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Rowan Moore

The video of the Russian leader’s $1bn secret palace reveals his terrible taste as well as his corruption. Hero of the week, at the front of an exceptionally competitive field – the 22-year-old inauguration poet Amanda Gorman, the health workers who have been heroes for almost a year – has to be the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Not only did he voluntarily return to the country where he was almost killed by poisoning, but he marked his immediate arrest by getting his team to release the most politically devastating home makeover show of all time. more...

By Benjamin Plackett

It depends on your definition of human. We Homo sapiens didn't used to be alone. Long ago, there was a lot more human diversity; Homo sapiens lived alongside an estimated eight now-extinct species of human about 300,000 years ago. As recently as 15,000 years ago, we were sharing caves with another human species known as the Denisovans. And fossilized remains indicate an even higher number of early human species once populated Earth before our species came along. "We have one human species right now, and historically, that's really weird," said Nick Longrich, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. "Not that far back, we weren't that special, but now we're the only ones left." So, how many early human species were there? more...

By Joshua Berlinger, CNN

(CNN) A Chinese-born alleged drug kingpin accused of presiding over a multi-billion dollar narcotics operation has been arrested by Dutch authorities. Canadian national Tse Chi Lop was detained at Amsterdam's Schipol International Airport on Friday, according to Australian Federal Police (AFP), which has taken the lead in a sprawling international investigation. Before his arrest, Tse was one of the world's most-wanted fugitives. Authorities allege that Tse, 57, is the leader of the Sam Gor Syndicate, arguably the biggest drug-trafficking operation in Asia's history. Experts say he is in the same league as notorious drug lords El Chapo and Pablo Escobar. "The importance of Tse's arrest can not be underestimated. It's big and (has) been a long time coming," said Jeremy Douglas, the Regional Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. more...

AP News

BEIJING (AP) — Eleven workers trapped for two weeks by an explosion inside a Chinese gold mine were brought safely to the surface on Sunday. State broadcaster CCTV showed workers being hauled up one-by-one in baskets on Sunday afternoon, their eyes shielded to protect them after so many days in darkness. One worker was reported to have died from a head wound following the blast that deposited massive amounts of rubble in the shaft on Jan. 10 while the mine was still under construction. The fate of 10 others who were underground at the time is unknown. Authorities have detained mine managers for delaying reporting the accident. more...

Jason Breslow

Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in protest on Saturday to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, braving the threat of mass arrests in what was expected to be one of the largest demonstrations against the Kremlin in years. From the port city of Vladivostok in the east to the capital of Moscow seven time zones away in the west, protesters swept across the country in open defiance of warnings from Russian authorities that the demonstrations have been deemed illegal. In Moscow, protesters gathered in Pushkin Square for what appeared to be the largest of the day's protests. They were met by police trucks and city buses filled with riot officers, who blared messages from a public-address system telling demonstrators not to gather closely because of the risks of the coronavirus and warning them that the protest was unlawful. In all, Navalny supporters said that protests were planned across 90 cities, including the Siberian city of Yakutsk, where temperatures plunged to minus 60 Fahrenheit. more...

More than 2,500 are arrested at rallies across the country as cities see huge turnouts in support of opposition leader
Andrew Roth

As riot police surged to retake Moscow’s Pushkin square on Saturday, all you could see of them from the crowd were their truncheons raised high, ready to strike. Then their black helmets came into view, and finally they pushed forward, driving waves of panicked Russians out on to the boulevards and side streets of the capital. “Respected citizens, the current event is illegal. We are doing everything to ensure your safety,” an officer repeated over a loudspeaker, despite all the evidence to the contrary. For more than a decade, the Kremlin has used every tool at its disposal to keep Russians off the streets, wielding fear and boredom to make protesting against Vladimir Putin seem pointless. And yet in defiant scenes on Saturday in cities across Russia, from St Petersburg to Vladivostok and even in Yakutsk, where protesters braved temperatures below -50C, tens of thousands of Russians sent a message to a Kremlin that has squeezed out all opposition in Russia: enough is enough. more...

By Ivana Kottasová, Zahra Ullah and Anna Chernova, CNN

(CNN)Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of the detained Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, has been detained in Moscow on the sidelines of a protest held in support of her husband on Saturday, according to a video posted on social media. The video shows Navalnaya being stopped by police at the entrance to a metro station in central Moscow near where protesters ware gathered. She is then shown being escorted to a police van. Hundreds of people have been arrested at the rallies across Russia that were held in defiance of the authorities and, in some cases, extremely low temperatures. According to OVD-Info, an independent site that monitors arrests, 1,338 people had been detained during the day. The demonstrations kicked off in Russia's far east city of Vladivostok and spread to the west as the day progressed. Navalny's supporters said Friday they were planning protest across 90 cities and videos posted on social media showed crowds of people gathered in Vladivostok and a number of cities across Siberia and central Russia. more...

