Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022
Happy Sunday morning. Here is an extra edition:
The Dallas Morning News: All four hostages inside a Colleyville, Texas, synagogue were rescued after an 11-hour standoff and the hostage-taker is dead, police said.
All four people taken hostage inside a synagogue during a morning service were safe Saturday night after an 11-hour standoff.
The hostage-taker was dead, authorities said at a news conference late Saturday. Officials said they had identified the suspect but were not yet ready to release his name.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced the rescue at Congregation Beth Israel just after 9:30 p.m., and Colleyville police confirmed shortly thereafter that the situation was resolved.
No injuries were reported among the hostages, one of whom was released earlier in the evening. All of the hostages were adults, and one was the synagogue’s rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker.
A loud bang was heard at the synagogue just after 9 p.m. Authorities said that was around the time that the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team breached the building.
About 30 to 40 officers were seen standing outside the synagogue shortly after the noise. An armored vehicle with a breach arm was also seen returning to a staging area nearby.
Matthew DeSarno, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas office, said at the news conference that many details about the incident could not be released yet because of the ongoing investigation, but said the hostage-taker was “singularly focused on one issue” that was not related to the Jewish community.
Officials referred to the hostage-taker as a gunman but did not say whether they had recovered any weapons.
President Biden: ‘I am grateful to the tireless work of law enforcement…’
“Thanks to the courageous work of state, local and federal law enforcement, four Americans who were held hostage at a Texas synagogue will soon be home with their families. I am grateful to the tireless work of law enforcement at all levels who acted cooperatively and fearlessly to rescue the hostages. We are sending love and strength to the members of Congregation Beth Israel, Colleyville, and the Jewish community.
There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker. But let me be clear to anyone who intends to spread hate—we will stand against antisemitism and against the rise of extremism in this country. That is who we are, and tonight, the men and women of law enforcement made us all proud.”
The Associated Press: The FBI says the Texas hostage taker was not focused on the Jewish community.
One of the four hostages held at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville was released during the standoff; three others were rescued when authorities entered the building about 9 p.m., authorities said. The hostage taker was killed and FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said a team would investigate “the shooting incident.”
An FBI and a police spokeswoman declined to answer questions about who shot the man.
DeSarno said the hostage taker was specifically focused on an issue not directly connected to the Jewish community and there was no immediate indication that the man had was part of any broader plan, but DeSarno said the agency’s investigation “will have global reach.”
Law enforcement officials who were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity earlier said that the hostage-taker demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida. He also said he wanted to be able to speak with her, according to the officials. Siddiqui is in federal prison in Texas.
DeSarno said Saturday night that the man had been identified “but we are not prepared to release his identity or confirm his identity at this time.”
NBC News: Who is Aafia Siddiqui, the federal prisoner at the center of the Texas hostage incident?
Aafia Siddiqui, whose release was demanded by a man who took hostages inside a Texas synagogue, would not condone the man's actions, her attorney said Saturday.
The unidentified man, who took an unspecified number of people hostage inside Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, said he wanted Siddiqui to be released from a Texas federal prison, where she is serving an 86-year sentence after being convicted of attempting to murder U.S. soldiers.
Siddiqui has long been a cause célèbre in the terrorist world.
She has sometimes been called “Lady al Qaeda," but ISIS sought her release, as well. She was convicted in 2010 of trying to murder American soldiers and officials in Afghanistan, and her sentencing included a terror enhancement.
Her release has long been sought by militant Islamists, and even mainstream U.S. Muslim groups have said she is innocent and should be freed.
The daughter of an English-trained, Pakistani doctor, Siddiqui attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned a Ph.D. from Brandeis University, according to a forensic profile prepared for her criminal trial.
“While a student in Boston, Massachusetts, Siddiqui had undertaken training and instruction on the handling and shooting of firearms,” the FBI said in a 2010 statement.
