By Chris Arsenault RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The area covered by palm oil plantations worldwide could double without damaging protected areas or sensitive forests, Austrian researchers said on Tuesday. Researchers from the Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) studied satellite maps from Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America to determine where the crop used to make vegetable oils and other consumer products could be expanded sustainably. The findings follow criticism from campaign groups who say the expansion of palm oil plantations has destroyed rainforests and displaced local people from their ancestral lands. An area larger than Uruguay, more than 18 million hectares (44.5 million acres) of land, is covered by palm oil plantations, up from six million hectares in 1990, IIASA said. Expansion of the crop, which accounts for about 30 percent of all vegetable oil used worldwide, has been concentrated in biodiversity-rich tropical forests in Malaysia and Indonesia. The industry could grow sustainably if the right policies are put in place, the researchers said. "Currently, 'no-deforestation' pledges are being formulated and eventually implemented on different scales – from palm oil traders to provincial governments," IIASA researcher Johannes Pirker told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "As a co-benefit of these initiatives improved land use planning and tenure clarification, smallholder inclusion and improved production practices might come about, which will ultimately also benefit the land rights of traditional communities," Pirker said. Satellite data shows an area of up about 19 million hectares onto which the industry could grow without damaging forests that are particularly valuable for biodiversity or storing carbon as means of combating climate change, IIASA said. Globally, an estimated three million small farmers work in the palm oil business and this could rise above seven million if the industry is expanded sustainably, IIASA said. (Reporting By Chris Arsenault. Editing by Astrid Zweynert. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)
- The Independent
‘There was a protocol breach when the front doors were not held open’
- Associated Press
New first lady Jill Biden took an unannounced detour to the U.S. Capitol on Friday to deliver baskets of chocolate chip cookies to National Guard members, thanking them “for keeping me and my family safe” during President Joe Biden's inauguration. “I just want to say thank you from President Biden and the whole, the entire Biden family,” she told a group of Guard members at the Capitol. “The White House baked you some chocolate chip cookies," she said, before joking that she couldn't say she had baked them herself.
- The Telegraph
A Republican congresswoman is facing calls to resign over reports that she helped to spread falsehoods about the Parkland school shooting. Marjorie Taylor Greene reportedly agreed with a conspiracy theory about the 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed. Facebook screenshots showed a discussion about why a police officer had not rushed into the building, and someone claimed that the mass shooting was a "false flag planned shooting." Greene replied: “Exactly!" The social media giant later removed the posts after they were reported to them. Cameron Kasky, a former Parkland pupil who co-founded the group Never Again MSD, said: "She should resign. She can apologise. I don’t think anybody will accept it.” The congresswoman was elected in Georgia in November, backed Donald Trump's claims of election fraud, and has previously expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory. Fred Guttenberg, who's 14-year-old daughter Jaime died in the Parkland shooting, said: "Your feelings on gun laws are irrelevant to your claim that Parkland never happened. You are a fraud who must resign. Be prepared to meet me directly in person to explain your conspiracy theory, and soon." The comments by the politician were first reported by Media Matters for America. In a statement Ms Greene accused Media Matters for America of being "communists' and "fake news". Meanwhile, US Capitol Police were investigating an incident in which a Republican congressman was found carrying a concealed gun while trying to enter the floor of the House of Representatives. Andy Harris, a staunch gun-rights advocate, set off a metal detector going through security on his way to the House floor . Metal detectors were installed outside the chamber to beef up security in the aftermath of the Capitol riots on Jan 6.
