Friday, January 22, 2021

Yosemite National Park to remain closed
 after wind damage

California Winds-Yosemite
This photo provided by Yosemite National Park shows a boardwalk in the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park was damaged by a fallen ponderosa pine during the Mono wind event on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Yosemite National Park will remain closed through the weekend after high winds that battered much of California knocked down two giant sequoias and caused millions of dollars in damage. Yosemite National Park via AP

Thu, January 21, 2021, 7:11 PM

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Yosemite National Park will remain closed through the weekend after high winds that battered much of California knocked down two giant sequoias and caused millions of dollars in damage.

The park hoped to reopen Tuesday except for areas south of Yosemite Valley, including one entrance, that will remain shut to visitors, the park said Thursday.

High winds that began Monday swept through the state, toppling trees and power lines and knocking out electricity to about 300,000 homes and businesses. Utilities also intentionally blacked out tens of thousands of customers to prevent fires erupting from damaged or downed electrical equipment.

The winds eased Tuesday in the northern and central areas and Wednesday in the south.

Yosemite was struck Monday night. Two giant sequoias in the lower grove of Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias were among trees that fell, park spokesman Scott Gediman told the Sacramento Bee.

Trees also crushed trucks and damaged buildings, including employee homes. Also crushed were a boardwalk and bathroom installed during a $40 million restoration that was finished in 2018, Gediman said.

Crews were working to repair downed electrical lines, especially in the Wawona community, a south park area that remained without power on Thursday, Gediman said.

Among the areas closed until deemed safe was the Tunnel View, a scenic viewpoint on State Route 41 in the Wawona area that offers sweeping views of such icons as Half Dome and Bridalveil Fall.

The park is only open to day visitors. Campgrounds and lodges have been closed for several weeks because the park is trying to reduce the chances of visitors spreading the coronavirus.
Marine archeologists discover ancient shipwrecks off island in the Aegean

Nick Squires
Thu, January 21, 2021
Divers raise an amphora from the seabed - Hellenic Ministry of Culture

Four shipwrecks, including one dating back to Roman times, have been discovered by marine archeologists off the Greek island of Kasos in the Aegean.

Lying between Rhodes and Crete, the Dodecanese island was on a crucial trade route in antiquity.

Inside the Roman-era shipwreck, divers found amphorae which originated from Spain and what is now Tunisia, the Greek culture ministry said. They would have been used to transport wine, olive oil and possibly garum – a pungent fish sauce that was much prized by the Romans.

The ship has been lying on the seabed for nearly 2,000 years - it is believed to date back to the 2nd or 3rd century AD.
Divers found a Roman-era shipwreck and other wrecks dating back to Greece's classical and Hellenistic eras - Hellenic Ministry of Culture

Of the other three wrecks, one dates back to the first century BC, another is from the 5th century BC, while the third is much more recent.

Underwater exploration of the area began in 2019 and in November of that year archeologists found three wrecks, the oldest of which was a merchant vessel from 2,300 years ago. Divers found five stone anchors around the wreck.

They also discovered iron cannons, pottery, amphorae and other scattered objects, some of which they believe belong to other ships that sunk but have not been found yet.
One of the amphorae found off the island of Kasos - Hellenic Ministry of Culture

Kasos is the southernmost of the Dodecanese chain of islands and was “a crossroads of civilisations, an important navigation route from antiquity to recent times,” the culture ministry said.

In 2018, marine archeologists discovered 58 shipwrecks around the Fourni islands, further north in the Aegean, describing it as possibly the largest concentration of ancient wrecks ever found in the Aegean, even the whole of the Mediterranean.

Most of the wrecks were from the Greek, Roman and Byzantine eras. The ships would have carried goods to and from Greece, the Black Sea, Asia Minor and North Africa.

Transgender youth bills in US states reflect deep divisions

- In this Aug. 15, 2019, file photo, is University of Montana cross country runner Juniper Eastwood, center, warming up with her teammates at Campbell Park in Missoula, Mont. Transgender kids would be banned from playing on school sports teams for the gender with which they identify under a GOP-backed bill that advanced Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Montana. The proposed ban is personal for people like Eastwood, a transgender woman and former member of the University of Montana's track and field and cross-country running teams. She said the legislation "would make it impossible for other young Montanans like me to participate in sports as who they are." (Rachel Leathe/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP, file

Thu, January 21, 2021

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Transgender kids would be banned from playing on school sports teams for the gender with which they identify under a GOP-backed bill that advanced Thursday in Montana, one of more than a dozen states where lawmakers are proposing restrictions on athletics or gender-confirming health care for trans minors this year.

