she weathered a 2014 recall effort when serving in the state Senate.
    Matt Salmon, a former representative who has historically called for strong borders and health care reform, has also tossed his hat in the ring. Salmon has garnered the support of Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) who took over Salmon’s House seat when he retired in 2016.
    Meanwhile, the GOP front runner, former TV anchor Kari Lake, is an outspoken supporter for election integrity and securing the nation’s borders. Lake has the endorsement of 45th President Donald Trump.
    The candidates will face off in the Republican primary on August 2 to see who will go on to represent their party in the general election.

1/3/2022 Rep. Devin Nunes Officially Resigns From Congress by OAN Newsroom
WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 07: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chairman of the House Permanent
Select Committee on Intelligence, answers questions at the U.S. Capitol during a
press conference March 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
    Republican lawmaker Devin Nunes is officially resigning from Congress.    In a statement read out on the House floor Monday, the Republican marked his exit after serving 19-years as a U.S. congressman.
    His official resignation will take effect at midnight.    Nunes said it has been the honor of his life to be able to represent the people of California for this long.
    Republican Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio will fill Nunes’ old position as the GOP’s top member of the House Intelligence Committee.    Meanwhile, Nunes is set to become the CEO of Donald Trump’s media company, which is slated to launch sometime this month.

1/3/2022 Canadian Court Awards C$107 Million To Families Of Airliner Downed By Iran by Kanishka Singh
Mourners attend a vigil for the victims of a Ukrainian passenger jet which was shot down in
Iran, in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada January 14, 2020. REUTERS/Jesse Winter
    (Reuters) – A court in Ontario, Canada, has awarded C$107 million ($83.94 million), plus interest, to the families of six people who died when the Iranian Revolutionary Guards downed a Ukraine International Airlines plane near Tehran two years ago.
    Iran shot down the airliner in January 2020.    All 176 people onboard were killed, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.
    The six family members awarded compensation by the Ontario court lost spouses, siblings, children, nieces and nephews aboard Flight 752, their lawyer, Mark Arnold, said in a statement on Monday.    They had filed a civil lawsuit against Iran and other officials they believe were to blame for the incident.
    The lawyer said his team will look to seize Iranian assets in Canada and abroad.    He said Iran has oil tankers in other countries and his team will be looking to seize whatever it can to pay what the families are owed.
    The decision by Justice Edward Belobaba of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice was dated Dec. 31 and announced by Arnold on Monday.
    The case was filed by Shahin Moghaddam, Mehrzad Zarei and Ali Gorji.    Fearing reprisals from Iran, some of the other plaintiffs withheld their names, CBC News reported earlier.
    A special Canadian forensic team had produced a report in mid-2021 that accused Iran of incompetence and recklessness over the downing of the Ukrainian passenger plane.    Iran criticized the report as being “highly politicized
    The report found that while the shooting down of Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752 had not been premeditated, it did not absolve Iranian officials of responsibility for the incident.
    Iran admitted it shot down the airliner shortly after takeoff from Tehran in January 2020 and blamed a “disastrous mistake” by forces on high alert during a confrontation with the United States.
    At the time, Iran was on edge about possible attacks after it fired missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for the killing days before of its most powerful military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. missile strike at Baghdad airport.
($1 = 1.2747 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler)

1/3/2022 U.S. Expands Trump-Era Border Program To San Diego
FILE PHOTO: A bus leaves a closed border facility as migrants subject to a Trump-era asylum restriction
program were expected to begin entry into the United States at the San Ysidro border crossing
with Mexico, in San Diego, California, U.S., February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
    (Reuters) – The United States on Monday expanded to San Diego, California, the Trump-era border program that forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. immigration hearings, in keeping with a federal court order, Biden administration officials told reporters.
    Democratic President Joe Biden attempted to scrap his Republican predecessor’s policy – often referred to as ‘Remain in Mexico’ – soon after taking office last January.
    But after Texas and Missouri sued, a federal judge ruled it had to be reinstated.    The Biden administration restarted the program in early December in El Paso, Texas.    On Monday, 36 migrants were brought to the El Paso immigration court, the first to have their hearings under the reinstated program, the officials said.
    The administration last week asked the U.S. Supreme Court whether it needed to continue to implement the policy, officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).    Under the policy, put in place by former     President Donald Trump, migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexican border to seek asylum must wait in Mexico for their cases to be decided, instead of being allowed to await their hearings in the United States.
    Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in October that the Trump program had “endemic flaws” and “unjustifiable human costs.”
    The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, has called for ending the program, saying it puts asylum seekers at risk and harms their due process rights.
(Reporting by Kristina Cooke, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

1/3/2022 Mexico Asylum Applications Nearly Double In 2021, Haitians Top List by Lizbeth Diaz
FILE PHOTO: Haitian migrants line up as they wait for a QR code to register their migratory situation,
in Tapachula, in Chiapas state, Mexico December 29, 2021. REUTERS/Jose Torres/File Photo
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The number of asylum applications in Mexico nearly doubled in 2021, the head of the country’s commission for refugee assistance said on Monday, with most applications being from Haitian and Honduran migrants.
    When compared to the previous year, the 131,448 applications mark an increase of 86.84%, according to the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR).
    “By far the main nationalities (who requested refuge) were Haitians and Hondurans,” the head of COMAR, Andres Ramirez, said, adding that Cubans were a distant third.
    The rise in the number of Haitians making their way through Mexico has been spurred by economic malaise, a devastating earthquake and political turmoil following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in July.
    In the previous two years, most applications were filed by Honduran migrants.
    Some 72% of those who applied for asylum in 2021 received a positive response, Ramirez said.    Another 2% were also granted complementary protection.
    Central American migrants fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries have long been crossing Mexico on their way north towards the U.S. border but in recent years, more and more migrants have applied for asylum in Mexico.
(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Sandra Maler)

1/4/2022 Oil up $0.54 to $75.98, DOW up 247 to 36,585.

1/4/2022 At Least 23 Killed In Armed Clashes In Colombia’s Arauca, Government Says
FILE PHOTO: Colombian soldiers patrol by boat on the Arauca River, at the border between Colombia
and Venezuela, as seen from Arauquita, Colombia March 28, 2021. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez/File Photo
    BOGOTA (Reuters) -Twenty-three people have been reported killed so far in Colombia’s Arauca province amid fighting between illegal armed groups, Defense Minister Diego Molano told a news conference late on Monday.
    Fighting broke out over the weekend in Arauca – which sits on the border with Venezuela – as members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) fought with dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who reject a 2016 peace deal.
    The groups were fighting over control of illegal economies such as drug trafficking, Colombia’s army said in a statement late on Sunday.    The violence also displaced 12 families, Colombia’s human rights ombudsman said.
    The violence harks back to the mid 2000s, when the FARC and ELN fought each other in Arauca and the neighboring Venezuelan state of Apure.
    By the time fighting ceased in 2010, more than 58,000 people had been displaced in the province and at least 868 civilians had been killed, according to a report from advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW), which cited the government-run Colombian Victims’ Unit.
    Some 5,000 people fled Apure at the end of March last year amid clashes between Colombian armed groups and the Venezuelan military.
    HRW received reports of 24 deaths due to the violence, the group’s senior investigator for the Americas Juan Pappier said in a message on Twitter, adding that there had also been forced displacements and kidnappings.
    “We are very concerned about the fighting between the ELN and dissidents of the FARC’s 10th front in Arauca and Apure,” Pappier said.
    Colombia’s President Ivan Duque convened a meeting of military and police leaders to assess the situation in Arauca and to take measures to address it.
    “I have ordered that two battalions be deployed within the next 72 hours to help with the task of territorial control,” Duque said in a video broadcast, while accusing Venezuela of sheltering FARC dissidents and the ELN.
    Venezuelan Defense Minister General Vladimir Padrino ridiculed the accusations on Twitter.
    Venezuelan military forces stationed in border municipalities have raised their level of alert in response to the fighting in Colombia, he added.
(Reporting by Oliver Griffin in BogotaAdditional reporting by Mayela Armas in CaracasEditing by Rosalba O’Brien and Sandra Maler)

1/4/2022 Biden Issues Plan Targeting U.S. Meat Firms In Efforts To Alleviate Inflation by OAN Newsroom
President Joe Biden attends a virtual meeting with family and independent farmers and ranchers including Scott Blubaugh,
President, Oklahoma Farmers Union, visible on the monitor, at the South Court Auditorium in the
Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House Campus in Washington, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, to discuss work
to boost competition and reduce prices in the meat-processing industry. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
    Joe Biden attempted to tame record high meat prices with more government spending.    On Monday, he met virtually with independent farmers and ranchers to lay out initiatives to reduce food prices by increasing competition within the meat industry.
    During the meeting, Biden said he plans to earmark $1 billion in funds from the American Rescue Plan to expand processing capacity for independent meat firms.    The sum includes $275 million in capital support and $100 million towards job development and training.    Additionally, Biden will also tighten rules governing Product of USA meat labels among other steps.
    The move is Biden’s latest effort to alleviate pressure on Americans at the grocery store as inflation has hit an all time high in decades.    The administration argues large companies have stifled competition increasing inflation and higher costs of meat and everyday items for people.
    “This reflects the market being extorted by lack of competition,” Biden stated.    “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism; its exploitation.    That’s what we are seeing in meat and poultry.”
    However, Biden said his problem is with corporate middlemen rather than inflation that has caused prices to sky rocket.    The U.S. price index rose 6.8 percent in November, which is the highest in almost 40 years.
    Despite this, Biden somehow shifted blame to 45th President Donald Trump despite Trump’s efforts to fight for farmers and ranchers in rural America.
    “For example, the Department of Agriculture is rewriting the rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act, which was a law back in to 20s that was needed at that time and is still needed to protect farmers and ranchers from abuse by processors,” Biden noted.    “The last administration weakened that law, making it possible for the abuse that we’re seeing now.”
    Additionally, meat industry critics were quick to blame Biden for high meat prices rather than meat processors while arguing the American Rescue Plan pumped $1.9 trillion into the economy without new revenue streams.    This in return, devalued the U.S. dollar.
    Furthermore, meatpacking industries and business groups stressed the Biden administration’s steps wont help American consumers, adding promised new government spending to expand independent meat processing will come to late to lower prices for consumers and producers.    The market has already begun to balance itself between supply and demand, evening out price hikes.
    Looking ahead, Joe Biden is scheduled to highlight the economy’s strengths on Friday as the December job reports is expected to be released.

1/4/2022 Sen. Cruz: GOP-Led House Could Seek Biden Impeachment by OAN Newsroom
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, speaks during a hearing to examine US-Russia
policy at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on December 7, 2021. (Photo by ALEX BRANDON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
    If Joe Biden gets impeached in 2023, Democrats have no one to blame but themselves.    That’s according to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
    In the latest episode of his podcast, Cruz said Americans have not forgotten Democrat attempts to remove 45th President Donald Trump from office and persecute political opponents.    The Republican noted, this means a GOP-controlled House would be under enormous pressure to return the favor.
    “I think there will be enormous pressure on a Republican House to begin impeachment proceedings,” he stated.    “I think there are potentially multiple grounds to consider impeachment.    Probably the most compelling is the utter lawlessness of President Biden’s refusal to enforce the border.    His decision to just defy federal immigration laws and allow 2 million people to come here.”
    This comes as political analysts predict a Republican victory in the 2022 midterms as Biden’s approval ratings continue to plummet.

1/4/2022 Lightfoot Blames Chicago Crime Surge On Judicial System by OAN Newsroom
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a press conference
at City Hall. (Anthony Vazquez/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
    Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot appears to be placing the blame for the city’s high crime rates on the courts and prosecutors.
    In an interview with CNBC on Monday, Lightfoot accused the city’s judicial system of contributing to Chicago’s’ rising crime.    She claimed prosecutors weren’t doing enough to keep violent offenders off the street.
    This comes as Chicago saw a record 797 homicides under Lightfoot’s watch in 2021, which is the most of any U.S. city and the highest figure nationally in more than 25 years.
    “We’ve got to do more to push our courts and our prosecutors to hold dangerous violent people accountable,” stated the Chicago mayor.    “We have 2,300 dangerous violent people, people charged with murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and the like, that are out on bond.    That makes no sense whatsoever.    And what it does is destabilizes and makes our community less safe.    So, I’m going to keep pushing our county partners, who control the courts and the jail and the prosecutor, to step up and do their part.”
    Lightfoot also called on residents and community leaders to do their part to curb crime in stating everyone has to have ownership over community safety.

1/4/2022 U.S. Arrests Suspect In Haiti Presidential Assassination, Source Says by Brian Ellsworth
People attend a memorial for slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise
at the city hall in Cap-Haitien, Haiti July 22, 2021. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo
    (Reuters) – U.S. authorities have arrested a Colombian man for his alleged involvement in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, an American law enforcement official told Reuters, adding that the man will make an initial court appearance on Tuesday.
    The arrest of the former military officer paves the way for the first criminal charges in the brazen murder, which triggered a political crisis in the Caribbean nation.    Haitian authorities have arrested 45 people in connection with the crime but have not formally charged anyone.
    Mario Palacios is scheduled to make an initial appearance in federal court in Miami on Tuesday afternoon, the law enforcement official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
    The arrest was first reported by the Miami Herald, which added that Palacios would face charges of “conspiracy to provide material support resulting in the death of a foreign leader, and conspiracy to kidnap and kill a foreign leader.”
    The official confirmed the Herald’s account.
    The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the case.
    “Prime Minister Ariel Henry wants justice to prevail in the villainous assassination of Jovenel Moise,” said a spokesman for the prime minister’s office when asked about the arrest.
    Haitian authorities identified Palacios as being part of a group of former Colombian soldiers who participated in the July raid on Moise’s residence.
    Palacios was detained in Jamaica in October and was being deported back to Colombia on Monday when he was arrested in Panama, according to two people familiar with the matter.
    A Panamanian official who asked not to be further identified said Palacios had expressed the intention of turning himself in to U.S. authorities.    Panama’s migration authority has not responded to requests for comment.
    Colombia’s national police said on Tuesday that they had coordinated with Panamanian and U.S. authorities to enforce an Interpol red notice against Palacios, adding that he was sent to Florida on Monday night after a meeting with FBI personnel.
    Critics in Haiti have complained of slow progress, intimidation and witness tampering in that country in the investigation of Moise’s killing.
(Refiles to add dropped name in third paragraph)
(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Additional reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb in Bogota and Milagro Vallecillos in Panama City; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

1/4/2022 Canada Reaches Agreement To Compensate Indigenous Children Taken From Families by Anna Mehler Paperny and Ismail Shakil
A student walks past a display at Hillcrest High School on Canada's first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation,
honouring the lost children and survivors of Indigenous residential schools, their families
and communities, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada September 30, 2021. REUTERS/Blair Gable
    TORONTO (Reuters) -Canada announced on Tuesday two agreements totalling C$40 billion ($31.5 billion) to compensate First Nations children who were taken from their families and put into the child welfare system and to reform the system that removed them and deprived them of services they needed.
    The agreements include C$20 billion for potentially hundreds of thousands of First Nations children who were removed from their families, who did not get services or who experienced delays in receiving services.    Another C$20 billion is to reform the system over the next five years.
    The agreements come almost 15 years after the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society brought forward a human rights complaint.
    The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal repeatedly found child and family services discriminated against First Nations children, in part by under-funding services on reserves so children were removed from their homes and taken off-reserve to get those services.
    Canada admitted its systems were discriminatory but repeatedly fought orders to pay compensation and fund reforms, including an appeal it filed last year
    Canada is also fighting a class-action lawsuit on behalf of First Nations children that the compensation agreement seeks to resolve.
    Justice Minister David Lametti said Tuesday the government will drop its appeals once the agreements are finalized in the months ahead.
    The reform deal includes C$2,500 in preventive care per child and provisions for children in foster care to receive support beyond age 18.
    Funding aimed at reform and preventive services should start flowing in April but may not address deep-rooted problems, said Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.
    “I see it as words on paper,” she told Reuters.
    “I judge victory when I can walk into a community and a child is able to say to me, ‘My life is better than it was yesterday.’    Nothing in these words actually changes children’s lives until it’s implemented.”
    Lawyer David Sterns, representing harmed First Nations children and families, said during a press conference that this would be the largest class-action settlement in Canada’s history.
    “The enormity of this settlement is due to one reason, and one reason only.    And that is the sheer scope of the harm inflicted on class members,” he said.
    At the press conference Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu vowed to end discrimination against First Nations children, who are over-represented in foster care across Canada.
    “Canada’s decision and actions harmed First Nations children, families and communities,” she said.    “Discrimination caused intergenerational harm and losses.    Those losses are not reversible.    But I believe healing is possible.”
($1 = 1.2696 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Denny Thomas and Lisa Shumaker)

1/4/2022 U.S. Hopes To Build On Iran Nuclear Talk Progress This Week
State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks on the situation in Afghanistan at the
State Department in Washington, DC, U.S. August 18, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nuclear deal talks with Iran in Vienna have shown modest progress and the United States hopes to build on that this week, State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday amid efforts to revive a 2015 agreement.
    The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its atomic activities but Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the deal in 2018, a year after he took office.
    Iran later breached many of the deal’s nuclear restrictions and kept pushing well beyond them.    Tehran says it has never pursued the development of nuclear weapons.
    In the latest round of indirect talks between Iran and the United States in Vienna, Tehran is focused on getting U.S. sanctions lifted again.
    “There was some modest progress in the talks last week.    We hope to build on that this week,” Price told reporters.
    “Sanctions relief and the steps that the United States would take… when it comes to sanctions together with the nuclear steps that Iran would need to take if we were to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA – that’s really at the heart of the negotiations that are ongoing in Vienna right now.”
(Reporting by Simon Lewis; writing by Costas Pitas; editing by Chris Reese and Howard Goller)

1/4/2022 Tattoo Artists In Uproar Over EU Ink Bans by Johnny Cotton
Tattoo artist Tin-Tin, head of the French National Union of Tattoo Artists, attends to a customer in his tattoo studio in
Paris as new EU restrictions on coloured tattoo come into force, France, January 4, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Tattoo parlours across the European Union were in crisis on Tuesday as a new rule came into force which effectively bans many of their most popular inks and which one artist described as like taking “taking the flour from a bakery.”
    Tattoo artists say alternatives to the inks, some of which have been in circulation for decades, do not yet exist or are in short supply, and the law deals a blow to an industry already reeling after repeated lockdowns.
    The law limits the use of certain chemicals which the EU said are hazardous, with some linked to cancer, reproductive difficulties and skin irritation, and which are contained in mixtures for tattoo inks and permanent make-up.
    The law was agreed in December 2020 but the industry was given a year to adjust and find alternatives.
    Star tattoo artist Tin-Tin, who heads the French tattoo industry union SNAT, told Reuters the new rules would just drive people to parlours that do not respect the legislation.
    “It’s ridiculous.    It’s like taking the flour from a bakery, it’s a stupid as that.    If we don’t have any colours or ink to work with, what are we going to work with?” he said.
    The European Commission said manufacturers and artists had had a year to prepare and alternatives exist, except for two particular pigments, for which more time was granted to find replacements.
    The European Chemicals Agency, which is behind the research on the inks, said at least 12% of the EU’s 450 million citizens, so at least 54 million people, have tattoos.
    The EU intends to harmonise laws across the bloc by setting maximum concentration limits for groups of substances or individual substances found in the inks.
    Gwenaelle Reaume, the secretary of the Tattoo Belgium association, said the COVID-19 pandemic had held up research and production, calling on the government for more time.
    While her salon had ordered inks from new, approved suppliers in time, many of her colleagues’ needles had run dry, she said.    Still, her client Anne Keyen said she was not unduly worried about her existing tattoos.
    “They put all sorts of things which aren’t good for health in food, and then they come after tattoo ink.    I admit that, as someone with tattoos, I don’t understand this law,” she said.
(Reporting by Johnny Cotton and Jan Strupczewski, and by Lea Guedj in Paris; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

1/4/2022 France’s Macron Rules Out New COVID-19 Curbs Ahead Of Wednesday Meeting
French President Emmanuel Macron is seen on a screen as he delivers his New Year's speech to
the nation at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, December 31, 2021. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
    PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron late on Tuesday ruled out new COVID-19 health restrictions as he said decisions made last week will stay in force, when asked about a need for them as infections surged ahead of a government meeting on Wednesday.
    Also asked about how to refinance France’s heavy debt due to the pandemic, the president said this would be possible through increased economic activity, adding that as long as he was in office, there would be no tax hikes.
    France registered a new record of around 270,00 new daily cases on Tuesday.
    In the detailed interview, Macron’s first in the new year, the president also said he had a good mind to run for re-election in April, but avoided to explicitly announce his intention to run.
    “There is no false surprise.    I would like to do it,” Macron said.
    As the clear favourite in the polls and only candidate in the field, Macron has not yet officially said he was running, although his lieutenants are already preparing a campaign.
(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Mark Porter and Marguerita Choy)

1/4/2022 Hackers Interrupt Briefing By Lawyers For Those Killed In Airliner Downed By Iran
People hold placards with images of the victims of the downing of Ukraine International Airlines
flight PS752, which was shot down near Tehran by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, during a march to
mark its first anniversary, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 8, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio
    OTTAWA (Reuters) – Hackers on Tuesday interrupted a video briefing by lawyers for relatives of those who died when Iran shot down a Ukrainian airliner, playing clips of loud music and showing sometimes violent images for more than two minutes.
    The lawyers ended the Zoom call and restarted it without further incident.    The briefing was held after a Canadian court this week awarded C$107 million ($84 million) to the families of six people who died when Iranian Revolutionary Guards downed the jet near Tehran two years ago.
    The interference started shortly after Mark Arnold, one of the lawyers, said “if anybody from the Islamic Republic of Iran is on this call … we’re coming after your assets.”
    Images of a doll with sharp teeth and a dog with shining eyes then popped up on the screen, followed by a clip of a man singing a rap song with obscene lyrics and then repeated images of a man running towards a camera and pretending to kick it.
    “I cannot speculate on who hijacked the call, but it was indeed interference,” Jonah Arnold, another lawyer on the call, said by email when asked whether he thought Iranian actors were responsible.
    No one has claimed responsibility. The lawyers sent out a news release to the media with the dial-in details and password for the call.
    Iran shot down the airliner in January 2020.    All 176 people onboard were killed, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.
    The six family members awarded compensation by the court had filed a civil lawsuit against Iran and other officials they believe were to blame for the incident.
    Iran admitted it shot down the airliner shortly after takeoff from Tehran and blamed a “disastrous mistake” by forces on high alert during a confrontation with the United States.
($1 = 1.2710 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by David Ljunggren)

1/4/2022 U.S. Court Revives Lawsuit Against Pfizer, Others On Iraq Terrorism Funding Claims by Mike Scarcella
FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Pfizer logo is placed near medicines from the same manufacturer
in this illustration taken September 29, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
    (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday revived a lawsuit against AstraZeneca Plc, Pfizer Inc and other companies over allegations their contracts with Iraq’s health ministry helped fund terrorism that killed Americans during the war in Iraq.
    The plaintiffs contend that the militia group Jaysh al-Mahdi, sponsored by Hezbollah, controlled Iraq’s health ministry and that the 21 defendant U.S. and European medical equipment and pharmaceutical companies made corrupt payments to obtain medical-supply contracts.
    Representatives from the five corporate groups – AstraZeneca, GE Healthcare USA Holding, Johnson & Johnson Pfizer and Hoffmann-La Roche Inc said in a joint statement “further proceedings will show the companies are not responsible in any way.”
    The lawsuit revived by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was brought by family members of victims of attacks in Iraq by the Mahdi group.    A federal trial judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2020.
    Lawyer Kannon Shanmugam, who argued the appeal on behalf of the companies, did not immediately comment.
    The lawyer for the family members, Joshua Branson, also did not immediately comment.
    Lawyers for the companies told the appeals court that they provided the Iraqi government “life-saving breast cancer treatments, hemophilia injections, ultrasounds, electrocardiogram machines, and other medical goods” after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq toppled strongman president Saddam Hussein in 2003.
    Shanmugam said in court in September that a ruling against the companies “would have a severe chilling effect on the willingness of companies and non-governmental organizations to conduct essential activities, often at the government’s request, in troubled regions.”
(Reporting by Mike Scarcella; editing by Grant McCool and Bill Berkrot)

1/4/2022 Spanish Students To Go Back To School After Christmas Break, Despite Omicron
A social distancing mark is seen on the floor as pupils arrive on the first day of school
after summer holidays amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at
Mariano Jose de Larra public school in Madrid, Spain, September 8, 2020. REUTERS/Sergio Perez
    MADRID (Reuters) - Students at Spanish schools and universities will return to class in-person when the new term begins on Jan. 10, the Health Minister said on Tuesday, ending speculation that record COVID-19 infections might trigger a return to distance learning.
    Cases have hit new highs since the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus was detected.    Omicron accounted for around 43% of cases in the week before Christmas, Spanish health authorities said on Monday.
    The nationwide infection rate as measured over the past 14 days rose to a new record of 2,433 cases per 100,000 people on Tuesday, a more than 10-fold increase since the beginning of December.
    Pressure on hospitals is on the rise but remains well off highs seen a year ago.    Intensive care occupancy reached 21.3% on Tuesday, up from 8% a month ago but less than half the peak of 43% recorded last January.
    Officials from the 17 Spanish regions, which set their own health policy, all voted in favour of a return to the classroom on Tuesday in a rare display of unanimity in a country riven by stark political differences.
    Masks will be mandatory and schools must guarantee adequate ventilation, while regional administrations will work to cover any teacher absences due to infection, Health Minister Carolina Darias told reporters after the regional meeting.
    More than 90% of Spaniards over 12 have received a full vaccine course, according to ministry data, while just under a third of children aged 5-11 have received their first dose since Spain began vaccinating that age group in mid-December.
(Reporting by Emma Pinedo and Inti Landauro; Additional reporting by Catarina Demony; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Alison Williams)

1/5/2022 Oil up $1.16 to $77.18, DOW up 230 to 36,816.

1/5/2022 German Minister, On U.S. Trip, Urges Dialogue With Russia
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wearing
face masks to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pose for a photograph before a bilateral meeting
ahead of the G7 foreign ministers summit in Liverpool, Britain, December 10, 2021. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS
    BERLIN (Reuters) – German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who is travelling to Washington to meet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday, said she would reaffirm the importance of dialogue with Russia to prevent conflict over Ukraine.
    “With regard to Russia, the common message from Europeans and the U.S. government is clear: Russian actions come with a clear price tag, and the only way out of the crisis is through dialogue,” Baerbock said in a statement.
    “We are entering a decisive phase in which important talks at different levels are imminent. And even if the formats of the talks vary, our messages as transatlantic partners to the government in Moscow are always the same.”
    Alarmed by Russia’s military build-up along Ukraine’s border, U.S. and Russian officials are due to hold security talks on Jan. 10 in Geneva and NATO has scheduled a meeting of allied ambassadors and top Russian officials for Jan. 12.
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Robert Birsel)

1/5/2022 Macron’s ‘Piss Off’ Comments Trigger New COVID Law Debate Suspension-Media
FILE PHOTO: France's President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a news conference at the European Council
Building at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium December 17, 2021. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    PARIS (Reuters) – France’s lower house of parliament has again suspended debates over a bill to make it mandatory for people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to go to a restaurant or cinema or take the train, French media report on Wednesday.
    Members of the opposition to President Emmanuel Macron’s majority party in Parliament asked for a suspension after Macron’s comments saying he wanted to “piss off” the five million French people who are not vaccinated, France Info radio reported.
    Review of the new law, which would remove the option of showing a negative test result instead of having the inoculations, will resume at 1400 GMT on Wednesday, the National Assembly said on its website.
    The legislation has faced fierce resistance from anti-vaccination campaigners, as well as far-right and far-left groups.
    Tense discussions in parliament on the new law were halted a first time Monday after midnight after a majority of deputies voted to suspend the session.    Pro-government lawmakers were caught by surprise, and were not present in the chamber in sufficient numbers to block the motion.
(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Dominique Vidalon and Lincoln Feast.)

1/5/2022 Germany Considers More Contact Limits As Infections Jump
FILE PHOTO: German Finance Minister Christian Lindner addresses the media during a news conference after
a meeting of the stability council in Berlin, Germany, December 10, 2021. Michael Sohn/Pool via REUTERS
    BERLIN (Reuters) -Germany needs to consider further restrictions on social contact and must ramp up the number of people who have had booster vaccinations as the Omicron variant takes hold, the health minister was quoted as saying on Wednesday.
    Chancellor Olaf Scholz is due to meet regional leaders on Friday to discuss how to respond to the spread of the highly-infectious Omicron variant.
    “Tightening will unfortunately be necessary to counter the heavy wave that is coming our way,” Karl Lauterbach told the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland media group, without giving details.
    Daily infections had been declining in Germany in December after the country introduced measures such as demanding proof of vaccination for many indoor activities, but they started rising again a week ago.
    The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases reported 58,912 new infections on Wednesday, up 47% from a week ago.    The country recorded another 346 deaths, taking the total to 112,925.
    Lauterbach, a Harvard-educated epidemiologist, said current restrictions in Germany meant people had 50% fewer contacts than before the pandemic.
    Finance Minister Christian Lindner was quoted as saying that Germany does not want to impose another lockdown.
    “We want to avoid blanket and area-wide closures in the future,” Lindner told the Stuttgarter Nachrichten daily and the Neue Berliner Redaktionsgesellschaft.
    “Our goal remains to maintain social life as far as possible and to avoid social damage as far as possible.”
    Lauterbach said he wanted more than 80% of those who are fully vaccinated to receive a booster – or about 56% of the population: “The booster shot is the best protection from the Omicron variant,” he said.
    Germany has a relatively low rate of vaccination compared with other western European countries: 71.3% of the population is fully vaccinated and 39.3% have received a booster shot.
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Kim Coghill, Miranda Murray and Tomasz Janowski)

1/5/2022 Say It With Sheep? Flock Forms Syringe Shape In COVID Jab Push
A German shepherd campaigns for COVID-19 vaccinations by forming a giant syringe using 700 sheep
and goats in Schneverdingen, south of Hamburg, Germany January 3, 2022. Picture taken with a
drone January 3, 2022. Etzold/Handout via REUTERS
    BERLIN (Reuters) – A German campaigner is hoping the emotional appeal of 700 sheep forming the shape of a giant syringe will reach the hearts and minds of people hesitating to take a COVID-19 injection.
    Germany has lower vaccination rates most other Western European nations, although some are simply unsure if they should get a jab rather than vehemently opposed to vaccination.
    “Sheep are popular with people and carry positive emotional connotations.    So perhaps they can reach many people emotionally when logic and scientific reasoning don’t do the job,” the organiser of the campaign, Hanspeter Etzold, told Reuters.
    Etzold works with shepherds, companies and animals to run team-building events in the northern German town of Schneverdingen.
    “I have noticed how enthusiastically the sheep are received and that it simply reaches people deep inside, which is perhaps not possible rationally, with rational arguments,” he said.
    The animals, which belong to shepherd Steffen Schmidt and his wife, followed pieces of bread spread on the ground to form the 100 metre long syringe shape as they were filmed by drone.
    According to the German Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, 71.3% of Germany’s population had received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and 39.3% had received booster shots by Tuesday.
    This places Germany among Western European countries with the lowest vaccination rates, data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control shows.
    At the same time, only around 5%-10% of Germans are vehemently opposed to vaccination and the rest are undecided, according to RKI data.
(Reporting by Tanja Daube and Annkathrin Weis; Writing by Zuzanna Szymanska; Editing by Alison Williams)

1/5/2022 French President Macron: Unvaccinated No Longer Citizens by OAN Newsroom
FILE - French President Emmanuel Macron addresses a media conference at the conclusion of an EU Summit
in Brussels, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. President Emmanuel Macron has provoked outcries in parliament
and shrill protests from election rivals by using a vulgarity to describe his strategy for
pressuring vaccine refusers to get coronavirus jabs. (John Thys, Pool Photo via AP, FIle)
    French President Emmanuel Macron declared the remaining 5 million unvaccinated Frenchmen are no longer citizens.    While increasing his rhetoric against citizens who make medical choices for themselves, he said he wants to “piss them off.”
    Macron also promised to fight over the issue until everyone is vaccinated in the country and called it his strategy.    The French president has no power to revoke citizenship in reality, but his comments still rubbed many the wrong way.    This particularly included center right presidential candidate Valerie Pecresse who commented on matter.
    “I was outraged by the president’s comments," she stated.    “I was outraged by his comments because that’s not all he said.    He also meant that the unvaccinated are not citizens, and it’s not up to the president to pick and choose who among the French are good or bad.”
    France has had movement passes since August requiring proof of vaccination or negative test to enter most indoor spaces.    The country is now looking to remove the negative test allowance.
    Despite an estimated 90 percent of Frenchmen aged 12 and over having been vaccinated, cases reached record levels amid the latest surge.

1/5/2022 Former Trump Adviser Navarro Defends Jan. 6 Challenge To 2020 Election Results by OAN Newsroom
White House trade advisor Peter Navarro said lawmakers need to “act now
on coronavirus stimulus legislation. Andrew Harnik/AP photo
    According to former Trump White House adviser c, the 45th president should be exonerated of any violence that took place on Capitol Hill on January 6.    In an interview Tuesday, he defended Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn election results.
    Navarro noted that in order for his plan to go forward “peace and calm” was required in the nation’s capitol.    He pointed out the plan involved over 100 GOP lawmakers ready to challenge results in six states they believed were rife with alleged election fraud.    He then asserted the plan was completely legal and constitutional.
    “We believed if the votes were sent back to those battleground states and looked at again, there would be enough concern amongst the legislators that most or all of those states would de-certify the election,” explained the former White House adviser.    “That would throw the election to the House of Representatives…all of this was, again, in the lanes legally prescribed by the Constitution.”
    Navarro also expressed disappointment in then-Vice President Mike Pence for refusing to not certify election results while calling Pence’s inaction a betrayal of Trump.

1/5/2022 Texas Scientists Roll Out Patent-Free COVID-19 Vaccine, Protein-Based Corbevax Has No MRNA by OAN Newsroom
People wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 walk in
downtown Lisbon, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Ana Brigida)
    Texas scientists rolled out a new COVID-19 vaccine, saying it’s patent-free and can be produced by any manufacturer in any country.    The vaccine, called Corbevax, was developed by the Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine.
    It has successfully passed human trials as safe and effective.    The new treatment is based off protein-based technology that has been used in other vaccines for decades and it does not use MRNA.
    India has already authorized production of 100 million doses per month of the new vaccine.
    Meanwhile, Texas scientists say not-for-profit vaccines will help defeat COVID-19 quicker.
    “We, about 10 years ago, started making coronavirus vaccines and the irony is that all of our processes are used with that in mind,” explained Professor Peter Hotez, M.D. Baylor College of Medicine.    “We build in low cost processes from the beginning because our health economist that we’ve collaborated with have always said if you don’t make it for under a few dollars a dose, you might as well not make it at all.    So that’s all we know how to do, is make low cost vaccines.”
    The Corbevax vaccine was found to be at least 80 percent efficient against the Delta strain and it’s said to be as effective as other vaccines against Omicron.

1/5/2022 Blinken, German Minister Reiterate Warning To Russia Over Ukraine by Simon Lewis and Madeline Chambers
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speak to members
of the media at the State Department in Washington, U.S., January 5, 2022. Mandel Ngan/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and Germany’s top diplomats on Wednesday reiterated that they would impose consequences on Russia for an invasion of Ukraine, with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stressing the need for a diplomatic solution to heightened tensions between Moscow and the West.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his newly installed German counterpart met at the State Department ahead of a series of meetings with Russian officials in Europe next week.
    Alarmed by Russia’s military buildup along Ukraine’s border, Washington has rallied European allies to threaten Russia with sanctions to try to de-escalate the tensions.
    “Strong trans-Atlantic solidarity is the most effective response and most effective tool that we have in countering Russian aggression,” Blinken said, repeating a pledge to go further than any previous sanctions against Russia and “inflict very significant costs on Russia’s economy and financial system” in the event Russia invades Ukraine.
    Baerbock said Russia was aware it was the “common position” of Europe and the United States to impose “severe consequences” in the event of an invasion, but did not specify what sanctions action Germany would take.
    “There is no alternative to a political solution.    This has to be clear to the Russian government,” Baerbock said, according to a live interpretation of her comments following her meeting with Blinken.
    Ukraine accuses Russia of massing around 100,000 troops in preparation for a possible invasion, raising fears that a simmering conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region could erupt into open war between the neighboring former Soviet republics.
    U.S. President Joe Biden has promised to continue providing military aid to Ukraine to defend itself against potential Russian aggression.
    Baerbock said Germany had a “different position” to the United States on the supply of arms to Ukraine, but was supporting Ukraine’s armed forces through medical supplies and helping in the treatment of Ukrainian soldiers wounded in the conflict.
    Blinken and Baerbock said they also discussed the Russian-backed Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would provide natural gas to Germany, bypassing existing transit routes through Ukraine.
    Baerbock said the new coalition government that took power in Berlin last month supported a joint statement signed with Washington by its predecessors in July.
    “We agreed on this together with European partners that we would take effective measures, together with European partners, should Russia use energy as a weapon or should it continue its aggressive acts against Ukraine,” she said.
(Reporting by Simon Lewis, Madeline Chambers, Caitlin Webber, Andrea Shalal and Daphne Psaledakis; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

1/5/2022 Asylum Seekers Shut Out Of Financial System By Some EU Banks, Watchdog Finds by Huw Jones
FILE PHOTO: The skyline with the banking district is photographed
in Frankfurt, Germany, October 01, 2021. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
    LONDON (Reuters) – Some European Union banks are shutting out asylum seekers and other types of customers in mishandled efforts to comply with anti-money laundering rules, the bloc’s banking watchdog said.
    Banks have become far more nervous as regulators in the EU, the United States and elsewhere crack down on inadequate “know your customer” checks, prompting some people to complain that they are being unfairly locked out of the financial system.
    The European Banking Authority (EBA) said on Wednesday that its research found that so-called de-risking by banks and payment firms takes place across the EU and affects asylum seekers and not-for-profit organisations in particular.
    When de-risking, banks exclude some customers because their profile suggests potential money-laundering or terrorist financing risks which could damage their reputation.
    “The EBA’s findings suggest that de-risking has a detrimental impact on the achievement of the EU’s objectives, in particular in relation to fighting financial crime effectively and promoting financial inclusion, competition and stability in the single market,” the watchdog said in a statement.
    The EBA said it has already issued guidance for national regulators and banks on how to manage money laundering risks properly. It will check on what steps national regulators are taking to tackle unwarranted de-risking and report back in 2023.
    After a money laundering scandal at Denmark’s Danske Bank, the European Commission set out proposals last year to create an anti-money laundering authority along with other measures which the EBA said would go some way to ending unwarranted de-risking.
    But the Commission could go further by clarifying in which situations an account with basic features should be rejected or closed, with a complaint mechanism for customers, the EBA said.
(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Alexander Smith)

1/5/2022 U.S. Begins Returning Migrants To Mexican Border City Under Rebooted Trump-Era Policy by Lizbeth Diaz
FILE PHOTO: A migrant boy, who returned to Mexico with his parents from the U.S. under the Migrant Protection
Protocols (MPP) to wait for their court hearing for asylum seekers, plays at a migrant shelter run by the
federal government in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez/File Photo
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday began returning migrants to the Mexican city of Tijuana in an restart of a Trump-era program that forces asylum seekers to wait for U.S. court hearings in Mexico, Mexican authorities and the U.N. migration agency said.
    The United States and Mexico last month agreed to relaunch the controversial scheme known as Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), in keeping with a U.S. federal court order.
    U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has struggled to reverse many hardline immigration policies put in place by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.
    Biden ended MPP soon after his inauguration in January as he sought to pursue what he called a more humane approach to immigration.    But a federal judge ruled Biden’s move did not follow proper procedure, and in August ordered MPP reinstated.
    The program first resumed in December at the international crossing connecting El Paso, Texas, to Ciudad Juarez.    More than 200 people have been returned to Mexico so far under the relaunch of MPP, according to the U.N.’s International Organization of Migration (OIM).
    Two migrants were returned to Tijuana, across from California, on Wednesday with future appointments in U.S. courts, an official with OIM told Reuters.
    The migrant rights advocacy group Al Otro Lado told Reuters the two men were Colombian nationals.
    Neither U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) nor Mexico’s immigration agency immediately responded to requests for comment.
    The United Nations’ refugee agency and advocacy groups have criticized the restart of the Trump-era policy, warning migrants face the risk of kidnapping, rape, and extortion in dangerous Mexican border towns.
    Under the original 2019 program, some 70,000 migrants seeking asylum were forced to wait weeks and sometimes years in Mexico for a U.S. court date instead of being allowed to await their hearings in the United States.
(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz with additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg, writing by Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

1/5/2022 Venezuela Opposition Must Recognize Errors To Resume Dialogue-Gov’t by Deisy Buitrago and Mayela Armas
Jorge Rodriguez, head of Venezuela's National Assembly, attends a session to create a work team
to the request of the Senate of Colombia to restore trade relations between both
countries in Caracas, Venezuela, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria
    CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s opposition must abandon hypocrisy and recognize its mistakes if it wants to restart talks with the ruling party, which were suspended in October, National Assembly president Jorge Rodriguez said on Wednesday.
    Negotiations in Mexico between Venezuela’s government and opposition politicians ground to a halt late last year after Colombian businessman Alex Saab, an ally of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, was extradited to the United States to face money laundering charges.
    Talks can begin once Alex Saab is released and when control of foreign assets is returned to the government, Rodriguez said at the opening of the ruling party-controlled assembly’s new session.
    “Enough with the hypocrisy of dialogue … if you want talks, show respect, if you want talks free Alex Saab, if you want talks return our gold which you stole,” said Rodrigo, who led the government delegation in Mexico.
    Earlier on Wednesday, opposition leader Juan Guaido had urged a restart to talks to establish fairness guarantees for voters ahead of the 2024 presidential elections.
    “Free and fair elections won’t come alone or for the false words of Jorge Rodriguez,” Guaido said.
    The ruling party took control of the National Assembly in elections last year, but Guaido and an opposition commission drawn from those elected to parliament in 2015, who enacted reforms to extend their own mandate, continue to control Venezuela’s assets abroad, such as U.S. oil refiner Citgo and Colombian fertilizer manufacturer, Monomeros.
    Maduro this week ordered the National Assembly to investigate the opposition politicians who widened the commission’s mandate.    The opposition alleges Maduro’s election in 2018 was fraudulent and he is an illegitimate leader.
    The extension was backed by Maduro’s bete noir, the United States, which ramped up sanctions against the government two years ago.
    Dozens of western countries originally supported Guaido as Venezuela’s leader, but since 2021 legislative elections a number of countries and the European Union back him only as a leading opposition figure.
(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Mayela Armas; writing by Oliver Griffin; editing by Richard Pullin)

1/5/2022 COVID Testing Policy Put Under The Microscope As Omicron Sweeps World by Alistair Smout and Maayan Lubell
A girl is tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a drive-through site as Israel faces
a surge in Omicron variant infections in Jerusalem January 3, 2022. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
    LONDON/JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Britain and Israel are overhauling their COVID-19 testing policies as governments seek to reduce the burden on laboratories and struggle with tight supplies of kits amid soaring infection rates fuelled by the Omicron variant.
    This time last year, vaccines offered hope that the pandemic could be over by now.    But Omicron has brought new challenges, including overloading public health systems, even if – as many scientists say – it leads to less severe illness than the earlier Delta variant.
    Demand for testing kits has squeezed supply.    Last week, queues formed outside pharmacies in Spain’s capital Madrid in what has become a common scene since Omicron began driving up infections.    Madrid, whose conservative government has put supporting the hospitality sector at the top of its agenda, is opting for increased testing and no restrictions on socialising.
    A surge in demand for tests has led to issues in Italy and Britain.    The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that 100,000 more PCR booking slots per day had been made available since mid-December and that capacity had been doubled to 900,000 PCR and LFD test kits a day.
    People in England who test positive for COVID-19 on rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests will not need to confirm their results with a follow-up PCR test if they are not showing symptoms, the UKHSA said on Wednesday.
    A record-high one in 15 people had COVID-19 in England in the week ending Dec. 31, estimates published by the Office for National Statistics showed on Wednesday.
    “While cases of COVID continue to rise, this tried-and-tested approach means that LFDs can be used confidently to indicate COVID-19 infection without the need for PCR confirmation,” said agency Chief Executive Dr Jenny Harries.
    PCR tests are processed in a lab and can be used to determine which variant a person has, while a LFD can be used at home and gives an indication of infectivity within half an hour.
    Virologists and experts said the move was logical given the incredibly high infection rates as long as LFD supplies were sufficient as they identify the majority of people who are at their most infectious and need to isolate.
    “There is really no need to confirm (a positive LFD test) with a PCR, a step that not only wastes time but costs a lot of money and uses up laboratory resources that could be better used elsewhere,” said John Edmunds, a professor of mathematical modelling of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
    But the authorities will have less data about the spread of different variants as PCR swabs are used for genotyping and sequencing.
    Israel changed its quarantine and testing policy as part of efforts to save resources and ensure continued protection for vulnerable people.
    PCR tests will be earmarked for people aged 60 and over or with weak immune systems, while those at lower risk will be checked with rapid antigen tests, the health ministry said.
    “This is a significant change intended to identify risk populations sooner, intervene and prevent severe disease,” ministry director-general Nachman Ash told a news conference.
    Until now, those exposed to confirmed COVID-19 carriers have been required to take official tests.    If found to be positive, they must submit to police-enforced quarantine rules.
    The United States reported nearly a million new coronavirus infections on Monday, the highest daily tally of any country in the world and nearly double the previous U.S. peak set a week earlier.
    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday backed its week-old guidance for people seeking to end their COVID-19 isolation at five days, adding they could take a rapid antigen test if they want to and can access one, but it is not a requirement.
    The agency had been pressured by health experts to institute a test requirement after it cut in half its guidance last week for people to isolate after a COVID-19 infection to five days from 10.
    Spain, Portugal and Britain have also slashed the mandatory isolation period for people who test positive for COVID-19 amid fears that lengthy quarantines could paralyse economies.
    Ireland will drop its requirement for vaccinated arrivals to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test and return to seeking proof of vaccination or recent infection upon entry, Prime Minister Micheál Martin said.
    Nearly 294 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally and more than 5.8 million have died, according to a Reuters tally.
    Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in central China in December 2019.
    A “supersonic” rise in French COVID-19 infections is set to continue in the coming days and there are no signs of the trend reversing, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.
    Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open in an external browser.
    Eikon users can click for a case tracker.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Writing by Josephine Mason and Nick Macfie; Editing by Catherine Evans and Alexandra Hudson)

1/5/2022 White House: U.S., Allies Girding For Security Talks With Russia Next Week
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a plenary session at the Eastern Economic Forum
in Vladivostok, Russia September 3, 2021. Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and its allies will raise election interference, arms agreements, Ukraine and other issues at security talks with Russia next week, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Wednesday.
    U.S. delegations will raise concerns with Russia’s security actions in Europe during the talks next week, Psaki told reporters.
    U.S. officials are joining three sets of talks next week involving Russia as Washington tries to dissuade Moscow from invading Ukraine after massing tens of thousands of troops along its border.    The first is on Monday in Geneva, with the U.S. represented by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.
    A NATO-Russia Council meeting will be held in Brussels on Jan. 12 and a third meeting will take place Jan. 13 in Vienna involving the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe, a group that includes the United States and Russia as members.
    In a related event, a NATO-Ukraine Council meeting will take place on Tuesday at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded legally binding guarantees that NATO will not be expanded further and that Ukraine will not join the transatlantic alliance.
    Psaki said the United States in the talks would raise a host of concerns about Russian behavior, such as the seizure of Crimea in 2014, the incursion into Georgia, attempted poisoning of opposition figures, and violation of accords such as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
    “Let’s be clear, over the past two decades it is Russia that has invaded two neighboring countries, interfered in many other elections, used chemical weapons to attempt assassinations on foreign soil, and violated international arms control agreements,” Psaki said.
    “We and our allies will be raising those issues, and other issues with Russia in the days and weeks ahead, and certainly as a part of these talks,” she said.
    President Joe Biden told Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sunday that the United State and its allies will respond decisively with economic sanctions and other steps if Russia were to invade Ukraine.    He also promised that the United States and its allies and partners would do “nothing about you without you.”
    Psaki said Biden has made clear that progress is possible on some issues between Russia and the West, but that some of Putin’s demands are not viable.
    “We’re not responding to them point by point, and I don’t expect we will in these negotiations because in our experience you don’t make actual progress by negotiating in public, and also because many of the proposals don’t merit such a response,” she said.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland; Editing by Leslie Adler)

1/5/2022 Russian Businessman Pleads Not Guilty In U.S. To Insider Trading Through Hacking by Nate Raymond
Vladislav Klyushin, an owner of an information technology company with ties to the Russian government,
is seen in an undated photograph attached to a March 20, 2021 request by the U.S. Department of Justice
to the Swiss government for his arrest. Via the U.S. Dept. of Justice/Handout via REUTERS
    BOSTON (Reuters) – A wealthy Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to U.S. charges that he participated in an $82 million insider trading scheme that relied on corporate information stolen through hacking.
    Vladislav Klyushin, an owner of an information technology company with ties to the Russian government, entered his plea to conspiracy, wire fraud and securities fraud charges in federal court in Boston.    A judge rejected his bail request.
    He was extradited from Switzerland last month following his arrest in March.    His Swiss lawyer, Oliver Ciric, has said the real reason he was sought was his Russian government ties and that U.S. and British intelligence earlier tried to recruit him.
    Prosecutors say Klyushin’s company, M-13, employed an ex-military intelligence officer involved in not just the insider trading plot but also hacking schemes aimed at interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
    That person is Ivan Ermakov, also known as Ivan Yermakov, who is wanted by the U.S. government on charges that he and other intelligence officers hacked Democratic Party computer networks before the election.     Ermakov remains at large and it was unknown if he had lawyers.
    Prosecutors said Klyushin, Ermakov and three others conspired to trade on yet-to-be-announced earnings reports obtained by infiltrating networks of vendors that help companies file reports with securities regulators.
    Those companies included IBM Corp, Snap Inc and Tesla Inc. Authorities said the scheme resulted in $82.5 million in trading profits.
    Klyushin, 41, had sought to be released from jail on a $2.5 million bond and remain under house arrest in a Boston apartment.    But U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler agreed with prosecutors that he posed too great of a risk of flight.
    She called Klyushin a “sophisticated foreign national from a country from which he cannot be extradited” whose assets could not be verified but included a nearly $4 million yacht and property in Russia and the UK.
    “There are no conditions or combination of conditions that will ensure the appearance of the defendant,” she said.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; editing by Grant McCool)

1/5/2022 Bearing Christmas Cheer But No Sweets, The Three Wise Men Return To Madrid by Michael Gore and Susana Vera
Children react as they see Gaspar, one of the Three Wise Men, during the annual Epiphany parade amid
the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) surge in Madrid, Spain, January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Susana Vera
    MADRID (Reuters) – Flanked by dancers and live camels the Three Wise Men paraded down Madrid’s central avenue atop glittering floats on Wednesday evening as traditional Epiphany celebrations returned – with restrictions – after last year’s COVID-19 cancellations.
    Most Spanish children receive their Christmas presents on Jan. 6, the day when Melchior, Balthazar and Caspar are said to have visited the infant Christ with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
    Parades held across Spain on the evening before usually draw huge crowds but they were all cancelled last year to limit infections.    This year many towns and villages have allowed festivities to go ahead with various restrictions.
    Madrid authorities limited attendance to 7,000 people, while participants were banned from throwing sweets into the crowd – usually a pivotal part of the festivities.
    “It’s the most beautiful day of the year and we’ve been waiting a long time to see them, the kings,” said Adela de Juan who brought her three children to the parade.
    Firefighters waved from the back of an old truck festooned with fairy lights and Christmas gifts, while officers of the Guardia Civil police force rode in on white horses blowing bugles.
    Giant paper polar bears and a squadron of bright-red, nine-metre giraffes also joined in the fun.
    “It looks very different this year because of COVID…but we couldn’t take away that excitement from the kids,” said Roberto Tipanta in the crowd near the Gregorio Maranon square.
    Infections in Spain have hit new highs since the Omicron variant, which accounted for some 43% of cases in the week before Christmas, was detected.
    The nationwide infection rate as measured over the past 14 days rose to a new record of 2,574 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday, a more than 10-fold increase since the beginning of December.    Intensive care occupancy reached 21.6%, up from 8% a month ago but less than half the peak of 43% recorded last January.
(Additional reporting and writing by Nathan Allen; editing by Diane Craft)

1/5/2022 Italy Extends COVID Vaccine Mandate To Everyone Over 50 by Angelo Amante, Giuseppe Fonte and Gavin Jones
A man receives a dose of the Moderna vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), on the day the
government is expected to approve new rules for schools and COVID-19 vaccination for workers, at the Music
Auditorium in     Rome, Italy, January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    ROME (Reuters) - Italy on Wednesday made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for people from the age of 50, one of very few European countries to take a similar steps, in an attempt to ease pressure on its health service and reduce fatalities.
    The measure is immediately effective and will run until June 15.
    Italy has registered more than 138,000 coronavirus deaths since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain.
    Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government had already made vaccination mandatory for teachers and health workers, and since October last year all employees have had to be vaccinated or show a negative test before entering the workplace.
    Refusal results in suspension from work without pay, but not dismissal.
    Wednesday’s decree toughens this up for workers over the age of 50 by removing the option of taking a test rather than vaccination.    It was not immediately clear what the sanction would be for those flouting the rule, effective from Feb 15.
    The decree was approved after a two-and-a-half-hour cabinet meeting which saw frictions within Draghi’s multi-party coalition.
    “Today’s measures aim to keep our hospitals functioning well and at the same time keep open schools and business activities,” Draghi told the cabinet, according to his spokesperson.
    Ministers from the right-wing League issued a statement distancing themselves from the over-50 vaccine rule, calling it “without scientific foundation, considering that the absolute majority of those hospitalised with Covid are well over 60.”
    The League succeeded in softening a previous draft of the decree which proposed that only people with proof of vaccination or recent infection could enter public offices, non-essential shops, banks, post-offices and hairdressers.
    The final decree ruled that these venues will remain open to the unvaccinated so long as they can show a negative test.
    Elsewhere in Europe, Austria has announced plans to make vaccination mandatory for those over 14 years old from next month, while in Greece it will be compulsory for over-60s from Jan 16.
    Italy was hit later than several northern European countries by the highly contagious Omicron variant, but its case load has risen steadily in recent weeks, with growing pressure on hospitals and intensive care units.
    It has seen an average of more than 150 deaths per day over the last two weeks, with 231 fatalities on Wednesday and 259 on Tuesday.    The tally of 189,109 new infections on Wednesday was its highest since the start of the pandemic.
    Around 74% of Italians have received at least two vaccination shots and 6% have had just one jab, according to Our World in Data.    Some 35% have had a third “booster” shot.
($1 = 0.8835 euros)

1/5/2022 UK BLM Protesters Acquitted Over Pulling Down Of Slave Trader Statue by Michael Holden
The statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston falls into the water after protesters pulled it down
and pushed into the docks, during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in
Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Bristol, Britain, June 7, 2020. Keir Gravil via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) -Three men and a woman were cleared on Wednesday of causing criminal damage for helping to pull down a statue of a 17th century slave trade magnate and throw it into Bristol harbour in southwest England during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.
    The bronze statue of Edward Colston, which had long been a source of division in the port city, was hauled down during an anti-racism demonstration, one of the many that swept the globe in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
    The incident prompted a national debate about memorials to figures linked to the slave trade or Britain’s colonial past, with some government ministers arguing the action amounted to the censoring of history.
    “We are ecstatic and stunned,” said Rhian Graham, one of the four protesters cleared by a jury of criminal damage following a trial at Bristol Crown Court.
    “We all have the ability to say how our space is decorated and who we venerate and who we celebrate and one thing that we know now is that Colston does not represent Bristol.”
    Graham was found not guilty along with Milo Ponsford, Jake Skuse and Sage Willoughby, all aged in their 20s or 30s.
    They had argued the statue, erected in 1895, memorialised a man who prospered from the slave trade, caused offence to people in the city and had not been removed despite repeated campaigns.
    Prosecutors said the case was about the rule of law and not politics, and that it was not Colston nor his slave links which were on trial.
    Colston has long been a subject of debate in Bristol, where he donated lavishly to charitable causes, using the fortune he made investing in the slave-trading Royal African Company.
    Years of calls by anti-racism campaigners for his statue to be removed had met with fierce local resistance, until protesters took matters into their own hands.
    After a few days at the bottom of the harbour, the statue was retrieved by city authorities and put into storage.    It has since been exhibited in a museum in the city while its long-term future is considered.
    The incident exemplified disagreement on whether such memorials glorified some of the darkest chapters of the nation’s past or simply reflected its imperial history.
    Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last year the country should not attempt to rewrite the past or “photoshop” its cultural landscape by hauling down monuments to certain historical figures.
(Reporting by Michael Holden and Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Andrew MacAskill and Angus MacSwan)

1/6/2022 Oil up $0.05 to $77.27, DOW down 392 to 36,407.


1/6/2022 Garland pledges pursuit of riot suspects at ‘any level’ - AG facing pressure to be more aggressive in action by Kevin Johnson and Josh Meyer, USA TODAY
    Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged Wednesday to pursue the perpetrators of the Jan. 6 assault at “any level,” saying federal authorities would “follow the facts wherever they lead.”
    “The Justice Department remains committed to holding all Jan. 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law – whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy,” Garland said in a speech. “We will follow the facts wherever they lead.”
    Garland faces mounting pressure from lawmakers to take more aggressive action in the Jan. 6 inquiry, including some who urged that former President Donald Trump be held accountable for inciting the attack.     The attorney general did not refer to Trump or other former administration officials, but he acknowledged mounting public sentiment.
    “Because Jan. 6th was an unprecedented attack on the seat of our democracy, we understand that there is broad public interest in our investigation,” Garland said.    “We understand that there are questions about how long the investigation will take and about what exactly we are doing.    Our answer is, and will continue to be, the same answer we would give with respect to any ongoing investigation: as long as it takes and whatever it takes for justice to be done – consistent with the facts and the law. ... I understand that this may not be the answer some are looking for.    But we will and we must speak through our work.    Anything else jeopardizes the viability of our investigations and the civil liberties of our citizens.”
    Garland referred to a growing and dangerous polarization in the country, where Americans have expressed deep concerns about the future of the nation’s democracy, some suggesting that violence against the government can be justified.
    Across partisan lines, more than 8 in 10 Republicans, Democrats and independents say they are worried about the future of America’s democracy, a USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll found.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, center, says the Jan. 6 investigation
will take as long as it takes for justice to be done. JIM LO SCALZO/AP

1/6/2021 El Salvador Allows Two Cuban Journalists To Enter Country by Nelson Renteria
Cuban journalists Hector Valdez and Esteban Rodriguez, both reporters with independent news
website ADN Cuba, walks out of El Salvador International Airport upon their arrival to El Salvador
as they were expelled from Cuba and denied entry to Nicaragua, in San Luis Talpa,
El Salvador, January 5, 2022. Secretaria de Prensa de La Presidencia/Handout via REUTERS
    SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – El Salvador on Wednesday said it allowed two Cuban journalists to enter the country after the reporters said they were expelled from the Communist-run island and then barred from entering Nicaragua.
    Hector Valdez and Esteban Rodriguez, reporters for independent news website ADN Cuba, said on social media that they arrived at El Salvador’s main international airport on Tuesday night.    They intended to board a flight to Nicaragua but were told authorities in Managua had prohibited their entry.
    Neither Nicaraguan nor Cuban authorities responded to requests for comment.
    Valdez and Rodriguez were associated with the San Isidro Movement, a group of a few dozen artists, writers and activists that had for years protested restrictions in Cuba on civil liberties.
    Rodriguez was arrested in April, he said, following a protest in support of jailed San Isidro leader Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, who was on hunger strike at the time.
    Cuba’s government has previously accused some of the San Isidro group, including Otero Alcantara, of being mercenaries for the United States.    Most of its members have now either left Cuba, are under house arrest or in jail.
    On Wednesday morning, the executive director for the Americas of Human Rights Watch, José Miguel Vivanco, asked the governments of the region to offer asylum to the two journalists, saying they had been persecuted and expelled by Cuba.
    Hours later, top Salvadoran migration and human rights officials met the two journalists at the San Oscar Romero airport, around 40 km (25 miles) outside San Salvador.
    “Foreign journalists have been admitted to El Salvador while they receive humanitarian assistance and their migratory situation is resolved,” the General Directorate of Migration said on Twitter, adding that the country will support them with accommodation and food.
    The alleged expulsions follow a turbulent 2021 in Cuba.
    The largest protests since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution erupted in Cuba in July amid an economic crisis and surge in COVID-19 infections.
    Thousands took to the streets, angry over shortages of basic goods, curbs on civil liberties and the handling of the pandemic. Hundreds of protesters were arrested.
exile” of the two reporters, calling it a violation of basic human rights.
    “This is another method of harassing journalists…they should never have been repressed and they should not have been forced out of Cuba,” the embassy said on Twitter.
    The Cuban government has accused the United States of stoking unrest by underwriting protest movements on the island, as well as backing independent media outlets, a claim Washington has denied.
(Reporting by Nelson Renteria, additional reporting by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

1/6/2022 French Parliament Approves Latest COVID Vaccine Measures
People wearing protective face masks walk in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris amid the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France, January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
    PARIS (Reuters) – The French parliament approved on Thursday the government’s latest measures to tackle the COVID-19 virus, including a COVID vaccine pass, offering some respite to President Emmanuel Macron after criticism of Macron’s attack on the unvaccinated.
    The legislation for the COVID vaccine pass was approved by 214 members of parliament, versus 93 who voted against it, while there were 27 abstentions.    The measures will then go up to the Senate, which will examine it before any further approval.
    The ruling La Republique En Marche party had earlier this week defended Macron’s use of coarse language as Macron stepped up his campaign against those who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID, after his words drew condemnation from the opposition and mixed reactions from voters.
    Macron said he wanted to “piss off” unvaccinated people by making their lives so complicated they would end up getting the COVID vaccine.    He was speaking in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper, in which he also called unvaccinated people irresponsible and unworthy of being considered citizens.
    On Wednesday, France registered a record of more than 332,000 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, and a further 246 COVID deaths in hospitals, as the country battles against a fifth wave of the virus.
(Reporting by Jean Terzian and Elizabeth Pineau; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)

1/6/2022 Panama Tightens Vaccination Requirements For Public Officials As COVID Cases Rise
A Panamanian health worker receives the second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at
the Santo Tomas Hospital, in Panama City, Panama February 17, 2021. REUTERS/Erick Marciscano
    PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – Panama moved to require all public officials to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly coronavirus testing, the health minister said on Wednesday, as the Central American country grappled with a surge in coronavirus cases.
    Health Minister Luis Francisco Sucre announced in a news conference that Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo had signed the decree, which mandated public functionaries receive three doses of a coronavirus vaccine or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test each Monday.
    “If there is something that cannot be stopped, it is the government institutions that have to continue to function,” Sucre said, adding the measure would take effect on Jan. 28.
    Panama registered 4,372 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.
    At least 6 million vaccine doses have been administered in Panama to its population of about 4.2 million people, according to government data.
    About 90% of the target population, or those above 12 years old, has received at least one vaccine dose and 81% has had a second dose.
    The government last month said it would cut the rollout time for booster doses in half, after the country detected its first case of the Omicron variant.
    More than 400,000 booster doses have been administered.
(Reporting by Milagro Vallecillos in Panama City, writing by Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

1/6/2022 U.S. Aims To Step Up Economic Ties In Indo-Pacific In Year Ahead by Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom
FILE PHOTO: The Asia Group Chairman and CEO Kurt M. Campbell attends the China
Development Forum in Beijing, China March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States needs to “step up its game” on economic engagement in Asia, White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said on Thursday, calling such outreach the defining element of U.S. policy in the region for the year ahead.
    Campbell, at a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace webinar, said President Joe Biden had made clear the United States needs to be instrumental in the framing of economic and commercial engagement and trade practices in the Indo-Pacific as China’s influence grows.
    “That’s an area where the United States, indeed, needs to step up its game,” Campbell said, adding that the U.S. role must go beyond traditional trade and include digital engagement and technological standard setting.
    “We’ve got to make clear that not only are we deeply engaged diplomatically, militarily, comprehensively, strategically – that we have an open, engaged, optimistic approach to commercial interactions, investment in the Indo Pacific,” Campbell said.
    “I think we well understand inside the Biden administration that 2022 will be about these engagements comprehensively across the region,” he said, without providing specifics.
    U.S.-China relations have sunk to their lowest point in decades as Biden has sought to leverage ties with allies and partners to counter what Washington sees as increasing economic and military coercion by Beijing.
    His administration has touted its so-called AUKUS pact, under which the United States and Britain have agreed to help Australia acquire nuclear submarines – as well as leader-level summits between the United States, Australia, India and Japan – as evidence that U.S. partnerships are causing China “heartburn.”
    But some Indo-Pacific countries, many of which count China as their largest trading partner, have lamented what they see as lacking U.S. economic engagement, especially after former President Donald Trump backed away from the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade deal.
    Biden told Asian leaders in October Washington would launch talks on creating an Indo-Pacific economic framework, but few details have emerged and the administration has avoided moves towards rejoining trade deals critics say threaten U.S. jobs.
    Meanwhile, China has sought to join CPTPP, and a separate 15-nation regional trade pact backed by Beijing that excludes Washington – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – took effect on Jan. 1 for most of the countries.
    While U.S.-China interactions are increasingly defined by competition, America is not seeking “domination,” Campbell said.
    “I believe ultimately what the United States seeks is a kind of coexistence with China with an understanding of China’s critical and important role.”
    But he said the United States would continue to play the leading role on the global stage and that Beijing would be “making a mistake by seeking to count us out.”
(Reporting by Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Richard Chang)

1/6/2022 Ten Bodies Left In Car Outside Mexican State Governor’s Office
Police forces work at the scene as they remove a vehicle with bodies that were left by unknown assailants
in front of the Government Palace, in Zacatecas, Mexico January 6, 2022. REUTERS/Edgar Robledo
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – An SUV filled with 10 bodies was left outside the office of a Mexican state governor in a public square lit up with Christmas tree and holiday decorations, officials said on Thursday.
    David Monreal, governor of the central state of Zacatecas, said in a video filmed at the plaza that the car contained bodies of people with apparent signs of beating and bruising.
    “They came to leave them here in front of the palace,” he said, referring to his offices in a centuries-old building at the Plaza de Armas of the state capital, also called Zacatecas.
    The Zacatecas public security agency said in a statement that government officials found the car, a Mazda SUV, after noting a suspicious vehicle driving in the area.    The federal security ministry said there were 10 bodies inside.
    Monreal said security has been a major challenge in Zacatecas and that he would bring down the violence.
    “Bit by bit we will recover our peace.    What we received was a cursed inheritance,” he said.
    Zacatecas has become one of the most violent regions of the country due to turf wars among rival gangs.    In 2021, the state registered 1,050 murders, about 260 more than in 2020, according to official data.
(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Mark Porter)

1/6/2022 U.S. Questions Russia-Led Peacekeeping Troops In Kazakhstan
Russian servicemen board a military aircraft heading to Kazakhstan, at an airfield outside
Moscow, Russia January 6, 2022, in this still image taken from video. Russian paratroopers have
been deployed to Kazakhstan as part of a peacekeeping force that includes troops from four other
former Soviet republics. Collective Security Treaty Organisation/Handout via REUTERS TV
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is closely monitoring reports that peacekeeping forces of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization have been deployed to Kazakhstan and has questions about whether they were legitimately invited to the country, the White House said on Thursday.
    Fresh violence erupted in Kazakhstan’s main city after Russia rushed in paratroopers to put down a countrywide uprising in one of Moscow’s closest former Soviet allies.
    The general secretary of the bloc told RIA news agency that the overall peacekeeping force would number about 2,500 and could be strengthened if necessary.
    “We’re closely monitoring reports that the Collective Security Treaty Organization have dispatched its collective peacekeeping forces to Kazakhstan,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a news briefing.
    “We have questions about the nature of this request and whether it was a legitimate invitation or not.    We don’t know at this point.”
    Washington would be watching for any violations of human rights and “any actions that may lay the predicate for the seizure of Kazakh institutions,” she said.
    Earlier Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi regarding the ongoing state of emergency in Kazakhstan.
    “The Secretary reiterated the United States’ full support for Kazakhstan’s constitutional institutions and media freedom and advocated for a peaceful, rights-respecting resolution to the crisis,” the     State Department said in a statement.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis, Simon Lewis, Jeff Mason and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Richard Chang)

1/6/2022 Mexico Nears 300,000 Deaths From COVID-19 As Cases Surge After Holidays by Diego Oré and Roberto Ramirez
Employees of the Rios funeral home move the body of a person, who died from the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19), into the facility in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico is likely to surpass 300,000 deaths from COVID-19 this week – the fifth highest death toll worldwide – as infections rise after the holiday season, fueled by the Omicron coronavirus variant and largely unrestricted tourism.
    Infections have more than doubled to 20,000 during the last week when many tourists visited Mexico from the United States and Canada.    Eleven of Mexico’s 32 states decided not to resume in-person school classes this week with cases climbing fast.
    The arrival of the highly contagious Omicron variant reversed a downturn in infections during the autumn, when the widespread application of vaccines provided relief.
    Some Mexicans said people had dropped their guard as the holidays came.
    “Since December, a lot of people started to go out and there are many who no longer wear face masks,” said Isauro Perez, a 53-year-old taxi driver in Mexico City.    “If we don’t take care of ourselves, the government won’t take care of us.”
    As of Wednesday, Mexico had registered 299,805 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, a figure that is likely significantly below the real toll, officials say.
    Separate government data showed there had been nearly 452,000 deaths “linked to” COVID-19 by mid-December, and lower testing has likely helped to understate the reach of the virus.
    Mexico has the highest fatality rate – deaths per confirmed cases – among the 20 nations most affected by COVID-19 worldwide, according to an analysis by Johns Hopkins University.
    Laurie Ximenez-Fyvie, an expert on molecular genetics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), said in the end, Mexico’s death toll would be the ultimate yardstick of how the government had performed in the pandemic.
    So far, she argued, it risked suffering “absolute failure.”
    According to figures from Our World in Data, a research group at Oxford University, in the week ending Jan. 1, Mexico was conducting just 0.12 coronavirus daily tests for every 1,000 inhabitants – down from a peak of 0.38 per day in mid-August.
    Britain, by contrast, was doing 20.6 tests a day per 1,000 inhabitants as 2021 ended.
    While parts of Europe and the United States have imposed added restrictions with the spread of Omicron, Mexico has so far resisted and tourists do not require negative tests to enter the country.
    Videos of maskless travelers drinking alcohol and gathering close together while taking a charter flight to the Mexican beach destination of Cancun from Montreal in late December went viral, prompting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to call for an investigation.
    “It’s a slap in the face,” he said.
    The surge of new cases could hit Mexico harder than some countries since it has a lower vaccination rate than the United States and much of Europe, health experts said.
    Nationwide, only 56% of the population is fully vaccinated, in comparison to 62% in the United States and 81% in Spain.
    But Mexicans have readily taken up vaccines, and 95% of adult residents of Mexico City are fully vaccinated.
    However, the government has not rolled out its vaccination program to people below the age of 15, despite more children being hospitalized.    More than one in four of Mexico’s population are aged 14 or below, World Bank data show.
(Reporting by Diego Ore and Roberto Ramirez, writing by Laura Gottesdiener; editing by Grant McCool)

1/6/2022 Chile To Become First Country In Latin America To Offer Fourth COVID Shot
FILE PHOTO: People wait in line to receive a dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
at a mobile vaccine clinic in Valparaiso, Chile, January 3, 2022. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido
    SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile will begin offering a fourth shot of the coronavirus vaccine next week to immunocompromised citizens, the government said on Thursday, the first country in Latin America and one of the first in the world to offer the extra dose.
    “Starting next Monday, January 10, we are going to start a new mass vaccination process with a fourth dose or a second booster dose,” said Pinera in a press conference.
    Chile has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates and has been hailed as a model for its response to the pandemic, having administered two doses to over 85% of the population.    About 57% have received a third booster shot, according to Our World in Data.
    Chile’s announcement comes as the highly contagious Omicron variant is spreading worldwide, with several countries reporting all-time high COVID-19 case loads even among vaccinated populations.    Cases in Mexico have more than doubled in the past week, while Peru imposed new restrictions this week.
    “The success that Chile has had in the vaccination process (…) puts us among the best countries in the world in the way we have managed to combat this pandemic,” Pinera added.    “And with this fourth dose we seek to maintain this leadership position and protect the health and lives of our compatriots.”
    The vaccines for the fourth dose will be a combination of the same shots that have been used so far in Chile, including Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and AstraZeneca, said Health Minister Enrique Paris.
    This combination of different vaccines between the first and fourth doses should allow “an improvement in the immune response,” Paris explained.
    Chile reported its first case of the Omicron variant at the beginning of December and has confirmed 698 cases of this variant have been reported, the vast majority corresponding to people who traveled outside the country.
(Reporting by Natalia Ramos; Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by Marcelo Rochabrun and Cynthia Osterman)

1/6/2022 Britain Warns Russia Over Ukraine: We’re Working On High-Impact Sanctions by William James and Andy Bruce
FILE PHOTO: Russian grenade launcher operators take part in combat drills at the
Kadamovsky range in the Rostov region, Russia December 14, 2021. REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov
    LONDON (Reuters) - Britain warned Moscow on Thursday that it was working with Western partners on high-impact sanctions targetting Russia’s financial sector should it invade Ukraine.
    Russia has massed some 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s border and though Moscow says it has no plans to invade its neighbour, President Vladimir Putin has demanded legally-binding guarantees that NATO will not expand further eastwards.
    “We will not accept the campaign Russia is waging to subvert its democratic neighbours,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told parliament.    “They have falsely cast Ukraine as a threat to justify their aggressive stance.”
    “Russia is the aggressor here,” Truss said.    “NATO has always been a defensive alliance.”
    Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, drawing sanctions and condemnation from the West.    Kyiv wants the territory back.
    Truss said that any further military incursion into Ukraine by Russia would bring “massive consequences, including coordinated sanctions to impose a severe cost on Russia’s interests and economy.”
    “The UK is working with our partners on these sanctions, including high impact measures targeting the Russian financial sector and individuals,” Truss said.
    Putin says NATO’s expansion eastwards since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union is a threat to Russia which, he says, has nowhere left to retreat to. He has warned the West against ignoring his concerns.
    Truss said she would visit Kyiv later this month and that the situation was reaching a crucial moment with only one way forward: for Putin to step back from the brink.
    “It’s vital that NATO is united in pushing back against Russia threatening behaviour,” Truss said.
    Britain, Truss said, was opposed to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea.
    “Europe must reduce its dependence on Russian gas,” Truss said.    “Britain remains opposed to Nord Stream 2 and I’m working with allies and partners to highlight the strategic risks of this project.”
(Reporting by William James and Andy Bruce; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Alistair Smout)

1/6/2022 GOP Pressures Biden Admin. Over Torture On Jan. 6 Detainees by OAN Newsroom
Protesters participate in a political rally on July 25, 2021 in New York City. Protesters were
demanding a release of the people who were arrested on January 6th for their involvement
in the breach of the Capitol building. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
    Republican lawmakers are ramping up pressure on the Biden administration to stop the harsh treatment of January 6 defendants.    They are also calling on the administration to address the evidence of foul play before and during the capitol protest.
    “Americans need to wake up and understand that people are being tortured.    Tortured!” exclaimed Joseph McBride, attorney for January 6 detainees.    “Are you okay with people being tortured five miles from the White House right now?
    The Department of Justice is advancing the prosecutions of January 6 protesters despite mounting legal challenges and evidence of foul play.    In a statement Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed to punish hundreds of protesters regardless of whether they played an active role in the demonstration or even if they were not on Capitol Hill that day.
    “The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6 perpetrators at any level accountable under law, whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy,” he stated.
    Garland appeared to suggest the supporters of President Donald Trump are solely responsible for clashes at the U.S. Capitol, echoing the rhetoric of Democrat-controlled January 6 Committee.    However, the Justice Department has yet to clarify the reports of federal agents and far-left operatives who Republican lawmakers say incited violence at the protest.
    While the debate continues of what actually happened on January 6, around 1,400 protesters have been detained in connection with the protest, according to a Daily Caller estimate.    Federal investigators have tried to accuse some of the defendants of “domestic terrorism” despite admitting hardly any of their actions meet the legal definition of terrorism.
    Republican lawmakers, who have looked into the matter, are sounding the alarm.
    “Here’s the thing, what’s going on is we have inhumane treatment of people who have not been convicted of a crime,” said Rep. Andy Biggs, (R-Ariz.).    “These folks are being held in pre-trial detention.”
    Attorneys for January 6 detainees have said their clients face inhumane detention conditions, psychological pressure and even torture.    They argued the federal government’s actions violate the U.S. Constitution and the international law on human rights.
    The argument for political motives behind miserable detention conditions is further reinforced by reports of a political bias that some prison guards have shown by expressing anti-Trump and hard left views.
    Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) are her Republican colleagues are now investigating the evidence of suspected political persecution taking place on U.S. soil.
    Republican lawmakers are now demanding a congressional hearing on the mistreatment and torture of January 6 detainees as well as a truly bipartisan probe into events at the U.S. Capitol.    All the while, Garland is touting criminal charges against 325 people in a federal probe that is deemed “increasingly political” going into its second year.

