(Reuters) - Reports of creepy clowns carrying knives and other weapons have been scaring people in the California city of Bakersfield for the past week, police said on Sunday. In the latest incident, a person telephoned the Bakersfield Police Department on Saturday night, reporting a clown armed with a firearm, said watch commander Lieutenant Jason Matson. "We've been having sightings all over the city," Matson said. "They range from anywhere from a guy carrying a gun to a guy carrying a knife running up to houses." The Bakersfield Californian newspaper reported earlier in the week that at least some of the reports were hoaxes. Matson said he did not know whether the incidents were pranks. At least one of the reports was not a hoax - police arrested a teen on Friday who had dressed up as a clown and was chasing children on the west side of town, Matson said. The juvenile, whose name was not released, said he was doing it to perpetrate a hoax he had seen online. He was arrested on suspicion of annoying a minor and booked into the Kern County Juvenile Hall, Bakersfield police said in a news release. A child who had been chased "was clearly scared," the release said. (Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Calif.; editing by Matthew Lewis)
- The Independent
Michael Cohen said the ‘pocket pardon’ could be the ‘get out of jail free card’ for Donald Trump
- National Review
President Biden will sign a fresh round of executive orders during his first full week in office, including actions loosening restrictions around abortion and immigration. Biden will issue and order to rescind the Mexico City policy, which prohibits U.S. funding for foreign organizations that perform or promote abortions. The administration also dodged last week on whether Biden plans to scrap the Hyde Amendment, which bars taxpayer funding of elective abortions under Medicaid. On immigration, Biden plans to establish a task force focused on reuniting migrant families who were separated as a result of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, according to a memo outlining the upcoming executive actions obtained by The Hill. Biden will order an immediate review of the public-charge rule, which denies U.S. entry to migrants considered likely to become dependent on the government. The president also plans to roll back Trump administration policies on asylum and take “other actions to remove barriers and restore trust in the legal immigration system, including improving the naturalization process.” At the same time, Biden will take a page from the Trump administration’s playbook and sign an order directing federal agencies to tighten requirements on buying goods and services made in America from American businesses. Trump signed a similar directive during his first months in office. The president will also sign orders related to racial equity, including establishing a commission on police and bringing back Obama-era rules on transferring military-style equipment to local law enforcement. Another order will direct the Justice Department to improve prison conditions and begin the process of eliminating private prisons. Biden may also sign an order reversing a ban on transgender troops serving in the military. On climate change, Biden is expected to sign an order installing regulations to “combat climate change domestically and elevate climate change as a national security priority.”
- Associated Press
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Sunday he has tested positive for COVID-19 and that the symptoms are mild. Mexico's president, who has been criticized for his handling of his country's pandemic and for not setting an example of prevention in public, said on his official Twitter account that he is under medical treatment. José Luis Alomía Zegarra, Mexico’s director of epidemiology, said López Obrador had a “light” case of COVID-19 and was “isolating at home.”
Drugmaker Merck & Co said on Monday it would stop development of its two COVID-19 vaccines and focus pandemic research on treatments, with initial data on an experimental oral antiviral expected by the end of March. Merck was late to join the race to develop a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus, which has so far killed more than 2 million people and continues to surge in many parts of the world including the United States. The company will record a pre-tax discontinuation charge in the fourth quarter for vaccine candidate V591, which it acquired with the purchase of Austrian vaccine maker Themis Bioscience, and V590, developed with nonprofit research organization IAVI, Merck said in a statement.
- The Telegraph
Italy’s interior minister has intervened in a row in Naples over the painting of giant murals that pay tribute to the blighted lives and violent exploits of teenage criminals. Italians have adopted a curious English phrase, “baby bosses”, to describe the young gangsters, who frequently lose their lives in confrontations with police on the streets of the southern city. Such “bosses” are said to be members of “baby gangs” – another curious Italo-English invention that denotes groups of delinquents and drifters. Authorities in Naples want to scrub out or paint over two large murals which adorn the sides of buildings. They depict two young men, Ugo Russo and Luigi Caiafa, who were shot dead in separate incidents last year by police officers during robbery attempts. A mural dedicated to Russo depicts his face and the words Verità e Giustizia – Truth and Justice. He was killed when he tried to rob an off-duty police officer last year.