The proposals run counter to an executive order signed by Democratic President Joe Biden during his first day in office prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere. The order immediately sparked a backlash from conservative groups, a split that reflects the deep divisions in the U.S. around transgender youth.

Proponents of the Montana bill say allowing transgender athletes to compete can create an unfair playing field in middle and high schools, especially in girls' sports. Opponents say it would hurt transgender kids and could drive business away from the state and make it harder for Montana companies to attract new employees.

“Transgender students, like all students, deserve the chance to learn teamwork and to build self-esteem and a sense of belonging with their peers through sports,” said Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ advocacy group.

The measure is similar to a 2020 Idaho law that's been blocked by a federal judge as a lawsuit plays out. The American Civil Liberties Union has also pledged to sue if the proposal passes in Montana, a state newly controlled by Republicans in the governor's office and the state Legislature.

The issue is being litigated in Connecticut, where several girls are challenging a policy that allows transgender athletes to compete in line with their identity. The plaintiffs argue transgender female runners have an unfair physical advantage.

Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel at the conservative nonprofit organization Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the plaintiffs in the Connecticut suit, said she is seeing a growing trend where lawmakers across the country are recognizing that it’s “a real problem” when state athletic associations or school districts allow transgender women to compete in women’s sports.

This year, state lawmakers also want to restrict transgender students’ sports participation in Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Dakota, and New Hampshire.

Several more states are weighing separate proposed bans on certain medical treatment for transgender minors, including Alabama, Indiana, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas.

In Montana, a House committee will vote this week on a proposal to prohibit doctors from providing transgender youth certain gender-related medical treatment.

The Montana bill targeting transgender youth sports participation now heads to the House floor, after passing a panel of lawmakers Thursday with an 11-8 vote. It was largely along party lines, though the committee's youngest Republican, recent high school graduate Rep. Mallerie Stromswold, also opposed the measure.

Democrats pointed to Biden's order and said passing the law could put federal funding for education in Montana at risk.

The proposed ban is personal for people like Juniper Eastwood, a transgender woman and former member of the University of Montana’s track and field and cross-country running teams.

She said the legislation “would make it impossible for other young Montanans like me to participate in sports as who they are.”

“Participation in sports is about more than winning and losing,” she said. “It’s about community and personal development.”


Samuels is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Off-duty officers were part of the Capitol mob. Now police unions face a dilemma.



Janelle Griffith

After an FBI and Houston Police Department investigation determined that veteran Officer Tam Pham had participated in the deadly breach at the U.S. Capitol this month, his departure from the department was swift.

He was placed on administrative leave and resigned, with no pushback from the group that would usually advocate on behalf of an officer accused of wrongdoing.

The Houston Police Officers' Union has fiercely defended its officers, even in cases that call officer conduct into question — including one last year when officers shot and killed a man with a history of mental health issues who was on his knees.

The president of the union at the time called the firings of four officers in September "unjust and deplorable" and said the organization would represent them at their arbitration hearings.

The union's response has been markedly different in the case of Pham, who faces two federal misdemeanor charges related to entering the Capitol.

Anyone who breached the Capitol "should be charged and receive whatever punishment is assigned to that," said Douglas Griffith, who is now the union president. "No matter if they're a police officer or not."

Pham has not yet entered a plea. His attorney said Pham "is deeply saddened to be associated with the domestic terrorists who attacked our Capitol" and "believes strongly in the rule of law."

Griffith said that what separates what Pham is accused of from the charges other officers have faced in unrelated incidents is that the Capitol riot "was an attack on our democracy" that led to the death of an officer and to others' being seriously injured. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died in events related to the attack.

IMAGE: Houston police Officer Tam Dinh Pham in the Capitol on Jan. 6 (FBI)
IMAGE: Houston police Officer Tam Dinh Pham in the Capitol on Jan. 6 (FBI)

"As an officer, I would expect, if I saw some officers being attacked, I'd be stepping in between them," Griffith said in an interview. "I wouldn't be participating in that kind of activity."

Police departments in New York City, Seattle and Virginia are investigating whether their officers participated in the pro-Trump riot. As they do, police unions are confronting the dilemma of whether or not to defend officers who took part.

In Chicago, for example, the union president initially defended the mob before backing down. And in Seattle, the union head is under administrative investigation after he falsely claimed that Black Lives Matter was responsible.

Kalfani Ture, a former police officer in Georgia who is an assistant professor of criminal justice and policing at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, said the growing number of off-duty police officers who are suspected of having taken part in the riot creates an interesting paradox for police unions, which have largely shielded bad cops from accountability.

"When we see an officer lose his life, when we see other officers injured, when you see these figures attacking other police officers, how do you justify that?" Ture asked.

Ture said police unions are breaking from their own because of the Capitol Police officer's death and the injuries sustained by dozens of other officers.