- The Week
The evenly split Senate is having a hard time agreeing who's in charge.Georgia's two new Democratic senators were sworn in Wednesday, giving Republicans and Democrats 50 senators each, with Vice President Kamala Harris as a Democratic tiebreaker. The two parties are now working out a power-sharing agreement, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) commitment to the filibuster is standing in the way.McConnell on Thursday formally acknowledged Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as the chamber's new majority leader. But as he has been for days, McConnell again implored Democrats to preserve the filibuster that lets a senator extend debate and block a timely vote on a bill if there aren't 60 votes to stop it. Democrats "have no plans to gut the filibuster further, but argue it would be a mistake to take one of their tools off the table just as they're about to govern," Politico reports; More progressive senators do want to remove the option completely.If his filibuster demands aren't met, McConnell has threatened to block the Senate power-sharing agreement that would put Democrats in charge of the body's committees. But Democrats already seem confident in their newfound power, with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) telling Politico that "Chuck Schumer is the majority leader and he should be treated like majority leader." Giving in to McConnell "would be exactly the wrong way to begin," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) echoed.Other Democrats shared their resistance to McConnell's demands in tweets. > McConnell is threatening to filibuster the Organizing Resolution which allows Democrats to assume the committee Chair positions. It's an absolutely unprecedented, wacky, counterproductive request. We won the Senate. We get the gavels.> > -- Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 21, 2021> So after Mitch McConnell changed the Senate rules at a blistering pace during his 6 years in charge, he is threatening to filibuster the Senate's organizing resolution unless the Democratic majority agrees to never change the rules again.> > Huh.> > -- Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 21, 2021More stories from theweek.com McConnell is already moving to strangle the Biden presidency 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Nearly 200 National Guard members have reportedly gotten COVID-19 since the Capitol riot
- National Review
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) vowed that any Congressman found to have aided rioters who breached the Capitol on January 6 would be prosecuted, in remarks to reporters on Thursday. Pelosi’s comments came several days after Representative Steve Cohen (D., Tenn.) implied that Representative Lauren Boebert (R., Fla.) may have aided rioters, saying he saw her giving a tour of the Capitol about two days prior to the event. Boebert has received criticism for her support for the QAnon conspiracy theory, however no evidence has emerged that she aided rioters. Speaker Pelosi on House lawmaker involvement in the 1/6 Capitol insurrection: "Everything has to be based on evidence … There will be prosecution, if they aided and abetted an insurrection in which people died." pic.twitter.com/OxtZLBAomy — The Recount (@therecount) January 21, 2021 “Everything has to be based on evidence, and that remains to be seen,” Pelosi said on Thursday. “If people did aid and abet [the riots], there will be more than just comments from their colleagues here: there will be prosecution, if they aided and abetted an insurrection in which people died.” However, Pelosi added, “that is something you have to collect evidence for as you proceed.” Rioters managed to overrun Capitol police and forced lawmakers to evacuate the building or shelter in place, interrupting the certification of the Electoral College results. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) blamed former President Trump for provoking the riots in a floor speech on Tuesday. “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government that they did not like,” McConnell said. However, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) told reporters on Thursday that he does not think Trump incited the riot. “I don’t believe he provoked it if you listen to what he said at the rally,” McCarthy said. The comments appear to contradict remarks made by McCarthy last week, in which he said Trump “bears responsibility” for the riots.
- The Independent
Judge denies release for 26-year-old accused of taking part in the deadly Capitol attacks then returning to Washington on Inauguration Day
- Associated Press
The three National Guard members killed when a helicopter crashed in an upstate New York field this week were experienced pilots with past deployments to Afghanistan, officials said Friday. Killed in the crash were Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, 54, of Rochester, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch, 39, of Honeoye Falls, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial, 30 of Rochester, according to the National Guard.
- The Week
"C'mon, give me a break, man," President Biden told a reporter Thursday, when asked if his goal of getting 100 million Americans vaccinated in his first 100 days is too modest. "It's a good start, 100 million." Biden was right that when he "first made this pledge, it was an ambitious goal," Politico's Renuka Rayasam writes. "But now it's only a modest bump from the pace of vaccinations that he inherited," and experts agree it won't cut it anymore."At a pace of 1 million doses a day, the virus wouldn't be contained until sometime in 2022," Politico reports. Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at the Baylor College of Medicine, said the U.S. needs to vaccinate 2-3 million people a day to quash the pandemic by September, and the sooner the better, given the rise of new, more contagious variants. "We've blown every other opportunity," Hotez said. "This is all we have left.""I love that he set a goal, but a million doses a day?" Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told The New York Times. "I think we can do better," and actually "we are going to have to if we really want to get on top of this virus by, say, summer."Currently, U.S. vaccination efforts are constrained by supply shortages and inefficient distribution of the two approved vaccines, from Modern and Pfizer/BioNTech. "States are expected to run out of doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine within days," Politico says. But both companies are ramping up production, and Johnson & Johnson's one-dose vaccine is expected to hit the shelves by the end of February, so there should be amply supply to significantly exceed Biden's current goal by April.In the meantime, Biden's administration should focus "on fixing the hodgepodge of state and local vaccination centers that has proved incapable of managing even the current flow of vaccines," the Times reports, citing experts. Biden has requested $20 billion to vastly expand vaccination centers, and he wants to hire 100,000 health care workers to administer the vaccines. If he can do that, former FDA director Dr. Mark McClellan tells the Times, it should "push the number beyond a million doses a day and probably significantly beyond."More stories from theweek.com McConnell is already moving to strangle the Biden presidency 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Nearly 200 National Guard members have reportedly gotten COVID-19 since the Capitol riot
- The Telegraph
Families who lost relatives during Wuhan's initial outbreak of coronavirus are being blocked in their legal efforts to hold the Chinese authorities responsible for the deaths, one year after lockdown first went in place at ground zero of the pandemic. Five families accuse the municipal and provincial governments for covering up the outbreak, neglecting to notify the public, and failing to act swiftly, causing infections to explode. More than two million people globally have died from coronavirus. The Telegraph has interviewed four of the five trying to bring unprecedented lawsuits, most of whom are seeking 2 million yuan (£226,000) each in reparations. They told this newspaper of a campaign of harassment and denial of justice. Chinese courts have rejected all lawsuits they have tried to file, though they continue to persist by attempting to sue at higher courts, defying government threats that have scared dozens of others into giving up. Pursuing their cases poses immense risks as they’re challenging China’s official narrative, which claims authorities acted swiftly and with transparency to contain Covid-19, glossing over missteps and the silencing of whistleblowers.
- NBC News
A woman has been arrested and charged with murder after the dismembered remains of her missing roommate, Talina Galloway, were found in a freezer in the woods of Polk County, Arkansas last week. Talina, 53, was reported missing by her roommate, Kore Bommeli on April 17, 2020. Talina’s remains were found in the freezer on January 14, 2021. Bommeli, who has been a person of interest throughout the investigation, was located in Wisconsin and faces charges of murder and desecration of a corpse. Th
- Architectural Digest
800 feet up in the sky, the Dreamy 6,000 square foot space offers panoramic views from the East River to the HudsonOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
The European Union and Turkey pressed each other on Thursday to take concrete steps to improve relations long strained by disagreements over energy, migration and Ankara's human rights record. Turkey, which remains an official candidate for EU membership despite the tensions, is facing the threat of EU economic sanctions over a hydrocarbons dispute with Greece in the eastern Mediterranean, but the mood music between Brussels and Ankara has improved since the new year.
- Yahoo News Video
The master tenant of a cluttered, dilapidated San Francisco Bay Area warehouse where 36 people perished in a late night fire in 2016 is scheduled to plead guilty Friday to the deaths, avoiding a second trial after the first ended in a hung jury.
Donald Trump issued a list of pardons during his final hours as U.S. president but did not include himself, his children, or personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, even though advisers said he had privately debated the extraordinary step of a self-pardon. What may have guided Trump's decision not to pardon himself and members of his inner circle? Presidential pardons can only accomplish so much.
- National Review
President Joe Biden is planning to run for a second term in 2024, according to Senator Chris Coons (D., Del.), a close ally to Biden. “He is planning to run again,” Coons told Politico’s Transition Playbook last weekend. “He knows that we are at the middle of an absolute turning point, a pivot point in American history. And he’s up for the challenge.” Whether Biden will seek a second term has been the subject of much speculation as the Democrat, at 78 years old, became the oldest candidate ever elected to the presidency. Biden’s decision to run for a second term will be of great consequence to those in his party who may look to run after his time in office has ended, including Vice President Kamala Harris. According to Politico, some outside advisers have encouraged the president to declare or file for reelection immediately to silence any lame-duck talk, as former President Donald Trump did on Inauguration Day in 2017. Biden’s team has instead insisted that Biden should focus on COVID-19 and economic recovery efforts rather than 2024. Biden reportedly signaled to aides in December 2019 that he was considering serving just one term or making a one-term pledge, according to Ryan Lizza. Though Biden pushed back against those reports saying, “I don’t have any plans on one term.” After his primary win, he told donors that he views himself as a “transition candidate,” acting as a bridge to a younger generation of leadership. However, aides to Biden say he has been emboldened by his election win, according to Politico. Every newly elected president has run for reelection since Grover Cleveland in 1988 — Calvin Coolidge, Lyndon Johnson and Harry Truman did not run a second time but served partial terms after the deaths of their predecessors, before winning election.