Siddiqui lived in the United States from roughly 1991 to June 2002 and returned to the country for about a week beginning on Dec. 25, 2002, federal prosecutors said.
After 9/11, Siddiqui apparently became radicalized, the profile says, and by 2008 U.S. officials were calling her a wanted terrorist.
There have long been reports that she married the nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, but those have not been confirmed.
In 2008, police in Afghanistan arrested Siddiqui on suspicion of trying to attack the governor of Afghanistan's Ghazni province.
When she was captured, Siddiqui was carrying notes detailing a “mass casualty attack” on New York City sites, including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and the Brooklyn Bridge, according to prosecutors and court records.
Federal officials alleged she also had notes on the construction of "dirty bombs," according to a Department of Justice statement. She was 36 at the time.
When she was brought to a "a poorly lit room partitioned by a yellow curtain" and "crowded with Afghan officials" in 2008 to be questioned by two FBI agents and at least four members of an undisclosed U.S. special forces unit, she grabbed the M-4 military rifle of a chief warrant officer and opened fire, federal prosecutors said.
The FBI said she was behind that curtain. Her gunfire missed, prosecutors said, and the chief warrant officer shot her in the stomach with his sidearm.
As the U.S. officials struggled to detain her, Siddiqui allegedly yelled, "I am going to kill all you Americans. You are going to die by my blood," the prosecutors said.
The Los Angeles Times: A tsunami following the eruption of a Pacific volcano hit the California coast Saturday with small waves and caused scattered flooding.
California tsunami advisories triggered Saturday morning by an underwater volcanic eruption near the South Pacific nation of Tonga had been largely lifted by 9 p.m. after authorities spent much of the day urging people to stay away from beaches and harbors and out of ocean waters churning with powerful currents.
The advisories were cancelled in coastal communities including those in Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and Newport and Huntington Beaches.
Many beaches and marinas from Orange County to the Bay Area were temporarily closed Saturday morning as a precaution because of higher than normal waves, officials said.
There were no immediate reports of deaths, serious injuries or widespread property damage. One of the hardest-hit areas of California appeared to be Santa Cruz Harbor, where flooding was reported.
ESPN: Novak Djokovic has left Australia after a court dismissed the tennis player's challenge of a government minister's decision to cancel his visa over being unvaccinated against COVID-19.
Djokovic said he was "extremely disappointed" by the ruling but respected it. He released a statement shortly after three Federal Court judges unanimously upheld a decision made Friday by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to cancel Djokovic's visa on public interest grounds because he is not vaccinated.
Djokovic, 34, has won a record nine Australian Open titles, including three in a row, but this time won't even get the chance to try. Hawke confirmed Sunday that Djokovic "has now departed Australia."
A masked Djokovic was photographed in a Melbourne airport lounge with two government officials in black uniforms. He left at approximately 11 p.m. local time on an Emirates flight to Dubai, the same United Arab Emirates city he flew to Australia from.
"I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister's decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open," Djokovic said.
"I respect the Court's ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country," he added.
Djokovic said he was "uncomfortable" that the focus had been on him since his visa was first canceled on arrival at Melbourne's airport on Jan. 6.
The national federation that runs the tournament, Tennis Australia, said it respects the decision of the Federal Court.
"We look forward to a competitive and exciting Australian Open 2022 and wish all players the best of luck," it said in a statement.
The New York Post: Dr. Anthony Fauci’s financial disclosure shows $10.4M in investments.
The president’s chief medical advisor and his wife had $10.4 million in investments at the end of 2020, newly-released records show.
That sum — including $2.3 million in unrealized gains — was held in various mutual funds.
Fauci’s 2020 financial disclosure was released publicly Friday night by Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), who Fauci had called a “moron” after he inquired into Fauci’s financial disclosures during a Senate proceeding Tuesday.
“Dr. Fauci was completely dishonest about his financial disclosures being open to the public,” Marshall said in a statement. “Dr. Fauci must be held accountable to all Americans who have been suing and requesting for this information but don’t have the power of a Senate office to ask for it.”