"If it wasn't for the optics, if it wasn't for the loss of life, if it wasn't for 50 police officers, both Capitol Police officers and Metropolitan Police, being injured — severely injured — to the extent that it removed them from duty, if it wasn't for all of that, I wouldn't be surprised if the various police unions" said: "No one was really hurt. It was just an exercise of their First Amendment rights that essentially got out of hand.

John Catanzara, the president of Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police lodge, initially defended the mob that stormed the Capitol at President Donald Trump's behest.

"There was no arson. There was no burning of anything. There was no looting. There was very little destruction of property," Catanzara told WBEZ, Chicago's main public radio station, in an interview the evening of Jan. 6. "It was a bunch of pissed-off people that feel an election was stolen, somehow, some way."

Photos and video of the incident show that the rioters overwhelmed police, smashed windows of the Capitol, overturned tables and ransacked offices. A 19th-century marble bust of President Zachary Taylor was defaced with what appeared to be blood. Residue of pepper sprays, tear gas and fire extinguishers — deployed by both rioters and law enforcement officers — was also evident in the aftermath.

Catanzara, a staunch supporter of Trump, told WBEZ that he believed, as Trump has falsely claimed repeatedly, that the election was stolen, but he admitted that there is no proof. Catanzara said what rioters did was "very different than what happened all across this country all summer long in Democratic-ran cities, and nobody had a problem with that."

After it was announced that a Capitol Police officer had died, Catanzara apologized, saying he had "showed a lapse in judgment" in the WBEZ interview.

"I certainly would never justify any attacks on citizens, democracy or law enforcement," he wrote in a statement posted on Facebook.

He did not mention the officer's death, but he said that he was sorry and that "after seeing more video and the full aftermath, my comments would have been different." Catanzara, who faces calls to resign, declined a request for an interview, but he told NBC News on Thursday that he does not plan to step down.

His comments drew harsh criticism from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Patrick Yoes, president of the National Fraternal Order of Police, who said Catanzara's remarks do no represent the opinions of its 356,000 members.

"There is no question that, in addition to the tragic loss of life, these criminals left a wide swath of damage, in the building that is the heart of our democracy and threatened our elected officials, Congressional staff as well as our brother and sister officers," Yoes said in a strongly worded statement that mentioned Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after he was hit in the head by a rioter wielding a fire extinguisher.

"The National FOP rejects this gross mischaracterization and sees the incident for what it was — a violent mob of looters and vandals, visiting fear and destruction on one of our nation's most sacred spaces," Yoes wrote.

Officer Mike Solan, president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, faces increasing calls for his resignation from the union and the police department after he falsely suggested that Black Lives Matter activists played a role in the violence at the Capitol. At least five Seattle police officers are being investigated for possible involvement.

Mayor Jenny Durkan and former Police Chief Carmen Best have called for Solan to retract his words and apologize or resign. Solan did not respond to requests for comment.

Seattle's Office of Police Accountability is investigating Solan's tweets, including one on Jan. 8 saying the "far right and far left are responsible for that sad day," to determine whether they violated department policy.

The New York City Police Benevolent Association has decried the riot as a "despicable attack," which an unidentified officer is alleged to have participated in.

Jack Glaser, a professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, said the pro-Trump rioters "undermined or really laid bare the reality of most of these groups, which is really not about law and order but more about racial hegemony."

The union, which represents about 24,000 rank-and-file officers, endorsed Trump for re-election last year. The union did not return multiple requests for comment.

Glaser said he suspects that the rioters' "violation of basic democratic principles is enough that the unions feel like they cannot back that up."

"I think what we see here is that the violence on the part of the rioters, of the insurrectionists, in the name of the thin blue line — some of them carrying the modified American flag with the blue lines — I think that that was an offense to policing professionals and what had been seen as a supportive alliance," Glaser said. "This really stripped away the pretense of those symbols."

Ture agreed, citing the "profoundly great" contradiction between the espoused support for law enforcement and the actions at the Capitol.

He added that unions that defended officers involved in the attack would struggle to sever themselves from the images of people bearing Confederate flags and other racist insignia associated with white supremacists.

"If you had taken part in this campaign," he said, referring to the attack, "you cannot easily disassociate yourself with that type of bigoted prejudice, that evil terrorism."

Off-duty officers were part of the Capitol mob. Now police unions face a dilemma. (

Elon Musk says he will give $100 million to whoever creates the best carbon-capture technology

Tyler Sonnemaker
Thu, January 21, 2021

Elon Musk on Thursday promised a large prize for designing effective carbon-capture technology.

Musk recently asked for tips on where to donate his wealth, of which he has promised to give half.

Carbon capture could play a major role in President Joe Biden's plans to address climate change.