Analysis by Nathan Hodge, CNN

(CNN) With the departure of Donald Trump from the White House, Russia-watchers can be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief: From the moment Russian President Vladimir Putin called Trump the front-runner for the 2016 Republican nomination, it's been near-impossible to look at Moscow through anything but the lens of Washington politics and scandal. That doesn't mean President Joe Biden can Make Russia Boring Again. Administrations may come and go, but the geopolitical challenge to the US from the Kremlin leader, it seems, remains constant. Let's begin with the obvious: US-Russia relations are at their lowest point since the end the Cold War. US agencies are still sorting through the aftermath of a massive cyber breach blamed on Moscow. Western governments are demanding answers from the Kremlin on the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. And the US has steadily stepped up sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine and Moscow's interference in the 2016 US presidential election. And as one of his first moves, Biden has ordered a sweeping intelligence review of suspected Russian mischief-making, from alleged bounties on US troops in Afghanistan to interference in the 2020 election. Biden's director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, will lead the effort, and the president's pick for CIA director, veteran diplomat William Burns, is also a Russia expert. more...

By Joshua Keating

In terms of sheer courage, few political figures anywhere in the world are a match for the imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who, after being nearly killed early this year, has set himself on what appears to be an irreversible collision course with President Vladimir Putin. Navalny seems unlikely to prevail, but he is still testing the Russian president at a moment when he’s more vulnerable than he’s been in years. We may see just how vulnerable the president feels this weekend. Navalny first gained renown as a blogger, publishing exposés of the corruption and illicit wealth of senior Russian officials. In recent years, he has become an influential protest leader, despite multiple stints in prison, and ran unsuccessfully for president in 2018. In August, Navalny was poisoned while boarding a flight in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, and evacuated to Germany for medical treatment—including a medically induced coma. German authorities say he was poisoned with Novichok, the nerve agent also used in the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his wife in England in 2018. An investigation by CNN and the investigative site Bellingcat identified the agents of Russia’s FSB security service who had been tailing Navalny. Navalny himself produced a tape of one of the agents discussing how they applied the toxin to Navalny’s underwear. Putin has acknowledged that Navalny was being followed but denied that the FSB poisoned him, saying, “If [we] wanted to poison him, [we’d] have finished the job.” more...

Rob Schmitz

Germany's Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, is constantly on the lookout for potential threats to Germany's democratic constitutional system, and it has wide-ranging powers when it finds them. "This agency has the power — and not only to do surveillance on fringe groups, domestic terrorist threats, but also to keep an eye on any political institution, like a political party," explains Melanie Amann of the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel and the author of a book about the AfD. "Like if their program becomes more radical or if they notice that a political party, maybe that's even sitting in the parliament, goes into a direction that might be harmful to our political system." The agency has wrapped up a two-year investigation into Germany's largest right-wing opposition party, the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, and is expected to announce soon that it will place the entire party under surveillance for posing a threat to Germany's political system and violating the constitution. The unprecedented move would mean that all AfD lawmakers, including several dozen in Germany's parliament, would be put under state surveillance. more...

BBC

Moscow police say any unauthorised demonstrations and provocations will be "immediately suppressed". More than 55m people have watched Mr Navalny's YouTube video about President Vladimir Putin's alleged luxury Black Sea palace, denied by the Kremlin. Mr Navalny was arrested last Sunday. After recovering in Berlin from a near-fatal nerve agent attack in Russia last August, he flew back to Moscow, but was immediately taken into custody and found guilty of violating parole conditions. He says it is a trumped-up case designed to silence him. more...

Scientists believe 2-metre-long burrow once housed predator that ambushed passing sea creatures
Ian Sample

The undersea lair of a giant worm that ambushed passing marine creatures 20m years ago has been uncovered by fossil hunters in Taiwan. Researchers believe the 2-metre-long burrow found in ancient marine sediment once housed a prehistoric predator that burst out of the seabed and dragged unsuspecting animals down into its lair. The creature may have been similar to the ferocious “Bobbit worms” of today that lie in wait in sandy seafloor burrows with antennae protruding to sense passersby. Though soft-bodied, the worms possess sharp and powerful jaws that can slice a fish in two. “After 20m years, it’s not possible to say whether this was made by an ancestor of the Bobbit worm or another predatory worm that worked in more or less the same way,” said Prof Ludvig Löwemark, a sedimentologist at National Taiwan University. “There’s huge variation in Bobbit worm behaviour, but this seems very similar to the shallow water worms that reach out, grab fish and pull them down.” more...

