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Wednesday, Jan 26th

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Do not assume COVID pandemic reaching 'end game', warns WHO

COVID not over: deaths risingThe head of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday that it was dangerous to assume the Omicron variant would herald the end of COVID-19's acutest phase, exhorting nations to stay focused to beat the pandemic.

"It’s dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant and that we are in the end game," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a WHO executive board meeting of the two-year pandemic that has killed nearly 6 million people.

"On the contrary, globally the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge."

Though Omicron has sent total cases soaring to nearly 350 million, its less lethal impact and the increasing prevalence of vaccines has led to optimism in some parts that the worst of the pandemic may have passed.

Tedros, the WHO's first African head who is running unopposed for a second term, urged discipline and unity in combatting the coronavirus.

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Georgia to impanel grand jury in probe of Trump bid to overturn 2020 election

Grand jury to probe Trump attempt to interfere with electionThe Georgia prosecutor investigating then-U.S. President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state will be allowed to seat a special grand jury to subpoena witnesses to testify against him.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis last week sought to have a special grand jury aid her investigation into the Republican leader's efforts to pressure officials in a state where he lost to Joe Biden. read more

The Fulton County Superior Court approved the request on Monday, according to a court filing. The grand jury will commence on May 2 and convene for up to a year.

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Arizona Senate, Which Hired Cyber Ninjas, Now Desperately Seeking Its Election Records

Cyber Ninja votes lostArizona’s Republican State Senate, which hired the discredited Cyber Ninjas company to carry out a vote audit of Maricopa County, is now desperately seeking the company’s hidden public records to comply with a court order.

Senate Republicans recently discovered the Ninjas leased a mysterious “data center,” and have sent a two-sentence letter to the company and others involved in the botched audit, asking if public records are stored there, The Arizona Republic reported.

“We recently learned that a data center, possibly leased to Cyber Ninjas ... may be housing records concerning the Arizona State Senate’s audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County,” Arizona Senate President Karen Fann wrote in the letter sent Thursday.

Trump Influencer Brandon Straka Walks Away From Jan. 6 Case With Home Detention

Brandon Straka at Jan 6 riot

Brandon Straka, a 45-year-old former hairstylist who morphed into a pro-Trump social media influencer and encouraged rioters to steal an officer’s shield and storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, was sentenced to probation and home detention on Monday.

Judge Dabney L. Friedrich sentenced Straka to three years of probation, three months of which would be served on home detention. She also imposed a $5,000 fine.

Friedrich said Straka’s actions on Jan. 6 served to undermine democracy and the rule of law. Friedrich said Straka was not being sentenced for his First Amendment protected speech, but rather for his conduct. Straka not only participated in Jan. 6 but “celebrated” it in a way, Friedrich said.

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Pentagon puts 8,500 troops on alert as Biden consults with European allies on Ukraine: What we know

Sec. of Defence AustinPresident Joe Biden consulted with European leaders on Monday afternoon, as pressure builds between Russia and NATO over Ukraine.

NATO said Monday it would move more military equipment and troops into countries on the alliance’s eastern front. Russia has built up at least 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, threatening that conflict may be necessary to preserve its national security.

Also on Monday, the Pentagon announced it is putting 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened alert" for possible deployment to Eastern Europe amid the crisis.

"No decisions have been made to deploy any forces from the United States at this time," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday during a briefing.

Kirby said many of the troops put on alert were ordered to prepare to mobilize within 10 days. That will be shortened to five days for some, but not all, of the notified service members.

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Search underway for suspect in fatal shooting of Texas deputy: 'Brutal murder'

Cpl. Charles Galloway killed at traffic stop
A search was on Sunday for a man who gunned down a Texas constable deputy with what investigators described as an "assault-type weapon" during a traffic stop near Houston.

Cpl. Charles Galloway, 47, of the Harris County Constable Precinct 5 office was shot multiple times while still seated in his patrol car and reportedly had no time to defend himself when the motorist he stopped got out of his car and opened fire without warning, authorities said.

"He was brutally murdered," Precinct 5 Constable Ted Heap said during a news conference early Sunday outside the Houston Hospital where Galloway was pronounced dead.

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Former AG Bill Barr Has Spoken To Jan. 6 Committee, Chairman Says

Bilo Barr spoke to House Committee

The chairman of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol said Sunday that former Attorney General William Barr has already spoken with investigators, a major revelation that at least some former Trump administration officials are cooperating with the ongoing probe into the deadly insurrection.

“To be honest with you, we’ve had conversations with the former attorney general already,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “We’ve talked to Department of Defense individuals. We are concerned that our military was part of this big lie on promoting that the election was false.”

Thompson’s remarks came amid questioning over recent reports that Trump was presented with a draft executive order that would have directed the Pentagon to seize voting machines in battleground states after he lost the 2020 election. Politico first reported last week that the document is among several records Trump’s attorneys were trying to shield from Jan. 6 investigators.

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US orders families of embassy staff out of Ukraine as tensions rise

Families to leave US Embassy in Kiev

The US government has ordered the families of all American personnel at the US embassy in Ukraine to leave the country amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion.

The state department told the dependents of staffers at the US embassy in Kyiv that they must leave the country. It also said that non-essential embassy staff could leave Ukraine at government expense.

US officials stressed the Kyiv embassy will remain open and that Sunday’s announcement does not constitute an evacuation. The move had been under consideration for some time and does not reflect an easing of US support for Ukraine, the officials said.

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U.S. Capitol riot probe to report any phony elector evidence to Justice Dept-chairman

Latest US NewsThe U.S. House probe of the deadly assault on the Capitol will share with federal prosecutors any evidence of potential crimes aimed at pushing phony Republican electors in states won by Democratic President Joe Biden, the committee's chairman said on Sunday.

The House of Representatives Select Committee on Jan. 6 is looking for evidence that Republican officials in some states sought to nominate their own slates of electors, rather than those chosen by voters in 2020, panel chairman Representative Bernie Thompson told CBS News.

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