Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations nominee Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks at the Queen Theatre on November 24, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.


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Capitol security officials point fingers over Jan. 6 riot response

Law enforcement officials told lawmakers Tuesday they were prepared for the possibility of limited violence on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol, but the intelligence available ahead of time did not warn of a coordinated attack like the insurrection that overwhelmed officers and led to multiple casualties. “The breach of the United States Capitol was not the result of poor planning or failure to contain a demonstration gone wrong,” former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund told two Senate committees at the first open hearing on the Capitol riot. Former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving testified that intelligence assessments before the January 6 attack incorrectly concluded that there was only a “remote” to “improbable” chance of a civil disturbance that day, according to prepared testimony. This is the first time Americans are hearing in full why intelligence and operations failed dramatically on Jan. 6 from the very people whose choices contributed to the crisis — information that will likely help shape the search for new leaders and possibly a new security management structure on Capitol Hill. Sen. Gary Peters revealed Tuesday that an FBI report containing “troubling” information was given to U.S. Capitol Police headquarters on the eve of Jan. 6 but never made it to the department’s leadership, a breakdown the Michigan Democrat said is “clearly a major problem.” “How can you not get that vital intelligence on the eve of what’s going to be a major event?” Peters asked. Sund responded that the information was “coming in as raw data,” though he acknowledged the information would have been helpful. “I agree that’s something we need to look at. What’s the process and how do we streamline?” he said. Sund added that the report prompted Capitol Police to discuss its plans with Metropolitan Police and expand its perimeter for the event, though he also said that the expansion was already underway. All four officials who testified Tuesday said they believed the Jan. 6 insurrection was coordinated. “These people came specifically with equipment ... bringing climbing gear to a demonstration, bringing explosives, chemical spray... you’re coming in prepared,” Sund said. “I think there was significant coordination with this attack.” D.C. Metropolitan Police Acting Chief Robert Contee echoed that view, telling lawmakers: “From the day of the incident, there were hand signals being used by several of the insurrectionists. There were radio communications by several individuals that were involved ... I certainly believe it was coordinated.” The question of coordination among rioters has played into the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the attack, as well as the impeachment of former President Donald Trump. Some of the rioters have since claimed that they were inspired by the rush of the crowd when they stormed the Capitol. But federal prosecutors have brought several criminal charges against members of far-right extremist groups that allegedly planned the attack for weeks or months. During Trump’s impeachment, his lawyers highlighted claims that the attack was pre-planned as part of their argument that he did not incite the violence with his incendiary speech beforehand.

Dispute over deploying National Guard

Lawmakers grilled all four witnesses Tuesday on why it took so long for the National Guard to be called in once the US Capitol was under siege. In his initial statement, Contee described a phone call shortly after the Capitol was breached by pro-Trump rioters, and how Pentagon officials were apparently unable or unwilling to quickly send in National Guard troops. “I was surprised at the reluctance to immediately send the National Guard to the Capitol grounds,” he said. During his testimony, Irving disputed reports he was concerned by the “optics” of National Guard members appearing on Capitol Hill and thus had declined to request reinforcements on January 4, two days beforehand. “We did discuss whether the intelligence warranted having troops at the Capitol, and our collective judgment at that time was no — the intelligence did not warrant that,” he wrote in his prepared statement. “The intelligence did warrant the plan that had been prepared by Chief Sund.” “Based on the intelligence, we all believed that the plan met the threat, and that we were prepared,” Irving added. “We now know that we had the wrong plan.” In a previous letter, Sund said he asked Irving and former Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger to request the National Guard before the event. Irving said he “was concerned about the ‘optics’ and didn’t feel the intelligence supported it,” Sund wrote in his letter. Stenger suggested asking the Guard to be ready in case Sund needed them. On Thursday, Republican Sen. Roy Blunt asked Sund, Irving and Stenger about a request Sund claims he made for National Guard troops in the days before the riot. Sund testified he asked Irving and Stenger to make an emergency declaration, which he believed would be required to call in troops. Irving responded that he actually did not view Sund’s inquiry as a request for troops, but instead was a conversation in which Sund said the National Guard offered to deliver 125 troops to help with crowd control. Irving said all three men decided the intelligence about the protest didn’t warrant a military response. Blunt also pressed on conflicting timelines about when the Guard was requested after the rally turned into a clear riot. Sund claimed he made the request at 1:09 p.m., but Irving insisted he had no recollection of a conversation at that time, instead claiming the two spoke around 1:30 p.m.

