By Robin Emmott BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Russia accused the United States on Wednesday of intimidation by sailing a U.S. naval destroyer close to Russia's border in the Baltics and warned that the Russian military would respond with "all necessary measures" to any future incidents. Speaking after a meeting between NATO envoys and Russia, their first in almost two years, Moscow's ambassador to NATO said the April 11 maritime incident showed there could be no improvement in ties until the U.S.-led alliance withdrew from Russia's borders. "This is about attempts to exercise military pressure on Russia," the envoy, Alexander Grushko, said. "We will take all necessary measures, precautions, to compensate for these attempts to use military force," he told reporters. U.S. Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute pressed Russia about the incident, warning it had been dangerous. The United States has said the guided missile destroyer USS Cook was on routine business near Poland when it was harassed by Russian jets. "We were in international waters," a NATO diplomat reported Lute as telling Grushko during the NATO-Russia council meeting. Despite what officials said was a calm and professional meeting, the public comments highlighted the state of tension that persists between the sides since Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea in March 2014 and its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the NATO member states had, during the meeting, rejected Grushko's account of the crisis in eastern Ukraine, where 9,000 people have died since April 2014. Stoltenberg said while there were "profound disagreements" over how to handle Europe's security, each side urgently needed to talk more and to use existing rules to reduce military risk. Stoltenberg suggested revamping a Cold War-era treaty known as the Vienna document, which sets out the rules for large-scale exercises and other military activity, as well as telephone hotlines and other military communication channels. "We have to use our lines of communication," he said. Russia's chief concern is NATO's biggest modernization since the Cold War, which is likely to include a military build-up in eastern Europe with a rotating, multinational force in Poland and the Baltics. NATO says the plans are a proportionate response to Russian aggression following Moscow's annexation of Crimea, and the alliance had no forces in eastern Europe before the Ukraine crisis. Poland and other NATO members in the Baltics worry about an increase in the Russian military presence in its Kaliningrad enclave, where Russia is positioning longer-range surface-to-air missiles. NO AGREEMENT ON UKRAINE The session of the NATO-Russia Council, which last met in June 2014, had been called in part to assuage Russia's concerns that it feels threatened by NATO. But core differences clearly remained afterwards. NATO envoys had expressed concern about Russia's so-called snap exercises, where thousands of Russian troops carry out war games without any prior warning. "That is clearly destabilizing," a NATO diplomat said. Stoltenberg said NATO members had rejected Grushko's description of the crisis in eastern Ukraine as a civil war. "In the meeting, it was re-confirmed that we disagree on the facts, on the narrative and the responsibilities in and around Ukraine," Stoltenberg said after the meeting. "Many allies disagree when Russia tries to portray this as a civil war. This is Russia destabilizing eastern Ukraine, providing support for the separatists, munitions, funding, equipment and also command and control," he said. "So there were profound disagreements," he said. Russia denies any direct involvement in eastern Ukraine. (Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Richard Balmforth)
- Yahoo News
Republicans built up QAnon backer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, but now are they afraid of what they created?
On the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the combative Georgia Republican known for her association with QAnon, was back on Twitter after a 12-hour suspension, and back to making waves.