By Mary Ilyushina, CNN

Moscow (CNN)Even locked up in a detention center on the outskirts of Moscow, Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny continues to be a thorn in Russian President Vladimir Putin's side. Late Tuesday, which marked the opposition leader's first day at the infamous Matrosskaya Tishina facility, his team dropped a colossal investigation into the President's wealth, offering Russians to take look into what they allege is "Putin's palace" on the Black Sea. Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) called the report their "biggest investigation yet." It contains allegations of vast corruption schemes related to what they say is Putin's property estimated to be worth around $1.4 billion. CNN is not independently able to verify the FBK's claims. Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied the Russian leader was linked to the estate on Tuesday. more...

Bill Bostock

Alexei Navalny, the archcritic of Vladimir Putin, accused the Russian president of building a secret $1 billion coastal palace funded through a bribes-for-access scheme. Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, or FBK, on Tuesday released an extensive report and a nearly two-hour video starring Navalny describing a palace built near Gelendzhik on the Black Sea. The FBK said its report was based on interviews with contractors, blueprints, and publicly accessible documents. The Kremlin dismissed the report as "pure nonsense." Navalny was arrested when he arrived in Russia on Sunday. He was returning for the first time since he was poisoned in August in an attempt on his life. more...

"We thought Trump was a bad joke, but five years later we realized he jeopardized nothing less than the world's most powerful democracy," Spain's prime minister said.
By Henry Austin

LONDON — It was a sigh heard round the world. With almost palpable relief, longstanding American allies welcomed Joe Biden as he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday. Some signaled hopes for a radical change in the White House, particularly in its approach to climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. And a few took parting shots at Donald Trump and his nationalist, "America first" agenda. The European Union's top politician, Ursula von der Leyen, said that "after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House." "This time-honored ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol will be a demonstration of the resilience of American democracy," she added in a speech in Brussels. Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, meanwhile, said that Biden represented "victory of democracy over the ultra-right." Then he took aim directly at the former president. "Five years ago, we thought Trump was a bad joke, but five years later we realized he jeopardized nothing less than the world's most powerful democracy," he said in a speech. more...

By MATTHEW LEE

WASHINGTON (AP) — China imposed sanctions on nearly 30 former Trump administration officials moments after they left office on Wednesday. In a statement released just minutes after President Joe Biden was inaugurated, Beijing slapped travel bans and business restrictions on Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and U.N. ambassador, Kelly Craft. Others covered by the sanctions include Trump’s economic adviser Peter Navarro; his top diplomat for Asia, David Stilwell; health and human services secretary, Alex Azar; along with former national security adviser John Bolton and strategist Stephen Bannon. The sanctions are largely symbolic but underscore Beijing’s antipathy toward a U.S. administration it regarded as hostile. more...

A well-preserved beetle fossil from the Cretaceous period may be the missing fossil link to today's firefly.
Bonnie Burton

A beetle trapped in amber for over 100 million years is offering scientists clues to why the bioluminescent insects may have glowed way back during the Cretaceous period, about 145 to 66 million years ago. In a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, scientists reveal that a Cretophengodes beetle found "preserved with life-like fidelity in amber" has a direct connection to its firefly cousins. It's been a bit of a mystery to scientists why ancient beetles could glow. But based on their distant relatives like fireflies, scientists believe the function could likely have been used as a defense against predators, as well as a way to attract mates -- much like the modern-day beetle larvae in the same family have used light. more...

By Ramy Inocencio

Beijing — It will soon be Day Ten of a meticulously slow mine rescue operation in China's eastern Shandong province. State media say 22 workers were trapped more than 2,000 feet underground after an explosion damaged the access shaft to the gold mine on January 10. Rescue efforts have pushed ahead since then, with workers drilling a series of small boreholes deep into the ground to reach the trapped miners. So far they've send down at least three rounds of food and medicine. It has also enabled the rescuers to communicate with the trapped men — first through handwritten notes and now via a telephone line. After an urgent, initial request for medicine and pain killers, the miners on Tuesday asked for porridge and pickles to be sent down. more...

