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from Yahoo News – Latest News & Headlines.
CIA Director William Burns made a secret visit to Kyiv last week to brief Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his senior intelligence officials on U.S. assessments of Russia’s war plans in the coming weeks and months, The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing U.S. officials.
The war in Ukraine is currently centered around Russia’s bloody campaign to capture Bakhmut, Ukraine’s drive to take back Svatove and Kreminna further north, and Russia’s missile and drone strikes on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure. But Ukraine and Russia are both believed to be planning significant offensives in the spring.
Any insights Burns might offer about Russia’s military plans “would be highly valued in Kyiv,” the Post reports. “Burns is a respected figure among Zelensky’s inner circle because of his accurate warning in January 2022 that Russian forces would seek to capture Ukraine’s Antonov Airport in the opening stages of the Feb. 24 invasion,” an assessment “credited with helping Ukraine prepare to defend the airport and deny Russia a foothold needed to capture Kyiv.”
Ukrainian officials have been warning since December that Russia appears to be preparing another assault from neighboring Belarus, possibly against Kyiv. The Institute for the Study of War research organization assessed Thursday night that such an attack could be in the works, “although not necessarily and not in the coming weeks.” Top Kremlin officials met in person or over the phone with top Belarusian officials on Thursday to discuss military cooperation, ISW reports, but “a Russian attack against Ukraine from Belarus remains a highly unlikely scenario in the forecast cone this winter and unlikely but more plausible in autumn 2023.”
“Director Burns traveled to Kyiv where he met with Ukrainian intelligence counterparts as well as President Zelensky and reinforced our continued support for Ukraine in its defense against Russian aggression,” a U.S. official told the Post and CNN. A second U.S. official told The New York Times that Burns’ visit was an intelligence mission designed “to ensure that information continues to flow both ways.”
Burns, a former ambassador to Russian, has made several secret trips to Kyiv, including one last November. “The trips offer the spy chief an opportunity to build trust with his intelligence counterparts and form a better understanding of the conflict,” the Post reports. Ukraine, the Times adds, “is heavily dependent on insights from the CIA and other intelligence agencies on Russian planning.”
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As the Republican Party takes tenuous control of the U.S. House of Representatives, senior Republican representatives have vowed to use their new power to launch multiple investigations into pretty much every day of the Biden Presidency.
In a clumsy effort to elevate partisan impulse into actual strategy, Speaker-in-waiting McCarthy has conceded to the demand that House Republicans create one special committee to handle all the investigations into the FBI and Justice Department that FOX News viewers have come to recite like the Rosary: Hunter Biden’s laptop, “mistreatment” of the insurrectionists who stormed our Capitol on January 6, tax audits of conservatives.
Republicans’ grand investigatory hub will be “like the Church Committee,” McCarthy said, harking back almost 50 years to the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, chaired by Idaho Democratic Senator Frank Church.
Republicans’ retaliatory foray no more resembles the Church Committee than Matt Gaetz makes one step back and murmur, “He reminds me of another principled congressional maverick, George McGovern perhaps.” I learned enough working for Frank Church to believe he would have been appalled at Republicans’ distortion of his Committee’s record and livid about their misuse of his name.
I started working for Sen. Church in Washington, DC, in 1975, while he chaired the Select Committee, and for a couple later summers in his Boise field office. A very junior staffer, still in college, I didn’t get to know the senator well. But I understood he’d earned his reputation for thoughtful, principled courage by going toe-to-toe against Lyndon Johnson over the Vietnam War.
That we both had attended Boise High School commended him to me even more.
Along with his boyhood idol Sen. William Borah, the Progressive “Lion of Idaho,” and Gov. Cecil Andrus, his Gem State political contemporary, Frank Church tops the very, very short list of Idahoans notable enough to merit historians’ attention. A tenacious defender of congressional oversight prerogatives and a clear-eyed skeptic about presidents of both parties’ imperial tendencies, the senator would nevertheless have dismissed present-day Republicans’ revenge ride for three reasons.
First, Sen. Church was a man of unshakable principle, stern and even moralistic enough to earn other senators’ snide nickname of “Frank Sunday School.” No one watching Kevin McCarthy truckle for right-wingers’ votes to clinch the Speaker’s gavel would mistake him for a pillar of rectitude.
Second, despite growing up a proud FDR-type Democrat, Frank Church worked both sides of the aisle when it mattered for his home state, or for our nation. Even a half-century ago, Idaho’s often exaggerated conservatism made political life very tough on Democrats. Church, usually Idaho’s only Democratic member of Congress for a quarter-century, partnered effectively with Republican Senate colleagues on foreign policy, natural resource conservation, and yes, on assuring American intelligence agencies followed the law and respected citizens’ rights. Imagine Jim Jordan asking Adam Schiff to team up to help Republicans learn more about the January 6 insurrection.
Finally, the Church Committee took its mandate seriously to study American intelligence-gathering practices, and to prepare reports recommending legislation that would earn bipartisan congressional support and approval by Republican President Gerald Ford. The Church Committee included Republicans of national stature like Howard Baker of Tennessee and Barry Goldwater of Arizona. The Committee’s bipartisan staff of experts managed top-secret information without a serious leak. And the Committee’s final 1976 report leveled substantive criticism against intelligence agency activities during both Democratic and Republican presidencies.