1/6/2022 Trump Says Nation Has Lost Confidence As Poll Shows 60% Of Americans See Biden As ‘Weak Leader’ by OAN Newsroom
President Joe Biden talks with reporters at the Capitol, Thursday,
Jan. 6, 2022, in Washington. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool via AP)
    The 45th president slammed the current administration for thrusting America into uncertainty.    In a statement Thursday, Donald Trump said the nation has lost its confidence due to inept leadership.
    He then accused the Biden administration of giving the U.S. “open borders, COVID incompetence, loss of energy independence, a military in chaos, rampant inflation, corrupt elections and lack of world standing.”    His comments come after a recent poll found a majority of Americans feel democracy in the country is failing.
    According to a poll released Wednesday by YouGov and The Economist, 60 percent of Americans believe Joe Biden is a weak leader.    A whopping 41 percent of respondents described Biden as a “very weak leader” while 19 percent said he is “somewhat weak.”
    Of the 1500 adults surveyed, 44 percent said Biden is not honest and trustworthy.    This comes as Biden’s disapproval rating hit a new high in December with 56 percent of voters saying they disapprove of his handling of the country.
    Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed Biden is working too hard and he needs more time-off despite his public appearances being relatively rare. In a press briefing Wednesday, she told reporters.
    Biden does not have any free time and he “doesn’t have any time to think.”
    Psaki continued by suggesting although Biden is mostly staying out of the public eye, he’s working with his policy teams “behind the scenes.”    This comes amid rampant speculation of Biden’s cognitive decline as well as concerns he’s taken too many vacations in recent months.
    Psaki, however, claimed Biden is simply really overworked.    Her comments come as Republican lawmakers have criticized the Biden administration over its incompetence and a lack of response to several crises sweeping America over the past year.

1/6/2022 Congress Explores COVID Business Relief Amid Omicron Panic by OAN Newsroom
Passersby walk past an empty restaurant in September in Boston. (Steven Senne/AP Photo)
    Congress is exploring new COVID-19 relief programs for small businesses amid renewed pandemic worries.    On Wednesday, officials said Republican Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Democrat Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) are crafting a measure aimed at supplying restaurants with additional federal aid.
    This comes as speculation of yet another lockdown grows amid a surge of the highly contagious, but reportedly mild, Omicron variant.    During Wednesday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the possibility of a new relief package for the food and beverage industry.
    “Well as you know, we did a major relief package that included restaurants just last year,” she explained.    “We are in constant discussions with Congress and leadership about the needs of the American people — whether they are small businesses or restaurants or people sitting in their homes — as we continue to fight the pandemic, but don’t have any new prediction or new pending requests or specific requests and wouldn’t predict that at this moment in time.”
    The White House maintains it has the resources to respond to any disruptions caused by the latest variant, however, it remains unclear what these disruptions could be.

1/6/2022 N.Y. Gov. Hochul Brings Back Drinks-To-Go Initiative by OAN Newsroom
    Governor Kathy Hochul of New York announced she will reinstate an initiative to allow bars and restaurants sell alcoholic beverages for takeout.    She made the announcement Wednesday during her first state of the state address.
    Selling drinks on the go was a popular alternative for bars and restaurants last year as indoor dining venues were forced to close. However, bars and restaurants were no longer allowed to sell alcohol for off-site consumption after a COVID-19 emergency order expired back in June.
    “We’re also going to do something our bars and restaurants have been asking for, to once again allow the sale of to go drinks, a critical revenue stream during the lean times last year,” the governor announced.    “So, cheers New York.”
    Hochul also spoke about helping bars and restaurants pay for any COVID-19 related purchases by providing a tax credit.

1/7/2022 Oil up $2.53 to $79.72, DOW down 171 to 36,236.

1/7/2022 CAPITOL RIOT ANNIVERSARY - Biden decries Trump backers in Jan. 6 speech - President says rioters held ‘dagger at the throat of democracy’ by Mary Clare Jalonick, Lisa Mascaro and Zeke Miller, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden accused Donald Trump and his supporters of holding a “dagger at the throat of democracy” in a forceful speech Thursday marking the anniversary of the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.
    He warned that though it didn’t succeed, the insurrection remains a serious threat to America’s system of government.
    Biden’s criticism was blistering of the defeated president whom he blamed for the assault that has fundamentally changed Congress and the nation, and raised global concerns about the future of American democracy.    “For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol,” Biden said.    “You can’t love your country only when you win.”
Republican leaders and lawmakers largely stayed away from the
Jan. 6 remembrance events, viewing them as overly politicized. EVAN VUCCI/AP
President Joe Biden called on Americans to remember what they saw
Jan. 6 with their own eyes. MICHAEL REYNOLDS/POOL VIA AP

1/7/2022 Veteran U.S., Russia Diplomats To Tackle Ukraine Tensions In Geneva by Simon Lewis and Mark Trevelyan
FILE PHOTO: Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman speaks on the situation in Afghanistan at the
State Department in Washington, DC, U.S. August 18, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Talks between U.S. and Russian diplomats begin in Geneva on Monday after a weekslong stand-off over Russian troop deployments near its border with Ukraine, with veteran envoys on each side trying to avert a crisis.
    Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the No. 2 official at the U.S. State Department, will face Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.    The two combined have more than half a century of diplomatic experience.
    Russia, which moved nearly 100,000 troops close to its border with Ukraine, says it is not preparing for an invasion but wants to see the West back off from its support for Ukraine’s government and halt the eastward expansion of the NATO military alliance.
    Washington has already dismissed some of Moscow’s demands as unviable, making rapid progress desired by Russia in the meetings unlikely.
    An added wrinkle is Russia sending troops to quell anti-government protests in neighboring Kazakhstan this week, raising concern in Washington.
    The U.S. approach would be “pragmatic, results-oriented,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a press briefing on Wednesday.    “We’re not responding to them point by point.”
    In a phone call last week between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, Biden reiterated that the U.S. and European allies would impose unprecedented sanctions if Russia chose to invade Ukraine.    Putin responded that sanctions could lead to a “complete breakdown in ties.”
    Ryabkov told the Izvestia newspaper this week that Russia’s approach was necessarily tough, because its previous attempts at persuasion had been fruitless.
    Ryabkov repeated Moscow’s demands for a halt to NATO enlargement, no deployment of its weapons systems in Ukraine and an end to “provocative” military exercises.
    “All these are absolutely necessary integral elements, without which we will be forced to state that the other side is showing a lack of cooperation,” he said.
    Other officials will also play lead roles when the talks move to Brussels for a NATO-Russia meeting on Wednesday and a meeting hosted by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on Thursday.
    Sherman and Ryabkov will lead the two delegations in Geneva, where talks over Ukraine are taking place at a meeting initially scheduled as the latest Strategic Stability Dialogue between the two adversaries.    The regular talks designed to head off the possibility of nuclear confrontation resumed in July following a meeting between Biden and Putin the previous month.
    Thomas Graham, a former senior director for Russia on the White House’s National Security Council, said Sherman and Ryabkov were vastly experienced and would conduct the talks professionally, understanding that the task is to defuse the current crisis.
    “There aren’t going to be raised voices or pounding on the table,” said Graham, now a distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.    He said a positive outcome for the United States would be for Russia to agree to a program of further talks.
    Andrey Kortunov, an analyst who heads the Russian International Affairs Council, said the Kremlin might see confidence-building measures and some constraint from the West in supplying modern weaponry to Ukraine as sufficient to reduce tensions.
    Sherman, 72, a former social worker, has served in Democratic administrations since the 1990s.     She is best known for leading negotiations on the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers, which also involved dealing with Russian diplomats.
    Sherman, like the deal itself, was criticized by hawks in Washington as being too soft on Iran.    In Iran, anti-American protesters reportedly chanted “Death to Sherman” during the negotiations.
    In her previous role as under secretary of state, Sherman traveled to Kyiv in March 2014, where she spoke about holding back tears as she walked through the Maidan, the central Kyiv square where Ukrainians gathered in protests that toppled a Russian-backed government.
    Sherman said she was approached by “schoolchildren with flowers” rather than the “dangerous elements” Moscow said were behind the protests, and issued a warning to Putin over his annexation of Crimea and the conflict involving Russia-backed separatists in the Donbass region.
    Ryabkov, 61, is a 40-year veteran of the Soviet and Russian foreign ministries who in recent weeks has delivered some of Moscow’s harshest rhetoric and direst warnings on the Ukraine crisis.
    He has more than once compared the situation to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when the world came close to nuclear war, and has warned that Russia might be compelled to deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
    Kortunov, who has known Ryabkov for years, said the diplomat was less hawkish than some members of Russia’s security establishment but would be as flexible or rigid as the Kremlin required.
    “At the end of the day it’s up to Mr Putin to define the red lines, not Ryabkov, and Ryabkov will do his best to articulate the red lines,” said Kortunov.
(Reporting by Simon Lewis in Washington and Mark Trevelyan in London; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom and Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington; Editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool)

1/7/2022 France’s Le Drian: Progress Made On Iran Nuclear Talks But Time Running Out
FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
headquarters in Vienna, Austria May 23, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
    PARIS (Reuters) – Progress has been made regarding the Iran nuclear talks although time is running out, said French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Friday.
    “I remain convinced we can reach a deal. But time is running out,” Le Drian told BFM TV and RMC Radio.
    Iran is currently negotiating with major world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal in Vienna.
    U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said earlier this week that those nuclear deal talks with Iran in Vienna had shown modest progress, and that the United States hopes to build on the progress that had been made.
    The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its atomic activities but former U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the deal in 2018, a year after he took office.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)

1/7/2022 France Says Putin Trying To Bypass EU Over Ukraine By Talking Solely To U.S
FILE PHOTO: France's Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian holds a bilateral
meeting with British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (not pictured) on the first day of the G7 foreign
ministers summit in Liverpool, Britain December 11, 2021. Paul Ellis/Pool via REUTERS
    PARIS (Reuters) - France’s foreign minister said on Friday that Russia was trying to bypass the European Union by holding talks directly with the United States over Ukraine.
    Talks between U.S. and Russian diplomats will begin in Geneva on Monday after a weeks-long stand-off over Russian troop deployments near its border with neighbouring Ukraine, with envoys on each side trying to avert a crisis.
    “(Russian President) Vladimir Putin wants to bypass the European Union… he wants to put dents in the EU cohesion, which is solidifying,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM TV and RMC Radio.
    “You can’t envisage EU security without the Europeans.”
    Russia has massed some 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s border and though Moscow says it has no plans to invade its neighbour, Putin has demanded legally-binding guarantees that NATO will not expand further eastwards.
    “i>Putin has proposed to discuss with NATO to sort of return to the zones of influence from the past…which would mean Russia restore the spirit of Yalta,” Le Drian said referring to the conference between allies in Feb. 1945 that gave the Soviet Union control over its eastern European neighbours.
    “This is not our point of view, but we have to accept the discussion.”
    Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, drawing sanctions and condemnation from the West.    Kyiv wants the territory back.
    Le Drian said any further military incursion into Ukraine by Russia would bring “serious strategic consequences,” with one option on the table being a review the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea.
    He said that despite Putin’s assurances that he was beginning to withdraw troops from the region, Paris had yet to see that happen.
    Senior French and German diplomats met with Russian counterparts in Moscow on Thursday as part of efforts to revive peace talks over eastern Ukraine.
(Reporting by John Irish, Benoit Van Overstraeten and Sudip Kar-Gupta, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

1/7/2022 Brazil’s Bolsonaro Knocks Vaccines For Kids, Criticizes Health Regulator
ILE PHOTO: A woman holds a protective face mask with an image of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro during a
protest against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine passports and obligatory vaccinations for children,
organised by Bolsonaro supporters in Brasilia, Brazil, January 4, 2022. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo
    BRASILIA (Reuters) - President Jair Bolsonaro criticized Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa on Thursday for authorizing the vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 years against COVID-19, one day after his health minister unveiled plans to inoculate that age group.
    Bolsonaro, who has bragged about not being vaccinated himself and has consistently cast doubt on the efficacy and safety of coronavirus vaccines, said in a radio interview that he had not heard of children dying of COVID-19 and repeated that his daughter Laura, 11, would not be vaccinated.
    Bolsonaro said vaccines could have side effects on children, but gave no evidence.    Anvisa and health regulators around the world have found that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for those from age 5 and up.
    “Are you going to vaccinate your child when the possibility of dying is almost zero? What is behind this?    What are the interests of vaccine maniacs?” Bolsonaro stated.
    The Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday that it had bought 20 million pediatric vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc and voluntary vaccination of children 5 to 11 years old would begin by the end of the month.
    In a social media broadcast later on Thursday, Bolsonaro stressed that the vaccination was not obligatory.    “No town mayor or state governor can prevent a child from going to school for not being vaccinated,” he said.
    Bolsonaro warned that Pfizer has not assumed responsibility for any side effects the vaccine could have in children, and said parents should immediately seek a doctor if their child developed chest pains or shortage of breath.
    The Brazilian Society of Pediatrics rejected that view and said in a statement that Brazilians should fear the virus and not the vaccines, which can save lives at any age.
    Anvisa approved the Pfizer vaccine for children on Dec. 16, drawing heated criticism from people opposed to vaccines and the president, who suggested that children only be vaccinated with a doctor’s prescription.
    The ministry dropped the idea as impractical.    Requiring a written prescription would discourage vaccination at a time when the more transmissible coronavirus variant Omicron is starting to spread in Brazil, health experts said at a public hearing.
    According to the national council of state health secretaries, at least 300 children aged 5 to 11 had died in Brazil from COVID-19 by the start of December.
    Brazil’s Army differed from the president this week on how to deal with COVID-19.    It ordered soldiers to get vaccinated, wear masks and maintain social distance, and warned them against spreading false news about the pandemic.
(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu and Anthony Boadle; editing by Grant McCool, Richard Pullin and Leslie Adler)

1/7/2022 Mexico Nears 300,000 Deaths From COVID-19 As Cases Surge After Holidays
Health workers queue for a booster shot of the AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, in
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico January 6, 2022. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez by Diego Oré and Roberto Ramirez
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico is likely to surpass 300,000 deaths from COVID-19 this week – the fifth highest death toll worldwide – as infections rise after the holiday season, fueled by the Omicron coronavirus variant and largely unrestricted tourism.
    Infections have more than doubled to 20,000 during the last week when many tourists visited Mexico from the United States and Canada.    Eleven of Mexico’s 32 states decided not to resume in-person school classes this week with cases climbing fast.
    The arrival of the highly contagious Omicron variant reversed a downturn in infections during the autumn, when the widespread application of vaccines provided relief.
    Some Mexicans said people had dropped their guard as the holidays came.
    “Since December, a lot of people started to go out and there are many who no longer wear face masks,” said Isauro Perez, a 53-year-old taxi driver in Mexico City.    “If we don’t take care of ourselves, the government won’t take care of us.”
    As of Wednesday, Mexico had registered 299,805 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, a figure that is likely significantly below the real toll, officials say.
    Separate government data showed there had been nearly 452,000 deaths “linked to” COVID-19 by mid-December, and lower testing has likely helped to understate the reach of the virus.
    Mexico has the highest fatality rate – deaths per confirmed cases – among the 20 nations most affected by COVID-19 worldwide, according to an analysis by Johns Hopkins University.
    Laurie Ximenez-Fyvie, an expert on molecular genetics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), said in the end, Mexico’s death toll would be the ultimate yardstick of how the government had performed in the pandemic.
    So far, she argued, it risked suffering “absolute failure.”
    According to figures from Our World in Data, a research group at Oxford University, in the week ending Jan. 1, Mexico was conducting just 0.12 coronavirus daily tests for every 1,000 inhabitants – down from a peak of 0.38 per day in mid-August.
    Britain, by contrast, was doing 20.6 tests a day per 1,000 inhabitants as 2021 ended.
    While parts of Europe and the United States have imposed added restrictions with the spread of Omicron, Mexico has so far resisted and tourists do not require negative tests to enter the country.
    Videos of maskless travelers drinking alcohol and gathering close together while taking a charter flight to the Mexican beach destination of Cancun from Montreal in late December went viral, prompting     Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to call for an investigation.
    “It’s a slap in the face,” he said.
    The surge of new cases could hit Mexico harder than some countries since it has a lower vaccination rate than the United States and much of Europe, health experts said.
    Nationwide, only 56% of the population is fully vaccinated, in comparison to 62% in the United States and 81% in Spain.
    But Mexicans have readily taken up vaccines, and 95% of adult residents of Mexico City are fully vaccinated.
    However, the government has not rolled out its vaccination program to people below the age of 15, despite more children being hospitalized.    More than one in four of Mexico’s population are aged 14 or below, World Bank data show.
(Reporting by Diego Ore and Roberto Ramirez, writing by Laura Gottesdiener; editing by Grant McCool)

1/7/2022 Mexico Formally Unveils New Visa Requirements For Venezuelans
Migrants, mostly from Central America, Venezuela and Haiti, sit outside an ecological park after authorities announced
suspension of document processing until the following week, in Tapachula, Mexico December 24, 2021. REUTERS/Jacob Garcia
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico on Thursday formally announced new visa requirements for visitors from Venezuela in the government’s official gazette, as part of efforts to curb a sharp increase in unlawful immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border.
    The new requirements published by the interior ministry, which will take effect in 15 days, come as Mexico attempts to curb the number of people from South and Central America trying to enter the United States illegally via its territory.
    Venezuelans, many of whom have been departing their homeland due to the years of economic crisis the country has faced, do not currently need a visa to enter Mexico as tourists.
    Mexico’s government last month said it would impose visa requirements on Venezuelan visitors, but had yet to issue formal notification of the impending changes.
    The ministry cited a jump of over 1,000% in the irregular transit of Venezuelans to a “third country” compared with the previous five years.    It said a growing number were giving false statements on their reasons for travel.
    The government also pointed to growing exploitation of the demand to migrate by criminal gangs and people smugglers.
    Reuters had earlier reported that Mexico was mulling imposing tougher entry requirements on Venezuelans, partly in response to requests from the U.S. government.
(Reporting by Dave Graham; Writing by Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Richard Chang)

1/7/2022 Sen. Thune: Democrat Push To Remove Filibuster Exposes Hypocrisy by OAN Newsroom
FILE – Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks during a news conference on
Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster File)
    Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said hypocrisy on the left is on full display as they push to cancel the filibuster.    He slammed Democrats for opposing its elimination when Republicans were in control of Congress, but pushing for it now.
    In a statement on Wednesday, the senator from South Dakota pointed out Democrat Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) previously said killing the filibuster would be a mistake.
    Schumer is now calling to eliminate the filibuster to jam through the so-called voting rights bill by a simple majority.    Republican senators have said the Democrat-backed H.R.1 bill would federalize U.S. elections and enable universal mail-in ballots, ballot harvesting and other practices.
    Thune said Democrats want to change the rules to get their way.    He warned rewriting the rules of the Senate would have dire consequences.
    Thune suggested Democrats should end the political games and get back to working with Republicans on issues that are relevant to Americans.

1/7/2022 Reps. Gaetz, Greene Discuss Jan. 6 Events, Demand Probe Into Whether Federal Govt. Played A Role In Inciting Violence by OAN Newsroom
One year after the violent insurrection at the Capitol, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., left, and
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., allies of former President Donald Trump, talk to reporters as
they show a video to place responsibility on Democrats, the Capitol Police, and the federal
government for the attack, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
    Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) are demanding a federal probe into suspected federal agents and far-left operatives inciting violence before and during the January 6 protest.     In a joint press conference Thursday, the two Republicans said Ray Epps, an Arizona man who has mysteriously disappeared from the FBI’s most wanted list, called for a breach of the U.S. Capitol right before it happened, but hasn’t been charged.
    “Ray Epps was originally on the FBI’s list of most wanted individuals after the initial events on January 6, but then the day after Revolver News publishes an exclusive report about Stewart Rhodes, who’s involved with the Oath Keepers, then all of a sudden Ray Epps’ name falls off the list,” Gaetz explained.    “We’ve sent letter asking questions about that unexplainable circumstance and the FBI and the Justice Department have given us no illuminating information.”
    Both lawmakers reiterated, alleging the federal government is behind the deadly events of January 6.    The Republicans added, they have yet to hear a response back for Attorney General Merrick Garland and the FBI’s director surrounding the events leading up to January 6.
    Gaetz and Greene asserted that the federal government has a history of infiltrating patriotic groups and Ray Epps appears to be part of those efforts. Additionally, Greene took aim at the way mainstream media covered the events of January 6, including how it has portrayed the protestors.
    “I’m not one that’s going to just sit there and take and duck and, you know, hide under cover when the mainstream media and the Democrat Party wants to label people and tell lies,” she stated.    “We’re here because we want to get our in front and say we think there’s real questions that do need to be asked.”
    The congresswoman expressed her frustration by saying if Democrats really cared about riots and protests, they would have worked hard to put an end to the Antifa riots back in 2020, but instead contributed to the violence.    She then indicated that not one Republican has helped incite violence like the Democrats have.
    Furthermore, the Republican lawmakers pointed out none of January 6 defendants have been charged with insurrection or terrorism.    They also added, those detainees are subject to inhumane detention conditions in jail.
    Moving forward, the Georgia Republican emphasized a transparent and unbiased January 6 Committee is needed to give the American people the truth they deserve.

1/7/2022 N.Y. Gov. Hochul, Mayor Adams Announce Plan To Combat Homeless On Subways by OAN Newsroom
Police patrol the A line subway train bound to Inwood, after NYPD deployed an additional 500 officers into
the subway system following deadly attacks, Saturday Feb. 13, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
    New York Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams came together for a joint plan to combat the cities homelessness and crime crisis on its subway system.
    On Thursday, Hochul announced homeless outreach units dubbed Safe Options Support will be comprised of about 10 trained professionals to get those who are homeless out of the subways and into shelters.    She said the program will start with creating new state-funded outreach teams of medical professionals as well as social workers.    It’s unclear how much this initiative will cost the state.
    Both officials said this will leave police officers to focus on serious crime.    The New York City Police Department will have to send more cops underground to conduct hundreds more visual inspections on the trains each day and night.    Adams said they want to focus on reducing crime for riders while adding, officers are now going to ride the trains as well.
    “We will not allow our police officer to have unnecessary engagement with the homeless individuals and those petty issues that will cause negative encounters with our police officers and the riders of the public,” stated the mayor.    “We want serious criminals…that is our focus: public safety.”
    Since homelessness isn’t illegal, those who refuse help are allowed to go on their way or, in other words, stay living on the subway.    Neither Hochul or Adams addressed how teams would handle this type of situation.
    Meanwhile, the newly minted mayor touted public safety during his campaign days and wasted no time cracking down on the issue during his first week.
    “Too many officers who are hired for public safety are siting behind desks,” he stated.    “We gave them that bulletproof vest, that badge and that firearm to go on patrol and protect the public, not to protect a computer screen.    We want them on patrol where they’re suppose to be…we are going to beef up our man power in real way.”
    In the meantime, the mayor and governor seem to have a new tone of saving the city unlike the previous leadership.

1/7/2022 Fla. Gov. DeSantis: State Will Send Out 1M At-Home Tests To Nursing Homes by OAN Newsroom
FILE -Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference about the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination
site at the Hard Rock Stadium on January 06, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
    Florida Governor Ron DeSantis launched an initiative that distributes at-home coronavirus tests to senior citizens. He highlighted the need for the program during a press conference in West Palm Beach Thursday, assuring state officials recognize seniors are at greater risk.
    “We have the ability to send out a million at home tests and what we’re going to start by doing is sending them to our nursing homes and long-term care facilities,” explained the Republican.
    DeSantis affirmed there’s no need for young and healthy Floridians to be running out and getting tested every day.    He also maintained the Sunshine State’s most severe cases stem from the Delta variant, not Omicron which now represents the vast majority of new cases in the U.S.
    Meanwhile, DeSantis pointed out the Biden administration has failed on its promise to make at-home tests widely available.
    “As many of you know the federal government had promised to send massive amounts of that into American communities, actually promised you could go on line (and) request one, and they would just mail it to your home,” he stated.    “That has not materialized and so we’ve tried to look and say: where can we make an impact?
    His comments came the same day White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed DeSantis was not advocating for the people in his state to get vaccinated.
    “I would say it’s pretty rich coming from Gov. DeSantis, given he has been someone who’s been advocating — not exactly advocating — for people in his state to get vaccinated, which we know is the way that people can be protected,” she remarked.    “If DeSantis wants to be a part of this constructive process, then perhaps he should encourage what science says.”
    While the Republican governor has strongly voiced his opposition of vaccine mandates and the government taking away peoples right to choose, he has also voiced support for the vaccine.
    “If you look at the people that are being admitted to hospitals, over 95 percent of them are either not fully vaccinated or not vaccinated at all,” he noted.    “These vaccines are saving lives.”
    During his press conference Thursday, DeSantis called for Joe Biden to answer why better testing initiatives haven’t been put in place despite billions-of-dollars going toward those programs.    He added, the coronavirus will be here to stay and it is important to focus on living with it rather than trying to get the disease to go away.

1/7/2022 Calif. Business Owner Rips Into Gov. Newsom’s COVID Regulations by OAN Newsroom
FILE – People wear face masks at an outdoor mall with closed business amid the
COVID-19 pandemic in Los Angeles on June 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
    A small business owner in California is turning heads as he takes a stand against Governor Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 regulations.    Philanzo King put the Democrat on notice amid renewed lockdown worries.
    In an interview on Thursday, King, the owner of San Diego’s Dot Cocktail Lounge, was asked if he thinks business owners will comply if Newsom makes them shut down again.
    “I think it’s gonna be very difficult this time to get people to comply because what we’ve all learned from the last situation was a lot of it was totally unnecessary,” he explained.    “What he showed us is he locked down the restaurant in the color coded bars, in the same thing he opened back up in.”
    King said the California governor’s COVID-19 regulations are useless and political.    He then slammed Democrat leadership, saying they are making life more difficult for everyday Americans.
    This comes at a time when the Democrat faces backlash after he extended the indoor mask mandate to February 15, prompting concern about more COVID-19 regulations to come and another tough year for businesses.
    However, a growing number of small business owners in the heavily blue state are making their voices heard with King unapologetically standing up for his values and demanding Newsom find better solutions.

1/7/2022 Moderna CEO Calls For 4th Booster After Stock Tumble by OAN Newsroom
FILE – Pharmacist Kenni Clark prepares a booster dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination
clinic at City of Lawrence’s “The Center,” which serves seniors, families and the community, Wednesday,
Dec. 29, 2021, in Lawrence, Mass. U.S. regulators, on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, are shortening the time that people
who received Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine have to wait for a booster. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
    Pharmaceutical giant Moderna is pushing for the fourth round of COVID-19 boosters.    In an interview Thursday, Moderna CEO Stephane Ancel said the efficiency of booster-shots will “likely” decline over time.    He added, emerging new variants of COVID-19 will require a fourth dose of the vaccine “for some people.”
    Moderna’s stock rose from $115 per share to $215 over the past year as it shipped 800 million doses of its vaccine paid for by national governments.    However, easing COVID-19 fears last October led to its stock decline by 34 percent.
    “We’re not negative on Moderna from a technology perspective, we think that they’ve invested properly in the business,” explained Goeff Meacham, a senior analyst for Bank of America.    “It’s just the assumptions that one needs for boosters to get to consensus forecasts, you know, we’re talking five, eight, 10 billion in 2023 and beyond.    I just think that is less likely, I mean, most folks wouldn’t want to get boosted in quarantine and continue this cycle for the foreseeable future.”
    Most economists agree the financial performance of Big Pharma companies depends on how long COVID-19 will last and their stock could tumble once the crisis is over.

1/7/2022 Brazilian President Bolsonaro Says Kids Should Not Be Vaccinated by OAN Newsroom
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro attends a ceremony to announce a package of relief measures
for the aviation industry, one of the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, at the
Planalto Presidential Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro blasted the move to vaccinate children.    On Thursday, he criticized Brazil’s health minister’s plan to inoculate kids aged five to 11.
    In an interview with the president, who is open about not being vaccinated himself, he said his 11-year-old daughter would not be vaccinated due to unknown side effects.
    Bolsonaro also said if the government truly cared about people’s health, they would be worried about other diseases.    He stressed the vaccination would not be mandated.
    “The vaccine doesn’t guarantee you can’t get the virus, the vaccine doesn’t guarantee you can get the virus,” Bolsonaro stated.    “Just as it doesn’t say anything about whether you’re safe from dying or not.    Last year, we had a Brazilian singer who died after getting a second dose of Coronavac (vaccine).”
    The country’s Ministry of Health announced 20 million Pfizer pediatric vaccines will be distributed by the end of the month.

1/7/2022 Blinken Accuses Russia Of ‘False Narrative’ On Ukraine Ahead Of Talks by Simon Lewis
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers year-end remarks for 2021
and answers questions from news media gathered at the U.S. State Department
in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday accused Russia of “gaslighting” and pushing a “false narrative” that it was under threat from Ukraine and NATO to justify a troop build-up near its border with the former Soviet republic.
    Blinken addressed reporters at the State Department ahead of meetings of U.S. and Russian diplomats in Europe next week aimed at bringing down the temperature between Russia and the West, and after a virtual meeting with NATO foreign ministers earlier on Friday.
    Blinken said Russia has worked for years to undermine Ukraine’s democratic institutions, interfere in its politics, block energy and commerce and sow mistrust with propaganda and disinformation.
    Russia had positioned nearly 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine “with plans to mobilize twice that number on very short order” and justified doing so with “misinformation” that Ukraine was seeking to provoke a conflict, Blinken said.
    “That’s like the fox saying it had to attack the hen house because its occupants somehow pose a threat.    We’ve seen this gaslighting before,” Blinken said, citing Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea and backing of separatists in the Donbass region.
    “The idea that Ukraine is the aggressor in this situation is absurd,” Blinken said, adding that Moscow was “simultaneously driving the false narrative that NATO is threatening Russia.”
    But a diplomatic solution was still possible and preferable, and there were areas of potential progress in next week’s meetings, Blinken said.
    “Next week we’ll reconfirm our readiness to increase transparency, institute new risk-reduction measures and renew efforts to address nuclear and conventional threats to European security,” he said.
    “But again, it has to be a two-way street.”
(Reporting by Simon Lewis; additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

1/7/2022 Portugal’s Main Opposition Party Promises Tax Cuts As Election Nears by Sergio Goncalves
FILE PHOTO: Portugal's opposition candidate Rui Rio of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) reacts after
preliminary results of the general election in Lisbon, Portugal October 6, 2019. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
    LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s main opposition Social Democrats promised on Friday to cut taxes on corporate profits and personal income if they manage to dethrone the front-running Socialist Party in a Jan. 30 election.
    “We have to reinforce the competitiveness of our economy.    We have to turn our economic policy towards companies because they are the ones that create better wages and better jobs,” the centre-right party’s leader, Rui Rio, told a news conference.
    In its electoral program, the Social Democratic Party (PSD) wants to cut corporate profit tax from to 19% in 2023 from the current 21% and bring it down to 17% in 2024.
    Income tax paid by families would be reduced by 400 million euros a year in 2025 and 2026, especially for middle-class earners of up to 60,000 euros a year.
    There is also a temporary value-added tax reduction envisaged for restaurants, which have been heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic, from the current 13% to 6% between July 2022 and December 2023.
    Rio said growth expected to result from the tax cuts combined with more rigorous spending, with reforms needed in areas such as social security, health and education, should allow Portugal to reduce the budget deficit to 0.5% of GDP by 2026.
    Although Prime Minister Antonio Costa’s centre-left Socialists lead in opinion polls, the PSD has somewhat narrowed the gap just weeks before the snap parliamentary election, which was called after parliament rejected the government’s budget bill.
    Political analysts say the election alone might not solve the impasse as no party or workable alliance is likely to achieve a stable majority, potentially undermining the country’s ability to spur growth using European pandemic recovery funds.
(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Alistair Bell)

1/7/2022 Aeromexico Halts Some Flights As COVID-19 ‘Domino Effect’ Hits Crews - Union
FILE PHOTO: Aeromexico aeroplanes are pictured on the airstrip at Benito Juarez international
airport in Mexico City, Mexico, November 28, 2017. REUTERS/Ginnette Riquelme
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - More than 70 Grupo Aeromexico pilots have tested positive for the coronavirus during a surge of infections from the Omicron variant, leading to 22 canceled flights, a union that represents pilots of the Mexican airline said.
    Jose Suarez, press secretary for pilots’ association ASPA, told television station Milenio the cases triggered a “domino effect,” forcing Aeromexico to isolate entire crews to prevent the virus from spreading.
    ASPA Secretary General Jose Gual told the same TV station that the pilots who tested positive made up 5% of Aeromexico pilots represented by ASPA.
    He added the cancellations represented 5% of Aeromexico’s operations and affected planes heading to the Mexican cities of Guadalajara, Cancun and Monterrey, plus an international flight.
    Among Aeromexico’s flight attendants, 140 had tested positive, according to a statement on Thursday by the Trade Union Association of Aviation Flight Attendants of Mexico (ASSA).
    An additional 65 of the company’s flight attendants were suspended for not having the valid travel documents, ASSA said.
    The absent workers represent 10.3% of the airline’s staff, the statement added.
    “We are seeing a quite severe wave of infections,” ASPA’s Gual said.    He attributed the jump to the highly contagious Omicron variant that has caused airlines around the world to cancel hundreds of flights during the busy winter travel season.
    Aeromexico said the new spread of COVID-19 had affected “some flights,” without providing details.
    “The safety of our customers and collaborators is and will always be the main priority,” Aeromexico said in a statement.
    The company did not respond to questions about COVID-19 cases among its pilots and crew members, or about exactly how many flights had been canceled.
    Mexico is likely to surpass 300,000 deaths from COVID-19 this week as infections rise after the holiday season, fueled by Omicron and largely unrestricted tourism to Mexico City and beach destinations Cancun and Los Cabos.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon, Kylie Madry and Valentine Hilaire; Editing by Richard Chang and Grant McCool)

1/7/2022 Tensions Rise Again Against Peru’s Las Bambas Mine, Despite Latest Deal
FILE PHOTO: Felicita Quispe looks on as trucks pass on a highway used by mining firms, in the
community of Chumbivilcas, outside of Cusco, Peru October 13, 2021. REUTERS/Angela Ponce/File Photo
    LIMA (Reuters) – Peruvian Prime Minister Mirtha Vasquez said on Friday she would travel again next Friday to an area of frequent protests against MMG Ltd’s Las Bambas copper mine as tensions with community protesters build up once again.
    The trip will be Vasquez’s third to the area since she was appointed in October, following repeated road blockades that have disrupted Las Bambas’ operations.
    The Chinese-owned copper mine, which has faced repeated protests since it opened in 2016, is one of the biggest mines in Peru, the world’s second largest copper producer where mining is a key source of tax revenue.
    In December, protesters from the Chumbivilcas province blocked the road for over a month, forcing it to suspend operations and causing a major problem for the leftist administration of President Pedro Castillo, who has promised to prioritize the demands of marginalized communities.
    The Chumbivilcas communities – mostly indigenous citizens of Quechua descent – have repeatedly accused the Chinese company of failing to provide jobs and money to the region, one of the poorest in Peru, despite the vast mineral wealth.
    Las Bambas just restarted copper output after Vasquez traveled to Chumbivilcas last month and brokered an agreement onsite to prevent further blockades.
    But some Chumbivilcas communities have since said they reject that agreement and called on Vasquez for further negotiations, according to meeting minutes seen by Reuters dated Jan. 6.
    Vasquez told reporters she hopes to hear concerns and resolve any social conflict through dialogue.
    A group of four communities said they rejected part of the agreement, including a section that commits locals not to pursue further road blockades.
    “Having analyzed the agreements, they do not address the proposals and demands of the communities … and in that sense they do not represent the voice of the people,” the meeting minutes said, which called on Vasquez and Castillo to meet with them in person next Friday.
    It is unclear if Castillo will attend the meeting.    He has generally deferred to Vasquez to handle issues related to Las Bambas.
    “The masses also agree that if the President of the Republic does not come, there will be no dialogue and as a result we will launch a protest,” the minutes said.
(Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Sandra Maler)

1/8/2022 Oil down $0.63 to $79.00, DOW down 5 to 36,232.

1/8/2022 Record Number Of Nicaraguans Sought Asylum In Costa Rica In 2021
FILE PHOTO: Nicaraguan migrants fill documents to request refuge in Costa Rica due to the unrest occurring in their
country at the migration office in San Jose, Costa Rica July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate/File Photo
    SAN JOSE (Reuters) – A record number of Nicaraguans sought refuge in neighboring Costa Rica in 2021, Costa Rican immigration authorities said on Friday, amid a widespread political crackdown against opponents of longtime Nicaraguan leader President Daniel Ortega.
    Costa Rica received 53,000 refugee applications from Nicaraguans in 2021, particularly in the months ahead of the elections in November, when Ortega clinched a fourth consecutive term after jailing political rivals.
    “It is the largest number of refugee applications (of Nicaraguans) that we have received in history,” Daguer Hernandez, the deputy director of Costa Rica’s migration agency, told Reuters.
    “It’s certainly close to the numbers received during the 1980s war, but we don’t have records of that,” he said.
    The Nicaraguan government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    In 2019, a year after anti-government protests and ensuing government repression rocked Nicaragua, 31,600 requested refuge in Costa Rica.    The applications subsided during the pandemic, but escalated sharply in the second half of 2021 in the lead-up to the presidential election, which was criticized by the European Union and the United States as undemocratic.
    Among those who fled Nicaragua was Gema Martinez, 31, who said she was arrested for participating in an opposition group called Alianza Civica.    Reuters could not independently verify her arrest.
    “It is very hard to flee and very expensive to live in Costa Rica, but it is necessary,” said Martinez.
(Reporting by Alvaro Murillo in San Jose, writing by Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

1/8/2022 U.S. Trade Chief Expresses Support For Lithuania Amid China ‘Coercion’
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai testifies before the Senate Finance Committee
on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 12, 2021. Susan Walsh/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Friday expressed strong U.S. support for Lithuania and the European Union in the face of “economic coercion” from China during a call with EU Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, USTR said in a statement.
    The expression of support for Lithuania is the second this week from Tai, who had a call with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis on Wednesday.
    Lithuania is under pressure from China, which claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, to reverse a decision last year to allow the island to open a de facto embassy in Vilnius under its own name.
    China has recalled its ambassador to Lithuania and downgraded diplomatic ties, and is pressuring companies like German car parts giant Continental to stop using Lithuanian-made components.    It has also blocked Lithuanian cargos from entering China.
    “Ambassador Tai emphasized the importance of working with the European Union and its member states to address coercive diplomatic and economic behavior through various avenues, including the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council,” USTR said, referring to a new cooperative effort launched by Tai and Dombrovskis last September to improve transatlantic ties and better compete with China.
    Tai and Dombrovskis, who serves as the EU’s trade chief, also discussed cooperation to address “global non-market excess capacity” in steel and aluminum, a reference to China’s overproduction of the metals that have flooded world markets.
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)

1/8/2022 U.S. Open To Talks With Russia On Exercises, Missile Deployments - Official by Steve Holland
FILE PHOTO: Russian and U.S. state flags fly near a factory in Vsevolozhsk,
Leningrad Region, Russia March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and its allies are prepared to discuss with Russia in talks about Ukraine the possibility of each side restricting military exercises and missile deployments in the region, a senior U.S. administration official said on Saturday.
    With a crucial set of talks set to start on Monday in Geneva, the senior Biden administration official said the United States is not willing to discuss limits on U.S. troop deployments or the U.S. force posture in NATO countries in the region.
    The Geneva talks, to be followed by other sessions in Brussels and Vienna, are aimed at averting a crisis.    Russian President Vladimir Putin has massed tens of thousands of troops along the border with Ukraine, generating fears of an invasion.
    Whether the United States and its European allies can make progress in the talks with Moscow is far from clear.    Putin wants an end to NATO’s eastward expansion and security guarantees, demands the United States says are unacceptable.
    But the senior U.S. official, briefing reporters ahead of the talks, said there are some areas that present an opportunity for common ground.
    “Any discussion of those overlapping areas where we might be able to make progress would have to be reciprocal,” the official said.    “Both sides would need to make essentially the same commitment.”
    Russia says it feels threatened by the prospect of the United States deploying offensive missile systems in Ukraine despite assurances from President Joe Biden to Putin that he has no intention of doing so.
    “So this is one area where we may be able to reach an understanding if Russia is willing to make a reciprocal commitment,” the official said.
    The United States is also willing to discuss imposing restrictions on military exercises in the region by both sides, the official said.
    “We are willing to explore the possibility of reciprocal restrictions on the size and scope of such exercises, including both strategic bombers close to each other’s territory and ground-based exercises as well,” the official said.
    The official said Washington is open to a broader discussion on the deployment of missiles in the region, after the previous Trump administration withdrew from the 1987 U.S.-Russia Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019 based on accusations that Moscow was violating the accord.
(Reporting by Steve HollandEditing by Paul Simao and David Gregorio)

1/8/2022 Anti-Vax Protesters Tell France’s Macron: ‘We’ll Piss You Off’ by Layli Foroudi
People attend a demonstration to protest against a bill that would transform France's
current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) health pass into a ''vaccine pass'', in Paris, France,
January 8, 2022. The banner reads: "Freedom". REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
    PARIS (Reuters) – Anti-vaccine protesters rallied in cities across France on Saturday, denouncing President Emmanuel Macron’s intent to “piss off” people refusing COVID-19 shots by tightening curbs on their civil liberties.
    Macron said this week he wanted to irritate unvaccinated people by making their lives so complicated they would end up getting jabbed.    Unvaccinated people were irresponsible and unworthy of being considered citizens, he added.
    In Paris, protesters retorted by adopting his slangy wording, chanting “We’ll piss you off.”
    Others carried signs saying “No to the vaccine pass,” a reference to Macron’s legislative push to require proof of vaccination to enter venues such as cafes, bars and museums.
    TV images showed skirmishes between protesters and police at one site.    Protesters also rallied through the streets in Marseille, Nantes and Le Mans among other cities.
    “(Macron’s remarks) were the last straw. We are not irresponsible,” said hospital administrator Virginie Houget, who has avoided a mandatory vaccine order for health workers because she caught COVID-19 late last year.
    The protesters accuse Macron of trampling on their freedoms and treating citizens unequally.    He says freedoms carry responsibilities that include protecting the health of others.
    France recorded more than 300,000 new coronavirus infections for the second time in a week on Friday.    Hospitalisations, including COVID-19 patients in intensive care (ICU), are rising steadily, putting the healthcare system under strain.
    Some hospitals have reported that some 85% of ICU patients are not vaccinated against COVID-19.    Data shows that 90% of over-12s eligible for the COVID shot are fully vaccinated.
    People in France already have to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter restaurants and bars and use inter-regional trains.    But with Omicron infections surging, the government wants to drop the test option.
    Three months before a presidential election, Macron’s blunt language appeared to be calculated, tapping into a mounting frustration against the unvaccinated.
    Conservative challenger Valerie Pecresse said Macron was driving a wedge through the country.    Far-right candidate Eric Zemmour denounced what he called the president’s puerile remarks.
    On the capital’s streets, protesters accused Macron of politicising the pandemic ahead of the election.
    “I want him to piss off drug dealers and criminals, not the average person,” said one 55-year-old protester who requested anonymity because he runs a business.
(Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Helen Popper)

1/8/2022 German SPD Official Defends Pro-Nord Stream 2 Policy by Andreas Rinke
FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is seen on a large-diameter pipe at the Chelyabinsk
Pipe Rolling Plant owned by ChelPipe Group in Chelyabinsk, Russia, February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The Nord Stream 2 pipeline to bring Russian gas to Germany should not be mixed up with political and human rights disputes with Moscow, a senior official from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) that leads Germany’s coalition government told Reuters.
    The pipeline was completed in September, but is awaiting approval from German and European Union regulators, and some politicians – in Germany and abroad – have said it should be blocked due to several policy disagreements with Russia.
    “Nord Stream 2 is, so to say, nearly connected to the grid, with only the lack of legal permits hindering the final start of operations,” the SPD’s general secretary, Kevin Kuehnert, said in an interview.
    “At some stage, there must be political and legal peace in such a discussion,” he added.
    Kuehnert said the project, led by Russia’s Gazprom, should not be mixed up with responses to Russia’s territorial controversies with Ukraine and human rights issues, where Berlin had clear positions and diplomatic strategies.
    The SPD’s support for the pipeline under the Baltic Sea, a geopolitical irritant to the United States and countries including Ukraine and Poland, contrasts with the position of its junior coalition partner the Greens, but mirrors the stance of former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats’ (CDU).
    Merkel declared the pipeline a commercial project, a line carried on by SPD Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
    In another jibe at the Greens over the EU’s energy definitions – which have classed nuclear power and gas as climate-friendly – Kuehnert said trying to throw out Brussels’ proposals was “utopian,” given Germany’s opposition to nuclear put it in a minority position.
    The EU is also in favour of using gas as a bridging technology under certain conditions until renewables and clean hydrogen can replace it.    Kuehnert said a majority of environmental groups accepted this reasoning.
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke Writing by Vera Eckert Editing by Mark Potter)

1/8/2022 Cradle Of Venezuelan Ruling Party Prepares For Election Re-Run by Deisy Buitrago and Vivian Sequera
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza speaks at the press conference with Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov during their meeting in Moscow, Russia June 22, 2021. Yuri Kochetkov/Pool via REUTERS
    BARINAS/CARACAS (Reuters) – Voters in Barinas, a sparsely-populated province in eastern Venezuela that has been controlled by the ruling Socialist Party for more than two decades, will return to polling places on Sunday to cast ballots in a do-over gubernatorial election.
    The result of the re-run ordered by the supreme court will not upset ruling party control over a majority of governorships, but could be a symbolic victory for the fractured opposition in the home state of the late socialist President Hugo Chavez, analysts said.
    The ruling party, which won 19 of 23 governorships in November, has emphasized that its candidate Jorge Arreaza, a former foreign minister, is the father of one of Chavez’s grandchildren.
    A victory for the opposition, which seemed within reach before original candidate Freddy Superlano was declared ineligible, would send a message that “Chavismo can be defeated under its own rules,” said Ricardo Sucre, politics professor at the Central University of Venezuela.
    Barinas, which has 600,000 eligible voters, appeared half-empty on Friday, with many businesses closed and few people on the streets, according to Reuters witnesses.
    “The elections shouldn’t be repeated.    There was already a winner and it was Superlano,” said Javier Contreras, 33, who was waiting to fill his car with gas.
    Superlano claimed victory but was ruled unfit for public office because of pending administrative investigations.
    The supreme court, seen by the opposition as the government’s judicial arm, then ordered a new vote, though it acknowledged the electoral commission projected a 0.39% margin of victory for Superlano against Argenis Chavez, the dead president’s brother.
    Chavez bowed out of the re-run and recognized the initial results.
    “An opposition candidate won in a state that is of special symbolic and geopolitical important to Chavismo, so the top tribunal pulls a new election out of its sleeve,” said Carmen Beatriz Fernandez, head of political consulting firm DataStrategia.
    The new opposition candidate is local leader Sergio Garrido.
    Barinas is strategic because it straddles border areas – where Colombian armed groups operate – and Venezuela’s central provinces, said Rocio San Miguel, president of the Control Ciudadano observatory.
    “Without (opposition) vigilance of polling places, there is no guarantee of the secrecy of the vote,” she said.
(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago in Barinas and Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb and Oliver Griffin; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

1/8/2022 Portugal’s Socialists Retain Lead Ahead Of Election But Gap Narrows – Poll by Sergio Goncalves
FILE PHOTO: Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa speaks during a news conference to announce the new measures amid the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, at Ajuda Palace in Lisbon, Portugal, November 25, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
    LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s ruling centre-left Socialists remain favourites to win a snap parliamentary election on Jan. 30, but the main opposition Social Democrats are narrowing the gap, according to a new opinion poll.
    Prime Minister Antonio Costa’s ruling party commands 38% support, according to the survey by the Catolica University published late on Friday by the newspaper Publico and the RTP state TV channel.    That represents a drop of just one percentage point from an earlier poll published on Nov. 5.
    The centre-right Social Democrats have risen to 32% support, from 30% in Catolica’s previous survey, a trend that’s in line with another recent poll.
    Costa’s two former allies – the Communist-Greens alliance and Left Bloc – garnered 6% each, the new poll found.    In October, these two left-wing parties sided with right-wing parties to reject the minority government’s budget bill, triggering the snap election.
    The Liberal Initiative and the far-right Chega, which currently have only one member of parliament apiece, could win 5% apiece of the vote, according to the poll.
    Political analysts say the Jan. 30 election alone might not solve Portugal’s political impasse as no party or workable alliance is likely to achieve a stable majority, potentially undermining the country’s ability to spur growth using European pandemic recovery funds.
    The Socialists won 36.3% of the vote in the 2019 election, ahead of the 28% secured by the Social Democrats.
    The margin of error in the Catolica University poll, which surveyed 1,238 people between Dec. 28 and Jan. 5, was 2.8%.
(Reporting Sergio Goncalves, Graham Keeley; Editing by Pravin Char)

1/8/2022 UK Still Ready To Trigger Article 16 In EU-N.Ireland Row, Truss Says
FILE PHOTO: British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss speaks during a G7 foreign and development
ministers session with guest countries and ASEAN nations on the final day of the summit in
Liverpool, Britain December 12, 2021. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom is ready to take unilateral action that would suspend custom checks on goods moving to Northern Ireland, foreign minister Liz Truss said on Saturday ahead of talks with the European Union.
    Truss is due to hold talks with EU Vice President Maros Sefcovic next week to resolve disagreements over post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom which shares a land border with EU member Ireland.
    To avoid politically contentious border checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland, Britain and the EU agreed Northern Ireland would effectively remain within the EU’s customs union for goods, with checks taking place on goods moving between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland instead.
    However, there has been friction about how this applies in practice – especially for goods intended to remain within Northern Ireland – as well as the arbitration role of the EU’s European Court of Justice.
    “I want a negotiated solution but if we have to use legitimate provisions including Article 16, I am willing to do that,” Truss wrote in The Telegraph newspaper.
    “There is a deal to be done,” she said, but added: “I will not sign up to anything which sees the people of Northern Ireland unable to benefit from the same decisions on taxation and spending as the rest of the UK, or which still sees goods moving within our own country being subject to checks.”
    Under Article 16, the United Kingdom and the EU can unilaterally decide to stop implementing parts of the protocol governing trade with the Northern Ireland if there are substantial practical problems or trade diversion.
    Truss replaced David Frost as Britain’s main Brexit negotiator in December, after he quit in protest at the broader direction of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.
    Frost often raised the prospect of invoking Article 16 if talks stalled.
(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Paul Simao)

1/8/2022 Colombia’s Leftist ELN Rebels Claim Responsibility For Bombing
FILE PHOTO: A destroyed truck of the Police Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) is seen
after an explosion in Cali, Colombia January 7, 2022. REUTERS/Juan B. Diaz
    BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia’s leftist rebel National Liberation Army (ELN) on Saturday claimed responsibility for an attack in the country’s third-largest city, Cali, that injured more than a dozen police officers.
    ELN operatives carried out the bombing, which was directed against members of ESMAD, the Colombian national police’s feared anti-riot unit, late on Friday, while they were traveling in a vehicle.
    “At 9:55 pm on Jan. 7, our units carried out an operation against ESMAD … in the city of Cali,” the ELN said in a statement published on a website belonging to its so-called urban front, adding that its members withdrew uninjured.
    The ELN and national police both confirmed that 13 officers were injured in the attack, with police officials saying that some were seriously hurt. No deaths were reported.
    The attack drew condemnation from the government and police, with President Ivan Duque decrying it as an attempt by the rebels to influence presidential elections later this year.
    “Colombia does not and will not bend to terrorism and our government will never reward terrorists,” Duque said in a message on Twitter.
    Colombia is offering a reward of 1 billion pesos for information regarding El Rolo, the leader of the ELN’s urban front, and 350 million pesos for information concerning those who planned and executed the attack, said General Jorge Vargas, the country’s top police official.    Together, the two rewards amount to around $334,000.
    The ELN is estimated to have some 2,350 combatants and has fought the government since its 1964 founding by extremist Roman Catholic priests.
    Peace talks between the ELN and Colombia’s government were put on ice after a rebel bombing killed 22 police cadets in 2019.
    The government accuses Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro of harboring ELN rebels and dissident members of the demobilized FARC guerrillas who reject a 2016 peace deal, something the government in Caracas has repeatedly denied.
(Reporting by Oliver Griffin and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Paul Simao)

1/9/2022 No Oil or DOW info.

1/9/2022 EU Plans Law Requiring Tech Firms To Do More To Combat Child Abuse
FILE PHOTO: European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson gives a news conference following
the EU High-level Forum on providing protection to Afghans at risk, at the European Commission,
in Brussels, Belgium, October 7, 2021. Stephanie Lecocq/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The European Union plans to legislate in the coming months to require technology companies to do more to tackle child sexual abuse, beefing up current voluntary arrangements, a top official said in a newspaper interview.
    EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told Germany’s Welt am Sonntag that internet service providers and social media firms had reported 22 million offences related to child sexual abuse in 2020, up from 17 million in 2019.
    But she said that was only a fraction of the real number.
    “I will propose legislation in the coming months that will require companies to detect, report, and remove child sexual abuse,” Johansson was quoted as saying.
    “A voluntary report will then no longer be sufficient.”
    Under current EU rules, social media networks and mail and messenger services such as Facebook and Google have a choice whether or not to follow up on offences.
    Johansson said the fight against the abuse of minors should be better coordinated and a specialist European centre was needed to improve prevention, law enforcement and victim support.
(Reporting by Vera Eckert Editing by Mark Potter)

1/9/2022 U.S. Tamps Down Expectations For Talks With Russia Amid Ukraine Crisis
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in the briefing room of the
State Department in Washington, U.S. January 7, 2022. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday he does not expect breakthroughs in U.S.-Russia security talks this week but hopes to find some common ground amid a crisis in Ukraine.
    “I don’t think we’re going to see any breakthroughs in the coming week,” Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
    “We’re going to be able to put things on the table.    Russians will do the same … and we’ll see if there are grounds for moving forward,” he said.
    He said any progress would depend on actions from both sides in negotiations that Washington hopes will avert prospects for a new Russian invasion of Ukraine.
    Any movement to resolve the issues, he said, will have to happen on a reciprocal basis.
    Blinken’s comments lowering expectations for the upcoming talks echoed Russia’s hard line on Sunday that it would not make any concessions under U.S. pressure at talks this week on the Ukraine crisis.
    He stressed that progress would be difficult, if not impossible, amid Moscow’s large military buildup at its border with Ukraine.
    “To make actual progress, it’s very hard to see that happening when there’s an ongoing escalation, when Russia has a gun to the head of Ukraine with 100,000 troops near its borders,” Blinken said on ABC’s “This Week.”
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

1/9/2022 Death Toll From Brazil Waterfall Rock Face Collapse Rises To 10
Relatives of victims who died after a wall of rock collapsed on top of motor boats below a waterfall in Capitolio reacts
at the Medico-Legal Institute in Passos, in Minas Gerais state, Brazil January 9, 2022. REUTERS/Washington Alves
    BRASILIA (Reuters) – Ten people died in the dramatic collapse of a canyon rock face on top of motor boats visiting a waterfall in southeastern Brazil, rescuers said on Sunday.
    A tower of rocks suddenly broke away from the canyon wall on Saturday and came crashing down, crushing one of the leisure boats at Capitolio in Minas Gerais state.    Shocking video images circulated on social media.
    Firemen and divers recovered three more bodies from the lake on Sunday, raising the death toll to 10 in the disaster that injured some 30 tourists hit by falling rocks and a huge wave of water caused when the column of rock crashed into the lake.
    The region has been under heavy rainfall for two weeks, which could have loosened the rock face.    On Saturday, a dike overflowed at an iron ore mine 300 kilometers to the east, cutting off a major federal highway.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Chris Reese)

1/9/2022 Canada Resists Pressure To Drop Vaccine Mandate For Cross-Border Truckers by Steve Scherer
FILE PHOTO: Manitoba-based truckers, transporting goods to and from the United States, are being vaccinated
against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as part of a deal between the Canadian province and the state
of North Dakota, at a rest stop near Drayton, North Dakota, U.S. April 22, 2021. REUTERS/Dan Koeck
    OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pushing ahead with a vaccine mandate for international truckers despite increasing pressure from critics who say it will exacerbate driver shortages and drive up the price of goods imported from the United States.
    Canada will require all truckers entering from the United States to show proof of vaccination starting on Saturday as part of its fight against COVID-19.
    That could force some 16,000, or 10%, of cross-border drivers off the roads, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) estimates.    The government estimates 5% of drivers will be impacted, according to a government source.
    The mandate is the first policy measure taken since the pandemic began that could limit cross-border trucking traffic.    Trucks crossed the border freely when the border was closed for 20 months because they were considered essential to keep supply chains flowing.
    “We don’t anticipate significant disruptions or shortages for Canadians,” the source said.
    Trudeau has championed a strict inoculation policy for civil servants and federally regulated workers, and the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus appears to have strengthened his government’s resolve to stick with the policy.
    Industry groups and opposition parties say it is a bad idea, especially at a time when the Bank of Canada is eyeing its first interest rate increase since October 2018.
    Even though the vast majority of Canadian truckers are vaccinated, those who are not “are already starting to quit,” said Stephen Laskowski, president and chief executive of the CTA, adding that the industry is already short some 18,000 drivers.
    More than two-thirds of the C$650 billion ($511 billion) in goods traded annually between Canada and the United States travels on roads.
    “Everyone has been talking about inflation.    And this is just going to continue to fuel that,” said Steve Bamford, chief executive of Bamford Produce, an importer and exporter of fresh fruit and vegetables based in Ontario.
    The cost of bringing a truckload of fruit and vegetables from California and Arizona doubled during the pandemic due to the existing driver shortage, Bamford said.    Fresh foods are sensitive to freight problems because they expire rapidly.
    Supply chain disruptions drove Canada’s headline inflation rate to an 18-year high in November, and the Bank of Canada has signaled that it could hike it as soon as April.
    “We’re going to see prices skyrocket for groceries, for everything, if we see tens of thousands of truckers unemployed,” Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole said on Thursday, adding there could be “reasonable accommodations” like regular testing.
    Interprovincial Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc attacked O’Toole on Friday for a “lack of leadership” on COVID-19 that “would only force more lockdowns and put Canadians at greater risk.”
    Canada’s health ministry did not comment when asked if any accommodations might be made for unvaccinated drivers.
    Canada’s border agency, in response to a Reuters query, said unvaccinated truck drivers who are not Canadian would be turned back at the border starting on Jan. 15, possibly causing delays at the crossing.    Canadian drivers will be allowed back into the country, but will be required to quarantine for 14 days.
    Vaccinated drivers will be allowed in and allowed to skip a pre-arrival molecular coronavirus test, the agency said.
    The Biden administration wants truck drivers at companies with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, a policy that has been challenged to the Supreme Court.
    In November, the price of food bought in Canadian stores increased 4.7% from a year earlier, the largest jump in seven years, and fresh vegetable prices rose even more due to higher shipping costs.
    “You’re going to see some impact on inflation and on the availability of goods on sale,” said Jimmy Jean, chief economist at Desjardins Group, adding that the mandate could trigger prices rises that prompt the central bank to raise rates quicker than expected.
    Joseph Sbrocchi, general manager of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers association, said “this is not the time to create that zero-sum game for Canadians,” especially in winter months when so much fresh food is imported.
    Derek Holt, vice president of capital markets economics at Scotiabank, disagrees.
    “Keep on trucking with the vaccine mandates,” he said, warning there was a “bigger price for the economy and for the health system if you don’t get more people vaccinated now.”
(Reporting by Steve Scherer, Additional reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

1/9/2022 UK Minister Backs Reduced COVID Isolation Period To Ease Workforce Pressures by Elizabeth Piper
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi arrives on
Downing Street, in London, Britain September 17, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
    LONDON (Reuters) – Reducing the self-isolation period for people who test positive for COVID-19 from seven days to five would help British employers that have been hard hit by absences, education minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday.
    The Omicron variant is still spreading in Britain and many businesses, schools and hospitals are struggling with staff shortages, fuelling calls for the rules on isolation after a positive test to be reduced further.
    Last month, health authorities in the United States shortened the recommended isolation time for asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 to five days from the previous guidance of 10 days.
    “I would obviously always defer to the scientific advice on this.    It would certainly help mitigate some of the pressures on schools, on critical workforce and others,” Zahawi told Sky News after being asked whether he backed a move to five days.
    He said the UK Health Security Agency was reviewing the length of the isolation period and the government was doing all it could to make sure the stretched health service could operate during what he called “a rocky few weeks.”
    Teacher absences in schools stood at 8.5% and could rise further, he said, adding his department was drafting contingency plans for absenteeism of up to 25%, including asking retired teachers to help out.
    On Saturday, Britain’s official death toll in the pandemic rose above 150,000, following a record wave of cases caused by the Omicron variant, prompting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to renew his call for people to get vaccinated.
    But David Spiegelhalter, an expert in statistics, told Times radio that level had been breached in March 2021 when using a broader measure which records cases where COVID-19 appears on a death certificate and using that measure the number now stands at more than 173,000.
    Looking forward, Zahawi said he hoped Britain would become one of the first countries to learn to “live with” COVID.
    “I hope we will be one of the first major economies to demonstrate to the world how you transition from pandemic to endemic,” he said.
    Zahawi, who was Britain’s vaccine minister before being appointed education secretary, said he did not recognise a report in the Sunday Times that the government was planning to end the free mass supply of lateral flow tests.
    Reuters reported in October that the government was aiming to be ready to start charging for some previously free COVID tests to try to rein in spending.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Frances Kerry and Elaine Hardcastle)

1/9/2022 Vaccine Pass Better Than A Mandatory Order, Says French Govt Spokesman
FILE PHOTO: A medical worker prepares a dose of the "Comirnaty" Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination center in Nice, France, December 1, 2021. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
    PARIS (Reuters) - A mandatory order would not be the most efficient way to encourage those not vaccinated against COVID-19 to get the shot and that plans to toughen health pass conditions were already yielding results, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.
    People in France already have to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter restaurants and bars and use inter-regional trains.    But with Omicron infections surging, parliament is debating legislation that will drop the test option.
    President Emmanuel Macron this week said he wanted to irritate the unvaccinated by making their lives so difficult they would get the COVID-19 shot.
    Four in every ten unvaccinated people had not been inoculated against the coronavirus because of difficulties accessing the relevant health services, France’s National Institute of Health & Medical Research (Inserm) said this week.
    “We stand by the decision to put pressure on the non-vaccinated,” Attal told BFM TV on Sunday.
    France recorded more than 300,000 new coronavirus infections for the second time in a week on Friday.    Hospitalisations, including COVID-19 patients in intensive care (ICU), are rising steadily, putting the healthcare system under strain.
    Attal said nearly 10 million COVID-19 tests had been carried out in the past week and that the government would make more healthworkers available to conduct them.    But laboratories warned that the testing rate could be unsustainable.
    “We can’t keep testing (these numbers),” Lionel Barrand, president of the Syndicat National Les Biologistes Médicaux told BFM TV.
(Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Louise Heavens)

1/9/2022 Ex-PM Says Kazakh Leader Must Act Fast To Neutralise Nazarbayev Faction by Mark Trevelyan
FILE PHOTO: A man walks past the office building of the Nur Otan ruling party, which was damaged during mass protests triggered
by fuel price increase, in Almaty, Kazakhstan January 8, 2022. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev/File Photo
    LONDON (Reuters) – Kazakhstan’s president must move fast to consolidate his grip after breaking with his powerful predecessor as the country was racked last week by the deadliest violence in its 30 years of independence from Moscow, a former prime minister said on Sunday.
    As protesters torched buildings in the biggest city Almaty last Wednesday, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev removed former leader Nursultan Nazarbayev as head of the powerful Security Council – a role in which Nazarbayev, 81, had continued to pull the strings despite handing over the presidency in 2019.
    With 164 people reported killed and more than 6,000 detained as part of what Tokayev has called a counter-terrorist operation, a purge of the security apparatus is now under way in the oil- and uranium-producing Central Asian state.
    Former prime minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin told Reuters that Tokayev, having ruled since 2019 in the shadow of the man who dominated the country for the previous three decades, needed to dispel doubts about who was really in charge.
    “I think a lot of people in social networks, critics, continue to say he’s a nominee of Nazarbayev, that Nazarbayev is standing behind his back and manipulating him,” he said.
    “Now he has complete formal executive power, the question is how he will deploy it.    He needs to take command.”
    Kazhegeldin served as prime minister under Nazarbayev in the 1990s, when Tokayev was foreign minister, but quit over concerns about corruption and now lives in exile in Britain.
    He urged Tokayev to investigate quickly, bring those responsible for the violence to justice, and listen to people’s demands for reform.
    “If he does it in a short time, he can count on citizens’ support in elections.    If he doesn’t, people will blame all the problems and everything that’s happened recently on him.”
    Nazarbayev, a former Communist Party boss, amassed substantial wealth during his decades in charge, wielding power through what Kazhegeldin described as a clan system.
    He said the “embittered” Nazarbayev faction would attempt to remobilise if given the chance.
    “The people who have just been defeated are very rich.    They have huge capital abroad, including in Britain,” he said.
    “This money must be returned to the country and used to develop the economy.    If this isn’t done these people will use the money to destabilise the situation in the country.”
    Nazarbayev could not be reached for comment but his spokesman issued a statement on Sunday in an apparent attempt to quash the impression of a rift between him and Tokayev.
    He said the former president had chosen to give up his security council post to Tokayev to help ease the crisis, and the two men had always been “on the same side of the barricades.”
(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

1/10/2022 No Oil or DOW info.