Scientists discovered remains of a sauropod that could be the largest animal to have ever lived on land
By Matthew Rozsa

Paleontologists in Argentina have discovered bones that they suspect belonged to a dinosaur so large, it would have been the largest land animal to ever live. Paleontologists confirmed that a pile of bones, discovered in an Argentinian section of Patagonia, belonged to a type of dinosaur known as a sauropod, according to a paper published in the scholarly journal Cretaceous Research. Sauropods were dinosaurs with extremely long necks, elongated tales, small heads and legs that resembled trunks or pillars. Brontosauruses, apatosauruses and brachiosauruses are among the most famous sauropods known to have existed. more...

By Rosanne Roobeek, James Frater and Niamh Kennedy, CNN

(CNN) The Dutch government has resigned amid a scandal that saw thousands of families wrongly accused of child welfare fraud.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the Cabinet's resignation in an address Friday, saying that responsibility for the scandal "ultimately rests with the incumbent Cabinet and nowhere else." Under the scandal, around 10,000 families in the Netherlands were told to repay tens of thousands of euros of subsidies after being wrongly accused of child welfare fraud. Rutte made his speech in the aftermath of the publication of a report by the Parliamentary Interrogation Committee on Childcare Allowance, which he called "very tough, but fair." "On all levels throughout the political-administrative-legal system, mistakes have been made that have resulted in great injustice to thousands of parents," he remarked. more...

AP

WUHAN, China (AP) — The WHO team of international researchers that arrived in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on Thursday hopes to find clues to the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic. The visit has been shrouded in secrecy, with neither China nor the WHO revealing exactly what the team will do or where it will go. The search for the origins is likely to be a years-long effort that could help prevent future pandemics.

WHY WUHAN?
The industrial and transportation hub on the Yangtze River is the first place the coronavirus surfaced in the world. It’s possible that the virus came to Wuhan undetected from elsewhere, but the city of 11 million is a logical place for the mission to start. more...

Rory Carroll

The Irish state and Ireland’s Catholic church have made landmark apologies for running and enabling a network of religious institutions that abused and shamed unmarried mothers and their children for much of the 20th century. The taoiseach, Micheál Martin, led government figures on Wednesday in accepting responsibility and expressing remorse for mother-and-baby homes that turned generations of vulnerable women and infants into outcasts. Eamon Martin, the Catholic primate of all Ireland, led statements from bishops and nuns that apologised for the central role of the church in a dark chapter of Irish history. The apologies followed publication on Tuesday of a long-awaited report by a judicial commission of investigation, which documented harrowing abuse, neglect and callousness in institutions that served as dumping grounds for unmarried mothers and their children. more...

BBC

The mother, who wants to be anonymous, told the BBC: "As I unpacked that food parcel... and looked at the contents, it felt very sad and depressing." Chartwells, the firm which supplied the parcel, has apologised. The education secretary said schools will be able to offer vouchers rather than food parcels from next week. Gavin Williamson told the education select committee on Wednesday that he was "absolutely disgusted" by the photo of the food parcel's contents, and that his department had made it clear "this sort of behaviour is just not right [and] will not be tolerated". He said the government would "support any school that needs to take action" and "name and shame those that are not delivering against the standards" set by the Department for Education. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer challenged Boris Johnson on online images of the "disgraceful" food parcels during Wednesday's Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs). more...

By Eddie Spence

Scottish fisherman Peter Bruce hoped Brexit would allow him to catch more cod, one of Britain’s favorite fish dishes. Instead, he’s worried he’ll end up with less. While Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed last month’s trade deal will let the U.K. regain control of its fishing waters by taking back 25% of the European Union’s rights over five years, many fishermen feel let down. They’re upset that the share fell far below original demands and may even mean smaller amounts of some key catches. “One of the species we are most worried about is cod,” said Bruce, who has fished the waters off northeast Scotland for decades. “We were hoping to get more quota. I’m sorry to say it’s looking like we’ll have less.” Although a tiny part of the economy, fishing was a key issue that held up trade talks and became symbolic after membership of Europe’s single market precipitated its demise. The government says the deal will let Britain catch an extra 146 million pounds ($199 million) of fish, aiding an industry that saw a big decline since the 1970s. more...

