Friday, January 21, 2022

Wake-Up Call: Biden Again Warns Putin

President Biden again warned Russia against invading Ukraine Thursday, saying that any movements over the border would amount to an invasion and Russia would, quote, "pay a heavy price." Biden was trying to further clear up comments he'd made during a news conference a day earlier that a, quote, "minor incursion" would draw a lesser response, which drew criticism, including from Ukrainian officials. It was clarified Wednesday that Biden by "minor incursion" meant a non-military action, such as a cyberattack, and the president yesterday sought make clear any invasion wouldn't be tolerated, saying, "I’ve been absolutely clear with President [Vladimir] Putin. He has no misunderstanding: Any, any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion," and it would lead to a, quote, "severe and coordinated economic response." 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will today meet in Geneva with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in another attempt to ease tensions. Meanwhile, the U.S. announced new sanctions against four Ukrainian officials who Washington says are part of a Russian disinformation effort to set a pretext for invasion, two of them members of Ukraine's parliament and two former government officials.
Daily Mail graphic 1/21/22

President Joe Biden mocked Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich (inset) for asking: 'why are you waiting on Putin to make the first move, sir?'. The president, chuckling, responded to her query with: 'What a stupid question'. The exchange comes as Biden faces widespread criticism for claiming US retaliation for Russian aggression in Ukraine would depend on the details. Biden also has a history of lashing out at the press when he doesn't like their questions.

An NBC News poll also released Thursday shows Biden overall approval rating among adults at 43 per cent and disapproval at 54 per cent.  A third poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows the president at 56 per cent disapproval and to 43 per cent approval.  

It also reveals that only 28 per cent of Americans – and 48 per cent of Democrat respondents – want Biden to run for reelection in 2024.  When broken down further by issues, Americans are becoming less and less happy with the way the Biden administration is handling some key issues like the coronavirus pandemic and the economy. 

➤JAN. 6TH HOUSE COMMITTEE ASKS IVANKA TRUMP FOR INTERVIEW: The House committee investigating the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol yesterday requested an interview next month with Ivanka Trump, former President Donald Trump's eldest daughter who was also a senior adviser to him as president. Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson said in the letter that Ivanka was in direct contact with her father during key moments on January 6th, and among the things the committee wants to ask her about is testimony that she repeatedly urged him to call on his supporters to stop the violence during the attack. The letter is the committee's first attempt to get information from a member of Trump's family. A spokesperson for Ivanka said, "Ivanka Trump just learned that the January 6 Committee issued a public letter asking her to appear. As the Committee already knows, Ivanka did not speak at the January 6 rally."

➤SUPREME COURT DOESN'T ALLOW CASE OVER TEXAS' SIX-WEEK ABORTION BAN TO BE SPED UP: The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday rejected an effort to speed up the case over Texas' ban on abortions after six weeks, declining to order a federal appeals court to return the case to a federal judge who had temporarily blocked the law’s enforcement. The three liberal justices on the high court dissented. The decision means the law will remain in effect for the foreseeable future, since the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the case sent to the Texas Supreme Court. That court is entirely controlled by Republican justices and doesn't have to act immediately. Abortion providers challenging the law had asked the Supreme Court to block the appeals court's order, saying it was intended only to delay the legal proceedings and keep the law in effect.

➤U.S. MAN CHARGED WITH HUMAN SMUGGLING AFTER FOUR FOUND DEAD IN CANADA NEAR BORDER: A 47-year-old Florida man was charged with human smuggling yesterday after four people were found dead near the U.S. border in Canada. Officials believe they died during an attempt to illegally cross the border during a blizzard. Seven Indian nationals were also found in the U.S. According to court documents, U.S. Border Patrol in North Dakota stopped a van just south of the border Wednesday that Steve Shand was driving, and he was allegedly with two undocumented Indian citizens. Around the same time, five other people were seen in the snow nearby, who were also Indian nationals. They told officers they'd been walking in the freezing conditions for more than 11 hours, and that a family had been separated from the group. A search began in Manitoba, Canada, and the bodies of a man, woman, teenage boy and baby were found just 10 meters from the border. They were believed to have died from exposure. It's alleged in court documents that Shand has likely been involved in other illegal border crossings.

➤PELOTON REPORTEDLY PAUSES PRODUCTION OF ITS BIKES AND TREADMILLS: Peloton saw sales of its stationary bikes soar after the pandemic began as people stuck at home and unable to go to the gym bought them to stay in shape. But nearly two years later, that sales bump has faded, and CNBC reported yesterday that it was temporarily stopping production of its main stationary bikes for two months, and will stop making its main treadmill machine for six weeks. This comes after Peloton cut the price of its main stationary bike last August by $400. Among the reasons for Peloton's falling sales are new competitors selling cheaper bikes, Americans returning to their gyms, and many high-end gyms now offering virtual classes, which had been Peloton's biggest feature.

🏠HOME PRICES UP 16.9 PERCENT IN 2021, HIGHEST ON RECORD: Among a high level of sales, the median U.S. home sales price was $346,900 in 2021, up 16.9 percent from 2020, the highest on record going back to 1999, according to the National Association of Realtors. Home sales had their biggest year since 2006, with 6.12 million homes sold, up 8.5 percent from the year before. Part of the reason is that inventory is at an all-time low, with the number of unsold existing homes falling to a record low of 910,000 at the end of December, which is only a 1.8-month supply at the current pace, which is also a record low.
➤WHERE ARE YOU MOST LIKELY TO CATCH COVID? NEW STUDY HIGHLIGHTS HIGH RISK LOCATIONS:  COVID-19 is still a risk, and a new study that highlights activities that run the highest risk of you catching it. Researchers analyzed outbreaks and super spreader events and studied factors that hinder and aid the virus’ spread to design a mathematical model that takes many factors into account before giving a percentage risk of infection. The percentage isn’t a perfectly accurate estimate, but does help give us an idea of the highest-risk situations, and the lowest-risk as well. 