1/10/2022 Prospects Dim As U.S., Russia Start Tense Talks Over Ukraine Crisis by Emma Farge and Tom Balmforth
FILE PHOTO: Russian and U.S. state flags fly near a factory in Vsevolozhsk,
Leningrad Region, Russia March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov/File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – With diplomats publicly pessimistic, the United States and Russia are set to begin fragile negotiations in Geneva on Monday that Washington hopes can avert the danger of a new Russian invasion of Ukraine without conceding to the Kremlin’s expansive security demands.
    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said over the weekend it was entirely possible the diplomacy could end after a single meeting, and even U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken played down expectations for the high-stakes talks.
    “I don’t think we’re going to see any breakthroughs in the coming week,” Blinken said in a CNN interview on Sunday.
    Talks begin on Monday in Geneva before moving to Brussels and Vienna, with U.S.-Russia relations at their most tense since the Cold War ended three decades ago.
    Nearly 100,000 Russian troops are gathered within reach of the border with Ukraine in preparation for what Washington and Kyiv say could be an invasion, eight years after Russia seized the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine.
    Russia denies invasion plans and said it is responding to what it calls aggressive and provocative behavior from the NATO military alliance and Ukraine, which has tilted toward the West and aspires to join NATO.
    Last month, Russia presented a sweeping set of demands that include a ban on further NATO expansion and an end to the alliance’s activity in central and eastern European countries that joined it after 1997.
    The United States and NATO have dismissed large parts of the Russian proposals as non-starters, raising questions about whether there is middle ground where Washington and Moscow can meet.
    “Naturally, we will not make any concessions under pressure,” said Ryabkov, who will lead the Russian delegation in Geneva.
    U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that the United States and European allies would impose unprecedented sanctions if Russia chose to invade Ukraine.    Putin responded that sanctions could lead to a “complete breakdown in ties.”
    In a preliminary meeting with Ryabkov on Sunday evening, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman emphasized Washington’s commitments to sovereignty, territorial integrity “and the freedom of sovereign nations to choose their own alliances,” the State Department said.
    Ryabkov told reporters his meeting with Sherman had been “complex but businesslike,” Russian news agency Interfax said.
    Ryabkov has compared the situation to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when the world stood on the brink of nuclear war.
    The United States and allies have said they are prepared to discuss the possibility of each side restricting military exercises and missile deployments in the region.
    Both sides will put proposals on the table and then see if there are grounds for moving forward, Blinken said on Sunday.
    If diplomacy fails, and Moscow acts against Ukraine, the United States has been discussing with allies and partners in Europe and Asia a range of trade restrictions against Moscow, a source familiar with the plan said.
    One restriction could target critical Russian industrial sectors, including defense and civil aviation, and would invariably hit Russia’s high-tech ambitions, such as in artificial intelligence or quantum computing, or even consumer electronics.
    Andrey Kortunov, an analyst who heads the Russian International Affairs Council, has said Ryabkov was less hawkish than some members of Russia’s security establishment but would be as flexible or rigid as the Kremlin required.
    “At the end of the day it’s up to Mr Putin to define the red lines, not Ryabkov, and Ryabkov will do his best to articulate the red lines,” said Kortunov.
(Writing by Phil Stewart; Editing by Chris Reese)

1/10/2022 With Peak Yet To Come, Europe’s Healthcare Creaks Under Omicron’s Rapid Spread by Clara-Laeila Laudette and Alistair Smout
FILE PHOTO: A member of the medical personnel wearing a full protective suit works in the intensive care unit
at Maastricht UMC+ Hospital, where patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are treated,
in Maastricht, Netherlands, November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo
    MADRID/LONDON (Reuters) – Europe’s healthcare systems are being strained once again by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus over the holiday period, with large numbers of key staff ill or self-isolating and experts predicting the peak of infections is yet to come.
    Despite early studies showing a lower risk of severe disease or hospitalisation from Omicron compared to the previously-dominant Delta variant, healthcare networks across Spain, Britain, Italy and beyond have found themselves in increasingly desperate circumstances.
    On Friday, Britain began deploying military personnel to support hospitals experiencing staff shortages and extreme pressures due to record COVID-19 cases in the country.
    “Omicron means more patients to treat and fewer staff to treat them,” National Health Service (NHS) Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis said in a statement.
    In the United States, hospitals are postponing elective surgeries to free up staff and beds, while Spain’s primary healthcare network is so strained that on the penultimate day of 2021 authorities in the northeastern region of Aragon authorised the reincorporation of retired medical workers and nurses.
    “The exponential increase in cases means primary care can perform neither their contact tracing and vaccination campaign duties adequately, nor their ordinary activities,” the authorities said in a statement.
    Front-line workers such as nurses and physiotherapists are the hardest hit, Spanish nursing union SATSE said, citing the example of Andalusia where they accounted for more than 30% of staff on COVID-related leave in the second half of December.
    The sunny southern region, where Britons and Germans have settled in droves, registered roughly 1,000 workers infected with the coronavirus in the final weeks of the year, “generating grave issues in service coverage”, the statement said.
    In the Netherlands, infection rates are also rising sharply among hospital staff, particularly nurses and nursing assistants, Dutch daily De Telegraaf reported on Friday, following a survey of eight major hospitals.
    In the worst cases, one in four tested positive in the run-up to Christmas, as in Amsterdam’s University Medical Centre where 25% of staff are now testing positive, compared to 5% a week ago.
    Dutch hospitals are mulling changing their quarantine rules so infected staff who do not have symptoms can come to work, De Telegraaf said, as Dutch daily case numbers break records despite a strict lockdown since December 19.
    In Italy, the problem of infected health workers – more than 12,800 according to data gathered last week – is being compounded by the suspension of doctors, nurses, and administrative staff who are not vaccinated and represent just over 4% of the total workforce.
    In a last-ditch bid to plug gaps in the service, Italian health agencies are freezing staff holidays, deferring them to other periods, and freezing or postponing scheduled surgeries not classified as “urgent.”
    With hospitalisations already at their highest since last February, the NHS is likely to be stretched even thinner as COVID-19 surges amongst older people, UK health minister Sajid Javid said on Friday.
    “We are still seeing rising hospitalisations, particularly with the case rate rising in older age groups.    That is of concern,” Javid said in a broadcast clip.    “I think we have to be honest…when we look at the NHS, it will be a rocky few weeks ahead.”
    An average of around 80,000 medical staff were absent from work every day in the week to Jan. 2 – the most recent period for which data is available – a 13% rise on the previous week, according to NHS England.    Almost half of those absences, or 44%, were due to COVID-19, a rise of more than fifth from the week earlier.
    Rafael Bengoa, co-founder of Bilbao’s Institute for Health and Strategy and a former senior WHO official, said Spain had failed to take sufficient measures to reinforce vital services and pressure would continue to ratchet up for several weeks.
    “Spain has several weeks – basically all of January – of rising cases…then hopefully we’ll hit a plateau that goes down just as fast,” he told Reuters.
    He considers it unlikely that a more infectious variant which is also more deadly than Omicron will appear and is optimistic the current wave might signal the beginning of the pandemic’s end.
    “Pandemics don’t end with a huge boom but with small waves because so many have been infected or vaccinated…After Omicron we shouldn’t have to be concerned with anything more than small waves.”
(Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette, Nathan Allen and Inti Landauro in Madrid, Alistair Smout in London, Emilio Parodi in Milan; additional reporting by Stephanie van den Berg in Amsterdam; writing by Clara-Laeila Laudette; editing by Kirsten Donovan)

1/10/2022 Venezuela’s Opposition Topple Ruling Party In Race For Barinas Governorship by Deisy Buitrago and Vivian Sequera
People queue to take part in re-run of the gubernatorial election, in
Barinas, Venezuela, January 9, 2022. REUTERS/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria
    BARINAS (Reuters) - A Venezuelan opposition candidate on Sunday won an election for governor of Barinas state, the birth place of the late former leader Hugo Chavez, bringing an end to 22 years of Socialist party rule there.
    The vote in Barinas, a re-run of the November race for the state’s governor’s office, will not alter the Socialist party’s control of the majority of governorships in the country, but represents a symbolic victory for the fractured opposition.
    “The triumph is for Barinas and all of Venezuela,” victorious opposition candidate Sergio Garrido told Reuters.
    Last year, Argenis Chavez – brother of the former leader – had contested the vote for the ruling party but did not emerge victorious.
    Instead, the Supreme Court ordered the vote be repeated after disqualifying opposition candidate Freddy Superlano.    The decision followed an order made by the comptroller general in August saying Superlano was under administrative investigation and was disqualified from running.
    The surviving Chavez subsequently pulled out of the re-run and was replaced by former Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, who competed against Garrido.
    Garrido picked up 55.36% of the votes, while Arreaza received 41.27%, Barinas state representatives of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) said in a message broadcast on state television.
    The state has some 600,000 registered voters.
    Arreaza conceded defeat in a message on Twitter before the official results were announced.
    “The information we have received … indicates that while we increased our vote, we did not meet our objective,” Arreaza said.
    People on motorcycles and other vehicles took to the streets to celebrate the victory, Reuters witnesses said.
    “It was impossible for Jorge Arreaza to win because we had our own candidate who knows every inch of Barinas,” said Marielena Rivas, a 61-year-old accountant.
    The opposition victory came in spite of ruling party efforts to sway voters, Garrido said in a video message while waiting for official results.
    The ruling party has since November delivered subsidized bags of food and ramped up gasoline supplies, advocacy groups and opponents said, denouncing the tactic as misuse of state funds.
    The ruling party won governorships in 19 of Venezuela’s 23 states in November, while the opposition won in three.
    But the ruling party saw the number of votes it received drop to 3.9 million in the November elections, according to election authorities, down from 5.9 million votes during regional elections in 2017.
(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago in Barinas and Vivian Sequera; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Pravin Char and Bill Berkrot)

1/10/2022 Mexico Issues Arrest Warrants In ‘Fast And Furious’ Gun Trafficking Case
FILE PHOTO: Mexico's Public Security Minister Genaro Garcia Luna attends a meeting with the
Human Rights commission at the Senate in Mexico City November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A Mexican judge has issued seven arrest warrants related to a decade-old cross border arms trafficking sting, including for the country’s most notorious drug lord and an ex-security minister, the attorney general’s office said on Sunday.
    Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the convicted Sinaloa cartel boss, ex-Security Minister Genaro Garcia Luna and former federal police intelligence official Luis Cardenas, were named in a Sunday statement from the attorney general’s office linked to the so-called “Fast and Furious” gun running scandal from 2009-2011.
    All three, however, are currently behind bars in either the United States or Mexico.
    The attorney general’s office did not respond to written questions seeking additional information on the new arrest warrants, including whether or not the Mexican government will seek to extradite Guzman, currently serving a life sentence in U.S. federal prison.
    The statement noted that Garcia Luna, Mexico’s security minister from 2006-2012 who was charged by U.S. authorities in late 2019 with drug trafficking, now faces two arrest warrants issued by Mexican judges that have triggered an extradition request for him.
    The once-secret “Fast and Furious” scheme set out to stop U.S.-Mexico gun smuggling by allowing people to illegally buy arms in the United States and take them to Mexico so that the weapons could be tracked and lead law enforcement officials to drug cartel leaders.
    But some of the weapons were later blamed for gangland slayings in Mexico and set off bitter cross-border recriminations over the operation.
    “We have been informed that U.S. authorities have been charged with investigating and holding responsible public officials in that country,” the statement added, but without going into further detail.
(Reporting by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Michael Perry)

1/10/2022 Donald Trump: Revolver News Exposed ‘Fedsurrection’ On Jan. 6 by OAN Newsroom
FILE – President Donald Trump looks on before delivering a speech during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting on
January 26, 2018 in Davos, eastern Switzerland. (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
    The 45th president praised investigative reporters at Revolver News who claimed federal agents incited violence at the January 6 protest. On Sunday, Donald Trump said the media outlet found federal agents, including Ray Epps, called for a breach of the U.S. Capitol.
    Trump then pointed out that Democrats are trying to smear actual Trump supporters who resisted calls for violence. Revolver News claimed federal agents were embedded into many patriotic groups to discredit his supporters.
    The 45th president also said Americans know what happened on January 6 was a “fedsurrection” thanks to Revolver News.    He noted, the media outlet did an excellent job to debunk false Democrat narratives about Capitol Hill protests.
    Meanwhile, congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) rejected a meeting request from the January 6 Committee while asserting the Democrat panel is not legitimate. In a letter to committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Jordan said the panel’s activities have gone “outside the bounds of any legitimate inquiry.”
    The congressman added, the commission violates the U.S. Constitution and it serves to erode legislative norms.    The Democrat-led panel came under fire for a lack of Republican representation and its inquiries into Trump aides, which they say are invasive and unjustified.
    Answer by Ashley Oliver
    Jordan suggested the committee look into why Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) failed to ensure capitol security on January 6.

1/10/2022 Death Of Man Tased By N.Y. Police Under Investigation by OAN Newsroom
    The New York Attorney General’s Office released video of a deadly police encounter now under investigation.
    The footage, released Friday without audio, shows 29-year-old Jason Jones agitated in the lobby of the Catskill Police Department.
    According to Jones’s attorney, Kevin Luibrand, his client had been drinking at a nearby bar and was asked to leave by police when things got rowdy. He said Jones didn’t like the way officers handled the situation at the bar, so he went down to the police station to talk about it.
    An aggressive interaction with police ensued.    At one point, Jones tears off his shirt. Later, the man covered his head and body in hand sanitizer.
    Footage shows the moment when one officer deployed his taser in an attempt to subdue Jones and he instantly burst into flames.    That particular move is now under investigation.
    “The Taser is 50,000 volts of electricity,” explained attorney Luibrand.    “It’s well known.    Police are trained not to use it in that circumstance.    Jason predictably ignited as a result of that.”
    Police Chief Dave Darling said the officers were familiar with Jones from previous encounters and were concerned that he was going to hurt himself.    However, the family’s attorney notes that officers quickly exited the lobby, leaving Jones behind trying to extinguish himself.
    “The police, rather than help him, run out of the room to let Jason burn,” said attorney Luibrand.
    Just 14-seconds later, one officer returned to help Jones as his head caught on fire, nearly 20-minutes went by before Jones is taken away on a gurney and transported to Syracuse Hospital.    He spent 45-days in the ICU before dying from his injuries last month.
    New York Attorney General Letitia James said the Office of Special Investigation is looking into the case and the video was released to be transparent.

1/10/2022 Gov. DeSantis Says Biden Admin. Blocks COVID Treatments For Fla. by OAN Newsroom
FILE – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021,
at the Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
    According to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the Biden administration is preventing the shipments of COVID treatments to his state. In an interview Sunday, the Republican said Joe Biden’s officials are using coronavirus narratives for political purposes to attack his policies in the Sunshine State.
    DeSantis stressed that in September the federal government seized control over the shipments of monoclonal antibodies and other COVID cures.    He added, Biden then cut supplies to Florida and Texas.
    “Under the Biden administration, not only are they not promoting therapeutics, they’re trying to sty me the distribution of things like monoclonal antibodies in states like Florida and Texas,” explained the governor.
    This came after Florida’s surgeon general said the Biden administration is hindering his state’s efforts to cure its COVID patients.
    “I just think it’s counter to their messaging and their narrative…when I rolled out our monoclonal antibodies sites over the summer, they attacked because they said ‘oh…you’re against vaccines if you are for therapeutics’ when actually we had a lot of vaccinated people that were going,” DeSantis stated.    “It wasn’t all unvaccinated, but regardless you want to have treatment options."
    The Florida Republican also said Biden’s COVID response is very partisan and it does not serve the best interest of the American people.

1/10/2022 CDC Director: Up To 40% Of Those In Hospital With COVID There For Other Reasons by OAN Newsroom
FILE – Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks
during an interview with The Associated Press, Dec. 8, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
    CDC Director Rochelle Wallensky said the agency will release the distinction between those who died from COVID and those who died with COVID. During an interview on Sunday, she was pressed on how many of the more than 800,000 deaths linked to COVID, died from the virus or other comorbidities.
    The CDC head deflected by talking about how much the vaccines reduce severe illness and death.     When pressed, however, she did say that many in hospitals with COVID came in with other issues.
    “In some hospitals that we’ve talked to up to 40 percent of the patients coming in with COVID are coming in not because their sick with COVID, but because they’re coming in with something else and have have had the COIVD Omicron variant detected.”
    The CDC chief’s comments came amid dwindling public trust and confidence in the agency as the organization is seen as issuing guidance based on politics instead of science.

1/10/2022 Rep. Carl Thinks Democrats Will Lose If They Keep Talking About Trump And Jan. 6 by OAN Newsroom
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., center, smiles after joining other freshman Republican House members for a group photo at the
Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. Rep. Jerry Carl, R-Ala., is at right. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) AP
    Rep. Jerry Carl (R-Ala.) believes the Democrats are losing support among their voters due to their current messaging. In a recent interview, he revealed that the left’s constant bashing of the 45th president and January 6 are making people tired, bored and angry.
    The Republican then stated the strategy of using the same playbook is not helping Democrats build their case for the 2022 midterms and it will cost them if they don’t do something to change.    He argued that Democrats in his state do not feel represented by their Washington counterparts.
    “The Democrat Party in Alabama, they have a hard time seeing any resemblance to the Democrat Party with what’s going on in Washington,” stated the lawmaker.    “It is two totally different creatures.    They do not represent the Democrat Party, in my opinion, they do not represent the Democrat Party in Alabama.”
    Carl said his constituents are no fools and can see the shift in income, the rise in inflation as well as other issues facing Americans today.

1/10/2022 Sen. Johnson Announces Re-Election Bid Amid Democrat Threats by OAN Newsroom
FILE – Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington,
on March 3, 2021. (Greg Nash/The Hill via AP, Pool, File)
    Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) officially announced his bid for re-election in this year’s midterms. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Johnson wrote he was planning to retire after serving six years in the Senate, but disastrous policies by the Democrats made him change his mind.
    The senator argued the Democrats’ complete takeover of the U.S. government puts America at risk.    Over the past year, Johnson has criticized COVID-19 mandates and exposed the risks of mass vaccination while also defending election integrity and criticizing Chinese threats to the U.S.
    “All these spending programs are a double whammy on that inflation number,” explained the Wisconsin Republican regarding the Biden administration’s policies. “First of all, it’s deficit spending so it’s way too many dollars chasing way to few goods.    And then when you’re paying people not to work fewer people are going to be available for hire.”
    Johnson has notably already received an endorsement from 45th President Donald Trump.    The senator predicts a tough re-election campaign while asserting Democrats will use everything they can to attack him.

1/10/2022 U.S. And Russia Still Poles Apart On Ukraine After Geneva Talks by Emma Farge
FILE PHOTO: Russian and U.S. state flags fly near a factory in Vsevolozhsk,
Leningrad Region, Russia March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov/File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) - Russia and the United States gave no sign that they had narrowed their differences on Ukraine and wider European security in talks in Geneva on Monday, as Moscow repeated demands that Washington says it cannot accept.
    Russia has massed troops near Ukraine’s border while demanding that the U.S.-led NATO alliance rule out admitting the former Soviet state or expanding further into what Moscow sees as its back yard.
    “Unfortunately we have a great disparity in our principled approaches to this.    The U.S. and Russia in some ways have opposite views on what needs to be done,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters.
    Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said: “We were firm … in pushing back on security proposals that are simply non-starters to the United States.”
    Washington and Kyiv say 100,000 Russian troops moved to within striking distance of Ukraine could be preparing a new invasion, eight years after Russia seized the Crimean peninsula from its neighbour.
    Russia denies any such plans and says it is responding to what it calls aggressive behaviour from NATO and Ukraine, which has tilted toward the West and aspires to join the alliance.
    Ryabkov repeated a set of sweeping demands including a ban on further NATO expansion and an end to the alliance’s activity in the central and eastern European countries that joined it after 1997.
    “We underscore that for us it’s absolutely mandatory to make sure that Ukraine never, never, ever becomes a member of NATO,” he said.
    “We do not trust the other side, so to say. We need iron-clad, waterproof, bulletproof, legally binding guarantees.    Not assurances, not safeguards, guarantees with all the words ‘shall, must’, everything that should be put in, ‘never ever becoming a member of NATO’.    It’s a matter of Russia’s national security.”
    Sherman said: “We will not allow anyone to slam closed NATO’s open-door policy, which has always been central to the NATO alliance."
    “We will not forego bilateral cooperation with sovereign states that wish to work with the United States, and we will not make decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine, about Europe without Europe, or about NATO without NATO.”
    The build-up of troops near Ukraine, has raised U.S.-Russia tensions to their highest levels since the end of the Cold War.
    Both sides said Russia had stated that it did not intend to invade, something that Ryabkov said could never happen, but Sherman said she did not know if Russia was willing to de-escalate.
    The Russian complained that the U.S. side did not show an understanding of the urgency of the situation.    While there was no deadline, Russia was not prepared to wait weeks or months, he said.
    Ryabkov said Russia needed to see movement by NATO, and failure to provide that would be a mistake that would damage NATO’s own security.
    Russia would respond in a “military-technical” way if talks broke down, he said – a possible reference to redeploying intermediate-range nuclear (INF) missiles in Europe, which he said last month could happen if the West declined to respond.
    Sherman said no country could change the borders of another by force, calling on Russia to reduce the tension by returning its troops to barracks.
    If it walked away, she said, it would be clear it was never serious about diplomacy.
    Sherman said the United States was interested in talking about a possible deal on INF missiles along the lines of the now-defunct INF treaty between the U.S. and Russia.
    She said the U.S. side was also willing to engage with Russia’s proposal to set limits on the size and scope of military exercises.
    The United States formally withdrew from the landmark 1987 INF pact with Russia in August 2019 after determining that Moscow was violating the treaty, an accusation the Kremlin has denied.
    The treaty, negotiated by then-U.S. president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, banned land-based missiles with a range of between 310 and 3,400 miles (500 and 5,500 km).
    Despite the lack of obvious progress, the atmosphere between the two sides appeared cordial.
    Sherman called it a frank and forthright discussion, while Ryabkov said it was difficult but professional and that the U.S. had approached the Russian proposals seriously.
    He said Russia would decide on the prospects for progress after further meetings with NATO members in Brussels on Wednesday and with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna on Thursday.
(Additional reporting by Denis Balibouse in Geneva, Robin Emmott and Sabine Siebold in Brussels, Serhiy Takhmazov and Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv, Tom Balmforth, Andrey Ostroukh and Andrew Osborn in Moscow, Doina Chiacu, Mohammad Arshad, Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis in Washington; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

1/10/2022 Biden Raises Concerns Over Air Strikes In Call With Ethiopia’s Abiy
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attends his last campaign event ahead of Ethiopia's parliamentary
and regional elections scheduled for June 21, in Jimma, Ethiopia, June 16, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
    (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden raised concerns about air strikes in the conflict in northern Ethiopia and about human rights issues during a call with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Monday, the White House said.
    Thousands have died and millions have been displaced since war broke out in the northern Tigray region in November 2020 between Abiy’s federal forces, backed by regional allies, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that governs the region.
    In a tweet, Abiy described his conversation with Biden as “candid” and said the pair had discussed strengthening cooperation.
    “President Biden expressed concern that the ongoing hostilities, including recent air strikes, continue to cause civilian casualties and suffering,” the White House said in a statement after the two leaders spoke.
    An air strike in Tigray killed 56 people in a camp for displaced people and injured 30, including children, two aid workers told Reuters on Saturday.
    Aid organisations suspended their operations in the area of northwest Tigray where the strike took place, the U.N. agency for humanitarian affairs said on Sunday, citing an ongoing threat of drone strikes.
    The White House also said Biden and Abiy had discussed “the need to address the human rights concerns of all affected Ethiopians, including concerns about detentions of Ethiopians under the state of emergency.”
    Human rights groups and the United Nations have raised concerns about large-scale detentions of ethnic Tigrayans.    Abiy’s government has denied any ethnically motivated detentions were taking place.
    Abiy’s appointment as prime minister in 2018 ended nearly three decades during which the TPLF, originally a rebel group which came to power in 1991, dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition.
    The TPLF says Abiy wants to end the ethnically-based federal government system they created; Abiy says the TPLF is hungry to return to national power. Each side rejects the other’s narrative.
    Biden commended Abiy on the recent release of several political prisoners, the White House said.
    Some TPLF leaders were among opposition leaders freed from prison, the Ethiopian state broadcaster announced on Friday, as the government said it would begin dialogue with political opponents.
    Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation, is a major power in the Horn of Africa.    The United States has long partnered with Ethiopia to try to contain Islamist militants in neighbouring Somalia.
    But relations have become more tense since the Tigray conflict broke out.    Ethiopia previously accused Washington of meddling in its internal affairs.
    The United States recently cut Ethiopia from access to a duty-free trade programme, following through on Biden’s threat to do so over alleged human rights violations in Tigray.
(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon and Kanishka Singh; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Catherine Evans)

1/10/2022 No To “Minority Propaganda” In French Schools, Far-Right’s Zemmour Says
French far-right commentator Eric Zemmour, candidate for the 2022 French presidential election, surrounded
by Jacline Mouraud, his campaign spokesman Guillaume Peltier, Laurence Trochu and Philippe de Villiers,
delivers a New Year's speech to the press in Paris, France, January 10, 2022. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
    PARIS (Reuters) – French far-right candidate Eric Zemmour on Monday attacked anti-racist and anti-homophobia groups in schools, saying they were brainwashing pupils, as he urged a return to a more conservative education system.
    Zemmour is competing with the more established far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and conservative Valerie Pecresse to challenge center-right President Emmanuel Macron in April’s presidential election.    He currently polls fourth.
    “Over the past 40 years, our children have been indoctrinated,” Zemmour, who has been convicted for inciting racial hatred, told reporters.    “Schools cannot be the place where LGBT and anti-racism ideologies brainwash our children.”
    The career journalist and political commentator, who emerged on the political stage over the summer, has pegged his campaign on nostalgia of an idealised past, which was highlighted as he outlined his education plan.
    Children, he said, would need to wear a smock in primary schools, something that was quite common decades ago.    And he would re-establish a “certificat d’etudes” diploma at the end of primary school, a requirement largely scrapped more than 50 years ago as children increasingly made it to high school.
    Foreign language classes would be dropped from primary schools so children can focus on French and maths, and the study of Greek and Latin in high school would be promoted.
    School benefits would be suspended for parents of unruly children.
    Zemmour, 63, is socially conservative, against gay marriage, and has said his presidential bid was aimed at “saving France” from decadence.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Richard Chang)

1/10/2022 Parthenon Fragment Returns To Greece, Rekindling Campaign For UK To Hand Over Marbles by Deborah Kyvrikosaios
A fragment of the Parthenon temple, on loan from the Antonino Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum of Palermo, is displayed
at the Parthenon Gallery of the Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece, January 10, 2022. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
(Refiles to make clear in paragraph 11 that Greek denial refers to UK position that Elgin acquired marbles legally)
    ATHENS (Reuters) – A marble fragment of the Parthenon temple has been returned to Athens from a museum in Sicily, a move officials hope will advance efforts to have the British Museum send back ancient sculptures from Greece’s most renowned ancient landmark.
    Athens’ Acropolis Museum presented on Monday the “Fagan fragment,” a 35-by-31-centimetre marble fragment showing the foot of the seated ancient Greek goddess Artemis brought home from the Antonio Salinas Archaeological Museum in Palermo.
    “It is marvellous that Sicilian and Italian friends thought to bring it back where it was born,” Acropolis Museum Director Nikolaos Stampolidis said of the fragment, once part of the temple’s eastern frieze.
    It is to be placed in the Parthenon Gallery – a glass-walled chamber with a view of the Parthenon that displays sculptures of the temple’s 160-metre-(520-foot)-long frieze in the same position as they were on the original monument, with plaster copies replacing pieces that are now mainly in the British Museum.     “We hope that this first step taken by Sicily can encourage a similar decision in other countries,” said Antonio Salinas Museum Director Caterina Greco.
    Part of Sicily’s cultural heritage agreement, which provides for transfers and exchanges of artefacts between museums, the Parthenon fragment will be loaned to Athens for four years with a renewal option for another four, but talks are underway between governments for the piece to remain permanently.
    In return, the Acropolis Museum will loan Palermo a 5th century BC headless statue of the goddess Athena and an 8th century BC amphora from the Geometric period for four years.
    The Parthenon fragment was part of the collection of the 19th century British consul general to Sicily, Robert Fagan, a diplomat and archaeologist, before it was purchased by the Royal University of Palermo in 1820 from his widow after his death.    It is not clear how Fagan first acquired it.
    The “Fagan fragment” is the first piece of the sculptures of the Parthenon – Greece’s most renowned 5th century BC monument – to return to Greece from a foreign museum.
    Athens has campaigned to have the “Elgin Marbles”, as they are often known – 75 metres of Parthenon frieze, 15 metopes and 17 sculptures – returned from the British Museum since they were removed by British diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th century when he was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire then ruling Greece.
    The British Museum bought the marbles in 1816 and British officials say they had been acquired legally by Elgin, a claim Greece denies.    The British Museum says there are no current discussions with the Greek government on their return.
    “They are essentially providing the road map on how the permanent return of the Parthenon marbles to Athens could be organised,” said Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni, referring to the loan by Italy. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has offered to loan significant artefacts to Britain in return for the marbles, after decades of rejected appeals.
    “(This) paves the way for the British Museum to enter into serious discussions with the Greek authorities in order to find a solution that would be mutually acceptable,” Mitsotakis said during the presentation.
    When Mitsotakis visited Downing Street in November, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told him that the issue was one for the British Museum and not for his government.
    “I did raise the issue when I visited,” Mitsotakis said on Monday.    “I felt encouraged by (Johnson’s) statement…that the British government would not oppose a possible agreement that could be reached between (Greece) and the British Museum.”
    In March last year Johnson told a Greek newspaper that Britain was the legal owner of the marbles.
    Recently European countries such as France, Spain and Germany have stepped up to return looted artefacts in their museums back to their African countries of origin.
    “When there is a will, there is a way.    Sooner or later this will happen,” Mitsotakis said of the marbles returning from Britain.
(Refiles to make clear in paragraph 11 that Greek denial refers to UK position that Elgin acquired marbles legally)
(Reporting and writing by Deborah Kyvrikosaios; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

1/10/2022 U.S. Undeterred By China Sanctions On Religious Freedom Officials - Blinken
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in the briefing room of the State
Department in Washington, U.S. January 7, 2022. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China’s sanctions against four members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom are another affront against universal rights, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.
    “We remain undeterred by these actions” and stand in solidarity with commission members and staff, Blinken said in a statement.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu)

1/10/2022 Ecuador’s Lasso To Visit China In February For Debt Negotiations by Alexandra Valencia
FILE PHOTO: Ecuador's President-elect Guillermo Lasso speaks to
media in Quito, Ecuador April 12, 2021. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez/File Photo
    QUITO (Reuters) – Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso will travel to China at the start of February to renegotiate terms of the South American country’s debt to Beijing, Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Holguin said on Monday.
    In a bid to lower the strain of the outstanding credit for the next three years, conservative former banker Lasso plans to visit China on Feb. 3.    He will also seek to sign a memorandum of understanding to begin negotiations regarding a bilateral trade deal, as well as touching on other themes such as environmental sustainability.
    “The issue is dealing with our current debt-payment mechanisms in a transparent and direct manner,” Holguin told to journalists.    “They’re innovative proposals that have broad interest in the international community and we believe that China will be able to accept some of these mechanisms.”
    Ecuador owes China more than $5 billion, the majority of which is slated to be paid in the next three years, which is why Lasso will present new proposals for debt payments to his counterpart Xi Jinping, Holguin said, adding that initial meetings had so far been positive.
    In the last decade China has become Ecuador’s primary financial partner, with crude for credit agreements, open credit arrangements and multi-million dollar investments in the mining industry and dams.
    Since taking power last May, Lasso has turned to multilateral organizations to secure the finance needed to boost Ecuador’s economy, which was battered by the pandemic.    In 2021, he renegotiated a loan agreement for $6.5 billion with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and has not ruled out returning to capital markets this year.
    At the same time Ecuador’s relationship with the United States has seen progress, Holguin said, adding they will focus on security and human rights, as well as negotiations for a trade agreement with Washington.
(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

1/10/2022 Paris Attacks Trial Set To Resume, French Media Report
FILE PHOTO: Salah Abdeslam, one of the suspects in the 2015 Islamic State attacks in Paris, appears
in court during his trial in Brussels, Belgium February 5, 2018. REUTERS/Emmanuel Dunand/Pool
    PARIS (Reuters) – The main suspect in the November 2015 Islamist attack that killed 130 people in Paris has recovered from his COVID-19 infection, allowing the trial into the attacks to resume soon, French media reported on Monday.
    Salah Abdeslam “is in a position (…) to attend the hearing by the criminal court” according to a medical expertise seen by French public television France Television, which said on its website that the accused will be able to attend the trial’s next session on Tuesday.
    Abdeslam, 31, is believed by prosecutors to be the only surviving member of the Islamic State cell that carried out the gun-and-bomb attacks on bars, restaurants, the Bataclan concert hall and the Stade de France stadium on Nov. 13, 2015.
    The trial, which began in September in a specially designed courtroom at Paris’s historical Palace of Justice, is one of the most complex – and most closely followed – in modern French history.
    It was halted earlier this month due to Abdeslam’s health status.
(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel)

1/10/2022 Italy’s COVID Woes Mainly Caused By Unvaccinated, Draghi Says
FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi gestures as he holds his end-of-year
news conference in Rome, Italy, December 22, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    ROME (Reuters) – The small number of Italians who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 are largely responsible for the continued health crisis, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Monday.
    The government last week made vaccinations mandatory for everyone aged over 50, one of very few European countries to take such a step, in an attempt to ease pressure on its hospitals as new cases surge.
    “We must never lose sight of the fact that most of the problems we have today are because there are non-vaccinated people,” Draghi told a news conference.    “For the umpteenth time, I invite all those Italians who are not yet vaccinated to do so, and to get the third shot.”
    Health Minister Roberto Speranza said 89.4% of all those aged 12 and over had received at least one vaccine dose, yet the unvaccinated accounted for two-thirds of all the COVID patients in intensive care units.
    Latest data released on Monday showed there were 1,606 people in intensive care with COVID, up 11 on the previous day, while the country reported 101,762 new cases and 227 additional deaths over the past 24 hours.
    Piling further pressure on people to get inoculated, new restrictions came into force on Monday banning those not yet vaccinated from entering bars and restaurants or from using public transport.
    Only those who have recently recovered from COVID-19 will be exempted from the new rule.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer and Angelo Amante; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

1/10/2022 France Eases COVID Protocols In Schools Amid Omicron Surge – PM
FILE PHOTO: Schoolchildren, wearing protective face masks, work in a classroom at the College Jean Renoir
Middle School in Boulogne-Billancourt, near Paris, France, January 7, 2022. REUTERS/Yiming Woo/File Photo
    PARIS (Reuters) – French schoolchildren will be allowed to do self-tests instead of a PCR test if one of their classmates is infected with the coronavirus as soaring new infections have made the health protocol in schools too heavy, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Monday.
    “I have understood the worries of the parents, teachers and school headmasters,” Castex told France 2 television, after a surge in cases due to the Omicron variant led to chaos and paralysis in French schools over the last week.
    “Today, 10,452 classes had to close.    If we were to shut down classes as soon as there is one first case, having in mind the explosion of Omicron, all French schools would be closed in a matter of days,” Castex said.
    From now on, three negative self-tests instead of a PCR test will be enough proof for a child to continue to attend school, Castex said.
    He added that as an additional measure parents will not immediately be asked to pick up their children in case of a COVID-19 outbreak.    Instead the schools will be allowed to wait until the end of the school day.
    France is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases with a runaway Omicron infection rate boosting hospitalisations on Monday by biggest increase since April 2021.
(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel, Editing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Sandra Maler)

1/10/2022 As Less-Lethal Omicron Surges, Europeans Ease Restrictions by Clara-Laeila Laudette and Elias Biryabarema
Students sit in a classroom as they resume classes at the I.T.C Di Vittorio - I.T.I. Lattanzio secondary school
as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases surge across the country and with new rules in place as part of the
government's efforts to maintain in-person learning, in Rome, Italy, January 10, 2022. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
    MADRID/KAYUNGA, Uganda (Reuters) – European governments are relaxing COVID-19 rules to keep hospitals, schools and emergency services going as the much more contagious but less lethal Omicron variant changes their approach to the pandemic.
    Even though a record surge in infections has yet to peak in Europe, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the time was right to start evaluating the disease’s evolution “with different parameters.”
    The mass return of children to school after the Christmas holidays is evidence that few wish to see a return to the online-only learning that marked some of the early waves of infection.
    Even as France registered a record seven-day average of almost 270,000 cases a day, it eased testing protocols for schoolchildren, saying too many classes were closed.
    In Uganda, students returned to institutions shut nearly two years ago.    The lockout helped to control the pandemic – with only 3,300 deaths recorded – but the government estimates about a third of pupils will never return.
    “We faced temptations,” said 16-year-old Rachael Nalwanga, happily returning to classes while many of her former schoolmates worked in new jobs or cared for new babies.    “It has not been easy for me to keep safe at home for this long but I thank God,” she told Reuters in the town of Kayunga.
    Governments in Europe also imposed severe lockdowns in the first phases of the pandemic — with enormous damage to economies — but now want to avoid that, knowing that Omicron is putting far fewer people in hospital, not least because many or most are vaccinated.
    They are also suffering immediate staff shortages in essential services as Omicron drives a surge in positive tests.
    In France, the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 rose by 767, the biggest increase since last April 2021, although the total number, at 22,749 was still around two-thirds of the peak, set in November 2020.
    Britain began using military personnel to support healthcare and alerted its biggest private health company that it might be required to deliver treatments including cancer surgery.
    Spain was bringing back retired medics. In Italy, the challenge of nearly 13,000 health workers being absent with positive COVID-19 tests was compounded by suspensions for non-vaccination.
    Britain, Switzerland, Spain and Belgium have all slashed quarantine periods and eased conditions for staff to return to work.
    The Czech Republic followed suit on Monday, saying critical staff including teachers, social workers and doctors could keep working even after testing positive.
    Since before Christmas, Spain has let staff return to work without taking a test.
    The Health Ministry has also set a viral load threshold below which an infected person who takes a PCR test can be considered non-infectious, and so fit to work – enabling medics, social workers and some police to report for duty even if they test positive.
    As school classes resumed in Spain, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands and parts of Germany, youngsters faced an array of measures, from masks and fans in classrooms to parents not being allowed past the gates and the prospect of a return to home learning if case numbers exceeded certain limits.
    Some parents fretted that their children might be exposed, but others were relieved.
    “I think this (virus) will always be part of our lives so it’s important for them to socialise,” said Ana Amado, 33, dropping off her 11-year-old, Miguel, at a school in Lisbon.
    And increasingly, there is hope of an end to the nightmare.
    The variant is waning in southern Africa, where it was first detected in November.
    One former senior World Health Organization official predicted that Omicron would be the pandemic’s last big kick.
    “Pandemics don’t end with a huge boom but with small waves because so many have been infected or vaccinated,” Rafael Bengoa, also co-founder of Bilbao’s Institute for Health and Strategy, told Reuters.
    “After Omicron we shouldn’t have to be concerned with anything more than small waves.”
    Passions over vaccines have been stoked by the saga of Serbia’s world tennis number one, Novak Djokovic.    He was freed from immigration detention after winning a legal case to stay in Australia where he is chasing a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam.
    Djokovic, an opponent of mandatory vaccination, had been held in a row over a medical exemption to let him play in the Australian Open.
    There were political frictions in France, too, where ruling party member Stephane Claireaux said he had been attacked by protesters demonstrating against COVID health passes.
    Pope Francis weighed into the debate, backing immunisation and warning against ideological stances bolstered by “baseless information” and “poorly documented facts.”
    Australia, which had been relatively shielded, surpassed 1 million cases, with more than half occurring in the past week.
    India, too, has seen an eight-fold rise in daily infections over the past 10 days, though hospitalisations are far lower than in the previous wave driven by the Delta variant.
(Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette, Nathan Allen and Inti Landauro in Madrid; Elias Biryabarema in Kayunga; Alistair Smout in London; Emilio Parodi in Milan; Phil Pullella in Rome; Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Krishna N. Das in New Delhi; Catarina Demony in Lisbon; Jason Hovet in Prague; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Catherine Evans and Kevin Liffey)

1/10/2022 Chile, A Vaccine Front-Runner, Launches Fourth COVID Dose by Natalia A. Ramos Miranda
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker prepares a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
at a mobile vaccine clinic, in Valparaiso, Chile, January 3, 2022. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido
    SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile, one of the world’s fastest movers on COVID-19 vaccines, started its campaign to give fourth doses on Monday to immunocompromised people, a regional first , as infections rise driven by the fast spread of the Omicron variant.
    The South American country has seen daily infections rise to over 4,000, doubling over the last week, government data show, a reflection of soaring infections globally, despite hopes over data suggesting Omicron may be less fatal, if more contagious.
    “This vaccine, this fourth dose or second booster dose, will be available to everyone. We start today with immunocompromised people and we will continue with maximum speed,” said Chile’s President     Sebastian Pinera at a hospital in capital Santiago.
    The campaign began with people aged 12 or older with compromised immunity who received their first booster dose up until last September.    The process will be extended to the general population of people aged over 55 years in February.
    “This shows a great advance in terms of health issues,” said Maria Isabel Sandoval, a 61-year-old retired teacher with cancer, who received her dose in a health center in the municipality of La Florida, in the southeast of the capital.
    “It is like being a little bit ahead of things.”
    Carla Riquelme, 37, a nurse technician who had breast cancer, agreed.
    “As infections rise, it is ideal to get vaccinated again, to have more booster doses.    I feel calmer,” she said.
    Since the end of 2020, Chile has fully inoculated more than 14 million people – out of a population of 19 million – while 11.3 million people have already received a third booster dose, according to data from the Ministry of Health.
(Reporting by Natalia Ramos and Reuters TV; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Lisa Shumaker)

1/10/2022 U.S. Pushed Back On Russian Security Proposals In Geneva Meeting, Official Says
FILE PHOTO: Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman takes off her mask to speak on the situation in
Afghanistan at the State Department in Washington, DC, U.S. August 18, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Monday said that the United States was firm in pushing back on security proposals that are “non-starters” during talks with her Russian counterpart in Geneva, and added Washington won’t allow anyone to slam shut NATO’s open door policy.
    U.S. officials had frank and forthright discussions with the Russian delegation over the course of nearly eight hours and is open to meeting again soon to discuss U.S.-Russian issues in more detail, Sherman said.
    The Russian delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, laid out Russia demands first presented last month, including a ban on further NATO expansion and an end to the military alliance’s activity in central and eastern European countries that joined it after 1997, Sherman told reporters in a call following the meeting.
    The U.S. side was “firm” in pushing back on proposals that the West says are “non-starters,” she said.
    “We will not allow anyone to slam closed NATO’s open door policy,” she said, while insisting that the United States would not make decisions for other countries without them.
    Nearly 100,000 Russian troops are gathered within reach of the border with Ukraine in preparation for what Washington and Kyiv say could be an invasion, eight years after Russia seized the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine.
    Russia denies invasion plans and said it is responding to what it calls aggressive and provocative behavior from the NATO military alliance and Ukraine, which has tilted toward the West and aspires to join NATO.
    Sherman, the No. 2 diplomat at the State Department, will meet with U.S. allies in Brussels ahead of a NATO-Russia meeting on Wednesday and an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe meeting in Vienna on Thursday.
    U.S. and Russian officials would speak again at the end of the week to decide on a way forward.
(Reporting by Simon Lewis, Arshad Mohammed, Doina Chiacu and Daphne Psaledakis; editing by Grant McCool)

1/11/2022 Oil down $0.71 to $78.25, DOW down 163 to 36,068.

1/11/2022 Rep. Jordan won’t comply with Jan. 6 committee - Says Democrats’ biases have soiled investigation by Matthew Brown, USA TODAY
    WASHINGTON – GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio won’t comply with a request that he testify before the Jan. 6 select committee investigating the Capitol attack.
    In a letter published to Twitter, Jordan wrote he “has no relevant information” for the committee, while arguing the legislators were too biased in their investigation.
    “Even if I had information to share with the Select Committee, the actions and statements of Democrats in the House of Representatives show that you are not conducting a fair-minded and objective inquiry,” Jordan wrote.
    The committee was established to investigate the circumstances that caused a pro-Trump mob to ransack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, briefly stopping lawmakers from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.
    Jordan, a close ally of former President Donald Trump who voted against certifying the election results, argued that the select committee was being conducted under a “double standard” by Democrats who were using their investigative powers as a “partisan cudgel” to target Republicans.
    In December, it was revealed that Jordan had forwarded messages to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows detailing obscure legal theories proposing that former Vice President Mike Pence could overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
    In October, Jordan said that he’d spoken with Trump on Jan. 6 after the Capitol attack, stressing that he did not speak with the former president during the riot and that “all I’m saying is I had nothing to do with any of this.”
    In his letter, released Sunday evening, Jordan said he could not comment on ongoing investigations from federal law enforcement about the Capitol riot.    He further accused Democrats of using divisive rhetoric, citing the second impeachment of Trump as evidence that the findings of the select committee’s work are preordained.
    The select committee has requested or subpoenaed documents and testimony from dozens of individuals, including several with close ties to Trump, like Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, Meadows and Roger Stone.
    In December, the House voted to hold Meadows in criminal contempt for his refusal to comply with the select committee.
    Lawmakers are considering similar votes for other subpoenaed individuals who refuse to comply.    Jordan’s decision is similar to that of Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the only other lawmaker asked to testify before the committee.    This month, the select committee will also seek voluntary testimony from Pence about his role and experience of the Jan. 6 attack.
    In the wake of the Capitol attack, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed interest in establishing an independent board modeled after the 9/11 commission that could probe the root causes of the riot.
    Senate Republicans stonewalled the establishment of such a committee and further opposed the creation of a joint bipartisan committee between the two chambers.
    After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., established the select committee, House Minority Leader Kevin Mc-Carthy, R-Calif., then nominated several Republicans, including Jordan, to serve on the select committee.
    Pelosi rejected Jordan’s nomination, arguing he and Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., were persons of interest in the committee’s investigation and otherwise badfaith actors. McCarthy then withdrew all GOP nominees to the committee.
    Afterward, Pelosi selected GOP Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois to serve on the committee.

1/11/2022 Canada’s Ontario Province To Reopen Schools From Jan 17
FILE PHOTO: Nora and Willa Stief during online school while their parents work from home
and take care of a toddler amid surging COVID-19 cases caused by the coronavirus
Omicron variant, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada January 7, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio
    (Reuters) – Canada’s Ontario province will reopen schools for in-person learning on Jan. 17, Premier Doug Ford’s office said in a statement.
    Ontario, which is Canada’s most-populous province, had last week decided to shut all schools until at least that date, amid a surge in coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron variant.
    The province had then cited staff absenteeism due to infections as an issue and expected it to rise and affect operations in schools as well as workplaces.
(Reporting by Rachna Dhanrajani and Jaiveer Shekhawat in Bengaluru; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

1/11/2022 U.S. Senators Say Cruz Sanctions On Nord Stream 2 Could Harm Relations With Germany by Richard Cowan and Timothy Gardner
FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is seen on a
large-diameter pipe at the Chelyabinsk Pipe Rolling Plant owned by ChelPipe Group
in Chelyabinsk, Russia, February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Several Democratic U.S. senators said late on Monday, after meeting with Biden administration officials, that they believe sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline backed by Republican Senator Ted Cruz could harm relations with Germany.
    Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and President Joe Biden’s global energy security adviser Amos Hochstein met on Monday behind closed doors with about 10 Democratic senators who have been undecided on the Cruz bill.
    The legislation is expected to get a Senate vote this week after both parties struck a deal last month, in which Cruz released his hold on dozens of Biden ambassador nominations.    The deal requires the bill to get 60 votes — a high hurdle in the 50-50 Senate.    The bill would also have to pass in the House and be signed by President Joe Biden, a Democrat.
    Several senators told reporters that the administration officials were persuasive.    Senator Chris Murphy said they made the case that Cruz’s bill could harm relations with Germany’s new government right when Washington needs its support to pressure Russia against an invasion of Ukraine.
    “I think their case is right,” Murphy said.    “The Cruz amendment would make a Russian invasion more likely.    There’s no sense to be sanctioning the new German government when they have just switched their position to finally put the pipeline on ice.”
    The pipeline to take Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany was finished in September but may not be approved until the middle of the year after Germany has slowed approvals.
    Germany’s ruling coalition is divided over Nord Stream 2, with the Social Democrats supporting the pipeline as the country is hungry for natural gas after shutting nuclear and coal plants.        But one of its junior coalition partners, the Greens, oppose Nord Stream 2.
    U.S. and Russian officials met on Monday in Geneva as Washington tries to dissuade Moscow from a new invasion of Ukraine after massing nearly 100,000 troops along its border.
    The Biden administration has opposed Nord Stream 2 as it would bypass Ukraine, depriving it of lucrative transit fees, and potentially undermining its struggle against Russia.
    But last year the administration lifted sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, the company controlling the project, to smooth relations with Germany and other European allies that became soured after former President Donald Trump ditched agreements on climate, Iran and other issues.
    Senator Dick Durbin said legislation being formed by fellow Democratic Senator Robert Menendez is preferable and sends a “strong message to Putin.”    Still, Durbin said he did not know when a vote on Menendez’s legislation would come.
    Senator Tim Kaine, said if an alternate to the Cruz bill emerges he wants to compare them.
    Kaine said he had a number of worries about a measure in Cruz’s bill that would allow Congress to vote to reinstate sanctions should the president waive them.
    Ned Price, the State Department spokesperson said last week Cruz’s bill would undermine the united front in response to Russia.
    Senator Jon Tester did not say whether he would vote against the Cruz bill, but said the Biden officials made a “very salient” point about needing Germany’s support against a reinvasion of Ukraine by Russia.
    “The message was it would hurt the negotiations that have been going on with Germany … in regards to Russia’s impact on Ukraine,” Tester said.    “We got to make sure if we’re going to do sanctions, the sanctions are focused on the problem and not on collateral,” Tester said.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Richard Cowan, additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

1/11/2022 Haiti’s Outgoing Senate Chief To Continue Holding Sessions As Term Expires
Haitian Senate President, Joseph Lambert, and Prime minister Jack Guy Lafontant speak before
a news conference in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
    (Reuters) – The outgoing leader of Haiti’s senate on Monday said he would continue to lead sessions despite his term in office expiring, amid continued weakening of state institutions following last year’s assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
    Joseph Lambert, who led the senate for one year, said Haiti must hold elections in 2022 to restore state institutions whose legitimacy is increasingly in question.
    “We are living in a vacuum, with no constituted power, everything has become illegal,” Lambert told reporters.    “In any case, 2022 will be an election year.”
    Haiti was supposed to hold elections in 2020 to form a new legislature, but the vote was suspended due to disputes about the legitimacy of the elections council.
    The Caribbean nation was left in a political power vacuum when Moise in July was assassinated in a nighttime raid on his home.
    Prime Minister Ariel Henry took office following Moise’s murder on promises to promptly hold elections, but that vote was also suspended after an August earthquake and no new date has been set. The country remains without an elections council.
    “Our priority is elections,” said a spokesman for the prime minister’s office when asked about Lambert’s comments.    “We need to create the (elections council) first to have credible, fair and clean elections.”
(Reporting by Gessika Thomas in Port-au-Prince and Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Editing by Chris Reese)

1/11/2022 Nicaragua’s Ortega Sworn In For Fourth Term As U.S., EU Impose Sanctions by Daphne Psaledakis and Robin Emmott
President of Nicaragua's National Assembly Gustavo Porras and Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega hold hands
next to Vice President Rosario Murillo, during the inauguration of Ortega's fourth consecutive term in office,
in Managua, Nicaragua, January 10, 2022. Zurimar Campos/Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was sworn into office for his fourth consecutive term on Monday, hours after the United States and European Union imposed sanctions on several figures in his government following elections Washington has called a “sham.”
    Ortega won the Nov. 7 poll after most of his political foes were jailed, prompting widespread condemnation.    U.S. President Joe Biden called the election a “pantomime,” accusing the former Marxist guerrilla and Cold War adversary of the United States of growing authoritarianism.
    Most Western and regional nations shunned the inauguration ceremony on Monday evening, though leftist leaders such as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz Canel flew in to show their support.
    China, which recently established ties with Nicaragua, also sent a delegation.
    In a measured speech mostly focused on the history of the Sandinista rebellion against former U.S.-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza, Ortega vowed to keep “growing dreams and building roads” for the Nicaraguan people.
    But Ortega’s opponents say the leader now presides over a government akin to that of Somoza, who was toppled by Ortega’s leftist Sandinista guerrillas in 1979.
    Laura Chinchilla, the former president of Costa Rica, called Ortega a “dictator” ahead of the ceremony.
    “He shows his back to a people who did not vote for him, isolated from the world that does not recognize his election, under a legacy of horror and pain,” Chinchilla said on Twitter.
    Ortega’s government, in power since 2007, did not respond to a request for comment.
    Earlier in the day, the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Nicaraguan officials, including the defense minister.
    The sanctions come after a series of other actions Washington has coordinated with allies in recent months to increase pressure on Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.
    Ortega’s first stint in power ended in 1990 and upon returning as president in 2007, he quickly set about gaining control of key state institutions, analysts say.
    Election observers from the European Union and the Organization of American States were not allowed to scrutinize November’s poll, and journalists were barred from entering Nicaragua.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States and partners would “continue to call out the Ortega-Murillo regime’s ongoing abuses and will deploy diplomatic and economic tools to support the restoration of democracy and respect for human rights in Nicaragua.”
    The U.S. Treasury Department said in a separate statement it imposed sanctions on six Nicaraguan officials over accusations of state acts of violence, disinformation and targeting of independent media.
    The Treasury action targeted the minister of defense as well as officials of the military, the company overseeing telecommunications and postal services, and the state-owned Nicaraguan Mining Company.
    The U.S. State Department is also taking steps to impose visa restrictions on 116 people it accused of undermining democracy in Nicaragua, Blinken said, barring some mayors, prosecutors and police, prison and military officials, among others, from entering the United States.
    Responding to the moves against him, Ortega said in his speech the United States and the European Union did not have the moral authority to impose sanctions.
    “They don’t respect international laws,” Ortega said.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Paul Grant in Washington and Robin Emmott in Brussels; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Alistair Bell and Karishma Singh)

1/11/2022 NYC To Allow Non-Citizens To Vote In Municipal Elections by OAN Newsroom
Mayor Eric Adamsis pictured Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
    New York City Mayor Eric Adams approved legislation giving more than 800,000 non-citizens access to the ballot box.    The Democrat allowed the measure to go into law Sunday and unless a judge stops it’s implementation, the city’s non-U.S. citizens will now have the chance to vote in municipal elections.
    This includes Green Card holders and recipients of Deferred Action who have lived in the Big Apple for at least 30 days and those authorized to work in the U.S.    He said despite initial concerns, he believes its critical residents of a local municipality have the ability to choose who governs them.
    “I believe that people who are here during COVID, our legal residents, they did not flee the city, they stayed here, they provided a service,” Adams stated.    “My concerns around the 30 days, I sat down with my colleagues, we came to a good understanding, and I think it’s more important to see the bill move forward and allow it to happen.”
    While NYC joins more than a dozen other communities in the U.S. allowing non-citizens to vote, the Republican delegation of New York has not held back in sharing their opposition of the measure.    They say it’s a “dangerous attack” on election integrity and unconstitutional, previously stating they would pursue every legal action to see the law struck down.
    Meanwhile, this is not the first controversial decision the newly appointed mayor has made during his first week.    Adams recently hired his younger brother, Bernard Adams, as deputy commissioner to the NYPD who he says is best suited for the job citing an increase in white supremacy and hate crimes.
    “My brother has a community affairs background, the balance that I need,” stated the mayor.    “He understands law enforcement, he was a 20-year retired veteran from the police department and I need someone that I trust around me during these times for my security.    And I trust my brother deeply.”
    The Democrat affirmed he doesn’t want to stray away from the public, adding the type of security he wants is unique.    In the meantime, Adams said the city’s conflict of interest board is undergoing the process to determine his hire.

1/11/2022 Chicago Teachers Union Suspends Strike, Vote On Proposal To Reopen Expected Wed. by OAN Newsroom
Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Obama Presidential Center at
Jackson Park on September 28, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
    Students are headed back to school in the Windy City as the Chicago Teachers Union ends its strike. Late Monday night, the union’s House of Delegates voted to suspend its remote work action after cancelling classes four-days in a row.
    The union said the suspension will remain in effect while members vote on an agreement made between the Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Lori Lightfoot.    The agreement includes a joint effort to boost COVID testing and school safety metrics, including schools to shift to remote learning for five days if 30 percent of teachers are absent for two consecutive days.
    The union’s 25,000 members will vote on the proposal this week with officials hoping schools will reopen on Wednesday.    This move came after Lightfoot criticized her city’s teachers union over its decision to close schools.    During an interview Sunday, the Democrat said the Chicago Teachers Union did an illegal walkout while abandoning their posts and their students.
    The teacher’s union proposed an extension for remote learning last week, but Lightfoot denied their request.    The union also demanded that schools randomly test at least 10 percent of the student and staff population every week at every school. Additionally, it requested in-person learning be paused for 14 days citywide if positivity rates reach certain specified levels.
    However, Lightfoot pointed out that the absolute wrong thing to do is to abandon the science and data that shows in-person learning is best for students.
    “They have chose to do unilateral action that is doing nothing but harming children, harming their families, disrupting our system at a time when we need everybody to be unified,” stated the mayor.    “We need our kids in school for in person learning.”
    Lightfoot said Chicago Public Schools’ decision to cancel class for three straight days last week has had cascading ripple effects not only on students in their learning, social and emotional welfare, but also on the families.    She argued parents are outraged while pointing out 70 percent or more of students in the district qualify for free or reduced lunch.    This means many children live in households which are poor and working class.
    “So we’re drawing a line: enough is enough,” the mayor continued.    “I’m tired of the Groundhogs Day appearance of everything that goes on with Chicago Teachers Union leadership.    We need partnership, we don’t need conflict right now.”
In the meantime, Lightfoot hopes to come to an agreement at the bargaining table and not in a courtroom.

1/11/2022 L.A. Residents Flock To Buy Guns For Their Own Safety by OAN Newsroom
A police officer works behind a broken glass door at the scene of a Calif. crime. (AP Photo)
    Liberal policies have people running for the hills to protect themselves with firearms.    As the Los Angeles area sees no slow down in robberies, car thefts and home invasions, residents are taking their safety into their own hands.
    The owner of Beverly Hills Guns, Russell Stuart, said his sales are booming since the city has experienced a 25 percent rise in violent crime.
    “Firearms and public safety is not a rich issue,” he stated.    “We’ve seen an uptick in watch robberies, car thefts, follow-home invasions because of the climate of crime in Beverly Hills and throughout the Greater Los Angeles area.    People have been drive more to focus on their own personal safety.”
    In one morning, Stuart sold about six firearms in just the span of an hour.    He said his customers who come in to the store range from film producers, actors and real estate moguls.    All of which who once considered themselves anti-gun, have begun to turn to the Second Amendment for protection.
    The gun store owner encouraged his customers to visit shooting ranges, so they can better understand how to handle a firearm properly.

1/11/2022 Germany’s SPD Expects Vote On General Vaccine Mandate In March
FILE PHOTO: A nurse prepares a booster dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, Spikevax, against the coronavirus
disease at a vaccination centre in Berlin, Germany, January 1, 2022. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi/File Photo
    BERLIN (Reuters) – The ruling Social Democrats (SPD) expect a bill on making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory in Germany to be voted on by parliament in March, the party’s leader in the legislature said on Tuesday.
    Parliament passed a law in December making coronavirus vaccinations compulsory for certain professions from mid-March onwards.
    The country is now facing a fourth wave of infections and its rate of vaccination remains relatively low compared with some other parts of Europe.
    The SPD plans to have an expanded vaccine mandate proposal ready after a parliamentary debate at the end of January, said the SPD’s Rolf Muetzenich.
    Chancellor Olaf Scholz supports a general mandate and was hoping to put it into effect by the end of February, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters last year.
    Muetzenich said the lower house would vote on a draft law in March.
    “I am very confident that the majority of the SPD parliamentary group will vote in favour,” Muetzenich said.
    Earlier on Tuesday, Germany’s opposition conservatives said they were open to discussing a general vaccination mandate, adding that the parliamentary debate should take place independent of the impact of the Omicron variant.
    “We are ready for it,” said Ralph Brinkhaus, leader of the CDU/CSU conservative bloc in the lower house, adding that a mandate would not be able to break the current wave of infections.
    Germany reported 45,690 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, 50% more than a week ago.    Some 72% of Germany’s population is double vaccinated against the virus and around 43.5% have received a booster shot.
    Neighbouring Austria, which like Germany has a relatively low rate of vaccination, announced plans in November to make vaccines compulsory for people aged 14 and over as of February.
(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; editing by John Stonestreet)

1/11/2022 ‘Bring Your Own Booze’ Lockdown Party Heaps Pressure On UK PM Johnson by Alistair Smout and William James
FILE PHOTO: Street cleaner works outside Downing Street in
London, Britain, December 8, 2021. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
    LONDON (Reuters) – Boris Johnson’s leadership faced its most serious threat yet on Tuesday after it emerged his private secretary invited over 100 people to a “bring your own booze” party at the British Prime Minister’s official residence during a coronavirus lockdown.
    Johnson, who won a landslide election victory in 2019, has faced intense scrutiny over the past month after a video emerged showing his staff laughing and joking about a different party also held in Downing Street during a 2020 Christmas lockdown.
    Revelations about a series of gatherings that took place in the heart of government have been widely criticised and prompted opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer to accuse Johnson of lacking the moral authority to lead the country.
    The latest, if substantiated by an internal inquiry, would be the most damaging yet for Johnson’s future.    His own lawmakers show signs of losing patience after a series of scandals, and polls show Johnson’s Conservative Party slipping behind Labour.
    Johnson and his partner Carrie were among those who gathered with about 40 staff in the garden of Downing Street on May 20, 2020, after the PM’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds sent an invite by email using the pronoun “we,” ITV reported.
    Johnson’s spokesman declined to comment on the report.
    At the time, schools were shut to most pupils, and pubs and restaurants were closed, with strict controls on social mixing.    Police prosecuted revellers, and people were prevented from bidding farewell in person to dying relatives.
    “If the prime minister broke the law, he will resign won’t he?” Labour lawmaker Ben Bradshaw asked Paymaster General Michael Ellis who sat alone on the government’s front bench in parliament to answer in place of Johnson.
    “The prime minister is going nowhere,” Ellis said, to Labour jeers.    Ellis apologised unreservedly for the upset that the allegations had caused.
    Only a smattering of Conservative lawmakers attended the debate, and few spoke in support of Johnson.
    Labour’s Afzal Khan, asking if Johnson would apologise to bereaved families for holding such parties, related how his mother had died alone in hospital in 2020 while he sat in a car outside.
    “Even burdened with our grief, my family obeyed the rules,” Khan said.
    A snap poll by Savanta ComRes showed 66% thought Johnson should resign, up 12 percentage points from a poll taken in December after the reports of Christmas parties.    It said 42% of those who voted for Johnson in 2019 thought he should quit, up 9 points.    The pollster interviewed a weighted sample of 1,040 adults online on Tuesday.
    A YouGov poll of 5,391 people showed a similar increase in those who thought Johnson should quit – rising to 56% on Tuesday from 48% on Nov. 22.
    A senior government official, Sue Gray, is currently investigating allegations of at least five parties held in government departments last year during lockdown restrictions.
    Asked about the claims of Downing Street parties, Johnson told parliament last month that all COVID-19 guidance had been followed, no rules had been broken and that there had been no party in Downing Street.
    Opponents said that if Johnson had attended a party during a lockdown, his position would be in danger as such revelry would show disdain for the rules.
    “Did the prime minister attend the event in the Downing Street garden on May 20, 2020?,” the opposition Labour Party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, asked.    “If the prime minister was there, surely he knew?
    Over recent months, Johnson, 57, has faced criticism over his handling of a sleaze scandal, the awarding of lucrative COVID-19 contracts, the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat and a claim he intervened to ensure pets were evacuated during the Western withdrawal from Afghanistan in August.
    London police, who previously declined to investigate the claims of government officials’ lockdown gatherings, said on Monday they were in contact with the Cabinet Office over the alleged breaches of health protection laws in Downing Street.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout and William James; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by William Maclean, Catherine Evans and John Stonestreet)

1/11/2022 France Says Still Far From Reviving 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal
FILE PHOTO: French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks at a news conference
following a meeting with NATO's Secretary General and the French defence minster
in Paris, France December 10, 2021. Bertrand Guay/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    PARIS (Reuters) - Iran and world powers are still far from any agreement to revive their 2015 nuclear deal despite making some progress at the end of December, France’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.
    Indirect talks between Iran and the United States on salvaging the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed on Jan. 3.
    Western diplomats have indicated they are hoping to have a breakthrough by the end of January or early February, but sharp differences remain with the toughest issues still unresolved.    Iran has rejected any deadline imposed by Western powers.
    “The discussions are ongoing.    They are slow, too slow and that creates a gap that jeopardises the chance of finding a solution that respects the interests of all sides,” Jean-Yves le Drian told a parliamentary hearing.
    “Bits of progress were made at the end of December, but we are still far from concluding this negotiation.”
    The eighth round of talks, the first under Iran’s new hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi, resumed after adding some new Iranian demands to a working text.
    Iran refuses to meet directly with U.S. officials, meaning that other parties — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — must shuttle between the two sides.
    Little remains of that deal, which lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities.    Then-President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of it in 2018, reimposing U.S. sanctions, and Iran later breached many of the deal’s nuclear restrictions and kept pushing well beyond them.
(Reporting by John Irish; editing by Arshad Mohammed and Jonathan Oatis)

1/11/2020 Argentina Capital Hit By Major Power Outage Amid Heat Wave by Eliana Raszewski
A seller waits for costumers at his shop during a blackout, amid a heat wave,
in Buenos Aires, Argentina January 11, 2022. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian
    BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires was hit by a major power outage on Tuesday that left thousands of homes without electricity amid a heat wave that has seen temperatures soar above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), some of the highest in the world.
    Electricity distributors Edenor and Edesur both reported power outages as the high temperatures generated a spike in demand for energy to cool homes and businesses.
    The National Electricity Regulatory Entity (ENRE) said Edenor’s power cut had affected 700,000 in the Buenos Aires area.    Some 43,400 Edesur customers were left without power after failures of high-voltage lines hit two of its substations.
    AySA, which provides drinking water in Buenos Aires, asked the population to optimize the use of water because the outage had also affected its purification system.
    High temperatures are expected to continue throughout the week with peaks close to 40 C, according to the National Meteorological Service (SMN).
    “The SMN issued a warning in anticipation of an extreme heat wave this week, with temperatures that could reach 41°C in the concession area,” Edesur said in an email to its clients.    “We are working to strengthen our network in the face of growing demand.”
(Reporting by Eliana Raszewski; additional reporting by Jorge Otaola; writing by Carolina Pulice; editing by Lucila Sigal and Jonathan Oatis)

1/11/2022 Valerie Pecresse, The Conservative Who Could Become France’s First Woman President by Elizabeth Pineau
Valerie Pecresse, head of the Paris Ile-de-France region and Les Republicains (LR) right-wing
party candidate for the 2022 French presidential election, speaks during an interview with Reuters
at her campaign headquarters in Paris, France, January 7, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
    PARIS (Reuters) – Fifteen years ago, Valerie Pecresse quelled a student uprising over her university reforms with the same blend of consensus-building politics and reformist mettle that she believes will now propel her to the French presidency.
    Chosen to run last month by rank-and-file members of the conservative Les Republicains party, voter surveys show Pecresse could beat President Emmanuel Macron in April’s election. If she succeeds, she would become France’s first woman head of state.
    In an office adorned with framed cinema posters, Pecresse, 54, reeled off a list of woes facing France that speak of her social and fiscal conservatism: poor control of national borders, violent city ghettos and a growing pile of debt.
    “We need to restore order, both on our streets and in our national accounts,” she told Reuters.
    A minister for higher education and then the budget during Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, Pecresse said last week she would bring out “the power hose” to clean up trouble neighbourhoods where the state had lost authority and lawlessness prevailed.
    Critical of Macron for “burning a hole in the state coffers” during the pandemic, Pecresse has promised to reform France’s generous pension system and cut a bloated public wage bill – both pledges she says Macron has failed to deliver on.
    Her style, she says, is “two-thirds (Angela) Merkel and one-third (Margaret) Thatcher.”
    “I am a woman who consults, decides and acts,” she said.    “The one-part Thatcher is to say ‘I’m not for turning’,” referring to a phrase in a 1980 speech when the conservative British leader refused to back down on liberalising reforms.
    Pecresse pointed to the cutting of hundreds of jobs at her head office to make way for more high-school staff, reduced spending and higher investment as proof she gets things done.    In 2020, she won a second mandate to run the greater Paris region.
    Opponents who had nicknamed her “the blond” had paid the price, she said. Asked if France was ready for a woman president, she replied: “Voters on the right have shown they’re ready, and they can be the most reticent to trust a woman.”
    Pecresse’s party, which traces its origins to Charles de Gaulle, dominated French politics for much of the post-war era.    But after Macron redrew the landscape in 2017, it has struggled to unite its centre-right and staunchly conservative factions.
    The defection of a senior conservative lawmaker to the campaign bid of far-right polemicist Eric Zemmour on Sunday underscored the challenge she faces keeping a feuding party together.
    Opinion polls show her in a close-fought race with Marine Le Pen, leader of the traditional far-right, for the second spot in the election’s run-off vote.    Zemmour follows close behind.    Should she make it, she would be the most dangerous opponent for Macron, the surveys suggest.
    Born in an upmarket Paris suburb and educated at France’s elite ENA school for politicians and civil servants, Pecresse is a moderate in a conservative party that has lurched rightwards as the far-right fuels anti-immigrant sentiment and a desire among many voters to get tough on law and order.
    Pecresse has toughened her language on immigration and identity, seeking to neutralise the threat from Le Pen and Zemmour, whose promise to “save France” from Islam has polarised France.
    She says she would end the automatic right to French citizenship for people born in France and stiffen judicial sentences in places where police have lost control.
    On a table in Pecresse’s office sits a photograph of Samuel Paty, the teacher decapitated by a Chechen-born teenager in a suburb of Paris in 2020 because he used caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in a lesson on free speech.
    Pecresse said the teacher’s portrait would follow her to the Elysee Palace if she won the election.
    “We have to be unbending in the respect of our values,” Pecresse said.    “In the public space, the law comes before faith.    It’s the same rights, the same duties for all.”
(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

1/11/2022 U.S. Calls For Probe Into Banned Bosnian Serb Commemoration by Jonathan Landay
People hold Serbian and Republika Srpska flags during parade celebrations to mark their autonomous Serb
Republic's national holiday, in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, January 9, 2022. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday urged Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities to investigate reports that banned ceremonies by the Serb Republic last weekend glorified war criminals and targeted returnees to towns from which non-Serbs were expelled.
    “We urge competent authorities to investigate these incidents without delay and to hold the responsible individuals accountable,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement.
    On Jan. 9 Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who has ramped up secessionist rhetoric, presided over celebrations of the day in 1992 when Bosnian Serbs declared independence, igniting a war in which 100,000 people were killed.
    “The United States is deeply concerned over reports of hate speech, glorification of war criminals and provocative incidents targeting returnees in the Republika Srpska entity over the weekend,” the spokesperson said.
    The ceremonies coincide with the Serbian Orthodox Christian holiday.    It was this religious component that led Bosnia’s Constitutional Court to declare the holiday illegal as it discriminated against Catholic Croat and Muslim Bosniak communities.
    The celebrations included a march by armed police through the main Bosnian Serb city of Banja Luka.    Videos posted on social media showed participants singing songs celebrating the war, including one listing towns where non-Serbs were massacred and expelled.
    Chinese and Russian diplomats and officials from neighboring Serbia attended the commemorations.
saw fit to participate in the destabilizing ceremonies,” the United States donated 96,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the central government on Tuesday, the spokesperson said.
    On Monday, the European Union said the Bosnian Serb leadership risks sanctions and a loss of aid should it continue to incite tensions.
    Washington last week sanctioned Dodik for “destabilizing and corrupt activities and attempts to dismantle” the 1995 U.S.-brokered deal that ended the war.    The accord created an independent country divided into the autonomous Serb Republic and a federation dominated by Bosniaks and Croats.
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; editing by Grant McCool)

1/12/2022 Oil up $2.96 to $81.41, DOW up 183 to 36,252.

1/12/2022 Germany’s COVID-19 Cases Hit Daily Record Of More Than 80,000
A person wearing a face mask is pictured on the public square "Potsdamer Platz" during a sunny winter day, amid
the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Berlin, Germany January 6, 2022. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse
    BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany reported 80,430 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, the highest recorded in a single day since the pandemic began, as the contagious Omicron variant rips through a population with lower vaccination rates than some other parts of Europe.
    The previous daily record, on Nov. 26, was more than 76,000.
    Germany’s tally of infections now stands at 7,661,811.    The death toll also rose by 384 on Wednesday to reach 114,735.
    Just under 75% of the population has had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the latest figures from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious disease show.
    The seven-day incidence rate, a key yardstick in deciding coronavirus policy, has ticked up steadily since the start of the year, to stand at 407.5 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday, versus 387.9 the day before.
(Reporting by Miranda Murray; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

1/12/2022 About 70 S. Korean Attendees Of U.S. Tech Show Test Positive For COVID-19 by Joyce Lee and Hyunjoo Jin
FILE PHOTO: A sign in the Las Vegas Convention Center lobby welcomes attendees
to CES 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., January 6, 2022. REUTERS/Steve Marcus
    SEOUL/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - About 70 South Korean nationals who attended the giant CES tech trade show in Las Vegas last week tested positive for COVID-19, health authorities of the Asian country said on Wednesday.
    These included some executives and staff of major South Korean companies, according to industry sources and one company.
    About 20 people from Samsung Electronics and about six at SK Group, parent of energy firm SK Innovation and chipmaker SK Hynix, were among those who tested positive for the virus after attending CES, the sources said.
    The cases risk dealing a blow to South Korea’s COVID-19 control, after the country had just brought down daily number of infections from record highs in December by restoring tough social distancing rules and widely adopting vaccine passports at public locations.
    Hyundai Heavy Industries said six of its employees who attended CES tested positive while in the United States and were quarantined, and some have been released since.
    “Multiple” Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Mobis employees who attended CES also tested positive after arriving back in South Korea, South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported, citing an unidentified industry source without specifying the exact number of cases.
    About 70 attendees, all South Korean nationals, have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. Some 340 South Korean companies participated in CES, it added.
    “Many Korean businesspeople who attended CES … are now confirmed to be infected with COVID-19,” Son Young-rae, a senior South Korean health ministry official, told a briefing.
    “We are promptly contacting those who participated in the event and conducting epidemiological investigations, but we urge domestic businesspeople or those who are in Korea that attended the event to undergo PCR tests as soon as possible,” he said.
    Most of the Samsung officials who tested positive were flown back to Korea from Nevada in two chartered flights, arriving late on Tuesday Seoul time, and the remaining Samsung officials are expected to be flown back on Wednesday, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported, citing unidentified industry sources.
    The Samsung officials are being moved to quarantine facilities in South Korea and most were asymptomatic or have light symptoms, the paper said.
    A spokesperson for Consumer Technology Association (CTA), CES’ operator, did not have an immediate response.
    Nevada state health authorities said, “Many new cases have had recent travel history, attended events, and have visited multiple locations where they could potentially have acquired their infection.”    They said they do “not have evidence linking the recent surge in COVID-19 cases with CES.”
    Samsung Electronics declined to confirm details of the cases.    It said it “took a number of steps to protect the health and well-being of (CES) attendees,” including requiring vaccines, mask mandates, social distancing protocols and providing testing for all employees throughout the week.
    SK Group declined to comment on the cases, citing its policy of not disclosing personal information.    Hyundai Motor Group did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
    The sources declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to media.
    South Korea reported 381 cases of infections contracted overseas for Tuesday, a record, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, bringing the daily number of infections across the country to 4,388.
    Health ministry official Son said the rise of infections contracted overseas is seen mainly due to the spread of the Omicron variant, although the number of CES attendees who tested positive did have some effect.
(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang in Seoul and Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

1/12/2022 Second Round Of French Election Could See Conservative Pecresse Level With Macron - Poll
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron and Valerie Pecresse, President of the Ile-de-France
region, visit a neighborhood that suffered from flooding after days of heavy rains hit the country,
in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, France, February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo
    PARIS (Reuters) – French conservative right-wing politician Valerie Pecresse is seen tying with President Emmanuel Macron in a second round of the 2022 presidential election, according to a poll on Wednesday by Elabe conducted for BFM TV and L’Express.
    The poll put Macron in the lead in the first round of voting, albeit down 3 percentage points from before at 23 percent, though above 17 percent each for Pecresse and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.
    If Pecresse made it through to the second round final vote she would tie with Macron, with both scoring 50%, the poll showed.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

1/12/2022 Speculation Grows Around Abrams’ Absence From Biden Ga. Speech by OAN Newsroom
    Joe Biden flip-flopped on his filibuster stance in his speech promoting Democrat election laws in Atlanta, Georgia.    On Tuesday, he called on Democrats in the upper chamber to change the longstanding practice, so they can jam through their partisan election bills.
    Biden had previously stated, “ending the filibuster is a very dangerous thing to do.”    He also said, “it raises problems that are more damaging than the problems that exist.”
    This comes as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has vowed to kill the practice if Republicans don’t give in to their demands.    Biden added, his calls aim to circumvent GOP opposition.
    Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) commented on Biden’s push to pass major voting reform that aims to federalize U.S. elections.    He went on to say the For the People Act would make it federal law to allow ballot harvesting, same day voter registration among other detrimental practices.
    Rubio warned the measure would reduce confidence in election results and open the gates for Democrat-backed lawyers to insert themselves into the process.
    The Biden administration has named election reform as its top priority with Biden saying the supposed threat to democracy is so grave that Democrats should be allowed to make the decision alone.
    “As an institutionalist, I believe the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass the Voting Rights bill,” he stated.    “Debate them, vote, let the majority prevail.”
    However, the legislation will face an uphill battle in the upper chamber as even Sen. Joe Manchin (D.W.Va.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), both Democrats, have pledged not to support the move.
    Some critics are pointing to Democrat activist Stacey Abrams absence from Biden’s speech in Atlanta as a precursor to the voting bills failing in Congress.    However, Biden is blaming scheduling conflicts as the reason behind Abrams not appearing at the event.
    This comes amid a trend of Democrat candidates distancing themselves from the increasingly unpopular Biden-Harris administration.    Some political scientists say Abrams may have distanced herself to avoid backlash from progressives.    Abrams is running for governor of Georgia this year, but analysts say a presidential bid in 2024 is looking increasingly likely.
    The 45th president weighed in, saying Abrams helped Biden steal the 2020 election in Georgia, but now she’s distancing herself from his administration.    Donald Trump stressed Abrams knows Biden lost big in Georgia and in the 2020 election as a whole.    He pointed out even the “woke” radical-left now understands that Biden is a complete embarrassment.