Sam Meredith, Silvia Amaro

LONDON — Italy’s former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Wednesday announced his intention to pull his centrist party out of the ruling coalition, plunging the country back into political chaos as it battles a resurgence of the coronavirus. Speaking at a highly-anticipated press conference, Renzi said two ministers from his Italia Viva party would resign. It leaves the government without a majority in parliament and on the brink of collapse. Support from Renzi’s party had been critical to the survival of the coalition led by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party. Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he hoped Renzi would not pull his ministers from the Cabinet, warning the country would not be able to understand why the government had collapsed amid the ongoing health crisis. more...

By Mary Ilyushina and Zamira Rahim, CNN

Moscow (CNN) Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny has announced that he plans to return to Russia on Sunday from Germany, where he has been recovering after being poisoned. On Instagram, Navalny said that he purchased a plane ticket to Russia on Wednesday morning after realizing that "he is almost healthy and can finally come back home." "There was never a question for me whether to return or not, never. Just because I didn't leave. I ended up in Germany, having arrived there in an intensive care box. On January 17, Sunday, I will return home on Pobeda airline flight. Meet me," Navalny tweeted on Wednesday. On Monday, Russian prison authorities sent an official request to a court asking to replace his suspended sentence in a years-old case with a real jail term. Navalny was poisoned with the toxin Novichok in August and nearly died. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement. He is currently in Germany, after receiving treatment at Berlin's Charite clinic. more...

Lorenzo Tondo

Italy’s largest mafia trial in three decades will begin on Wednesday, with 900 witnesses testifying against more than 350 people, including politicians and officials charged with being members of the powerful ’Ndrangheta. A high-security 1,000-capacity courtroom with cages to hold the defendants has been built by Italian authorities in the Calabrian city of Lamezia Terme. Because of coronavirus-related restrictions, however, many of the defendants will attend via videolink from prison during the first hearings. Those in court will wear masks and will be spread across cages, sitting at least 2 metres away from each other. Almost all of the defendants were arrested in December 2019 after a lengthy investigation that began in 2016 and covered at least 11 Italian regions. About 2,500 officers participated in raids focused on suspects in Vibo Valentia, Calabria, the heart of an area controlled mainly by the ’Ndrangheta’s Mancuso clan. An elite Carabinieri unit known as the Cacciatori, literally “the hunters”, arrested several suspects hiding in self-constructed bunkers located behind sliding staircases, hidden trapdoors and manholes. more...

By Debora Patta

It was a routine patrol around 7:30 a.m. on Sunday when six rangers working at Virunga National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo were ambushed by a local militia group. The attack is the latest in the part of eastern Congo home to some of the world's last mountain gorillas. "It's devastating," Parks Director Emmanuel De Merode told CBS News as he was leaving the funeral for one of his six rangers. "The families of these men have lost breadwinners and have no safety net." The attack is the deadliest since April of last year when 17 people — 12 of them rangers — were killed in the worst episode of violence in the park's history. De Merode himself survived an assassination attempt after being shot several times in the chest and abdomen in 2014.  more...

By Sam Kiley, Senior International Correspondent, CNN

Jerusalem (CNN)Israel is no longer a democracy but an "apartheid regime" devoted to cementing the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians, the country's best-known human rights group said in a report published Tuesday. B'Tselem, which until now has confined its work to scrutiny of human rights issues in the Palestinian territories, has now also decided to look at what it calls Israel's "regime" between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. "More than 14 million people, roughly half of them Jews and the other half Palestinians, live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea under a single rule," B'Tselem said in a new analysis titled: "A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid."

The human rights group says that the traditional view of Israel as a democracy operating side-by-side with a temporary Israeli occupation in the territories "imposed on some five million Palestinian subjects ... has grown divorced from reality." "Most importantly, the distinction obfuscates the fact that the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is organized under a single principle: advancing and cementing the supremacy of one group -- Jews -- over another -- Palestinians," B'Tselem said in its controversial analysis. Years of injustice against Palestinians, culminating in laws that have entrenched discrimination, mean that "the bar for labeling the Israeli regime as apartheid has been met," B'Tselem said. more...

Bill Chappell, Colin Dwyer

The Trump administration says it will designate Yemen's Houthi movement a terrorist organization, in a move that has elicited consternation from international aid organizations and authorities. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the U.S. wants to "deter further malign activity by the Iranian regime" that backs the Houthis. The designation is set to take effect on Jan. 19 — the day before Trump leaves office and President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in. "If Ansarallah did not behave like a terrorist organization, we would not designate it" as one," Pompeo said in a statement about the plan. The U.S. accuses the Houthis of carrying out a deadly campaign that has destabilized both Yemen and the Middle East. The terrorist label would apply to the Houthis, whose formal name is Ansarallah, and to three of the movement's leaders: Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya al Hakim. more...