Fauci’s 2020 filing — not previously available to the public — details the finances of the nation’s highest-paid federal employee, who reportedly made $434,312 in 2020 and is on track for a $350,000 annual pension upon retirement.
NIH did not return a requests for comment.
Richmond Times Dispatch: Glenn Younkin was sworn in Saturday as Virginia's governor and quickly scrapped mandates on masks in schools and a requirement that state workers be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Youngkin, 55, took the oath of office surrounded by his family and dozens of state leaders. He rose from a business executive with no public office experience to become the first Republican since 2014 to hold the state’s highest office.
Youngkin’s address, delivered from the South Portico, relied heavily on rhetoric from his campaign for governor: that Virginia is not, but could be, “the best place to live, work and raise a family,” and that public liberties have been subjugated by the outgoing party.
The new governor immediately issued executive orders scrapping mask mandates in schools and COVID-19 vaccine requirements for state workers. Youngkin’s very first executive order bans the teaching of “divisive concepts” in schools, including “critical race theory,” a term Republicans use to refer to lessons on systemic racism.
In a day of firsts, Winsome Earle-Sears took the oath as lieutenant governor, becoming the second woman and the first woman of color to hold elective statewide office in Virginia. New Attorney General Jason Miyares became the first Latino to hold statewide office in Virginia.
Youngkin, during the 60-day legislative session that began Wednesday, will try to move his agenda through a divided legislature, in which Republicans hold a 52-48 edge in the House of Delegates and Democrats hold a 21-19 edge in the state Senate.
“I come to this moment, and to this office, knowing we must bind the wounds of division. Restore trust. Find common cause for the common good. And strengthen the spirit of Virginia,” Youngkin said. “And to be clear, this spirit of Virginia is not about government deciding for us what is best for us.”
Youngkin takes office as the state continues to suffer from the health and economic effects of a global pandemic. Virginia is facing a record-setting surge in cases and hospitalizations that are straining health care resources across the state.
The Hill: At a rally in Arizona, former President Donald Trump slammed President Biden and continued to peddle unsubstantiated fraud claims about the 2020 election.
In an address from Florence, Ariz., Trump covered a plethora of issues, including the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, foreign policy and crime.
"They're incompetent, actually," Trump said, referring to the Biden administration.
Trump also used the address to attack Biden’s chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, who worked with Trump during his administration as well.
“Biden’s made him the person. He’s like the king. Fauci’s the king,” Trump said, invoking chants of “lock him up.” The comments come less than a week after Fauci accused Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) of putting him in personal danger due to public attacks.
But while he discussed other topics, Trump’s election fraud claims and the investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attacks on the Capitol played a dominant role in his address.
Trump slammed the House's Jan. 6 select committee, which he referred to as “the unselect committee of political hacks,” and denounced what he described as the inhumane treatment of those who were arrested during the storming of the Capitol.
“What’s happening to those people in those jails — why aren’t they doing it to Antifa and Black Lives Matter?” Trump said. “Partisan Democrats have celebrated their indefinite detention without trial.”
The Associated Press: Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is negotiating a plea deal in his corruption case.
The deal, which could be signed as early as this week, could usher Netanyahu off the Israeli political stage for years, paving the way for a leadership race in his Likud party and shaking up Israeli politics. Any deal could spare Netanyahu an embarrassing and protracted trial over an issue that has gripped the nation and risks tarnishing his legacy.
Reports of a deal angered critics who said a it would undermine the rule of law.
“The man who worked to destroy the public’s trust in the foundations of democracy for personal reasons is not eligible for deals,” Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz tweeted. He was referring to Netanyahu’s attempts after he was indicted to cast doubt on Israel’s justice system, saying it was biased and pursuing a witch hunt against him.
Demonstrators gathered against the developing deal outside the attorney general’s house Saturday evening. Any deal will likely be challenged in court.