- The Independent
‘It’s unfortunate’: Ashley Biden confirms first lady snubbed her mother on traditional White House handover
"I think we’re all OK with it,' says incoming first daughter in first ever TV interview
- The Week
Constitutionally-speaking, Chief Justice John Roberts is meant to preside over President Trump's impeachment trial, but he apparently wants out, Politico reports.Multiple Republican and Democratic sources have reportedly told Politico that Roberts is seeking a way to avoid the job because of how things played out when he oversaw Trump's first impeachment trial last year. Roberts, Politico notes, has worked hard to keep the Supreme Court apolitical during his tenure, so he was reportedly displeased that he "became a top target of the left" during the proceedings. "He wants no further part of this," one source told Politico, although there's been no official word from Roberts' camp about what he'll ultimately do.Trump's trial is a bit of a constitutional oddity. On the one hand, it's a presidential impeachment, but on the other hand, the trial will take place after he leaves office, which is why there's a chance Roberts may have some wiggle room. Historically, either the vice president or the longest-serving member of the Senate have taken up the mantle for lower-level impeachments, per Politico. That means Vice President-elect Kamala Harris or Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) could be the choice. Read more at Politico.More stories from theweek.com Trump's White House staff and alumni are reportedly using the same excuse to skip his big sendoff 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton dies at 75
- National Review
Dozens were arrested Monday night in New York City when Black Lives Matter protesters clashed with police outside City Hall during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march. Hundreds of demonstrators marched peacefully from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to City Hall in Manhattan, where they were met with a heavy police presence. The demonstration turned violent around 8:30 p.m. in City Hall Park, and police began making arrests after demonstrators started throwing projectiles, blocking traffic, and vandalizing property. Videos posted on social media show police urging the crowd to disperse before starting to make arrests. At least 29 people were arrested near Chambers and Centre streets and eleven officers were injured, including a captain who was hit in the head with a glass bottle. None of the officers are in serious condition. It is unclear how many protesters were injured during the clashes. In another video, police can be seen shoving several protesters as well as wrestling one person to the ground. Protesters can be heard shouting obscenities at officers. Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the New York Police Department over the “excessive enforcement” used against protesters calling for racial justice over the summer, including using pepper spray and batons on protesters and “kettling” or trapping demonstrators. James is calling for federal oversight of the NYPD. The federal government is already monitoring the NYPD to ensure that it retires its stop-and-frisk policy, which was found in 2013 to have been used in an unconstitutional manner. Last summer, riots broke out in New York City following the police custody death of George Floyd in May. About 450 businesses across the city were damaged and in many cases looted over May and June, according to the city’s Department of Small Business Services. More than 2,000 people were arrested at those demonstrations over the same period.
- Associated Press
Pakistan’s prime minister reacted angrily Monday to media reports of a text exchange between an Indian TV anchor and a former media industry executive that suggests a 2019 Indian airstrike inside Pakistan was designed to boost Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chances for reelection. Imran Khan took to Twitter to respond to Indian media reports of an exchange on the WhatsApp messaging service between popular Indian TV anchor Arnab Goswami and Partho Dasgupta, the former head of a TV rating company.
A boy who was killed in an alleged murder-suicide by his father has been identified as 9-year-old Pierce O’Loughlin. Family tragedy: The boy and his father, Stephen O'Loughlin, 49, were both found dead at their home on Scott Street, Marina District in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, SF Chronicle reports. The boy’s mother, Lesley Hu, asked authorities to check on her son after learning that he did not show up for school that day.
- NBC News
Suspect William McCall Calhoun Jr. faces a host of charges stemming from the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol Building.
- The Week
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has received a letter from Dominion Voting Systems, warning him that litigation is "imminent" due to his false claims that the company's machines were rigged to change the outcome of the election.Lindell, an enthusiastic supporter of President Trump, has been spreading baseless claims of widespread voter fraud for months. In the letter, Dominion's lawyers told Lindell, "You have positioned yourself as a prominent leader of the ongoing misinformation campaign. Litigation regarding these issues is imminent."Lindell told The New York Times he would "welcome" Dominion to "sue me because I have all the evidence against them. They sent this letter a couple of weeks ago. They're lying, they're nervous because I have all the evidence on them." Lindell did not say why, if he has such evidence, he has kept it to himself this entire time, holding onto it as judge after judge rejected lawsuits filed in an attempt to overturn the election in Trump's favor.More stories from theweek.com Trump's White House staff and alumni are reportedly using the same excuse to skip his big sendoff Chief Justice John Roberts reportedly wants no part of Trump's impeachment trial 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment
- National Review
Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) blocked a quick confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas as Joe Biden’s Department of Homeland Security secretary, citing Mayorkas’s immigration policy stance. Mayorkas is a former Obama administration official considered the architect of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children a renewable deportation deferment, without providing a path to citizenship. The confirmation hearings for Mayorkas come as Biden has pledged to undue many of the Trump administration’s restrictions on immigration, although it is unclear how quickly the Biden administration can act on those promises. “Mr. Mayorkas has not adequately explained how he will enforce federal law and secure the southern border given President-elect Biden’s promise to roll back major enforcement and security measures,” Hawley said in a statement. “Given this, I cannot consent to skip the standard vetting process and fast-track this nomination when so many questions remain unanswered.” Biden is reportedly set to propose an immigration-reform bill that would grant roughly eleven million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship over eight years. The bill could also grant citizenship to agricultural workers and illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. However, the proposal is not expected to include Republican-backed border security measures. The looming immigration debates in Congress come as a new migrant caravan continues to travel toward the U.S.-Mexico border. Several thousand people in the caravan clashed with Guatemalan security forces while crossing the border from Honduras on Sunday. “There’s help on the way, but now is not the time to make the journey,” a Biden official said in comments to NBC.