Captain says she’s still recovering from chemical burns

Capt. Carneysha Mendoza of the US Capitol Police provided riveting testimony Tuesday morning about her firsthand experience responding to the insurrection. “I proceeded to the Rotunda where I noticed a heavy smoke-like residue and smelled what I believed to be military grade CS gas — a familiar smell,” Mendoza said, mentioning that she served in the Army. “It was mixed with fire extinguisher spray deployed by the rioters. The rioters continued to deploy CS inside the Rotunda.” CS is a reference to tear gas, which is often used by police as a riot control agent. Footage from the Capitol attack shows officers and rioters using chemical sprays against each other during the hours-long melee. “Officers received a lot of gas exposure, which is a lot worse inside the building versus outside, because there’s nowhere for it to go,” Mendoza said. “I received chemical burns to my face that still have not healed to this day.” She also described the terrifying moments while she and other officers brawled with hundreds of rioters. “At some point, my right arm got wedged between the rioters and railing along the wall,” she testified. “A (DC police) sergeant pulled my arm free and had he not, I’m certain it would have been broken.”

Search for new Capitol Police chief

On Thursday, acting USCP Chief Yogananda Pittman is scheduled to testify in an open hearing in front of the House Appropriations Committee. That will also mark the first time Pittman takes questions publicly. She previously appeared in a closed-door hearing in which she apologized to lawmakers. Her new testimony comes as officials are starting the search for a new USCP chief. A congressional source told CNN that Congress is moving forward with hiring an outside entity to begin the search. Several other committees working together have already received briefings and documents from intelligence agencies as part of the numerous probes. The House Intelligence, Homeland Security, Oversight and Judiciary committees’ joint review prompted an initial production of documents last week from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and National Counterterrorism Center, a congressional source told CNN. Additionally, they have received several briefings from the three agencies. The source said so far the documents have mostly been finished intelligence products that the committee could already access. This story has been updated with testimony from Tuesday’s hearing.

Thomas-Greenfield confirmed as

US Ambassador

to the UN

The Senate confirmed Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Tuesday. The vote was 78-20 and her confirmation comes less than a week before the United States’ presidency at the UN Security Council for the month of March. Following her swearing-in, she will travel to New York and is expected to present her credentials to UN Secretary General António Guterres Thursday. Thomas-Greenfield, a respected career ambassador who was jettisoned under the Trump administration, was one of President Joe Biden’s first picks for his national security team. At the time of her nomination, then President-elect Biden announced that he was returning the UN post to a Cabinet-level position. In its first month, the Biden administration has taken a number of steps to restore both U.S. participation in the multilateral body, including rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, moving to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council and stopping the US withdrawal from the World Health Organization. During her confirmation hearing last month, Thomas-Greenfield pledged to hold China to account in the international body and spoke of the need for the United States to be a presence there. “When America shows up — when we are consistent and persistent — when we exert our influence in accordance with our values — the United Nations can be an indispensable institution for advancing peace, security, and our collective well-being,” she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Biden administration prepares to impose sanctions on Russia

The Biden administration is preparing to impose sanctions on Russia in the coming weeks over the poisoning and jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny and the SolarWinds hack, according to two administration officials familiar with the Navalny plans and a U.S. official familiar with the hack response discussions. Discussions about the response to the devastating security breach of at least nine federal agencies and dozens of private businesses are still ongoing but could come within a matter of weeks, the U.S. official said, noting that the package will likely include sanctions and a cyber component, as well as other options that make clear just how serious the Biden administration views Russia’s actions more broadly. The form the Navalny sanctions will take is being firmed up and they will likely be rolled out in coordination with the European Union, the two administration officials said. The moves would be the first costs imposed on Russia by the Biden administration and would mark a clear departure from the strategy of the Trump administration, which failed to impose penalties over the poisoning and shied away from directly confronting Russia over its misdeeds. EU High Representative Josep Borrell said Tuesday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked to coordinate actions against Russia over the Navalny case. Blinken addressed the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Monday.

Wife of ‘El Chapo’ to remain behind bars on drug trafficking charges, judge orders

The wife of drug kingpin Joaquin ”El Chapo” Guzmán Loera will remain behind bars following her arrest in Virginia on federal drug trafficking charges, a District of Columbia magistrate judge ruled Tuesday. Emma Coronel Aispuro, a 31-year-old former beauty queen from Mexico, was apprehended at Dulles International Airport on Monday, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Coronel faces charges of conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, five kilograms or more of cocaine, 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana and 500 grams or more of methamphetamines for unlawful importation into the country, according to a Justice Department statement. Coronel made her first appearance via video conference in U.S. District Court in the nation’s capital Tuesday, and her attorneys consented to her continued detention in Alexandria, Virginia. District of Columbia Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather agreed that Coronel’s attorneys reserve the right to seek further review of her bail status. Federal prosecutors requested her continued detention based what they said was Coronel’s alleged close work with the command of the Sinaloa cartel.