Imagine Kevin McCarthy asking Nancy Pelosi to join his new investigatory team, or Eric Swalwell, or Jamie Raskin, or Karen Porter. Any new special committee staff will probably staff up with ex-Trump minions and FOX news contributors. No one should stand by hopefully to await the committee’s bipartisan final report or bipartisan approval of any proposed legislation it might generate.
Intelligence agency misdeeds from World War II to the Nixon years needed someone who did his homework, knew how to work with colleagues, and believed in Congress’ duty to exercise principled oversight, to shine a flashlight on their darkest doings. Frank Church was the right man at the right time. A maverick he may have been. A hatchet man he was not.
Karl Brooks is a Boise native, a former staffer for Sen. Frank Church and a former Idaho state senator. He is a professor at the University of Kansas.
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from The News And Times.
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from FOX21 News Colorado.
NATIONAL – (NEXSTAR) – Where did omicron come from? It’s a question scientists worldwide are still working to understand as the COVID-19 variant continues its reign as the dominant strain globally. While much is known about its symptoms and differences to other variants, its origins remain unclear.
Researchers say omicron is so different from previous strains, like delta, that they’re unsure how it even came to be, Nature scholarly journal reports. In an analysis still awaiting peer review, authors explain omicron’s closest estimated relative was from mid-to-late 2020 – as if this particular SARS-CoV-2 strain developed completely independently of previously widespread ones.
What’s more: omicron has over 50 mutations, more than any other strain. Many of these particular mutations, authors of the analysis say, are very rare or altogether never-before-seen. Some researchers say that simple person-to-person spread would not result in so much viral change. Could it be rodent-human transmission?
A December study of 45 omicron mutations published in the Journal of Genetics and Genomics found the types of changes in those cells resembled those found when coronaviruses previously evolved in mice, researchers said. Single-nucleotide substitutions for RNA viruses in humans typically flip from G to U – but omicron shows a switch from C to A.
Some scientists theorize that coronavirus may have been transmitted from a person to a rat and then back to a person, accounting for some of omicron’s unique mutations, which Scripps Research infectious disease researcher Kristian Andersen says have rarely been seen in humans.
Rats, mice and disease
Rodents are especially good at spreading disease because they live and/or frequent places where germs accumulate, Dr. Bobby Corrigan, urban rodentologist, tells Prevention. Mice and rats live and visit trash bins and sewers, touching everything with little hands that never get washed.
Rats and mice can transfer dozens of diseases to humans in two ways: directly or indirectly. Direct exposure happens when a human comes into contact with rodent feces, urine or even the creatures themselves. This happens easily, since Corrigan says rats and mice are “constantly urinating and defecating” inside human homes.
Indirect transmission happens when rodent parasites – like ticks or fleas – infect humans with various diseases, including West Nile virus and Lyme disease.
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Gen. Valery Gerasimov will take over from Sergei Surovikin, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday on Telegram, a change that comes as Kyiv warns it is planning a major new offensive after months of battlefield setbacks for Moscow.
Surovikin became the first person to be handed sole charge of the campaign in October, and his tenure has been marked by the aerial bombardment of Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, as well as Russia’s retreat from the crucial southern city of Kherson.
The Defense Ministry said he would be one of Gerasimov’s three deputies, along with army Gen. Oleg Salyukov and Col. Gen. Alexey Kim, as part of a new “joint group of forces.”
It added that the “increase in the level of leadership” was “related to the amplified range of tasks” and the necessity of closer cooperation between branches of Russia’s armed forces.
Britain’s Defense Ministry called Gerasimov’s appointment “a significant development” in Putin’s approach to the war.
His deployment was “an indicator of the increasing seriousness of the situation Russia is facing, and a clear acknowledgement that the campaign is falling short of Russia’s strategic goals,” it said on Twitter.
Although the move effectively demoted Surovikin, nicknamed “General Armageddon” by the Russian media for his reputed ruthlessness, Gerasimov’s appointment had not come about because Surovikin is viewed as a failure, said Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a Philadelphia-based think tank.
The apparent demotion was possibly “driven by political reasons,” Lee added on Twitter.
The Kremlin’s forces meanwhile appeared close to a breakthrough in bitter fighting on the eastern front lines.
Battles continued to rage around Soledar, a devastated salt-mining town that has seen one of the fiercest and costliest recent ground battles of the nearly 11-month war.
Ukrainian officials said the country’s soldiers continued to hold out despite heavy fighting and a Russian mercenary group’s claim to have captured the town.
NBC News has not verified the claims of either side.
Taking the town would most likely be seen as a significant, if costly, victory for the Kremlin, which has suffered embarrassing defeats on the battlefield and signs of disquiet at home as the war approaches the one-year mark.
The area is in the Donetsk province, one of four that Putin illegally claimed to have annexed in September, and it is notable for its vast disused mine tunnels.