Elon Musk teased his latest philanthropic endeavor on Thursday: a contest meant to encourage more-innovative carbon-capture technologies.

"Am donating $100M towards a prize for best carbon capture technology," Musk tweeted, adding that he would provide "details next week."

Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX who briefly passed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as the world's richest person before a slide in Tesla's stock price dropped him back a spot, recently asked his Twitter followers for advice on how to best give away his money.

"Critical feedback is always super appreciated, as well as ways to donate money that really make a difference (way harder than it seems)," Musk tweeted earlier this month.

In 2012, Musk signed the Giving Pledge, an initiative launched by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett that asks signatories to donate at least half of their wealth within their lifetime. He has primarily donated toward science and engineering education, renewable-energy research, pediatric research, and research into human space exploration.

But an estimate by Forbes in September found that Musk had donated just $100 million - less than 1% of his net worth, which consists mostly of stock in his companies.

Still, Musk's proposed carbon-capture contest would go toward a cause that is likely to play a major role in fighting climate change moving forward, especially under the Biden administration.

Read more: VCs share the 46 climate-tech startups that are set to soar in 2021

A study published in Scientific Reports in November concluded that companies and governments urgently needed to "start developing the technologies for large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere," a process known as carbon capture and storage.

Earth's average temperature is on track to blow past levels that the Paris climate agreement - which President Joe Biden rejoined Wednesday - set as goals for 2100.

But even if all greenhouse-gas emissions stopped by then, according to the study, at least 33 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide would need to be sucked out of the atmosphere each year using carbon capture - roughly the total amount of carbon dioxide the global fossil-fuel industry emitted in 2018 (36 metric gigatons).

The technology is becoming widely accepted as a safe form of geoengineering compared with other approaches, and Biden voiced support for it in his campaign platform, saying his administration would take steps to "accelerate the development and deployment of carbon-capture sequestration technology."

Specifically, Biden wants to make carbon capture more widely available, cheaper, and scalable, and he plans to increase federal investments and tax incentives for developing the technology.




Democrat offices and first-ever Starbucks store damaged in anti-Biden protests
Thu, January 21, 2021,

Protesters damage the Democratic Party office building in Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday(Mike Benner / KGW News)

The Oregon office of the Democratic Party and the original branch of Starbucks in Seattle were among several buildings damaged by protesters after Joe Biden was sworn-in as president on Wednesday.

Police arrested around eight people in Portland, Oregon, and at least three in Seattle, while hundreds more were said to have taken to the streets to protest in both cities.

Doors and windows were smashed at the Democratic Party’s offices in downtown Portland, NBC News reported, where a small dumpster was set alight, and “f*** Biden was sprayed on walls, alongside a message that read "Breonna Taylor deserves justice".

At least 150 protesters marched on to Portland's Immigration and Customs Enforcement building, where they called for the agency to be abolished.

According to police, the Portland protesters were carrying weapons such as “Molotov cocktails, knives, batons, chemical spray and a crowbar”.

“We don't want Biden, we want revenge!,” read a banner that was seen by The Oregonian, and appeared to sport an antifascist symbol and another based on the “three arrow” designs used by Social Democrats against the Nazis in the Weimar era.

The same banner also denounced “police murders, imperialist wars and fascist massacres", while another banner read "We are ungovernable”.

In Seattle, around 100 protesters were seen carrying a banner that read “F*** Trump, F*** Biden too, they don’t give a F*** about you.”

According to police, they caused damage at the William Kenzo Nakamura Courthouse, an Amazon Go store, and a Starbucks store on Pike Place which opened as the world’s first ever branch in 1971. Glass was left strewn across the store.

One protester told the Seattle Times that Mr Biden’s appeal to Americans for “unity” was “disgusting” because the Democrat wanted “unity with people who actively want to harm people,” in apparent reference to police and the political right.

Wednesday’s protests came several months after Seattle and Portland saw large demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality last summer.

They took place after the Minneapolis police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, and the Kentucky police killing of an unarmed black woman, Breonna Taylor.

Portland police arrest 15 alleged Antifa rioters after Democrat HQ attacked 

Daniel Capurro
Fri, January 22, 2021
Eight mugshots - Portland Police

Police in Portland, Oregon have arrested fifteen suspects after a mob of around 200 alleged Antifa members smashed up the Democrat headquarters and federal immigration offices in the city on Wedensday, while three people were arrested after a crowd in Seattle attacked buildings and burnt a US flag.

The two Pacific Northwest cities have been hotspots for protests and violence since the Black Lives Matter demonstrations began last year in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.

There were also protests in Denver, Colorado; Columbus, Ohio and Sacramento in California.

