By Ahmed Rasheed BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi government troops have ordered Shi'ite militias to stay back from the front lines to reduce hostility from villagers as they advance into Sunni areas held by Islamic State fighters. The Shi'ite militias played an important role halting the dramatic advance by Islamic State fighters through northern Iraq in June, when Iraq's army crumbled. Since then they have received the endorsement of the government. But their presence frightens and angers many Sunnis who believe they have carried out killings and kidnappings with impunity, which the militias deny. Winning the support of the local population is seen as crucial to defeating the Islamic State fighters, but a difficult task as long as the feared Shi'ite militias are playing a prominent role on the battlefield. Government forces, now supported by U.S.-led air strikes, are advancing this week into the city of Baiji, held by Islamic State fighters who have also besieged Iraq's biggest oil refinery nearby. The army general in command in the province said he had ordered the militias away from the front line after they torched two houses of Sunni villagers. "We decided to remove the militias from front lines and assign them duties like holding ground behind attacking security forces," Lieutenant-General Abdul Wahab al-Saidi told Reuters by telephone. "They lack discipline, easily lose control and lack proper military training," said the general, himself a Shi'ite. A major who was at the scene said Shi'ite army officers confronted the Shi'ite militiamen after the houses were torched, and shots were fired by both sides. Police sources confirmed that account, by Major Saadi Hamdan. COOPERATION Hamdan said the order to move the militia fighters away from the front had already paid off in improved cooperation with the local villagers. "Many people have started to call us and give us locations where terrorists are hiding and the places where they hide the car bombs," said Hamdan. “The wrong practices of militias, such as burning houses, could send the wrong message to the residents that they might become a target for the militia after liberating the city." Abu Marwa, a farmer in the area, said many locals had embraced Islamic State when the fighters initially arrived, because they promised to help defend the area from the militias and the Shi'ite-led Baghdad government. "We were very pleased because we were living under the mercy of sectarian government forces. But those joyful feelings didn’t last for too long," he said by telephone. "Many people were executed by Islamic State because they were members of the police or army. More blood of the innocents was flowing now than under government troops." A victory in Baiji would be a psychological boost for the army after its collapse in the north in June. Unusual alliances appear to be emerging. Sunni tribal chief Hamid al-Qaisi leads about 100 men who fight alongside government forces. Qaisi said he also teams up with Shi'ite militias who give his fighters weapons, but agrees they should not spearhead operations. "Almost all the arms we are using now against Islamic State were given to us by the militias," he said. (Writing by Ahmed Rasheed and Michael Georgy; Editing by Peter Graff)
- Yahoo News
Black National Guardsman describes being deployed to protect Biden’s inauguration: 'I just felt this huge sense of pride'
As most of the 25,000 National Guardsmen who were called upon to protect Washington, D.C., during the presidential inauguration began heading home this week, one Black service member agreed to speak to Yahoo News about the experience of protecting the nation’s capital in the wake of a pro-Trump riot on Capitol Hill.
- Yahoo News
Former President Donald Trump’s “big lie” about a stolen election may have been discredited over and over in the courts, and disgraced by the attack on the U.S. Capitol, but the corrosive effect of his dishonesty will linger on, complicating efforts to strengthen American elections.
Word has it the former Second Family is staying at the Indiana governor’s cabin or crashing with kinfolk back in their home state. Former Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, are reportedly looking for a new home after their free, taxpayer-funded housing officially ended just over a week ago. The story was originally shared by Business Insider but reposted to other outlets: Pence is reportedly staying at a cabin that Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb uses as a retreat, while two other Indiana Republican insiders say that the former second-in-command and ex-Second Lady are staying with family.