1/12/2022 Renowned Virologist Reacts To Project Veritas’ ‘Expose Fauci’ by OAN Newsroom
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
and chief medical adviser to the president, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor,
and Pensions Committee hearing to examine the federal response to COVID-19 and new emerging variants,
Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)
    A renowned virologist commented on the Project Veritas disclosures of the origins of COVID-19. MMR vaccine inventor Dr. Robert Malone said the first ‘Expose Fauci‘ report by Project Veritas appears to be valid.     During an interview on Tuesday, Dr. Malone said DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) documents suggest COVID-19 is a manmade virus, but Anthony Fauci’s NIH (National Institutes of Health) has apparently attempted to cover-up its involvement.
    This comes as the search for truth behind the seemingly never-ending pandemic is heating up.
    Meanwhile, U.S. Marine Corp Major and former DARPA Fellow, Joseph Murphy had some words to the American public and provided a written statement to Project Veritas.    The statement read:
    “To those seeking answers I offer encouragement.    There are good people striving for the truth, working together in and out of government, and they success.    To those that withhold, I pray for you.    Find the moral courage to come forward. Don’t lie and be our legacy to posterity. People will forgive.    A commitment to truth is in the heart of this nation.”
    Earlier this week, Project Veritas released a series of military documents claiming they are the latest round of evidence showing Fauci was involved with gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
    Military Documents about Gain of Function contradict Fauci testimony under oath #ExposeFauci.

1/12/2022 Ariz. Footage Shows Suspected Violations By Poll Workers by OAN Newsroom
PHOENIX, AZ – OCTOBER 31: Ballots are pulled aside for a hand audit by Maricopa County Elections Department
staff ahead of Tuesdays election on October 31, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. Early voting lasted from October
7th through the 30th in Arizona, which had a record number of early voters. (Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)
    Arizona oversight group We the People Alliance released video footage showing electoral violations by poll workers.    The group says the footage shows Arizona election officials pulling mail-in ballot envelopes from the trash and putting them into drawers.
    Poll workers are also seen taking pictures of ballots, walking with cell phones into unauthorized areas and using flash drives where they were not supposed to be used. We the People Alliance explained that these documented violations add to the mounting legal challenges to election outcomes in Arizona.
    This comes amid ongoing probe by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich into suspected election fraud in his state.    State Sen. Sonny Borrelli (R-Aiz.). commented on the matter.
    “They are investigating and I spoke to the investigators,” he stated.    “Several other people spoke to the investigators.    This is not over by a long shot on that investigation part.    We need to let them do their job.    They have to make sure that they do it right.    And if they find something the evidence has got to to be concrete for them to take to court.    So that’s that aspect.”
    We the People Alliance also said election workers are seen destroying voting equipment in these videos after leaving it unattended for days.

1/12/2022 Sen. Cruz: Go Ask Biden Why He’s Not Wearing A Mask by OAN Newsroom
FILE Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 7, 2021.
Cruz appeared on Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson show on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, to apologize for describing
the Jan. 6 insurrection as “a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol” in an earlier statement
marking the anniversary. He told Carlson: “The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy and it
was frankly dumb.” But despite insisting to Carlson that he had misspoken, Cruz has consistently
used the “terrorism” terminology to refer to the attack over the past year. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
    Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) pushed back on calls to wear face masks amid growing evidence they don’t work against COVID-19. While talking to reporters Tuesday, the Texas lawmaker was asked why he wasn’t wearing a mask at all times amid the spread of the Omicron variant.
    “Just once I’d like to see a reporter say to Joe Biden when he stands at the damn podium (slams fist on podium) at the White House without a mask, ‘Mr. President why aren’t you wearing a mask?'” said the Republican.
    Cruz continued by saying if Democrats like masks so much they should be able to wear those masks while others should be able to go mask-free.
    “I do know Dr. (Anthony) Fauci has been all over the map on it; he said ‘yes’ masks, ‘no’ masks, he said I lied to the American people because they couldn’t handle it,” Cruz stated.    “At some point, the American people ought to be able to exercise their own freedom and make their decision.    If you want to wear a mask, God bless you.    You can wear a mask the rest of your life, that’s your choice, but other people ought to be able to have the right and choice not to wear a mask.
    Over the past two years, many Republicans have criticized masks as being a show of “political theatre” and “virtue signaling” that have no practical purpose.

1/12/2022 Education Secy. Cardona Implicated In Silencing Parents At School Board Meetings by OAN Newsroom
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona gives an opening statement during a Senate Health, Education,
Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to discuss reopening schools during Covid-19 at Capitol
Hill on September 30, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Nash- Pool/Getty Images)
    New evidence implicates Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in the labeling of concerned parents as domestic terrorists.    In a September email that was recently released, National School Board Association interim CEO Chip Slaven sent a letter to the White House at Cardona’s request.
    The letter asked the Justice Department to use the Patriot Act against supposed domestic terrorists showing up at school board meetings.    This follows evidence that Attorney General Merrick Garland drafted a government memo based on the letter, in turn, calling into question how the administration plans to deal with oppositional parents.
    Meanwhile, the Biden administration is planning to send millions of additional COVID-19 tests to schools nationwide amid the surge of the Omicron variant.    The administration announced Wednesday, it will be providing 5 million rapid tests and 5 million additional PCR tests to schools each month.
    The White House claims the additional tests will help schools stay open and sustain testing programs in accordance with CDC guidelines.    According to the White House, 96 percent of the nations schools are open for in-person learning.

1/12/2022 Survivors Of Bronx Apartment Fire File $1B Lawsuit Against Owners, NYC by OAN Newsroom
NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 28: Firefighters leave after putting out a major house fire on Prospect avenue on
December 28, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Over 170 firefighters respond to the evening
fire in which at least 12 persons were killed with others injured. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)
    Survivors of a deadly Bronx fire filed a $1 billion lawsuit.    On Tuesday, a couple sued both the city of New York and the building’s owners for damages after their high-rise apartment complex went up into flames.
    The plaintiffs have accused the landlord and management of being aware of defective conditions while failing to properly maintain the building.    the lawsuit alleges the building did not have functioning smoke detectors, a sprinkler system yet management ensured electric lines were in good condition.
    New York Attorney General Letitia James vowed to investigate at the vigil held Tuesday night for the victims and their families.
    “There will be conversations with respect to investigations at a later point,” she stated.    “But tonight is the night that we heal, we heal the broken hearted.    Those whose spirits have been crushed as a result of this fire, this horrific fire.”
    Nearly 30 people remain hospitalized for their injuries and officials are continuing to work to identify those lost in the blaze.

1/12/2022 Olympics-U.S. Lawmakers Ask IOC For Assurances Uniforms Not Made Through Forced Labour
The moon is pictured beside the Olympic flag ahead of the Beijing 2022
Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China January 12, 2022. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
    (Reuters) – The United States’ Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) released a letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday voicing concern over forced labour in the production of uniforms ahead of the Beijing Games.
    The CECC is concerned that Anta Sports and Hengyuanxiang Group (HYX Group), with which the IOC has contracts to produce uniforms, use cotton from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
    “Cotton produced in the XUAR is synonymous with forced labor and the systematic repression that takes place there,” the letter said.
    “Forced labor plays an integral role in the genocide taking place against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in the region.”
    The IOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    The U.S. government and many rights groups say Beijing is carrying out genocide in Xinjiang. China denies the allegations of human rights abuses.
    “Because Anta and HYX Group both continue to use cotton produced in the XUAR, there is a worrisome possibility that IOC personnel or others attending the 2022 Olympic Games will be wearing clothing contaminated by forced labor,” the CECC added in the letter.
    Among the commission’s requests of the IOC were to make public a “certificate of origin” that HYX Group provided the IOC “that reportedly confirmed that no forced labor was used” in its production.
    The CECC also asked the IOC to explain publicly “assurances” from Anta Sports that its products were not produced through forced labor.
    The Winter Olympics run from Feb. 4-Feb. 20.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York, editing by Ed Osmond)

1/12/2022 U.S. Criticizes China Over Canceled Flights by David Shepardson
FILE PHOTO: A passenger wearing a mask, amid the health threat of novel coronavirus,
arrives on a direct flight from China at Chicago's O'Hare airport in
Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Biden administration on Wednesday criticized China’s decision to cancel a growing number of flights from the United States to China because of passengers who later tested positive for COVID-19 and warned it could take action in response.
    “China’s actions are inconsistent with its obligations under the U.S.-China Air Transport Agreement.    We are engaging with the (Chinese government) on this and we retain the right to take regulatory measures as appropriate,” a U.S. Transportation Department (USDOT) spokesperson said.
    China on Wednesday ordered the suspension of six more U.S.-to-China flights in coming weeks after a surge in passengers testing positive for COVID-19, rising to 70 cancellations mandated this year in a schedule that had already been drastically cut back.
    The latest suspension affected two United Airlines flights from San Francisco to Shanghai and four China Southern Airlines flights from Los Angeles to Guangzhou.
    The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately comment.
    Airlines for America, a trade group representing United, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and others, said U.S. carriers are in “communication with the U.S. and Chinese governments to identify a path forward that minimizes impact to travelers.”
    Beijing and Washington have sparred over air services since the start of the pandemic.
    Before the latest cancellations, three U.S. airlines and four Chinese carriers were operating about 20 flights a week between the countries, well below the figure of more than 100 per week before the pandemic.
    China has been suspending flights with other countries, including on Wednesday six total flights from France and Canada.
    The number of U.S. flights scrapped has surged since December, as infections caused by the Omicron variant soar to record highs in the United States.
    China has all but shut its borders to travelers, cutting total international flights to just 200 a week, or 2% of pre-pandemic levels, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said in September.
(Reporting by David ShepardsonEditing by Chris Reese and Cynthia Osterman)

1/12/2022 WHO’s Ryan Counters Brazil’s Bolsonaro And Says No Virus Is Welcome
FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro arrives on horseback at a demonstration
by farmers against the Supreme Court and calling for end of the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19), in Brasilia, Brazil . May 15, 2021. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
    BRASILIA (Reuters) – World Health Organization Emergency Director Mike Ryan on Wednesday refuted statements made by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus would be welcome and that it could even bring about the end of the pandemic.
    In an interview earlier, Bolsonaro played down the advance of the new variant in Brazil.
    During a news conference in Geneva, when asked about the statements made by the Brazilian president, Ryan affirmed that while Omicron is “less severe as a viral infection in an individual, that doesn’t mean it’s a mild disease.”
    There are many people around the world in hospitals, in ICUs, gasping for breath, which “obviously makes very clear that this is not a mild disease,” he added.
    “It’s a vaccine-preventable disease, it’s a disease that can be prevented by taking – to a greater extent – strong personal precautions to avoid infection and getting vaccinated,” he said.
    “There is so much we can do.    This is not the time to give up, this is not the time to give in, this is not the time to declare that this is a welcome virus.    No virus is welcome that kills people.    Especially when that mortality and that suffering is preventable with the appropriate use of vaccination,” he said.
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Peter Frontini; Editing by Sandra Maler)

1/12/2022 Greek American Praised At Hearing To Become U.S. Envoy To Athens by Arshad Mohammed
FILE PHOTO: A woman adjusts the U.S. flag ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's speech at the
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, Greece, October 5, 2019. REUTERS/Costas Baltas/Pool
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – George Tsunis, a Greek American businessman who fumbled a 2014 Senate hearing to be U.S. ambassador to Norway and withdrew from consideration, won praise on Wednesday at a hearing on his nomination to be the U.S. envoy to Greece.
    Former U.S. diplomats have sharply criticized the choice of the hotel developer and political donor for the Athens post, saying his lack of preparation in 2014 showed he was unfit to represent the United States abroad.
    At that hearing, Tsunis erroneously referred to Norway as having a president and suggested the Norwegian government had criticized a political party that was then part of the governing coalition.
    On Wednesday, he was asked only one substantive question – on China’s purchases of critical infrastructure such as Greece’s largest port of Piraeus – and answered it to the satisfaction of the Democrat who asked it and a Republican senator.
    After thanking Democratic Senator Cory Booker for posing a “seminal” question, Tsunis referred to a report published by Senator Jim Risch, the panel’s top Republican, that advocated more U.S.-European cooperation to face the challenge from China.
    Under a 2016 privatization deal, China’s COSCO Shipping bought a 51% stake in Piraeus Port Authority.    It later acquired a further 16% stake.
    When the port was put up for sale, Tsunis said, China made the only offer.
    “i>We need to show up.    We need to be aggressive,” he added, saying China is acquiring economic infrastructure to gain geopolitical influence.
    Booker said Tsunis “showed great diplomacy” by citing Risch’s report.
    Republican Senator Bill Hagerty, a former businessman and U.S. ambassador to Japan, also thanked Tsunis for his “very thoughtful answer and approach as a businessperson.”
(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Richard Chang)

1/12/2022 U.S. Senate Democrats Unveil Russia Sanctions Bill To Bolster Ukraine by Timothy Gardner, Steve Holland and Shivam Patel
Russian grenade launcher operators take part in combat drills at the Kadamovsky range
in the Rostov region, Russia December 14, 2021. REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Senate Democrats on Wednesday unveiled a bill to impose sweeping sanctions on top Russian government and military officials, including President Vladimir Putin, and key banking institutions if Moscow engages in hostilities against Ukraine.
    The proposed legislation, backed by the White House, includes provisions to help bolster Ukraine’s security and encourages the United States to “consider all available and appropriate measures” to ensure the Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline – a “tool of malign influence of the Russian Federation” – does not become operational.
    “This legislation makes it absolutely clear that the U.S. Senate will not stand idly by as the Kremlin threatens a re-invasion of Ukraine,” Senator Robert Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who unveiled the bill, said in a statement.
    Russia has amassed about 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border and Washington is trying to dissuade Moscow from re-invading the country.
    The bill, first reported by the Washington Post, would also target companies in Russia that offer secure messaging systems, such as SWIFT, which banks use to exchange key information with other financial institutions.
    More than two dozen Democrats, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have endorsed the bill, a Menendez spokesperson said.
    The bill would “trigger severe costs to Russia’s economy” if Russia goes ahead with an invasion, a spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council said.
    Other legislation, such as a bill sponsored by Republican Senator Ted Cruz, will “not counter further Russian aggression or protect Ukraine,” the NSC spokesperson said.
    Cruz struck a deal with Schumer last month, in which the Texas senator released his hold on dozens of President Joe Biden’s ambassadorial nominees.    Cruz’s bill will be put to a vote this week, but it requires 60 votes to pass, a high hurdle in the evenly divided Senate.
    The Menendez-backed bill provides an alternative for Democrats who support sanctions on the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is completed but waiting approvals from Germany, and makes it harder for Cruz’s bill to pass.
    Many Democrats have supported sanctions on the pipeline as it would bypass Ukraine, depriving the country of transit fees and potentially undermining its struggle against Russia.
    Cruz’s bill would slap sanctions on the pipeline within 15 days of passage, regardless of whether Russia reinvades Ukraine, and would allow Congress to vote to reinstate sanctions should the president waive them.    Cruz has said sanctions are needed immediately to stop the project.
    Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy believes sanctions should be imposed immediately on the pipeline even if Russia does not invade, as its operation poses a “material security and economic threat to Europe,” a person close to him said.    “Kyiv is vehemently opposed to any policy that allows Russia to use invasion threats to get what it wants in other areas,” said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
    Biden has described the pipeline as a bad deal for Europe and said it would increase Russia’s influence there.    But his administration last year waived sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, the company controlling the project, as the White House sought to repair relations with Germany.
    A senior Biden administration official said on Wednesday that the threat of stopping the project is leverage that Germany holds over Russia.
    “If sanctions are imposed right now, and Russia views these sanctions as a sunk cost, then this would be one less consideration in its calculus,” the official said.    “The deterrent potential of sanctions or shutting down the pipeline would be lost.”
    Washington is looking at a range of contingency options to help Ukraine should Russia cut off energy supplies, another senior Biden administration official said.
    The pipeline, backed by Russia’s state gas company Gazprom, would provide fuel to Germany, Europe’s largest economy, which is shutting coal and nuclear plants, and other European countries.
    Several Democratic senators said late on Monday, after meeting with Biden administration officials, that they believe the sanctions on Nord Stream 2 proposed by Cruz could harm relations with Germany, an important U.S. ally, especially on policy toward Russia, Iran and climate change.
(Reporting Timothy Gardner and Steve Holland in Washington and Shivam Patel in Bengaluru; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao)

1/12/2022 U.S. Looking To Help Ukraine If Russia Cuts Energy Supply - Official
FILE PHOTO: Pipes are pictured at a Ukrainian main pipeline in the village of Boyarka
near the capital Kiev January 2, 2006. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is looking at a range of contingency options to help Ukraine should Russia cut off energy supplies, a senior Biden administration official said on Wednesday.
    The official, who spoke to a small group of reporters on condition of anonymity, said the United States is confident that European allies will agree to impose severe economic penalties on Russia if Moscow invades Ukraine.
    As European officials have become increasingly aware of the severity of the threat that would result from a Russian invasion of Ukraine, they have become “more forthright” about the need for a strong response, the official said.
    With Ukraine’s energy supply potentially severed and Europe’s also impacted from a Ukraine invasion, the official said U.S. officials are aware of the potential impact of a reduction in the Russian energy supply.
    “We are working very hard to identify and manage those risks with a range of contingency options and we are doing that all that in very close consultations with Europe,” the official said.
    The official declined to detail the options, but a source familiar with the discussions noted there is above-average inventory of natural gas in Asia and that Norway is a major producer of liquefied natural gas.    The Netherlands, Italy and Qatar also have supplies, as well as the United States, the source said.
(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

1/13/2022 Oil up $1.31 to $82.64, DOW up 38 to 36,290.

1/13/2022 Biden Imposes First Sanctions Over N. Korea Weapons Program After Missile Tests by David Brunnstrom and Chris Gallagher
A missile is launched during what state media report is a hypersonic missile test at an undisclosed location in North Korea,
January 11, 2022, in this photo released January 12, 2022 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Biden administration on Wednesday imposed its first sanctions over North Korea’s weapons programs following a series of North Korean missile launches, including two since last week.
    The sanctions targeted six North Koreans, one Russian and a Russian firm Washington said were responsible for procuring goods for the programs from Russia and China.
    The U.S. Treasury said the steps aimed both to prevent the advancement of North Korea’s programs and to impede its attempts to proliferate weapons technologies.
    The United States also proposed that five of those individuals also be blacklisted by the United Nations Security Council, which would need consensus agreement by the body’s 15-member North Korea sanctions committee.
    The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has sought unsuccessfully to engage Pyongyang in dialogue to persuade it to give up its nuclear bombs and missiles since taking office in January last year.
    U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States remained committed to pursuing diplomacy with North Korea.
    “What we have seen in recent days … only underscores our belief that if we are going to make progress, that we will need to engage in that dialogue,” he told a regular news briefing.
    The Treasury Department said the sanctions followed six North Korean ballistic missile launches since September, each of which violated U.N. Security Council resolutions.
    South Korea, a U.S. ally that has pushed Washington to back more engagement with North Korea, said it did not believe the move meant that Biden’s administration had hardened its position.
    “We think the U.S. measure reflected the existing U.S. position that implementing sanctions is also important, together with dialogue,” a South Korean foreign ministry spokesperson told a briefing.
    U.S. Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said the moves targeted North Korea’s “continued use of overseas representatives to illegally procure goods for weapons.”
    North Korea’s latest launches were “further evidence that it continues to advance prohibited programs despite the international community’s calls for diplomacy and denuclearization,” Nelson said in a statement.
    It said the State Department had designated Russia-based North Korean Choe Myong Hyon, Russian national Roman Anatolyevich Alar and the Russian firm Parsek LLC for “activities or transactions that have materially contributed to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery.”
    It said Choe Myong Hyon, a Vladivostok-based representative of North Korea’s Second Academy of Natural Sciences (SANS), had worked to procure telecommunications-related equipment from Russia.
    Four China-based North Korean representatives of SANS-subordinate organizations – Sim Kwang Sok, Kim Song Hun, Kang Chol Hak and Pyon Kwang Chol – and one other Russia-based North Korean, O Yong Ho, were also targeted.
    Sim Kwang Sok, based in Dalian, had worked to procure steel alloys and Kim Song Hun, who was based in Shenyang, software and chemicals, Treasury said.
    In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that between at least 2016 and 2021, O Yong Ho had worked with Parsek LLC and Alar, the firm’s director for development, to procure multiple goods with ballistic missile applications, including Kevlar thread, aramid fiber, aviation oil, ball bearings, and precision milling machines.
    Blinken said Alar also provided O Yong Ho with instructions for creating solid rocket fuel mixtures.
    “The procurement and supply relationship between O Yong Ho, Roman Anatolyevich Alar, and Parsek LLC is a key source of missile-applicable goods and technology for the DPRK’s missile program,” his statement said.
    It also said O Yong Ho had worked to procure items including aramid fiber, stainless steel tubes and ball bearings from “third countries” it did not name.
    North Korea’s U.N. mission, Russia and China’s embassies in Washington and the Russian firm did not respond to requests for comment.
    North Korean media said leader Kim Jong Un observed the test of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday, the second in less than a week after he vowed in a New Year speech to bolster the military with cutting-edge technology.
    Tuesday’s test came hours after the U.S. mission to the United Nations, joined by Albania, France, Ireland, Japan and the United Kingdom, condemned last week’s launch and called on U.N. states to fulfill sanctions obligations.
    U.N. resolutions ban North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear tests and impose sanctions.
Anthony Ruggiero, a sanctions expert in the former Trump administration that failed to persuade Kim to roll back his nuclear program despite unprecedented engagement, called the new sanctions “a good start.”
    However, he said the Biden administration had allowed a reversal of sanctions pressure and added: “Biden needs to continue the designations to increase the pressure on the Kim regime.”
    Price did not respond when asked why no Chinese individuals or entities were targeted, or specifically when asked if China and Russia were doing enough to enforce sanctions, but stressed the importance of all U.N. states doing so, while adding: “Obviously we’ve not seen all of that.”
    Wednesday’s actions freeze any U.S.-related assets of those targeted and prohibit all dealings with them.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Chris Gallagher; Additional reporting by Simon Lewis and Michelle Nichols, and Hyonhee Shin in Seoul; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Howard Goller, Grant McCool and Michael Perry)

1/13/2022 U.N. Envoy Urges ‘Inclusive’ ASEAN Approach To Myanmar Crisis
FILE PHOTO: The logo of the United Nations is seen in the General Assembly hall before heads of state begin to address the
76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, U.S., September 21, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/Pool
    (Reuters) – A United Nations special envoy has urged Southeast Asian countries to support international efforts to engage all sides in the crisis in army-ruled Myanmar, days after a top regional leader travelled there to meet its junta chief.
    Noeleen Heyzer, the secretary-general’s special envoy on Myanmar, held virtual talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, the new chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and sought a collaborative effort in humanitarian aid and seeking progress in a stalled five-point peace plan, the U.N. said in a statement on Thursday.
    Hun Sen visited junta boss Min Aung Hlaing last week, a move rights groups said risked legitimising the military’s coup last year and its crackdown on thousands of democracy activists and supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted government.
    Myanmar has been in chaos for nearly a year, with the military suppressing protests and fighting on different fronts with ethnic minority armies and newly formed militias it calls “terrorists.”
    At least 1,400 civilians have been killed, according to activists cited by the U.N.
    “The special envoy advocated for confidence-building measures involving all stakeholders, in addition to ethnic armed organisations,” the statement said of Heyzer’s discussion with Hun Sen.
    The conflict has caused discord within ASEAN about how to deal with Myanmar, which saw the unprecedented sidelining last year of its top general from ASEAN meetings over a failure to honour peace commitments.
    An envoy from the previous chair, Brunei, made meeting all stakeholders a precondition for visiting, which the junta rejected.    Cambodia’s incoming Myanmar envoy Prak Sokhonn said that approach was not productive.
    Heyzer urged Prak Sakhonn work with her and the international community on “a coordinated strategy towards creating an enabling environment for inclusive dialogue.”
    “She emphasised solutions needed to derive from engaging directly with and listening carefully to all those affected,” it said.
(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Ed Davies)

1/13/2022 French Senate Approves Latest COVID Measures And Vaccine Pass
FILE PHOTO: A coronavirus disease (COVID-19) health pass poster reading "Enter, Scan, Enjoy" is seen at a restaurant
as France brings in tougher restrictions where a proof of immunity will be required to access most public spaces
and to travel by inter-city train in Nice, France, August 9, 2021. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
    PARIS (Reuters) – The French Senate approved on Thursday the government’s latest measures to tackle the COVID-19 virus, including a vaccine pass, which has encountered some opposition among the public after President Emmanuel Macron’s harsh criticism of the unvaccinated.
    The Senate backed the COVID measures and legislation for a COVID vaccine pass by 249 in favour, versus 63 against.    The legislation had already been approved earlier this month by France’s lower house of parliament.
    Macron and members of his ruling La Republique En Marche party have stepped up their campaign this year against those not vaccinated against COVID, as France battles a fifth wave of the virus.
    Macron told Le Parisien paper this month that he wanted to “piss off” unvaccinated people by making their lives so complicated they would end up getting the COVID vaccine.
    On Wednesday, France registered 361,719 new COVID cases in the last 24 hours, and a further 246 COVID deaths in hospitals.
    French teachers will also walk off the job en masse on Thursday over what they say is a government failure to adopt a coherent policy for schools to manage the COVID pandemic, or properly protect pupils and staff against infection.
(Reporting by Camille Raynaud; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)

1/13/2022 Don’t Drag Nord Stream 2 Into Conflict Over Ukraine, German Defmin Says
FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is seen on a large-diameter pipe at the Chelyabinsk Pipe
Rolling Plant owned by ChelPipe Group in Chelyabinsk, Russia, February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    BERLIN (Reuters) – German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht on Thursday warned against drawing a link between the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, meant to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany, and the differences with Moscow over Ukraine.
    “We should not drag (Nord Stream 2) into this conflict,” Lambrecht told the broadcaster rbb in an interview.
    “We need to solve this conflict, and we need to solve it in talks – that’s the opportunity that we have at the moment, and we should use it rather than draw a link to projects that have no connection to this conflict.”
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Editing by Miranda Murray)

1/13/2022 U.S. Reassured Europe Over Russia Talks – EU Foreign Policy Chief
FILE PHOTO: High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell
attends a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal in Kyiv, Ukraine
January 6, 2022. Ukrainian Governmental Press Service/Handout via REUTERS
    BREST, France (Reuters) – Europe has received assurances from the United States that nothing will be agreed with Russia without the bloc’s involvement, the European Union’s foreign policy chief said on Thursday.
    “With the United States over the last few days, we have had an extremely close coordination,” Josep Borrell told reporters ahead of an EU defence ministers meeting in western France.
    “We have assurances that nothing will be decided or negotiated without close coordination with Europe and without the participation of the Europeans.”
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Alison Williams)

1/13/2022 Supreme Court Blocks Biden Vaccine Mandate For Businesses With 100+ Employees by OAN Newsroom
FILE – The Supreme Court is seen at dusk in Washington on Oct. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
    The Supreme Court struck down Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees.    The major ruling came down Thursday, alongside a separate decision from the justices to uphold the mandate for health care workers at federally funded facilities.
    The OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) mandate for large businesses partially took effect Monday and has faced legal challenges since Biden’s announcement several months ago.    On Thursday, the Supreme Court decided that mandate is unconstitutional and blocked it on a federal level.
    As expected, in a split ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the HHS (Health and Human Services) mandate for health care workers.

1/13/2022 Reps. Perry, Jordan Say Jan. 6 Panel Misrepresenting Facts To The American People by OAN Newsroom
    Congressmen Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) say they have no plans to cooperate with the January 6 Committee, which they believe has altered evidence and lied to the American people.

1/13/2022 Rep. Gohmert: Christians, Conservatives Need To Be More Active In Govt. by OAN Newsroom
    Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said that in order for conservative Christians to take back their country they have to be active in politics.

1/13/2022 Chicago Schools Return To In-Person Learning by OAN Newsroom
Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Obama Presidential Center at
Jackson Park on September 28, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
    Parents in Chicago are breathing a sigh of relief as their children are returning to school after an entire week of not having classes.    The Chicago Teacher’s Union narrowly voted to reinstate in-person learning by making a deal with the city’s government.
    “I’m pleased to report that the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates voted to end their work stoppage,” announced Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
    Their agreement will focus on having COVID safety measures to protect the health of both teachers and students.    These measures include providing masks to schools for distribution as well as testing asymptomatic students and staff on a weekly basis.    Both parties also agreed to let schools decide if a class needs to be remote, which is dependent on teacher and student attendance.
    “This agreement is the only modicum of safety that is available for anyone who that steps foot in a Chicago public school, especially in the places in the city where testing is low and where vaccination rates are low,” said Stacey Davis Gates, member of the Chicago Teachers Union.
    In-person classes are expected to return this week with the new guidelines in place with parents being relieved after seeing their children struggle during with virtual learning.
    According to union officials, the new agreement is only the beginning of their efforts to ensure the safety of both students and staff amidst the spread of the Omicron variant.

1/13/2022 Sen. Marshall Requests Financial Disclosure From Fauci by OAN Newsroom
WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 23: Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) questions Xavier Becerra, nominee for
Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on February 23, 2021 in Washington, DC. Becerra was
previously the Attorney General of California. (Photo by Leigh Vogel-Pool/Getty Images)
    Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) reaffirmed his intent to probe NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) Director Anthony Fauci’s finances.
    In a letter on Wednesday, the Kansas senator doubled-down on his demands that Fauci provide financial disclosures and investments after his heated exchange in a hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday.    Marshall pointed out that instead of an honest answer, he was met with a personal insult and deflection by Fauci.
    The doctor, who is serving as Chief Medical Advisor to the President, is the highest paid federal employee and he allegedly has additional income from stocks, bonds and royalty payments.
    “Dr. Fauci’s policies don’t make sense; why is it a vaccine-only policy?” questioned Marshall.    “It would be good to know if he has invested in the companies that make the vaccines or masks. Those are common questions to which the American people deserve an answer.”
    Sen. Marshall said Fauci must provide all his financial records to Congress by Friday night.

1/13/2022 White House Press Secy. Psaki Defends Biden’s Voting Rights Speech by OAN Newsroom
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a briefing at the
White House, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    The White House is defending Joe Biden’s push for voting rights reform amid mounting GOP scrutiny over his recent speech in Georgia.    During a briefing Tuesday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s remarks clearly struck a nerve and dismissed claims the address was offensive to those who disagree with him.
    “The majority of the American public elected the president to do hard things and to fight for hard things, including fighting for issues that may feel like an uphill battle,” she stated.    “But they’re vitally important to protecting fundamental rights of the American public.”
    The press secretary also said it’s disappointing Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is arguing against voting rights reform.    McConnell took to the podium to highlight a series of bizarre remarks Biden made on Tuesday like when he compared supporters of the voting rights bill to civil rights icons and foes to segregationists.    The Kentucky Republican said Biden must stop pushing false hysteria and rage on Americans.
    “Every single major legislative effort that the President has undertaken, that that he’s been a part of, has been subjected to all manner of speculation and criticism about whether it would happen or not,” Psaki continued.    “And if the President paid attention to that, he probably wouldn’t have run for president to begin with.”
    The White House official then claimed Biden is not paying attention to critics of his agenda.    She also accused Republicans of trying to make it more difficult to vote regarding efforts in many states to pass voter integrity laws.

1/13/2022 Italy Bans Hunting, Other Activities In Regions Hit By Swine Fever
FILE PHOTO: A grocer prepares prosciutto ham in a deli in Rome, Italy, October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    ROME (Reuters) – Italy on Thursday banned hunting and several other outdoor activities in two northern regions affected by a recent outbreak of African swine fever, a deadly hog disease.
    African swine fever is harmless to humans but often fatal to pigs, leading to financial losses for farmers.    It originated in Africa before spreading to Europe and Asia, and has killed hundreds of millions of pigs worldwide.
    An order signed by Health Minister Roberto Speranza and Agriculture Minister Stefano Patuanelli, affects 114 rural areas in the north-western regions of Piedmont and Liguria, where four wild boars were found to carry the disease.
    As well as the ban on hunting, it will also be forbidden to gather mushrooms and truffles, to fish, hike, cycle in the areas “and do any other activity (involving) direct or indirect contact with infected boars,” says the order released by the ministers.
    In an exception to the broad hunting ban, targeted hunting of wild boar will still be allowed in an effort to control their numbers and monitor the spread of swine fever.
    The discovery of the disease in Italy could be a blow to its meat producers as governments often block imports of pork products from countries where the disease has been found as a way to prevent transmission.
    The order, which takes immediate effect and will run for six months, “will allow our production activities to continue to operate safely, providing reassurances regarding our exports,” the ministers said.
    In China, the world’s biggest pork producer, African swine fever destroyed half the hog herd within a year of being detected there in 2018.    Last year, Haiti and the Dominican Republic confirmed the first outbreaks in the Americas in nearly 40 years.
    China and other pork buyers banned imports of German pork in September 2020 after the first case was confirmed in wild animals in Germany.
(Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Sandra Maler)

1/13/2022 U.S. Hasn’t Determined That Russia Has Decided On Military Path Forward, Says Sullivan
FILE PHOTO: White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan addresses the daily press briefing
at the White House in Washington, U.S. October 26, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – National security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Thursday the U.S. has not determined that Russia has decided to take a military path forward in Ukraine, and said the U.S. is prepared to continue with diplomacy to advance stability in that region.
    Sullivan also told reporters that no dates had been set for further talks with Russia.
    “Basically we are still at a moment where we believe a path of diplomacy can operate in a way that vindicates and reflects our interests and principles,” he told a news conference.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Writing by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Leslie Adler)

1/13/2022 Court Suspends Order To Wear Masks Outdoor In Paris – AFP
FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks walk in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris amid the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France, January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo
    PARIS (Reuters) – A French administrative tribunal on Thursday suspended an order that masks be worn on the streets of Paris, news agency AFP reported.
    The mask mandate, imposed by Paris prefecture, the local arm of the interior ministry, had been in place in the capital since Dec. 31 in a bid to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
    The ruling by the Paris Administrative Tribunal comes a day after another court in Versailles, near the capital, suspended a similar order to wear masks outdoors in the Yvelines region, deeming the mandate “an excessive, disproportionate and inappropriate infringement … of personal freedom.”
    There was no immediate reaction from the Paris Prefecture.
    The greater Paris region is France’s Omicron hotspot, although the variant is running rampant nationwide.    Data showed an incidence rate of 3,899 infections per 100,000 residents over the past seven days.
    The court’s decision was welcomed in some quarters.
    “Live free, live happy!” far-right politician Florian Philippot wrote on Twitter.    Philippot has spearheaded waves of street protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s COVID-19 restrictions, including France’s health pass.
(Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

1/13/2022 Frustrated Europeans Say We’re Not Absent From Russia, U.S. Talks by Ardee Napolitano and John Irish
A member of a delegation walks past the logo of the 6-month French presidency of the
European Union during European Union foreign ministers' informal meeting (Gymnich)
in Brest, western France, January 13, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
    BREST, France (Reuters) – European ministers bemoaned on Thursday a perception that they had been left isolated after Russia held talks with the United States and NATO over the future of the continent and said that Washington had never coordinated as much with the EU as now.
    Consultations involving U.S. and Russian officials continued in Vienna on Thursday at the 57-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe after ministerial talks between Moscow and Washington in Geneva on Tuesday and between Russia and NATO in Brussels on Wednesday failed to yield clear progress.
    Russia has amassed troops near its border with Ukraine, alarming the European Union (EU) and the West as a whole.    While denying claims from Washington that it is preparing an invasion, Moscow is seeking a string of security guarantees, including a halt to the Atlantic military alliance’s eastward expansion.
    Traumatised by the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, where it did not coordinate with its allies, European states fear they could be bypassed and their security concerns ignored as Russia seeks to deal directly with Washington.
    As talks took place in Vienna, EU foreign ministers symbolically met almost 2,000 kilometres away in the western French city of Brest seeking to downplay their absence over the last few days and stress their unity and coordination with Washington.
    “All the criticism I’ve heard over the last few days that Europe doesn’t exist, is not present, has been cast aside and is not at the table – excuse me, but it doesn’t have much basis,” the EU’s top policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters.
    “I assure you that the coordination with U.S. is excellent, better than ever” he said.    “Russia wants to divide us, and the U.S. isn’t going to play this game.”
    Speaking alongside him, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian echoed his comments, saying Europe was at the forefront of negotiations to revive peace talks in eastern Ukraine and would not be sidelined by unacceptable Russian demands.
    Referring to the conference between World War Two Allied powers in February 1945 held in Yalta that gave the Soviet Union control over its eastern European neighbours, Le Drian said Russia needed to move away from that logic.
    “If Russia’s desire is to return to Yalta, because when you look at the fundamentals of Russia’s two proposals it is a return to a logic of blocs and pre-1990, then it’s not acceptable for us,” Le Drian said.
    “But if behind this gesture there is a desire to build something else, then let’s continue talking because we want stability in Europe.”
(Reporting by John Irish in Paris, Sabine Siebold in Berlin and Robin Emmott in Brussels; Additional reporting by Ardee Napolitano in Brest; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

1/14/2022 Oil down $1.17 to $81.61, DOW down 206 to 36,084.

1/14/2022 UK PM Johnson’s Staff Partied As Queen Mourned Death Of Husband
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends the weekly Prime Minister's Questions at the parliament
in London, Britain, January 12, 2022. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s staff partied in Downing Street last year as Queen Elizabeth mourned her husband, a time when mixing indoors was banned for people from different households.
    Johnson is facing the gravest crisis of his premiership after revelations about a series of gatherings in Downing Street during COVID lockdowns, some at times when ordinary people were unable to bid farewell in person to dying relatives.
    Johnson, who won a landslide election victory in 2019, on Wednesday apologised for a “bring your own booze” gathering at his official residence during Britain’s first coronavirus lockdown. He admitted he attended.
    The Telegraph said there were two other drinks parties held inside Downing Street on April 16, 2021 when social gatherings indoors and outdoors were limited.    Johnson was at his Chequers country residence that day, the paper said.
    The next day, Queen Elizabeth bade farewell to Philip, 99.
    Dressed in black and in a white trimmed black face mask, the 95-year-old Elizabeth stood alone, head bowed as her husband of 73 years was lowered into the Royal Vault of St George’s Chapel.
    Such was the revelry in Downing Street, the Telegraph said, that staff went to nearby supermarket to buy a suitcase of alcohol, used a laptop to play music and a swing used by the prime minister’s young son was broken.
    Opponents have called for Johnson to resign, casting the 57-year-old prime minister as a charlatan who demanded the British people follow some of the most onerous rules in peacetime history while his own staff partied.
    A small but growing number in his own Conservative Party have echoed those calls, fearing it will do lasting damage to its electoral prospects.
    Johnson has given a variety of explanations of the parties, ranging from denials that any rules were broken, to understanding the anger at apparent hypocrisy at the heart of the British state.
    One of the April 2021 parties in Downing Street was a leaving event for James Slack, a former director of communications, who on Friday said he wanted to “apologise unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused.”
    Slack said in a statement to PA Media that the gathering “should not have happened at the time that it did.”
    British police said on Thursday they would not investigate gatherings held in Johnson’s residence during a coronavirus lockdown unless an internal government inquiry finds evidence of potential criminal offences.
    Asked about the reports of parties the day before Philip’s funeral, security minister Damian Hinds said he was shocked.
    “I was shocked to read it,” Hinds told Sky News.    “We will have to see what comes out further in the investigation.”
    “This was a particularly sombre time for our whole country.”
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Michael Holden)

1/14/2022 Britain’s MI5 Spy Service Warns Lawmakers Over Chinese Agent Of Influence by Andrew MacAskill
British House Speaker Lindsay Hoyle chairs Prime Minister's Questions at the Commons Chamber
in London, Britain April 28, 2021. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s domestic spy service MI5 has warned lawmakers that the Chinese Communist Party has been employing a woman to exert improper influence over members of parliament.
    MI5 sent out an alert and picture of the woman named Christine Lee on Thursday alleging she was “involved in political interference activities” in the United Kingdom on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.
    Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, who circulated MI5’s alert to lawmakers, said MI5 had found that Lee “has facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China.”
    Hoyle said Lee had been involved with the now disbanded all-party parliamentary group, Chinese in Britain.
    Britain’s interior minister Priti Patel told reporters that Lee’s behaviour was currently below the criminal threshold to prosecute her, but she said that by putting the alert out the government was able to warn lawmakers about Lee’s attempts to improperly influence them.
    Patel said it was “deeply concerning” that an individual working on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party had targeted lawmakers.
    Lee is the founder of a law firm, which has offices in London and Birmingham, according to a government official. A woman who answered the phone at the Birmingham office said: “We are not taking any calls now.”    A request for comment left at the London office went unanswered.
    The law firm lists on its website one of its roles as legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in Britain.
    The Chinese embassy in London said in a statement that China does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
    “We have no need and never seek to ‘buy influence’ in any foreign parliament,” it said.    “We firmly oppose the trick of smearing and intimidation against the Chinese community in the UK.”
    Barry Gardiner, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party, said he had received hundreds of thousands of pounds in donations from Lee and said he has been liaising with intelligence services “for a number of years” about her.
    “They have always known, and been made fully aware by me, of her engagement with my office and the donations she made to fund researchers in my office in the past,” Gardiner said.
    Gardiner employed Lee’s son as a diary manager but he resigned on Thursday.
    Iain Duncan Smith, a former leader of Britain’s governing Conservative Party who has been sanctioned by China for highlighting alleged human right abuses in Xinjiang, called for an urgent update from the government on the issue.
    He questioned why the woman had not been deported and called for a tightening of the accreditation process for people gaining access to parliament, which he said was too lenient.
    Lee is listed under the Christine Lee & Co law firm as a British national in financial filings with Companies House, Britain’s corporate registry.
    Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood told parliament of her alleged activity: “This is the sort of grey-zone interference we now anticipate and expect from China.”
    Britain’s relations with China have deteriorated in recent years over issues including Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
    Last year MI5 urged British citizens to treat the threat of spying from Russia, China and Iran with as much vigilance as terrorism.
    British spies say China and Russia have each sought to steal commercially sensitive data and intellectual property as well as to interfere in domestic politics and sow misinformation.
    The Chinese ambassador to Britain was banned from attending an event in the British parliament last year because Beijing imposed sanctions on lawmakers who highlighted alleged human right abuses in Xinjiang.
    China placed the sanctions on nine British politicians in March last year for spreading what it said were “lies and disinformation” over the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the country’s far west.
(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Christopher Cushing)

1/14/2022 EU Top Diplomat Condemns Ukraine Cyber Attack, Offers Help
FILE PHOTO: High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell
talks to journalists as he arrives to attend a working session during a European Union Foreign Ministers
informal meeting (Gymnich) in Brest, western France, January 14, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo
    BREST, France (Reuters) – The European Union’s top diplomat condemned on Friday a cyber attack on Ukraine and said the EU’s political and security committee and cyber units would meet to decide how to respond and help Kyiv.
    A massive cyber attack warning Ukrainians to “be afraid and expect the worst” hit government websites late on Thursday, leaving some websites inaccessible on Friday morning and prompting Kyiv to open an investigation.
    “We are going to mobilise all our resources to help Ukraine to tackle this cyber attack. Sadly, we knew it could happen,” Josep Borrell told reporters at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in the western French city of Brest.
    “It’s difficult to say (who is behind it).    I can’t blame anybody as I have no proof, but we can imagine.”
    The cyber attack, which targeted the foreign ministry, the cabinet of ministers and the security and defence council among others, comes as Kyiv and its allies have sounded the alarm about a possible new Russian military offensive against Ukraine.
    Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson told Reuters it was too early to say who could be behind the attack but said Russia had been behind similar strikes in the past.
    Also speaking in Brest, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Lind said the West must stand up to any Russian aggression.
    “… we have to be very firm in our messages to Russia: That if there are attacks against Ukraine, we will be very harsh and very strong and robust in our response,” she told reporters, adding that Sweden stood in solidarity with Kyiv.
    German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she would travel to Moscow next week for talks on the Ukraine crisis.
    She did not comment on the cyber attack but dampened hopes for a quick solution after a series of talks between the West and Russia this week.
    “It is a characteristic of diplomacy in a crisis that it takes a lot of persistence, patience and strong nerves,” she said.    “This is why it is so important to make intensive use of varying channels of communications.”
(Reporting by John Irish and Sabine Siebold; Editing by Catherine Evans and Gareth Jones)

1/14/2022 German Foreign Minister To Travel To Moscow Next Week For Talks On Ukraine
FILE PHOTO: Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, wearing a protective face mask,
attends a working session during a European Union Foreign Ministers informal meeting
(Gymnich) in Brest, western France, January 13, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
    BREST (Reuters) – German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will travel to Moscow next week for talks over the Ukraine crisis, she said on the sidelines of a meeting with her EU counterparts in Brest on Friday.
    At the same time, she dampened hopes for a quick solution after a series of talks between the West and Russia this week.
    “There had been no talks with Russia (at the NATO-Russia Council) for two years, so I think nobody came to the negotiating table expecting a solution within a few hours,” Baerbock told reporters.
    “It is a characteristic of diplomacy in a crisis that it takes a lot of persistence, patience and strong nerves … This is why it is so important to intensively make use of varying channels of communications.”
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Catherine Evans)

1/14/2022 So Long Toronto: COVID-19 Pandemic Hastens Canada’s Urban Exodus by Julie Gordon
People queue up for their COVID-19 vaccine booster shots at a clinic inside the
Metro Toronto Convention Centre, as the latest Omicron variant emerges as a threat,
in Toronto, Ontario, Canada December 22, 2021. REUTERS/Cole Burston NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
    OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s urban exodus picked up steam into the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with tens of thousands of people leaving Toronto and Montreal for smaller cities or rural areas, official data showed on Thursday.
    More than 64,000 people left Toronto for other parts of Ontario from mid-2020 to mid-2021, up 14% from the previous 12-month period, according to Statistics Canada population estimates, with another 6,600 moving out of province.
    Montreal, Canada’s second largest city, lost nearly 40,000 residents to other areas of Quebec, up 60% on the year, with another 3,600 moving out of province.
    The COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of remote work has prompted tens of thousands of Canadians to flee large and expensive cities in search of more space, and cheaper real estate, in small centers, cottage towns and coastal regions.
    That has helped drive a nationwide housing boom, with prices rising more sharply in suburbs and small towns than in urban centres, fueling worries locals could be priced out and putting pressure on municipal services.
    Nationwide, the typical home in Canada now costs C$780,400 ($624,870), up 34%, or by almost C$200,000, since March 2020.
    Atlantic Canada has fared well in the exodus.    Halifax, Nova Scotia added more than 6,000 people in the year up to June 30, 2021, with the vast majority arriving from out of province.
    Rural Quebec has boomed, adding more than 25,000 people from urban centers within the predominantly French-speaking province.
    The cities in the so-called Golden Horseshoe around Toronto are also seeing strong inflows.    Oshawa added 8,000 people as residents flowed out of Toronto, and both Hamilton and St. Catharines gained nearly 5,000.
    Immigration offset some of Toronto’s population losses.
($1 = 1.2489 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

1/14/2022 OAN To Provide Live Coverage Of President Trump’s ‘Save America’ Rally In Ariz. On Jan. 15th
(OAN Graphic)
    We have a weekend programming alert for our viewers as former President Donald Trump is gearing up for a rally in Arizona.    On Saturday, January 15th Trump will speak to tens-of-thousands of supporters in Florence, Arizona at 9pm ET/ 6pm PT.
    Other speakers include congressman Andy Biggs, Trump-backed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, congresswoman Debbie Lesko, Dr. Alveda King and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.
    One America News will provide full coverage of the event, which kicks off at 6:30 ET, 3:30pm PT. Trump’s speech is set for 9pm ET/ 6pm PT.    This will mark his first event of 2022.

1/14/2022 Sen. Thune: Democrats’ Plan To Nuke Filibuster Will Have Long-Term Consequences by OAN Newsroom
Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to reporters at the Capitol
in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)
    Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) shared strong words over Democrats wanting to kill the filibuster.    He defended the measure, saying it prevents extreme changes in policy course when the opposition party wins elections.    The lawmaker from South Dakota pointed out on Thursday that the Senate filibuster is designed to give a voice to smaller states like his.
    “The Senate was to be a place, where the leaderepointed out, where smaller states like my state of South Dakota have a voice, where the minority party in this country, where those who didn’t win the election have a voice in the legislative process,” he explained.    “It requires bipartisanship, it requires consensus.”
    Thune stressed Democrat proposals to reform the filibuster would erode federal representation in Washington and would further polarize the country.
    “This is all about stability, this is all about creating an atmosphere for moderation,” said the Republican.    “It’s about predictability when it comes to our laws and the Senate Democrats are intent it seems. at least their leadership, on blowing this all up.”
    Sen. Thune said the Republican Party must now focus on taking back Congress from Democrats and stopping their destructive agenda.

1/14/2022 ‘Defeat The Mandates’ Rally Slated For Jan. 23 In Washington, D.C. by OAN Newsroom
Demonstrators gather at New York Freedom rally, protesting vaccine and mask mandates before New York Gov. Kathy Hochul delivers
her State of the State address at the state Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)
    A mass protest against Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates is set to take place in Washington, D.C. this month.    The rally, called Defeat the Mandates, is organized by Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, along with Children’s Health Defense and the International Alliance of Physicians and Medical Scientists.
    The protest has been endorsed by Dr. Robert Malone, a virologist and inventor of MRNA vaccine, as well as Professor Peter McCullough, a nationally recognized and board-certified cardiologist, who have both challenged official narratives of COVID-19.
    “Washington DC, between the Washington monument and Lincoln Memorial, so this it the Defeat the mandate, an American homecoming rally,” stated Dr. Malone.
    Rally organizers unveiled a list of speakers at the protest, which includes Dr. Malone and more than a dozen of top epidemiologists and medical doctors.    The rally is slated for Sunday, January 23.

1/14/2022 Analysis-U.S. Rallies A United Front Against Russia As Putin Seeks Cracks by Simon Lewis
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden is seen through a window in the Oval Office as he speaks by phone with Ukraine's President
Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 9, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A week of diplomacy by U.S. President Joe Biden failed to defuse tensions between Russia and Ukraine, but has maintained unity with European allies against Moscow as Russian     President Vladimir Putin seeks to expose cracks, foreign policy analysts say.
    After former U.S. President Donald Trump openly disparaged NATO and left Europe questioning Washington’s commitment to the alliance, some analysts said Putin appeared to be testing Biden’s declaration that “America is back” on the world stage.
    “He’s probably counting on divisions in the West,” veteran former U.S. diplomat Daniel Fried, who worked on the response to Russia’s seizure of Crimea in 2014, said of Putin.    “He’s going to keep pushing and things could get worse.    But had we caved (this week), it would be much worse.”
    Russia did not walk out of meetings with the United States and European nations this week, but the talks ended with U.S. officials warning that the risk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine remains high with no sign that Moscow will return some 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border to their barracks.
    Russia denies it plans to attack Ukraine but says it could take unspecified military action unless its demands – including a promise by the NATO alliance never to admit Ukraine – are met.
    Biden took office in January 2021 calling for “predictable” ties with Russia and playing down Moscow’s global influence.
    “There has been a systematic underestimation (in Washington) of the ability of Russia to disrupt things,” said Tom Schwartz, a professor of history, political science and European studies at Vanderbilt University.
    But Putin flexed his muscles, moving troops and military hardware close to Russia’s border with Ukraine over the past year and prompting intensified U.S. diplomacy with Moscow.
    Putin would not let himself “be deprioritized” by Washington, said Schwartz, adding that the Russian leader was attempting to demonstrate that “the American-led international order is really quite fragile now.    It’s a testing moment.”
    Biden’s bid to rebuild U.S. leadership globally was also hindered by a chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August that prompted the European Union to consider ways to become more independent of the U.S. military.
    When asked if the Biden administration was faced with any kind of Trump hangover among NATO allies, a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was no “lack of unity or confidence among NATO allies.”
    “We are all in this together and they’ve responded very well to the administration’s approach, which is definitely nothing about Europe, without Europe, nothing about NATO, without NATO,” the official said.
    Biden has faced lingering doubts about America’s reliability as a partner.    Leaders from the Group of Seven advanced economies, NATO and the European Union are worried about the pendulum of U.S. politics swinging yet again.
    While in office Trump threatened to withdraw from NATO and accused Europeans of contributing too little to their defense.
    Although Biden pledged to continue giving military aid to Ukraine and to boost support if Russia invades, Washington’s response has been almost entirely diplomatic, and the West is not in a position to defend Ukraine militarily.
    The main attempt to deter a Russian invasion is a U.S. threat of “unprecedented” sanctions, including export controls and measures targeting Russia’s financial system.
    U.S. officials have spent weeks trying to ensure Europe would match Washington’s planned sanctions response, but no clear agreement has been reached on what specific sanctions will be leveled.
    While the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia when it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014, the bloc has shown divisions over how to deal with Moscow, which accounts for one-third of EU gas imports.
    The United States said Moscow’s behavior towards Ukraine will play a crucial role in the fate of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, meant to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany.    But Germany on Thursday warned against drawing a link between the pipeline and the Russian tensions.
    “I think the Europeans would be united behind serious sanctions in the event of a full-scale Russian invasion,” said Anatol Lieven, senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
    “If it’s something short of (invasion) – one has to remember that America does not depend on Russia for gas; Europe does,” Lieven said.
(Reporting by Simon Lewis; editing by Michelle Nichols and Grant McCool)

1/14/2022 Johnson’s Office Apologises To Queen For Party On Eve Of Philip’s Funeral by Guy Faulconbridge and Kylie MacLellan
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends the weekly Prime Minister's Questions at the parliament
in London, Britain, January 12, 2022. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) -British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office apologised to Queen Elizabeth on Friday after it emerged that staff partied late into the night in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, when mixing indoors was banned.
    Johnson is facing the gravest crisis of his premiership after almost daily revelations of social gatherings during COVID-19 lockdowns, some held when ordinary people could not bid farewell in person to dying relatives.
    As an opinion poll showed the opposition Labour Party pulling into a 10-point lead over Johnson’s Conservatives, a report said he had encouraged staff to “let off steam” during regular “wine-time Friday” gatherings.
    After building a political career out of flouting accepted norms, Johnson is now under growing pressure from some of his own lawmakers to quit.    Opponents say he is unfit to rule and has misled parliament by denying COVID-19 guidance was breached.
    In an extraordinary twist to a saga that has been widely lampooned by comedians and cartoonists, the Daily Telegraph said drinks parties were held inside Downing Street on April 16, 2021, the day before Prince Philip’s funeral.
    “It is deeply regrettable this took place at a time of national mourning and No. 10 (Downing Street) has apologised to the Palace,” Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.
    Johnson was at his Chequers country residence that day and was not invited to any gathering, his spokesman said.
    Such was the revelry in Downing Street, the Telegraph said, that staff went to a nearby supermarket to buy a suitcase of alcohol, spilled wine on carpets, and broke a swing used by the prime minister’s son.
    The next day, Queen Elizabeth bade farewell to Philip, her husband of 73 years, following his death aged 99.
    Dressed in black and in a white trimmed black face mask, the 95-year-old Elizabeth cut a poignant figure as she sat alone, in strict compliance with coronavirus rules, during his funeral service at Windsor Castle.
    Opponents have called for Johnson, 57, to resign, casting him as a charlatan who demanded the British people follow some of the most onerous rules in peacetime history while his staff partied at the heart of government.
    A small but growing number in Johnson’s Conservative Party have echoed those calls, fearing it will do lasting damage to its electoral prospects.
    “Sadly, the Prime Minister’s position has become untenable,” said Conservative lawmaker Andrew Bridgen, a former Johnson supporter.    “The time is right to leave the stage.”
    In the latest report of rule-breaking, the Mirror newspaper said staff had bought a large wine fridge for Friday gatherings, events that were regularly observed by Johnson as he walked to his apartment in the building.
    “If the PM tells you to ‘let off steam’, he’s basically saying this is fine,” it quoted one source as saying.
    Separately, the former head of the government unit behind COVID restrictions, Kate Josephs, apologised for holding her own drinks gathering when she left the job in December 2020.
    Johnson has given a variety of explanations of the parties, ranging from denials that any rules were broken to expressing understanding for the public anger at apparent hypocrisy at the heart of the British state.
    The Independent newspaper said Johnson had dubbed a plan to salvage his premiership as “Operation Save Big Dog.”
    Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, seen as a possible successor, said “real mistakes” had been made.
    “We need to look at the overall position we’re in as a country, the fact that he (Johnson) has delivered Brexit, that we are recovering from COVID… He has apologised.”
    “I think we now need to move on.”
    To trigger a leadership challenge, 54 of the 360 Conservative members of parliament must write letters of no confidence to the chairman of the party’s 1922 Committee.
    The Telegraph said as many as 30 such letters had been submitted.
    Johnson faces a tough year ahead: beyond COVID-19, inflation is soaring, energy bills are spiking, taxation will rise in April and his party faces local elections in May.
    British police said on Thursday they would not investigate gatherings held in Johnson’s residence during a coronavirus lockdown unless an internal government inquiry finds evidence of potential criminal offences.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Michael Holden, Gareth Jones and Hugh Lawson)

1/14/2022 UK’s Labour Take 10-Point Opinion Poll Lead Over Scandal-Hit Johnson
People attend Britain's Labour Party annual conference in Brighton, Britain, September 26, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
    LONDON (Reuters) – The scandal engulfing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson over his conduct during coronavirus lockdowns has helped the opposition Labour Party to pull into a 10 point lead over the ruling Conservatives in a new opinion poll released on Friday.
    Johnson apologised to parliament on Wednesday and to Queen Elizabeth on Friday following a series of parties or gatherings that were held in his Downing Street residence at times when the country was under strict pandemic curbs.
    Pollster Savanta ComRes said a survey of 2,151 adults on Thursday and Friday put Labour up 5 points to 42% of the vote while the Conservatives fell one point to 32%.    It said that marked Labour’s largest share of the vote since 2013.
    Johnson secured a landslide election victory in 2019.    The poll said that 70% of respondents now want him to resign.
    Johnson’s office apologised to the queen after it emerged that staff had partied on April 16, 2021, late into the night in Downing Street on the eve of her husband Prince Philip’s funeral, at a time when mixing indoors was banned.
    Johnson apologised to parliament after he admitted he had attended a “bring your own booze” gathering at his residence in May 2020 during the country’s first lockdown.
    The ComRes poll showed that voters across the political spectrum were angry with the revelations, with only 66% of those who backed the Conservatives in the 2019 election giving their support to the party now.
(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Grant McCool)

1/14/2022 Shocked Ireland Falls Silent For Murdered Young Woman by Padraic Halpin
Friends of 23-year-old Ashling Murphy, who was murdered in Tullamore while out jogging, pay a tribute to her
during a memorial outside Government buildings, in Dublin, Ireland January 14, 2022. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
    DUBLIN (Reuters) – Thousands fell silent at candlelit vigils in towns and cities across Ireland on Friday in memory of a young jogger killed in broad daylight, in what campaigners called a “watershed moment” in the call to end violence against women.
    Ashling Murphy was killed in her native Tullamore in the Irish midlands on Wednesday while exercising on a popular canal walkway.    Police say the attack on the 23-year-old teacher was likely random and that the perpetrator is still at large.
    The murder has shocked the country and around 100 vigils were organised the length and breadth of Ireland and Northern Ireland, including outside Dublin’s parliament where a minute’s silence was held at 4.30 p.m., close to the time Murphy was attacked.
    “I’m sick of every time I hear a young woman is killed thinking ‘Oh my god, is it someone I know?.’    There is an endemic worldwide of gendered violence against women,” said Sally Anne McCarthy, a 25-year-old law student holding a homemade sign saying “I want to feel safe.”
    “Poor Ashling probably went out running thinking ‘if I go out now, I’ll be home before dark.’    I and every young woman is absolutely sick of living our lives making all these changes to our behaviour just to feel safe.    I shouldn’t have to live like that.”
    Others piled flowers outside the gates of parliament, where they were joined by politicians including Prime Minister Micheál Martin.    Murphy was a musician and friends played traditional Irish music as large crowds stood silent for an hour and packed the nearby streets.
    The head of the National Women’s Council, which organised the main vigil, said the anger “without a doubt” represented a watershed moment in the campaign to end male violence against women.
    Martin said the government has been working over the last year on a national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, the centrepiece of which is zero tolerance for violence against women.
    “There is a culture in our society that creates the conditions in which violence against women happens and happens too frequently,” Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar added, saying the country was “reeling” from the murder.
    “We as men have a particular responsibility to understand the factors that give rise to attitudes of violence against women and to teach our boys and to teach our teenagers about what’s right and wrong.”
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Frances Kerry)

1/14/2022 U.S. Offers Ukraine ‘Whatever Support It Needs’ To Recover From Cyberattack by CAITLIN Webber
FILE PHOTO: A Ukrainian national flag flies in front of the government building in
central Kiev, Ukraine, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko//File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and its allies have offered Ukraine their support as the investigation into the nature and impact of a cyberattack that targeted the country continues, a White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson said.
    Asked by reporters if the cyberattack was conducted by Russian intelligence services, a senior administration official said later: “We don’t have an attribution at this time.”
    The senior administration official said the attack, which defaced a series of Ukrainian government websites, appeared to be limited, with multiple websites back online.
    The incident comes amid increased tension between Russia and the United States over Ukraine after a week of diplomacy by Biden’s administration failed to cajole Moscow into drawing down its military buildup on Russia’s border with Ukraine.
    “We will provide Ukraine with whatever support it needs to recover,” the NSC spokesperson said.
    The cyberattack against Ukraine interrupted access to a series of government websites and left a message: “All your personal data has been uploaded, and data on this computer has been irrecoverably destroyed.”
    The message added: “All your information is now public.    Be afraid and expect the worst.”
    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg “strongly condemned” the incident, saying allied cyber experts would in the coming days provide Ukraine with a cyber defense information sharing platform.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Joseph Menn and Nandita Bose; Writing by Rami Ayyub and Caitlin Webber; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis)

1/14/2022 U.S. Approves Possible $88 Million Sale Of Intelligence Equipment To France
French and U.S. flags are seen ahead of the meeting of French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and US Special Presidential
Envoy for Climate John Kerry at the Bercy Finance Ministry in Paris, France, March 10, 2021. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department has approved the possible sale of around $88 million worth of sensor pod suites and other equipment to France, according to an announcement made on Friday.
    British company BAE Systems is the principal contractor, the release from the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said.
(Reporting by Costas Pitas)

1/14/2022 U.S. Prosecutors Recommend Dropping Case Against MIT Professor Over China Ties - Source by Nate Raymond
The sign at Building 76 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.,
November 21, 2018. Picture taken November 21, 2018. To match Exclusive USA-CHINA/STUDENTS REUTERS/Brian Snyder
    BOSTON (Reuters) - Prosecutors have recommended that the U.S. Justice Department drop charges against a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor accused of concealing his ties to China when seeking federal grant money, a person familiar with the matter said Friday.
    Federal prosecutors in Boston decided to seek dismissal of the case against Chinese-born mechanical engineer and nanotechnologist Gang Chen.    It was the latest setback for a crackdown on Chinese influence within U.S. research.
    Boston prosecutors recommended the case’s dismissal in recent weeks based on new information, the person said, adding the Justice Department has not made a final decision.
    He was accused of failing to disclose, among other things, that he served as an “overseas expert” to the Chinese government and sat on the advisory board of Shenzhen’s Southern University of Science and Technology, or SUSTech, when applying for a U.S. Department of Energy grant.
    But Brian Kelly, a lawyer for Chen at Nixon Peabody, has said last week that “nothing significant was omitted on his application and several of the government’s allegations were simply wrong.”
    MIT President Rafael Reif has defended its $25 million collaboration SUSTech as furthering MIT’s research mission.
    Faculty in a letter last year rallied around Chen, saying the case against him vilified normal research activities.
    Kelly and co-counsel Rob Fisher had no comment on Friday.    MIT declined to comment.    Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesperson, had no comment on Chen’s case.
    The Wall Street Journal first reported the recommendation.
    Chen was charged in January 2021 as part of the department’s “China Initiative,” launched during former President Donald Trump’s administration to counter suspected Chinese economic espionage and research theft.
    Targets included university researchers.    A Harvard professor, Charles Lieber, last month was convicted of lying about his ties to a China-run recruitment program.    He is expected to appeal.
    Critics say the initiative chilled academic research and targeted Chinese researchers through racial profiling.    And despite the Harvard win, several other cases have faltered.
    A Tennessee professor was acquitted by a judge last year following a mistrial, and prosecutors dropped charges against six other researchers.
    President Joe Biden’s administration has continued the initiative, though Hornbuckle said the Justice Department is reviewing its approach, a review that should be completed in the coming weeks.
    Rachael Rollins, newly appointed U.S. attorney in Massachusetts, during a meeting with reporters on Thursday would not address whether prosecutors should stop bringing China Initiative cases.
    But she said “the government will always look to see whether we can prove our case at various points.”
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by David Gregorio)

1/14/2022 U.S. Concerned Russia Prepping For Ukraine Invasion If Diplomacy Fails-White House by Steve Holland
Russian service members board a BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle during tactical combat exercises held by a motorised
rifle division at the Kadamovsky range in the Rostov region, Russia December 10, 2021. REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is concerned that Russia is preparing for an invasion of Ukraine soon by fabricating a pretext for war if diplomacy fails to meet its objectives, the White House said on Friday.
    Talks between the United States, its European allies and Russia ended in a stalemate this week with no current plans to meet again about Russia’s deployment of tens of thousands of troops along Ukraine’s border.    A cyber attack against Ukraine has further inflamed tensions.
    A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said it was not yet clear who was responsible for the cyber attack but that President Joe Biden had been briefed on it.
    “We are in touch with the Ukrainians and have offered our support as Ukraine investigates the impact and nature and recovers from the incidents.    We don’t have an attribution at this time,” the spokesperson said.
    Biden has warned of severe economic consequences for Russia if Russian President Vladimir Putin launches an invasion of Ukraine.    Russia denies plans to attack Ukraine and has demanded NATO stop its eastward expansion and agree to legally binding security guarantees, demands that the United States and NATO have rejected.
    White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the United States is concerned the Russian government “is preparing for an invasion into Ukraine that may result in widespread human rights violations and war crimes should diplomacy fail to meet their objectives.”
    “As part of its plans, Russia is laying the groundwork to have the option of fabricating a pretext for invasion, including through sabotage activities and information operations, by accusing Ukraine of preparing an imminent attack against Russian forces in eastern Ukraine,” Psaki said.
    The Russian military “plans to begin these activities several weeks before a military invasion, which could begin between mid-January and mid-February,” she said.
    Psaki said it is up to Putin to determine the path forward, and that a tough U.S. response awaits should he launch an invasion.
    “If they decide they want to engage in diplomatic conversations and talks, we are very open to that and we’re hopeful they will do that.    But ultimately, it’s a choice they need to make,” she said.
    A U.S. official said the United States has information that indicates Russia has already positioned a group of operatives to conduct “a false-flag operation” in eastern Ukraine.
    “The operatives are trained in urban warfare and in using explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxy-forces,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
    The official also said that indications are that “Russian influence actors are already starting to fabricate Ukrainian provocations in state and social media to justify a Russian intervention and sow divisions in Ukraine.”
    Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said if history was a guide, it would be difficult to see these kind of activities without the knowledge of senior Russian leaders.
    Asked whether the U.S. military would continue to support Ukrainian forces with security assistance in the event of a Russian invasion, Kirby said: “We have and we will continue to provide security assistance to Ukraine to help them better defend themselves.”
(Reporting by Steve HollandAdditional reporting by Alexandra Alper and Idrees AliEditing by Chizu Nomiyama, Alistair Bell and Frances Kerry)

1/14/2022 Exclusive-U.S. Bill Would Block Defense Contractors From Using Chinese Rare Earths by Ernest Scheyder
FILE PHOTO: A mining machine is seen at the Bayan Obo mine containing rare
earth minerals, in Inner Mongolia, China July 16, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer
    (Reuters) - A bipartisan piece of legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate on Friday would force defense contractors to stop buying rare earths from China by 2026 and use the Pentagon to create a permanent stockpile of the strategic minerals.
    The bill, sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, and Mark Kelly, an Arizona Democrat, is the latest in a string of U.S. legislation seeking to thwart China’s near control over the sector.
    It essentially uses the Pentagon’s purchase of billions of dollars worth of fighter jets, missiles and other weapons as leverage to require contractors to stop relying on China and, by extension, support the revival of U.S. rare earths production.
    Rare earths are a group of 17 metals that, after processing, are used to make magnets found in electric vehicles, weaponry and electronics.    While the United States created the industry in World War Two and U.S. military scientists developed the most widely-used type of rare earth magnet, China has slowly grown to control the entire sector the past 30 years.
    The United States has only one rare earths mine and has no capability to process rare earth minerals.
    “Ending American dependence on China for rare earths extraction and processing is critical to building up the U.S. defense and technology sectors,” Cotton told Reuters.
    The senator, who sits on the Senate’s Armed Forces and Intelligence committees, described China’s evolution into the global rare earths leader as “simply a policy choice that the United States made,” adding that he hoped fresh policies would loosen Beijing’s grip.
    Known as the Restoring Essential Energy and Security Holdings Onshore for Rare Earths Act of 2022, the bill would codify and make permanent the Pentagon’s ongoing stockpiling of the materials.    China temporarily blocked rare earth exports to Japan in 2010 and has issued vague threats it could do the same to the United States.
    To build that reserve, though, the Pentagon buys supply in part from China, a paradox that Senate staffers hope will abate in time.
    The rare earths production process can be highly pollutive, part of the reason why it grew unpopular in the United States.    Ongoing research is attempting to make the process cleaner.
    Cotton said he has talked to various U.S. executive agencies about the bill, but declined to say if he had talked with President Joe Biden or the White House.
    “This is an area in which Congress will lead, because many members have been concerned about this very topic, regardless of party,” he said.
    Most members of the nascent U.S. rare earths sector praised the bill, though some worried defense contractors could continue to ask for waivers to buy Chinese rare earths even after 2026.
    The Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group for Northrop Grumman Corp, Lockheed Martin Corp and other U.S. aerospace and defense companies, declined to comment on the bill.
    “Well placed policies such as this one get us closer to the target of onshoring this critical supply chain,” said Marty Weems, North American president of Australia-based American Rare Earths Ltd, which is developing three U.S. rare earth projects.
    MP Materials Corp , which operates the only U.S. rare earths mine and relies on Chinese processors, said it appreciates “ongoing efforts by the Department of Defense and broader U.S. government to secure the domestic rare earth supply chain and promote free and fair competition.”
    The bill, which the sponsors expect could be folded into Pentagon funding legislation later this year, offers no direct support for U.S. rare earths miners or processors.
    Instead, it requires Pentagon contractors to stop using Chinese rare earths within four years, allowing waivers only in rare situations.    Defense contractors would be required to immediately say where they source the minerals.
    Those requirements “should encourage more domestic (rare earths) development in our country,” Cotton said.
    The Pentagon has in the past two years given grants to companies trying to resume U.S. rare earth processing and magnet production, including MP Materials, Australia’s Lynas Rare Earth Ltd, TDA Magnetics Inc and Urban Mining Co.
    Kelly, a former astronaut and a member of the Senate’s Armed Services and Energy committees, said the bill should “strengthen America’s position as a global leader in technology by reducing our country’s reliance on adversaries like China for rare earth elements.”
    The bill only applies to weapons, not other equipment the U.S. military purchases.
    Additionally, the U.S. trade representative would be required to investigate whether China is distorting the rare earths market and recommend whether trade sanctions are needed.
    When asked if such a step could be seen as antagonistic by Beijing, Cotton said: “I don’t think the answer to Chinese aggression or Chinese threats is to continue to subject ourselves to Chinese threats.”
(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; additional reporting by Mike Stone; editing by Amran Abocar, Richard Pullin and Marguerita Choy)

1/14/2022 Lisbon Fined For Sharing Protesters’ Data With Targetted Embassies by Catarina Demony
FILE PHOTO: Lisbon Mayor Fernando Medina celebrates his reelection victory
in Lisbon, Portugal, October 1, 2017. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes/File Photo
    LISBON (Reuters) – The mayor’s office in Lisbon has been fined 1.2 million euros ($1.4 million) for sharing the personal data of protest organisers with embassies of countries targetted by the protests, Portugal’s data protection commission said on Friday.
    The mayor’s office came under fire in June 2021 when Ksenia Ashrafullina, a Russian-Portuguese organiser of a protest rally in Lisbon, said she had received an email showing the city hall had shared data on her and fellow organisers with the Russian embassy.
    After an internal investigation, it was revealed data on organisers of 180 protests has been shared with embassies since 2012, 52 of which occurred after the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation – which bans such data sharing – came into force in 2018.
    The city hall, then led by Socialist mayor Fernando Medina, shared data of protesters in front of the Cuban, Angolan, Venezuelan, Israeli embassies with the targetted institutions.
    The decision by the data protection commission (CNPD), published on its website, said that between 2018 and 2021 there were a total of 225 data breaches committed by the mayor’s office related to sharing protesters’ personal information with embassies and other entities.
    In a statement, the mayor’s office, now headed by Social Democrat Carlos Moedas, said the decision was a “heavy legacy the previous leadership … left to the people of Lisbon,” adding the fine now posed a challenge for the budget.
    “We will evaluate this fine in detail and how best to protect the interests of citizens and the institution,” it said.
    Medina did not immediately respond to a request for comment Ashrafullina, who organised the rally in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, told Reuters she was satisfied with the CNPD’s decision:
    “We have been waiting for it, and it finally came.”
    But Ashrafullina is still scared about the consequences of the data-sharing.
    “I’m worried about what would happen if I ever needed to go back to Russia,” she said.
($1 = 0.8772 euros)
(Reporting by Catarina Demony Editing by Sergio Goncalves and Mark Potter)

1/14/2022 In Rare Move, Uruguay Opens Borders For Residents Infected With COVID-19 by Daniela Desantis
FILE PHOTO: Daniel Salinas delivers a speech as he assumes his post as Minister of Public Health, under
the new government of Uruguay, in Montevideo, Uruguay March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Mariana Greif/File Photo
    MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) – Uruguay has opened its borders to citizens and residents even if they are infected with COVID-19, a rare move amid surging cases worldwide, though passengers would need to travel in private vehicles across the border and be in a family “bubble.”
    The South American country’s government said the move was in “solidarity” with Uruguayans and residents who were infected with the virus abroad.
    “All Uruguayan travelers and resident foreigners who have got Covid abroad may return to our country at any time,” Uruguayan Health Minister Daniel Salinas said on his Twitter account on Friday.
    With a population of 3.5 million people, the country, which borders Argentina and Brazil registered, a record of more than 10,000 daily infections on Thursday, according to official data.    Around 77% of the population is fully vaccinated.
    The condition for this entry is that infected people must do it in private vehicles in their “family bubble” and quarantine at home in compliance with current health measures.
    “It is not good that Uruguayans have to stay abroad, even if they have taken a risk, we take care of them here,” said Salinas.
(Reporting by Daniela Desantis; Writing by Carolina Pulice; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

1/15/2022 Oil up $2.40 to $84.10, DOW down 202 to 35,9120.