Portland Police released photographs of eight of the 15 arrested suspects as well as images of confiscated items including knives, batons and bullet-proof vests.

A group of protesters dressed in black use umbrellas to shield themselves 
- Assfault Pirates via AP

"Some of the crowd had pepperball guns, electronic control weapons, large fireworks, shields and rocks," said Portland police spokesman Kevin Allen.

Federal police, who were initially deployed to the city during the Black Lives Matter protests, were reported to have used tear gas, stun grenades and other non-lethal munitions to disperse the crowd.

The Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement building that the rioters attacked had been a target during previous bouts of violence last year. Demonstrators have demanded that ICE, which enforces immigration law, be abolished.

Police did not comment on the political nature of the crowd, but the violence came on a day when several far-left demonstrations were planned to put pressure on the new Biden administration to swiftly introduce immigration, racial justice and policing reforms.

Gas-masked police using a large device to pump clouds of tear gas -
 Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

According to the Daily Mail, seven of the 15 suspects detained in Portland had been arrested at previous Antifa protests, while The New York Times reported that one flier handed out at the Seattle demonstration attacked Biden over "his stupid" crime bill passed in 1994, which was blamed for leading to mass incarcerations.

The Portland group was also reported to be carrying a banner reading: “We don’t want Biden – we want revenge!” and to have chanted “F---Biden”

The Democratic Party of Oregon said in a statement to AFP that it was "frustrated and disappointed" by the damage to its offices – which were empty – but would not be deterred "from our important work."

Portland police arrest 8 after rioters damage Democratic Party office, ICE facility following Biden's inauguration

Thu, January 21, 2021, 

At least eight people were arrested in Portland on Wednesday after rioters damaged both federal and private property, police said.

Dozens of protesters took to the streets of Oregon's largest city following the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Some people were seen carrying Black Lives Matter signs, while others held banners with anti-Biden or anti-police slogans.

Although the demonstrations were largely peaceful, two protest events resulted in property damage and arrests, according to the Portland Police Bureau.
PHOTO: A group of protesters damaged the headquarters of the Democratic Party of Oregon in Portland on Jan. 20, 2021. (Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian via AP)

A crowd of about 150 people gathered at Revolution Hall, a music venue in southeast Portland, and marched to the headquarters of the Democratic Party of Oregon on Wednesday afternoon. Some individuals vandalized the building with graffiti and smashed windows, while others moved dumpsters into the middle of the street and lit the contents on fire, police said.

MORE: Biden promises unity and redemption amid divisions and challenges

Eight people, ranging in age from 18 to 38, were arrested in connection with the event. The charges range from felony criminal mischief to possession of a destructive device. Various weapons were also seized, including Molotov cocktails, knives, batons, chemical spray and a crow bar, according to police.
PHOTO: Police detain a person during a protest in Portland, Oregon, on Jan. 20, 2021, after the inauguration of President Joe Biden. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)

Later that evening, a group of about 150 people marched to the Portland field office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Some individuals in the crowd were seen carrying pepper ball guns, electronic control weapons similar to Tasers, large fireworks, shields and rocks. Many were also wearing helmets and gas masks, police said.

PHOTO: A demonstrator throws KICKS a tear gas canister back at law enforcement officers during a rally outside the field office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Portland Oregon, on Jan. 20, 2021, after the inauguration of President Joe Biden. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)Mo

Within minutes of arriving at the ICE facility, some people began throwing rocks and eggs at the building while others applied graffiti. Federal law enforcement officers responded by launching "crowd control munitions," while Portland police officers "were standing by to address crimes in the surrounding neighborhood," according to police.
PHOTO: Protesters disperse during a rally outside the field office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Portland, Oregon, on Jan. 20, 2021, after the inauguration of President Joe Biden. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)

"Details about what munitions were used, and any arrests made, will have to come from federal law enforcement," Sgt. Kevin Allen of the Portland Police Bureau said in a statement early Thursday. "Portland Police did not deploy any CS gas."

ABC News has reached out to the ICE Office of Public Affairs for comment.

"As always, we appreciate those who made your voices heard without resorting to criminal activity," Allen added. "We respect the rights of free speech and assembly."

Oregon Democratic Party offices vandalized amid post-inauguration protests

Caroline Radnofsky and Janhvi Bhojwani and Kimberly Flores Gaynor
Thu, January 21, 2021, 

Police arrested eight people on Wednesday after the Democratic Party headquarters in Portland, Oregon, was vandalized hours after President Joe Biden's inauguration.

The building's doors and windows were smashed, a small dumpster was lit on fire, and graffiti reading "Breonna Taylor deserves justice" and "F--- Biden" was sprayed on the outside walls, according to videos filmed at the scene mid-afternoon by reporters for NBC Portland affiliate KGW.