The new Sundance Now docuseries “The Night Caller” exposes how Australian police pinned a serial killer’s murder on innocents before shielding the real culprit’s crimes.
Nick Schager

Considering how many involve law enforcement corruption, true crime stories suggest that without accountability cops can’t be trusted to behave properly in obtaining confessions, charging individuals, or admitting to their mistakes regarding unjust convictions. The Night Caller is both a sprawling serial-killer mystery and a saga about legal exoneration. Yet by its conclusion, it primarily proves to be another infuriating non-fiction portrait of police malfeasance and—worse still—unwillingness to own up to, and correct, their own wrongdoing. more...

By Jamaluddin Masrur, Helen Regan and Jonny Hallam, CNN

Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) Human remains and plane wreckage have been pulled from the crash site of an Indonesian passenger jet that plunged into the ocean minutes after takeoff on Saturday, with 62 people on board. The Sriwijaya Air flight 182 -- a Boeing 737-500 -- was heading from Jakarta to the city of Pontianak, on the Indonesian island of Borneo, when it lost contact at 2:40 p.m. local time (2:40 a.m. ET), 11 nautical miles north of Jakarta's Soekarno--Hatta International Airport. Four minutes into the flight, and amid heavy rains, the plane dropped 10,000 feet in less than a minute before disappearing from the radar, according to the global flight tracking service Flightradar24. Indonesian Navy divers on Sunday found wreckage from flight SJY 182 after locating a signal from the aircraft's fuselage. Commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces, Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, said that he is confident that the Navy Rigel Warship has located the plane's fuselage. As well as debris from the plane, Indonesian police said they have received two body bags, one containing items belonging to victims such as pants and shirts, and another containing body parts, Jakarta Police spokesperson Yusri Yunus told CNN. more...

By Miriam Berger

Indonesian authorities mobilized search teams Saturday after air traffic controllers lost contact with a passenger jet carrying 62 people on a domestic flight, Indonesia’s Transportation Ministry said. The Boeing 737-500 flown by Sriwijaya Air went off radar screens shortly after leaving the capital, Jakarta, on a 90-minute flight to Pontianak on Indonesia’s Borneo island, said Adita Irawati, a spokesperson for the ministry, the Associated Press reported. Fifty-six passengers and six crew members were on board, AP reported. Other reports put the figures at 50 passengers as 12 crew members. Flightradar24, which monitors air traffic, wrote on its Twitter account that the 27-year-old plane “lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than one minute, about 4 minutes after departure from Jakarta.” more...

By Christina Maxouris, CNN

(CNN) Across the United States, millions watched in horror Wednesday as unprecedented scenes of chaos unfolded at the US Capitol. Supporters of President Donald Trump breached the building -- just as Congress kicked off a joint session to certify President-elect Joe Biden's win. At least four people died. But in the hours that authorities scrambled to control the rioters, it wasn't just the US that was watching. Here's how newspapers from around the globe reacted to the violence. more...

Jaclyn Diaz

A British court has denied a request from U.S. officials to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on charges of illegally obtaining and sharing classified material related to national security. Extradition to the U.S. would be unjust and oppressive to Assange's mental health, British Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser said in her decision Monday. The judge's decision surprised many watching the case who expected her to honor the U.S. request. A psychiatrist who analyzed Assange during his time in prison in London, told Baraitser that Assange was at a very high risk of committing suicide if he ended up in a U.S. prison.

Assange was diagnosed in December 2019 with recurrent depressive disorder, which was at times severe, and sometimes accompanied by hallucinations and often with thoughts of suicide, Baraitser said in her opinion. She cited the psychiatrist who studied Assange, writing, "Although the imminence of extradition or extradition itself would trigger the attempt, its cause would be Mr. Assange's clinical depression. He stated, 'I am as confident as a psychiatrist ever can be that, if extradition to the United States were to become imminent, Mr. Assange will find a way of suiciding.'" more...

*** Trump AKA el stupid broke the nuclear deal now Iran is free to enrich as much uranium as they want. ***

By JON GAMBRELL and ISABEL DEBRE

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran on Monday began enriching uranium up to 20% at an underground facility and seized a South Korean-flagged oil tanker in the crucial Strait of Hormuz, further escalating tensions in the Middle East between Tehran and the West. The announcement of enrichment at Fordo came as fears rose that Tehran had seized the MT Hankuk Chemi. Iran later acknowledged the seizure, alleging the vessel’s “oil pollution” sparked the move. However, hours earlier, Tehran said a South Korean diplomat was expected to visit in the coming days to negotiate the release of billions of dollars in its assets now frozen in Seoul.