For example, in a crowded movie theater with poor ventilation and mostly unmasked audience there’s a 14 percent chance of getting infected if everyone remains silent before, during, and after the movie. If people talk, the risk of infection when unmasked jumps to 54 percent. If the crowd is masked, the risk of infection drops to 5.3 percent without talking and 24 percent with talking. Researchers say that given that COVID-19 spreads primarily through airborne particles, masks, ventilation, the number of people in a room or building and time spent in that space all factor heavily into the equation. 

Not surprisingly, being outdoors, masked, and surrounded by silence is the best way to avoid coronavirus. In many situations, changing just one single factor can be the difference between being relatively safe or likely infected. For example, if you work out unmasked in a well-ventilated gym you have a 17 percent chance of infection, but if it’s poorly ventilated the risk jumps up to 67 percent.

💘THE PROBLEM WITH BEING A ‘HOPELESS ROMANTIC’, ACCORDING TO RELATIONSHIP EXPERTS:  Are you a hopeless romantic? Psychologist Dana McNeil explains, “A hopeless romantic can often be described as someone who is in love with being in love. They believe that love conquers all.” You might be a hopeless romantic if you: profess to be an eternal optimist, have strong destiny beliefs, continue to wear rose-colored glasses even in the face of truly chronic issues, you’re too easily willing to let hurtful words or actions go (and you’ve silenced your truth), and believing that being in a relationship will improve your life. Psychologist Lauren Cook adds that hopeless romantics are often coping with anxious attachment, which goes hand-in-hand with a fear of abandonment, and that hopeful romantics can see when a relationship is working and when it isn’t. To go from being hopeless to hopeful, Cook says you must cultivate self-love and commit to self-work, and it could also be helpful to work with a mental health care provider.

⚾MLB NIXES TAMPA BAY RAYS 'SISTER CITY' IDEA:  Major League Baseball HAS rejected the Tampa Bay Rays' so-called "sister city" proposal that would have had them split their home schedule between the Tampa Bay area and the city of Montreal. Team officials had spent two-and-a-half years on the proposal, which they saw as the best way to increase revenue without permanently moving the franchise. Despite their success on the field, the Rays' home attendance has been near the bottom among MLB teams over the last decade. The sister city idea had been that it would take advantage of ideal weather in both cities, and the belief was it would lead to higher revenue because of increased demand for limited tickets. Under the plan's most recent version, the Rays would play the first two months of the season in the Tampa Bay area, then move to Montreal in early June. The cities would alternate hosting during the postseason, and both would get new ballparks. But Commissioner Rob Manfred told the Rays earlier this week that the idea had been rejected, according to ESPN, mainly because the logistics were too complex and it was too risky to make long-term commitments on the concept. So with the lease on Tropicana Field expiring after the 2027 season, and the sister city proposal nixed, the Rays will now consider new stadium options in the Tampa Bay area or moving to another city.

🎾MEDVEDEV, KREJCIKOVA ADVANCE AT U.S. OPEN: Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev won his second round match at the Australian Open yesterday and fourth-seeded Barbora Krejcikova, the reigning French Open champion, won in the third round to advance. Other winners included seventh-seeded Mario Berretini for the men and fifth-seeded Maria Sakkari among the women, as well as American Madison Keys, who made it to the fourth round.

🏈ESPN: DALLAS QB PRESCOTT FINED $25K FOR COMMENTS ABOUT REFS: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has been fined $25,000 by the NFL for his comments after last Sunday's wild-card game loss to the San Francisco 49ers approving of fans throwing things at the refs, ESPN reported yesterday. Prescott tweeted an apology on Tuesday, saying, in part, "I was caught up in the emotion of a disappointing loss and my words were uncalled for and unfair."

⚾MLB TO EXPAND ROBOT UMPIRES TO TRIPLE-A: MLB is expanding its experimental use of robot umpires -- meaning an automated strike zone -- to several teams in Triple-A this season, the highest level of the minor leagues. AP reported MLB's website has a hiring notice for seasonal employees to operate the system for a number of Triple-A teams. The automated system was used in eight of nine ballparks in the Low-A Southeast League last season.

➤DOCTOR: U.S. OLYMPIC TEAM 100 PERCENT VACCINATED AGAINST COVID: The U.S. Olympic team's top doctor said the entire team heading to compete in the Beijing Winter Olympics next month, more than 200 athletes, are all vaccinated against Covid-19, with none of them having asked for a medical exemption. Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Finnoff told the Associated Press that the 21-day quarantine the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is requiring for unvaccinated athletes, as well as the education the U.S. Olympic Committee has provided, quote, "really resonated with the athletes."

💵ARBITRATOR: UCONN IMPROPERLY FIRED BASKETBALL COACH OLLIE, MUST PAY $11 MILLION: An arbitrator has ruled that the University of Connecticut improperly fired former men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie in 2018, and must pay him more than $11 million. Ollie was fired after the school reported numerous NCAA violations in his program. His attorney said the ruling shows the NCAA sanctions were "erroneous and unfounded." But UConn said it a statement that the ruling only said the school should have waited for the NCAA's decision before firing Ollie. It said it did not have, quote, "the luxury of waiting more than a year before terminating Ollie for the misconduct the university was aware he had engaged in.''

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