Portland police said some of the group of about 150 people carried weapons "including Molotov cocktails, knives, batons, chemical spray and a crowbar."

Some members of the crowd met in southeast Portland before heading to the Democratic Party offices dressed in black and carrying banners reading, "We don't want Biden, we want revenge! For police murders, imperialist wars and fascist massacres," and "We are ungovernable," according to a photo published by The Oregonian.

Charges against the eight arrested included felony criminal mischief, possession of a destructive device, and riot, police Sgt. Kevin Allen said in a video statement on Twitter.

At least 150 people later marched on Portland's Immigration and Customs Enforcement building, calling for the agency to be abolished.

A crowd clashed with federal officers outside the building, throwing rocks and eggs and vandalizing the building, Portland police added.

Federal officers declared an unlawful assembly and used munitions and tear gas to disperse demonstrators, according to KGW's Devon Haskins, who was on the scene.

Scattered protests also took place in downtown Seattle, Washington, where multiple locations, including a Starbucks storefront and the William Kenzo Nakamura Courthouse, were also vandalized, the Seattle Police Department reported.

Crowds marched toward the city's Pike Place chanting, "Antifa!" and "No cops, no prisons, total abolition!"

Two people were arrested on charges of property damage and assault respectively, Seattle police said.

Small Inauguration Day protests in Portland, Seattle lead to about a dozen arrests

N'dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY
Thu, January 21, 2021
A group of protesters shield themselves from chemical irritants as they demonstrate Wednesday evening, Jan. 20, 2021, outside the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building in Portland, Ore.

About a dozen people were arrested during small Inauguration Day protests in the Pacific Northwest intended to pressure President Joe Biden into action on immigration and police reform.

Police in Portland said in a statement they arrested eight Wednesday afternoon on charges of felony criminal mischief, riot and possession of a destructive device after some in a group of 150 people smashed windows and vandalized the headquarters of the Democratic Party of Oregon.

The FBI previously warned of possible armed protests around the inauguration in state capitals by supporters of former President Donald Trump, but these demonstrators were described by local media as "antifascist" and "anarchists."

Demonstrators carried banners that read, "We don't want Biden — we want revenge!'' in response to “police murders” and “imperialist wars," and "We are ungovernable."

The Democratic Party of Oregon said in a statement that none of its staff were in the building and that this is not the first time the building has been targeted.

“We’re frustrated and disappointed about the damage done to our Democratic Party of Oregon Headquarters in Portland this afternoon," the statement said. “None of this should take away from the fact that today is a joyous and momentous day for America as we celebrate the Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris."

Hours later, a similar sized group gathered at the Federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement building, some of whom were carrying pepper ball guns, devices like Tasers and fireworks, according to authorities. Portland police said federal law enforcement used crowd control munitions and made arrests.

Video taken by a New York Times reporter at the scene shows the crowd chanting an anti-Joe Biden slogan and later being hit with tear gas. The crowd also decried the United States’ detention and caging of migrant children and chanted, “Abolish ICE," the Oregonian/Oregon Live reported.

Portland saw more than 100 days of demonstrations against racial injustice over the summer, some of which drew thousands and resulted in clashes with police.

Police in Seattle said three people were arrested for property damage, burglary and an assault after a group of about 100 people marched and windows were broken at a federal courthouse.

That crowd also called for the abolition of ICE and several people set fire to an American flag outside the federal immigration court, The Seattle Times reported. One protester told the New York Times that Biden needs to know there will be continued pressure for progress on immigration and police reform.

“I came out here because no matter what happens, Biden and Kamala aren’t enough,” Alejandro Quezada Brom, 28, told the Times.

For weeks over the summer, demonstrators in Seattle occupied an area first called the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone or CHAZ, then the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, or CHOP. Mayor Jenny Durkan ordered police to clear the zone after an outbreak of violence.

Some of Biden's first executive orders as president were related to immigration. Biden halted construction of the border wall and revoked Trump's 2017 executive order which broadened the categories of undocumented immigrants subject for removal, restarted the Secure Communities program and supported the federal 287(g) deportation program.

Contributing: The Associated Press; Joey Garrison and Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAY

Follow N'dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Inauguration Day protests in Portland, Seattle; about a dozen arrested


New China swine fever strains point to unlicensed vaccines

 Pigs are seen at a backyard farm on the outskirts of Harbin

Dominique Patton
Thu, January 21, 2021,

BEIJING (Reuters) - A new form of African swine fever identified in Chinese pig farms is most likely caused by illicit vaccines, industry insiders say, a fresh blow to the world's largest pork producer, still recovering from a devastating epidemic of the virus.