— From wire reports

Vanessa Bryant calls out rapper Meek Mill for song referencing late husband

was not amused by Meek Mill referencing the tragic death of her husband, Kobe Bryant, in his latest song. Bryant took to her Instagram Stories to slam Mill for a lyric in his new song “Don’t Worry (RIP Kobe)” which leaked online. “If I ever lack, I’m goin’ out with my chopper, it be another Kobe.” “I find this line to be extremely insensitive and disrespectful. Period,” Bryant wrote. “I am not familiar with any of your music, but I believe you can do better than this. If you are a fan, fine, there’s a better way to show your admiration for my husband. This lacks respect and tact.”

Hillary Clinton is co-writing a political thriller

Hillary Clinton is working on a book with Canadian mystery novelist Louise Penny, set in the aftermath of U.S. political chaos. The book, titled “State of Terror,” focuses on

who is trying to solve a wave of terrorist attacks. It will be published by Simon & Schuster and St. Martin’s Press and released on Oct. 12. In a press release, the publishers called the book “a unique collaboration by two long-time friends and thriller aficionados.”

Talking on the phone for 10 minutes could make you feel less lonely, study says

Talking to someone on the phone for 10 minutes multiple times a week — if you’re in control of the conversation — can decrease loneliness, a new study revealed. Half of the 240 study participants were selected to receive brief phone calls from volunteers over the course of a month, and they reported feeling 20% less lonely on average,

published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. Volunteers briefly trained in empathetic communication skills, which involved active listening and asking questions about what their subject was talking about, said lead study author Maninder “Mini” Kahlon, associate professor of population health and executive director of Factor Health at Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. The study participants, all clients of Meals on Wheels Central Texas, led the conversations, which allowed them to define the agenda of the calls. “Sometimes the agenda is just feeling like they have control,” Kahlon said. They might not have control in other aspects of their lives, but they can control the conversation, she said. On the three-question

, which ranges from three to nine, phone call participants averaged 6.5 at the beginning and ended with 5.2.

— From wire reports

British aristocrat sentenced to 10 months for sexual assault at his castle

A relative of

has been jailed for 10 months for sexual assault, after forcing his way into a woman’s bedroom and attacking her at his Scottish castle last year. Simon Bowes-Lyon, the Earl of Strathmore, had pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to sexually assaulting the woman during an event being held at Glamis Castle in February 2020. The 34-year-old is the Queen’s first cousin, twice removed, and a member of the Queen Mother’s Bowes-Lyon family. He was sentenced at Dundee Sheriff Court in Scotland on Tuesday. Glamis Castle, where he lives and where the attack took place, was the Queen Mother’s childhood home. The court heard that the woman was attending a three-day public relations event at the castle and had gone to bed when a drunk Bowes-Lyon went to her room at around 1:20 a.m. He persuaded her to open the door, and then pushed her onto the bed, assaulted her and refused to leave over the course of 20 minutes. Under British law, victims of sexual assault are automatically guaranteed anonymity.

Goodyear is going big in China with $2.8 billion takeover of Cooper

Goodyear has agreed to buy rival Cooper for $2.8 billion. The deal will give America’s largest tire producer a much bigger footprint around the world, including in China, the world’s top car market. Goodyear was already the world’s third largest tire manufacturer after Japan’s Bridgestone and France’s Michelin. It will retain that spot after the deal, though its global annual sales total will rise to some $15 billion from the $12.3 billion that Goodyear currently makes. This purchase, though, is particularly significant for how much traction it gives Goodyear in China, which together with the United States accounted for about a third of the global production of tires in 2019. China is also the world’s largest car market, and an increasingly attractive destination for players in the auto industry to put down roots. “In China, the combination nearly doubles Goodyear’s presence and increases the number of relationships with local automakers,” the companies said in a statement. Shares of Goodyear and Cooper both soared Monday after the news. They each finished the day up more than 20%. U.S. tire shipments were estimated to reach 333 million units in 2019, according to the

. China made about double that amount that year, according to the China Rubber Industry Association. While Goodyear and Cooper are the two largest tire producers in the United States, they lag behind rival manufacturers in market share and brand recognition in China.

