British PM Boris Johnson attended staffer's farewell party in Dec 2020: The Mirror

(Reuters) - Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attended a farewell party for his defence adviser in the run-up to Christmas 2020, British paper The Mirror reported on Sunday. Johnson gave a speech at the event to mark defence adviser Captain Steve Higham's Downing Street departure, the report said. The prime minister was at the place "for a few minutes" to thank Higham for his service, the report said, adding that a small number of No 10 staff briefly said goodbye. The report came as British paper The Telegraph reported Johnson has been questioned by senior civil servant Sue Gray, who is i...

FBI storms Texas synagogue to release hostages, gunman dead

By Shelby Tauber and Daphne Psaledakis COLLEYVILLE, Texas (Reuters) - An FBI Hostage Rescue Team stormed a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas on Saturday night to free three remaining hostages of a gunman who had disrupted a religious service and began a standoff with police more than 10 hours earlier. All the hostages were safely released on Saturday night and the gunman was dead, Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller said at a news conference. The gunman had initially taken four people hostage, including the rabbi, at the Congregation Beth Israel, officials said. One hostage was released unha...

Russia detains three more suspected REvil group members

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Moscow court on Saturday remanded in custody three more suspected members of the ransomware crime group REvil over illegal trafficking of funds, a day after Russia claimed it had dismantled the group at the request of the United States. The court identified the three men as Mikhail Golovachuk, Ruslan Khansvyarov and Dmitry Korotayev. In a rare apparent demonstration of U.S.-Russian collaboration at a time of high tensions between the two over Ukraine, Russian authorities detained and charged the REVil group's members this week. A police and FSB domestic intelligence operat...

UK seven-day COVID-19 infections down 33% on week before

LONDON (Reuters) - The United Kingdom reported 81,713 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, leaving the seven-day tally down by nearly 33% on the previous week. It reported 287 deaths of people who had tested positive for the disease within the previous 28 days. The seven-day total for deaths was up 45% on the week before, following a record spike in infections in recent weeks. (Reporting by William Schomberg, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

Facebook, Google CEOs aware of formal advertising market deal -- court filing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Chief executives of Alphabet Inc's Google and Facebook were aware of a deal to carve up part of the online advertising market, according to an amended antitrust complaint filed by Texas and 15 other states against Google. The deal with Facebook, which Google dubbed "Jedi Blue," was "signed off" by Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was on an email thread discussing it, they said in their third amended complaint. Google said the complaint's assertion "isn't accurate," and that the complaint itself is "full of inaccuracies." "We intend t...

China slams U.S. sanctions on Iran as cooperation agreement launched

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -China reaffirmed its opposition to unilateral sanctions by the United States against Iran as the Chinese and Iranian foreign ministers announced the launch of a 25-year cooperation agreement aimed at strengthening economic and political ties. In a meeting on Friday in the city of Wuxi, in Jiangsu province, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also backed efforts to revive a 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Iran. A summary of the meeting between Wang and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was posted on China's foreign ministry website on Saturday. Wang, w...

Tsunami observed in American Samoa after Tonga volcano erupts

By Jahnavi Nidumolu and Renju Jose (Reuters) -An underwater volcano off Tonga erupted on Saturday, triggering a tsunami warning for several South Pacific island nations, with footage on social media showing waves crashing into homes. Tsunami waves were observed in Tonga's capital and the capital of American Samoa, a U.S.-based tsunami monitor said. The eruption at 0410 GMT of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai underwater volcano, located about 65 km (40 miles) north of Nuku'alofa, caused a 1.2 metre tsunami, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said. The agency said it continued to monitor the situati...

Johnson's office apologizes to Queen Elizabeth for party on eve of funeral

By Guy Faulconbridge and Kylie MacLellan LONDON (Reuters) -British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office apologized to Queen Elizabeth on Friday after it emerged that staff had partied late into the night in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip's funeral, at a time when mixing indoors was banned. Johnson is facing the gravest crisis of his premiership after almost daily revelations about a series of social gatherings during COVID-19 lockdowns, some held when ordinary people could not bid farewell in person to dying relatives. After building a political career out of flouting accepted nor...