1/15/2022 Ethiopia slams WHO head Tedros by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    GENEVA – The government of Ethiopia sent a letter to the World Health Organization, accusing its Ethiopian director-general of “misconduct” after he criticized the war and humanitarian crisis there.
    Ethiopia nominated Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to be the head of the U.N. health agency four years ago, but says he has “not lived up to the integrity and professional expectations required from his office,” and that he has interfered in Ethiopia’s internal affairs.
    “Through his acts, (Tedros) spread harmful misinformation and compromised WHO’s reputation, independence and credibility,” Ethiopia’s ministry of foreign affairs said.
    Tedros, an ethnic Tigrayan, has repeatedly deplored the situation in his home country and called for humanitarian access to Ethiopia’s conflict-ridden Tigray region.
    On Wednesday, he cited a missive WHO had received recently from a physician in the region, who said health authorities had run out of basic medicines for diseases including diabetes in June and were using expired stocks and intravenous fluids.
    Tedros condemned Ethiopia’s blockade of international access to Tigray, saying that WHO had not been allowed to send any supplies to the region since July.
    He said there should be “unfettered” humanitarian access to Tigray and said that “just respecting the constitutional order would bring this problem into a peaceful conclusion.”
    He continued: “Of course, I am from that region and from the northern part of Ethiopia. But I am saying this without any bias.”

1/15/2022 Guatemala’s President Seeks Jail Terms Of Up To 30 Years For People Smugglers by Sofia Menchu
FILE PHOTO: Guatemala's President Alejandro Giammattei addresses the General Debate of the 76th Session of the United Nations
General Assembly in New York City, U.S., September 22, 2021. Justin Lane/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei presented an initiative to Congress on Friday to drastically increase jail terms for people smugglers, with sentences of up to 30 years for the worst offenders.
    For many years Guatemala has been a key transit country for impoverished Central American migrants – including Guatemalans – who make the treacherous journey across Mexico to the United States in search of a better life.
    But Guatemala’s government has sought to crack down on people-smuggling gangs after dozens of migrants died in high-profile incidents either through overcrowding in transport vehicles or at the hands of criminal groups.
    Giammattei proposed raising the sentences for smugglers, known as “coyotes,” to between 10 and 30 years from the 2 to 5 years currently set out under Guatemalan law.
    “I reaffirm my government’s commitment to toughen prison sentences against coyotes and traffickers” Giammattei said in a speech to Congress, adding that the United States should also extradite people smugglers.
    The proposal states that if smugglers transport minors, pregnant women or migrants are subjected to inhumane treatment, the penalties could be even higher.
    Giammattei’s announcement comes weeks after 55 mostly Guatemalan migrants died when the overcrowded truck ferrying them through southern Mexico overturned.
    The Guatemalan president called for the reform to be passed as a matter of national urgency.    But the changes must first be debated and obtain the approval of at least two-thirds of the 160 members of Congress.
    The bill is seen to have a good chance of passing as the ruling party could get the necessary votes through alliances and the support it has from other benches.
    Guatemalan migration authorities said on Friday that they were also keeping an eye on another possible caravan of migrants that would leave Honduras at the weekend and try to cross Guatemala.
(Editing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

1/15/2022 Brazil Prosecutors Appeal To Supreme Court In Collapsed Dam Case
FILE PHOTO: General view of mud-filled Paraopeba river, after a tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining
company Vale SA collapsed, in Mario Campos near Brumadinho, Brazil, January 27, 2019. REUTERS/Washington Alves
    RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Prosecutors for the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais appealed to the country’s Supreme Court (STF) on Friday over a ruling that transferred to the federal judiciary a criminal case surrounding the deadly collapse of a tailings dam in 2019 that killed 270 people.
    In January 2020, state prosecutors charged Fabio Schvartsman, the former chief executive of mining company Vale SA, and 15 other people with homicide for the dam disaster at a mine near the town of Brumadinho.    But later that year a court ruled the case should proceed through federal rather than state court.
    Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice (STJ) threw out an earlier appeal in October.
    “In the appeal presented, the state prosecutors argue that the decision that determines the referral of the case to the Federal Court is contrary to the understanding of the STJ itself and the STF, rendered in similar cases,” the Minas Gerais state prosecutors said in a note on their website.
(Reporting by Marta Nogueira, writing by Carolina Pulice; editing by Grant McCool)

1/15/2022 Canadian Foreign Minister To Visit Ukraine, Vows To Deter Russian Aggression by David Ljunggren
FILE PHOTO: Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly speaks during a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (out of frame)
at the State Department in Washington, DC on November 12 , 2021. Olivier Douliery /Pool via REUTERS
    OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly will visit Kyiv next week to reaffirm support for Ukrainian sovereignty and reinforce efforts to deter “aggressive actions” by Russia, Ottawa said on Saturday.
    Moscow has stationed more than 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine and the United States said on Friday it feared Russia was preparing a pretext to invade if diplomacy failed to meet its objectives.
    Canada, with a sizeable and politically influential population of Ukrainian ethnic descent, has taken a hard line with Moscow since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
    “The amassing of Russian troops and equipment in and around Ukraine jeopardizes security in the entire region.    These aggressive actions must be deterred,” Joly said in a statement.
    “Canada will work with its international partners to uphold the rules-based international order.”
    Joly will meet Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal and travel to the west of the country to speak to a 200-strong Canadian training mission that has been there since 2015.
    Canadian Deputy Foreign Minister Marta Morgan and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman spoke on Friday and pledged continued close coordination to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine and called for Russian de-escalation, U.S. Department of State spokesperson said in a statement on Saturday.
    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Tuesday and “emphasized that any military incursion into Ukraine would have serious consequences, including coordinated sanctions,” Trudeau’s office said.
    Canada has imposed punitive measures on more than 440 individuals and entities over the annexation of Crimea.
    Joly will also meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels during her week-long trip starting Sunday.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Sandra Maler and Diane Craft)

1/15/2022 Jamaica Detains Ex-Senator, Key Suspect In Killing Of Haitian President
FILE PHOTO: A picture of the late Haitian President Jovenel Moise hangs on a wall before
a news conference by interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph at his house, almost a week
after his assassination, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo
    KINGSTON (Reuters) - Jamaican authorities have detained a former Haitian senator who was a key suspect in the murder of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in July, Jamaican national police said on Saturday.
    Jamaica Constabulary Force spokesman Dennis Brooks told Reuters that John Joel Joseph, a well-known Haitian politician named by the authorities as a suspect in Moise’s killing, was arrested by the authorities on Friday.
    Brooks declined to comment on whether the arrest was following a request by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations, which is also investigating the murder.    It was also unclear where Joseph was arrested in Jamaica.
    Moise was shot dead when assassins armed with assault rifles stormed his private residence in the hills above Port-au-Prince on July 7, sparking a major man hunt and investigations across several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Days after Moise murder the then-National Police Chief Leon Charles said Joseph was a key player in the plot, alleging he supplied weapons and planned meetings, and that police were searching for him.
    Haiti has arrested dozens of people following the July murder that left a political vacuum in the Caribbean nation.    But it has not charged anyone, and the investigation has drawn complaints in that country about delays and intimidation of officials.
    U.S. authorities this month charged a Colombian man with conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States in connection with the assassination of Moise, the first official charges in the brazen crime.
(Reporting by Kate ChappellWriting by Drazen JorgicEditing by Marguerita Choy)

1/15/2022 UK’s Labour Has Biggest Lead Over Johnson’s Party Since 2013-Poll
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Labour Party leader Keir Starmer speaks at Britain's Labour Party
annual conference in Brighton, Britain, September 29, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah Mckay
    LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s opposition Labour Party has opened up its biggest lead over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s governing Conservatives since 2013 after an outcry over revelations of social gatherings at Downing Street during COVID-19 lockdowns, an opinion poll showed.
    The poll by Opinium gave Labour 41% of the vote share compared with 31% for the Conservatives.
    The online poll of 2,005 people was conducted between Jan. 12 and Jan. 14.
(Writing by William Schomberg, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

1/15/2022 Global Vaccine-Sharing Programme Reaches Milestone Of 1 Billion Doses by Francesco Guarascio
FILE PHOTO: Biomedical engineers confirms a consignment of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines under
the COVAX scheme against coronavirus disease (COVID-19), before distribution at the Kitengela
cold rooms stores in Kitengela, outside Nairobi, Kenya March 4, 2021. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The COVAX global vaccine-sharing programme has delivered 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses, one of the organisations which manages it said on Saturday.
    Supplies to poorer nations have long been very limited because of lack of vaccines, as wealthier states secured most of the doses initially available from December 2020.
    But in the last quarter shipments have exponentially increased, allowing COVAX to reach the milestone of 1 billion doses shipped to 144 countries, said Gavi, which co-leads the programme alongside the World Health Organization (WHO).
    COVAX was launched in 2020 with the goal of delivering 2 billion doses by the end of 2021, but was slowed by wealthier states’ initial hoarding of limited shots, export restrictions and frequent changes within its organisation.
    The program began delivering vaccine doses in February 2021.    About one-third have been donated by rich nations, despite COVAX’s initial plans to supply only jabs procured directly by the programme with a budget of over $10 billion in donors’ funds.
    The change of strategy has led to delays, as donors have often requested to send doses to countries selected by them.
    Despite the recent surge in deliveries, vaccine inequity remains high.    The latest WHO data shows 67% of the population in richer nations have been fully vaccinated, compared with only 5% in poorer nations.    Over 40% of the world’s population has not yet received a first dose.
    Gavi, a vaccine alliance which co-manages COVAX, is seeking more funds to reach the WHO’s goal of vaccinating 70% of the population in poorer nations by July.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Mike Harrison)

1/15/2022 Mexican Cartel Boss And Fuel Theft King Sentenced To 60 Years In Prison
FILE PHOTO: Members of the National Guard are seen at a military check point after Mexican
security forces captured Jose Antonio Yepez known as "El Marro" (The Mallet), a notorious
drug gang leader in a village called Franco Tavera in the Santa Cruz de Juventino Rosas
municipality in Guanajuato state, Mexico, August 2 , 2020. REUTERS/Sergio Maldonado
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A Mexican cartel leader who became one of the most wanted criminals in Mexico due to his gang’s industrial-scale theft of petroleum has been sentenced to 60 years in prison, state prosecutors said on Friday.
    Jose Antonio Yepez, a notorious fuel thief blamed for fanning a sharp surge in violence in the central state of Guanajuato, was arrested in 2020 in what was a major coup for President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
    Known as “El Marro” (The Mallet), Yepez was the boss of the Guanajuato-based Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel that waged a bloody turf war in the state with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), one of Mexico’s most powerful and violent gangs.
    The attorney general’s office of Guanajuato said in a Twitter post that a regional court “found him and his co-authors guilty of the crime of kidnapping.”
    Yepez was the highest profile narco arrested so far under Lopez Obrador, who had vowed to bring down record levels of violence and also reduce rampant theft of petroleum from pipelines of the state-owned oil giant Pemex.
    The Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel engaged in an array of criminal activities in Guanajuato, from drug smuggling to kidnapping.    Fuel theft was often an easy source of money in a state crisscrossed by pipelines and home to a major refinery.
(Writing by Drazen Jorgic)

1/16/2022 No Oil or DOW info.

1/16/2022 Biden administration’s prosecution of Assange is a serious mistake - Recall that press serves the citizens, not the government - Your Turn by James Miller and Peter S. Fosl Guest columnists
    With the December decision by a UK court overturning an earlier ruling against extradition, it’s looking increasingly likely that Julian Assange will return to the U.S. to face charges related to Wikileaks’ 2009-10 publication of over 700,000 documents that Chelsea Manning stole from the U.S. military.    For both legal and political reasons, the Biden administration’s decision to pursue this prosecution is a serious mistake.
    As a matter of law, Assange has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.    But Assange did not conspire to hack U.S. computers — Manning already had access.    Assange’s failed attempt to help generate a password to login through another account was for the purpose of hiding Manning’s identity, not gaining access to the files.
    Journalists not only frequently encourage sources to divulge information; they also help sources hide their identities.    Indeed, journalists are obligated to do so when sources face 'danger, retribution or other harm,' according to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics.    The New York Times, e.g., maintains a web page giving advice and encouragement of precisely that kind:
    Assange is also charged with 17 counts of espionage, but no reasonable person can interpret what Assange did as espionage.    Unlike Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, Assange, so far as we know, did not act as the agent of a foreign power.    He did not sell or attempt to sell the purloined documents he acquired.    He simply made them publicly available through Wikileaks.    It’s not illegal to do that; nor should it be.
    Politicians and laypeople alike should remember that the press serves the citizens, not the government.    As the Supreme Court explained in its Pentagon Papers ruling: 'The press was protected [by the Founders] so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people.    Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.    And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.'
    Many have claimed that Assange placed U.S. personnel and agents in danger, but the government acquitted Manning of aiding the enemy.    And while a few diplomatic careers were damaged, no evidence shows that the leak resulted in deaths or injuries.    On the other hand, the documents Manning gave Assange detail apparent war crimes, such as the torture of prisoners and unlawful attacks on Iraqi civilians.    That information clearly serves U.S. citizens as a brake on state power.
    It’s also important to remember that foreigners are not U.S. vassals.    While it may be unpleasant for us to acknowledge, as a foreigner politically opposed to the U.S. wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, Assange is under absolutely no obligation to respect the U.S. military’s secrecy classifications.
    Furthermore, the motive for the prosecution seems based on revenge, not rule of law.    In 2016 — after the Obama administration decided not to prosecute Assange because of the First Amendment implications — Assange leaked John Podesta’s emails, which exposed Democratic Party malfeasance in undermining the progressive upsurge led by Bernie Sanders.    That information may have contributed to Hillary Clinton failing to ascend to the presidency.
    In light of the enraged frustration Democrats suffered in the wake of their catastrophic loss in 2016, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that the Biden administration’s decision to prosecute Assange on grounds the Obama administration rejected is motivated by a lust for partisan retribution and not impartial devotion to justice.
    James Miller teaches journalism and civil rights law at duPont Manual High School.    Peter S. Fosl is a professor of philosophy at Transylvania University.

1/16/2022 Hundreds Of U.S.-Bound Migrants In Caravan Stuck At Guatemala Border by Gustavo Palencia
Migrants from Central America walk in a caravan as they set off for the
United States, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras January 15, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer
    TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) -Hundreds of Hondurans and Nicaraguans on Saturday reached the Guatemalan border but were prevented from crossing by Guatemalan security forces, the first such U.S.-bound migrant caravan to be formed this year in Central America.
    Some migrants at the Izabel border crossing in Guatemala threw objects at Guatemalan security forces, who pushed them back with riot shields, according to a video shared by Guatemalan authorities.
    The caravan set off days before leftist President-elect Xiomara Castro takes office in Honduras on Jan. 27.    She has vowed to revive the economy and combat corruption that stokes waves of mass migration to the United States.
    Earlier in the day, the migrants, mostly young people carrying backpacks on their shoulders and women with children, left a bus terminal in the northern city of San Pedro Sula for the Honduran border post of Corinto, across from Izabel.    Some were pushing children in baby carriages.
    “There is no work,” said Pablo Mendez, a Honduran carrying his 2-year-old daughter in his arms.     “That is why people are leaving in this caravan.”
    Reuters video footage showed large groups of hundreds of people walking across San Pedro Sula, with many crossing busy highways on foot.    Another group had set off in the dark early in the morning.
    Guatemalan authorities said about 100 people crossed into Guatemala at unauthorized border crossings, and later added that some 36 people have been returned to Honduras.
    Previously, Honduran police have formed roadblocks to prevent many such caravans from reaching the border crossing.    Guatemalan security forces have also clashed with migrant groups when they tried to force their way across without documents.
    The first caravan of the year comes after deep economic hardship and poverty that plagues 62% of the Honduran population, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic and two back-to-back hurricanes in 2020 that hobbled the economy.
    In Nicaragua, political crackdowns by President Daniel Ortega’s government before and after the Nov. 7 presidential elections have led to a surge in migration.
    Euclides Mendes, a Nicaraguan migrant, said the size of the caravan gave him hope that the treacherous journey would be safe.
    “It’s true that we’re going to walk a lot, but we’re going, and the important thing is to get to the finish line,” Mendes added.
(Additional reporting by Sofia MenchuWriting by Drazen JorgicEditing by Marguerita Choy and Jonathan Oatis)

1/16/2022 England Opens COVID Booster Jab Programme To 16- And 17-Year Olds
FILE PHOTO: A person receives a dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, at vaccination centre
for young people and students at the Hunter Street Health Centre, amid the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London, Britain, June 5, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
    LONDON (Reuters) – England’s health service said it will expand its COVID-19 booster vaccination programme to include 16- and 17-year-olds from Monday.
    Until now, booster jabs have been limited to 16- and 17-year-olds most at risk from the coronavirus.
    “More than four in five adults in England have already been boosted, helping to protect them from severe illness,” British health minister Sajid Javid said in a statement.
    “We’re now extending the programme to 16- and 17-year-olds so they can top-up their immunity this winter to keep themselves and their friends safe.”
    Since the vaccination programme rolled out to the age group in August, more than 889,700 teenagers – or seven in 10 people aged 16 and 17 – have had their first dose and more than 600,000 have had their second.
(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Leslie Adler)

1/16/2022 Microsoft Says It Observed Destructive Malware In Systems Belonging To Several Ukraine Govt Agencies
FILE PHOTO: A Microsoft logo is seen in Los Angeles, California U.S.
November 7, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo/File Photo
    (Reuters) – Microsoft Corp said in a blog post on Saturday it observed destructive malware in systems belonging to several Ukrainian government agencies and organisations that work closely with the Ukrainian government.
    The victims of the malware include Ukrainian government agencies that provide critical executive branch or emergency response functions, Microsoft said.
    Also affected was an information technology firm that manages websites for public and private sector clients, including government agencies whose websites were recently defaced.    Microsoft did not identify the IT firm involved.
    The U.S. software giant, which first detected the malware on Thursday, said the malware attacks did not make use of any vulnerability in Microsoft products and services.
    A massive cyberattack splashed on government websites on Thursday night, warning Ukrainians to “be afraid and expect the worst” hit, leaving some websites inaccessible on Friday morning and prompting Ukraine to open an investigation.
    Reuters reported on Saturday that Ukraine had suspected a hacker group linked to Belarus intelligence carried out a cyberattack, and that it used malware similar to that used by a group tied to Russian intelligence, according to a senior Ukrainian security official.
    The malware, which is disguised as ransomware, would render the infected computer system inoperable if activated by the attacker, Microsoft said, adding the company will continue to work with the cybersecurity community to identify and assist targets and victims.
(Reporting by Anirudh Saligrama in Bengaluru; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

1/16/2022 Malta Sees Biggest Protest Yet Against COVID Measures
Demonstrators hold signs and take part in a protest against current and upcoming coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
restrictions, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in Valletta, Malta January 16, 2022. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
    VALLETTA (Reuters) – Malta saw its biggest protest yet against COVID rules on Sunday, with hundreds of people marching in the capital Valletta against new measures requiring production of a COVID certificate for entry to most venues including restaurants, gyms and bars.
    Malta has seen one of the biggest take-ups of COVID vaccination jabs in the European Union, and almost three-quarters of adults would have taken the additional booster jab by Sunday, according to Health Ministry data.
    But Health Minister Chris Fearne has defended the new rules, which come into force on Monday, saying they are needed to defend against the Omicron variant of the virus, now accounting for well over 90% of new cases.
    Sunday’s protest was organised by a group of small political parties, but the main Opposition Nationalist Party has also criticised the new rules, saying they do not strike the right balance between public health and people’s freedoms especially when there has been a high take-up of the vaccine.
    Since the start of the pandemic, 502 people have died with COVID-19 in Malta.    The island has recorded a vaccination rate of some 95%.    Daily virus cases hit a record of 1,337 on December 29 but they have since dwindled to just 301 on Sunday, when two patients also died.
    Many of those at Sunday’s protest shouted “freedom,” and “no green pass.”    They carried signs saying “Is it really about health?” “the vaccine is poison” and “my body is not state-owned.”
    Most wore COVID face masks and police were seen approaching those who didn’t.
(Reporting by Christopher Scicluna; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

1/16/2022 Portugal’s Socialists Widen Gap Over Opposition Ahead Of Election – Poll
FILE PHOTO: Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa speaks during a news conference
to announce the new measures amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic,
at Ajuda Palace in Lisbon, Portugal, November 25, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
    LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s ruling Socialists extended their lead in a new poll on Sunday, two weeks before a snap election, widening the gap between them and the main opposition party, the Social Democrats.
    The survey, carried out by pollsters Aximage for newspapers Jornal de Noticias, Diario de Noticias and radio station TSF, gave the current premier Antonio Costa’s PS party a 38.1% share of the vote, up from 35.4% last month.
    It still leaves PS short of a majority, which under the proportional representation system, equates to between 42% and 45% of the vote.
    The poll put the Social Democrats (PSD), led by Rui Rio, at 28.5%, down from 33.2% in December.    PS and PSD are now separated by around 10 percentage points, according to the survey.
    In October, Costa’s two former allies – the Communists and the Left Bloc – sided with right-wing parties to reject the minority government’s budget bill, triggering the snap election set for Jan.30.
    If PS fails to win a majority they will need the support of one or more parties to pass legislation.
    The Left Bloc and the Communists saw support at 7.4% and 4.8% respectively in the Aximage poll.
    In a debate last week, Costa said an alliance between the three was no longer possible but signalled he might seek support from the People-Animals-Nature party. Aximage’s poll gave them 2.1% of the vote.
    Analysts say the election alone might not solve the political impasse as no party or workable alliance is likely to achieve a stable majority.
    According to the poll, which surveyed 807 people on Jan. 6 to Jan. 12 with a margin of error of 3.45%, far-right party Chega would become the country’s third largest party, polling at 9%, up from 6.2% in December.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

1/16/2022 Don’t Discriminate Against The Unvaccinated, Amnesty International Tells Italy
FILE PHOTO: A man shows his coronavirus disease (COVID-19) "Super Green Pass" before getting
on a train on the day Italy brings in tougher rules for the unvaccinated, at Termini main
train station in Rome, Italy, January 10, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
    MILAN (Reuters) – Human rights group Amnesty International urged Italy to change tough anti-COVID restrictions to avoid discrimination against unvaccinated people.
    In a recent decree Mario Draghi’s government made vaccination mandatory for everyone over the age of 50 and for use of public transport and a range of other services, one of very few countries to take similar steps, in an attempt to ease pressure on Italian health services and reduce fatalities.
    Amnesty International asked for the provision of alternative measures, including the use of masks and COVID-19 testing, to allow the unvaccinated population to continue to go to work and to use public transport “without discrimination,” the group said in a statement issued late on Saturday.
    Under current rules, which will run until June 15, wearing a mask and having a negative COVID-19 test is not sufficient to access public transportation or, for people over the age of 50, to their workplaces.
    Amnesty International Italia, the local chapter of the human rights group, said that mandatory vaccination could be justified but needed to be limited in time and “proportionate” to a legitimate aim of public health protection.
    “The government must continue to ensure that the entire population can enjoy its fundamental rights, such as the right to education, work and medial treatment, with particular regard to non-COVID patients who need urgent surgery,” it said.
(Reporting by Giulio Piovaccari; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

1/16/2022 French Parliament Approves Vaccine Pass
FILE PHOTO: A person holds a sign that reads "Freedom" as people attend a demonstration to protest
against a bill that would transform France's current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) health pass
into a ''vaccine pass'', in Paris, France, January 8, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
    PARIS (Reuters) – France’s parliament gave final approval on Sunday to the government’s latest measures to tackle the COVID-19 virus, including a vaccine pass contested by anti-vaccine protestors.
    Lawmakers in the lower house of parliament voted 215 in favour to 58 against, paving the way for the law to enter force in the coming days.
    The new law, which had a rough ride through parliament with opposition parties finding some of its provisions too tough, will require people to have a certificate of vaccination to enter public places like restaurants, cafes, cinemas and long-distance trains.
    Currently, unvaccinated people can enter such places with the results of a recent negative COVID-19 test.    Nearly 78% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Health Ministry on Saturday.
    President Emmanuel Macron, who is expected to seek a second term in an April presidential election, told Le Parisien paper this month that he wanted to “piss off” unvaccinated people by making their lives so complicated they would end up getting the COVID vaccine.
    Thousands of anti-vaccine protestors demonstrated in Paris and some other cities on Saturday against the law, but their numbers were down sharply from the week before, just after Macron’s remarks.
    France is in the grips of its fifth COVID-19 wave with daily new cases regularly hitting record levels over 300,000.    Nonetheless the number of serious cases putting people in ICU wards is much lower than the first wave in March-April 2020.
(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

1/16/2022 Canada Urges Avoiding Non-Essential Travel To Ukraine Due To ‘Russian Aggression’ by Kanishka Singh
FILE PHOTO: Ukraine's biggest national flag on the country's highest flagpole is seen at a compound of the
World War II museum in Kyiv, Ukraine, December 16, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
    (Reuters) – The Canadian government is urging its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Ukraine, in a new advisory citing “Russian aggression.”
    Moscow has stationed more than 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine, and the United States said on Friday it feared Russia was preparing a pretext to invade if diplomacy failed to meet its objectives.
    “We have changed the risk level for Ukraine to avoid non-essential travel due to ongoing Russian aggression and military buildup in and around the country,” the Canadian government said in a travel advisory issued late Saturday.
    Canada, with a sizeable and politically influential population of Ukrainian descent, has taken a hard line with Russia since its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
    Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly is to visit Kyiv next week to reaffirm Canada’s support for Ukrainian sovereignty and reinforce efforts to deter “aggressive actions” by Russia, Ottawa said earlier.    Joly will meet Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal and travel to the west of the country to speak to a 200-strong Canadian training mission that has been there since 2015.
    Canadian Deputy Foreign Minister Marta Morgan and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman spoke on Friday and pledged continued close coordination to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine and called for Russian de-escalation, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Saturday.
    In an interview with Canadian broadcaster CBC published Sunday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described Russia as “the aggressor.”    He told CBC News it was up to Russia to de-escalate and that NATO was willing to sit down again and listen to Moscow’s concerns.
    Russia denies plans to attack Ukraine, but says it could take unspecified military action unless its demands – including a promise by the NATO alliance never to admit Kyiv – are met.
    After talks between the United States, its European allies and Russia ended last week, U.S. officials warned that the risk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine remained high.
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Tuesday and “emphasized that any military incursion into Ukraine would have serious consequences, including coordinated sanctions.”
    Canada has imposed punitive measures on more than 440 individuals and entities over the annexation of Crimea.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Leslie Adler)

1/16/2022 New Data: Omicron makes vax mandates obsolete by OAN Newsroom
    Amid Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling, new data suggests the Omicron variant makes vaccine mandates obsolete and unnecessary.    One America’s Chief White House Correspondent Chanel Rion has more from Washington.

1/17/2022 No Oil or DOW info.

1/17/2022 French Far-Right Presidential Candidate Zemmour Fined For Inciting Race Hate
Supporters of French far-right commentator Eric Zemmour attend a
meeting in Beziers, France, October 16, 2021. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
    PARIS (Reuters) – French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour was fined 10,000 euros ($11,400) on Monday for inciting racial hatred, over remarks in which he called young migrants killers, thieves and rapists.
    Zemmour, a former political commentator, is competing with the more established far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and conservative Valerie Pecresse to challenge center-right President Emmanuel Macron in April’s presidential election.
    The court case concerned remarks he made on right-wing channel CNews in 2020 about migrants who arrive as unaccompanied children: “They’ve got no reason for being here, they are thieves, they are killers, they are rapists, that’s all they do, they should be sent back,” he said.
    For several weeks last year, opinion polls indicated that Zemmour, who also has previous convictions for inciting racial hatred, had a chance of placing second in the presidential poll and facing Macron in a run-off.    His campaign has since lost some steam and he now polls fourth.
    Zemmour said he would appeal the ruling.    He stood by his 2020 comments, adding that the court was condemning him for expressing his views.    A senior CNews representative was also handed a fine over Zemmour’s comments, lawyers said.
($1 = 0.8764 euros)
(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, Sudip Kar-Gupta, Tassilo Hummel; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Peter Graff)

1/17/2022 Macron Touts Rosy French Economy, New Jobs Ahead Of Election by Michel Rose
FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a presentation of the traditional
epiphany cake at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France January 12, 2022. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS
    CHALAMPE, France (Reuters) - President Emmanuel Macron on Monday touted 21 new foreign investment projects in France and a booming economy as proof his economic reforms have been bearing fruit less than three months before a presidential election in which he is expected to run.
    During a visit to Alsace in the east, Macron inaugurated a 300-million-euro ($340 million) industrial project by German chemical giant BASF to produce high-tech nylon in France, one of 21 new projects worth 4 billion euros and 10,000 jobs as part of a drive to attract foreign investors.
    U.S. drugmaker Pfizer also announced on Monday a 520-million-euro investment plan in France while U.S. company Eastman said it would invest $1 billion to build a plastics recycling facility.
    As the presidential race heats up, Macron is keen to shift the debate away from immigration and law-and-order issues and put the spotlight on the economy, which has been recovering strongly from the COVID-19 pandemic.
    “Our country had been de-industrialising for 15 years,” Macron told workers at the sprawling site by the Rhine river.
    “Since 2019, we have started creating new industrial jobs again.    This is the result of the choice we made.    Our choice — it all makes sense — was to make reforms at the start of the mandate,” Macron added.
    Since 2017, Macron has pushed through a cocktail of supply-side economic reforms meant to boost businesses’ competitiveness, cut taxes on investors and loosen strict labour market rules.
    Critics say he has acted as “president of the rich” who wants to do away with France’s cherished social safety nets and has cut welfare benefits for some of the poorest.
    But three months ahead of the April election, indicators show the French economy is booming, with growth expected to have hit 6.7% in 2021 and France having returned closer to pre-pandemic levels than any G7 peer bar the United States.
    It remains to be seen whether that will translate into votes for Macron.    With the spike in energy prices across Europe, households have to pay higher electricity bills, fuelling fears within the government of voter discontent.
    Macron supporters received an unexpected boost from economist Paul Krugman on Friday.
    “In fact, among major advanced economies, the star performer of the pandemic era, arguably, is … France,” he wrote in his New York Times column
($1 = 0.8761 euros)
(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

1/17/2022 Horses Jump Bonfires As Spain’s Purification Ceremony Returns After Pandemic Break by Elena Rodriguez and Javier Barbancho
A rider goes through flames during the annual "Luminarias" celebration on the
eve of Saint Anthony's day, Spain's patron saint of animals, in the village of San Bartolome
de Pinares, northwest of Madrid, Spain January 16, 2022. REUTERS/Javier Barbancho
    SAN BARTOLOME DE PINARES, Spain (Reuters) – About a hundred horses jumped through bonfires in a purification ceremony on Sunday during the Spanish festival of “Las Luminarias,” which was held for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    The traditional nighttime celebration takes place in San Bartolome de Pinares every Jan. 16, the eve of Saint Anthony’s Day, Spain’s patron saint of animals.
    It was cancelled last year because of pandemic restrictions.
    Revellers rode their horses through the narrow cobble-stoned streets, which according to tradition, purified the animals with the smoke and flames of the bonfires for the coming year.
    After an hour of horses jumping over flames, revellers then took to dancing and drinking.
    “This comes from thousands of years ago.    So that animals did not get unwell, the old priests would bless them with fires so that they would jump and be purified,” said Fermin Abad, 64, a local resident.
    About 100 horses and their owners took part in the festivities, Reuters witnesses said.
    Despite coming under criticism from animal rights groups over the years, organisers told Reuters that the horses were not harmed due to precautions taken by riders to cut horse hair to avoid burns.
(Reporting by Graham Keeley; Additional reporting Elena Rodriguez, Michael Gore and Javier Barbancho; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

1/17/2022 EU Urges Moscow To Free Navalny On Anniversary Of His Arrest
FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny delivers a speech during a rally to
demand the release of jailed protesters, who were detained during opposition demonstrations for
fair elections, in Moscow, Russia September 29, 2019. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/File Photo
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union called on Moscow on Monday to immediately release Alexei Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critic, who was jailed a year ago in what the EU condemned as a politically motivated act.
    “Today marks one year since the arrest and imprisonment of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny upon his return to Russia from life-saving medical treatment in Berlin after an assassination attempt on the Russian territory,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.
    “We reiterate our call on the Russian authorities for his immediate and unconditional release without further delay.”
    Borrell also condemned what he called a consistent disinformation campaign against Navalny and his associates in Russian state media, as well as the persecution of members of the opposition leader’s network.
    Russian authorities have in recent months cracked down on groups affiliated with Navalny, 45, who is serving two-and-a-half years in prison for parole violations related to a fraud case he says was politically motivated.
    In June, a Russian court ruled that Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation was “extremist.”
    Navalny was flown to Germany for medical treatment in August 2020 after being poisoned in Siberia with what Western experts concluded was the military nerve agent Novichok.
    The Russian government has denied it was behind the poisoning and rejected the experts’ findings – which prompted a fresh wave of sanctions against Russia – and accused the West of a smear campaign against it.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Howard Goller)

1/17/2022 U.N. Chief Urges Business To Help Poor Nations In ‘Hour Of Need’
FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gestures as he attends a
news conference in Beirut, Lebanon, December 21, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
    (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to business leaders on Monday to support developing countries “in their hour of need” with access to COVID-19 vaccines, help to combat the climate crisis and reform of the global financial system.
    Speaking virtually to the World Economic Forum, Guterres said: “Across all three of these areas, we need the support, the ideas, the financing and the voice of the global business community.”
    He said there has been a “global inability to support developing countries in their hour of need” and warned that without immediate action inequalities and poverty would deepen, fueling more social unrest and more violence.
    “We cannot afford this kind of instability,” said Guterres, who began a second five-year term as U.N. chief on Jan. 1.
    He has long been pushing for more global action to address COVID-19 vaccine inequity and climate change and for reform of the global financial system.
    “We need a global financial system that is fit-for-purpose.    This means urgent debt restructuring and reforms of the long-term debt architecture,” Guterres said.
    The World Health Organization last year set targets for 40% of people in all countries to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by the middle of this year.
    “We are nowhere near these targets.    Vaccination rates in high-income countries are — shamefully — seven times higher than in African countries.    We need vaccine equity, now,” Guterres said.
    He also warned of a lopsided recovery from the pandemic with low-income countries at a huge disadvantage.
    “They’re experiencing their slowest growth in a generation,” Guterres said.    “The burdens of record inflation, shrinking fiscal space, high interest rates and soaring energy and food prices are hitting every corner of the world and blocking recovery — especially in low- and some middle-income countries.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Franklin Paul)

1/17/2022 Sen. Romney Says GOP Caucus Backs Sen. McConnell Despite Sen. Graham Comments by OAN Newsroom
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, questions witnesses during a Senate Health, Education, Labor,
and Pensions Committee hearing to examine the federal response to COVID-19 and new emerging variants,
Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Shawn Thew/Pool via AP)
    According to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has the continued support of the Republican caucus. In an interview Sunday, the Utah lawmaker discussed the division in the country the bipartisan efforts in the Senate and Joe Biden.
    Despite recent reports of dozens of lawmakers still not accepting Biden’s presidency, Romney feels the majority of Congress have moved on and want to work on meaningful legislation.    He also commented on an apparent rift between Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and McConnell over differing approaches to including the former president in future politics.
    “Oh, I think there’s full support for Mitch McConnell,” stated the Utah lawmaker.    “I haven’t heard anything other than a solid support for his continued leadership.    People are always trying to placate Donald Trump.    I don’t fall in that camp, of course, but I wouldn’t attribute that as a comment about Mitch McConnell as much as a comment about Donald Trump.”
    Romney also praised the January 6 select committee, saying they are revealing previously unknown information.

1/17/2022 Sen. Kaine: Build Back Better Is Dead In Current Form by OAN Newsroom
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., listens during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Committee hearing to examine the federal response to COVID-19 and new emerging variants,
Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)
    Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) admitted Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda is dead.    During an interview Sunday, the Democrat admitted that the bill in its current form was highly unlikely to pass after his West Virginia colleague Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) torpedoed the social spending last month.
    However, all hope isn’t lost according to Kaine.    The 2016 vice presidential nominee said he expects a core of the bill, like education and labor provisions, to pass in the future.
    “You’re right that it’s dead; the most recent version of it is not going to happen,” Kaine stated. “If you look at the core of the bill, I think the core is education and work force…I still believe the core of this bill, whatever we call it, we’re going to find a core of the bill and pass it, and it will deal directly with some of the inflation concerns.”
    The current version of the bill costs nearly $2 trillion and Manchin sunk it because of the price tag.    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) promised to bring it to a vote after Manchin’s announcement, but it’s unknown when or if he will follow through.

1/17/2022 Guatemala Pushes Back 622 Migrants From U.S.-Bound Caravan
FILE PHOTO: Guatemalan military police stand guard as migrants from Central America wait on a road
after being blocked by Guatemalan authorities while traveling in a caravan, near the border with Honduras
outside of Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, January 16, 2022. REUTERS/Josue Decavele/File Photo
    GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Guatemalan authorities said on Monday they have sent back more than 600 migrants who entered the country in a caravan that was bound for the United States.
    Guatemala’s foreign ministry said 622 people, mainly from Honduras and Nicaragua, entered through border posts with Honduras, with minors making up about a quarter of the group.
    The caravan left Honduras on Saturday but was largely broken up over the weekend.    Video images showed Guatemalan police using riot shields to stop a large group of migrants from pushing forward. The authorities said some people made illegal crossings as well.
    The Guatemalan ministry said the migrants, who are mostly men, were returned to their nations or the country from which they entered Guatemala because they did not meet immigration or health requirements.
    Fifteen Cubans were returned to Honduras.
    Migrants elsewhere said they would press on with plans to cross Central America in a northward direction.
    “We can’t go on another day here … I want to get to the United States,” said a Nicaraguan man who planned to leave his country on Monday and asked not to be named.
    The U.S. government has sought help from Central American nations and Mexico to prevent large groups of people from heading north to the U.S. border.    Several U.S.-bound caravans have left Central America in recent months as people from across Latin America and the Caribbean flee poverty and violence, but the groups have largely broken up during the difficult route.
    Guatemala’s consulate in the Mexican state of Veracruz on Monday said it was assisting close to 300 Guatemalans, including 55 unaccompanied minors, who were detained as they were being transported in a truck along with 65 people of other nationalities.
    The consulate said in a statement it would follow up with each Guatemalan after medical examinations so that “they can return to Guatemala soon.”
(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Paul Simao)

1/18/2022 Oil down $0.02 to $84.30, DOW up 53 to 35,849.


1/18/2022 A Commercial BBC Would Fail British Audiences, Its Boss Says
FILE PHOTO: People sit outside the BBC Broadcasting House offices and
recording studios in London, Britain, January 17, 2022.REUTERS/Hannah McKay
    LONDON (Reuters) – A BBC funded purely by commercial means would fail to serve a universal British audience in the way it does now, its boss warned on Tuesday, after the government questioned whether its public funding model should continue in future.
    Formed in 1922 to educate, inform and entertain, the BBC creates global, national and local radio, online content and television for mass audiences while also catering to those users who fail to have their interests served by commercial outlets.
    It is funded by a licence fee paid by all television-owning households that is supposed to guarantee its editorial independence.    In reality that forces the corporation to agree a funding round with ministers, often leading to tension.
    On Monday Culture Minister Nadine Dorries, who has previously accused the BBC of metropolitan group-think, said the licence fee cost would be frozen for the next two years, and would rise in line with inflation for four years after that.
    She added that a debate was needed on future funding models, questioning whether people should pay 159 pounds ($217) a year for the BBC when they can pay less for Netflix or Amazon Prime.
    BBC Director General Tim Davie told BBC Radio that society would lose something precious if it pursued a commercial model.
    “It serves the British public and all the British public,” he said.    “The principle of universality is absolutely the debate here.    People say ‘can this be a commercial operation?’    Of course it can be a commercial operation, but it will not do what it does today.”
    The settlement, he said, would leave the BBC with a 285 million pound shortfall, requiring some services to be cut.    He added that while BBC output needed to properly reflect all the communities it served, it was difficult to maintain an impartial reputation in an increasingly polarised world.
($1 = 0.7335 pounds)
(Reporting by Kate Holton, Editing by Paul Sandle)

1/18/2022 Mexican Journalist Shot Dead Outside Home In Border City Of Tijuana by Lizbeth Diaz
Authorities work at the scene where Mexican photojournalist Margarito Martinez Esquivel
was killed outside his home, in Tijuana, Mexico, January 17, 2022. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A Mexican photojournalist died after being shot in the head outside his home in the northern border city of Tijuana, officials said on Monday.
    Margarito Martinez, 49, worked for more than a decade in Tijuana for several national and international news outlets covering the gang crime and violence that has scarred the city, which sits on U.S.-Mexico border opposite San Diego.
    The Attorney General’s office in the Tijuana’s home state of Baja California said officials who responded to a 911 call around midday found Martinez’s body outside his home with a head injury caused by firearm.
    A fellow journalist from Baja California said Martinez had been included in a state program aimed at safeguarding the lives of journalists.
    “He recently entered the protection program because he received threats,” said the reporter, who requested anonymity.
    Tijuana has become one of Mexico’s most violent cities due to conflicts among drug gangs caught in turf wars over trafficking routes.
    Baja California’s Human Rights Commission condemned Martinez’s killing, saying “any attack on journalists constitutes an attack on freedom of expression and the right of society to be informed.”
    Martinez was the second journalist to be killed this year in Mexico, after the death of Jose Gamboa last week in the southeastern state of Veracruz.
    From 2000 to 2021, human rights group Article 19 has registered 145 murders of journalists in Mexico, with seven deaths recorded last year.
(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz, Editing by Daina Beth Solomon and David Gregorio)

1/18/2022 Major U.S. Airlines Warn 5G Could Ground Some Planes, Wreak Havoc by David Shepardson
FILE PHOTO: A Southwest Airlines plane approaches to land at San Diego International Airport as U.S.
telecom companies, airlines and the FAA continue to discuss the potential impact of 5G wireless services
on aircraft electronics in San Diego, California, U.S., January 6, 2022. REUTERS/Mike Blake
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The chief executives of major U.S. passenger and cargo carriers on Monday warned of an impending “catastrophic” aviation crisis in less than 36 hours, when AT&T and Verizon are set to deploy new 5G service.
    The airlines warned the new C-Band 5G service set to begin on Wednesday could render a significant number of widebody aircraft unusable, “could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas” and cause “chaos” for U.S. flights.
    “Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded,” wrote the chief executives of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and others in a letter first reported by Reuters.
    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned that potential interference could affect sensitive airplane instruments such as altimeters and significantly hamper low-visibility operations.
    “This means that on a day like yesterday, more than 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers would be subjected to cancellations, diversions or delays,” the letter cautioned.
    Airlines late on Monday were considering whether to begin canceling some international flights that are scheduled to arrive in the United States on Wednesday.
    “With the proposed restrictions at selected airports, the transportation industry is preparing for some service disruption.    We are optimistic that we can work across industries and with government to finalize solutions that safely mitigate as many schedule impacts as possible,” plane maker Boeing said on Monday.
    Action is urgent, the airlines added in the letter also signed by UPS Airlines, Alaska Air, Atlas Air, JetBlue Airways and FedEx Express.    “To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt.”
    The letter went to White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
    Airlines for America, the group that organized the letter, declined to comment.    The FAA said it “will continue to ensure that the traveling public is safe as wireless companies deploy 5G.    The FAA continues to work with the aviation industry and wireless companies to try to limit 5G-related flight delays and cancellations.”
    The other government agencies did not comment.
    AT&T and Verizon, which won nearly all of the C-Band spectrum in an $80 billion auction last year, on Jan. 3 agreed to buffer zones around 50 airports to reduce interference risks and take other steps to cut potential interference for six months.    They also agreed to delay deployment for two weeks until Wednesday, temporarily averting an aviation safety standoff, after previously delaying service by 30 days.
    Verizon and AT&T declined comment on Monday.    They argue C-Band 5G has been successfully deployed in about 40 other countries without aviation interference issues.
    The CEOs of major airlines and Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun held a lengthy call with Buttigieg and Dickson on Sunday to warn of the looming crisis, officials told Reuters.
    United Airlines late Monday separately warned the issue could affect more than 15,000 of its flights, 1.25 million passengers and snarl tons of cargo annually.
    United said it faces “significant restrictions on 787s, 777s, 737s and regional aircraft in major cities like Houston, Newark, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.”
    The airlines ask “that 5G be implemented everywhere in the country except within the approximate 2 miles (3.2 km) of airport runways” at some key airports.
    “Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies,” they said.
    The airlines added that flight restrictions will not be limited to poor weather operations.
    “Multiple modern safety systems on aircraft will be deemed unusable causing a much larger problem than what we knew… Airplane manufacturers have informed us that there are huge swaths of the operating fleet that may need to be indefinitely grounded.”
    One area of concern is whether some or all Boeing 777s will be unable to land at some key U.S. airports after 5G service starts, as well as some Boeing cargo planes, airline officials told Reuters.
    The airlines urged action to ensure “5G is deployed except when towers are too close to airport runways until the FAA can determine how that can be safely accomplished without catastrophic disruption.”
    The FAA said on Sunday it had cleared an estimated 45% of the U.S. commercial airplane fleet to perform low-visibility landings at many airports where 5G C-band will be deployed and they expect to issue more approvals before Wednesday.    The airlines noted on Monday that the list did not include many large airports.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Bill Berkrot and Gerry Doyle)

1/18/2022 U.S. Senate Panel To Debate App Store Reform Bill
FILE PHOTO: The Capitol Building is seen before a snow-covered tree on the eve of the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021
attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Senate panel is set on Thursday to debate a bill that aims to rein in app stores of companies that some lawmakers say exert too much market control, including Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.
    U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn said on Monday the Senate Judiciary Committee would consider the Open App Markets Act is backed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
    Blumenthal, a Democrat, said in a statement the bill aims to “stop Apple and Google from crushing competitors and undercutting consumers.    Breaking the ironclad grip of these two behemoths on the multi-billion dollar app market is long overdue.”
    Blackburn, a Republican, said the hearing “bring us one step closer to holding big tech companies like Apple and Google accountable.”
    “Tech giants are forcing their own app stores on users at the expense of innovative start-ups,” she said.
    Google and Apple did not immediately comment Monday.
    Apple said earlier its app store was “an unprecedented engine of economic growth and innovation, one that now supports more than 2.1 million jobs across all 50 states.”
    Google said previously that Android devices often come preloaded with two or more app stores and that app sellers can allow downloads without using Google’s Play Store.
    The lawmakers have said the bill would bar big app stores from requiring app providers to use their payment system and prohibit them from punishing apps that offer different prices or conditions through another app store or payment system.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Robert Birsel)

1/18/2022 Maltese Conservative Metsola Becomes Third Woman To Head EU Parliament by Philip Blenkinsop and Ingrid Melander
Newly-elected president of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola delivers a speech during
a plenary session in Strasbourg, France, January 18, 2022. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Maltese lawmaker Roberta Metsola secured overwhelming support to become president of the European Parliament on Tuesday, making her the first woman to hold the post for 20 years.
    She succeeds Italian socialist David Sassoli, who died this month, in presiding over the 705-member parliament, which adopts and amends EU legislative proposals and decides on the bloc’s budget.
    Metsola, who campaigned as a student for Malta to become a member of the EU in 2004, said she wants to use her mainly ceremonial role to help the parliament connect better with European citizens.
    “I want people to believe in Europe.    To re-capture that sense of hope & enthusiasm in our project.    To stand up for those values that unite us as Europeans,” Metsola said in a message posted on Twitter.
    Metsola, who turned 43 on Tuesday and is also the youngest president of the European Parliament, has been a member of the assembly since 2013 for the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP).
    She defeated two other candidates for the presidency election, winning 458 of the 616 validly cast votes in the first round, meaning no run-off rounds were required.
    Sassoli had been due to step down this week as part of a power-sharing deal under which the parliament’s socialist group would make way halfway through the assembly’s five-year term for a candidate from the EPP grouping.
    The European Parliament has had only two previous female presidents, Simone Veil and Nicole Fontaine, both French, since it became a directly elected assembly in 1979.
    Metsola has consistently voted against European Parliament resolutions that call for women to have access to safe abortion.
    Asked on Tuesday about her stance, Metsola said she had been bound by Malta’s position on the issue.    Staunchly Catholic Malta is the only EU member state to prohibit abortion and women undergoing the procedure can face up to three years in jail.
    As EU Parliament president, Metsola said she would defend the assembly’s views on sexual and reproductive health and rights.    That includes resolutions calling for all member states to ensure women can get safe access to abortion services.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Ingrid MelanderEditing by Gareth Jones)

1/18/2022 ‘We Want Peace’: Blinken To Meet Russian, Ukrainian Officials, U.S. Says by Simon Lewis and Susan Heavey
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in the briefing room of the State
Department in Washington, U.S. January 7, 2022. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden’s top diplomat will seek to defuse a crisis with Moscow over Ukraine when he meets the Russian foreign minister in Geneva this week following visits with Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv and European officials in Berlin.
    Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel amid concerns voiced by Ukraine and its Western allies over the tens of thousands of Russian troops amassed in and near Ukraine.
    “The United States does not want conflict.    We want peace,” a senior U.S. State Department official said on Tuesday.
    “(Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin has it in his power to take steps to de-escalate this crisis so the United States and Russia can pursue a relationship that is not based on hostility or crisis,” the official told reporters.
    Russia denies planning a new military offensive.
    Blinken will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday.
    Then in Berlin he will meet German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and later the Transatlantic Quad, referring to a format that involves the United States, Britain, France and Germany.
    Blinken will “discuss recent diplomatic engagements with Russia and joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine, including Allies’ and partners’ readiness to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia,” the State Department said in a statement.
    Blinken will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday to seek a diplomatic off-ramp with Moscow, the senior official said.
    Blinken spoke with Lavrov on Tuesday and urged de-escalation, the State Department said in a separate statement.    The senior official said the two decided in the call that it would be useful to meet in person.
    Despite diplomatic engagements this month the U.S. has yet to see Russia de-escalate tensions and Moscow could launch an attack on Ukraine at any time in January or February, the senior official said.
    “We’ve been very clear, meaningful progress on the diplomatic track can only happen in an environment of de-escalation.    But we’ve seen the exact opposite from Russia,” the official said.
    “We are now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack on Ukraine.”
    Lavrov separately said Moscow would welcome U.S. diplomatic efforts and reiterated Russian accusations that Ukraine was “sabotaging” agreements aimed at ending the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
    Biden has warned of severe economic consequences for Moscow if Russia invades its neighbor.
    Russia, which invaded Ukraine in 2014, has denied any plans for a fresh attack but has made several demands and said it could take unspecified military action unless the West agrees to them.
    Germany’s Baerbock, in Moscow for talks with her counterpart, on Tuesday said her country was ready to pay a high economic price to defend its fundamental values in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
    Kyiv has sought weapons from Western nations to shore up its defense.    On Monday, Britain said it had begun supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons to help it defend itself.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Simon Lewis and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Howard Goller)

1/18/2022 IMF Says Chad Debt Plan Needed By End-March As Conditions Worsen
FILE PHOTO: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo is seen outside the headquarters
building in Washington, U.S., September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday that public and private creditors need to finalize a debt restructuring plan with Chad by the end of March to restore durable growth amid worsening conditions in the African country.
    In a statement following a mission to the country’s capital N’Djamena last week, the IMF said Chad’s economic and financial situation and medium-term prospects have worsened due to continuing shocks since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    “Debt treatment under the G20 Common Framework and significant donor support are key for restoring debt sustainability and (to) promote durable inclusive growth,” the IMF said.    “In this respect, finalization of a debt treatment with both public and private creditors by end-March will be critical.”
    IMF mission chief Edward Gemayel said in a statement that Chad’s real GDP in 2021 is estimated to have contracted by 1.1%, driven by a reduction in oil production, while average annual inflation was contained after soaring in 2020 to 4.5%.
    “The pandemic will likely leave long-lasting scars, and the Chadian economy is projected to remain weak over the near term, before gradually rebounding in 2024, to 3.6% provided adequate reforms are implemented,” Gemayel said.
    He added that public spending pressures were rising due to social and security tensions.
    “Maintaining fiscal discipline in the runup to the parliamentary and presidential elections is critical for macroeconomic stability,” Gemayel added.
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Mark Porter)

1/18/2022 Taiwan To Pay For Guatemalan Lobbying In U.S., Guatemala Says
FILE PHOTO: Flags of Taiwan and foreign countries flutter at the Diplomatic Quarter which houses the former
Nicaraguan embassy and other foreign embassies, in Taipei, Taiwan December 10, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Wu/File Photo
    GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Taiwan has paid for a lobbying contract to promote Guatemala with U.S. officials, Guatemala’s government said late on Monday, just as Beijing’s efforts to strengthen its diplomatic foothold in Central America are advancing.
    “Guatemala thanks Taiwan for the support that will allow us to enhance the country’s position in the United States,” the Guatemalan government said in a statement.
    Taiwan’s embassy in Guatemala did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the contract, which Guatemala said aims to bolster investment, tourism and promote small businesses.
    The lobbying contract is with Ballard Partners, a firm headed by Brian Ballard, who the company’s website said was a backer of former U.S. President Donald Trump.
    According to recent public filings in the United States, the contract is worth $900,000 and should provide consulting and advocacy “related to the United States government, including interactions with United States government officials.”
    The step follows Nicaragua’s announcement last month that it had switched allegiance from Taipei to Beijing, and comments made by the incoming president of Honduras during her election campaign last year that she could do the same.
    The lobbying contract also coincides with a period of protracted tension between the Guatemalan government and the United States, which has raised concerns about efforts to battle corruption in the Central American country.
    Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department criticized Guatemala after its attorney general’s office sought the withdrawal of immunity from prosecution against a prominent Guatemalan judge recognized for her efforts to fight corruption.
    Guatemala is one of a dwindling number of countries with diplomatic ties to U.S. ally Taiwan.
    Honduran President-elect Xiomara Castro said during her campaign in September that she planned to establish ties with China.    Still, after her election in November, her team backtracked and said she wanted to prioritize ties with the United States.
(Reporting by Sofia Menchu in Guatemala City; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

1/18/2022 Berlusconi’s Presidential Bid Looks Doomed, Says Right-Hand Man by Gavin Jones and Angelo Amante
FILE PHOTO: Italy's former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, reacts after casting his vote during Italian
elections for mayors and councillors, in Milan, Italy, October 3, 2021. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo/File Photo
    ROME (Reuters) – Silvio Berlusconi’s campaign to become Italian president is making little progress and he would be wise to withdraw his candidacy, the right-hand man of the former prime minister said on Tuesday.
    Vittorio Sgarbi, a lower house deputy who has been trying to persuade undecided lawmakers to back the 85-year-old Berlusconi, said he had suspended his efforts because it was proving “a desperate task.”
    Berlusconi has led four governments as prime minister, but his bid to become president has always looked unlikely due to a record that includes a conviction for tax fraud and the scandal over his notorious “bunga bunga” sex parties while he was last in office.
    He is currently on trial on charges of bribing witnesses in a previous case involving alleged underage prostitution, of which he was acquitted.    He denies all wrongdoing.
    Sgarbi said in an interview with RAI state radio that believed Berlusconi is looking for “an honourable way out” by proposing an alternative candidate.
    He said this could be to ask the outgoing President Sergio Mattarella to serve another term, while Berlusconi was less inclined to back current Prime Minister Mario Draghi for the job.
    Draghi is considered by many commentators to be in pole position when more than 1,000 parliamentarians and regional delegates gather on Jan. 24 to begin voting for a new head of state.
    Berlusconi is the formal candidate of the centre-right bloc in parliament, made up of two right-wing parties, the League and Brothers of Italy, his own more moderate Forza Italia group.
    On paper, these parties lack sufficient votes to elect the billionaire media tycoon, which is why Sgarbi was given the mission of trying to win over scores of unaffiliated lawmakers.
    Sgarbi later told Reuters that while there was no way that he could find enough votes to get his man elected, it may still be possible through other political channels.
    The first was that former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi might offer Berlusconi the votes of his centrist Italia Viva party – something Renzi has so far ruled out.
    The second was that a large group of right-leaning parliamentarians from the 5-Star Movement could throw their weight behind Berlusconi.    This also seems unlikely, as 5-Star has traditionally been a sworn enemy of Berlusconi.
(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

1/18/2022 Barbados To Hold First Election Since Becoming A Republic by Brian Ellsworth
FILE PHOTO: Dancers perform during the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony, held to mark the birth
of a new republic in Barbados at Heroes Square in Bridgetown, Barbados, November 29, 2021.
Picture taken November 29, 2021. Jonathan Brady/Pool via REUTERS//File Photo
    (Reuters) – Barbados on Wednesday will hold general elections called by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the Caribbean nation’s first vote since it became a republic last year by removing the British Queen as its sovereign.
    Mottley, whose Barbados Labor Party now controls 29 of the legislature’s 30 seats, in December said the vote would help promote unity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, which has heavily hit the country’s tourism-focused economy.
    Barbados in November removed Queen Elizabeth as head of state and replaced her with President Sandra Mason in a ceremony coinciding with its independence day that included the presence of Britain’s Prince Charles.
    Mottley in a campaign speech in the community of Pie Corner on the northeast end of the island on Monday made little mention of the pandemic, focusing instead on public works carried out under her party and berating rivals’ lack of leadership.
    Verla De Peiza of the opposition Democratic Labor Party has called the snap election – called a year and a half before the law requires – “alarming to our democracy” and raised questions about the public health risks of the vote and limitations on suffrage of those infected with COVID-19.
    Some 5,000 people of a population just under 300,000 were in isolation after being infected with coronavirus, according to official figures.
    Mottley on Monday said the opposition had filed a court injunction seeking to stop the election.
    The lawsuit alleges that the exclusion of people quarantined due to the coronavirus is a violation of voting rights, according to local media reports.
(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

1/18/2022 Democrat Lawmakers Criticize Dissenters To Killing Filibuster by OAN Newsroom
FILE – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, speaks to the media after Senate Democrats met privately
with President Joe Biden, Jan. 13, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
    Democrat lawmakers seem to be sharpening their tongues at dissenters of killing the Senate filibuster. While invoking the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, top party leaders attempted to gaslight Senate Republicans and Democrat Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
    Senate Majority Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stressed the only way Democrats can pass their controversial election laws is to rid the upper chamber of its longstanding practice.    This would allow the slim majority to jam through their legislation and circumvent negotiations with the GOP.
    Far-left lawmaker Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) has also been trying to pressure both moderate Democrat senators to drop their firm opposition to changing the filibuster.    On Monday, the independent tweeted that the only vote that matters when voting rights comes to the floor is that of overriding the longstanding Senate rule.
    Sanders specifically took aim at Manchin and Sinema by insinuating they would be failing to protect democracy if they don’t vote to change the rule.
    Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) went as far as to say those who don’t conform to the Democrat agenda are dishonoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
    “If you really truly want to honor Dr. King, don’t dishonor him by using a congressional custom as an excuse for protecting our democracy,” she stated.
    Vice President Kamala Harris added to the attacks while vowing to not absolve lawmakers that step out of line.    Harris claimed America’s democracy is under attack as states like Georgia and Texas have passed laws promoting election integrity.
    Meanwhile, reports suggest these states promote better access to the ballot box than several Democrat-led states despite their comparisons to the Jim Crow South.
    “Now Georgia has two days of Sunday voting that is optional, that you can do it,” explained Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).    “And by the way, there are no drop boxes before the pandemic.    There were none and now we still have drop boxes, so an accommodation made for a pandemic are going to continue in the future when theoretically the pandemic is over.    And shall I point out that Georgia has more early voting days than does Delaware or New York by far?
    However, these attempts to bully Manchin and Sinema into towing the party line seem to be fruitless.    Last week, both moderate Democrats reiterated their support for the filibuster after hammering home their support since calls to kill the filibuster began.
    Additionally, Republicans in the minority, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have warned ending the practice would forever diminish the voices of whichever party ends up in the minority.
    “The smallest majority we’ve ever seen in our politics is trying to change the rules for how people get elected in every single state,” said the Kentucky lawmaker.    “That’s just about the best argument for the the filibuster you could possibly imagine.”
    McConnell has pointed out in past criticisms that Democrats have been quick to abuse the filibuster when they are in the minority. Other GOP critics have revealed Democrats who now decry the practice were at one point in time ardent supporters of it.
    In the meantime, Schumer is expected to bring the so-called voting rights bills to debate on Tuesday.    However, critics continue to point out with only 48 senators in support of the bills, two dissenting party members and universal Republican opposition, the bills will likely be dead on arrival.

1/18/2022 U.S. Farmers Feel Impact Of Biden’s Inflation by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this April 20, 2020, file photo, a farmer is silhouetted by the setting sun as
a field is planted near Walford, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette via AP, File)
    Additional food price inflation could be on the horizon as rising input costs hammer small farmers. U.S. agricultural producers are reeling from Joe Biden’s inflation due to skyrocketing fuel and fertilizer costs.
    A poll by Purdue University found fertilizer prices are expected to increase by 12 percent after a 100 percent increase in costs over the past year.    Meanwhile, fuel prices rose more than 50 percent last year.
    Market analysts say small farmers are hit the hardest by surging inflation as they remain over-leveraged, under-capitalized and facing labor shortages.    Small farms account for 89 percent of farms in the U.S. and they make up 21 percent of agricultural production value.
    Economists expect rising input costs to pass on to consumers, pushing foods prices even higher and making more people reliant on food stamps as well as other government handouts.

1/19/2022 Oil up $1.53 to $85.85, DOW down 569 to 35,569.

1/19/2022 Germany Surpasses 100,000 Daily COVID-19 Cases For First Time
A sign shows the requirements to enter restaurants and bars as the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19)
continues in Frankfurt, Germany, January 18, 2022. "2Gplus" rule in Germany means "Geimpft" (vaccinated),
"Genesen" (recovered) and "plus" (negative test or booster certificate). REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
    BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany reported 112,323 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, a fresh single-day record as the health minister said the peak had not been reached and compulsory vaccination should be introduced by May.
    Germany’s tally of COVID-19 infections now stands at 8,186,850, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious disease said.    The death toll also rose by 239 on Wednesday to reach 116,081.
    Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said he expected the wave to peak in a few weeks as the highly infectious Omicron variant brought Germany’s seven-day incidence rate to 584.4 cases per 100,000 people.
    “I think we will reach the peak of the wave in mid-February, and then the number of cases could fall again, but we haven’t reached the peak yet,” Lauterbach told RTL broadcaster late on Tuesday.
    Lauterbach said he believed that the current number of unreported cases could be around two times bigger than the known figures.
    He said compulsory vaccination should be introduced quickly, in April or May, to avoid another wave of infections with possible new variants in autumn.
(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Miranda Murray)

1/19/2022 UK PM Johnson Faces ‘Pork Pie’ Plot To Trigger Leadership Challenge
FILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the weekly question time debate at
Parliament in London, Britain, January 5, 2022, in this screen grab taken from video. Reuters TV via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was fighting to shore up his premiership on Wednesday amid a revolt by his own lawmakers who are angry over a series of lockdown parties in Downing Street.
    Propelled into the top job to “get Brexit done,” Johnson in 2019 won his party’s biggest majority in more than 30 years but now faces calls to resign after a series of revelations about parties in Downing Street – the prime ministers’ home and office – during COVID lockdowns.
    Johnson has repeatedly apologised for the parties and said that he was unaware of many of them.    However, he attended what he said he thought was a work event on May 20, 2020 which revellers had been told to “bring their own booze.”
    To trigger a leadership challenge, 54 of the 360 Conservative MPs in parliament must write letters of no confidence to the chairman of the party’s 1922 Committee.
    As many as 20 Conservative lawmakers who won their seats at the last national election in 2019 plan to submit letters of no confidence in Johnson, the Telegraph reported.    A handful of others have already said they had written such letters.
    “Group of 2019 MPs to submit letters to try to hit threshold of 54 to trigger a contest,” BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg said on Twitter.    “They might hit 54.”
    An analysis by The Times newspaper showed that 58 Conservative lawmakers had openly criticised the prime minister.
    Toppling Johnson would leave the United Kingdom in limbo for months just as the West deals with the Ukraine crisis and the world’s fifth largest economy grapples with the inflationary wave triggered by the COVID pandemic, with UK inflation rising to the highest level in nearly 30 years.
    Leading rivals within the Conservative Party include Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, 41, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, 46.
    Johnson on Tuesday denied an accusation by his former adviser that he had lied to parliament about a lockdown party, saying nobody had warned him the “bring your own booze” gathering might contravene COVID-19 rules.
    He sidestepped questions about whether he would resign if proven he misled parliament, saying only that he wanted to wait for the outcome of an internal inquiry.
    Johnson will address parliament on Wednesday after his Cabinet is expected to approve plans to end the recent restrictions imposed to tackle the spread of COVID-19 in England.
    Opposition leaders have accused Johnson of being a serial liar and called on him to step down.
    Downing Street lockdown parties – some held when ordinary people could not bid farewell in person to dying relatives – have undermined Johnson’s authority.
    His own former spokeswoman resigned after she was captured laughing and joking on camera about how to cast a party if asked about it by reporters.
    Such was the revelry in Downing Street at one event that staff went to a nearby supermarket to buy a suitcase of alcohol, spilled wine on carpets, and broke a swing used by the prime minister’s young son.
    The Mirror said staff had even bought a wine fridge for Friday gatherings, events that were regularly observed by Johnson as he walked to his apartment in the building.
    Johnson has given a variety of explanations of the parties, ranging from denials that any rules were broken to expressing understanding for the public anger at apparent hypocrisy at the heart of the British state.
    Opponents have called for Johnson to resign, casting him as a charlatan who demanded the British people follow some of the most onerous rules in peacetime history while his staff partied.
    The latest plot was cast as the “pork pie plot” because one alleged rebel lawmaker was from Melton, the home of the Melton Mowbray pork pie. Pork pie is also London slang for a lie.
    The rise of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, often referred to as simply “Boris,” to prime minister was the grandest move in a career that took him from journalism via TV show fame, comedy and scandal into the cauldron of the Brexit crisis – and then to the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.
    If lockdown parties sink that career, it would mark yet another extraordinary twist to nearly 12 years of tumultuous Conservative Party rule which has included Brexit, a referendum on Scottish independence and a quiver of elections.
    A flamboyant figure known for his ambition, untidy blond hair, flowery oratory and cursory command of policy detail, Johnson’s rise to power was all about Brexit.
    But after securing Britain’s exit from the European Union, Johnson was hit by the COVID pandemic which has killed 152,513 people in the United Kingdom.    After surviving COVID in 2020, he said it nearly killed him.
(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Alistair Smout)

1/19/2022 Fire Kills Five At Spanish Retirement Home
A view shows the scene where a fire ripped through a retirement
home in Valencia, Spain, January 19, 2022. REUTERS/Eva Manez
    MADRID (Reuters) – Fire ripped through a retirement home in a suburb of Valencia, Spain early on Wednesday, killing five residents, emergency services said.
    The blaze started around midnight and took around two hours to come under control, the fire department said on its Twitter feed.
    Around 70 residents were evacuated from the home in Moncada, a northern suburb of Valencia, Spain’s third largest city.    The home has rooms for 100 people.
    Eleven people were transferred to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation, emergency services said.
    The cause of the fire was being investigated by the fire department and police.
    “First clues, according to what they told me, point at two possibilities: an electric failure possibly linked to an oxygen bottle or a neglect from a resident who was smoking,” town councillor and firefighter Martin Perez Aranda told 24H TV.
    He said most of the residents of the burned area were relocated in spare space in the home and will be evacuated to other homes in the region during the day.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

1/19/2022 Are Hospital Admissions Still The Best Way To Gauge The COVID Crisis? by Clara-Laeila Laudette and Alistair Smout
FILE PHOTO: Medical staff members treat patients inside the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) ward at the Central Clinical Hospital
of the Ministry of Interior and Administration in Warsaw, Poland, January 11, 2022. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    MADRID/LONDON (Reuters) – Using the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 to gauge the severity of the pandemic may not give an accurate picture in the Omicron era as more and more patients with the virus are being admitted for other reasons, some scientists say.
    Governments have focused on hospitalisations to determine the need for restrictions but the data does not typically differentiate between people admitted because of COVID-19, and those who test positive on wards during routine checks.
    “Say you’re having a heart attack, come into hospital, and end up testing positive,” said Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at Britain’s University of East Anglia.
    “Is COVID-19 the cause of your heart attack?    We know it could be.    But we can’t know at an individual level,” he said.
    In Britain, the Omicron variant has driven case numbers to record highs since it emerged at the end of November but the number of hospital patients with COVID-19 on mechanical ventilation has barely changed, government data shows.
    The number of people with COVID-19 in hospital overall has risen, but not proportionately with the rise in infections, while intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy is little changed, according to British Health Minister Sajid Javid.
    With death rates relatively stable despite the Omicron surge, some countries such as Spain are looking at whether to adopt new ways of tracking the virus, though epidemiologists say shifting the goal posts does not change the fact hospitals and their staff are still overloaded with COVID-19 sufferers.
    Data from New York this month showed that 42% of patients hospitalised with COVID-19 were so-called incidental cases, people admitted for other reasons and only found to be infected during routine testing.
    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson even said last week that as many as 30% of people in hospital with COVID-19 actually become infected while hospitalised – something Hunter partly attributed to Omicron’s overwhelming contagiousness.
    Hunter said intensive care occupancy was a better measure of the real severity of an outbreak: “If you’re in an ICU bed with COVID, you’re probably there because of COVID, rather than just with it.”
    In Italy, regional governments have argued that the nuances within the statistics on coronavirus hospitalisation may warrant overhauling their monitoring systems to better reflect the relatively lower severity of Omicron.
    Italy’s Health Ministry said last week it was examining a draft proposal from the regions to exclude asymptomatic people hospitalised for other reasons from the COVID admissions data.
    Critics denounced the proposal as a non-scientific bid by the regions to avoid hitting “red zone” levels of hospitalisations that would trigger tighter coronavirus curbs.
    “The change in criteria cannot be a make-up operation that disguises the tragic nature and scale of the pandemic,” Filippo Anelli, president of Italy’s national federation of doctors, said on Friday.
    “The numbers of infected people admitted to non-critical areas and intensive care units, however they are counted, are overloading hospitals … and exhausting the professionals who have been managing the pandemic for two years,” he said.
    The committee of scientists advising the Italian government recommended on Saturday that the current criteria measuring the spread of COVID-19 be maintained.    The Health Ministry said, however, that the “preliminary” debate was ongoing.
    The question of how to classify patients in hospital who are largely asymptomatic is set to preoccupy European nations as they look to ease curbs – even though it remains unclear to what extent Omicron may have exacerbated their medical conditions.
    In Ireland, 58% of those in hospital testing positive did not have any symptoms, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of Ireland, which looked at about 45% of all positive COVID-19 cases admitted to Irish hospitals on Jan. 11.
    It found more than 70% of those hospitalised with COVID-19 did not need oxygen therapy, suggesting they suffered from a less severe form of disease than previously seen.
    In Denmark, about 15% of people hospitalised people over the course of 18 months had tested positive for coronavirus, but displayed no symptoms and had been admitted for other reasons, a study published this month by the country’s top infectious disease authority the Statens Serum Institut showed.
    In Spain, meanwhile, more than 18,800 people currently in hospital have COVID-19, a 79% increase on previous peaks.
    However, 25% to 40% of those testing positive in hospital were not being treated for COVID-19, according to a report in newspaper El Pais this month.
    “40% of patients hospitalised in Madrid with positive PCR tests aren’t (being admitted) for COVID,” Madrid’s deputy health counsellor Antonio Zapatero said last week on Twitter.
    But Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at Britain’s Reading University, said even if COVID-19 levels in hospital partly reflected the prevalence of the virus in the population, they ought not be dismissed.
    “There’s this narrative that if you come into hospital and pick up COVID it’s like a free infection and often dismissed, whereas that’s not true: you come into hospital for a reason, you’re vulnerable, and it’s likely COVID will worsen your condition,” Clarke said.
    “There needs to be a recognition that regardless of admission reason, people in hospital with COVID is pressure on the hospitals.”
(Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette in Madrid, Emilio Parodi in Milan, Nikolaj Skydsgaard in Copenhagen and Alistair Smout in London; Writing by Clara-Laeila Laudette; Editing by Josephine Mason and David Clarke)