Two new strains of African swine fever have infected more than 1,000 sows on several farms owned by New Hope Liuhe, China's fourth-largest producer, as well as pigs being fattened for the firm by contract farmers, said Yan Zhichun, the company's chief science officer.

Though the strains, which are missing one or two key genes present in the wild African swine fever virus, don't kill pigs like the disease that ravaged China's farms in 2018 and 2019, they cause a chronic condition that reduces the number of healthy piglets born, Yan told Reuters. At New Hope, and many large producers, infected pigs are culled to prevent the spread, making the disease effectively fatal.

Although the known infections are limited now, if the strains spread widely, they could slash pork output in the world's top consumer and producer; two years ago, swine fever wiped out half of China's 400 million-head pig herd. Pork prices are still at record levels and China is under pressure to strengthen food security amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I don't know where they come from, but we find some mild field infections caused by some sort of gene-deleted viruses," Yan said.

Wayne Johnson, a Beijing-based veterinarian, said he diagnosed a chronic, or less-lethal, form of the disease in pigs last year. The virus lacked certain genetic components, known as the MGF360 genes. New Hope has found strains of the virus missing both the MGF360 genes and the CD2v genes, Yan said.

Research has shown that deleting some MGF360 genes from African swine fever creates immunity. But the modified virus was not developed into a vaccine because it tended to later mutate back to a harmful state.

"You can sequence these things, these double deletions, and if it's exactly the same as described in the lab, it's too much of a coincidence, because you would never get that exact deletion," said Lucilla Steinaa, principal scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi.

There is no approved vaccine for African swine fever, which is not harmful to humans. But many Chinese farmers struggling to protect their pigs have resorted to unapproved products, industry insiders and experts said. They fear illicit vaccines have created accidental infections, which are now spreading.

The new strains could proliferate globally through contaminated meat, infecting pigs that are fed on kitchen waste. The virus is known to survive for months in some pork products.

China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs did not respond to two requests for comment.

But it has issued at least three warnings against use of unauthorised African swine fever vaccines, cautioning that they could have severe side effects and that producers and users could be charged with a criminal offence.

In August, the ministry said it would test pigs for different strains of the virus as part of a nationwide investigation into illegal vaccine use.

Any strains with gene deletions could indicate a vaccine had been used, it said. No findings have been published so far on the issue, which is highly sensitive for Beijing. Reporting of the recent African swine fever outbreaks was extensively covered up. For a link to the report, click


After decades of research toward producing a vaccine against the huge, complex swine fever virus, researchers around the world are focussing on live-virus vaccines - the only type to have shown any promise.

But such vaccines carry higher risks because even after the virus is weakened so it does not cause serious illness, it can sometimes recover its virulence.

One such vaccine used in Spain in the 1960s caused a chronic disease with swollen joints, skin lesions and respiratory issues in pigs that complicated efforts to eradicate African swine fever over the next three decades. Since then, no nation has approved a vaccine for the disease.

A vaccine with both MGF360 and CD2v genes deleted is undergoing trials by China's Harbin Veterinary Research Institute after showing promise.

Yan said he believes that people have replicated the sequences of virus strains being studied, which have been published in scientific literature, and that pigs injected with illicit vaccines based on them could be infecting others.

"It's definitely man-made; this is not a natural strain," he said.

Neither Johnson nor Yan have fully sequenced the new swine fever strains. Beijing strictly controls who is allowed to work with the virus, which can only be handled in laboratories with high biosecurity designations.

But several private companies have developed test kits that can check for specific genes.

GM Biotech, based in China's central Hunan province, said in an online post last week it had developed a test that identifies whether the pathogen is a virulent strain, a single-gene deleted attenuated strain, or a double-gene deleted attenuated strain.

The test helps pig producers because the new strains are "very difficult to detect at the initial stage of infection and have a longer incubation period after infection," the company said.

The government has not said how widely used illicit vaccines are or who has produced them. But a "vast amount" of pigs in China have nonetheless been vaccinated, Johnson said, a sentiment echoed by many other experts.

In 2004-5, when the H5 bird flu strains were spreading across Asia, Chinese laboratories produced several unauthorised live bird flu vaccines, said Mo Salman, a professor of veterinary medicine at Colorado State University, who has worked on animal health in Asia, raising fears that they could produce dangerous new variants.

"The current ASF unlawful vaccine(s) in China is repeating history," Salman said.

(Reporting by Dominique Patton. Editing by Gerry Doyle)
‘Cocaine bananas’ accidentally shipped to grocers in bungled drug deal

Investigators said the cocaine had come from Columbia and ended up in Kelowna as a result of a failed drug deal.