A spokesman for Netanyahu declined to comment.
The Detroit Free Press: University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel has been fired after an investigation into a relationship with a subordinate.
The University of Michigan Board of Regents has unanimously fired school President Mark Schlissel for cause following an investigation into a relationship with a subordinate, the board announced Saturday evening.
In a letter to Schlissel posted on the school website, the board spelled out its concerns and said his conduct was "particularly egregious considering your knowledge of and involvement in addressing incidents of harassment by University of Michigan personnel, and your declared commitment to work to 'free' the University community of sexual harassment or other improper conduct."
For example, the letter said, citing a recent scandal involving the university's highest academic officer: "With regard to the actions of Martin Philbert, on August 3, 2020, you sent an email to the entire University of Michigan community, writing that: 'The highest priority for our regents and leadership team is to make our community safe for all.'
"You also declared to the community that your leadership would 'determine what we need to do to address the fear of retaliation in our community and build a culture that does not accept misconduct or harassment at any level.' Accordingly, there can be no question that you were acutely aware that any inappropriate conduct or communication between you and a subordinate would cause substantial harm to the dignity and reputation of the University of Michigan."
According to emails posted by the university on its website, Schlissel wrote to the female employee regularly, including in October 2019 when he emailed about receiving a box of knishes. The woman said in reply that she liked the doughy snack food. Schlissel replied again: Can I "lure you to visit with the promise of a knish?"
Schlissel sent "dozens" of inappropriate emails and texts, the regents said, including a link to a New Yorker magazine story entitled "Sexual fantasies of everyday New Yorkers."
The decision to fire him was made behind closed doors Saturday morning, without a public vote. The Free Press left messages with Schlissel seeking comment.
WCBS-TV: Police say a man pushed an Asian woman in front of a moving train in Times Square, killing her, Saturday morning.
CNN: A vicious winter storm is bringing ice, heavy snow and is expected to disrupt travel and knock out power in the Southwest U.S.
A vicious winter storm will slice through parts of the Southeast Sunday, dropping freezing rain, ice and snow on cities and states that don't normally see much of the white stuff.
As many as 80 million people are under winter weather alerts from that region to the Northeast, CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam said.
"I am particularly concerned for the impending ice storm that will impact the interior of South and North Carolina. Following a round of heavy snow, up to 3/4 of an inch of ice could accumulate," Van Dam said.
"This will certainly bring power outages in the area as winds gust over 40 mph," he added.
Greenville, South Carolina, and Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina are under winter storm warnings, forecasters said. As much as a foot of snow could fall near the edge of the Blue Ridge escarpment in Greenville and as much as 20 inches of snow could accumulate above 4,000 feet of elevation in that area. A tenth of an inch of ice is also possible.
The National Weather Service has issued an ice storm warning for portions of South Carolina, in effect through early Monday, with temperatures likely to remain sub-freezing until the start of next week.
This day in history: It was on this day in 2009 that Circuit City announced it was closing all 567 stores, which led to 34,000 employees losing their jobs, CNN reported.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Bankrupt electronics retailer Circuit City Inc. said Friday it will close its remaining 567 U.S. stores and sell all its merchandise.
The company said it has 34,000 employees.
"We are extremely disappointed by this outcome," James Marcum, acting CEO for Circuit City, said in a statement. "We were unable to reach an agreement with our creditors and lenders to structure a going-concern transaction in the limited timeframe available, and so this is the only possible path for our company."
In a filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which a judge approved late Friday, Circuit City - the No. 2 electronics retailer after Best Buy - said it had reached an agreement with four companies to start the liquidation process.
The company said the sale would begin Saturday and run until March 31, pending court approval.
The retailer's Web site and call center will cease to operate after Jan. 18.
Circuit City said employees will receive 60 days' notice of the termination.
Employees who are laid off earlier will get pay and benefits for the 60-day period beginning Friday, the retailer said.