1/19/2022 French EU Lawmakers Lash Out At Macron In Rare Direct Exchange
French President Emmanuel Macron addresses a plenary session at the European Parliament to present
the programme of activities of the French Presidency as the country currently holds the
European Union rotating presidency, in Strasbourg, France, January 19, 2022. Bertrand Guay/Pool via REUTERS
    STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) – French members of the European Parliament (MEPs) seized a rare opportunity on Wednesday to attack President Emmanuel Macron directly, three months before France’s presidential election.
    Macron was appearing before the assembly in Strasbourg to set out France’s priorities for its six-month EU presidency, but French lawmakers were much more interested in debating his domestic policies.
    “This is not a French election debate,” said the Parliament’s new chair, Roberta Metsola of Malta, as she struggled in vain to move the focus back to EU matters.
    In France, a president never takes part in debates in the National Assembly, and having to respond live to lawmakers’ questions is a highly unusual affair.
    “For France, but also for Europe, it is essential that you have only one mandate,” MEP Jordan Bardella of France’s far-right National Rally told Macron, who came to power in 2017.
    Manuel Bompard, of the hard-left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), was one of several accusing Macron of lying, adding: “In three months, the French can ensure Europe gets rid of him.”
    Macron, who has already made clear he wants to run for a second mandate but has yet to offically confirm it, accused his opponents of misunderstanding the challenges facing Europe and France and misrepresenting his policies.
    Opinion polls show Macron, 44, is the most likely winner of the April election but that it’s not a done deal
    A staunch pro-European, Macron is hoping his proposals for a more assertive Europe will help secure him a second five-year term as French president.
    While Europe is not high on French voters’ minds, opinion polls show that questions of sovereignty, security and identity are, and his opponents like to depict Macron as too cerebral and aloof to understand ordinary people’s concerns.
    “Emmanuel Macron’s Europe has no heart, no head, no soul,” far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmmour said in Calais on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Benoit van Overstraeten, Ingrid Melander, Myriam Rivet, Tassilo Hummel; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Gareth Jones)

1/19/2022 ‘In The Name Of God, Go’: UK’s Johnson Faces Demands To Resign by William James and Alistair Smout
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the weekly question time debate at Parliament
in London, Britain, January 19, 2022. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday dismissed calls to resign from opponents and some of his own lawmakers, fighting to save his premiership amid a deepening revolt inside his party over a series of lockdown parties in Downing Street.
    Johnson, who in 2019 won his party’s biggest majority in more than 30 years, is now fighting to shore up his authority after a series of revelations about parties in his Downing Street residence during COVID lockdowns.
    Johnson has repeatedly apologised for the parties and said he was unaware of many of them.
    However, he attended what he said he thought was a work event on May 20, 2020 to which staff had been told to “bring their own booze.”    Johnson said on Tuesday that nobody had told him the gathering was against COVID rules.
    “I expect my leaders to shoulder the responsibility for the actions they take,” Brexit-supporting Conservative lawmaker David Davis told parliament.
    Davis cited a quote from a Conservative lawmaker, Leo Amery, to then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain over his handling of war in 1940: “You have sat there too long for the good you have done.    In the name of God, go.”
    Asked directly by an opposition lawmaker if he would resign, Johnson said: “No.”
    Toppling Johnson would leave the United Kingdom in limbo for months just as the West deals with the Ukraine crisis and the world’s fifth largest economy grapples with the inflationary wave triggered by the COVID pandemic, with UK inflation rising to the highest level in nearly 30 years.
    To trigger a leadership challenge, 54 of the 360 Conservative MPs in parliament must write letters of no confidence to the chairman of the party’s 1922 Committee.
    Implored to stay by one supporter, Johnson said he had not yet “sat here quite long enough, indeed nothing like long enough.”
    As many as 20 Conservative lawmakers who won their seats at the last national election in 2019 plan to submit letters of no confidence in Johnson, the Telegraph reported.    A handful of others have already said they had written such letters.
    An analysis by The Times newspaper showed that 58 Conservative lawmakers had openly criticised the prime minister.
    Leading rivals within the Conservative Party include Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, 41, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, 46.
    Downing Street lockdown parties – some held when ordinary people could not bid farewell in person to dying relatives – have undermined Johnson’s authority.
    Johnson on Tuesday denied an accusation by his former adviser that he had lied to parliament about a lockdown party, saying nobody had warned him the “bring your own booze” gathering might contravene COVID-19 rules.
    “As he waded through the empty bottles and platters of sandwiches – he didn’t realise it was a party?    Does the prime minister realise how ridiculous that sounds?” Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, told parliament.
    “Every week, the prime minister offers absurd and frankly unbelievable defences to the Downing Street parties, and each week it unravels.”
    Starmer, who welcomed the defection of lawmaker Christian Wakeford who earlier on Wednesday left Johnson’s Conservatives to join Labour, asked Johnson if a prime minister should resign if he had misled parliament.
    “My decision is about much more than your leadership and the disgraceful way you have conducted yourself in recent weeks,” Wakeford said.
    “I can no longer support a government that has shown itself consistently out of touch with the hard working people of Bury South and the country as a whole.”
    Support for Johnson and his party has plummeted after a series of revelations about the parties and other mis-steps.
    His own former spokeswoman resigned after she was captured laughing and joking on camera about how to cast a Christmas party if asked about it by reporters.
    Such was the revelry in Downing Street at one event that staff went to a supermarket to buy a suitcase of alcohol, spilled wine on carpets, and broke a swing used by the prime minister’s young son.
    The Mirror said staff had bought a wine fridge for Friday gatherings, events that were regularly observed by Johnson as he walked to his apartment in the building.
    Johnson has given a variety of explanations of the parties, ranging from denials that any rules were broken to expressing understanding for the public anger at apparent hypocrisy at the heart of the British state.
    He said people must wait for the outcome of an internal investigation by a senior civil servant before reaching conclusions.
    Opponents have portrayed him as a charlatan who demanded the British people follow some of the most onerous rules in peacetime history while his staff partied.
    The growing internal Conservative rebellion was cast as the “pork pie plot” because one alleged rebel lawmaker was from Melton, the home of the Melton Mowbray pork pie. Pork pie is also London slang for a lie.
(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

1/19/2022 Coronavirus Spreading Like Never Before In Americas, Health Agency Says
FILE PHOTO: Healthcare workers are pictured at a testing center for the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19), in Buenos Aires, Argentina January 6, 2022. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/File Photo
    BRASILIA (Reuters) - COVID-19 infections are reaching new peaks in the Americas with 7.2 million new cases and more than 15,000 COVID-related deaths in the last week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.
    “The virus is spreading more actively than ever before,” PAHO Director Carissa Etienne told a briefing.
    The Caribbean has had the steepest increase in infections since the start of the two-year-old pandemic, the regional agency said.    In North America, the United States and Canada are experiencing a surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
    Given a shortage of testing, PAHO recommended that countries prioritize rapid antigen tests for people with COVID-19 symptoms and who are at risk of spreading the virus.
    Even though more than 60% of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Omicron is spreading rapidly in all regions, said PAHO Incident Manager Sylvain Aldighieri.
    The variant’s advance in coming weeks and months will depend on public health measures to contain it, including use of masks and social distancing and above all vaccinations, to reduce the severity of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, he said.
    Brazil reported a record 137,103 cases of the coronavirus in 24 hours as Omicron spread in Latin America’s largest country, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, as new infections soared above the previous daily record of 115,228 in June last year.
    Brazil has the world’s third highest death toll from COVID-19 after the United States and Russia, according to a Reuters tally.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Howard Goller)

1/19/2022 U.S., UK Launch Talks To Resolve Steel, Aluminum Dispute, Address Excess Capacity by David Lawder and David Shepardson
FILE PHOTO: A worker cuts a piece from a steel coil at the Novolipetsk Steel PAO
steel mill in Farrell, Pennsylvania, U.S., March 9, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and Britain on Wednesday agreed to launch talks aimed at resolving their trade dispute over U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, the countries said in a joint statement.     No specific date or timeline was given for the talks but discussions will address “global steel and aluminum excess capacity, including the United States’ application of tariffs” on the metals from Britain.
    “Both parties are committed to working towards an expeditious outcome that ensures the viability of steel and aluminum industries in both markets against the continuing shared challenge of global excess capacity and strengthens their democratic alliance,” the countries said in the joint statement.
    They said the talks also will cover the UK’s 25% retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products, which include whiskey, motorcycles, blue jeans and tobacco.    Annual exports of U.S. whiskey to Britain have fallen by more than half since 2018, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, which welcomed the announcement.
    A British government source said: “Until a deal is done we will continue to apply rebalancing measures on U.S. products, and won’t hesitate to take any action necessary to defend our vital steel and aluminium industries.”
    The joint statement was issued after a virtual meeting between U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and UK Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan to discuss the tariffs, a meeting reported by Reuters on Tuesday.
    U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai also signed onto the joint statement.
    Britain is keen to negotiate duty-free access to American steel and aluminum markets similar to that granted by Washington to the European Union on Jan. 1 as part of a quota deal reached last October that took six months to negotiate.
    The metals tariffs – 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum – were first imposed in March 2018 by former U.S. President Donald Trump under a Cold War-era national security law have been a major transatlantic trade irritant since then.
    Europe, Britain, Japan and other U.S. allies have argued that they do not represent a security threat and should not be subject to the tariffs.
    The Commerce Department.
    As part of the U.S.-EU deal, Washington will allow 4 million tons of EU “melted and poured” steel into the United States annually in exchange for Brussels dropping retaliatory tariffs against EU products.
    The two sides agreed to work together to address global excess capacity in steel and aluminum production largely centered in China – a goal echoed by Raimondo and Trevelyan as part of the U.S.-UK talks.
    The announcement of talks comes at a sensitive time for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose leadership is under threat after a series of revelations about COVID lockdown breaches at his residence.
    If that crisis develops into a formal leadership challenge, it could paralyze decision-making within government for several weeks and limit ministers’ mandate to negotiate the concessions needed to reach a compromise with the United States.
(Additional reporting by William James in London; writing by David Lawder and Susan Heavey; editing by Alexandra Hudson and Marguerita Choy)

1/19/2022 Greece Imposes Rolling Fines To Push COVID-19 Vaccinations In Older People
FILE PHOTO; Greek Army Medical Personnel members stand at the hallway of a vaccination centre during a media tour,
amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Athens, Greece, February 13, 2021. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
    ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece has begun imposing recurring fines on those over the age of 60 who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 to try to boost inoculation in the most vulnerable age group even as infection rates from the fast-spreading Omicron variant are slowing.
    After hitting an all-time high of 50,126 registered coronavirus infections on Jan. 4, mainly driven by the spread of the Omicron variant over the Christmas holidays, cases have been falling in recent days.
    But with the more severe Delta variant still infecting many Greeks and causing serious illness in people over the age of 60, the country has been registering many dozens of daily deaths at its hospitals.    About nine in 10 coronavirus-related fatalities are people over 60, the government has said.
    “They did the right thing because it’s good for all of us and our health,” said Vassilis Chrisikos, 85.    “We got vaccinated, (so) shouldn’t everyone get vaccinated to get rid of this coronavirus?
    Greece is among a growing number of countries that have tightened vaccination requirements on certain professions or age groups as the Delta and Omicron variants have added fuel to the pandemic.
    The announcement of a monthly 100 euro ($113.36) fine in November for people over 60 who failed to get vaccinated or book a vaccination appointment by Jan. 16 has helped increase the take-up rate to more than 90% of that age group, health officials have said.
    For the remaining 10%, a fine of 50 euros will be collected through tax authorities for January that will rise to 100 euros for each month from February onwards to help fund state hospitals.
    The sum is expected to hit Greek pensioners, who make up about a quarter of Greece’s population of nearly 11 million.    This group saw its state pensions cut several times during Greece’s 2010-2018 debt crisis.     “On one side it’s good, because it will keep people from dying.    On the other, it is a bit hefty, for pensioners,” said Panagiotis Chatzigiannis, 73.
    Greece reported 23,340 daily COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, with coronavirus-related deaths reaching 106.    That brought the total number of reported infections and fatalities in the country to 1,703,396 and 22,197, respectively.
($1 = 0.8821 euros)
(Reporting by Deborah Kyvrikosaios; Additional reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Paul Simao)

1/19/2022 Canada, Echoing U.S., Says It Fears Armed Conflict Could Erupt In Ukraine by David Ljunggren
FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a news conference,
as the latest Omicron variant emerges as a threat amid the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) pandemic, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Blair Gable
    OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canada fears armed conflict could break out in Ukraine and is working with allies to make clear to Russia that any more aggression towards Kiev is unacceptable, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier that Russia could launch a new attack on Ukraine at “very short notice.”    Moscow, which has stationed military equipment and tens of thousands of troops near the border, denies it is planning an invasion and blames the West for rising tensions.
    “We do fear an armed conflict in Ukraine.    We’re very worried about the position of the Russian government … and the fact that they’re sending soldiers to the Ukrainian border,” Trudeau told a news conference.
    Canada, with a sizeable and politically influential population of Ukrainian descent, has taken a strong line with Russia since its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
    “We’re working with our international partners and colleagues to make it very, very clear that Russian aggression and further incursion into Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable,” Trudeau said.
    “We are standing there with diplomatic responses, with sanctions, with a full press on the international stage.”
    Canadian troops are in Latvia as part of a NATO mission and Trudeau said they would “continue the important work that NATO is doing to protect its eastern front.”
    Canada has had a 200-strong training mission in western Ukraine since 2015.
    Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly on Tuesday said Ottawa would make a decision at the appropriate time on supplying military hardware to Ukraine.
    Trudeau side-stepped a question about sending defensive weapons, saying any decision would “be based on what is best for the people of Ukraine.”
(Reporting by David Ljunggren;Editing by Will Dunham and Philippa Fletcher)

1/19/2022 Betting Omicron Has Peaked, PM Johnson Drops COVID Rules In England by Alistair Smout
FILE PHOTO: People socially distance as they walk across Wandsworth Bridge amid the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain, January 10, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
    LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the end of COVID-19 measures including mandatory face masks in England as he looks to live with the virus after a peak in cases caused by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
    Johnson’s light touch approach to dealing with Omicron saw him introduce work-at-home advice and vaccine passes as well as more mask-wearing on Dec. 8, although he stopped short of more onerous restrictions seen globally.
    While cases soared to record highs, hospitalisations and deaths have not risen by the same extent, in part due to Britain’s booster rollout and the variant’s lesser severity.
    Johnson’s pledge to avoid lockdowns and live with the virus contrasts with a zero tolerance approach to COVID-19 in China and Hong Kong, and tougher restrictions in many other European countries.
    “Many nations across Europe have endured further winter lockdowns… but this government took a different path,” Johnson told lawmakers, saying the government had got the toughest decisions right and that numbers going into intensive care were falling.
    “Our scientists believe it is likely that the Omicron wave has now peaked nationally… because of the extraordinary booster campaign, together with the way the public have responded to the Plan B measures, we can return to Plan A.”
    Johnson said none of the so-called Plan B measures would remain in England when they lapse on Jan. 26, as face masks would not be legally enforced anywhere and COVID passes would not be mandatory.
    The government said it would also no longer ask people to work from home, effective immediately.
    Johnson cited official figures that showed infection prevalence levels falling from a record high.
    But scientists warned that cases could still turn higher again if people’s behaviour returned to normal quickly.
    “There’s no guarantee that the levels are going to continue to fall as they are at the moment,” University of Warwick virologist Lawrence Young told Reuters, who said he favoured a more gradual approach given that cases are still high.
    “I just don’t think we’ve got any room for complacency at the moment, but I do understand the economic imperative.    People want to get back to normal.”
    Johnson has faced criticism for his handling of the pandemic overall, and Britain has reported 152,872 deaths, the seventh highest total globally.    Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have followed their own anti-coronavirus measures, generally with tougher restrictions, but have also begun to ease them.
    Johnson hopes to reset his agenda following furore over the lockdown gatherings at his office, which has some in his party plotting to remove him
    The lifting of Plan B measures, along with the navigation of Omicron without resorting to a stringent lockdown, could help Johnson appease vocal opponents of restrictions in his own caucus amid the party unrest.
    Johnson said if data supported it, he may end the legal requirement for people to self-isolate if they test positive before the regulation lapses in March.
    “But to make that possible, we must all remain cautious during these last weeks of winter,” he said, warning of continued pressure on hospitals.
    “The pandemic is not over.”
    Susan Hopkins, the Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Health Security Agency, said she expected cases would continue to fall, but it would not be linear.
    “We believe that overall, we will continue to see declines in cases.    That may plateau at some points as the infection is in various different populations,” she said at a news conference.
    “People’s behaviour and how they react to the removal of Plan B will determine how fast infection can spread in the population.”
(Reporting by Alistair Smout, additional reporting by Andrew MacAskill and William James; editing by Guy Faulconbridge, Angus MacSwan and Toby Chopra)

1/19/2022 Portugal Allows Those With COVID To Vote On Election Day, Recommends Evening Trip by Catarina Demony and Miguel Pereira
A Chega far right party and Popular Party CDS billboards for the snap elections which is to take
place on January 30 are seen in Lisbon, Portugal, January 19, 2022. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
    LISBON (Reuters) - Portuguese voters with COVID-19 and those in isolation will be allowed to leave home to cast their ballot when the country holds a snap election on Jan. 30, with the hour of 6-7 p.m. recommended for the trip, the government said on Wednesday.
    The announcement came on the day Portugal, which has almost 90% of its 10 million population fully inoculated, reported 52,549 new COVID-19 infections, the highest daily figure since the pandemic began, stoked by the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
    Interior Minister Francisca Van Dunem told a news conference quarantined voters should only head to polling stations from 6 to 7 p.m., urging those not infected to go before that period.
    “We need a social pact that allows everyone to vote in safety,” said Van Dunem, asking those in isolation not to take public transport but walk or use their own vehicle instead.
    The recommended hour is not mandatory, however.    Those with the virus must wear a face mask, keep a social distance and can only leave home to vote.
    Staff working at polling stations will be given protective equipment.
    The head of health authority DGS, Graca Freitas, said there would be no designated areas for those with COVID-19 to vote in and they would not be required to show proof of their health status at the polls.
    “This solution of having a dedicated time period for these people to vote… will prevent, not totally, but will minimise the risk of contagion,” Freitas said.
    Hospitals on Wednesday had 1,959 COVID-19 patients compared with a record of 6,869 on Feb. 1 2021. Mortality remains well below levels seen in the previous peaks, with the total death toll standing at 19,413.
    The election was called after parliament rejected the minority Socialist government’s budget bill for 2022.    Prime Minister Antonio Costa’s party has a comfortable lead in opinion polls but is likely to fall short of a full parliamentary majority.
    The election campaign is in full swing after Sunday’s kick-off and street rallies draw large crowds, where mask-wearing is optional.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony and Miguel Pereira; Editing by Andrei Khalip, Angus MacSwan, Alexandra Hudson)

1/19/2022 Malta Police Search House Of Former Prime Minister Muscat
FILE PHOTO: Outgoing Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat waves to supporters
after his final speech at the party's Congress before the election of a new party leader at the
Corradino Sports Pavilion in Paola, Malta January 10, 2020. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
    VALLETTA (Reuters) – Police searched the residence of former Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Wednesday as part of a probe into alleged corruption in a deal struck by his government that handed management of three state hospitals to the little-known Vitals Global Healthcare group in 2016.
    Muscat confirmed the police search in a Facebook post, saying officers had turned up to search his house at 7 a.m. and had also confiscated his mobile phone as well as those of his wife and teenage daughters.
    Times of Malta reported in November how the former prime minister received 60,000 euros ($68,000) from Accutor AG, a Swiss company linked to U.S. group Steward Health Care, which took over the hospitals contract from Vitals Global Healthcare in 2018.
    The alleged payments have been included in the corruption probe, but Muscat has repeatedly insisted he had not done anything wrong.
    “I was paid for consultancy work that was carried out after I left office, work which was not connected to Malta or to hospitals, and was fully documented and on which I paid tax,” he said on Wednesday.
    Times of Malta reported that police were at Muscat’s residence in the rural village of Burmarrad, in the north of Malta, for over three hours.
    Muscat said he was only ‘half surprised’ by the search, since he had been told that an opposition MP and lawyer had reportedly made remarks about a search in the previous few days.    The search, he said was ‘needless theatrics’ and the fact that even the mobile phones of his teenage daughters had been seized was excessive.
    He said that as soon as the story about his payments broke in November, he had prepared a file of documents, ready to hand to a magistrate, and he did so as soon as the police turned up.
    The police have not commented.
    Muscat resigned in January 2020 after media revealed that he and his chief of staff had a close friendship with top businessman Yorgen Fenech, who is awaiting trial for complicity in the 2017 car bomb murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Muscat has not been linked to the murder investigation.
($1 = 0.8810 euro)
(Reporting by Christopher Scicluna; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

1/19/2022 Rio Police Occupy Favelas In New Push To Combat Gangs by Alexandre Loureiro
Police officers patrol the Jacarezinho slum during a new pacification operation to combat
crime in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, January 19, 2022. REUTERS/Alexandre Loureiro
    RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Hundreds of heavily-armed police occupied the Jacarezinho neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday morning, as authorities vowed a renewed effort to bring security and public services to slums dominated by gangs of drug dealers.
    Police drove armored personnel cars into the neighborhood, patrolling streets and entering homes in a four-hour operation witnessed by a Reuters photographer.
    Governor Claudio Castro said it was the start of a new offensive to transform poor areas known as ‘favelas’, echoing the rhetoric of the Police Pacifying Units (UPP) that displaced violent gangs in the city ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games.
    Rio’s Military Police said there were no violent encounters in the operation that had started in two favelas.    A spokesperson said the large number of police forces deployed deterred any armed response from the gangs.
    Jacarezinho is a sprawling favela on the violent north side of Rio, Brazil’s second largest city, where a police raid in May resulted in 29 deaths, including an officer, and drew sharp criticism from human rights groups.
    Police said they plan to occupy other nearby favelas, such as Manguinhos, Bandeira 2 and Conjunto Morar Carioca.
    Castro said on Twitter that he would give details on Saturday of further plans to restore security and “improve the lives of those who live in these areas”
    The first UPP was set up in Rio’s Santa Marta favela in 2008, and dozens more sites were rolled out across the state over the next decade.
    The so-called “pacification” project, which focused on community policing to engage with residents and discourage gunfights, was an initial success and won early international praise.    But by 2018, the scheme was suffering from budget cuts and inconsistent support from corrupt state governments.
    That year, the federal government made a military intervention to take back control of Rio’s streets, essentially killing off the UPP project.
    The 2018 election of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has called for more more aggressive tackling of organized crime, ushered in a tougher era in Rio policing.
    In 2019, Rio police killed a record 1,814 people.
(Reporting by Alexandre LoureiroAdditional reporting by Gabriel Stargardter and Eduardo Simoes; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

1/19/2022 White House Press Secretary Psaki Admits U.S. Security Screenings Failed To Flag by OAN Newsroom
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks at a press briefing at the
White House in Washington, Friday, Jan. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
    The White House admitted multiple security screenings failed to flag the terrorist who held four people hostage at a synagogue in Texas.    During a briefing Monday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked how Malik Faisal Akram was let into the U.S. to begin with.
    Akram was known to British Intelligence as a terrorist with even his brother expressing disbelief that he was allowed into the U.S. According to Psaki, the Biden administration failed to detect security flags.
    “Well, our understanding and obviously we’re still looking into this, is that he was checked against U.S. government databases multiple times prior to entering the country and the U.S. government did not have any derogatory information about the individual in our systems at the time of entry,” she stated.    “We’re certainly looking back, as a referenced to what occurred, to learn every possible lesson we can to prevent attacks like this in the future.”
    In January 2021, Biden ended 45th President Donald Trump’s order requiring that intelligence agencies increased vetting for foreigners seeking to travel into the U.S.

1/19/2022 U.S. Treasury Unveils New Hezbollah Sanctions Amid Lebanon Crisis by OAN Newsroom
Hezbollah operatives stand in formation in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on May 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
    The U.S. Treasury imposed new sanctions on Lebanese-based terror-group Hezbollah over its ongoing destabilizing activities.
    On Tuesday, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control blacklisted three Lebanese businessmen and a company called Dar al Salam for Travel & Tourism.    According to officials, these entities have served as “financial facilitators” aiding and abetting Hezbollah’s terrorist activities.
    The sanctions come ahead of a cabinet meeting in Beirut next week, which Hezbollah’s political wing said it will boycott.    Lebanese officials have said Hezbollah’s actions are not helpful.
    “We reached an understanding with Hezbollah (in 2006), not with Amal,” said Gebran Bassil, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement in Lebanon.    “When we discover that the one making decisions in (this alliance) is Amal, it is our right to reconsider.    It is understandable why Americans want to corner Hezbollah, but it is not understandable why (Hezbollah) wants to corner themselves, and force people there with them.”
    The Treasury added, Hezbollah financiers exerted undue influence on Lebanon’s politics, which extends a political crisis in the country and encourages extremist groups.

1/19/2022 WHO Reveals No Evidence Shows Kids, Adults Need COVID-19 Booster by OAN Newsroom
Are COVID-19 boosters needed for children? The question remains. (Getty Image/ Tan Ming Tung)
    The World Health Organization (WHO) recently suggested a booster for healthy children and adults is most likely not needed.     On Tuesday, the specialized agency’s chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, said there is no evidence to currently support the idea that adolescents in good health need an extra dose of the COVID- 19 vaccine.    During the news briefing, Swaminathan assured more research is needed to determine who needs the boosters and who doesn’t.
    “The aim is to protect the most vulnerable, to protect those at highest risk of severe disease and dying,” she explained.    “Those are our elderly populations, immuno-compromised people with underlying conditions, but also healthcare workers.”
    Swaminathan also mentioned the decrease of vaccine immunity over time against the Omicron variant.    She confirmed that a group of experts are set to convene this week to discuss boosters and further determine what populations should be considered in receiving them.
    However, booster shots have not been completely ruled out according to Dr. Michael Ryan, the executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program.    He said there is no answer just yet as to how many more shots people need; potentially two or three more depending on future variants.
    Their remarks come about two weeks after the CDC approved booster shots for kids aged 12 to 17.    Additionally, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIAID, called on Americans to “step up their game” and get boosted.    He warned the possible deterioration of the two initial shots of the MRNA vaccine as Omicron takes the country by storm.
    The Chief Medical Advisor to the U.S. President also said at the very least a shot will be needed every year.    Furthermore, Dr. Fauci is pushing for one last shot, which would be a universal vaccine that would potentially protect against all variants after most people have already gotten three shots.
    Dr. Paul Offit, member of the FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee, stressed the need for boosters, but admitted they may only offer protection for a couple of months before needing another.
    “I think you’re going to be less protected against mild disease and so then the question becomes, if you get a booster dose will (that) likely increase your protection against mild disease?” he questioned.    “But then the questions becomes for how long?    Will that only be for three-months, six-months, nine-months a year?    We’ll see.”
    Meanwhile, there is reportedly some concern that too many boosters can affect the immune system in a way that can weaken the effectiveness of future shots.

1/19/2022 Texas Doctor Sues Former Hospital After Being Suspended For Questioning COVID-19 Vaccine Efficacy by OAN Newsroom
A healthcare worker fills a syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
    A Texas doctor is suing her former employer who was punished for spreading so-called COVID-19 misinformation.    Dr. Mary Bowden filed a lawsuit against Houston Methodist Hospital on Monday requesting data from the hospital detailing the effects of the vaccine as well as a number of financial reports.
    Dr. Bowden resigned from the hospital in November 2021 after publicly questioning the jabs and bringing awareness of early treatments, including Ivermectin.    In response, Houston Methodist Hospital suspended her and revoked her privileges.
    “My name is being vilified,” explained the otolaryngologist.    “I have people leaving fake reviews on my website, all over the media.    I have people calling me the sister of the devil and misconstruing my intentions, so I want to set the record straight.”
    Dr. Bowden stressed she’s only seeking transparency from the hospital and not monetary retribution.    She also confirmed that the hospital in question paid out over $13 million to persuade its employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine.    Those same employees now have until the end of March to get their booster or face termination.

1/19/2022 Biden Fails To Deliver On Promises In First Year In White House by OAN Newsroom
    It has been a year since Joe Biden took over the Oval Office.    One America’s Sam Valk explores how many of the promises he made have actually been kept.


1/20/2022 Oil up $0.69 to $87.18, DOW down 339 to 35,029.

1/20/2022 Biden Sees Russia Moving On Ukraine, Sows Doubt On Western Response by Alexandra Alper, Steve Holland and Simon Lewis
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers year-end remarks for 2021
and answers questions from news media gathered at the U.S. State Department
in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool
    WASHINGTON/KYIV (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden predicted on Wednesday that Russia will make a move on Ukraine, saying Russia would pay dearly for a full-scale invasion but suggesting there could be a lower cost for a “minor incursion.”
    Biden’s comments at a White House news conference injected uncertainty into how the West would respond should Russian President Vladimir Putin order an invasion of Ukraine, prompting the White House later to seek to clarify what Biden meant.
    “My guess is he will move in,” Biden said of Putin at a news conference.    “He has to do something.”
    “Russia will be held accountable if it invades – and it depends on what it does.    It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and what to not do, et cetera,” Biden said.    “But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing … it is going to be a disaster for     Russia if they further invade Ukraine.”
    Russian officials have repeatedly denied planning to invade, but the Kremlin has massed some 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, a buildup the West says is preparation for a war to prevent Ukraine from ever joining the NATO Western security alliance.
    Shortly after the nearly two-hour news conference ended, the White House stressed any Russian military move into Ukraine would elicit a tough response.
    “If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, that’s a renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our allies,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
    But cyberattacks and paramilitary tactics by Russia will be met with “a decisive, reciprocal, and united response,” she said.
    Republicans expressed concern about Biden’s remarks.
    “Any incursion by the Russian military into Ukraine should be viewed as a major incursion because it will destabilize Ukraine and freedom-loving countries in Eastern Europe,” said Republican Senator Rob Portman.
    Biden said a third summit with Putin “is still a possibility” after the two leaders met twice last year.    He said he was concerned that a Ukraine conflict could have broader implications and “could get out of hand.”
    Speaking to reporters at length about the crisis threatening to engulf his presidency, Biden said he believed Putin would test Western leaders. The response to any Russian invasion, he said, would depend on the scale of Moscow’s actions and whether U.S. allies squabbled over how to react.
    Biden and his team have prepared a broad set of sanctions and other economic penalties to impose on Russia in the event of an invasion and the U.S. president said Russian companies could lose the ability to use the U.S. dollar.
    Pressed on what he meant by a “minor incursion,” Biden said NATO allies are not united on how to respond depending on what exactly Putin does, saying “there are differences” among them and that he was trying to make sure that “everybody’s on the same page.”
    “Big nations can’t bluff, number one. Number two, the idea that we would do anything to split NATO … would be a big mistake.    So the question is, if it’s something significantly short of a significant invasion or … just major military forces coming across.    For example, it’s one thing to determine if they continue to use cyber efforts; well, we can respond the same way,” Biden said.
    Biden said Putin had asked him for guarantees on two issues: that Ukraine would never join NATO and that “strategic” or nuclear weapons never be stationed on Ukrainian soil.
    U.S. officials see limiting NATO expansion as a non-starter, but Biden noted there was little chance of Ukraine joining the alliance soon and he suggested there could be a deal under which the West might not station nuclear forces in Ukraine.
    “We can work out something on the second piece,” depending on Russia’s own posture, Biden said.
    Visiting Kyiv in a show of support, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia could launch a new attack on Ukraine at “very short notice” but Washington would pursue diplomacy as long as it could, even though it was unsure what Moscow really wanted.
    The Kremlin said tension around Ukraine was increasing and it still awaited a written U.S. response to its sweeping demands for security guarantees from the West, including a halt to further NATO expansion and a withdrawal of alliance forces from central and eastern European nations that joined it after 1997.
    The pessimistic statements highlighted the U.S.-Russian gulf ahead of talks between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday that one Russian foreign policy analyst called “probably the last stop before the train wreck.”
    Russia has also moved troops to Belarus for what it calls joint military exercises, giving it the option of attacking neighboring Ukraine from the north, east and south.
    Eight years ago it seized Crimea and backed separatist forces who took control of large parts of eastern Ukraine, but it has consistently denied any intention of invading now.
    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Western weapons deliveries to Ukraine, military maneuvers and NATO aircraft flights were to blame for rising tensions around Ukraine.
(Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Steve Holland in Washington and Simon Lewis in Kyiv; Additional reporting by Matthias Williams, Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets in Kyiv, Tom Balmforth and Dmitry Antonov in Moscow, Benoit van Overstraeten, Myriam Rivet and Tangi Salaün in Paris, Susan Heavey, Daphne Psaledakis, Tim Ahmann, Trevor Hunnicutt, Andrea Shalal and Heather Timmons in Washington; Writing by Mark Trevelyan and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Howard Goller)

1/20/2022 U.S. Clears Baltic States To Send U.S.-Made Weapons To Ukraine by Andrea Shalal
FILE PHOTO: The seal of the United States Department of State is
shown in Washington, U.S., January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department has cleared Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to send U.S.-made missiles and other weapons to Ukraine, three sources familiar with the decision said, as President     Joe Biden predicted Russia would move on Ukraine.
    Under export control regulations, countries must obtain approval from the State Department before transferring any weapons they received from the United States to third parties.
    The third-party transfer agreements will allow Estonia to transfer Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, while Lithuania will be permitted to send Stinger missiles, said one of the sources.
    A State Department spokesperson confirmed that the U.S. government had approved third-party transfers allowing Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Britain to provide U.S.-made equipment from their inventories to Ukraine, but gave no details on which weapons would be sent.
    “The United States and its allies and partners are standing together to expedite security assistance to Ukraine.    We are in close touch with our Ukrainian partners and our NATO Allies and are creatively utilizing all available security cooperation tools to help Ukraine bolster its defenses in the face of growing Russian aggression,” the spokesperson said.
    News about the approved weapons transfers emerged late on Wednesday after Biden told a news conference that Russia would pay dearly if it invaded Ukraine.
    Russian officials have repeatedly denied planning to invade Ukraine, but the Kremlin has massed some 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, a buildup the West says is preparation for a war to prevent Ukraine from ever joining the NATO Western security alliance.
    The situation has triggered grave concerns in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and other NATO allies, as well as among U.S. lawmakers.    A bipartisan group of U.S. senators this week promised solidarity and weapons on a visit to Kyiv.
    No comment was immediately available from the State Department about the approvals.
    One of the sources said the approvals reflected a growing sense of urgency about the crisis after some initial foot-dragging by State Department.
    The State Department spokesperson said the Biden administration in December approved $200 million in additional defensive security assistance to Ukraine, along with $60 billion in lethal and non-lethal equipment from existing U.S. military stocks.
    U.S. officials were also identifying additional equipment that could be delivered from excess U.S. military stocks.
    “As President Biden told President Putin, should Russia further invade Ukraine, we will provide additional defensive material to the Ukrainians,” the spokesperson said.    “We are committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and will continue to provide Ukraine the support it needs.”
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; additional reporting by Mike Stone, editing by Ross Colvin, Michael Perry and Kim Coghill)

1/20/2022 Initial Barbados Election Results Show PM Mottley Poised For Win
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley arrives to cast her ballot to vote in the country's
first election since it became a republic by removing the British Queen as its sovereign, at
Eden Lodge Primary School in St Michael, Barbados January 19, 2022. REUTERS/Nigel R. Browne
    (Reuters) - Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley seemed on the verge of a sweeping victory as preliminary results trickled in late on Wednesday from the Caribbean nation’s first general election since it became a republic last year.
    Mottley’s Barbados Labor Party (BLP) went into the vote holding 29 of the 30 seats in the national legislature, and the prime minister was comfortably re-elected in one of the first constituencies to be declared.
    Results came in piecemeal overnight and projections on local television suggested the BLP was headed for a decisive victory over the opposition.
    Mottley had called the snap election in December, saying it would help promote unity as the government battled the coronavirus pandemic, which has heavily affected the tourism-focused economy.
    About 5,000 people from a population of just under 300,000 were in isolation after being infected, recent official figures show.
    The former British colony declared independence in 1966 but retained Queen Elizabeth as its ceremonial head of state until Nov. 30 last year.    She was replaced by President Sandra Mason.
(Reporting by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Howard Goller and Clarence Fernandez)

1/20/2022 From Howitzers To Heli-Bombs: Canadian Province Fights Rising Avalanche Risk by Nia Williams
FILE PHOTO: Gunner Levi Stoltzfus from the 10th Field Artillery Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery applies a
bearing on the sight of a 105mm C3 Howitzer gun during Operation Palaci to clear avalanche-prone snow pack at
Rogers Pass, British Columbia, Canada November 22, 2019. MCpl PJ Letourneau/Canadian Forces/Handout via REUTERS
    CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – British Columbia is rolling out the big guns – literally – to control avalanches that are forcing closures on some major roads for the first time in decades as the Western Canadian province grapples with a snowier-than-usual winter.
    B.C. was rocked in 2021 by extreme weather events, including a record-breaking heatwave, wildfires and unprecedented rains that washed out highways and cut off Vancouver, its main city and home to Canada’s busiest port, from the rest of the country.
    The province, Canada’s third-largest by population, uses bombs thrown from helicopters, remote-triggered explosives, and a howitzer gun manned by Canada’s military to keep roads safe.    But frequent closures for avalanche control are disrupting critical routes to Vancouver.
    At the start of this month, B.C.’s alpine snowpack was 15% higher than average, according to the Weather Network channel.
    Extreme winter weather, including November’s torrential precipitation, a deep freeze in late December and an early January thaw, has created weak layers in the snowpack, making steep mountain slopes more prone to avalanches that can release without warning onto valleys below.
    “It’s been such a volatile fall and winter season so far, we have had rare ‘extreme’ avalanche warnings go out for parts of (B.C.’s) south coast in December and the risk is still considerable in the interior,” said Tyler Hamilton, a Weather Network meteorologist.
    Avalanche control missions involve closing sections of highways while teams use explosives to pre-emptively trigger smaller slides, preventing the snowpack from becoming too deep and unstable.
    This winter a section of Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon, 150 km (93 miles) northeast of Vancouver, needed avalanche control for the first time in 25 years, B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said.
    Along Highway 99 north of Vancouver, avalanche control and risk-reduction activities are three times the seasonal average, with some slide paths producing avalanches big enough to hit the highway for the first time in more than a decade.
    Avalanche control in Allison Pass further south on Highway 3, another key route connecting Vancouver to the rest of Canada, has also been above average, the ministry said.
    All three highways were damaged by the November floods, and a busy avalanche control season is putting further strain on provincial resources.    The Coquihalla Highway near Hope only reopened to regular traffic on Wednesday, and provincial authorities said record snow and avalanche risk had delayed repairs to Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon.
    Further east in the province, avalanche teams in Rogers Pass, a rugged 40-km section of Highway 1 running beneath 135 slide paths in Glacier National Park, are dealing with nearly 30% more snowfall than usual and control missions are also above average.
    Highway 1 is Canada’s main east-west artery and approximately 3,000 vehicles traverse Rogers Pass every day in winter.    A major Canadian Pacific rail line runs parallel to the highway.
    Avalanche control missions involve soldiers from the 1st Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, which is stationed in Rogers Pass in winter.    They use a howitzer to fire shells packed with 4 kg (8.8 lbs) of explosives in the direction of loaded avalanche paths at 17 different locations along the highway.
    “Our goal is to bring down as much snow as we can and bring the hazard down to a point where it’s safe to open the highway,” said Jim Phillips, acting avalanche operations coordinator for Parks Canada, which runs avalanche control in the national parks.
    The Rogers Pass program has been running since the highway opened in 1961.    Before that, CP trains crossing the Selkirk Mountains in winter ran a higher risk of deadly snow slides, including one that killed 62 railway workers in 1910.
    So far this winter the team has fired 333 howitzer rounds, produced 197 controlled avalanches and closed the highway for 43 hours over seven separate days.
    Phillips said his team also uses heli-bombing and remote-trigger systems to set off detonations, and spends C$600,000 ($480,346) a year on explosives alone.
    “,i.It’s a balancing act. You want to keep traffic moving and minimize closures, but also minimize risk to people using the transportation corridor,” he added.
    And winter weather in Canada is far from over.
    Avalanche control is typically needed until late April or early May, depending on the snowpack, and the Weather Network forecasts above average winter storm systems returning to B.C. in February and March.
    “We’re still in a La Niña situation,” said the Weather Network’s Hamilton, referring to a weather pattern that tends to result in above-average precipitation and cold temperatures in B.C.
($1 = 1.2491 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Paul Simao)


1/20/2022 Biden, White House Seek To Define Ukraine ‘Invasion’ Amid Confusion
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden gestures during a meeting with his Infrastructure Implementation Task Force
in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden sought on Thursday to clarify U.S. policy on a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine after his remarks about how America might respond to a “minor incursion” raised questions about U.S. intervention.
    “If any, any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion,” Biden told reporters at the White House.    It will be met by a “severe and coordinated” economic response that has been discussed in detail with allies and laid out to Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said.
    At a news conference on Wednesday, Biden indicated Russia could bear a lower cost for an incursion rather than an invasion and suggested there was some discord among NATO allies, while warning that an invasion would carry harsh penalties for Putin.
    White House officials scrambled to clarify the U.S. position in emailed statements on Wednesday and remarks on Thursday.
    “If there is a movement of any military troops across the border, that is an invasion,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Fox News.
    At a meeting with his counterpart in Germany, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Moscow would be met with a “swift… severe” united response should its forces cross into Ukraine.
    What constitutes an invasion of Ukraine was previously a matter of debate between U.S. and German diplomats as they discussed when the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe might be disabled.
    Ukraine officials said they saw no deviation in policy from Biden’s remarks, but President Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweeted “there are no minor incursions and small nations.”
    U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and others said Russian actions would spark a reaction, no matter the size.
    “We will interpret any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia and Vladimir Putin as an aggressive action and it will be met with costs, severe and certain,” Harris said on NBC.
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Tim Ahmann and Heather Timmons; Editing by Howard Goller)

1/20/2022 Biden Threatens Economic Response To Alleged Russian Invasion Of Ukraine by OAN Newsroom
A convoy of Russian armored vehicles moves along a highway in Crimea, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. Russia has
concentrated an estimated 100,000 troops with tanks and other heavy weapons near Ukraine in what the West
fears could be a prelude to an invasion. The Biden administration is unlikely to answer a further Russian
invasion of Ukraine by sending U.S. combat troops. But it could pursue a range of less dramatic yet still
risky options, including giving military support to a post-invasion Ukrainian resistance. (AP Photo)
    Joe Biden issued a new round of threats against Russia as he repeats claims of an alleged Russian invasion of Ukraine.    In a statement Thursday, he tried to walk back his Wednesday remarks about a “minor incursion” and threatened “consequences” if Russian troops crossed into Ukraine.
    Biden said Russia would face a “severe and coordinated” economic response if that were to happen.    However, White House officials have struggled to explain what they would actually do in that scenario.    Biden also threatened a U.S. response to Russian paramilitary actions and cyber attacks.
    “Remember when they moved into the Donbas, the little green men?” he asked.    “They were dealing with those who were Russian sympathizers and said that Russia had nobody in there.    Well, that includes little green men in uniforms as well as cyber attacks.    We have to be ready to respond to these as well, in a decisive and united way, with a range of tools at our disposal.”
    The Russian foreign ministry said rhetoric is designed to frame the narrative to justify provocations in Ukraine and blame Russia for it.
    Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris said Russia will face severe costs if it takes military action against Ukraine.    She made those remarks during an interview Thursday morning.    Harris claimed the Biden administration has been clear and consistent in its stance on the matter.
    “And on the subject on Ukraine I will tell you that the President has been very clear and we as the United States are very clear: if Putin takes aggressive actions, we are prepared to levy serious and severe costs,” Harris stated.
    Still, Biden’s initial comments have led to speculation Russia could feel empowered to launch an invasion of Ukraine in coming weeks.

1/20/2022 Sen. Scott Says Americans Deserve Better by OAN Newsroom
FILE – Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks during a Senate Banking Committee hearing
on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
    “And yet our president wants us to believe what he says more than what we see. America deserves better.” — Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)
    Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) offered a rebuttal to rhetoric coming out of the White House.    He released several videos on and around Martin Luther King Jr. Day to promote what he says is a positive response to partisan rhetoric on race that he’s best-positioned to rebut.
    On Monday, Scott posted the first installment of what he’s calling his listening tour series.    He visited with leaders in his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina to discuss some of the issues plaguing minority communities in America to search for solutions.
    “I feel like we are not hitting the mark,” said the senator.    “So whether you’re black or white, you live in a marginalized community.    The education system that we have today is not producing results and, in my opinion, that feeds the high crime rates throughout the country.”
    Scott told the Associated Press he hopes these roundtables with his constituents on issues like building generational wealth would help redirect the nation’s conversations around race.
    The Republican lawmaker also took aim at Joe Biden’s recent speech in Georgia regarding voting rights, saying his comments only exacerbated the current climate.    He called it misleading.
Scott went on to say Biden’s decision to compare those who do not agree with him, both Republican and Democrat, to known racists and segregationists was low.
    The South Carolina lawmaker said it’s time for the president to stop dodging the reality of his failed leadership and stop distracting Americans.    He added, the progress we are looking for in America from a racial perspective is right before our eyes.

1/20/2022 Kristin Crowley Nominated As First Female To Lead The Los Angeles Fire Dept. by OAN Newsroom
Los Angeles County Fire Department vehicles sit at a medical call
Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
    The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) may soon see their first female fire chief.    Deputy Chief Kristin Crowley was nominated to be the first female to lead the department in its over 100-year history.    The nomination was announced by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday.
    “Chief Deputy Crowley is a leader with exceptional character,” he stated.    “That brilliance and that commitment propelled her rise through the ranks of LAFD over the last two decades.    She served as a firefighter, a paramedic, an engineer, a fire inspector, captain one, captain two, battalion chief, assistant chief, deputy chief and acting fire marshal.    That’s quite a resume.”
    If Crowley is confirmed by the city council, she would be the 19th fire chief to lead the department.    She has reportedly already made history as the department’s first female fire marshal and has also had a long history with the organization.
    “If confirmed as your new fire chief, I will be fully committed to leading and inspiring our tremendous department into an exciting future that is filled with new opportunities to grow, to innovate and to empower,” said Crowley.
    The news of the nomination comes as current Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas announced his plans to retire soon after nearly 40-years of service to the LAFD.
    Meanwhile, union leaders for the city’s firefighters reportedly say morale is low while the department is also being criticized for allegedly having a culture of harassment, bullying and discrimination.
    However, during her speech, Crowley said she hopes to create a safe place for firefighters.
    “As a fire chief, I vow to create and support a culture that truly values diversity, inclusion and equity within the entire organization,” she stated.    “To the sworn civilian members of the LAFD, my message to you is this: you are the heart and soul of our organization, and I stand by you and with you.”

1/20/2022 GOP House Intel Members Won’t Comply With COVID Test Requirement by OAN Newsroom
FILE – Rep. Mike Turner,R-Ohio, speaks during a House Armed Services Committee hearing
on Sept. 29, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Rod Lamkey/Pool via AP, File)
    Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee stand up against Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) testing requirement. In a press conference Wednesday, the GOP members addressed an email from Schiff demanding lawmakers provide a negative COVID-19 test in order to attend Thursday’s hearing.     Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said everyday Americans don’t have the luxury or access to test daily and must show medical information to go about their daily lives. He said they will not comply while this is going on.     “Schiff believes that he should have a privilege that the average American worker does not,” stated the Ohio Republican.    “Our members will not comply with Schiff’s request that we submit to COVID testing just to do our job.”
    Turner went on to criticize the Biden administration’s failure to meet the demand for testing.    The White House launched a website on Wednesday to help Americans obtain free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests, but many critics say it’s a little late.
    The full website opened after a soft opening on Tuesday that resulted in some customers not being able to order their tests.    Americans are able to go on the website — — and fill in their information to get tests mailed to their homes without charge.    Each household is limited to four tests regardless of family size.
    This comes as Joe Biden recently announced his administration was planning to purchase 1 billion tests as part of the program.

1/21/2022 Oil down $0.67 to $86.39, DOW down 313 to 34,715.

1/21/2022 Electing Draghi As President “Feasible” If Plan For Govt Exists - Former PM To Paper
FILE PHOTO: Italia Viva party leader Matteo Renzi arrives at Montecitorio palace for talks
on forming a new government, in Rome, Italy, February 9, 2021. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
    ROME (Reuters) – The election of Prime Minister Mario Draghi as Italy’s new president “is feasible” if there is a plan in place for his succession as premier, former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and leader of the co-ruling Italia Viva party was quoted as saying on Friday.
    “If there is a game scheme ready for the ‘after Draghi’, then operation Draghi is feasible.    Nobody will accept to lose such a valued premier without having certainty on the future (of the government),” Renzi told daily La Stampa in an interview.
    Italy’s parliament will start voting on Monday for a new head of state to replace Sergio Mattarella and Draghi has long been viewed as the favourite to win, with parties in his government rallying behind him in an effort to maintain political unity and prevent an unseemly scrap.
    Small parties like Renzi’s Italia Viva could become decisive to resolve potential deadlocks in the vote.
(Reporting by Giulia Segreti; editing by Agnieszka Flak)

1/21/2022 German Health Minister Sees Possible Tripling Of Coronavirus Infections By Mid-Feb
A sign displaying the dates that a pop-up vaccination centre is open is seen,
as a person walks outside the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination centre
in the Humboldt Forum, in Berlin, Germany January 19, 2022. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi
    BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany reported a record 140,160 new coronavirus cases on Friday as the country’s health minister warned the country could see at least 400,000 per day by mid-February.
    That figure would be reached under an optimistic scenario in which booster shots provide very good protection, Karl Lauterbach said in a discussion with state government leaders, sources involved in the talks told Reuters late on Thursday.
    The number could climb to more than 600,000 daily new cases if the booster shots were less protective, he said, according to the sources.
    Lauterbach also said he expected the numbers in intensive care in hospitals to increase significantly over coming weeks.
    More than 116,000 people have died in Germany in connection with the coronavirus.    A week ago, Germany reported 92,223 new daily cases.
    Around 73% of Germany’s population has basic immunisation against the coronavirus, and 49% have a booster shot, according to the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.
    Federal and state leaders in Germany will discuss on Monday measures to curb the massive increase in coronavirus cases.
(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Tom Hogue)

1/21/2021 British Minister Says Claims Of Lawmaker Blackmail Unlikely To Be True
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Minister of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department Kwasi
Kwarteng is seen outside Downing Street in London, Britain, October 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
    LONDON (Reuters) – British Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said on Friday that claims that lawmakers had been intimidated and blackmailed by representatives of the government seemed strange and were unlikely to be true.
    A senior Conservative lawmaker accused the British government on Thursday of intimidating and attempting to “blackmail” those lawmakers they suspect of wanting to force Prime Minister Boris Johnson out of power.
    William Wragg, chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said some lawmakers had faced intimidation and blackmail because of their desire to topple>     “I have been an MP for 12 years now and I have never heard of the kind of allegations that are being made – blackmail,” Kwarteng told Sky.    “I find it strange.”
    “I find it very unlikely that these allegations are true.”
    He said he had never heard that money could be withheld from communities on account of the behaviour of the lawmaker by the whips, who enforces party discipline.
    “I find it strange because the whip’s office doesn’t actually have the power over spending in that way,” he said.
    Johnson, who in 2019 won his party’s biggest majority in more than 30 years, is now fighting to shore up his authority after a series of revelations about parties in his Downing Street residence during COVID lockdowns.
    Johnson has repeatedly apologised for the parties and said he was unaware of many of them.
    However, he attended what he said he thought was a work event on May 20, 2020 to which staff had been told to “bring their own booze.”    Johnson said on Tuesday that nobody had told him the gathering was against COVID rules.
    Leading rivals within the Conservative Party include Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, 41, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, 46.
    Truss, on a visit to Australia, said she supported Johnson.
    “The Prime Minister has my 100% support,” said Truss.    “I want the Prime Minister to continue as long as possible in his job.    He is doing a fantastic job.    There is no leadership election.”
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Paul Sandle)

1/21/2022 Germany’s Scholz, UK’s Johnson Discussed Ukraine Border Situation
FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses the media at a joint press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister
Jonas Gahr Store following their talks in Berlin, Germany, January 19, 2022. Kay Nietfeld/Pool via REUTERS
    BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed the situation on the Ukrainian border and agreed that further Russian military aggression against Ukraine must be averted, a German government spokesperson said on Friday.
    In a phone call on Thursday, Scholz and Johnson also agreed that it must be clear that Russia would have to face considerable costs in case of further aggression, the spokesperson added.
(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa, editing by Kirsti Knolle)

1/21/2022 Lula Could Win Brazil’s October Election In First Round – Poll by Anthony Boadle
FILE PHOTO: Former Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks at Forca
Sindical Congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil December 8, 2021. REUTERS/Carla Carniel
    BRASILIA (Reuters) – Former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is pulling ahead of his likely rival, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, and could win outright in the first-round of Brazil’s October election, a new poll shows.
    If the election were held today, Lula would win 42% of the votes against 28% for Bolsonaro, the survey by PoderData published late on Thursday said. In the previous poll one month ago, Lula had 40% and Bolsonaro 30%.
    Voter support for Lula is now almost the same as the total support for all other candidates, which is at 45%, indicating that he could win the election in the first round by getting more than 50% of the valid votes cast.
    PoderData, the poll division of the digital journal Poder360, polled 3,000 voters by telephone in 511 cities between Jan. 16-18.    The survey has a margin of error of 2 percentage points up or down.
    Neither Lula nor Bolsonaro have formally declared their candidacy, but financial markets are already reacting to the prospect of the Workers Party (PT) leader returning to power.
    On Wednesday, Lula touted moderate former Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin as his possible running mate, helping boost the real currency to its strongest level against the dollar since November.
    Analysts said the choice of Alckmin would signal fiscal responsibility by an eventual PT government.
    Lula, 76, governed Brazil from 2003-2010 and his government’s social programs pulled millions of Brazilians from poverty.    He spent time in jail on corruption charges that were later annulled, allowing him to run for office again.
    If the election went to a second-round run-off, Lula would defeat Bolsonaro by 54%-32% of the votes, PoderData said.
    Male voters tend to favor Bolsonaro, but 48% of women polled said they would vote for Lula, who does best among younger voters and in poorer Northeastern Brazil.    Bolsonaro does best in the North of Brazil, which in includes the Amazon region.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

1/21/2022 Germany Offers Cooperation On Renewables To Defuse Tensions With Russia
FILE PHOTO: German Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck attends a session of the lower
house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, January 13, 2022. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo
    BERLIN (Reuters) – German Economics Minister Robert Habeck wants to engage Russia economically by cooperating on renewable energy supplies to help de-escalate tensions over Ukraine, he told Der Spiegel magazine in an interview published on Friday.
    “We should also think about new business areas that can help lead both sides out of this confrontational position,” Habeck, who is also vice-chancellor, told the magazine.
    The top Russian and American diplomats are due to meet in Switzerland on Friday to discuss heightened tensions over Ukraine after a flurry of meetings between officials on both sides in the last week produced no breakthroughs.
    German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on Russia on Thursday to step back from escalating the situation, warning it faced a range of sanctions if it acted aggressively.
    Germany is ready to defend fundamental values in the stand-off, even if this means paying a high economic price, Baerbock said in Moscow a day earlier.
    On the possibility that Russia might be excluded from the Swift international payments system, Habeck, who is a member of the Greens, said there was no point in “enumerating sanctions in the abstract.”
    However, he added it was “the ultimate economic sanction” and that his goal was de-escalation.
(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Mark Potter)

1/21/2022 Scotland Split On Support For Independence, Poll Shows
FILE PHOTO: The Scottish Saltire flag flies next to the British Union Jack flag with the
London Eye wheel seen behind in London, Britain July 29, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville
    LONDON (Reuters) – A poll on support for Scottish independence found voters are split on the idea, with backing for Yes and No at 46% while 8% remain undecided, Savanta ComRes said on Friday.
    The poll put support for independence up 1 point to 46% and support for remaining in the union down 2 points, as backing for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Scotland fell further, dropping 16 points since October.
    The poll put Johnson’s net favourability rating at -62.
(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by James Davey)

1/21/2022 Murders In Mexico Fall 3.6% In 2021, But Femicides Rise
FILE PHOTO: Women hold banners during a protest to mark the International Day for the
Elimination of Violence Against Women, in Mexico City, Mexico November 25, 2021.
The banner in the center reads: "Stop femicide violence in Mexico". REUTERS/Raquel Cunha
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Murders in Mexico slightly dropped in 2021, falling 3.6% from the previous year, though femicides rose, according to preliminary government data released on Thursday.
    The drop in murders is a win for President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office in late 2018 pledging to bring down record levels of violence plaguing the country.
    Last year’s decline in murders to 33,308 was the lowest total under Lopez Obrador, just below the 33,739 logged in 2018, according to figures presented by Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodriguez at a regular news conference with the president.
    Lopez Obrador argues the violence is a product of historic inequality and corruption.    However, detractors say his strategy of “hugs not bullets” – a drive to reduce direct confrontation with criminal gangs – has exacerbated widespread impunity
    Femicides, or murders of women resulting from gender-based violence, increased 2.7% in 2021 from the previous year to 1,004, official data showed.    The toll is more than double the number registered in 2015, when there were 427 femicides.
    Lopez Obrador has faced criticism for his handling of violence against women, and has frequently responded by taking shots at feminist movements in Mexico.
    Murders reached a record of 34,690 in 2019, Lopez Obrador’s first full year in office.    Murders continued to trend up through early 2020 as Mexico imposed coronavirus-related curbs, despite some predictions that stay-at-home orders would reduce crime.
    The numbers improved somewhat, and by the close of 2020, murders were down 0.4% drop from 2019, to 34,554.
(Reporting by Kylie Madry; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

1/21/2022 Mexico Power Bill In U.S. Sights As Granholm Makes Case For Renewables by Dave Graham
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador meets with U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm at the
National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, January 20, 2022. Mexico's Presidency/Handout via REUTERS
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The Mexican president’s bid to tighten state control of power generation drew scrutiny on Thursday during the visit of a top U.S. energy official, who faces pressure from her party to move Mexico towards a greener energy policy.
    Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, met President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and other officials in Mexico City for talks that tackled a Mexican plan that U.S. business leaders worry is curbing investment in renewables.
    Granholm outlined an “enormous opportunity for renewable energy in North America,” Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter after the meeting.
    Sitting down with Ebrard, Granholm said: “Mexico has such an enviable, an amazing series of clean resources that we want to talk about.    And, like all friends, there may be issues we’re also going to work on, on electricity reform.”
    Lopez Obrador, who said talks with Granholm had been “cordial” and marked by “respect, understanding and a desire for cooperation on development,” had earlier said he planned to set out the reasons why he was pursuing the market shake-up.
    The leftist leader calls his initiative to change the constitution to favor the state power utility a matter of national security, saying past governments skewed the market in favor of private capital.
    Not only did this weaken Mexico’s cash-strapped state-owned energy firms, it also hurt consumers and public finances, according to Lopez Obrador, who says he is committed to lowering the country’s carbon footprint with more hydroelectric power.
    However, critics say his plan to give market control to the utility, the Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE), is hurting investment in wind and solar power, will increase costs, and make Mexico too reliant on fossil fuels, as the CFE uses hydrocarbons to generate much of its power.
    It has also caused diplomatic ructions.
    In a letter ahead of Granholm’s visit, four Democratic senators urged her and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to “more forcefully express concerns” about Lopez Obrador’s energy agenda, calling it antithetical to U.S.-Mexico relations.
    “It would also threaten at least $44 billion in private investment in Mexico’s energy sector, (and) negatively impact U.S. private sector investment in Mexico,” wrote senators Bob Menendez, Brian Schatz, Tim Kaine, and Jeff Merkley.
    Lopez Obrador’s power bill is in Congress and is expected to be voted on by the end of April.
    Recently, the European Union ambassador to Mexico said initiative was crimping investment as it could hinder companies’ commitments to boost renewable energy use.
    U.S. carmaker General Motors, a major investor in Mexico, has warned that, without a solid basis for renewable energy generation, Mexico’s auto industry could suffer.
    The flagship of Mexican manufacturing has struggled under Lopez Obrador, with automotive output falling for a fourth year running in 2021.    Gross fixed investment levels are about 16% lower than when he won election in July 2018.
    Federico Peña, a former U.S. energy secretary, said that rather than insisting on a policy that undermined the confidence of U.S. investors, Mexico should be regarding the transition to renewable energies as a “win-win” for both economies.
    “Look at the resources that Mexico has: sun, wind, open space, workers,” he said.    “They have experience in building highly sophisticated manufactures.    They’ve got great potential.”
(Reporting by Dave GrahamEditing by Daniel Flynn, Rosalba O’Brien and Bernadette Baum)

1/21/2022 U.N. Defines Holocaust Denial, Urges Social Media Firms To Fight It by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: The United Nations headquarters building is pictured though a window with the UN logo in
the foreground in the Manhattan borough of New York August 15, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday agreed on a definition of denial of the Holocaust, when the Nazis killed 6 million Jews during World War Two, and urged social media companies “to take active measures” to combat antisemitism.
    “The General Assembly is sending a strong and unambiguous message against the denial or the distortion of these historical facts,” said Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Antje Leendertse.    “Ignoring historical facts increases the risk that they will be repeated.”
    The 193-member General Assembly adopted the resolution – drafted by Israel and Germany – without a vote. However, Iran disassociated itself.
    Speaking to the General Assembly, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan made a veiled reference to Iran.
    “Nations with seats in this hall openly deny the Holocaust, casting doubt on its occurrence and praising its perpetrators,” he said.    “In fact, those that most blatantly deny that Jews suffered a genocide are the ones now threatening Jews with another genocide.”
    Later, an Iranian diplomat, who Iran’s U.N. mission did not identify, accused Israel of exploiting “the sufferings of the Jewish people in the past as a cover for the crimes it has perpetrated” and questioning the resolution for “an awkward approach towards historical studies.”
    Israel’s U.N. mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Iran’s statement to the General Assembly.
    The General Assembly resolution spelled out that distortion and denial of the Holocaust refers to:
* Intentional efforts to excuse or minimize the impact of the Holocaust or its principal elements, including collaborators and allies of Nazi Germany.
* Gross minimization of the number of the victims of the Holocaust in contradiction to reliable sources.
* Attempts to blame the Jews for causing their own genocide.
* Statements that cast the Holocaust as a positive historical event.
* Attempts to blur the responsibility for the establishment of concentration and death camps devised and operated by Nazi Germany by putting blame on other nations or ethnic groups.
    It “urges member states and social media companies to take active measures to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial or distortion by means of information and communications technologies and to facilitate reporting of such content.”
    The General Assembly meeting on Thursday coincided with the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, when the Nazis met to coordinate the “final solution” – their plan to exterminate the Jews. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by David Gregorio)

1/21/2022 ‘Something Has Changed’: Young, Female-Led Cabinet Reflects Chile’s Modern Twist by Natalia A. Ramos Miranda and Fabian Cambero
Chilean President-elect Gabriel Boric bumps fists with his future Mining Minister, Marcela Hernando
during the presentation of his first cabinet in Santiago, Chile January 21, 2022. REUTERS/Ailen Diaz
    SANTIAGO (Reuters) – As Chile’s incoming Cabinet stood for photos after being unveiled on Friday one could read in the captured image the changing face of the Andean country.
    The line-up was dominated by women – 14 out of 24 ministers – with seven of the Cabinet under the age of 40 and the youngest 32.    The average age was 49.    President-elect Gabriel Boric himself, a former student protest leader, will be just 36 when he takes office in March.
    “Something has changed,” Juan Gabriel Valdes, a former foreign minister, wrote on Twitter, posting two photos: one of the incoming Cabinet and another from the 1990 all-male government when Chile had just returned to democracy.
    Boric chose an experienced central banker as his finance minister, cheering markets.
    But an emphasis on political diversity and fresh ideas shows Chile’s first Millennial leader also wants to stick to his campaign promises to shake things up.
    And the make-up of the Cabinet reflects a longer term shift in the role of Chilean women that harks back to former President Michelle Bachelet, who introduced a gender-balanced team in 2006.
    “This cabinet is very important for us,” said Karol Cariola, 34, a lawmaker for Chile’s Communist Party, which is allied with Boric’s broad leftist coalition.
    “It can reflect not only Chile’s diversity but also the need to progress to a decentralized country, a feminist country, one where we do not have limitations in political participation.”
    Some analysts and conservative voters on Twitter said Boric’s young team may struggle, though, given a lack of experience and a divided country, where the election saw an ultra-right rival candidate gain 44% in the second-round vote.
    Among the new ministers is Izkia Siches, 35, a prominent doctor who gained plaudits for her role in the country’s COVID-19 pandemic response. She will take the interior minister role, where she will be confronted with voters’ concerns over immigration and crime.
    Maya Fernandez Allende, the 50-year-old granddaughter of socialist former President Salvador Allende, who was overthrown in a bloody military coup in the 1970s by General Augusto Pinochet, will take over the defense portfolio.
    Marcela Hernando, 61, a centrist lawmaker, will be in charge of the mining sector in the world’s top copper producer, while Maisa Rojas, 49, a well-respected climate scientist, will take over the ministry of environment. Boric has signaled a focus on climate and environmental protection.
    At the unveiling of his Cabinet, Boric said that the team would drive reform plans on pensions, education, health and on the environment.
    The administration faces significant challenges, however. Boric, Chile’s youngest ever president, will oversee a referendum this year on a new constitution. Chileans angry at an economic model they say has helped the wealthy but left millions with poor-quality education and pensions staged sometimes violent protests in 2019 and may not give him much of a honeymoon.
    And he will have to deal with a split Congress where conservatives remain strong.
    “One of the great challenges is going to be bringing together all the political forces in parliament,” said Cariola.
(Reporting by Natalia Ramos and Fabian Cambero; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

1/21/2022 Haiti’s Allies Need To Help Tackle Spike In Violence - Canada PM Trudeau
FILE PHOTO: Haitian migrants line up as they wait for a QR code to register their migratory
situation, in Tapachula, in Chiapas state, Mexico December 29, 2021. REUTERS/Jose Torres
    OTTAWA (Reuters) - Haiti’s allies must act immediately to help tackle a spike in violence that is worsening an already precarious humanitarian situation, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.
    The international community also needs to address deep governance problems that are fueling a political and security crisis in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, he told a group of foreign ministers holding a day of virtual talks to discuss the crisis.
    Canada, which hosted the meeting, announced C$50.4 million ($40 million) in aid to Haiti for health services, security and infrastructure.    A senior U.S. State Department official also said the United Nations was organizing a donors conference for February at which the United States could provide “significant additional resources” beyond what it has already given.
    Gangs have extended their control of territory in Haiti since the assassination in July of President Jovenel Moise.    One gang coalition in October created a nationwide fuel shortage by blocking access to storage terminals, and kidnappings are rife.
    “In order to address Haiti’s humanitarian needs, we must also address the challenging security situation.    The increase in violence is only worsening the already precarious humanitarian situation,” Trudeau said.
    “This will require immediate action to mitigate violence. … We must also address the deep governance problems that are fueling the current political and security crisis.    That includes taking action against corruption.”
    A jump in kidnappings, added to worsening economic conditions, has prompted a growing number of Haitians to seek better opportunities in other countries.
    The number of asylum applications in Mexico nearly doubled in 2021 from two years earlier, with most applications being from Haitian and Honduran migrants.
    Ottawa said the meeting included representatives of the United Nations, the Caribbean Community and the Organization of American States.
($1 = 1.2586 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by David Ljunggren, additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Jonathan Oatis)

1/21/2022 Canada’s Trudeau Vows Action After Four Freeze To Death In ‘Mind Blowing’ Tragedy by David Ljunggren
FILE PHOTO: A sign post for the small border town of Emerson, near the Canada-U.S border
crossing in Emerson, Manitoba, Canada, February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lyle Stafford
    OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is doing all it can stop people smuggling across the U.S. border after a family of four froze to death in a “mind blowing" tragedy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.
    U.S. authorities have charged a U.S. man with human trafficking after the four – a man, woman, baby and teenager – were found dead in the province of Manitoba, a few yards north of the frontier with Minnesota.
    The four have tentatively been identified as a family from India, part of a larger group trying to enter the United States by walking across snow-covered fields in a remote region during blizzard-like conditions.
    “It was an absolutely mind-blowing story.    It’s so tragic to see a family die like that, victims of human traffickers … and of people who took advantage of their desire to build a better life,” Trudeau told a news conference.
    “This is why we are doing all we can to discourage people from crossing the border in an irregular or illicit manner.”
    Canada, Trudeau said, was working very closely with the United States to stop smuggling and help people “taking unacceptable risks.”
    The four people died about 6 miles (10 km) east of Emerson, a small farming community.    David Carlson, head of the local municipal council, said there was no shelter at all in the area.
    “It would almost be like a lunar-type landscape and you can become lost or disoriented very quickly in those kinds of conditions, especially as you’re beginning to freeze and no doubt panic,” he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
    “There’s no lights up there.    You would have probably been in close to zero visibility.”
    Emerson said the incident was unusual since in the past, people have tried to cross into Canada from the United States, rather than the other way round.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Ismail Shakil in BengaluruEditing by Tomasz Janowski and Aurora Ellis)

1/21/2022 Exclusive-U.S. Opposes Plans To Strengthen World Health Organization by Francesco Guarascio, Trevor Hunnicutt and Stephanie Nebehay
FILE PHOTO: The World Health Organization logo is pictured at the entrance
of the WHO building, in Geneva, Switzerland, December 20, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The United States, the World Health Organization’s top donor, is resisting proposals to make the agency more independent, four officials involved in the talks said, raising doubts about the Biden administration’s long-term support for the U.N. agency.
    The proposal, made by the WHO’s working group on sustainable financing, would increase each member state’s standing annual contribution, according to a WHO document published online and dated Jan. 4.
    The plan is part of a wider reform process galvanised by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the limitations of the WHO’s power to intervene early in a crisis.
    But the U.S. government is opposing the reform because it has concerns about the WHO’s ability to confront future threats, including from China, U.S. officials told Reuters.
    It is pushing instead for the creation of a separate fund, directly controlled by donors, that would finance prevention and control of health emergencies.
    Four European officials involved in the talks, who declined to be named because they were not authorised to speak to the media, confirmed the U.S. opposition.    The U.S. government had no immediate comment.
    The published proposal calls for member states’ mandatory contributions to rise gradually from 2024 so they would account for half the agency’s $2 billion core budget by 2028, compared to less than 20% now, the document said.
    The WHO’s core budget is aimed at fighting pandemics and strengthening healthcare systems across the world.    It also raises an additional $1 billion or so a year to tackle specific global challenges such as tropical diseases and influenza.
    Supporters say that the current reliance on voluntary funding from member states and from charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation forces the WHO to focus on priorities set by the funders, and makes it less able to criticise members when things go wrong.
    An independent panel on pandemics that was appointed to advise on the WHO reform had called for a much bigger increase in mandatory fees, to 75% of the core budget, deeming the current system “a major risk to the integrity and independence” of the WHO.
    The WHO itself responded to a query by saying that “only flexible and predictable funds can enable WHO to fully implement the priorities of the Member States.”
    Top European Union donors, including Germany, back the plan, along with most African, South Asian, South American and Arab countries, three of the European officials said.
    The proposal is to be discussed at the WHO’s executive board meeting next week but the divisions mean no agreement is expected, three of the officials said.
    The WHO confirmed there was currently no consensus among member states, and said talks were likely to continue until the annual meeting in May of the World Health Assembly, the agency’s top decision-making body.
    European donors in particular favour empowering, rather than weakening, multilateral organisations including the WHO.
    One European official said the U.S. plan “causes scepticism among many countries,” and said the creation of a new structure controlled by donors, rather than by the WHO, would weaken the agency’s ability to combat future pandemics.
    Washington has been critical of the WHO for some time.
    Former president Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the WHO after accusing it of defending China’s initial delays in sharing information when COVID-19 emerged there in 2019.
    The Biden administration rejoined soon after taking office, but officials told Reuters they think the WHO needs significant reform, and raised concerns about its governance, structure and ability to confront rising threats, not least from China.
    One of the European officials said other big countries, including Japan and Brazil, were also hesitant about the published WHO proposal.
    Two of the European officials said China had not yet made its position clear, while a third official listed Beijing among the critics of the proposal.
    The governments of Japan, China and Brazil had no immediate comment.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio in Brussels and Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington; additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Andreas Rinke in Berlin; editing by Josephine Mason and Kevin Liffey)

1/21/2022 Germany’s Minimum Wage Hike Will Not Cost Jobs - Labour Minister
FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gives a statement before a cabinet enclosure
at the Chancellery to lay out and discuss Germany's policy plans for its G7 presidency
in Berlin, Germany, January 21, 2022. Michael Kappeler/Pool via REUTERS
    BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s planned minimum wage hike to 12 euros ($13.61) per hour from October means a pay rise for over 6 million people across the country and should not cost jobs contrary to critics, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil said on Friday.
    Increasing the German minimum wage, currently 9.82 euros per hour and will increase to 10.45 euros per hour from July, to 12 euros per hour was one of the key election promises of Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his Social Democrats.
    “The minimum wage strengthens purchasing power and leads to the national economy in Germany actually becoming more productive in the long term,” Heil told Reuters in an interview.
    “That means we will not have mass job losses.    These doomsday scenarios already existed when the minimum wage was introduced.    On the contrary, we will have more decent wages in Germany and more purchasing power,” the Social Democrat said.
    The minister also said the change, which will cost employers 1.63 billion euros in October-December, should benefit especially employees in eastern Germany and women working in service occupations where wages are traditionally too low.
    Heil confirmed he had sent his bill to the rest of the cabinet earlier on Friday and does not expect opposition from the Social Democrats’ coalition partners Free Democrats and Greens.
    “We will probably discuss it in the federal cabinet in February.    Then it will go to the German Bundestag so that the minimum wage can be raised to 12 euros in time for Oct. 1.    And that is also anchored in the coalition agreement,” Heil said.
($1 = 0.8817 euros)
(Reporting by Holger Hansen, writing by Zuzanna Szymanska and Michael Nienaber, editing by Kirsti Knolle and David Gregorio)

1/21/2022 Ireland Drops Most COVID Restrictions In Wake Of ‘Omicron Storm’ by Conor Humphries and Padraic Halpin
FILE PHOTO: Shoppers in the city centre wear face masks, as the spread of the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) continues in Dublin, Ireland, November 30, 2021. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
    DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland is to scrap almost all its COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday after coming though the storm of the Omicron variant that led to a massive surge in infections, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in a national address.
    Ireland had the second highest incidence rate of COVID-19 in Europe just last week but also one of the continent’s highest uptake of booster vaccines, which has helped keep the number of seriously ill people well below the previous peak.
    “We have weathered the Omicron storm,” Martin said in Friday’s televised address, in which he said booster vaccines had “utterly transformed” the situation in the country.
    “I have stood here and spoken to you on some very dark days.    But today is a good day,” he said.
    The country has been one of the most cautious in the European Union on the risks of COVID-19, putting in place some of the longest-running restrictions on travel and hospitality.
    But following advice from public health officials, the government decided that bars and restaurants will no longer need to close at 8 p.m., a restriction put in place late last year when the Omicron wave struck, or to ask customers for proof of vaccination.
    Indoor and outdoor venues are also set to return to full capacity, paving the way for full crowds at next month’s Six Nations rugby championship.
    People will still be required to wear masks on public transport and in shops until the end of February, Martin said.
    Ireland’s hospitality sector, which has been particularly hard hit by one of Europe’s toughest lockdown regimes, welcomed the decision.
    “The excitement is palpabl,” Dublin restaurant Las Tapas De Lola said in a Twitter post in which it said it had seen a surge in bookings in anticipation of the new rules.
    RTE radio broadcast bar customers cheering Martin’s address.
    While the economy recovered rapidly last year, around a third of employers have chosen to defer tax payments and the wages of one in 12 workers are still being supported by a state subsidy scheme set to end in April.
    The changes put Ireland back in line with British-run Northern Ireland, which had less severe restrictions over Christmas and agreed to scrap vaccine passes on Thursday and reopen nightclubs next week.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin and Conor HumphriesEditing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Alison Williams)

1/21/2022 France’s Consitutional Council Approves Macron’s Vaccine Pass
A woman, wearing a protective face mask walk, past a sign reading "Please, prepare your vaccine pass"
at the entrance of a restaurant in Nice, France, January 21, 2022. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
    PARIS (Reuters) – France’s Constitutional Council on Friday approved – with conditions – the country’s new COVID-19 vaccine pass, which will require people aged 16 and above to show proof of vaccination to enter public places like bars, restaurants and cinemas.
    The new pass is part of President Emmanuel Macron’s drive to make life difficult enough for the small minority of unvaccinated people that they are compelled to get COVID shots.
    The Council’s ruling paves the way for the vaccine pass to take effect on Jan. 24, replacing a health pass that showed proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or past infection.
    The Council upheld the government’s wish that anyone over 16 be required to show a vaccine pass as well as a provision in the legislation allowing for bar and restaurant managers to check a person’s identification alongside the pass to curb the use of fakes or certificates belonging to a third party.
    But it overturned a requirement that the old health pass be required to attend political rallies.    Coming less than three months before an election, the Council said such a provision would impinge on people’s freedom to share views and opinions.
    The vaccine pass has brought new momentum to weekly street protests against COVID-related restrictions on public life.
    Some people resisting the vaccine say they have been made to feel like second-class citizens by Macron.
    France reported more than 425,000 coronavirus infections on Thursday and hospitals says the large majority of COVID patients in intensive care are unvaccinated.
(This story corrects to show Council overturned requirement a ‘health pass’, not ‘vaccine pass’, be required for political meetings)
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by GV De Clercq, Richard Lough and Hugh Lawson)

1/21/2022 U.S., EU Downgrade Metal Tariff Dispute At WTO
FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) building before a
ministerial meeting to discuss a draft agreement on curbing subsidies for the fisheries
industry in Geneva, Switzerland, July 15, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – The United States and the European Union have downgraded their dispute at the World Trade Organization over steel and aluminium tariffs applied by former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 and subsequent EU retaliation, documents filed at the WTO show.
    The two sides agreed in October to suspend their tariffs and work on a deal to combat “dirty” production and overcapacity in the industry in the next two years, with China clearly the focus of their attention.
    Each agreed then to pause the WTO panels deliberating over the Trump tariffs and the subsequent EU counter-measures, which took the form of tariffs on a range of U.S. products including whisky, power boats and Harley Davidson motorbikes.
    Documents filed with the WTO on Friday show that Washington and Brussels have now decided to terminate panel proceedings and move to a more informal and seldom used route of arbitration.
    The two sides aim to agree on arbitrators, which could include members of the existing WTO panel, and then immediately and indefinitely suspend their work.    In any case, they would not start work before Nov. 1.
    Parties to arbitration can set their own rules and procedures and define the issues in dispute, but they have to agree that the decision of the arbitrators is final.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by David Evans)

1/21/2022 Italian Parties Seek To Solve Presidential Puzzle As Election Looms by Crispian Balmer and Angelo Amante
Italian President Sergio Mattarella attends the inauguration of the judicial year 2022
at the General Assembly of the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation, at the Palace of Justice,
in Rome, Italy January 21, 2022. Italian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS
    ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s myriad parties held behind-the-scenes talks on Friday seeking to avoid deadlock over the election of the next head of state, with the nomination of Prime Minister Mario Draghi seen as the most probable outcome.
    Parliamentarians and regional representatives will convene on Monday for an initial ballot.    The vote is secret, and the winner needs a two-thirds majority in any of the first three rounds of voting.    An absolute majority is sufficient thereafter.
    The president has many ceremonial duties, but is also responsible for resolving political crises, making it a key role in a country where governments survive just one year on average.
    Neither the centre-right nor centre-left blocs have enough votes to impose a candidate from their own camp, meaning some sort of compromise is needed to prevent prolonged stalemate.
    Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, has made clear he would like the job, but the broad sweep of parties that support his coalition are holding back from endorsing him for fear his departure could trigger early national elections.
    “If there is a game plan ready for the ‘after Draghi’, then operation Draghi is feasible,” former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and leader of the co-ruling Italia Viva party told La Stampa newspaper.
    “Nobody will accept to lose such a valued premier without having certainty on the future (of the government),” he added.
    Renzi met the head of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) Enrico Letta on Friday morning to discuss the situation.    Letta was also expected to talk to Matteo Salvini, the leader of the rightist League, in the coming hours, a PD source said.
    Salvini’s hands are currently tied because the centre-right bloc, which includes the League, has agreed to support efforts by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to secure enough votes to become president himself, despite his frail health, past sex scandals and a previous conviction for tax fraud.
    One of the men orchestrating his Quixotic bid admitted this week that his efforts looked doomed, but Berlusconi himself has yet to admit defeat, preventing his allies’ from finding a less divisive candidate that the centre-left could also rally behind.
    The outgoing president, Sergio Mattarella, has ruled out accepting another seven-year term, but some politicians have suggested pleading with him to extend his mandate to enable Draghi to remain prime minister and continue his work rebuilding the economy after the COVID-19 health emergency.
    A poll for Sky TG24 news channel released on Friday said 65% of Italians would be happy to see Mattarella remain in office, while 57% said they would also be pleased to see Draghi become president. However, 56.7% said they would prefer him to remain prime minister.
    If Draghi does become head of state, another prime minister would be immediately needed to ensure that political instability did not jeopardise Italy’s drive to receive some 200 billion euros ($226.6 billion) of EU pandemic relief funds.
    Former prime minister Renzi said that among the possible contenders were two technocrats, Justice Minister Marta Cartabia and Vittorio Colao, the minister for technical innovation.
($1 = 0.8825 euros)
(Editing by William Maclean)

1/21/2022 Sen. McConnell Slams Biden, Says U.S. Must Arm Ukraine by OAN Newsroom
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to a reporter at the
Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)
    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delivered remarks on Ukraine, Russia and the Biden administration.    While speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, the Kentucky lawmaker called Joe Biden’s remarks regarding Russia and Ukraine tensions as “bizarre and devastating.”
    “Our president seemed to state, and I pray unintentionally, that he expects Putin to escalate in Ukraine and at any case Putin can do what he wants,” McConnell explained. “Here’s what the President said: that decision is totally, solely, completely a Putin decision.    I suspect it matter which side of the bed he gets up on.     What on Earth does that mean?
    This comes as Vladimir Putin has massed at least 100,000 Russian troops along the border of the Ukraine, which is a sovereign country.    Yet, Biden claimed if Russia attacks Ukraine in a “minor incursion,” the U.S. and its allies might not be unified in response to the potential invasion.
    “It was a bizarre and devastating performance, especially, I would add, for our friends on the front lines,” said McConnell.    “…Minutes later, White House staff put out a frantic statement laying out a completely different position than what President Biden had just expressed. By then, of course, damage had been done.”
    The Republican senator then asserted that Biden must clean up his remarks and clearly demonstrate American leadership.
    “His administration should be using every waking moment right now to expedite our delivery of real defensive capabilities to Ukraine,” he stressed.
    McConnell maintained Putin is only deterred when the world imposes real costs on his behavior.