America may not have won World War II and landed on the moon later if not for the contributions of a brilliant Chinese scientist named Qian Xuesen. Fearing communist presence after the war, the U.S., however, deported Qian to China, clueless that he would eventually spearhead programs that would target American troops and eventually propel China into space. Born to well-educated parents in 1911, it was evident from an early age that Qian had superior intellect.
- Associated Press
The master tenant of a San Francisco Bay Area warehouse where 36 people perished when a fire ignited during a 2016 dance party pleaded guilty Friday to the deaths, avoiding a second trial after the first ended in a hung jury. Derick Almena, 50, pleaded guilty to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a 12-year sentence. Already free on bail, Almena likely won't return to jail because of the nearly three years he already spent behind bars and credit for good behavior.
"He said: 'Choose, either I kill you or rape you'," the 25-year-old told Reuters at the Hamdayet refugee camp in Sudan where she had fled from conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region. The doctor who treated her when she arrived at the camp in December, Tewadrous Tefera Limeuh, confirmed to Reuters that he provided pills to stop pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases, and guided her to a psychotherapist. "The soldier ... forced a gun on her and raped her," Limeuh, who was volunteering with the Sudanese Red Crescent, said the woman told him.
- The Independent
Sean Hannity denounces Biden’s first week as ‘disastrous’ before the president completed a full day of work
‘The Biden administration is off to a very rocky start,’ Fox News host says
- The Telegraph
Spain will be “more ready” to welcome holidaymakers once 70 per cent of the country are vaccinated at the end of the summer, the PM has said, casting doubt on travel plans this year. Pime Minister Pedro Sánchez echoed other government ministers in saying that this threshold would probably not be reached until the end of August. “The government is working to vaccinate at the highest possible rate […] to reach the end of the summer with 70 per cent, which will leave Spain progressively more ready to receive international tourists”, Mr Sánchez said at a World Tourism Organization event in Madrid this week. “The tourism recovery begins with vaccination. And full recovery, with full vaccination,” the Spanish leader stated, leaving the door open for some easing of restrictions before the 70 per cent safety level is reached. But Spain’s tourism and industry minister, Reyes Maroto, stepped in on Friday to reassure the sector that plans were afoot to save at least part of the summer season. “We hope that at the end of spring and especially during the summer, international travel will resume and travellers will choose Spain as their destination,” Ms Maroto said. Mr Sánchez said Spain’s Covid vaccination campaign was going well and was “one of the best in Europe”, but a considerable acceleration will be required to protect 70 per cent of the population in time to restart the country’s stalled tourism sector this year. After nearly four weeks since the start of the vaccination campaign, Spain has delivered 1.1 million jabs, equalling just over two per cent of the population, with very few having had their second injection. Before the Covid pandemic, tourism represented 12 per cent of the Spanish economy, with close to 84 million international arrivals in 2019. Spain is one of several European Union countries supporting the introduction of a system of Covid vaccine passports to allow people who have been inoculated to travel. “This would be a shared and reliable framework to help avoid indiscriminate measures such as quarantines and travel bans,” Ms Maroto said. It came as Belgium’s consultation committee banned non-essential travel to and from the country from January 27 to March 1 on Friday. Alexander De Croo, the prime minister, had said he wanted to impose the ban at Thursday’s video summit of EU leaders. Belgian media reported his mind was made up after 160,000 travelled abroad for the Christmas holidays despite warnings not to do so. All travellers from the UK, South Africa and South America will have to go into quarantine for 10 days and be tested on the first and seventh day. Non-residents will have to be tested on departure and arrival “Let this be clear: we are not building a wall around our country,” said Mr De Croo. “Coming and going is still possible, but there will have to be a good reason.” Meanwhile France is to make PCR tests compulsory for all travellers into the country, including from fellow EU countries, starting Sunday, President Emmanuel Macron's office confirmed yesterday/FRI The rule, which is already in place for people travelling between the UK and France, applies to all but cross-border workers and land transportation. The new restrictions come as a top French epidemiologist and government adviser warned that the country will have to resort to a strict lockdown like those in Ireland and Britain if it fails to rein in the more contagious variants of the coronavirus.