- Yahoo News Video
Alejandro Mayorkas, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to head the Department of Homeland Security, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he would execute Biden’s plan to stop building the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Mayorkas also said that CBP and ICE play “critical roles” in the federal government and that he wouldn’t abolish them.
The United States on Tuesday exempted aid groups, the United Nations, the Red Cross and the export of agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices from its designation of Yemen's Houthi movement as a foreign terrorist organization. The carve-outs are not enough to allay U.N. fears that Washington's move would push Yemen into a large-scale famine. The United Nations describes Yemen as the world's biggest humanitarian crisis, with 80% of its people in need.
- The Independent
‘If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors...traitors get shot,' he told his children
- Architectural Digest
Mercedes-Benz’s Hyperscreen, General Motors’ Bright Drop, and Jeep’s Electric Wrangler were among the unveils that turned headsOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- Associated Press
Snow lies knee-deep in the pastoral town of Gulmarg, or “meadow of flowers,” on Indian-controlled Kashmir's high plateau. With its blanket of white, the idyllic hill station is seeing tourists again fill its hotels and ski, sledge and trek its Himalayan landscape. The heavy influx of tourists is a dramatic change for the tourism industry in disputed Kashmir, which faced the double whammy of the coronavirus pandemic and harsh curbs on civil rights India imposed in the region in August 2019.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday ordered a halt to removal of certain Venezuelans from the United States for 18 months, citing conditions in the South American country. "The deteriorative condition within Venezuela, which presents an ongoing national security threat to the safety and well-being of the American people, warrants the deferral of the removal of Venezuelan nationals who are present in the United States," Trump, on the eve of leaving the White House, said in a memo to secretaries of state and homeland security.
- The Independent
Trump ends term with ‘patriotic education’ report which makes excuses for slavery and calls anti-abortion movement ‘great reform’
White House website says report is “rebuttal of reckless 're-education' attempts that seek to reframe American history around idea that United States is not an exceptional country but an evil one”
- Associated Press
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson narrowly avoided a defeat in Parliament on Tuesday after lawmakers voted against a controversial proposal seeking to bar trade deals with any country deemed by the U.K. High Court to be committing genocide. The amendment to the government’s post-Brexit trade bill was largely designed to force international action in addressing China’s alleged human rights abuses against the Uighur minority in the far western Xinjiang region.
- Associated Press
Vice President Mike Pence will be returning to his southern Indiana hometown Wednesday afternoon following the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. The Republican former Indiana governor and his wife Karen are expected to attend Biden’s inauguration and will then fly into the Columbus Municipal Airport, where they will be greeted by some supporters, the Indiana Republican Party said Tuesday. Pence grew up in Columbus and some family members still live there.
"This is also a desire that's shared by other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries," he said in an interview. Separately, the Qatari government was supporting discussions between Iran and South Korea to secure the release of an oil tanker seized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards early this month, the foreign minister said. As far as any potential U.S.-Iran talks, he said that Qatar will facilitate the discussions if asked and will support whoever is chosen to do so.
The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.What he's saying: “Tonight, the Department of Justice informed me that it has concluded its review of my personal financial transactions conducted early last year," Burr said in a statement. * "The case is now closed. I’m glad to hear it. My focus has been and will continue to be working for the people of North Carolina during this difficult time for our nation.”Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.