China agrees with US to release oil reserves near Lunar New Year - sources

By Nidhi Verma and Timothy Gardner (Reuters) - China will release crude oil from its national strategic stockpiles around the Lunar New Year holidays that start on Feb. 1 as part of a plan coordinated by the United States with other major consumers to reduce global prices, sources told Reuters. The sources, who have knowledge of talks between the world's top two crude consumers, said China agreed in late 2021 to release an unspecified amount of oil depending on price levels. "China agreed to release a relatively bigger amount if oil is above $85 a barrel, and a smaller volume if oil stays near...

Ronnie Spector, leader of the music group The Ronettes, has died at 78

(Reuters) - Ronnie Spector, singer of the 1960s hits "Be My Baby" and "Baby, I Love You" has died at the age of 78, her family said in a statement on Wednesday. Spector, leader of the girl group the Ronettes, died surrounded by family and in the arms of her husband, Jonathan, after a brief battle with cancer, the statement said. "Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humor and a smile on her face. She was filled with love and gratitude," the family said. "Her joyful sound, playful nature and magical presence will live on in all who knew, heard or...

U.S. judge rejects Prince Andrew's bid to dismiss sex abuse accuser's lawsuit

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge has rejected a bid by Britain's Prince Andrew to dismiss Virginia Giuffre's lawsuit accusing the Duke of York of sexually abusing her when she was 17 and being trafficked by the late financier Jeffrey Epstein. The decision by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan was made public on Wednesday. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York)

North Korea's Kim calls for more 'military muscle' after watching hypersonic missile test

By Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for boosting the country's strategic military forces as he observed the test of a hypersonic missile, state media said on Wednesday, officially attending a missile launch for the first time in nearly two years. On Tuesday authorities in South Korea and Japan detected the suspected launch, which drew condemnation by authorities around the world and prompted an expression of concern from the U.N. secretary-general. The second test of a "hypersonic missile" in less than a week underscored Kim's New Year's vow ...

It's time to choose, Biden tells Republicans in fiery voting rights speech

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland ATLANTA (Reuters) - President Joe Biden on Tuesday made a full-throated appeal for U.S. voting rights legislation stalled in Congress and said Democratic lawmakers should make a major change in Senate rules to override Republican opposition. In a speech designed to breathe life into the fight to pass federal voting laws and convince skeptical Democratic activists of his commitment, Biden called Republicans cowardly and he also committed to changing the U.S. Senate's "filibuster" rule to pass legislation. Calling it a "battle for the soul of America," Biden...

'Colonial wine from new, authoritarian bottles': Hong Kong re-tools sedition law

By Greg Torode and James Pomfret HONG KONG (Reuters) - The Hong Kong government is expanding its use of a long-dormant sedition law in what some lawyers and democracy advocates say is intensifying a squeeze on press freedom. Evidence of the renewed reliance on the sedition legislation came in late December when China-ruled Hong Kong targeted two media outlets. On Dec 29, about 200 police raided the office of online outlet Stand News and arrested seven people, charging two editors with conspiracy to publish "seditious publications". Authorities have not fully detailed what led to the charges. B...

US offers to dismiss Ghislaine Maxwell perjury case if sex abuse conviction stands

By Jonathan Stempel NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. government is prepared to dismiss two perjury charges against Ghislaine Maxwell if her conviction for aiding Jeffrey Epstein's sexual abuses is allowed to stand, according to a joint letter from prosecutors and Maxwell's defense team. In the Monday night letter to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan, prosecutors said dismissing the perjury counts would reflect the victims' "significant interests in bringing closure to this matter and avoiding the trauma of testifying again." Prosecutors also asked the Manhattan judge to sentence Maxwell in about ...