1/22/2022 Oil up $0.29 to $84.81, DOW down 450 to 34,265.

1/22/2022 UK Lawmaker Says He Will Meet Police Over Government ‘Blackmail’ Accusations
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the weekly question time debate at Parliament
in London, Britain, January 19, 2022. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) – A British Conservative lawmaker said he would meet police to discuss his accusations that Boris Johnson’s government had attempted to “blackmail” parliamentarians who were suspected of trying to force the prime minister from office.
    William Wragg, chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee and a member of Johnson’s ruling party, said on Thursday some Conservatives had faced intimidation and blackmail from government representatives because of their desire to topple Johnson.
    “I stand by what I have said.    No amount of gaslighting will change that,” he told the Daily Telegraph newspaper.    “The offer of Number 10 to investigate is kind but I shall leave it to the experts.    I am meeting the police early next week.”
    In response to Wragg’s allegations Johnson told broadcasters on Thursday that he had neither seen nor heard any evidence to support Wragg’s claims.    His office has said it would look at any such evidence “very carefully.”
    London’s Metropolitan Police said on Saturday it could not comment on any specific planned meetings.
    “As with any such allegations, should a criminal offence be reported to the Met, it would be considered,” a spokesman said.
    Johnson, who in 2019 won his party’s biggest majority in more than 30 years, is fighting to shore up his authority after a series of revelations about parties in his Downing Street residence during COVID-19 lockdowns.
    The “partygate” scandals, which followed criticism of the government’s handling of a corruption row and other mis-steps, have dominated British politics for over a month, and drained public support from both Johnson personally and his party.
    Johnson, who has repeatedly apologised for the parties and said he was unaware of many of them, has admitted he attended what he said he thought was a work event on May 20 last year, when social mixing was largely banned.    Invitations had asked staff to “bring their own booze” to the event.
    Senior civil servant Sue Gray is expected to deliver a report into the parties next week, with many Conservative lawmakers saying they would await her findings before deciding whether they would take action to topple Johnson.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Frances Kerry)

1/22/2022 Germany Will Not Supply Weapons To Kyiv For Now, Defence Minister Says
Service members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces gather near BM-21 "Grad" multiple rocket
launchers during tactical military exercises at a shooting range in the
Kherson region, Ukraine, January 19, 2022. Ukrainian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
    BERLIN (Reuters) – Berlin is ruling out arms deliveries to Ukraine in the standoff with Russia for now, German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said in an interview published on Saturday, a few days after Britain started supplying Kyiv with anti-tank weapons.
    A bipartisan group of U.S. senators also promised weapons to Ukraine, which could include missiles, small arms and boats, to help the country defend itself from a potential invasion amid a Russian military build-up on its borders.
    German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, however, has stressed Berlin’s policy of not supplying lethal weapons to conflict zones.
    “I can understand the wish to support Ukraine, and that’s exactly what we are doing already,” Lambrecht told the Welt am Sonntag weekly.
    “Ukraine will receive a complete field hospital together with the necessary training in February, all co-financed by Germany for 5.3 million euros ($6.01 million),” she said, noting that Germany has been treating severely injured Ukrainian troops in its military hospitals for years.
    But Berlin is not ready to supply Kyiv with weapons for the time being, the minister said.
    “We have to do everything to de-escalate.    Currently, arms deliveries would not be helpful in this respect, there is agreement on this in the German government,” Lambrecht said.
    With her remarks, she sided with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock who said Germany would not criticize other countries for being ready to supply weapons to Ukraine.
    “But I don’t think it is realistic that such deliveries could tip the military balance,” Baerbock told Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
    “The most powerful weapon…is for NATO allies, EU member states and the G7 to make it clear (to Russia) that every fresh aggression will be answered with massive consequences.”
($1 = 0.8818 euros)
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Editing by William Maclean)

1/22/2022 Biden, Kishida Agree To Boost Security, Economic Cooperation Amid Rising Concerns by David Brunnstrom, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Michael Martinabr>
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden holds a formal news conference in the East Room
of the White House, in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 19, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
    WASHINGTON/TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed in a virtual meeting on Friday to boost cooperation on pressing economic and security issues, including China, North Korea’s missiles and Russia’s threat to Ukraine.
    The online meeting, their first substantial talks since Kishida became Japan’s prime minister in October, followed “two-plus-two” discussions this month at which defense and foreign ministers from the longtime allies voiced strong concern about China’s growing might and vowed to respond if necessary to destabilizing activity in the Indo-Pacific.
    Kishida said he and Biden had agreed to cooperate to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific, to work closely on China and the North Korean missile issue and also to cooperate on Ukraine.
    He also said Japan would host a meeting of the Quad grouping of the United States, Japan, Australia and India in the first half of this year with Biden visiting.
    Biden accepted the invitation and indicated his intention to visit in late spring, a senior U.S. administration official said, adding that one of the aims of the Quad meeting would be to review progress of a pledge to supply a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to Southeast Asia by the end of 2022
    Kishida said he and Biden also agreed to set up an economic version of a “two-plus-two” ministerial to promote economic cooperation.    The U.S. official said this would focus on supply chains, technology investments, standards setting and export controls.
    “We agreed to work together to advance cooperation among like-minded countries to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Kishida told reporters.    “We agreed to closely cooperate on China-related issues, including the East and South China Seas, Hong Kong, and the Xinjiang Uyghur (Autonomous Region), as well as North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues.”
    Kishida said he and Biden would work closely to prevent a Russian invasion of Ukraine and “keep close contact with other allies and partners and continue communicating on the point that any attack will be met with strong action.”    In a tweet, Biden said it was “an honor to meet with Prime Minister Kishida to further strengthen the U.S.-Japan Alliance — the cornerstone of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific and around the world.”
    A White House statement said Biden had welcomed Kishida’s decision to increase defense spending and “underscored the importance of sustaining these vital investments over time.”
    It said the two stressed the importance of strengthening cybersecurity and resolved “to push back” against China’s attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas.
    The U.S. official told reporters U.S.-Japan solidarity was on “full display” in the virtual session of about 90 minutes.
    The two had a “very in-depth discussion” on China, sharing concerns about its intimidation of neighbors and “predatory” steps in trade and other realms, he said, adding that Kishida was particularly concerned about China’s nuclear buildup.
    The White House said the leaders condemned North Korea’s recent ballistic missile launches, and the U.S. official said Biden had made clear Washington would work closely with Japan and South Korea to discourage “possible provocations that might follow on.”
    North Korea fired tactical guided missiles this week in its latest of a series of launches and warned on Thursday it might rethink a moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests.     The U.S. official said Biden and Kishida had had a “robust” discussion on the need for the United States to play an active role in trade and commercial architecture in Asia.
    The Biden administration has been criticized for lacking a solid economic pillar to its strategy for Asia after then-President Donald Trump quit a regional trade framework now known as CPTPP in 2017, but it has been wary of returning to a pact critics say threatens U.S. jobs.
    A senior U.S. policy official for China said on Wednesday Washington aims to establish “common goals” on economic cooperation with Indo-Pacific countries in early 2022.
    The Chinese embassy in Japan issued a statement on Saturday in which it said that Biden and Kishida’s video meeting made “groundless attacks” on China and “grossly interfered” in its internal affairs, adding that it had lodged stern representations.
    “We urge Japan and the United States to follow the trend of the times, abandon narrow policies of zero-sum game and beggar-thy-neighbor, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and stop drawing small circles based on ideologies."
    Friday’s summit followed other security-related meetings involving Indo-Pacific leaders – two-plus-two talks between Japan and France on Thursday and between Australian and British foreign and defense ministers on Friday.
    Biden last year hosted a first in-person summit of the Quad grouping at which the leaders vowed to pursue a free and open Indo-Pacific “undaunted by coercion.”
    China has stepped up military and diplomatic pressure to assert its sovereignty over Taiwan, which it claims as its own.
    Kishida said this week Japan would beef up its defenses of islands near Taiwan, comments that followed a promise in October to revise security strategy so as to consider “all options, including possession of so-called enemy-strike capabilities.”
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom, Susan Heavey, Michael Martina and Paul Grant in Washington and Kiyoshi Takenaka and David Dolan in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Rami Ayub and Brenda Goh; Editing by Frances Kerry, Jonathan Oatis, Chizu Nomiyama and Jacqueline Wong)

1/22/2022 Honduras’ Next President Blasts Party For ‘Betrayal’ In Congress by Gustavo Palencia
FILE PHOTO: Honduras' president-elect Xiomara Castro speaks during a ceremony to receive her presidential credentials at the
Plaza Juan Carlos hotel, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras December 30, 2021. REUTERS/Fredy Rodriguez/File Photo
    TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduran president-elect Xiomara Castro on Friday accused some of her party’s lawmakers of “betrayal” after they broke a pact with a key ally, potentially putting in jeopardy Castro’s ability to pass a sweeping agenda through Congress.
    Lawmakers from Castro’s leftist Liberty and Refoundation Party (Libre) and two other parties appointed a member of their caucus as president of Congress, breaking an agreement to appoint a lawmaker from the Partido Salvador de Honduras (PSH), an ally that helped Castro claim victory.
    The lawmakers said the appointment was aimed at protecting Castro’s incoming government.    But she threatened to block the new head of Congress from being sworn in on Jan. 27, the day she takes office.
    “The betrayal was done!” Castro wrote on Twitter.    “I don’t need traitors to protect me.”
    She said her party had expelled the 18 lawmakers who had supported the decision to go against naming a PSH member to the top post of Congress.
    Castro also called for Libre members from around the country to converge in the capital Tegucigalpa for a vigil from Saturday night through early Sunday in what she called an act to “repudiate the attempted kidnapping of the legislative power.”
    Under Honduran law, lawmakers need a majority plus one to appoint the directors of the chamber or have the power to reform or repeal laws.    Libre and its allies won 60 of the 128 seats in the single-house Congress.
    Castro promised ally PSH leadership of Congress after its candidate, Salvador Nasralla, stepped down from the race and pledged support to Castro, the wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a coup in 2009.
    Nasralla described Friday’s action as “another coup like in 2009” against Hondurans who voted for Castro with the expectation that PSH would lead Congress.
    Going against the deal with PSH will likely impact Castro’s ability to prevail in Congress, analysts said.
    “Undoubtedly, although the dissident deputies say they support her campaign promises, they weaken their ability to fulfill those that have to go through Congress,” said Eugenio Sosa, a professor at Honduras’ National Autonomous University.
(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia, Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

1/22/2022 Mexican President Has Cardiac Catheterization, Health Said To Be Good
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds his morning news conference at the National
Palace in Mexico City, Mexico January 21, 2022. Mexico's Presidency/Handout via REUTERS
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador underwent a cardiac catheterization in hospital on Friday and was found to be in good health, the interior ministry said in a statement.
    “In this procedure, the heart and the arteries of the president were found to be healthy and functioning appropriately,” the statement said.
    Lopez Obrador, 68, who had a serious heart attack in 2013 and recently recovered from his second coronavirus infection, underwent the procedure as part of a check-up every six months that include lab tests, electrocardiograms, stress tests and CT scans, the government said.
    The medical team said the latest results indicated the need for a cardiac catheterization, without providing further details on why they performed what they described as a 30-minute procedure.
    The government said “no other type of intervention” was needed and that Lopez Obrador was in “perfect health.”
    The procedure inserts a thin tube into a large blood vessel leading to the heart and can detect how well the heart is working.
    Lopez Obrador said he had mild symptoms from both bouts of COVID-19.    In the most recent case earlier this month, he went into isolation for a week before returning to public activities, including lengthy daily news conferences.
    On his first day back, he praised honey, pain reliever paracetamol and VapoRub, a topical ointment popular in Mexico, for helping ease his symptoms.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon, Dave Graham and Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Editing by William Mallard)

1/22/2022 Two Canadians Die In Shooting At Mexican Caribbean Resort
Forensic technicians and hotel employees stand near a scene where three Canadian citizens were injured
by gunshots at Hotel Xcaret, in Playa del Carmen, Mexico January 21, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Two Canadians died of gunshot wounds after an argument turned violent at a resort near Cancun on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, authorities said on Friday.
    Both guests at the upscale resort on the Riviera Maya of Quintana Roo state had criminal records, said Mexican officials, citing information from the Canadian police.
    Mexican police are searching for another person thought to have fired the shots who had a “long” criminal record in Canada, said the attorney general’s office in Quintana Roo, home to a stretch of white-sand beach resorts and lush jungles.
    Quintana Roo’s head of public security, Lucio Hernandez, said on Twitter a gun was fired amid “an argument among hotel guests” at the Hotel Xcaret.
    Three people were injured and taken to hospital, Hernandez said.    He posted photos of the alleged shooter, showing a man in a gray track suit and black face mask wielding a gun in front of green landscaping.
    Xcaret said the incident appeared to be "targeted and isolated” and that the hotel was helping the affected people.    “We deeply regret the events that occurred at Hotel Xcaret this afternoon,” it said in a statement.
    The Canadian government said it was contacting Mexican authorities and could not provide more details due to privacy considerations.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon, Lizbeth Diaz and Miguel Angel Gutierrez in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Denny Thomas in Toronto; Editing by William Mallard)

1/22/2022 UK Lawmaker Says She Was Sacked From Ministerial Job For Her ‘Muslimness’ by Michael Holden
MP Nusrat Ghani speaks during a session in Parliament in London, Britain May 12, 2021. UK Parliament/Jessica
    LONDON (Reuters) - A British lawmaker has said she was fired from a ministerial job in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government partly because her Muslim faith was making colleagues uncomfortable, the Sunday Times reported.
    Nusrat Ghani, 49, who lost her job as a junior transport minister in February 2020, told the paper she was told by a “whip” – an enforcer of parliamentary discipline – that her “Muslimness” had been raised as an issue in her sacking.
    There was no immediate response to her comments from Johnson’s Downing Street office, but Mark Spencer, the government’s chief whip, said he was the person at the centre of Ghani’s allegations.
    “These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory,” he said on Twitter.    “I have never used those words attributed to me.”
    Ghani’s remarks come after one of her Conservative colleagues said he would meet police to discuss accusations that government whips had attempted to “blackmail” lawmakers suspected of trying to force Johnson from office over public anger about parties held at his Downing Street office during COVID lockdowns.
    The scandals have drained public support from both Johnson personally and his party, presenting him with the most serious crisis of his premiership.
    “I was told that at the reshuffle meeting in Downing Street that ‘Muslimness’ was raised as an ‘issue’, that my ‘Muslim women minister’ status was making colleagues uncomfortable,” the paper quoted Ghani, Britain’s first female Muslim minister, as saying.
    “I will not pretend that this hasn’t shaken my faith in the party and I have at times seriously considered whether to continue as an MP (member of parliament).”     In his response, Spencer said Ghani had declined to put the matter to a formal internal investigation when she first raised the issue last March.
    The Conservative Party has previously faced accusations of Islamophobia, and a report in May last year criticised it over how it dealt with complaints of discrimination against Muslims.
    The report also led Johnson to issue a qualified apology for any offence caused by his past remarks about Islam, including a newspaper column in which he referred to women wearing burqas as “going around looking like letterboxes.”
    The main opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer said the Conservatives must investigate Ghani’s account immediately.
    “This is shocking to read,” he said on Twitter.
    Ghani’s comments about the whips’ behaviour also echo allegations from another senior Conservative William Wragg, that some of his colleagues had faced intimidation and blackmail because of their desire to topple Johnson.
    “Nus is very brave to speak out. I was truly appalled to learn of her experience,” Wragg said on Twitter on Saturday.    He has told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that he would meet the police early next week to discuss his allegations.
    Johnson has said he had neither seen nor heard any evidence to support Wragg’s claims.    His office has said it would look at any such evidence “very carefully.”
    “As with any such allegations, should a criminal offence be reported to the Met, it would be considered,” said a spokesperson for London’s Metropolitan Police.
    Johnson, who in 2019 won his party’s biggest majority in more than 30 years, is fighting to shore up his authority after the “partygate” scandals, which followed criticism of the government’s handling of a corruption row and other mis-steps.
    Johnson, who has repeatedly apologised for the parties and said he was unaware of many of them, has admitted he attended what he said he thought was a work event on May 20 last year, when social mixing was largely banned.    Invitations had asked staff to “bring their own booze” to the event.
    Senior civil servant Sue Gray is expected to deliver a report into the parties next week, with many Conservative lawmakers saying they would await her findings before deciding whether they would take action to topple Johnson.
    The Sunday Times also reported that Gray was looking into whether any rule-breaking parties had been held in Johnson’s private apartment at Downing Street.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Frances Kerry and Daniel Wallis)

1/22/2022 Germany’s Scholz Says Raising Minimum Wage A Matter Of Respect
FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks during a joint news conference with
German Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck and German Finance Minister
Christian Lindner in Berlin, Germany, January 21, 2022. Michael Sohn/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Saturday that his Social Democrats (SPD) were pushing ahead with their election promise to raise the national minimum wage to 12 euros an hour, as it was important to show respect for low-paid workers.
    Social Democrat Labour Minister Hubertus Heil presented a draft law on Friday proposing to increase the wage floor from the current 9.82 euros from October onwards.
    “For me, raising the minimum wage to 12 euros is one of our most important legislative projects and it’s a matter of showing respect for the achievements of employees.    I’m glad it’s on its way now!,” Scholz said on Twitter.
    The labour ministry estimates that more than 6 million people across the country will benefit from the measure and that the increase will cost employers some 1.6 billion euros in October-December.
    Heil told Reuters on Friday that he expected the change to benefit especially employees in eastern Germany and women working in the care sector and other services where wages are traditionally very low.
    The labour ministry sent around its proposal to the other departments on Friday, with the Social Democrats expecting their junior coalition partners Free Democrats and Greens to back the bill as agreed in coalition talks last year.
    The cabinet is likely to pass the draft law in February and parliament is expected to adopt the higher minimum wage before the summer break.
    Employers associations have said the increase by more than 20% was too high and warned they could challenge the measure in court.    Scholz and Heil both have pushed back against assertions that a higher minimum wage could lead to job cuts.
    German companies are already suffering acute labour shortages in many sectors of the economy, so higher wages are also seen as a way to attract more foreign workers.
    The Bundesbank central bank has warned that the government’s plan could push wages up across the board and increase overall price pressures at a time of already high inflation in Europe’s largest economy.
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Alex Richardson)

1/23/2022 No Oil or DOW info.

1/23/2022 UK Accuses Kremlin Of Trying To Install Pro-Russian Leader In Ukraine by Michael Holden
FILE PHOTO: A Russian national flag is seen at the roof of the
Russian embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, September 18, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
    LONDON (Reuters) - Britain on Saturday accused the Kremlin of seeking to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine, and said Russian intelligence officers had been in contact with a number of former Ukrainian politicians as part of plans for an invasion.
    The British foreign ministry declined to provide evidence to back its accusations, which came at a time of high tensions between Russia and the West over Russia’s massing of troops near its border with Ukraine. Moscow has insisted it has no plans to invade.
    The British ministry said it had information the Russian government was considering former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevhen Murayev as a potential candidate to head a pro-Russian leadership.
    “We will not tolerate Kremlin plot to install pro-Russian leadership in Ukraine,” British Foreign Secretary Liz     Truss said on Twitter.    “The Kremlin knows a military incursion would be a massive strategic mistake & the UK and our partners would impose a severe cost on Russia.”
    The British statement was released in the early hours of Sunday, Moscow and Kyiv time, and there was no immediate statement from the Kremlin, or from Murayev.
    A foreign ministry source said it was not usual practice to share intelligence matters, and the details had only been declassified after careful consideration to deter Russian aggression.
    The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the comments as “disinformation,” accusing Britain and NATO of “escalating tensions” over Ukraine.
    “We urge the Foreign Office to cease these provocative activities, stop spreading nonsense and finally concentrate its efforts on studying the history of the Mongol-Tatar yoke,” the ministry said on its verified Facebook account.
    The British claims come a day after the top U.S. and Russian diplomats failed to make a major breakthrough in talks to resolve the crisis over Ukraine, although they agreed to keep talking.    Russia has made security demands on the United States including a halt to NATO’s eastward expansion and a pledge that Ukraine will never be allowed to join the Western military alliance.
    U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement: “This kind of plotting is deeply concerning.    The Ukrainian people have the sovereign right to determine their own future, and we stand with our democratically-elected partners in Ukraine.”
    Murayev, 45, is a pro-Russian politician who opposes Ukraine’s integration with the West.    According to a poll by the Razumkov’s Centre think tank conducted in December 2021, he was ranked seventh among candidates or the 2024 presidential election with 6.3% support.
    “You’ve made my evening.    The British Foreign Office seems confused,” Murayev told Britain’s Observer newspaper.    “It isn’t very logical.    I’m banned from Russia.    Not only that but money from my father’s firm there has been confiscated.”
    Britain, which this week supplied 2,000 missiles and a team of military trainers to Ukraine, also said it had information that Russian intelligence services were maintaining links with “numerous” former Ukrainian politicians, including senior figures with links to ex-President Viktor Yanukovich.
    Yanukovich fled to Russia in 2014 after three months of protests against his rule and was sentenced in absentia to 13 years in jail on treason charges in 2019.
    “Some of these have contact with Russian intelligence officers currently involved in the planning for an attack on Ukraine,” the British foreign office statement said.
    Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office also said the British leader was planning to ramp up pressure on Russia this week by calling for European counterparts to come together with the United States to face down Russian aggression.
    Earlier, RIA news agency reported that British foreign minister Truss would visit Moscow in February to meet her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, while Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and his British counterpart Ben Wallace have also agreed to hold talks.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; Additional reporting by William James, Natalia Zinets in Kyiv and Polina Devitt in Moscow; Editing by Frances Kerry, Daniel Wallis and William Mallard)

1/23/2022 German Navy Chief Resigns Over Putin Comments
Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht visits the navy base in
Warnemuende, Germany, December 17, 2021. Bernd Wuestneck/Pool via REUTERS
    BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s navy chief stepped down on Saturday after drawing criticism for saying Russian President Vladimir Putin deserved respect and that Kyiv would never win back annexed Crimea from Moscow.
    “I have asked Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht to relieve me from my duties with immediate effect,” Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach said in a statement.    “The minister has accepted my request.”
    Schoenbach made the remarks to a think-tank discussion in India on Friday, and video was published on social media.    The comments came at a sensitive time as Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s borders.
    Diplomatic efforts are focused on preventing an escalation.    Russia denies it is planning to invade Ukraine.
    In New Delhi, Schoenbach, speaking in English, said Putin seeks to be treated as an equal by the West.
    “What he (Putin) really wants is respect,” Schoenbach said.
    “And my God, giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost… It is easy to give him the respect he really demands – and probably also deserves,” Schoenbach said, calling Russia an old and important country.
    Schoenbach conceded Russia’s actions in Ukraine needed to be addressed.    But he added that “the Crimea peninsula is gone, it will never come back, this is a fact,” contradicting the joint Western position that Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 cannot be accepted and must be reversed.
    Prior to Schoenbach’s resignation, the defence ministry publicly criticised his remarks, saying they did not reflect Germany’s position in either content or wording.
    Schoenbach apologized for his comments.
    “My rash remarks in India … are increasingly putting a strain on my office,” he said.    “I consider this step (the resignation) necessary to avert further damage to the German navy, the German forces, and, in particular, the Federal Republic of Germany.”
    The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry had called on Germany to publicly reject the navy chief’s comments. Schoenbach’s comments could impair Western efforts to de-escalate the situation, Ukraine said in a statement.
    “Ukraine is grateful to Germany for the support it has already provided since 2014, as well as for the diplomatic efforts to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict.    But Germany’s current statements are disappointing and run counter to that support and effort,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said separately in tweet.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Catherine Evans and Cynthia Osterman)

1/23/2022 U.S. Embassy Calls For Calm, Dialogue After Brawl In Honduras’ Congress by Gustavo Palencia
FILE PHOTO: Lawmakers of the Liberty and Refoundation Party (LIBRE) protest after dissidents lawmakers of their
party proposed Jorge Calix as provisional president, which resulted in a brawl among lawmakers of the LIBRE
party, at the Congress building in Tegucigalpa, Honduras January 21, 2022. REUTERS/Fredy Rodriguez
    TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – The United States embassy in Honduras on Saturday called for calm and dialogue after lawmakers brawled in Congress a day earlier amid a dispute over who would head up the legislative body, just days before President-elect Xiomara Castro takes office.
    “Due to the events of January 21, the United States calls on political actors to remain calm, engage in dialogue and refrain from violence and provocative rhetoric, and urges their supporters to express themselves peacefully while respecting the rule of law,” the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa tweeted.
    Castro’s legislative plans suffered a body blow on Friday when about 18 members of her Liberty and Refoundation Party (Libre) broke ranks and collaborated with the ruling National Party to elect a Libre lawmaker as the president of Congress.
    The dispute triggered chaotic scenes in Congress as the vote broke an agreement Castro had with Partido Salvador de Honduras (PSH), an allied party that helped her claim victory, to install a PSH figure as the Congress president.
    Castro, calling the move a “betrayal,” expelled the 18 lawmakers from her party.    She also called for Libre members from around the country to converge in the capital Tegucigalpa for a vigil to prevent Sunday’s election of a new board that would ratify Friday’s vote.
    Castro promised ally PSH leadership of Congress after its candidate, Salvador Nasralla, stepped down from the race and pledged support to Castro, the wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a coup in 2009.
    Going against the deal with PSH will likely impact Castro’s ability to prevail in Congress, analysts say.
    Castro has threatened to refuse to be sworn in on Jan. 27 by the new president of Congress.
(Writing by Drazen Jorgic)

1/23/2022 French EU Lawmaker Collard Joins Far-Right Presidential Candidate Zemmour
French far-right commentator Eric Zemmour, candidate for the 2022 French presidential election,
gestures during a campaign rally in Cannes, France, January 22, 2022. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
    PARIS (Reuters) - European Parliament member Gilbert Collard said on Saturday he is leaving Marine Le Pen’s National Rally to join rival far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, becoming the third Le Pen ally in a week to link up with Zemmour.
    Last week, Jerome Riviere, head of Le Pen’s National Rally group in the European Parliament, and Damien Rieu, parliamentary assistant to another National Rally EU lawmaker, also quit to join Zemmour’s ranks.
    “I have nothing against Marine Le Pen … I join Eric Zemmour because of his ideas,” Collard said in an interview with France Bleu Gard Lozere.
    Former TV talk show host Zemmour and Le Pen are vying for the far-right vote, hoping to beat President Emmanuel Macron in the April election.
    For several weeks last year, opinion polls indicated that Zemmour – who has been convicted several times for inciting racial hatred – had a chance of placing second in the presidential poll and facing Macron in a run-off.    His campaign has since lost some steam and he now polls fourth.
    National Rally (RN) officials played down Collard’s departure, saying it would not affect Le Pen’s presidential bid.
    “We did not see much support from Collard to Marine’s campaign and at any rate, the polls show that she is the one who can beat Macron,” RN spokesman Philippe Ballard said on BFM television.
    Opinion polls put Macron in the lead, followed by Le Pen or conservative challenger Valerie Pecresse.
    “The arrival of Gilbert Collard is a friend joining us,” Zemmour said at a campaign rally in Cannes.
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq and Claude Chendjou;Editing by Frances Kerry and Louise Heavens)

1/23/2022 Italy’s Berlusconi Decides Against Running For President by Angelo Amante
FILE PHOTO: Italy's former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, reacts after casting his vote during Italian
elections for mayors and councillors, in Milan, Italy, October 3, 2021. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo
    ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi decided against running for president, he said in a statement on Saturday, removing an obstacle to cross-party negotiations ahead of the vote in parliament beginning on Jan. 24.
    The nomination of Prime Minister Mario Draghi is seen as the most probable outcome, but it is still unclear whether the broad sweep of parties that support his coalition will endorse him for fear his departure could trigger an early national election.
    Berlusconi said he wanted the former European Central Bank president to remain at the helm of the government until the natural end of the legislature, in 2023.
    “I have decided to take another step on the road to national responsibility, asking those who proposed it to renounce indicating my name for the Presidency of the Republic,” Berlusconi said.
    The rightist coalition had asked Berlusconi to run for president, but his bid was unlikely to be successful due to difficulties in mustering the broad support traditionally needed among the more than 1,000 lawmakers and regional delegates involved.
    Berlusconi is a highly divisive figure in Italy and the centre-left camp had already ruled out backing him.
    He was temporarily barred from public office after a conviction for tax fraud in 2013, and is still on trial in the latest of a series of instances for bribing witnesses in an underage prostitution case tied to his infamous “Bunga Bunga” sex parties of more than a decade ago.
    The Italian president has many ceremonial duties, but is also responsible for resolving political crises, making it a key role in a country where governments survive just one year on average.
    The winner of the secret parliamentary vote needs a two-thirds majority in any of the first three rounds of voting.    An absolute majority is sufficient thereafter.
    Neither the centre-right nor the centre-left bloc have enough votes to impose a candidate from their own camp, meaning some sort of compromise is needed to prevent prolonged stalemate.
    “We will work with the leaders of the centre-right … to agree on a name that can gather a broad consensus in Parliament,” Berlusconi’s statement said.
    Berlusconi’s rightist allies, Matteo Salvini’s League and the Brothers of Italy, said they appreciated his decision.
    In a statement, Salvini said the centre-right bloc was united and ready to make several “high-profile” proposals.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Alex Richardson and Catherine Evans)

1/23/2022 Italy’s Berlusconi In Hospital For Routine Tests, His Doctor Says
FILE PHOTO: Italy's former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, reacts after casting his vote during Italian elections
for mayors and councillors, in Milan, Italy, October 3, 2021. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo/File Photo
    MILAN (Reuters) - Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is in a Milan hospital for routine checks, his personal doctor said on Sunday, a day after the 85-year-old decided not to run for president.
    Berlusconi, a four-times prime minister of Italy, had major heart surgery in 2016 and has also had prostate cancer.    He has been repeatedly admitted to hospital over the past year after contracting COVID-19 in> Alberto Zangrillo said in a statement that Berlusconi was undergoing long-scheduled tests in the hospital.
    A spokesperson for Berlusconi, who on Saturday said that he had decided against running for president ahead of a parliamentary vote beginning on Monday, did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
    Zangrillo said Berlusconi was admitted to the San Raffaele hospital on Sunday, after he announced the decision to drop his presidential bid.
    Two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters he had been in hospital since Thursday.
    Italy’s rightist coalition had asked Berlusconi to run, but any bid by him was unlikely to be successful due to difficulties in mustering the broad support traditionally needed among more than 1,000 lawmakers and regional delegates.
(Reporting by Elvira Pollina, additional reporting by Emilio Parodi; Editing by Giselda Vagnoni, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Pravin Char and Alexander Smith)

1/23/2022 Venezuelan Opposition’s Guaido Calls For February Protest
FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido addresses the media the day after opposition candidate Sergio Garrido won
an election for governor of Barinas state, in Caracas, Venezuela January 10, 2022. REUTERS/Gaby Oraa
    CARACAS (Reuters) – Opposition leader Juan Guaido on Sunday called for Venezuelans to take to the streets on Feb. 12 in peaceful marches against President Nicolas Maduro, as the country’s divided opposition looks ahead to presidential elections.
    The opposition considers Maduro’s 2018 re-election to be fraudulent and has in the past held mass marches against his government, some of which have led to deaths.
    Maduro’s government “fears the streets, fears organization of the base,” Guaido told journalists after an opposition event held to commemorate the anniversary of the end of the military dictatorship in 1958.
    Though the opposition was broadly defeated in regional elections at the end of last year, it notched a win in a governorship re-run in Barinas state, which has traditionally been dominated by the ruling party.
    Opposition parties must unite as soon as possible in the face of the presidential contest currently scheduled for 2024, Guaido said during the event.
    “We are talking about organizing ourselves from now, we’re talking about a presidential election,” Guaido said.
    Dozens of western countries originally supported Guaido as Venezuela’s leader, but since 2021 legislative elections a number of countries and the European Union back him only as a leading opposition figure.
    Supporters of an effort to remove Maduro from office through a referendum said this weekend they would ask the country’s top tribunal to review signature collections conditions which the opposition says are unfeasible.
(Reporting by Vivian Sequera and Mayela Armas; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

1/23/2022 Rival Honduran Lawmakers Back Different Congressional Heads In Dispute With Next President by Gustavo Palencia
FILE PHOTO: Lawmakers of the Liberty and Refoundation Party (LIBRE) protest after dissidents lawmakers of their
party proposed Jorge Calix as provisional president, which resulted in a brawl among lawmakers of the LIBRE party,
at the Congress building in Tegucigalpa, Honduras January 21, 2022. REUTERS/Fredy Rodriguez
    TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Honduran lawmakers in rival alliances backed two different people as congressional president on Sunday amid disputes between President-elect Xiomara Castro and dissident members of her party, warning of a new political crisis in the poverty-stricken Central American nation.
    Lawmakers from Castro’s leftist Liberty and Refoundation Party (Libre) and two other parties appointed a member of their caucus as president of Congress on Friday, breaking an agreement to appoint a lawmaker from the Partido Salvador de Honduras (PSH), an ally that helped Castro claim victory.
    Castro, calling the move a “betrayal,” said Friday that her party had expelled the 18 lawmakers who had supported the decision to go against naming a PSH member to the top post of Congress.
    The dispute triggered chaotic scenes in Congress, prompting the United States embassy in Honduras to call for calm and dialogue on Saturday.
    The dissident lawmakers formed a board backed by Honduras’ National Party in a meeting at a social club on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa on Sunday where they swore in lawmaker Jorge Calix as president of Congress with support that included lawmakers from outgoing president Juan Orlando Hernandez’s party.
    Meanwhile, Castro supporters and her allies in PSH elected lawmaker Luis Redondo for the role in a session at congressional headquarters in the capital.
    In a speech, Calix pledged to work with Castro despite political differences.
    “We want to guarantee that we will be vigilant that the legislative agenda of our president Xiomara Castro is fulfilled,” Calix said.
    Castro later tweeted that she recognizes Redondo as congressional president, and congratulated lawmakers who reject “12 years of ‘Joh’ corruption networks,” referring to outgoing president Hernandez.
    The Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP) released a statement saying the turn of events by lawmakers is “putting the function of rule of law and democracy at serious risk” and called for “a sincere dialogue urgently.”
    Castro has threatened to refuse to be sworn in on Jan. 27 by Calix.
(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia, Writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Chris Reese)

1/23/2022 Explainer-How Western Economic Sanctions Might Target Russia by Karin Strohecker
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia's President Vladimir Putin arrive for the U.S.-Russia summit
at Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland June 16, 2021. Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    (Reuters) - Tensions between Moscow and Western powers have raised the prospect of new economic sanctions being imposed on Russia if it attacks neighbouring Ukraine.
    The European Union has threatened “massive” sanctions and U.S. Senate Democrats have unveiled a bill to impose sanctions on Russian government officials, military leaders and banking institutions if Moscow engages in hostilities against Ukraine.
    Russia, which has massed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s borders but denies planning to invade the former Soviet republic, has been subject to sanctions since its 2014 annexation of Crimea from its neighbour.
    Further punitive measures were added after a former Russian spy was poisoned in Britain in 2018 and following an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election won by Donald Trump.    Russia has denied any role in the poisoning of ex-spy Yuri Skripal and his daughter, and denies trying to interfere in foreign elections.
    Here are some ways financial sanctions could target Russia:
    The White House has told the U.S. chip industry to be prepared for new restrictions on exports to Russia if Moscow attacks Ukraine, sources said.    This includes potentially blocking the country’s access to global electronics supplies.
    Similar measures were deployed during the Cold War, when the United States and other Western nations maintained severe technology sanctions on the Soviet Union, keeping it technologically backward and crimping growth.
    The United States and the EU already have sanctions on Russia’s energy, financial and defence sectors.
    The White House is floating the idea of curbs on Russia’s biggest banks and has previously mooted measures targeting Moscow’s ability to convert roubles into dollars and other currencies.    Washington could also target the state-backed Russian Direct Investment Fund.
    Sanctions applied to individual firms often cause sector-wide pain, according to former U.S. State Department economist Mark Stone, as they make investors worry that the curbs will be widened or that they will be unable to>     Sanctioning all transactions with Russian banks and freezing assets would be “more impactful and more targeted” than a cut-off from the SWIFT global messaging system, said Brian O’Toole, a fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank.
    Targeting Russia’s access to SWIFT, which is widely used in international financial transactions, would become useful really only following broad financial sanctions by the United States, Britain and the EU, O’Toole said.
    Sanctioning individuals via asset freezes and travel bans is a commonly used tool and can sometimes resonate widely.    Britain imposed sanctions in April 2021 on 14 Russians under a law giving the government the power to penalise those it says are credibly involved in the most serious corruption abroad.
    The bill unveiled by Senate Democrats foresees sweeping sanctions on top Russian officials including President Vladimir Putin.
    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the idea of imposing sanctions on the Russian president would be tantamount to severing relations between Moscow and Washington.
    One of the harshest measures would be to disconnect the Russian financial system from SWIFT.
    SWIFT, used by more than 11,000 financial institutions in over 200 countries, is a Belgium-based cooperative governed by a 25-member board, including Eddie Astanin, chairman of Russia’s Central Counterparty Clearing Centre (NCC).
    There is a precedent: In March 2012, SWIFT disconnected Iranian banks as international sanctions tightened against Tehran over its nuclear programme – a move that saw the country lose half its oil export revenues and 30% of foreign trade, according to think tank Carnegie Moscow Center.
    Iran’s economy is smaller and not as linked-up internationally as the Russian economy, whose interconnectedness with the West has worked as a shield.    The United States and Germany would stand to lose the most, as their banks are the most frequent SWIFT users with Russian banks, according to Maria Shagina at the Carnegie Moscow Center.
    Calls to cut Russia’s SWIFT access were mooted in 2014 when Moscow annexed Crimea, prompting Moscow to develop an alternative messaging system, SPFS.
    The number of messages sent via SPFS reached around 2 million, or one-fifth of Russian internal traffic, in 2020, according to the central bank, which aims to increase this to 30% in 2023.    However, the SPFS system, which has size limits on messages and is operational only on weekdays, has had a hard time picking up foreign members, Shagina wrote in a 2021 paper.
    The Atlantic Council’s O’Toole said cutting Russia off from SWIFT would cause immediate disruption but the impact would diminish over time.
    “Some payments would be delayed and there may be increased cost in making new ones, but broadly speaking there is unlikely to be a massive collapse of Russian trade so long as that trade remains legal/not sanctioned,” O’Toole said.
    Chancellor Olaf Scholz has signalled that Germany would be ready to discuss suspending the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project – intended to bring gas under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany – if Moscow attacked Ukraine.    The pipeline has been built but has not yet secured regulatory approval.    It has faced opposition from the United States and caused concern among some European politicians that it will increase Europe’s dependence on Russia for energy supplies.    Russia has said that both Europe and Russia will gain from Nord Stream 2 and that Germany should not “politicise” the project.
    Access to Russian bonds has become increasingly restricted and curbs could be tightened further, with a ban on secondary market participation floated as one option.
    In April 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden banned U.S. investors buying new Russian rouble bonds – OFZs as they are known – over accusations of election meddling.
    Sanctions imposed in 2015 made future Russian dollar debt ineligible for many investors and indexes such as JPMorgan’s EMBI Global.    Those measures have cut Russia’s external debt by 33% since early 2014 — from $733 billion to $489 billion in the third quarter of 2021.    Lower debt improves a country’s balance sheet on the surface, but deprives it of financing sources that could contribute to economic growth and development.
(Reporting by Karin Strohecker in London and Andrey Ostroukh in Moscow; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Catherine Evans)

1/24/2022 No Oil or DOW info.

1/24/2022 U.S. Tells Diplomats’ Families To Leave Ukraine, Weighs Troop Options by David Shepardson and Paul Sandle
A view shows the U.S. embassy in Kiev, Ukraine September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
    WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department announced Sunday it was ordering diplomats’ family members to leave Ukraine, as U.S. President Joe Biden weighed options for boosting America’s military assets in Eastern Europe to counter a buildup of Russian troops.
    The order, which also allowed U.S. diplomats stationed at the embassy in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to leave voluntarily, was one of the clearest signs yet that American officials are bracing for an aggressive Russian move in the region.
    “Military action by Russia could come at any time,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement.    Officials “will not be in a position to evacuate American citizens in such a contingency, so U.S. citizens currently present in Ukraine should plan accordingly,” it added.
    Tensions in Ukraine have been increasing for months after the Kremlin massed some 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, a dramatic buildup the West says is preparation for a war to prevent Ukraine from ever joining the NATO Western security alliance.
    The Kremlin has repeatedly denied planning to invade, but the Russian military already tore off a chunk of Ukrainian territory when it seized Crimea and backed separatist forces who took control of large parts of eastern Ukraine eight years ago.
    The State Department’s announcement comes a day after British authorities said they had information the Russian government was considering a former Ukrainian lawmaker as a potential candidate to head a pro-Russian leadership in Kyiv.
    The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the British allegation as “disinformation,” accusing NATO of “escalating tensions” over Ukraine.
    Biden has begun considering options for boosting America’s military assets in the region, senior administration officials said, after meeting with top national security aides at his Camp David retreat on Saturday.
    The New York Times said Biden was mulling plans to send 1,000 to 5,000 troops to Eastern European countries, with the possibility of increasing the number should tensions flare further.
    A senior administration official declined to confirm the numbers on Sunday but said “we are developing plans and we are consulting with allies to determine options moving forward.”
    The United States has sent military assistance to Ukraine but has so far held back from sending American personnel.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has rebuffed calls to immediately impose economic sanctions on Russia, saying on Sunday that doing so would undercut the West’s ability to deter potential Russian aggression against Ukraine.
    Blinken was due to meet virtually with members of the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday.
    As U.S. troop deployments were discussed, a separate senior administration official said U.S. economic penalties on Russia would have far-reaching consequences should it drive any further into Ukraine.
    The United States would use the Foreign Direct Product Rule to restrict the export to Russia of products incorporating microelectronics based on U.S. equipment, software or technology.
    Britain has also promised stiff sanctions, with British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab telling the UK’s Sky News there would be “very serious consequences if Russia takes this move to try and invade.”
    British officials say they have information the Russian government was considering former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevhen Murayev as a potential candidate to head a pro-Russian government in Kyiv.
    Murayev poured cold water on the notion.
    “This morning I already read in all the news publications this conspiracy theory: absolutely unproven, absolutely unfounded,” Murayev told Reuters in a video call, adding he was considering legal action.
    He denied having any contact with Russian intelligence officers and dismissed the idea that he could be in league with the Kremlin as “stupid,” given he was placed under Russian sanctions in 2018.
    Although he says he wants Ukraine to be independent from Russia as well as the West, Murayev, 45, has promoted some views that align with the Kremlin’s narratives on Ukraine.
    The British foreign ministry declined to provide evidence to back its accusations.
    In a message to Reuters, Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian adviser to the presidential office, said there was doubt among Ukrainians as to whether Murayev was “too ridiculous a figure” to be the Kremlin’s pick to lead Ukraine.
    But Russia had propped up previously minor figures in leadership positions in annexed Crimea and separatist-held eastern Ukraine, he added.
    Therefore “one should take this information as seriously as possible,” he said.
(Reporting by Michael Holden and Paul Sandle in London, Natalia Zinets in Kyiv; Additional reporting by Matthias Williams in Kyiv, Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow, and David Shepardson and Steve Holland in Washington; Writing by Raphael Satter, Raissa Kasolowsky, and Frances Kerry; Editing by Alexander Smith, Chris Reese, Kenneth Maxwell and Lincoln Feast.)

1/24/2022 EU To Leave Diplomats’ Families In Ukraine For Now, Borrell Says
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell
gestures during a joint news conference with French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs
Jean-Yves Le Drian (not seen) as part of a European Union Foreign Ministers informal
meeting (Gymnich) in Brest, western France, January 14, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union does not plan to withdraw diplomats’ families from Ukraine at the moment, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday after Washington announced such a move, pointing out a military attack by Russia could come at any time.
    The U.S. State Department announced on Sunday it was ordering diplomats’ family members to leave Ukraine, in one of the clearest signs yet that American officials are bracing for an aggressive Russian move in the region.
    “We are not going to do the same thing because we don’t know any specific reasons.    But (U.S.) Secretary (of State Antony) Blinken will inform us,” Borrell told reporters as he arrived for a meeting with his EU counterparts that Blinken is expected to join online at around 1400 GMT.
    Tensions in Ukraine have been increasing for months after the Kremlin massed some 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, a dramatic buildup the West says is preparation for a war to prevent Ukraine from ever joining the NATO security alliance.
    The Kremlin has repeatedly denied planning to invade, but the Russian military already took a chunk of Ukrainian territory when it seized Crimea and backed separatist forces who took control of large parts of eastern Ukraine eight years ago.
    “Negotiations are going on,” Borrell said, adding he saw no reason to leave Ukraine “unless Secretary Blinken gives us an information that justifies a move.”
    The EU’s foreign ministers are expected to issue a warning to Russia over its troop buildup at Ukraine’s border.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Marine Strauss and Robin Emmott; Editing by Ingrid Melander)

1/24/2022 Canadian Hospitals Strain As Omicron Hits Health Workers by Anna Mehler Paperny and Allison Lampert
Nurses, doctors, and a respiratory therapist intubate a coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
patient as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to put pressure on Humber
Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 20, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio
    TORONTO/MONTREAL (Reuters) – After a year as an emergency department nurse at a busy Toronto hospital in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Aimee Earhart called it quits last week.    She is moving to Florida for a short contract before getting work as a travel nurse for what she hopes will be double the salary.
    “We’re just burnt out all the time,” Earhart said.    She says she will miss her colleagues, and might have stayed if working conditions were better.
    The COVID-19 pandemic and its highly contagious Omicron variant have made a challenging staffing situation in Canada’s hospitals worse.
    Interviews with a dozen health care workers, including eight current and former nurses, reveal a health system strained by a pandemic wave that hit at the worst possible time – sickness sidelining staff as more COVID-19 patients than ever need hospitalization, forcing health workers exhausted by two unrelenting years to take on more work.
    Hospitals have been asking staff to forego holidays or take on overtime shifts.
    Canadians take pride in their public health system. But by failing to adequately invest in it, critics say, governments left it vulnerable to the ravages of a years-long public health emergency.    If health workers leave and are not replaced – thanks to training and certification backlogs, capped wages or the perception of a punishing profession – that could hurt health system capacity.
    Job vacancies in Canada’s health and social assistance sector increased by 78.8% between the third quarter of 2019 and the third quarter of 2021, according to Statistics Canada.
    Ontario’s government, which has come under fire for capping the salaries of some public employees, including nurses, before the pandemic, said in a statement it added 6,700 health care workers and staff since the pandemic began and planned to add another 6,000 by March.    It did not clarify whether this was a net increase.
    Lindsay Peltsch knew she had to quit when she stopped wanting to bathe her patients.
    “I still did that but I didn’t get the same sense of satisfaction anymore,” she said.    “It seems small but it’s a big deal because people’s dignity is a big part of what we do.”
    Peltsch worked for 12 years as a pediatric nurse, 10 of them at SickKids hospital in Toronto.    She fell in love with nursing but the strain became too much, she said.
    Fully staffed shifts became a rarity.    One of her last ER shifts was 10 nurses short.    She also feels there is a lack of respect for the profession.
    “I just got to a point where I just didn’t have any more to give.”
    A SickKids spokesperson said that the hospital “has experienced challenges related to staffing” but was not aware of critical care unit shifts being short 10 nurses.
    Praveen Nakesvaran and his respiratory therapist colleagues at Humber River Hospital have taken on roles normally filled by nurses when they prone COVID-19 patients – rolling them, tubes and all, gingerly onto their stomachs in hopes that will boost lung function.
    “Usually we’re just at the head of the bed: We make sure the tube is secure,” Nakesvaran said.    “Now we’re kind of doing the nursing jobs, as well.”
    Suzi Laj an intensive care unit manager at the hospital says she knows morale has been an issue and has sought to address it through everything from daily huddles to bringing in chaplaincy staff.    They are “trying to keep them hopeful and, you know, supporting them … but their resilience is really wearing,” she said.
    Public health experts say Omicron’s peak may be approaching in Canada, and Ontario announced plans last week to loosen restrictions.    But for now the health worker crunch remains.     Some provinces have made provisions for health care workers to return to work soon after testing positive for COVID-19; Ontario is letting internationally trained nurses, who often face hurdles and long waits before being able to practice in Canada, get on-the-job experience in hospitals.
    Manitoba, meanwhile, said it will send hundreds of patients to get procedures in North Dakota because its hospitals lack capacity.
    When one Montreal ER nurse came down with a bad case of laryngitis during a shift, she felt torn between staying at work to help her colleagues and going home to rest and wait for COVID-19 test results, she told Reuters.
    The young nurse, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of work reprisals, said she was encouraged to complete her shift since her co-workers badly needed the help.
    “It was really more guilt than anything,” she said.
    “You feel like you’re leaving those who are working in a really tough spot.”
    Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, gets calls from nurses across the province wondering how they will cope.    “All the hospital are scrambling.”
    It translates, she said, to “unsafe care.”
    When Peltsch talks to her former co-workers, “they’re like, ‘Don’t come back.’    … A resilient group of people is starting to crumble,” she said.
    “We are not asking for an easier job.    We are asking to be able to do the hard job we signed up for safely.”
(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Denny Thomas and Aurora Ellis)

1/24/2022 Assailed By Scandal, UK’s Johnson Fights For His Job by Guy Faulconbridge
FILE PHOTO: MP Nusrat Ghani speaks during a session in Parliament in London,
Britain May 12, 2021. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was fighting to shore up his premiership on Monday as he faced the publication later this week of an investigation into boozy parties at the heart of the British state during COVID-19 lockdowns.
    Johnson, who in 2019 won the biggest Conservative majority in more than 30 years, is now assailed by scandal, facing claims that he and his staff partied during the worst pandemic for a century and a new accusation of racist in his party.
    The results of an official investigation by Cabinet Office official Sue Gray into the lockdown parties is due to be published later this week.
    Johnson has given a variety of explanations about the parties: first he said no rules had been broken but then he apologised to the British people for the apparent hypocrisy of such gatherings.
    Police officers who guard Downing Street have been interviewed by Gray and have given “extremely damning” evidence, The Telegraph newspaper reported, citing an unidentified source.
    Johnson has denied a claim that he was told a “bring your own booze” lockdown gathering on May 20, 2020, which he says he thought was a work event, was inappropriate.
    His former senior adviser Dominic Cummings – now a harsh critic – is due to be interviewed on Monday.
    Toppling Johnson would leave Britain in limbo for months just as the West deals with the Ukraine crisis and the world’s fifth largest economy grapples with a once-in-a-generation inflationary wave triggered by the pandemic.
    To trigger a leadership challenge, 54 of the 359 Conservative MPs in parliament must write letters of no confidence to the chairman of the party’s 1922 Committee.
    Leading rivals within the Conservative Party include Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, 41, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, 46.
    Johnson on Monday ordered an inquiry into claims by a lawmaker who said she was fired from a ministerial job in the government partly because her Muslim faith was making colleagues uncomfortable.
    Nusrat Ghani, 49, who lost her job as a junior transport minister in February 2020, told the Sunday Times that she had been told by a “whip” – an enforcer of parliamentary discipline – that her “Muslimness” had been raised as an issue in her sacking.
    “The Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Office to conduct an inquiry into the allegations made by Nusrat Ghani MP,” Downing Street said.    “As he said at the time, the prime minister takes these claims very seriously.”
    The government’s chief whip, Mark Spencer, said he was the person at the centre of Ghani’s allegations. He said they were completely false and defamatory.
    “I have never used those words attributed to me,” he said.
    Johnson met Ghani to discuss the “extremely serious” claims in July 2020, a spokesperson from the prime minister’s office said on Sunday.
    Downing Street said that when the allegations were first made, Johnson recommended she make a formal complaint to the Conservative Campaign Headquarters.
    “She did not take up this offer,” Downing Street said.
    Ghani’s allegation came after one of her Conservative colleagues said he would meet police to discuss accusations that government whips had attempted to “blackmail” lawmakers suspected of trying to force Johnson from office.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Kate Holton and Alex Richardson)

1/24/2022 Truckers Fighting Government Vaccine Mandate March To Canadian Capital
Individuals stand alongside the Trans Canada Highway as an RCMP officer points down the road during the
Canadian truck convoy/protest in Fort Lawrence, Nova Scotia, Canada, January 23, 2022. REUTERS/John Morris
    TORONTO (Reuters) – A convoy of truckers started their march from Vancouver on Sunday to the Canadian capital city of Ottawa protesting the government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for truckers, which the industry says would create driver shortages and fuel inflation.
    Truckers under the banner Freedom Convoy 2022 had raised C$2.7 million ($2.2 million) by Sunday through a gofundme campaign to fight the mandate.    The funds raised would be used to help with the costs of fuel, food and lodgings, the gofundme page said.    The convoy is expected to reach Ottawa on Jan. 29.
    The trucking industry is vital to ensure smooth flow of goods since more than two-thirds of the C$650 billion ($521 billion) in goods traded annually between Canada and the United States travels on roads.
    But as many as 32,000, or 20%, of the 160,000 Canadian and American cross-border truck drivers may be taken off the roads due to the mandate, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) estimates.
    The CTA, however, said in a statement on Saturday it does not support any protests on public road ways and the only way to cross the border on a commercial truck is by getting vaccinated.
    Canada imposed the vaccine mandate for the trucking industry from Jan. 15, under which unvaccinated Canadian truckers re-entering Canada from the United States must get tested for COVID-19 and quarantine themselves.
    Driver shortages are further expected to fuel red-hot inflation which is running at a three-decade high, industry lobby groups gave said.
    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has resisted industry pressure to delay the mandate since it was first announced in November.
($1 = 1.2572 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Denny Thomas; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

1/24/2022 Ecuador To Increase Police Manpower In Guayaquil After Killings
FILE PHOTO: Police officers signal to cars to stop during a search for weapons and other illegal items during an operation to
curb increasing violence, at a checkpoint, in Guayaquil, Ecuador December 14, 2021. REUTERS/Santiago Arcos
    QUITO (Reuters) – Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso said on Sunday he will send an additional 1,100 police officers to coastal Guayaquil and increase military presence there amid a spate of violent deaths the government says are connected to the fight against the drug trade.
    Violence and crime, including within the prison system, soared in Ecuador late last year.    The government has blamed the violence on drug gangs who use the country as a transit point for narcotics headed to the United States and Europe.
    Lasso declared a state of emergency, which ended in mid-December, and deployed hundreds of soldiers in violent areas, though citizens and analysts say boots on the ground fail to confront the poverty and poor policing underlying the violence.
    “These achievements have reduced the territory of the mafias where they acted without state presence,” Lasso told journalists.    “Notwithstanding, those actions also have consequences like the increase in violent deaths on the streets.”
    Lasso, a conservative banker who unexpectedly won the presidency last April, added, without giving further details, that he is replacing the commander of the national police and will spend $9 million on police equipment.
    Lasso’s announcement came as police investigate an attack on Friday in one of Guayaquil’s working class neighborhoods which left at least five people dead and nine wounded, as well as the murder of a Dutch tourist in another part of town days earlier.
    The country seized 15 tonnes of drugs in January, triple the amount confiscated in the same month last year, Lasso said, and trafficking through the port of Guayaquil has fallen nearly to zero thanks to a new police intelligence center there.
    Soldiers will participate in operations within Guayaquil from Sunday, Lasso added, and reinforce the country’s borders with Colombia and Peru to prevent drugs and arms trafficking.
(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; editing by Diane Craft)

1/24/2022 Secy. Of State Blinken Threatens ‘Serious Response’ If Russia Invades Ukraine by OAN Newsroom
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a meeting with President of the Swiss Confederation,
Ignazio Cassis, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)
    It seems the Biden administration does not know the virtue of a proportional response.    On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the rounds on several corporate news networks and threatened Russia will be met with immense repercussions if an additional force is sent over its border with Ukraine.
    “And again, there are other things that Russia could do that falls short of actually sending additional forces into Ukraine," he stated.    “And again, across the board we’re prepared with Europe for a swift and calibrated and very united response.    We’re looking at every single scenario, preparing for every single one.”
    The top U.S. diplomat continued to tout anonymous Intelligence sources warning Russia aims to set up a false flag operation to stir up resentment toward Ukraine.    He also claimed Russia may be plotting to oust Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and replace him with a pro-Russia president.
    Secretary Blinken also stressed the Biden administration’s commitment to Ukraine while noting his agency is sending more military and diplomatic aid to the country.    Just last week, the U.S. State Department sanctioned four Ukrainian nationals accused of working for the Russian government to help destabilize the Ukrainian government.
    Blinken affirmed he and his Russian counterparts are engaged in a trust dilemma posed by the “the stag hunt” game theory model, where both sides are pushing for peace while preparing for potential conflict.
    “There is a path of diplomacy and dialogue, which is clearly the preferable one, the most responsible thing to do,” said the U.S. Secretary of State.    “There’s also the path of Russian aggression and massive consequences for Russia if it engages in that aggression.    And so, I tried to make clear both paths in my meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Geneva this week and we’ll see if we can advance the diplomacy.”
    However, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) argues the Biden administration has not done enough to deter Russia from invading.    McCaul, who is the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, asserted that Russian President Vladimir Putin smells weakness while citing various foreign policy failures by Joe Biden.
    The Texas Republican pointed to the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, which led to the deaths of 13 U.S. servicemen and left the country in economic as well as political chaos.
    Additionally, McCaul believes Biden lifting sanctions on the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline aimed to appease Putin, which he said will embolden America’s adversaries.
    In the meantime, Blinken said America’s allies are united against Russian aggression.    This comes despite Biden’s remarks last week, where he said NATO partners are divided on the issue.
    Blinken asserted he’s monitoring the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine and is urging non-essential personnel to return to the states in case of an actual invasion from Russia.

1/24/2022 Thousands Attend ‘Defeat The Mandates’ Rally In Washington, D.C. by OAN Newsroom
    Crowds gathered in Washington, D.C. for a ‘Defeat the Mandates’ rally.    Here’s more.

1/24/2022 Pfizer CEO Says Frequent Booster Shots ‘Not A Good Scenario’ by OAN Newsroom
FILE – Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla attends a ceremony in the northern city
of Thessaloniki, Greece, Oct. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos, file)
    According to the CEO of Pfizer, getting a booster shot every four to five months is not a good scenario.    During an interview on Saturday, Albert Bourla said he hopes to administer an annual vaccine.
    The pharmaceutical and biotechnology corporation chief said it’s easier to convince people to get the shot and it’s easier for people to remember.    He also revealed plans for a new vaccine to combat Omicron and future strains of the virus.
    “We are looking to see if we can create a vaccine that covers Omicron and doesn’t forget the other variants,” he explained.    “And that could be a solution unless if something completely different comes out.”
    Bourla said Pfizer expects to have a vaccine ready to combat Omicron as soon as March.

1/24/2022 Sen. Johnson: Democrats Want To Destroy Senate For ‘Election Reform’ by OAN Newsroom
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., talks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday,
Jan. 20, 2022. He was talking about President Joe Biden’s first year as president. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
    Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is speaking up in defense of the filibuster rule amid Democrats’ attempt to jam election reform through Congress.    In an interview Sunday, he said the those on the left are willing to destroy the Senate to get their way on changing election laws to their liking.
    The Wisconsin senator stressed Democrats do not have a mandate to fundamentally change our country in a 50-50 Senate.    Last week, Democrat election reform bills failed on the Senate floor.    Johnson pointed out Americans are not looking for an election reform, which would turn America into a one-party state.
    “It’s important to slow down debate, to not allow partisanship bills to get just get rammed through the Senate to change society significantly," he stated.    “I know Democrats want to fundamentally transform America, but I don’t think most people do.    Do you like, much less do you even love something that you want to fundamentally transform?    I don’t think you do.”
    Johnson went on to say nobody is suppressing the vote in today’s America contrary to Democrat claims, while election integrity is a pressing issue.
    “Americans by and large love this country,” the senator continued.    “We understand, they understand what made it great.    It’s individuals, it’s freedom.”

1/24/2022 Italy President Vote Ends In Stalemate; Leaders Seek Deal by Gavin Jones, Angelo Amante and Crispian Balmer
The League party leader Matteo Salvini casts a vote at the Chamber of Deputies to elect the
country's new president in Rome, Italy, January 24, 2022. REUTERS/Yara Nardi/Pool
    ROME (Reuters) - Italian lawmakers failed to elect a new president in an initial secret ballot on Monday, as party leaders met behind the scenes to try to agree on a consensus candidate and avoid damaging political instability.
    Prime Minister Mario Draghi remains the most likely contender, but worries that his promotion to head of state might shatter his coalition government and trigger early national elections have complicated his prospects.
    A second round of voting will be held on Tuesday after a majority of the 1,008 ‘grand electors’ cast blank ballots on Monday in a vote that lasted almost five hours.
    Although largely ceremonial, the Italian presidential post is also highly influential, with the head of state often called on to resolve political crises in the euro zone’s third largest economy, where governments survive barely a year on average.
    Draghi has made clear he would like the prestigious job, but major parties have not yet endorsed him, fearful that his move could disrupt the fight against COVID-19 and hurt efforts to receive billions of euros from EU pandemic relief funds.
    “I am working to ensure that in the next few hours the centre-right will offer not just one but several quality proposals,” rightist League leader Matteo Salvini said on Monday night, suggesting no consensus was building behind Draghi.
    Salvini was at the core of Monday’s cross-party talks, separately meeting the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, Enrico Letta, and former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, who heads the 5-Star Movement, the largest force in parliament.
    After the meeting with Letta, Salvini and Conte said they were “working on some options” and would see each other again on Tuesday.    5-Star said there was agreement on the need to find a mutually acceptable candidate “that unites the country.”
    Should Draghi fail to land the job of head of state, some commentators are suggesting he may not want to continue as prime minister either, if the coalition backing his government splits over the presidential election.
    “Regardless of the outcome, the political equilibrium that has prevailed since Draghi became prime minister in February 2021 has been shaken, if not broken,” said Wolfango Piccoli of London-based political risk consultancy Teneo.
    A successful candidate needs a two-thirds majority in any of the first three rounds of voting, with an absolute majority enough thereafter.    Only three presidents have been elected in the first round, with the vast majority elevated from the fourth round onwards.    Parliament plans to hold one ballot a day.
    If Draghi were to become head of state, a deal on who should replace him as prime minister would be immediately needed to prevent prolonged political paralysis.
    Until recently, Draghi was considered almost a shoo-in to move to the presidential palace.    But over the weekend Salvini and his ally, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, both urged him to stay on as premier, diminishing his chances.
    Parliament is deeply fractured and no bloc has an absolute majority, meaning some sort of compromise will be needed.
    Various names have been floated in the media to take on the role, including Senate speaker Elisabetta Casellati, former lower house speaker Pier Ferdinando Casini, former premier Giuliano Amato, and Elisabetta Belloni, who coordinates the secret services.
    Some politicians have said they want outgoing President Sergio Mattarella to accept a second mandate. He has so far ruled this out.
(Reporting by Gavin Jones, Angelo Amante and Crispian Balmer, Editing by Mark Heinrich and Rosalba O’Brien)

1/25/2022 Oil down $1.35 to $83.79, DOW up 99 to 34,365.