The dual incidents come amid heightened tensions between Iran and the United States in the waning days of President Donald Trump’s term in office. During Trump’s tenure, the U.S. leader unilaterally withdrew from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and set off months of tense episodes that increasingly strained relations between the countries. Iranian state television quoted spokesman Ali Rabiei as saying that President Hassan Rouhani had given the order for the move at the Fordo facility.

Iran’s decision to begin enriching to 20% purity a decade ago nearly triggered an Israeli strike targeting its nuclear facilities, tensions that only abated with the 2015 atomic deal. A resumption of 20% enrichment could see that brinksmanship return as that level of purity is only a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%. From Israel, which has its own undeclared nuclear weapons program, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Iran’s enrichment decision, saying it “cannot be explained in any way other than the continuation of realizing its goal to develop a military nuclear program.” “Israel will not allow Iran to manufacture a nuclear weapon,” he added. more...

*** Trump AKA el stupid broke the nuclear deal now Iran is free to enrich as much uranium as they want. ***

By Tal Axelrod

Iran on Saturday announced that it intends to enrich its uranium to up to 20 percent at its Fordow facility amid heightening tensions with the U.S. in the waning days of the Trump administration. Iranian state television confirmed that Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the civilian Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, has sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) informing it of Tehran’s decision to enrich its uranium just a short step away from weapons-grade levels. The IAEA also confirmed to The Hill that it had received the letter and maintained that it would keep a close eye on any developments at the underground Fordow facility.

“Iran has informed the agency that in order to comply with a legal act recently passed by the country’s parliament, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran intends to produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) up to 20 percent at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant. Iran’s letter to the agency, dated [Dec. 31, 2020] did not say when this enrichment activity would take place,” the agency said. “The agency has inspectors present in Iran on a 24/7 basis and they have regular access to Fordow," it added. "In line with standard safeguards practice, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi will promptly report any relevant developments to IAEA Member States, as he did [Friday] regarding Iran’s letter.”

Iran’s decision to further enrich its uranium comes amid escalating friction with Washington and concerns that Tehran is mulling some kind of military action in the Middle East in the coming days. Two Air Force B-52 Stratofortresses flew from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to the Persian Gulf this week in an attempt to deliver “a clear deterrent message to anyone who intends to do harm to Americans or American interests,” according to U.S. Central Command. The flights marked the third such mission in 45 days. more...

Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — China said Saturday that it would take necessary countermeasures in response to the New York Stock Exchange’s announcement that it would delist three major Chinese telecoms, in the latest flare-up of tensions between Beijing and Washington. The stock exchange said Thursday that it would delist China Telecom Corp. Ltd., China Mobile Ltd. and China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd., with trading of the companies to be suspended sometime between Jan. 7 and Jan. 11. The move stems from an executive order President Donald Trump issued on Nov. 12 barring investment in publicly traded companies that the U.S. government says are owned or controlled by the Chinese military. more...

Moscow, with its growing cyber capabilities, appears undeterred by Western sanctions and other countermeasures
By Georgi Kantchev, Warren P. Strobel

The sprawling SolarWinds hack by suspected Russian state-backed hackers is the latest sign of Moscow’s growing resolve and improving technical ability to cause disruption and conduct espionage at a global scale in cyberspace. The hack, which compromised parts of the U.S. government as well as tech companies, a hospital and a university, adds to a string of increasingly sophisticated and ever more brazen online intrusions, demonstrating how cyber operations have become a key plank in Russia’s confrontation with the West, analysts and officials say. Moscow’s relations with the West continue to sour, and the Kremlin sees the cyber operations as a cheap and effective way to achieve its geopolitical goals, analysts say. Russia, they say, is therefore unlikely to back off from such tactics, even while facing U.S. sanctions or countermeasures. more...