Matt Mathers
Wed, January 20, 2021

Packages weighed around 1kg each(RCMP)

Some 21 bricks of cocaine hidden in banana shipments ended up at grocery shops in Canada following a bungled drug-trafficking operation, authorities have confirmed.

A local store owner in Kelowna, a small town in Central Okanagan, British Columbia province, alerted authorities after finding 12 packages of what appeared to be cocaine among a banana shipment on 24 February 2019.

The packages were seized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for further investigation into their origins and intended destination.

Later that day, a second grocery shop owner contacted RCMP saying they had also discovered what they believed was a haul of the Class-A drug.

Front line officers attended and confiscated an additional nine individually wrapped bundles.

Kelowna RCMP and Canada's Border Service Agency (CBSA) subsequently launched an investigation, which concluded on Tuesday and confirmed the packages, each weighing around 1kg, were cocaine.

Investigators said the cocaine had come from Columbia and ended up in Kelowna as a result of a failed drug deal.

"The drug section of the Kelowna RCMP Street Enforcement Unit worked collaboratively with the CBSA to determine that these shipments originated in Colombia," Cpl Jeff Carroll of the Kelowna RCMP Drug Section said in a statement.

"Our investigation leads us to believe these illicit drugs were not meant to end up in the Central Okanagan and arrived here in the Okanagan Valley as a result of a missed pickup at some point along the way."

Experts estimated that the packages would have introduced upwards of 800,000 doses of crack cocaine into the Canadian illicit drug market, according to Kelowna RCMP.

That's enough for every resident in the City of Kelowna to receive nearly 6 doses each, the force added.

Read More

Over a tonne of cocaine found in banana shipment at London port

Exclusive: Pfizer-BioNTech 
agree to supply WHO 
co-led COVID-19 vaccine 
scheme - sources

FILE PHOTO: Vaccination with Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease 
(COVID-19) vaccine of the medical staff, in Brussels

Kate Kelland and Ludwig Burger
Thu, January 21, 2021, 12:47 PM

LONDON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Pfizer and BioNTech have agreed to supply their COVID-19 vaccine to the World Health Organization co-led COVAX vaccine access scheme, two sources familiar with the deal said, the latest in a series of shots to be included in the project aimed at lower-income countries.

The deal is expected to be announced on Friday, according to the sources, who declined to be named due to the confidentiality of the agreement.

Details on the size of the deal or the price per dose COVAX would pay were not immediately clear, but the sources said the allotment would likely be relatively small. One source said the reason for the limited volume was that the doses were primarily meant for healthcare workers in the countries that COVAX serves.

BioNTech declined to comment while Pfizer did not respond to requests for comment. Spokespeople for the WHO and the GAVI vaccine alliance, which co-leads the COVAX scheme, also declined to comment.

Senior WHO adviser Bruce Aylward said on Monday the COVAX scheme was in "very detailed discussions" with Pfizer, which has already committed hundreds of millions of doses this year to several wealthy nations, and expected to be able to include the vaccine in COVAX "very soon".

The COVAX scheme is set to start distributing COVID-19 vaccines to poor and middle income countries in February.

Ukraine said earlier on Thursday that its first delievery of COVID-19 vaccine under the COVAX scheme could arrive in the first half on February - with 210,000 doses of either the Moderna, Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines.

COVAX has said it hopes to deliver more than 2 billion COVID-19 doses across the world this year. In an updated forecast published on Thursday, it said it planned to deliver around 1.8 billion doses in 2021 to 92 poorer countries, covering around 27% of their populations.

The scheme - led by the WHO, the GAVI vaccine alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)- was set up last year amid concerns that poorer nations would lose out while rich countries scrambled to procure COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate their populations.

COVAX has so far secured future vaccine suplies from AstraZeneca, working with Oxford University; the Serum Institute of India (SII) as well as with Sanofi and its partner GSK. It also has a memorandum of understanding over deliveries from Johnson & Johnson.

The Pfizer deal would be COVAX's second, after the one with AstraZeneca, that covers a product with regulatory approval in some countries.

The additional commitment by Pfizer comes as frustration grows in European countries over the U.S. drugmaker's unexpected cut in supplies. Pfizer said last week it would reduce deliveries until early February to upgrade production capacity for a later output boost.

The Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is the only shot so far to have WHO emergency use listing approval.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the WHO plans to approve several COVID-19 vaccines from Western and Chinese manufacturers in the coming weeks and months as it aims for rapid rollouts in poorer countries.

BioNTech and Pfizer said this month they were aiming to deliver 2 billion vaccine doses this year, up from a previous goal of 1.3 billion.

Their shot is more complicated to transport and store, requiring ultra-cold freezers, which may not be practical for poorer countries with hot climates.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland in London and Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by Josephine Mason and Hugh Lawson)