- The Independent
First family orders sesame bagels with cream cheese
The will-he-or-won't-he speculation surrounding a possible gubernatorial run by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is destined to continue at least a bit longer.What he's saying: Lindell told Axios that his focus is currently on proving his (baseless) claims of election fraud. He won't make a decision until that fight is resolved.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here. * "Why would anybody want to run if they had the same machines with the election fraud?" Lindell said Friday. * "It will all get out there, and when it does, we'll see what elections are going to have to be done with paper ballots and no machines. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense to put in everybody's resources and time."Between the lines: While he's leaving the door open, Lindell's comments create a path for bowing out.Why it matters: If Lindell runs, name recognition and his ties to Trump could give him an edge among GOP voters. * Many top Republican officials and consultants think having the unpredictable pillow salesman at the top of the ticket would spell disaster for their efforts to win statewide in 2022.How we got here: Lindell has been flirting with a bid for months, but his commitment to promoting conspiracy theories about the 2020 election — including a much-covered White House visit — has triggered legal backlash and trouble for his business. * Last fall, Lindell said he'd run if Trump won another term. Then, in early January, he told the Star Tribune he was "90-95%" sure he'd jump in and would decide "once we know Donald Trump is our president."Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
California Governor Gavin Newsom's office has decided to lift the orders as ICU availability in the regions that remained under the stay-at-home order, including the Bay area and Southern California are projected to rise above the 15% threshold that triggered the lockdown measures, according https://bit.ly/3sSPOfp to San Francisco Chronicle. California has reported over 3.1 million cases and 36,745 deaths so far, a Reuters tally showed. Strict stay-at-home orders were renewed for much of California in December to avert a crisis in hospitals.
- Associated Press
Israeli authorities on Monday extradited a former teacher accused of sexually abusing her former students in Australia, capping a six-year legal battle that had strained relations between the two governments and antagonized Australia's Jewish community. Malka Leifer, who is wanted on 74 charges of child sex abuse in Australia, was placed on a flight early in the day, several hours before Israel was to close its international airport to nearly all air traffic due to a raging coronavirus outbreak. Israeli media photographed Leifer boarding a plane at Ben Gurion Airport, her ankles and wrists shackled.
Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani on Monday seeking $1.3 billion in damages for his "demonstrably false” allegations about the company's voting machines, the New York Times reports.Why it matters: Giuliani led former President Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election and spread the baseless conspiracy theory that Dominion's voting machines flipped votes from Trump to Joe Biden.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here. * Another one of Trump's allies, Sidney Powell, is also facing a defamation lawsuit for falsely claiming that Dominion was part of an international communist plot to rig the election. * The lawsuit against Giuliani is based on more than 50 statements he made at hearings, on Twitter, on his podcast and in media appearances, including after Dominion sent him a legal notice calling on him to stop, according to the Times.This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- NBC News
The Biden administration aims for 100 million vaccinations within his first 100 days as president.
- The Telegraph
Protests against a curfew to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the Netherlands degenerated into clashes with police and looting in cities across the country on Sunday, authorities and reports said. Police used water cannon and dogs in Amsterdam, public television NOS reported, after hundreds gathered to protest the curfew which is set to last until February 10 and is the country's first since World War II. In the southern city of Eindhoven, police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred, regional television Omroep Brabant reported. At least 30 people were arrested there, according to police. A number of vehicles were burned and businesses at Eindhoven's central train station were also looted, media reports said. Dutch rail company NS called on travellers to avoid the Eindhoven station, where it said train circulation was interrupted due to the intervention of emergency services nearby.