1/25/2022 UK PM Johnson Under Fresh Pressure Over Lockdown Birthday Bash by Alistair Smout and Paul Sandle
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson wearing a face covering to help mitigate
the spread of Covid-19, reacts during his visit to Milton Keynes University Hospital,
north of London, Britain January 24, 2022. Adrian Dennis/Pool via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was on Tuesday fighting fresh allegations that he broke the COVID lockdown rules he imposed by attending a surprise birthday party in Downing Street when social gatherings indoors were banned.
    Johnson, who in 2019 won the biggest Conservative majority in more than 30 years, is trying to shore up his premiership after claims that he and his staff partied at the heart of the British state during the worst pandemic for a>     Revelations of revelry, including boozy parties in Downing Street, suitcases of supermarket wine, a broken children’s swing, a wine fridge and jokes by staff about how to present such parties to reporters, have hammered Johnson’s approval ratings.
    ITV reported that Johnson attended a surprise party on his birthday, June 19.    Up to 30 people attended the event in the Cabinet Room of No. 10, his office and residence, ITV said.
    The prime minister was presented with a cake whilst Carrie, now his wife, led staff in a chorus of happy birthday, ITV said.
    Johnson’s transport minister, Grant Shapps, said he understood voter concerns about such reports but that Johnson clearly did not organise to be given a birthday cake.
    “I understand the sense of concern about the sort of reports we see on the front of the newspapers,” Shapps told Sky.    “Mistakes were made.”
    “Just to be clear, the prime minister clearly didn’t organise to be given a cake; some people came forward and thought it would be appropriate on his birthday to present a cake.”
    Johnson has given a variety of explanations about the previous allegations of parties: first he said no rules had been broken but then he apologised to the British people for the apparent hypocrisy of such gatherings.
    An official investigation by Cabinet Office official Sue Gray into the lockdown parties is due to be published later this week.    Shapps said Gray was aware of the birthday party details.
    ITV said one of the attendees was interior designer Lulu Lytle, who was renovating Johnson’s flat in the building.    ITV also said it understood that family friends were hosted in the prime minister’s residence on the previous evening.
    His office denied this claim.
    “This is totally untrue,” a spokesperson told ITV.    “In line with the rules at the time, the prime minister hosted a small number of family members outside that evening.”
    Lytle’s company said she was not invited to any birthday celebration but was in Downing Street on the day and had briefly entered the Cabinet Room as requested.
    Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said Johnson had to go.
    “This is yet more evidence that we have got a prime minister who believes that the rules that he made don’t apply to him.”
    “We cannot afford to go on with this chaotic, rudderless government.    The prime minister is a national distraction and he’s got to go.”
(Reporting by Alistair Smout and Paul Sandle; writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Kate Holton)

1/25/2022 Royal Crown Slips As Elizabeth Prepares To Mark 70 Years As Queen by Ben Makori and Michael Holden
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony marking her official birthday in the Quadrangle
of Windsor Castle in Windsor, Britain June 12, 2021. Chris Jackson/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    WINDSOR, England (Reuters) – Celebrations this year marking Queen Elizabeth’s seven-decade reign will mask a less happy reality for the world’s pre-eminent royal family: the British monarchy is being questioned in ways that were unthinkable for most of the last 70 years.
    From the U.S. sex abuse court case facing son Prince Andrew to her grandson Prince Harry and his wife’s allegations of racism in the royal household, rarely has the family of 95-year-old Elizabeth, who became queen on Feb. 6, 1952, faced such scrutiny and damaging headlines.
    Such is the depth of respect for the queen that while she lives, the institution that goes back nearly 1,000 years looks safe. What comes next is less certain.
    “The monarchy and the queen are synonymous for most people,” Graham Smith, chief executive of anti-monarchy group Republic, which has stepped up its campaigning, told Reuters.
    “Once we’re past the end of the queen’s reign, all bets are off as to where public opinion is going to go.”
    He said while only an act of parliament would be needed to end the monarchy, it was highly likely there would have to be a referendum first.
    The monarchy’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed since her ancestor Norman King William I’s 1066 conquest of England, but only during the decade that followed the execution of King Charles I in 1649 has Britain been a republic.
    During Elizabeth’s reign, lows came in the 1990s amid the failings of three of her children’s marriages and the 1997 death of Princess Diana, first wife of heir Prince Charles.
    Highs included the public outpourings of support at previous jubilees, the 2011 royal marriage of Elizabeth’s grandson – and future king – Prince William, and the birth of royal children.
    Buckingham Palace said the four days of celebrations in June to mark Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee will allow “national moments of reflection on the queen’s 70 years of service.”
    A spokesman declined to comment on questions about the monarchy’s long-term future.
    Supporters see the queen as a stabilising factor, and cite economic benefits the monarchy brings Britain through tourism.    Opponents argue the institution is a bastion of undeserved privilege, partially funded by taxpayers and undermined by some members’ behaviour.
    Andrew, 61, reputed by media to be Elizabeth’s favourite of her four children, was stripped of his royal patronages and military titles this month as he fights allegations of sex abuse in a U.S. lawsuit.
    “For the monarchy it is an extinction-level event.    You can’t spend a thousand years telling everyone you’re special and then everyone discovers, in real time, in a court case, that you are really not,” columnist Camilla Long wrote in the Sunday Times newspaper.
    Meanwhile, Prince Harry, once the Windsors’ most popular member, and his American wife Meghan gave up their royal duties to move to Los Angeles from where they have delivered some barbed attacks on the family and Buckingham Palace.
    Charles has come under scrutiny after Michael Fawcett, his right-hand man and close confidant for decades, quit his job running one of the heir’s main charities amid allegations he had offered honours in return for donations.
    Fawcett has not commented publicly on the allegations.
    “Whether (these scandals) are enough in themselves to make enough people in Britain think that as a result we should have no monarchy, I would doubt,” said royal biographer Penny Junor.
    Polls suggest a comfortable majority believe the monarchy should remain, with 83% holding a positive view of Elizabeth, according to one survey in December.    But there are worrying signs for the royals.
    Last November Barbados ditched the queen as head of state, Charles is much less popular and support among younger people appears to be waning, with polls suggesting a majority under 30 favour getting rid of the monarchy.
    “I don’t think it holds much importance any more,” said student Margaux Butler, 20, in Windsor, where the queen now spends most of her time.
    “I despise that idea (of Charles being king).    I don’t mind the royal family in general but I think he’s a bit controversial and I think a lot of younger people feel the same.”
    However, ending the monarchy will take more than apathy towards Charles or damning tabloid headlines about Andrew or Harry.    Indeed, those same papers now rarely run negative articles about Charles, his wife Camilla, William and his wife Kate, all of whom suffered intense criticism in the past.
    For some Britons, scandals embroiling Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the tumult of Donald Trump’s U.S. presidency also make having an elected head of state a less attractive proposition.
    The establishment too remains firmly behind the royals.
    There is no sign the ruling Conservative Party would countenance an end to the monarchy, while the main opposition Labour Party suffered a 2019 election drubbing partly because of its former leader’s perceived lack of patriotism.
    Johnson last year remarked, after the death of Prince Philip, how Elizabeth’s husband of 73 years had helped his wife steer “the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”
    The royals themselves are also conscious of how they must adapt to a changing world.
    While politicians suffered the “brutal” repudiation by the public at the ballot box, “for us, a royal family, however, the message is often harder to read,” Elizabeth, who has never given an interview during her reign, said in a 1997 speech.
    “I have done my best … to interpret it correctly through the years of our marriage and of my reign as your queen.    And we shall, as a family, try together to do so in the future.”
(Writing by Michael Holden; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Mike Collett-White)

1/25/2022 Thousands Evacuated From Athens Motorway As Snowstorm Hits Greece
A police car drives past the Greek parliament building, following heavy
snowfall in Athens, Greece, January 25, 2022. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
    ATHENS (Reuters) – Rescue crews, including the army, worked through the night to evacuate thousands of people stranded in their cars on an Athens motorway after a severe snowstorm swept across Greece on     Monday, blanketing the capital and causing traffic chaos.
    More than 3,500 people had been evacuated by early Tuesday, some abandoning their cars on foot, but around 1,200 cars remained stuck on the Attiki Odos, the capital’s main ring-road, government spokesperson Giannis Oikonomou said.
    “We had a very difficult night and a superhuman evacuation effort is underway on Attiki Odos,” Oikonomou told Greek television.
    “We are still in a very difficult phase, as the forecasts indicate that we will face (weather) difficulties again in a while,” he said.
    As temperatures fell overnight, soldiers handed out food, water and blankets to drivers, some of whom were stranded in their cars for more than 10 hours.    TV footage showed the road and vehicles covered in snow.
    Authorities declared Tuesday a public holiday, shutting public offices and private businesses except supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations in the greater Athens area and on some islands.
    Parts of Athens were hit by power cuts, and the grid operator said crews were working to restore electricity.     Fifteen passengers were injured when a rail transport vehicle tried to pull a train carrying about 200 passengers which had halted in heavy snow in central Greece.
    The storm, named Elpida, was forecast to persist until Wednesday.
(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris, editing by Ed Osmond)

1/25/2022 WHO Board Halts Ethiopia’s Anti-Tedros Speech, Postpones Probe Decision
FILE PHOTO: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks
during a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, December 20, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
(Corrects headline and lead to show that Ethiopia’s ambassador was cut off by the WHO board ‘chair’, not a WHO ‘official’)
    GENEVA (Reuters) -The chair of a World Health Organization body cut off Ethiopia’s envoy on Monday as he tried to deliver a speech criticising the global organisation’s leader and postponed a decision on a request from Addis Ababa to investigate his actions.
    The flare-up came at the WHO’s week-long Executive Board meeting which is set to discuss a bid by current director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, from Ethiopia’s Tigray region, for a second term as head of the U.N. health agency.
    WHO Executive Board chair Patrick Amoth said at the start of the hybrid meeting in Geneva that it would “set aside” a request from Ethiopia to investigate Tedros for allegedly supporting rebellious forces fighting the Ethiopian government.
    None of the board’s 34 members, which do not include Ethiopia, objected.
    However, Ethiopia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Zenebe Kebede Korcho, later sought to deliver a virtual speech criticising Tedros but was twice prevented from doing so and eventually cut off after an awkward exchange.
    “Further discussion of the matter is not germane and is therefore out of order under the relevant rules of procedure,” said Amoth, who is from Kenya which is one of 28 countries that nominated Tedros for a second term as WHO chief.
    Before his intervention was cut, Zenebe accused Tedros of “using his office to advance his personal political interest at the expense of the interests of Ethiopia.”    He added: “It is my sovereign right to make a statement before this body.”
    Tedros, who was backed by Ethiopia for the top WHO job in the 2017 election, said earlier this month that aid was being blocked from getting through to Tigray, where rebellious forces are fighting the central government.
    On Jan. 14, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry accused Tedros, who previously served as the Ethiopian health minister and foreign minister, of spreading misinformation about the war in the country’s north.
    The ministry said that Tedros’ remarks compromised the WHO’s credibility and independence.
    Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu said the decision announced by Amoth on Monday showed that the WHO was being partial in the matter.
    The government reiterated its call for the WHO to investigate Tedros, Legesse told Reuters in a text message.
    The WHO said at the time that Ethiopia’s foreign affairs ministry had sent a diplomatic communication, called a note verbale.
    Thousands have been killed in the conflict in Tigray, which spread to two neighbouring regions in northern Ethiopia before Tigrayan forces were forced to withdraw back to Tigray in December.
(Additional reporting by Giulia Paravicini in Nairobi; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Nick Macfie and Hugh Lawson)

1/25/2022 U.S. Deputy Special Envoy For Iran Leaves Post Amid Iran Nuclear Talks by Humeyra Pamuk
FILE PHOTO: Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Enrique Mora and Iran's
chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani with delegations wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA
Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria December 9, 2021. EU Delegation in Vienna/EEAS/Handout via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A senior member of the U.S. team negotiating with Iran has left the role amid a report of differences of opinion on the way forward, as the urgency to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal intensifies.
    A State Department official confirmed on Monday that Richard Nephew, U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Iran, is no longer on the negotiating team, but was still a State Department employee.    The official did not give a reason for the change but said personnel moves were ‘very common’ a year into an administration.
    The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that Nephew left after differences of opinion within the U.S. negotiating team on Iran.    The paper said he had advocated a tougher posture in the current negotiations.
    The departure comes at a critical time as the United States and its European allies last week said there were just weeks to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
    Indirect talks between Iran and the United States resumed almost two months ago.    Western diplomats have indicated they were hoping for a breakthrough over the next few weeks, but sharp differences remain.    Iran has rejected any deadline imposed by Western powers.
    Diplomats and analysts say the longer Iran remains outside the deal, the more nuclear expertise it will gain, shortening the time it might need to race to build a bomb if it chose to, thereby undermining the accord’s original purpose.    Tehran denies it has ever sought to develop nuclear arms.
    The State Department official said the withdrawal of the Trump administration from the JCPOA had left the Biden administration with a crisis.    Finding a way forward could lead to disagreements.
    “Working our way out of this crisis requires many difficult, closely balanced decisions, on which there can be reasonable disagreement … The senior-most levels of our Government have given careful consideration to these choices, weighed multiple views, and settled on a policy,” the official said.
    The U.S. State Department on Monday repeated that it remains open to meeting with Iranian officials directly to discuss the nuclear deal and other issues after Iran’s foreign minister said Tehran would consider this but had made no decisions.
    “We are prepared to meet directly.    We have consistently held the position that it would be much more productive to engage with Iran directly on both JCPOA negotiations and on other issues,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
    Price also said the United States had not made Iran’s release of four Americans a condition of reaching an agreement on reviving the nuclear deal, saying that achieving such an agreement was “at best, an uncertain proposition.”
    Iranian Americans, whose U.S. citizenship is not recognized by Tehran, are often pawns between the two nations, now at odds over whether to revive the fraying 2015 pact under which Iran limited its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
    “We want to see these Americans … returned as soon as possible,” Price said.    “i>It would not serve our purposes – it would not serve their purposes – to tie their fates to a proposition that … is uncertain at best.”
(Reporting By Humeyra Pamuk, Simon Lewis and Arshad Mohammed; Writing by Arshad Mohammed and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Leslie Adler, Mark Porter and Richard Pullin)

1/25/2022 Dershowitz: Jan. 6 Committee Similar To McCarthyism Witch-Hunt by OAN Newsroom
File – Alan Dershowitz attends Hulu Presents “Triumph’s Election Special” produced by Funny Or Die
at NEP Studios on February 3, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
    A Harvard Law professor compared the January 6 Committee to a tactic used in the 1950s to oust accused communists who had no actual ties to the party.    Legal scholar Alan Dershowitz said the panel is not a valid congressional body and it’s actually in violation of legislative rules.
    “It reminds me a little bit of McCarthyism, where you had committees like the House Un-American Activities Committee, which didn’t have an appropriate legislative purpose,” he explained.    “They were just trying to subpoena people for political and ideological purposes.”
    In a recent interview with Breitbart, Dershowitz said the panel is being used by Democrats to target political opponents similar to the witch-hunts of 1950s McCarthyism era.    This refers to the vocal campaigns against alleged communists believed to be in federal institutions who would go on to be blacklisted or fired from their positions despite not having any real ties to communism.
    Dershowitz added, former President Donald Trump’s assertions of executive privilege are valid, but the Supreme Court has yet to affirm that.
    “But what the Supreme Court has so far said, it hasn’t decided the course and that is whether or not an incumbent president can deny the right of a prior president to assert executive privilege over conversations he had while he was in the office,” he explained.    “The answer to that should be clear and unanimous by the Supreme Court.    Of course, the former or old president has the right to assert executive privilege, otherwise privilege is meaningless.”
    Dershowitz went on to say actions of the January 6 Committee are eroding executive privilege, which may result in future presidents being unable to make urgent decisions.    He warned the tough decision will be outlining which conversations fall under executive privilege and which don’t.
    The law professor added that the rulings made on a person-by-person document by document basis that the Supreme Court has been proceeding may ultimately challenge the court’s legitimacy.        However, Dershowitz admitted he’s not completely unbiased when it comes to this subject.
    “I’m involved in one such case, so I’m a little biased,” said the law professor.    “I’m representing the people from the MyPillow company who are subject to a subpoena and we are challenging that subpoena on a variety of grounds.    And so, I’m not a neutral or constitutionally objective analyst when it comes to that.    I don’t want to put my own bias on the table.”
    Since the Supreme Court shot down Trump’s request to bar the Democrat-led panel from receiving documents from his office, the select committee has obtained those materials.    They have yet to make the documents public or even given an update on how far they have delved into them.
    Dershowitz is not the first person to question the legitimacy of the panel with several raising concerns of the potential for political bias among its members.

1/25/2022 Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Discusses ‘Mother Of All Sanctions’ Against Russia by OAN Newsroom
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., walks towards the senate floor at the Capitol
in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)
    Senators from both sides of the aisle discussed the developing situation between Russia and Ukraine.    During a bipartisan Zoom meeting Monday, eight senators formulated a bill to level financial disincentives against Russia in the case it invades Ukraine.
    Foreign Relations Committee chair, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) called the legislation the “mother of all sanctions.”
    “I want to be crystal clear to those listening to this hearing in Moscow, Kyiv and other capitals around the world: A Russian invasion will trigger devastating economic sanctions the likes of which we have never seen before,” Menendez stated.    “(Vladimir) Putin doesn’t get to redraw the map of Europe. Europeans should be thinking about that.    He doesn’t get to bully the people of an independent nation into submission.”
    The Democrat senator continued by noting that though Putin may dictate the current course of events in his country, he has no right to tyrannize Ukraine at his disposal.    Menendez stressed that Ukrainians won’t stand for it and neither should the U.S.
    “Let me be clear: These are not run-of-the-mill sanctions,” said the committee chairman.    “What is being discussed is at the maximum end of that spectrum, or as I have called it, the mother of all sanctions.    And I hope that we can come together in a bipartisan way to find a legislative path forward soon so that we can achieve that.”
    Committee Republicans favored preemptive sanctions to be enacted while Democrats wished to only issue penalties in the case of an invasion.    The senators hope to reach an agreement by the end of the week.
    Sen. Menendez’s Opening Remarks at Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on U.S. – Russia Policy:
    Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined a meeting of EU foreign ministers amid the ongoing speculation of a possible Russian invasion.
    Glad to join @JosepBorrellF and EU member state counterparts to give a brief on my recent visit to Kyiv, Berlin, and Geneva and discuss efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine.    If Russia chooses conflict, we will impose massive consequences and severe costs. — Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) January 25, 2022
    During a video call on Monday, Blinken told the EU the U.S. is committed to a diplomatic solution of tensions in Ukraine.    He added, it’s unclear if Russia would stop its efforts to “rebuild the Soviet empire.”
    For their part, EU diplomats reaffirmed their commitment to security and territorial integrity of Ukraine.    The EU also said it’s considering a financial aid package of $1.4 billion for Ukraine, which it says may help defuse tensions.
    “This package will help Ukraine now to address its financing needs due to the conflict,” explained European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.    “We count on the Council and the European Parliament to adopt this emergency macro-financial assistance as soon as possible.    We will then proceed to the rapid disbursement of the first tranche of 600 million euros.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen makes a statement on EU financial support for
Ukraine at EU headquarters in Brussels, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. (John Thys, Pool Photo via AP)
    Secretary Blinken also briefed his EU counterparts on last week’s talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as bilateral discussions between the U.S. and Russia have yet to produce tangible results.

1/25/2022 Baltimore Firefighters Killed In 2-Alarm Fire, 4th In Critical Condition by OAN Newsroom
Three Baltimore firefighters died and one was left critically injured
by a fire in a vacant home. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
    Officials for the Baltimore City Fire Department provided an update after three of its members were killed with another left fighting for his life after a building partially collapsed on them while battling a fire.     In a press conference Monday, Baltimore Fire Chief Niles Ford tragically confirmed the passing of three of his firefighters: Lt. Paul Butrim, Kelsey Sadler and Kenny Lacayo.
    Chief Ford said the firefighters responded to a 2-alarm fire in a three-story vacant row home early Monday morning. As they were inside battling the blaze, the building partially collapsed and trapped all four members inside.     “Rescue efforts were continued until we were able to remove the other three firefighters,” explained Chief Ford.    “Once removed, two of the firefighters were transported to Shock Trauma where they were pronounced deceased a short time later. The fourth firefighter was pronounced deceased at the scene.”
    Additionally, Dr. Thomas Scalea of Maryland Shock Trauma said John McCaster remains in the hospital where he is listed in serious but stable condition.
    Chief Ford stressed he needs everyone to take care of each other, pray and look out for one another as well as their families.    He added, Baltimore lost three heroes, but some lost family members.
    “Our firefighters see each other like families, so they lost a family member,” he stated.    “So my goal today is to make sure that they heal and turn inward, and we all take care of each other.”
    Currently, there is no word on the cause of the fire, which remains under investigation.

1/25/2022 55 Fla. Sheriffs Endorse Sen. Rubio by OAN Newsroom
WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 07: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) arrives to a luncheon with Senate Republicans at
the U.S. Capitol Building on October 07, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
    Several Florida law enforcement officers are putting their weight behind a Republican lawmakers re-election bid.    A bipartisan group of 55 sheriffs endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio in a Jacksonville press conference Monday.
    Rubio’s possible general election opponent, Rep. Val Demmings, served as the Orlando Police Department’s police chief.    However, Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey alleged the Florida Democrat has promoted a “spirit of lawlessness” while in Congress.
    “The other candidate in this race, however, Val Demmings turned her back on her profession as she stood with the soft on crime crowd out in Washington, D.C.,” stated Sheriff Ivey.    “And in doing so, putting our citizens and law enforcement officers at risk. For someone who claims to have been a cop and to have worn the badge, what she did in Washington, D.C. to support criminals forever tarnished any badge that she ever wore.    And she did it, sadly, to further her own political career.”
    Rubio claimed Demmings, who was an impeachment manager against former President Donald Trump, has voted with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi 100 percent of the time.    The sheriffs also endorsed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at the press conference.

1/25/2022 Biden Apologizes After Calling Reporter A ‘Son Of A Bitch’ by OAN Newsroom
President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting on efforts to lower prices for working families, in the
East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
    Joe Biden apologized after he called a conservative White House correspondent a “son of a bitch.”    During an interview on Monday, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy confirmed Biden called him to apologize, saying the President told him it was nothing personal.
    Biden was caught on a hot mic earlier in the day calling Doocy the name after he tried to ask Biden a question about record high inflation in the U.S.
    This comes as Biden has developed a reputation for responding to tough questions with personal attacks despite repeatedly claiming he’s a champion of the free press.

1/25/2022 Explainer-Germany Plans Vaccine Mandate Amid Qualms Over Rights by Riham Alkousaa
FILE PHOTO: A nurse prepares a shot of "Comirnaty" Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine
at the vaccination centre in the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, Germany January 19, 2022. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi
    BERLIN (Reuters) – German lawmakers are due to debate introducing a bill making vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory.    The idea is facing resistance from politicians as well as ordinary Germans.
    Some of the main issues:
    Why does Germany want to introduce a vaccine mandate?
    The government is worried that rising COVID-19 infections and the risk of new variants could strain the health system next autumn or winter. It wants to increase vaccination rate significantly by then.
    In Germany, around 75% of the population has received at least one shot against the virus – lower than other western European countries such as France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands on 80%, 86%, 83% and 77% respectively.
    When and how does Germany plan to introduce such a mandate?
    The government wants to allow lawmakers to freely put forward proposals for a vaccine mandate.    Chancellor Olaf Scholz said this parliamentary procedure “gives the process the grandeur it needs.”
    On Wednesday, Germany’s lower house of parliament will debate the topic.    Details of the bill will be finalised after the debate, and a draft law should be ready for a vote in parliament by>     However, it’s not clear if a future bill can muster a majority to pass.    Some lawmakers from the Greens and pro-business Free Democrats – the junior coalition partners of Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD) – are opposed to the measure.
    At what age would the mandate be introduced?
    Scholz wants the mandate to apply to everyone aged 18 and older.    Austria has set the same age for its vaccine mandate.
    Other lawmakers suggested imposing the mandate on over 50s as they have a higher risk of developing life-threatening COVID-19 symptoms.    A similar step was taken in Italy.
    How many doses would the mandate impose?    For how long would the law be valid?
    The bill could impose three doses of vaccination and will have a time limit set by experts, said Dirk Wiese, a lawmaker involved in initiating the bill.
    “It certainly will not be for just a few months, but rather one to two years,” Wiese told DPA news agency.
    What happens if people don’t get vaccinated?
    Refusing vaccination entails a financial penalty in line with a person’s income, Wiese said.
    What do Germans think of vaccine mandates?    Which parties are for or against it?
    Around 60% of Germans are in favour of a vaccine mandate, a YouGov survey showed on Sunday.
    A poll by ZDF broadcaster earlier this month showed that more than 70% of Germans affiliated with the Greens, the Social Democrats and the conservatives are for a vaccine mandate.
    Only 52% of FDP voters and supporters of the leftist Die Linke party support a vaccination mandate, the ZDF poll showed.    Only 10% of voters who support the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party support mandatory vaccination.
    What are the main obstacles facing a vaccine mandate?
    The bill could face a legal challenge as it’s seen by some as a violation of the constitution’s second article, which guarantees citizens’ right to self-determination over their own bodies.
    “The state is violating that right to physical integrity when it says ‘I dictate that you must take this drug’,” said Steffen Rabe, the chairman of “Doctors for Individual Vaccination Decisions” association which opposes a mandate.
    The absence of a general registry for vaccination could be another obstacle, as it limits the government’s ability to monitor who is vaccinated and who isn’t.
    Setting up a vaccination registry takes a long time and is controversial given Germany’s strict privacy and data protection laws, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said last week.
(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Joseph Nasr and William Maclean)

1/26/2022 Oil up $2.02 to $85.23, DOW down 68 to 34,297.

1/26/2022 Report Into UK PM Johnson Lockdown Gatherings Due Soon – Truss
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks outside Downing Street
in London, Britain, January 25, 2022. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra
    LONDON (Reuters) – The findings of an investigation into gatherings at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office that may have broken COVID-19 lockdown laws will be published soon, foreign minister Liz Truss said on Wednesday.
    An internal inquiry into allegations of lockdown parties at Johnson’s offices could be published as soon as Wednesday, delivering findings that might determine the prime minister’s future.    Police have also launched an investigation.
    Truss said Johnson had not received the report into events at his Downing Street residence, and people should wait for the inquiry’s findings before commenting further on his future.
    “It sounds like it will come out very soon.    So I suggest we wait for the facts rather than discuss various pieces of speculation about what might happen,” Truss told Sky News.
    Truss said she had not attended or been invited to any parties, and she said her support for Johnson was “unwavering.”
    “He has my complete support,” she said.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Alistair Smout; Editing by William Schomberg)

1/26/2022 UK Says Not Ruling Out Sanctions On Russia’s Putin
A person walks in front of the Russian embassy in London, Britain,
January 23, 2022. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls January 26, 2022
    LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is not ruling out sanctions targetted at Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin in person if Russia invades Ukraine, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Wednesday.
    U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he would consider personal sanctions on Putin if Russia invades Ukraine, as Western leaders stepped up military preparations and made plans to shield Europe from a potential energy supply shock.
    Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops around Ukraine and the West fears it may invade in an attempt to annex its former Soviet republic.
    Asked about possible sanctions on Putin, Truss told Sky: “We’re not ruling anything out.”
    “We’ll be bringing forward new legislation to make our sanctions regime tougher so we are able to target more companies and individuals in Russia.    We will be bringing that forward in the next few days.    I’m not ruling that out.”
    Truss said the United Kingdom was supplying defensive weapons to Ukraine.
    Russia has repeatedly said it has no intention of invading Ukraine, that it can deploy troops wherever it wants on its own territory and that the West is gripped by Russophobia.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Alistair Smout; Editing by Kate Holton and William Schomberg)

1/26/2022 U.S. Weighs Letting Diplomats Leave China Over Tough COVID Rules by Michael Martina
FILE PHOTO: Police officers wearing face masks, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
stand guard outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China September 12, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. State Department is considering whether to authorize departures for American diplomats and their families in China who wish to leave due to the U.S. government’s inability to prevent Chinese authorities from subjecting them to intrusive pandemic control measures, sources told Reuters.
    Two sources familiar with the issue said the U.S. Embassy on Monday had sent the request to Washington for formal sign off, as China ramps up COVID-19 containment protocols ahead of the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics in less than two weeks.
    The sources, speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, added that some embassy staff are upset the U.S. government has been unwilling or unable to exempt American officials from strict quarantine measures.
    The rules include possible forced admittance to COVID fever clinics and separation from children.
    The State Department told Reuters in a statement on Tuesday the operating status at its embassy and consulates in China had not changed.
    “Any change in operating status of this nature would be predicated solely on the health, safety, and security of our colleagues and their family members,” a department spokesperson said.
    In Beijing, a foreign ministry spokesman said China’s anti-epidemic measures were scientific and conformed with diplomatic treaties.
    Leaving China would increase the chances of getting infected, the spokesman, Zhao Lijian, told a daily news briefing.
    One person said the U.S. Embassy conducted an internal survey showing that as many as 25% of staff and family members would choose to leave China as soon as possible.
    Home quarantine for diplomats should be a baseline requirement, and admission to Chinese fever clinics and hospitals should be voluntary, the person said, adding that the U.S. government should have imposed retaliatory measures for such requirements but failed to do so.
    A second person said embassy leadership had failed to get appropriate assurances from China on the treatment of U.S. diplomats throughout the pandemic.
    In the early months of the pandemic, the U.S. government evacuated some 1,300 U.S. diplomats and family members from China, and the two governments remained at an impasse for months over testing and quarantine procedures for officials.
    China requires foreign diplomats to abide by pandemic control rules like quarantines and testing on arrival, although some foreign envoys have not had to enter government-designated quarantine hotels.
    China has quickly stepped up measures to block the further spread of COVID as the Feb. 4 opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics approaches, though flare-ups of the virus have persisted throughout the city.
    One Beijing district on Tuesday was set to begin a new round of tests among its roughly 2 million residents.
    China’s nationalist Global Times tabloid called the State Department’s consideration of the policy a “dirty trick” intended to disrupt China’s hosting of the Olympics.
    The United States has led several allied and partner countries in a diplomatic boycott of the Games due to what it says is the Chinese government’s ongoing genocide toward Uyghurs and other Muslim groups in its western region of Xinjiang.
(Reporting by Michael Martina;Editing by Lincoln Feast and Clarence Fernandez)

1/26/2022 Biden Warns Putin With Sanctions As West Steps Up Ukraine Defenses by Jeff Mason, Humeyra Pamuk and Dmitry Antonov
Ukrainian service members unload a shipment of military aid delivered as part
of the United States of America's security assistance to Ukraine, at the Boryspil
International Airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine January 25, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
    WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he would consider personal sanctions on President Vladimir Putin if Russia invades Ukraine, as Western leaders stepped up military preparations and made plans to shield Europe from a potential energy supply shock.
    The rare sanctions threat came as NATO places forces on standby and reinforces eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets in response to Russia’s troop build-up near its border with Ukraine.
    Russia denies planning an attack and says the crisis is being driven by NATO and U.S. actions.    It is demanding security guarantees from the West, including a promise by NATO never to admit Ukraine.    Moscow sees the former Soviet republic as a buffer between Russia and NATO countries.
    Following multiple rounds of U.S.-Russia talks over Ukraine that failed to reach a breakthrough, Biden, who has long warned Moscow of economic consequences, upped the ante on Tuesday by saying Putin could personally face sanctions.
    If Russia were to move into Ukraine with the estimated 100,000 soldiers it has massed near the border, Biden said it would be the “largest invasion since World War Two” and would “change the world.”
    Speaking to reporters, Biden was asked if he would see himself imposing sanctions on Putin directly if Russia invaded Ukraine.    “Yes,” he responded.    “I would see that.”
    Direct U.S. sanctions on foreign leaders are rare but not unprecedented.    Others who have faced sanctions include Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Libya’s Muammer Gaddafi.
    On Tuesday, a U.S. plane carrying military equipment and munitions landed in Kyiv, the third installment of a $200 million package to shore up Ukraine’s defenses.
    The Pentagon has put on alert about 8,500 U.S. troops in Europe and the United States to be ready to deploy to NATO’s eastern flank if needed.
    Russia said it was watching with great concern and accused Washington of fuelling tensions over Ukraine, repeating its line that the crisis was being driven by U.S. and NATO actions rather than by its own build-up of forces near the Ukrainian border.
    Biden said on Tuesday he may deploy U.S. troops in the nearer term but ruled out sending unilateral U.S. forces to Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.
    “There is not going to be any American forces moving into Ukraine,” he said.
    So far, NATO has about 4,000 troops in multinational battalions in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, backed by tanks, air defenses and intelligence and surveillance units.
    As Western leaders appeal for unity, differences have emerged among European nations over how best to respond.    Putin is due to meet Wednesday with the heads of some of the biggest companies in Italy, Russia’s fifth biggest trading partner, despite the rising tensions.
    “It is absolutely vital that… the West is united now, because it is our unity now that will be much more effective in deterring any Russian aggression,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, adding Britain was discussing with the United States the possibility of banning Russia from the SWIFT global payments system.
    French President Emmanuel Macron said he would seek clarification over Russia’s intentions in a phone call with Putin set for Friday.    Political advisers from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France are due to meet in Paris on Wednesday.
    With fears of a new Russian military assault high after its invasion of Crimea in 2014, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged his compatriots on Tuesday to stay calm and said work was underway to bring about a meeting between him and the leaders of Russia, Germany and France.
    “There are no rose-colored glasses, no childish illusions, everything is not simple. … But there is hope,” Zelenskiy said in a televised address.    “Protect your body from viruses, your brain from lies, your heart from panic.”
    Ukraine is committed to seeking a diplomatic solution to the current tension with Russia, its ambassador to Japan, Sergiy Korsunsky, said on Wednesday, adding that he saw little chance of all-out war, although there might be smaller conflicts.
    Korsunsky warned an attack on a country with more than a dozen nuclear reactors would bring about a devastating regional impact on Europe.
    “I believe that full-scale war is very, very, very difficult to expect, but we may see more localised conflict,” Korsunsky told a news conference in the Japanese capital Tokyo.
    “If we come to military terms, let me tell you, we are very much ready, our army is very well prepared.”
    In Washington, senior Biden administration officials said the United States was in talks with major energy-producing countries and companies around the world over a potential diversion of supplies to Europe if Russia invades Ukraine.
    The EU depends on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies.    Any interruptions to its Russian imports would exacerbate an existing energy crisis caused by shortages.
    “We’ve… been working to identify additional volumes of non-Russian natural gas from North Africa and the Middle East, Asia, and the United States,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters.
    “We’re in discussion with major natural gas producers around the globe to understand their capacity and willingness to temporarily surge natural gas output and to allocate these volumes to European buyers,” she said.
    Psaki and other officials did not name specific countries or companies but said they included a broad range of suppliers, including sellers of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
    An escalated conflict would likely further increase energy costs for many countries, keeping headline inflation rates elevated for longer, said Gita Gopinath, first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Timothy Heritage, Gareth Jones and Rami Ayyub; Editing by Will Dunham, Howard Goller, Rosalba O’Brien and Michael Perry)

1/26/2022 Exclusive-U.S. Funding To WHO Fell By 25% During Pandemic - Document by Francesco Guarascio and Emma Farge
FILE PHOTO: The World Health Organization logo is pictured at the entrance of the
WHO building, in Geneva, Switzerland, December 20, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
    BRUSSELS/GENEVA (Reuters) – U.S. financial contributions to the World Health Organization (WHO) have fallen by 25% during the coronavirus pandemic, provisional data show, with Washington’s future support to the United Nations agency under review.     The large drop in funding versus the previous two-year period arose from cuts decided by former U.S. President Donald Trump that reveal for the first time the scale of the Trump administration’s retreat from the U.N. body.
    U.S. funds are set to go up again in the WHO’s next two-year budget following new pledges in December including $280 million by President Joe Biden’s administration.    However, the Biden administration has also raised doubts about Washington’s future support to the global organisation.
    The U.N. agency did with over $200 million less from the United States in 2020 and 2021, according to provisional WHO data contained in a budget document reviewed by Reuters that has not yet been made public, though it managed to raise more funds from other donors which enabled an increase of its total budget.
    Washington paid $672 million to the WHO for its latest two-year budget, down from $893 million in 2018-19, the provisional data showed.
    As a result, the United States is no longer the WHO’s top donor, with Germany having replaced it gradually through transfers of more than a billion dollars over the last two years.
Graphic: WHO funding –     The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.    A WHO spokesperson did not immediately provide an official comment.
    The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the third largest donor to the WHO, with $584 million in 2020-21, largely spent on a global programme to eradicate polio.    The foundation did not immediately reply for a request for comment.
    Over the past two years, U.S. funds went down mostly in 2020 – Trump’s last full year in the White House – amid a sharp fall in so-called voluntary contributions.
    Funding doubled in 2021 when Biden took over, but the increase was not enough to fully restore the U.S. financing level compared to previous periods.
    Trump cut funding and moved to withdraw the United States from the WHO, accusing it of being too close to China and having mismanaged the first phase of the pandemic – accusations that the WHO has denied.
    The Biden administration brought Washington back into the WHO and vowed to restore funding but has also voiced doubts about the WHO’s ability to tackle new challenges, including from China.
    Part of the U.S. financial contributions were delayed by the WHO to next year. But even factoring this in, the fall in U.S. funds was still about 20%, WHO data show.
    About one-third of U.S. funds were mandatory membership fees, which remained stable compared to past years at around $230 million per biennium.
    This is considered by the WHO the best funding because it allows higher flexibility in spending and permits the agency to channel the money to where it is most needed.
    But the majority of funding went to areas selected by the U.S. government.
    This is part of a wider trend, with the WHO having received in total just less than 20% of its funding in recent years from these mandatory contributions, without strings attached.
    The WHO document showed that one of the areas underfunded as of Dec. 21 was country preparation for health emergencies, such as the current pandemic, which is only 73% funded.
    WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated on Tuesday that the current funding structure was restrictive.
    “The problem is still whatever we have done is mainly an earmarked budget, so it’s not really flexible enough,” he told the WHO’s Executive Board during a public debate, saying that the current financing model was unsustainable.
    The United States is opposing a plan to raise mandatory fees, or assessed contributions, to 50% of the WHO’s budget in coming years.
    “The U.S. seeks to better understand the current funding mechanisms, efficiencies and decision-making before considering an increase in assessed contributions,” U.S. health official Mara Burr told the WHO board on Tuesday, noting Washington supported efforts to address gaps in financing for preparedness.
    By far the largest part of the WHO’s funding comes from voluntary contributions from states or private donors who decide the sectors or even the projects where they should be used.
    This is one factor that has led the Geneva-based agency to delay the use of some of the funds since they could not all immediately be devoted to fighting the pandemic.
(This story refiles to fix typo to ‘have’ in lede paragraph)
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio in Brussels and Emma Farge in Geneva; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Jeff Mason in Washington and Mrinalika Roy in Bangalore; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

1/26/2022 Fla. Gov. DeSantis Slams Halt Of Antibody Coronavirus Treatments by OAN Newsroom
A monoclonal antibody treatments center is closed after federal health regulators claimed the treatment was ineffective
against treating the widespread COVID-19 Omicron variant, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, in Pembroke Pines, Fla.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis vowed to fight the decision by federal regulators. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)
    Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has vowed to fight back against the Biden administration after authorization was revoked for two antibody coronavirus treatments.    The Republican slammed the decision at a press conference Tuesday as federal regulators pulled Regeneron and Eli Lily treatments on Monday.
    Due to their decision, the Florida Department of Health announced it would be closing all of its monoclonal antibody treatment sites until further notice.
    “Early this morning, thousands of Floridians woke up to news that their appointments to get treatment for COVID-19 infections were canceled by the Biden administration, which revoked, outright revoked authorization for two very popular monoclonal antibody treatments that the state of Florida really pioneered over the summer,” explained the governor.    “And that we’ve worked hard to make available to our residents who needed treatment.”
    The Food and Drug Administration said the decision was due to the treatments being “highly unlikely to be active against the Omicron variant.”    However, DeSantis said the drug is still effective and that he believes there’s a different reason behind the decision.
    “They had months and months and months to stock pile this, and they chose not to do it,” he stated.    “So I think part of it is, I think there’s politics involved…I just think they don’t have enough treatments to go around and I think they realize that.    And I think it would look very bad to be able to admit that, so instead they’re saying this is revoked.”
    The Florida governor said they are going “above and beyond” to deny people access.    Meanwhile, the FDA said the drugs could be reauthorized for use if they prove to be effective against future variants.

1/27/2022 Sen. Tuberville: Biden Can’t Get His Priorities Straight by OAN Newsroom
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee
on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Caroline Brehman/Pool via AP)
    Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) criticized the Biden administration for failing to provide therapeutics to treat COVID-19.    The Alabama lawmaker had some strong words for the President, saying the Democrat must get his priorities straight.
    While taking to Twitter this week, Tuberville said Americans need real leadership from the White House as multiple crises sweep the country.    He then doubled down on his claims from an interview with Tony Perkins on Washington Watch in which he said therapeutics can help defeat COVID-19, but Democrats fail to acknowledge that.
    The Alabama Republican highlighted the Biden administration’s increasingly bizarre COVID-19 regulations, saying he’s curious about who is really calling the shots at the White House.
    “One thing that I want to find out is who is running the show?” asked the Republican.    “You’ve got to have a head coach so to speak.    Like President Trump had Operation Warp Speed.    Who in the White House is running the show?    And Dr. Fauci stood up and basically said, you know, we have one person that we all answer to over there.    Nobody knows that it is hardly.”
    Tuberville warned Biden’s COVID-19 regulations are making life more difficult for everyday Americans and stressed they deserve better.    This comes as Republicans criticize the Biden administration for continuing to push coronavirus regulations on Americans while suppressing treatment like Ivermectin that are proven to alleviate COVID-19 symptoms and prevent loss of life.

1/27/2022 UK PM Johnson Has Not Been Interviewed By Police Over Party Investigation - Spokesman
FILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves as he leaves
Downing Street, in London, Britain, January 19, 2022. REUTERS/John Sibley
    LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not been interviewed by the police about their investigation into alleged parties in his Downing Street residence during coronavirus lockdowns, his spokesman said on Thursday.
    Asked if Johnson had been interviewed, the spokesman said: “No.”
    Johnson’s office has not yet received civil servant Sue Gray’s report into the possible lockdown breaches, he added.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Writing by Kylie MacLellan; editin by William James)

1/27/2022 Canada’s Trudeau In Isolation After COVID Exposure; Says Test Negative
FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives to speak to news media
outside his home in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle
    OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday he had gone into isolation for five days after being exposed to someone with COVID-19, adding a rapid test result had come back negative.
    “I feel fine and will be working from home.    Stay safe, everyone – and please get vaccinated,” Trudeau tweeted.
    The news means Trudeau, 50, will miss the reopening of Parliament next Monday.    Trudeau, prime minister since November 2015, was reelected for a second time last September.
    Trudeau went into isolation for two weeks in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic after his wife, Sophie, tested positive for COVID-19.
    Several Canadian cabinet ministers, including Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last few months.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

1/27/2022 Factbox-Parties And Leaders Contesting Portugal’s Snap Election
FILE PHOTO: Portugal's Prime Minister and Socialist Party (PS) Secretary General
Antonio Costa arrives to cast his ballot at a polling station during the general election
in Porto, Portugal, January 23, 2022. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes/File Photo
    (Reuters) – Portugal will hold a snap parliamentary election on Sunday that is likely to perpetuate political instability.
    Following are snapshots of the main parties and leaders contesting the vote:
    The centre-left party of Prime Minister Antonio Costa is one of two main rivals that have dominated Portugal’s political landscape since the end of Antonio Salazar’s dictatorship in 1974.    It has been in government the longest since then.
    Costa, 60 and a former mayor of Lisbon, has led two consecutive minority governments since 2015, when the Socialists, with support from the hard left, unseated a centre-right coalition government that had presided over four years of tough austerity under an international bailout.
    His pioneering pact with the Communists and Left Bloc for support in parliament ended in 2019.    This ultimately led to the rejection of the 2022 budget bill in October, which triggered this snap election.
    Under Costa, Portugal achieved solid economic growth and its first budget surplus in 2019 under democracy, winning praise from its European partners.    The hard left argued he is too focused on spending controls.
    The PS had 108 seats in the 230-seat parliament after winning 36% of the vote in 2019.    Opinion polls give it similar levels of support now.
    The centre-right party, which has been the Socialists’ main rival for decades, on Nov. 27 re-elected moderate economist and former mayor of Porto, Rui Rio, as its leader, ending a long period of internal uncertainty.
    The PSD, which promises to cut corporate taxes to spur growth while keeping spending in check, has gained ground in opinion polls since then, and is running hot on Costa’s heels.
    Rio, 64, has suggested the PSD should allow the Socialists to govern for “at least two years” if the latter win the vote without a majority, so that Portugal can carry out reforms and make the most of a windfall of EU pandemic recovery aid.    He hopes the Socialists would do the same if his party wins.
    The bloc reached the peak of its popularity on a wave of anti-austerity protests, winning 19 seats in 2015.    Aside from its many legislative proposals defending salaries, pensions and the welfare state, it has championed civil rights.
    Catarina Martins, a 48-year-old actress-turned-politician, has struck a chord in Portugal’s male-dominated politics by mixing an often tough message with a soft delivery.
    With some voters blaming Left Bloc for the early election, opinion polls show it would lose some seats and possibly its title of the third-largest force in parliament.
CHEGA (‘Enough’)
    Vying for that title is the populist, far-right Chega. Formed in 2019, it won one parliament seat the same year – the first for a far-right party since the end of the dictatorship, and could win over a dozen now.
    It owes much of its growing popularity to its tough-talking leader, former sports commentator Andre Ventura, 39.
    Often borrowing populist rhetoric from former U.S. President Donald Trump’s book and encouraged by the fast rise of similarly-minded anti-immigration, anti-feminist Vox in neighbouring Spain, political analysts see Chega as too toxic a potential partner for any other party in Portugal.
    Led by former metalworker Jeronimo de Sousa, 74, who has honed his skills chastising capitalism for almost five decades in parliament, the party moderated its stance after the 2015 pact with Costa, ditching calls to leave the euro zone.
    Polls show the party, which is allied with the Greens, is likely to lose some of the 10 seats it had in the 2019 legislature that it helped to bring down.
    The conservative CDS-PP is PSD’s traditional ally, but has been bleeding voter support to new right-wing rivals Chega and Liberal Initiative (IL) and risks losing all but one of its five seats.    The IL, which had just one seat, could take five or more.
    The environmentalist animal rights party PAN has sided with the Socialists on various occasions and is seen as a potential kingmaker, along with the eco-Socialist party Livre, to the centre-left, if they get a slim majority altogether with the PS.
(Reporting by Andrei Khalip; Editing by William Maclean)

1/27/2022 Italy Fails To Elect President Once More, Tempers Start To Fray by Angelo Amante and Crispian Balmer
A member of parliament casts a vote to elect Italy's new president, at the
Chamber of Deputies in Rome, Italy, January 27, 2022. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/Pool
    ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s parliament failed to elect a new president on Thursday for a fourth day running, with the main political blocs floundering in their efforts to find a mutually acceptable candidate for the powerful role.
    Neither the centre-right nor centre-left put forward any names for Thursday’s ballot after various parties had shot down a raft of possible contenders, opening the way for intense, behind-the-scenes haggling in the hours ahead.
    “We are faced with the most important choice of the next seven years.    Does it seem normal to you to see the sort of games we have witnessed in the last four days?” said former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.    “I find it scandalous.”
    Prime Minister Mario Draghi remains a contender for the job, but his prospects have faded this week, with many lawmakers clearly reluctant to back him, partly because they fear any change to the government could trigger an early election.
    Unlike in the United States or France, where presidents get elected in a popular vote, in Italy, some 1,009 parliamentarians and regional representatives pick the head of state in a secret ballot, which party leaders sometimes struggle to control.
    Some sort of compromise is inevitable in the fragmented parliament where neither of the main blocs has a majority.
    The easiest solution would be for outgoing President Sergio Mattarella to accept a second mandate.    He has ruled this out, but support for him has continued to rise in the daily ballots, suggesting many lawmakers want him to change his mind.
    On Thursday he won more than 160 votes after securing 125 on Wednesday.
    Much is at stake.    The Italian presidency comes with a seven-year mandate and has considerable power to resolve political crises that regularly batter the country, including appointing prime ministers and dissolving parliament.
    The centre-right bloc, which includes the League, Brothers of Italy and Forza Italia, ordered their electors to abstain on Thursday — a way of preventing lawmakers from taking charge of the vote and pushing their own favourites.
    In a joint statement, centre-right leaders said they wanted to pick a figure with a “high institutional value.”    The wording suggested they could look beyond the world of politics and seek someone from the judicial sphere, or a senior civil servant.
    Among the non-affiliated institutional figures regularly cited in the press are Elisabetta Belloni, a diplomat who heads the secret services and Justice Minister Marta Cartabia, the first woman to chair Italy’s constitutional court.
    Another possible institutional candidate is Sabino Cassese, an 86-year-old former constitutional court judge.
    PD leader Enrico Letta has warned the centre-right not to try to strike backroom deals with an array of unaffiliated lawmakers to get someone from their camp elected>     Parties from both blocs are in Draghi’s year-old national unity government, but Letta wrote on Twitter that any unilateral move over such an important decision would sink the coalition.    “It would be the quickest way to blow everything up,” he said.
    Besides Draghi, other possible contenders floated in the media include former lower house speaker Pier Ferdinando Casini, former premier Giuliano Amato, and Senate speaker Elisabetta Casellati — all of them with long political careers.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante and Giulia Segreti; Writing by Crispian Balmer, Editing by Gareth Jones and Raissa Kasolowsky)

1/27/2022 German Daily COVID Cases Rise Above 200,000, Causing Staff Shortages
People wait in a line, for their vaccination against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in front
of a vaccination centre in Munich, Germany, January 27, 2022. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert
    BERLIN (Reuters) – The number of new COVID-19 infections in Germany exceeded 200,000 in a day for the first time on Thursday, hitting staffing at companies including Lufthansa Cargo.
    The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases reported 203,136 positive tests in the last 24 hours, 69,600 cases more than the same day a week ago.
    The seven-day incidence per 100,000 people rose to 1,017 from 941 the previous day, while another 188 people died, bringing the death toll since the start of the pandemic in early 2020 to 117,314.
(Graphic: Germany COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalisations
    Uwe Janssens, a board member of the DIVI association of emergency and intensive care doctors, told Reuters that hospitals were not currently overloaded, but that could change in coming weeks.
    He warned that if the number of daily infections rises above 300,000 then there could be problems for Germany’s critical infrastructure.    Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has predicted daily cases could exceed 400,000 by mid-February.
    Airline group Lufthansa’s cargo arm said a staffing crunch at its hub in Frankfurt meant it was currently unable to handle sorting of loose freight from the United States, Canada and Europe.
    “Despite comprehensive preventative measures, we are now clearly feeling the rising infection numbers,” Lufthansa Cargo told Reuters on Thursday, adding that up to 15% of cargo at Frankfurt was affected by delays.
    It said its flight schedule was unaffected, as was transportation of time-sensitive goods such as organs for transplants or temperature-controlled cargo.
    Rival DHL said its operations in Frankfurt and Leipzig were still running smoothly.
    The German Hospitals Federation had warned earlier this week that three-quarters of hospitals were reporting higher than usual numbers of staff out on sick leave.
    German lawmakers debated on Wednesday whether to impose compulsory COVID-19 shots, while protesters gathered outside the parliament building.
    Chancellor Olaf Scholz backs compulsory vaccines for over-18s but his coalition government is divided on the issue and he has told lawmakers to vote according to their conscience.
    Many lawmakers, including some from the coalition’s junior partner, the liberal Free Democrats, oppose mandatory vaccines, arguing this violates the second article of Germany’s constitution that guarantees citizens control over their own bodies.
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson, Andreas Rinke and Ilona Wissenbach; Writing by Emma Thomasson and Maria Sheahan; Editing by Miranda Murray and Mark Heinrich)

1/27/2022 As Omicron Ebbs, England Revives Plan A: Living With COVID by Alistair Smout and Elizabeth Piper
A man walks past a sign amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19), in London, Britain, January 24, 2022. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
    LONDON (Reuters) - After an uncomfortable but relatively brief return to coronavirus restrictions triggered by the Omicron variant, England is going back to “Plan A” – learning to live with a disease that is probably here to stay.
    The bet is that booster jabs, antiviral pills and Omicron’s lower severity will enable the government to manage outbreaks of a virus that cannot be shut out.    Other countries equally keen to unshackle business and personal freedom will be watching.
    Work-from-home guidance ended last week, and measures such as mask mandates and COVID passes, also introduced in England last month, lapsed on Thursday, returning the rules to where they were last July.
    The UK Health Security Agency is preparing to switch focus to supporting vulnerable individuals rather than imposing national rules, according to a draft policy seen by Reuters.
    “As we evolve to move to living with COVID, UKHSA’s COVID-19 response will move from a whole nation approach to a targeted response, focused on protecting the vulnerable,” read the paper, titled “UKHSA COVID-19 Vision – DRAFT.”
    “We will ensure that our future response is more streamlined, flexible, and convenient for citizens and delivers value for money.”
    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has presided over a death toll of 150,000 that ranks seventh in the world, was forced in December to introduce the “Plan B” restrictions, angering some of his own lawmakers.    He now has a strong political imperative to scrap them.
    As police investigate gatherings at his offices during COVID lockdowns, in apparent violation of laws he had himself imposed, he faces the biggest crisis of his career, while many of his members of parliament are determined that he must return life to near-normal.
    Conservative lawmaker Andrew Bridgen told Reuters that further COVID-19 restrictions were “unlikely, unnecessary and politically impossible.”
    Johnson himself told lawmakers last week: “As COVID becomes endemic, we will need to replace legal requirements with advice and guidance.”
    He also said he would let the law that obliges people with COVID-19 to self-isolate lapse in March, and even look to bring that date forward.
    Much of his confidence stems from the nature of Omicron, which drove infections to record levels in December without increasing hospitalisations and deaths to the same extent.
    Graham Medley, chair of the government’s COVID modelling group, told Reuters that when Plan B was introduced, the severity of Omicron and the impact of boosters had been unclear.
    In the event, even at the peak, with social restrictions stopping short of a full lockdown, daily deaths stayed below 300 on a 7-day average, compared to more than 1,000 a day in the third national lockdown a year earlier.
    Medley said growing immunity – with 83% of over-11s having had two doses of vaccine, and 63% a booster – meant each future wave should be less challenging, though there might be hiccups:
    “Whilst I expect next January to be better than this one, and the following January to be better than next January, I wouldn’t be surprised if some point we have to go backwards.”
    There is also a potential new resource, in the shape of antiviral drugs – aimed at preventing high-risk individuals who catch the virus becoming seriously ill, but not yet rolled out widely.
    “Things have changed so much over the last six or seven months,” said Harkishan Mistry, 58, who was included in the trial of Merck’s molnupiravir after catching the virus.
    “We’ve got a clear path going forward.    I’m optimistic now,” Mistry said on a video call from Bradford, where he was self-isolating.
    His view was echoed by health minister Sajid Javid, who said: “Our vaccines, testing and antivirals ensure we have some of the strongest defences in Europe and are allowing us to cautiously return to Plan A, restoring more freedoms to this country.”
    But evolutionary virologist Aris Katzourakis of Oxford University warned that diseases such as malaria and polio may be endemic, but are not harmless.    “A disease can be endemic and both widespread and deadly,” he wrote in the science journal Nature.
    “It frustrates me when policymakers invoke the word ‘endemic’ as an excuse to do little or nothing.”
    A relentless focus on managing COVID, rather than preventing infections, also has unwanted side-effects.
    Because National Health Service resources have been diverted towards vaccination boosters, thousands of other appointments have been postponed, adding to a vast backlog of elective care in the state-run system.    At the same time, high infection rates among staff and patients continue to weigh heavily on hospitals.
    “It’s about living safely with COVID. It’s not just about living with COVID,” said Matthew Ashton, Director of Public Health at Liverpool City Council.
    “We all desperately want the pandemic to end,” he added.    “Minimising disruption is part of that solution.    I definitely feel like we’re on the journey towards living safely with COVID – but I don’t think we’re there yet.”
    Nick Thomas, a family doctor in Witney, central England, supporting the Panoramic trial, said local practices were also feeling the strain, despite the success of vaccines and the prospect of effective antivirals.
    “We have to manage all of those (other conditions) as well as an Omicron wave right now.    And so that balance is really important – and the more tools we have, the better.” (Reporting by Alistair Smout and Elizabeth Piper in London; additional reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette in Madrid; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

1/27/2022 Italy’s Leonardo To Make Parts Of New European Military Drone
FILE PHOTO: The Leonardo logo is seen during celebrations for the 500th Eurofighter Typhoon produced by the European
consortium at Caselle airport in Turin, Italy, April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo
    MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s Leonardo is set to build parts of a new European military drone, the director general of the aerospace group said on Thursday, after Spain gave its support to the new joint programme.
    “Spain’s approval of the Eurodrone… paves the way for the signing of the contract on a key collaboration programme that strengthens Europe’s strategic autonomy and sovereignty,” Leonardo Director General Lucio Valerio Cioffi said.
    The project to design, develop and produce the drone is backed by Germany, France, Italy and Spain, and the approval by Spain was the last green light required.
    The unmanned aerial system, key for future European combat air systems, will also be built by Airbus and Dassault.
    Leonardo could make components for the drone at some of its plants in southern Italy, which have been suffering from a drastic fall in orders from Boeing, the group said.
    Cioffi said that the new programme “is a unique opportunity to promote the growth of technological capabilities, skills and qualified jobs, which is key to consolidate the process of European cooperation in the defence field.”
    With an expected length of some 16 metres and a wingspan of just under 30 metres, the drone will be able to stay in flight for more than 24 hours at heights of around 13,000 metres to monitor the situation on the ground with sensors such as radars and infrared cameras.
(Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

1/27/2022 Oil up $1.18 to $86.73, DOW down 130 to 34,168.

1/28/2022 Macron To Speak To Putin, Seek Clarity Over Ukraine, France Says
FILE PHOTO: Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks with his French counterpart
Emmanuel Macron during a video conference call at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside
Moscow, Russia June 26, 2020. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS
    PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron will try to assess whether Russian President Vladimir Putin wants “consultations or confrontation” over Ukraine when they speak by phone on Friday, France’s foreign minister said.
    Moscow has massed troops near Ukraine and sought security guarantees from the West, including a promise that NATO will never allow Russia’s former Soviet neighbour to join.
    Speaking to RTL radio, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the West still considered dialogue possible, but the ball was in Putin’s court.
    “It is up to Vladimir Putin to say if he wants consultations or confrontation,” Le Drian told RTL radio, asking whether the Russian leader wanted to be a “destabilising power” or would seek de-escalation.
    Throughout his five years as France’s president, Macron has sought dialogue with Putin, at times to the irritation of his European Union allies.
    Western countries are worried Russia might invade Ukraine though Russia denies planning to do so.    Macron said on Tuesday he would seek a clarification of Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine.
    Weeks of dialogue between the West and Moscow have produced few results but both sides have left the door open to dialogue although Russia said on Thursday it was clear the United States was not willing to address its main security concerns.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon and John Irish; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)

1/28/2022 Trial In Germany’s Green Vault Jewel Heist Opens In Dresden
General view of the Dresden castle, which houses the Green Vault museum, in
Dresden, Germany, January 26, 2022. Picture taken January, 26, 2022. REUTERS/Matthias Rietschel
    BERLIN (Reuters) – Six men accused of involvement in a 2019 jewel heist at a museum housing one of Europe’s greatest art collections appeared in court in Dresden on Friday, with the whereabouts of the treasures still a mystery.
    The defendants, German citizens aged between 22 and 27, who were not named under German privacy laws applicable to court defendants, are charged with aggravated gang theft and serious arson, according to the Dresden public prosecutor’s office.
    They are suspected of breaking into Dresden’s Gruenes Gewoelbe (Green Vault) Museum in the early hours of Nov. 25, 2019 and stealing 21 pieces of jewellery containing more than 4,300 diamonds with an estimated value of 113 million euros ($125.79 million).
    Unarmed museum security officers noticed the robbery but could not intervene as they were not allowed to endanger themselves, Der Spiegel newsmagazine reported.
    Prosecutors said in September the defendants had not provided any information on the allegations.    Police offered 500,000 euros ($556,600) as a reward for anyone who could give information on the jewels’ whereabouts.
    All the suspects are in custody.    Two have already been sentenced to four and a half years in prison for involvement in stealing the Big Maple Leaf, a 100-kilogram gold coin worth 3.75 million euros from Berlin’s Bode Museum in 2017.
    The stolen Dresden collection was assembled in the 18th century by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and later King of Poland, who commissioned ever more brilliant jewellery as part of his rivalry with France’s King Louis XIV.
    The treasures survived Allied bombing raids in World War Two, only to be carted off as war booty by the Soviet Union.    They were returned to Dresden, the historic capital of the state of Saxony, in 1958.
($1 = 0.8983 euros)
(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

1/28/2022 Portugal’s Sunday Election Wide Open As Socialists’ Lead Narrows
FILE PHOTO: Portugal's Prime Minister and Socialist Party (PS) Secretary General Antonio Costa
stands outside a polling station as he speaks to the media after casting his ballot during
the general election in Porto, Portugal, January 23, 2022. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes/File Photo
    LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s ruling Socialists have lost more of their lead to the main opposition party, the centre-right Social Democrats (PSD), in two opinion polls released on Friday two days before Sunday’s snap election.
    The contest remains wide open.    Analysts say the election is likely to worsen political volatility and could produce a short-lived government as no party or known alliance is seen gaining a working majority.
    Premier Antonio Costa’s centre-left party dropped to 35% support, according to a survey by ISCTE-ICS pollsters for TV channel SIC and newspaper Expresso, from 38% a month ago, while the PSD rose to 33% from 31%.
    The gap between the two is smaller than the poll’s 3.1% margin of error, meaning they are in a technical draw.    A different poll earlier this week showed the PSD leading by a narrow margin.
    It leaves each of them distant from a parliamentary majority, which under the proportional representation system equates to between 42% and 45% of the vote.
    Another survey, by Catolica pollsters for TV channel RTP, Antena 1 radio and Publico newspaper, showed PS at 36%, down from 37% a week ago.    The PSD remained steady at 33%.
    In October, Costa’s two former allies – the Communists and Left Bloc – sided with right-wing parties to reject the minority government’s budget bill, triggering the snap election.
    In the ISCTE-ICS poll, the far-right party Chega, the pro-business Liberal Initiative and the Communist-Greens alliance CDU saw support at 6% each, and any of them could become the third-largest force in parliament.
    It gave 5% to Left Bloc, 2% to the People-Animals-Nature (PAN) party, while the right-wing CDS-PP and eco-Socialist Livre were on 1% each.
    In the Catolica poll, Liberal Initiative, Chega and Left Bloc would win 6% each and CDU 5%.    The CDS-PP, Livre and PAN had 2% each.
    ISCTE-ICE surveyed 1,003 people on Jan. 18-24, while Catolica surveyed 2,192 people on Jan. 19-26, with a margin of error of 2.1%.
(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; editing by Andrei Khalip and Angus MacSwan)

1/28/2022 Oil down $0.30 to $86.80, DOW down 7 to 34,161.

1/28/2022 Trump: Democrats Are Destroying Our Country by OAN Newsroom
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on September 25, 2021
in Perry, Georgia. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
    The 45th president weighed-in on Joe Biden’s blunders and the current state of how elections are run.    Donald Trump highlighted election practices that are illegal in many states and the abuse of U.S. election procedures by Democrats.
    In an interview with Lou Dobbs on Thursday, Trump said mail-in ballots and drop boxes are ripe for fraud.    This comes as Georgia launched a formal probe into those practices in its 2020 elections in violation of the state law.    Trump also stressed stolen elections are having disastrous consequences for the U.S.
    Trump then commented that runaway inflation, labor shortages and the supply chain crisis hurting Americans are all Joe Biden’s fault. Furthermore, he went on to discuss the ongoing crisis at the southern border, adding his administration stifled the flow of migrants while in office.
    Trump highlighted how he and his administration worked to combat human trafficking at the southern border and the surge of deadly drugs flowing into the country, while noting fentanyl-laced products are currently plaguing the nation.
    Looking ahead, Dobbs said it’s clear the country desperately needs Trump in “every capacity that he would want to embrace.”

1/28/2022 ‘Horrific’ Destruction, Casualties If Russia Invades Ukraine - U.S. by Phil Stewart
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs
of Staff, faces reporters asking questions about Russia and the crisis in the Ukraine during
a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., January 28, 2022. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – If Russia unleashes the forces it has amassed near Ukraine’s border to invade its neighbor, the outcome would be “horrific” and result in significant casualties, the top U.S. military officer said on Friday, comparing this moment to the Cold War.
    Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the comments amid fragile Russia-U.S. diplomacy in a broader East-West standoff over Ukraine. Moscow has demanded NATO pull back troops and weapons from Eastern Europe and bar Ukraine from ever joining the military alliance.
    Washington and its NATO allies reject that position but say they are ready to discuss other topics such as arms control and confidence-building measures that would convince Russia to pull back its troops from near Ukraine’s border.
    Speaking at a Pentagon news conference, Milley said that given the types of forces Russia has arrayed, “all of it packaged together, if that was unleashed on Ukraine, it would be significant, very significant, and it would result in a significant amount of casualties.”
    He added: “And you can imagine what that might look like in dense urban areas, along roads and so on and so forth.    It would be horrific, it would be terrible.”
    Speaking alongside Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that while the United States does not believe Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a decision whether to invade, he now has the military capability to do so.
    “[There] are multiple options available to [Putin] including the seizure of cities and significant territories, but also coercive acts and provocative political acts like the recognition of breakaway territories,” Austin said.
    He said the United States remains focused on countering Russian disinformation, including anything that could be used as a pretext for attacks against Ukraine.    He added that the United States was committed to helping Ukraine defend itself, and noted U.S. provisions of additional anti-armor weaponry.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

1/28/2022 Texas Seeks Help To Combat Growing Border Crisis by OAN Newsroom
FILE – In this Tuesday, June 8, 2021, file photo, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
    Texas leadership said the state is stepping up where the current administration has failed.    Governor Greg Abbott slammed Joe Biden during a border security briefing with 12 attorneys general in Weslaco, Texas on Thursday. He emphasized the importance for Texas to collaborate with other states in order to secure the border since Biden isn’t doing it.
    The Republican governor added, he’s signed laws that provide $3 billion in funding for Texas’ border security efforts while also signing nine laws that crack down on human trafficking.    Additionally, Abbott proposed an action item to crack down on social media outlets that facilitate human trafficking.
    “Cartels in Mexico are using TikTok to advertise, to recruit smugglers in Texas,” he stated.    “San Antonio, Houston and other cities in Texas, and maybe in some other states, to advertise for smugglers for pay…for them to smuggle people here in Texas, which would include victims of human trafficking that must be shut down.”
    Abbott also signed a law enhancing penalties for the manufacturing and distribution of fentanyl.    Public Safety Director Steven McCraw went on to emphasize why Border Patrol is overwhelmed.
    “We’ve had influxes before, but never to this level,” he explained.    “We’ve never had over 1.3 million apprehensions in Texas in a calendar year, never before.    Border Patrol is swamped.    Not only that, they’ve got family units and unaccompanied children, so their facilities are not to be able to handle that.”
    McCraw said in order to secure the border, the state needs infrastructure.
    “You have to have good infrastructure, you have to have detection technology, and you have to have boots on the ground,” he stated.    “Plain and simple, and you can’t secure it from Washington.”
    Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are blasting the Biden administration for continuing to allow an influx of migrants, saying the White House must reverse course and put the safety of the American people first.

1/29/2022 No Oil or DOW info.

1/29/2022 Senior U.S. Official To Visit Lithuania In Show Of Support Over Chinese ‘Coercion’
FILE PHOTO: Taiwanese and Lithuanian flags are displayed at the Taiwanese Representative
Office in Vilnius, Lithuania January 20, 2022. REUTERS/Janis Laizans//File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A senior U.S. official will visit Lithuania next week to discuss enhancing economic cooperation with the small Baltic nation, which has faced pressure from China for boosting ties with Taiwan.
    Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Jose Fernandez will be in Vilnius from Sunday to Tuesday, and in Brussels from Wednesday to Friday, where he will also discuss efforts to counter economic “coercion” with EU officials, the State Department said in a statement.
    In Vilnius, he will discuss bilateral economic cooperation, and U.S. “strong support for Lithuania in the face of political pressure and economic coercion from the People’s Republic of China,” the statement said.
    Fernandez will be accompanied by U.S. Export-Import Bank officials to discuss implementation of a $600 million memorandum of understanding to expand opportunities for U.S. exporters and Lithuanian buyers in areas such as high-tech manufacturing, business services and renewable energy, according to the statement.
    In Brussels, Fernandez will discuss transatlantic trade and investment through the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council, the statement said.
    The United States, which is seeking to push back against growing Chinese influence worldwide, has backed Lithuania in its dispute with China over Taiwan, a self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own.
    China downgraded its diplomatic relationship with Lithuania and pressed multinationals to sever ties with the country after Taiwan opened a representative office in Vilnius last year called the Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania, rather than using the word Taipei as is more common.
    EU authorities launched a challenge at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Thursday, accusing China of discriminatory trade practices against EU member Lithuania that they say threaten the integrity of the bloc’s single market.
    Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday it hopes its trade dispute with China will be solved with consultations between China and the EU.
    Commenting on the WTO case, Taiwan’s Cabinet’s Office of Trade Negotiations said late Friday it “fully supports” the EU and Lithuania and opposes China’s “inappropriate economic coercion.”
    “Our country will work with other like-minded partners such as Lithuania and the EU to prevent China from using coercive economic and diplomatic measures, to maintain a rules-based international trading system,” it added in a statement.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Michael Martina; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and William Mallard)

1/29/2022 Honduras Inaugurates First Female President, Harris Vows Closer U.S. Ties by Trevor Hunnicutt and Gustavo Palencia
People wait under the portrait of Xiomara Castro ahead of the ceremony in which she will be sworn-in as
the new President of Honduras, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras January 27, 2022. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas
    TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Xiomara Castro was sworn in as Honduras’ first woman president on Thursday in front of a cheering crowd including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who pledged U.S. government support to stem migration and fight corruption.
    Castro’s inauguration ends the eight-year rule of Juan Orlando Hernandez, a one-time U.S. ally who has been accused in U.S. courts of corruption and links to drug traffickers.    Even as Hernandez left office a U.S. congresswoman called for him to be indicted, and for requests to be made for his extradition.
    Castro, flanked by her husband, former President Manuel Zelaya, was sworn in at a packed soccer stadium where supporters applauded her vows to fix the country’s massive debt burden.
    “The economic catastrophe that I’m inheriting is unparalleled in the history of our country,” a somber Castro said in her inaugural address.
    Her government also faces tests over a sharply divided Congress, and relations with China due to Honduras maintaining diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
    Harris, who was loudly applauded when introduced during the inauguration, congratulated Castro over her “democratic election.”
    In a meeting shortly after the ceremony, Harris promised to collaborate on migration issues, economic development and fighting impunity, and said she welcomed Castro’s plans to request United Nations help to establish an anti-corruption commission.
    Harris has been tasked with addressing the “root causes” of migration in Central America’s impoverished Northern Triangle of countries, but her trip comes as U.S. President Joe Biden’s popularity at home has waned and his immigration strategy has stalled
    “We do very much want and intend to do what we can to support this new president,” said one administration official.
    Castro tweeted that she appreciated Harris’ visit and the Biden administration’s willingness to support the Honduran government.
    Harris also pledged to send Honduras several hundred thousand more COVID-19 vaccine doses along with 500,000 syringes and $1.3 million for health and educational facilities.
    The two did not discuss China, she told reporters.
    U.S. officials want to work with Castro both to curb illegal immigration from Central America and shore up international support for Taiwan as part of its efforts to stem China’s influence.
    Honduras is one of the few countries maintaining diplomatic ties with Taipei instead of Beijing, and Castro during her campaign backtracked on comments that she might switch allegiance to China as president.
    Taiwanese Vice President William Lai attended the inauguration in a bid to bolster ties with Castro’s government.    Harris said the two spoke over their common interest in Central America.
    Luis Leon, director of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy in Central America, said Harris’ arrival was a boost for Castro in the dispute over control of Congress and in addressing Honduras’ weak economy.
    Castro said it was “practically impossible” to make current debt payments without a restructuring, after debt jumped sevenfold under her two conservative predecessors.
    The country’s total debt stands at about $15.5 billion, or nearly 60% of gross domestic product, an economic problem Castro frequently highlighted ahead of her landslide win in November.
    “My government will not continue the maelstrom of looting that has condemned generations of young people to pay the debt they incurred behind their back,” she added.
    She vowed to immediately give more than 1 million poor Hondurans free electricity, with bigger consumers subsidizing the cost.
    Castro, who describes herself as a democratic socialist, has vowed to tackle corruption, poverty and violence, chronic problems that have fueled U.S.-bound migrants.
    But her legislative program has been jeopardized by renegade politicians from her leftist Libre party who allied with the opposition National Party to vote for one of its members to head Congress, breaking a pact with a key electoral ally.
    Castro also takes office at a time of controversy for her predecessor Hernandez, who had served a maximum two consecutive terms as president and had been a longstanding U.S. ally in immigration and anti-narcotics operations.
    U.S. Congresswoman Norma Torres has called for Hernandez’s indictment on drug charges, and for U.S. officials to request his extradition.
    But Hernandez may be shielded from extradition for up to four years, as he was sworn in as a member of the Central American parliament shortly after Castro’s inauguration.
    He has repeatedly denied accusations of corruption and links to drug traffickers.
    Hernandez’s brother last year was sentenced by a U.S. judge to life in prison plus 30 years for drug trafficking.
(Additional reporting by Nandita Bose, Michael Martina and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon, Editing by Alistair Bell, Daniel Flynn, Jonathan Oatis, Richard Chang & Simon Cameron-Moore)

1/29/2022 Italy Re-Elects President Mattarella, Government Unity Bruised by Angelo Amante, Giuseppe Fonte and Gavin Jones
A general view of the Chambers of Deputies as it continues voting to elect the country's
new President, in Rome, Italy, January 29, 2022. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/Pool
    ROME (Reuters) - Italian head of state Sergio Mattarella was re-elected for a second term on Saturday, with party chiefs asking him to carry on after a week of fruitless, often fraught voting in parliament to choose a successor.
    Relieved party chiefs thanked 80-year-old Mattarella for agreeing to remain, but the failed attempts to replace him during seven rounds of balloting have left deep scars, with potentially dangerous repercussions for political stability.
    Nonetheless, financial markets are likely to react positively to the status quo, which will see Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who had made clear he hoped to become president himself, continuing as prime minister instead.
    Draghi said in a statement that Mattarella’s re-election was “splendid news for Italians,” thanking him for “his decision to go along with the extremely strong will of parliament.”
    Pope Francis sent the re-elected president a telegram of congratulations.
    At the eighth round among more than 1,000 lawmakers and regional delegates in the Chamber of Deputies, loud and prolonged applause broke out when Mattarella passed the 505 votes needed for election.
    He had previously ruled out remaining in office, but with the country’s political stability at risk he changed his mind in the face of appeals from parliamentary leaders who met him at his palace earlier in the day.
    In brief comments from the palace, Mattarella said the ongoing coronavirus crisis and Italy’s difficult economic and social conditions meant he was duty bound to accept the decision of parliament.
    He said that even though he had had other personal plans, he was “committed to matching the expectations and hopes of the people.”
    In Italy’s political system, the president is a powerful figure who gets to appoint prime ministers and is often called on to resolve political crises.    Governments in the euro zone’s third-largest economy survive around a year on average.
    The leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) Enrico Letta, who had championed Mattarella’s re-election, spoke to reporters to express “enormous thanks … for his generous choice towards the country.”
    Draghi earlier called Mattarella and urged him to stay on, a political source said.
    Relations among the parties in the ruling coalition have deteriorated during the election process amid mutual recrimination over the failure to find a consensus figure.
    Draghi’s coalition includes the main centre-left and centre right parties as well as the right-wing League, the once anti-establishment 5-Star movement and a range of smaller parties.
    “The overall political backdrop has become less supportive for Draghi’s government, which is facing a daunting task in the year or so left before the next general election,” said Wolfango Piccoli of political risk consultancy Teneo.
    On the right, while both the League and centre-right Forza Italia