— From wire reports


Earth microbes could temporarily survive on Mars, study says

The surface of Mars is a harsh frozen desert, but some microbes from Earth could temporarily survive there, according to a new study. And the researchers didn’t even have to send microbes to Mars to find out. The two planets may not seem very similar, but our stratosphere — a layer of the atmosphere 20 miles above the Earth’s surface — has some qualities in common with Mars. Our home planet’s stratosphere experiences low air pressure and high levels of radiation, and it’s dry and cold — much like the surface of the red planet. Using the MARSBOx, or the Microbes in Atmosphere for Radiation, Survival and Biological Outcomes Experiment, scientists at NASA and the German Aerospace Center collaborated to send four types of microbes into the stratosphere on a balloon. The study published Monday in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. “If a microbe can hack it up there, above much of the protective ozone layer, it just might be able to survive — however briefly — on a journey to the surface of Mars,” said study coauthor David J. Smith, MARSBOx co-principal investigator and researcher at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in a statement. Microbes, or microorganisms, have an expansive reach on Earth. It’s estimated that there are 1 trillion species of them on our planet. They can also be found living in harsh environments under varying extreme conditions. Scientists at NASA need to know if these microbes could survive on Mars as they continue to send robotic explorers to the red planet on behalf of humans. That’s why the mission teams behind these rovers, like the recently landed Perseverance rover, take the cleanliness of these machines very seriously before they’re launched to Mars. Perseverance is the cleanest yet. It’s searching for signs of ancient life on Mars, and microbes from Earth could present a false positive during this search, or they could contaminate our planetary neighbor. To test the likelihood of microbe survival on Mars, the research team placed millions of microbes, including dried and dormant fungal and bacteria spores representing four species of microorganisms, on quartz discs. These discs were placed inside aluminum boxes designed by the study collaborators at the German Aerospace Center. A mixture of gases similar to those in the Martian atmosphere, which is dominated by carbon dioxide, was pumped into the boxes. A large science balloon carrying the experiment was released from Fort Sumner, New Mexico, on September 23, 2019. Shutters were used to help shield the microbes from the sun during ascent and descent. But once they reached the Earth’s stratosphere 24 miles up, the shutters opened and exposed them to the harsh radiation there. The microbes were exposed to this for more than five hours, along with temperatures averaging negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit. In the stratosphere, there is a thousand times less pressure than we experience at sea level, as well as very dry air. When the experiment returned to the ground, the scientists determined that two of the four species survived the journey, proving that these two could temporarily endure the harsh conditions of Earth’s stratosphere and, potentially, the Martian surface. “This research gives us a better understanding of which microbes could linger in environments once assumed to be lethal, like the surface of Mars, and gives us clues about how to avoid unintentionally bringing tiny hitchhikers with us to off-world destinations,” said study coauthor Ralf Moeller, MARSBOx co-principal investigator and head of the Aerospace Microbiology Research Group at the German Aerospace Center, in a statement. The surviving species included Staphylococcus capitis and Salinisphaera shabanensis. The first is a bacteria associated with human skin and the second is a bacteria that can be found in deep-sea brine pools. Aspergillus niger, a fungus that is used in the production of antibiotics, was dried to send it on the experiment, and it was also able to be revived once it returned from Earth’s stratosphere. “Spores from the A. niger fungus are incredibly resistant — to heat, harsh chemicals, and other stressors — but no one had ever studied whether they could survive exposed in space or under intense radiation like we see on Mars,” said co-lead study author Marta Cortesão, a doctoral student at Aerospace Microbiology Research Group at the German Aerospace Center, in a statement. “The fact that after their MARSBOx flight we could revive them demonstrates they are hearty enough to endure wherever humans go, even off-planet.” It’s possible that Aspergillus niger has a sunscreenlike pigmentation or a cellular structure that protects itself. “This experiment raises a lot of questions about what genetic mechanisms are key to making microbes able to survive,” Cortesão said. “Do they carry ancient evolutionary traits that provide them the ability to withstand harsh conditions, or does the adaptation to their current environment provide protection for many other environmental challenges?” Future research could help scientists better determine why these microbes survived. A follow-up flight is being planned for MARSBOx in Antarctica, where both radiation from the sun and galactic cosmic rays from space are even more similar to Mars. “These balloon-flown aerobiology experiments allow us to study the microbe’s resiliency in ways that are impossible in the lab,” Smith said. “MARSBOx provides an opportunity to predict survival outcomes on Mars and help establish the limits of life as we know it.” In the meantime, these findings could assist with planning future missions to Mars. “The renewed focus on Mars robotic and human exploration amplifies the need for additional Mars analog studies in the coming years,” the authors wrote in the study. “With crewed long-term missions to Mars, we need to know how human-associated microorganisms would survive on the Red Planet, as some may pose a health risk to astronauts,” said co-lead study author Katharina Siems, a doctoral student in the German Aerospace Center’s Aerospace Microbiology Research Group, in a statement. “In addition, some microbes could be invaluable for space exploration. They could help us produce food and material supplies independently from Earth, which will be crucial when far away from home. Microorganisms are closely-connected to us; our body, our food, our environment, so it is impossible to rule them out of space travel.”



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