Although it has little intrinsic value, it lies at a strategic point around 6 miles north of the city of Bakhmut, which Russian forces are aiming to surround.
Taking Bakhmut would disrupt Ukrainian supply lines and open a route for Russian forces to press toward Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, key Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk province.
However, Michael Kofman, the director of Russia Studies at the CAN nonprofit research organization in Arlington, Virginia, said on Twitter that he did not think the outcome at Bakhmut was “that significant compared to what it costs Russia to achieve it.” He added that the costs could impinge on Russian military strategy.
However, he said, the battle could also “impact Ukraine’s offensive plans.”
As the war approaches its anniversary on Feb. 24, more attention is turning to who holds the upper hand in the conflict. Kyiv argues it cannot win without increased heavy artillery and tanks from its Western allies.
Meanwhile, Moscow maintains that its “special military operation” is going to plan despite numerous setbacks since the invasion.
The U.S. has said it would supply Bradley Fighting Vehicles to the front line; other countries have made similar pledges.
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The Russian oil market, which has been under a European embargo since December, met 2023 with a new collapse in prices.
The cost of Urals, the main brand of Russian oil companies, which accounts for almost two-thirds of exports, on Friday, January 6, fell below $40 per barrel.
Shipments shipped from the port of Primorsk in the Baltic Sea cost $38.7 per barrel – a record low since the spring of 2020, Bloomberg reports citing Argus pricing agency data.
Since the beginning of the year, Urals has fallen in price by about 10%. Its current quotes are already twice as low as Brent ($78.57 on the same date) and a third below the price ceiling that the G7 countries set at $60 per barrel.
Urals prices began to “rush” to the bottom in November, when it became known that the West was preparing a new portion of oil sanctions. Since then, Russian oil has almost halved in price, while Brent has fallen only 18%.
Of the dozens of countries that bought barrels in Russia, only a few customers remained by the beginning of 2023. In Europe, Russian oil continues to be imported by Bulgaria, which received an “indulgence” under the embrago. Turkey, while not officially joining the sanctions, cut imports by 86% in December after the country’s largest refinery, STAR, halted purchases from Russia for fear of secondary sanctions.
The pool of large buyers of Russian barrels is limited to India and China. But they are not enough to compensate for European demand. In December, Russia lost 20% of its oil exports. In the first week of sanctions, exports almost halved to 1.6 million barrels per day, and by the end of the month it recovered to 2.6 million barrels per day, but never returned to pre-sanction levels.
Urals prices around $40 per barrel will be a “real disaster” for the Russian budget, Evgeny Suvorov, an economist at Centrocredit Bank, is pessimistic. The Ministry of Finance has pledged oil at $70 to the Treasury project, and in order for all revenues to cover expenses, a barrel more expensive than $100 is needed, Alfa-Bank estimates.
In December, the average price of Urals, according to the Ministry of Finance, was $50.5 per barrel. And if this is a new reality, then the budget will receive less than 2 trillion rubles, Suvorov estimates. With prices near $40, the government will have to carry out budget consolidation, he believes: spending – about 30 trillion rubles – will have to survive the sequestration.
A weaker exchange rate of the ruble may partly compensate for budget losses, but there is additional stress – from February 5, after oil, oil products will also fall under the European embargo. And it will be much more difficult to redirect them to Asia, even with discounts, warns Natalia Orlova, chief economist at Alfa-Bank.
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(NewsNation) — Bryan Kohberger, the suspect in the Idaho college killings, is behind bars after DNA from the crime scene was linked to DNA from trash at his parent’s home. But how do investigators use genetic evidence to find a suspect?
Investigators say the key, in this case, was a sample of DNA from the crime scene being compared to the trash at the Kohberger’s Pennsylvania home. They used DNA belonging to Kohberger’s father to show a familial link, which led to Kohberger’s arrest.
Genetic genealogist CeCe Moore told NewsNation she thinks there’s probably more to the story than that, but it’s likely investigative genealogy played a role.
“They don’t have to include everything in the affidavit and genetic genealogy should not be used for the basis of an arrest,” Moore said.
It can be used to vet tips, like the one about the white car seen near the crime scene, she said. Police would have taken trash from the Kohberger home and used DNA from that to essentially perform a paternity test against DNA taken from the knife sheath found at the crime scene.
Kohberger is accused of killing four Idaho college students, Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin. All four were stabbed as they slept and as weeks went by with no suspect, speculation and rumors ran rampant online.
Moore said technology has increased in sensitivity over the years, allowing investigators to recover DNA even in the absence of blood. Kohberger’s DNA could have been left at the scene in a number of ways, she said, including shed skin cells or hair.
“We know from the witness statement that at least his eyebrows were showing, and it sounds like his hair wasn’t even covered. So he may have left hair behind as well, which also contains DNA,” she said.
While an arrest has been made, Moore said the search for forensic evidence isn’t over as both prosecution and defense teams will be scouring the crime scene evidence for information that can be used in court.
“There’s been a lot of work on that crime scene already, gathering any possible physical evidence to the prosecution’s case, try to support their case, or in the defense’s case, to try to find somebody else’s DNA that they can try to pin this crime on,” Moore said.