China has found harmless traces of the novel coronavirus in some COVID-19 inoculation sites potentially linked to vaccine liquid, its disease control centre said. Samples taken from tables, walls, doorknobs and hallways of the sites tested positive for the virus but were not infectious, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) said in a statement late on Sunday. The traces had identical genome sequences as the strain found in used vaccine vials but were different from the strains currently spreading, China CDC said.
- Associated Press
A 34-year-old grizzly bear captured in southwestern Wyoming has been confirmed as the oldest on record in the Yellowstone region, Wyoming wildlife officials said. Grizzly bear 168 was captured last summer after it preyed on calves in the Upper Green River Basin area. Biologists learned of the bear’s longevity after euthanizing the bruin, which had preyed on cattle and then finally, calves.
- The Week
There could soon be another Huckabee in the Arkansas Governor's Mansion.Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former President Donald Trump's second White House press secretary, is expected to announced on Monday that she will run for governor of Arkansas, two people familiar with the matter told NBC News. Her father, Mike Huckabee, served as Arkansas' governor from 1996 to 2007.Due to term limits, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) will be out of office in 2022, and Sanders has been thinking of throwing her hat into the ring since leaving the White House in 2019, NBC News reports. Her time as press secretary was tumultuous, with Sanders, a Trump loyalist, regularly accusing the media of spreading falsehoods and later admitting to federal investigators that she couldn't back up her assertion that FBI agents told the White House they had no confidence in former FBI Director James Comey.More stories from theweek.com Colleagues shocked that 'nerdy' Justice Department official joined Trump's election overthrow effort Josh Hawley knows exactly what he's doing 5 scathingly funny cartoons about Biden's COVID-19 push
- NBC News
A motive wasn't immediately known. Mayor Joe Hogsett said the shooting had brought "terror to our community."
- Yahoo News Video
Ailing Pope Francis, who this week is making limited public appearances due to persistent pain, has drawn attention to the struggles of homeless people in winter, including a Nigerian man who froze to death near the Vatican.
- The Telegraph
China ramped up its pressure on democratic Taiwan over the weekend, with an unusually large number of fighter jets approaching the island in a "test" for the new administration of US President Joe Biden. On Sunday, 12 Chinese fighter jets entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, along with a reconnaissance aircraft and two anti-submarine aircraft, Taiwan’s defence ministry said. A day earlier, China sent eight bomber planes capable of carrying nuclear weapons and four fighter jets to the same area to the southwest of the island, as well as one reconnaissance aircraft. On both occasions, Taiwan sent up aircraft, issued radio warnings to the Chinese aircraft, and deployed air defence missile systems to monitor their activity. Beijing claims self-governing Taiwan as part of its territory, and has been angered by a show of increased US support for Taiwan during Donald Trump’s administration. In recent months, China has carried out frequent, at times daily, incursions aimed at pressuring President Tsai Ing-wen’s government to accept Beijing’s demand that it recognise Taiwan as part of China. These incursions have usually consisted of just one or two reconnaissance planes in recent weeks, rather than the warplanes seen over the weekend.
- Associated Press
Indonesian authorities said that they seized an Iranian tanker and Panamanian tanker suspected of carrying out the illegal transfer of oil in their country's waters Sunday. The tankers — the Iranian-flagged MT Horse and the Panamanian-flagged MT Frea — were seized in waters off Indonesia's West Kalimantan province, said Wisnu Pramadita, a spokesman for the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency.
A prominent U.S. Senate Republican warned on Saturday that former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial could lead to the prosecution of former Democratic presidents if Republicans retake the chamber in two years. Trump this month became the first U.S. president to be impeached twice after the Democratic-controlled House, with the support of 10 Republicans, voted to charge him with incitement of insurrection for a fiery Jan. 6 speech to his followers before they launched a deadly assault on the Capitol.