“We have our freedom in our hands, and it is up to us to make the most of it,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a New Year’s message.
By Saphora Smith

LONDON — The United Kingdom has finally completed its economic separation from the European Union, embarking on a new era of greater freedom but heightened isolation from its continental neighbors. While Brexit was officially completed in January 2020, Thursday marked the end of a transition period in which the U.K. followed all the E.U.'s rule and regulations. As London’s Big Ben struck 11 p.m. — midnight Brussels time — the final result of the Brexit process came to pass, to the delight of those who backed Brexit and the dismay of those who continue to fear its consequences. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who campaigned for the U.K. to leave the E.U., called the new year “an amazing moment for this country.” “We have our freedom in our hands, and it is up to us to make the most of it,” he said in a New Year’s video message. more...

There have been recent heightened tensions, but an official acknowledged reading Iranian intentions is "difficult and at times unpredictable."
By Mosheh Gains

WASHINGTON — The U.S. has seen increasing indications that Iran could be planning an attack against American forces or interests in the Middle East, according to a U.S. official. The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that reading Iran’s intentions was “difficult and at times unpredictable.” But the indications are being taken seriously, the official said. The one-year anniversary of the U.S.' killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani is just days away. Soleimani was killed in a U.S. dronestrike in Iraq on Jan. 3, 2020, in what the Defense Department characterized as a "defensive action" because it alleged the leader of Iran's Quds Force was developing plans to attack Americans. Iran launched missiles against U.S. forces in Iraq in response to the killing days later. more...

By TIA GOLDENBERG

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — In the early days of the pandemic, a panicked Israel began using a mass surveillance tool on its civilians, tracking people’s cellphones in hopes of stopping the spread of the coronavirus. The government touted the technology, normally used to catch wanted Palestinian militants, as a breakthrough against the virus. But months later, the tool’s effectiveness is being called into question and critics say its use has come at an immeasurable cost to the country’s democratic principles.

“The idea of a government watching its own citizens this closely should ring the alarm,” said Maya Fried, a spokeswoman for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which has repeatedly challenged the use of the tool in court. “This is against the foundations of democracy. You can’t just give up on democracy during a crisis.” more...

CNN Expansion Hong Kong July 2020 795169, Jessie Yeung
By Jessie Yeung, CNN

(CNN) Australia woke up to a new year on Friday -- and a slightly different national anthem. The anthem, "Advance Australia Fair," has been tweaked to recognize the country's Indigenous history and communities, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced late Thursday, hours before 2021. The first line, "Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free," will now end with "one and free." "Australia as a modern nation may be relatively young, but our country's story is ancient, as are the stories of the many First Nations peoples whose stewardship we rightly acknowledge and respect," Morrison wrote in an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald.

"In the spirit of unity, it is only right that we also now acknowledge this and ensure our national anthem reflects this truth and shared appreciation. Changing 'young and free' to 'one and free' takes nothing away, but I believe it adds much." The government has a history of changing the song to be more inclusive -- when Peter Dodds McCormick's original 1878 composition was declared the official national anthem in 1984, replacing "God Save the Queen," two instances of "sons" were switched with gender-neutral phrasing. more...

BBC

The UK stopped following EU rules at 23:00 GMT, as replacement arrangements for travel, trade, immigration and security co-operation came into force. Boris Johnson said the UK had "freedom in our hands" and the ability to do things "differently and better" now the long Brexit process was over. But opponents of leaving the EU maintain the country will be worse off. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, whose ambition it is to take an independent Scotland back into the EU, tweeted: "Scotland will be back soon, Europe. Keep the light on." BBC Europe editor Katya Adler said there was a sense of relief in Brussels that the Brexit process was over, "but there is regret still at Brexit itself".

The first lorries arriving at the borders entered the UK and EU without delay. But the Stena Line ferries and ports group tweeted that six freight loads travelling from Holyhead in Wales to Ireland on Friday morning had to be turned away due to not having the correct paperwork. UK ministers have warned there will be some disruption in the coming days and weeks, as new rules bed in and British firms come to terms with the changes. But officials have insisted new border systems are "ready to go". more...

Felix Salmon

It took two general elections, three prime ministers, and just over 4 1/2 years, but as of today Britain finally has the Brexit it voted for in June 2016. It's not a pretty sight. The big picture: Britain has left Europe's single market and customs union, and is no longer governed by European law. Yes, but: Northern Ireland is still part of the U.K., while trading as though it is part of Europe. That means anybody moving goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain needs to fill out a customs declaration first. An analogy: Imagine businesses in Alaska being able to trade freely with Canada and Mexico, but needing to fill out paperwork in order to import or export anything to the rest of the USA. Gibraltar, similarly, will join the Schengen Area. That means Europeans will be able to travel in and out freely, while visitors from the U.K. are forced to show their passports at a border control. more...


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