President Biden's plan to replace the government’s fleet of 650,000 cars and trucks with electric vehicles assembled in the U.S. by union workers is easier said than done. Why it matters: The populist "Buy American" message sounds good, but the vehicles Biden wants are still several years away and his purchase criteria would require an expensive overhaul of automakers' manufacturing strategies, not to mention a reversal of fortune for labor organizers long stymied by Tesla and other non-union companies.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.Reality check: Right now, not a single model fits the president's criteria: battery-powered, made in America, by union workers. * Tesla produces the vast majority of EVs in the U.S., and all of its models contain at least 55% American-made parts, according to federal data. But Tesla doesn't have a union and CEO Elon Musk has run afoul of federal labor laws. * General Motors' Chevrolet Bolt is the only U.S.-built EV made by union labor. But it's made mostly with parts imported from Korea. Just 24% of the content is considered domestic. * The Nissan Leaf, another popular EV, is made in Tennessee. But the factory is non-union and only 35% of the parts are domestic. "Made in America" itself is confusing, because current rules governing "domestic" content include parts made in both the U.S. and Canada. * Under the American Automobile Labeling Act, passed in 1992, every car requires a label disclosing where the car was assembled, the percentage of equipment from the U.S. and Canada combined, and the country where the engine and transmission were built. * The newly passed US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement adds another layer of rules about the origin of parts.Biden wants to change the whole system of determining whether a federal vehicle is "American." * Today, the government requires federal vehicles to have at least 50 percent of their components made in America, but loopholes allow the most valuable parts like engines or steel to be manufactured elsewhere, Biden told reporters Monday. * He wants a higher threshold and tighter rules that would directly benefit American workers. Be smart: It's all doable, but definitely not within Biden's four-year term in office. * "It just doesn't add up," said Joe Langley, a forecasting analyst for IHS Markit. "The product is still a few years away." * And replacing 650,000 federal vehicles with EVs would require an increase in U.S. investment through the whole supply chain, including electric motors, batteries and vehicles — all of which will take time, Langley said. * Union leaders are glad Biden is focused on the industry's future. "He sees new technology as a way to grow our industry and our economy," a spokesperson for the United Auto Workers told Axios.Some of that investment is already happening. GM, for example, is overhauling several factories to produce electric vehicles in Tennessee and Michigan. Ford will make its upcoming e-Transit van in Missouri. * But GM, Ford and Stellantis (the newly merged FiatChrysler and Peugeot) just recently committed to build more EVs at union factories in Canada. * And Ford is ramping up production of its highly anticipated Mustang Mach-E in Mexico. What to watch: There could be some surprise winners from Biden's plan. * A handful of well-funded EV startups such as Lordstown Motors, Rivian and Workhorse are developing plug-in commercial vehicles like vans and trucks — things that are often needed in government fleets. * "This could put wind in the sails of a lot of new startups," said Langley.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
- The Week
Biden did not, in fact, remove Trump's 'Diet Coke button' from the Resolute Desk, White House clarifies
The new Biden administration has yet not disclosed the secrets of Area 51 or explained what the Air Force really knows about UFOs, but it did clarify, at least, the mystery of the vanished "Diet Coke button" former President Donald Trump would use to summon refreshments in the Oval Office. The usher button, as it is formally known, is not gone, even if it is no longer used to summon Diet Cokes, a White House official tells Politico. The White House official "unfortunately wouldn't say what Biden will use the button for," Politico's Daniel Lippman writes, suggesting Biden might summon Orange Gatorade and not the obvious answer, ice cream — or, let's get real, coffee. What's more, there are evidently two usher buttons in the Oval Office, one at the Resolute Desk and the other next to the chair by the fireplace, a former White House official told Politico, adding that Trump didn't actually use the Diet Coke button all that much because "he would usually just verbally ask the valets, who were around all day, for what he needed." In any case, it is not the placement of the button that matters, of course, but how you use it. And Biden will presumably know better than to order ice cream treats during a top-secret national security briefing. More stories from theweek.comSarah Huckabee Sanders' shameless campaign for governorMitch McConnell is the GOATThe left's fake Senate majority
"Our veterans, families and caregivers will benefit from the return of Joining Forces, and our nation will as well."
- Associated Press
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday criticized Iran's hard-liner dominated judiciary over last week's prosecution of the countrys telecommunications minister. Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi was released on bail after he was summoned for prosecution. Judiciary officials cited his refusal to block Instagram and impose limitations on the bandwidth of other foreign social media and messaging systems.
- NBC News
Analysis: Biden had nothing to gain and everything to lose from fighting a quixotic war over the filibuster just days into his presidency.
- The Independent
‘There appeared to be no remorse,’ says Calcasieu Parish sheriff Tony Mancus
Troops have until Oct. 1, 2027, to purchase the AGSU, after which the ASU will become the Army's optional dress uniform.
- Yahoo News Video
A former pathologist at an Arkansas veterans’ hospital has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient that he misdiagnosed.
- Associated Press
Pope Francis marked Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday by warning that warped ideologies can pave the way to another genocide. Francis spoke off the cuff at the end of his weekly general audience, held in his private library because of coronavirus restrictions, to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland, where Nazis killed more than 1 million Jews and others. In all, about 6 million European Jews and millions of other people were killed by the Germans and their collaborators.
- The Week
President Biden announced Tuesday that his administration intends to order an additional 100 million doses of both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines. The extra 200 million doses, which Biden said should arrive by the summer, would boost the country's supply by about 50 percent to 600 million shots total, meaning that there would be enough shots available to inoculate 300 million people in the coming months without the Food and Drug Administration granting approval for any other vaccine candidates. Pres. Biden says his admin has ordered 200 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses that will be available by summer, increasing the total number ordered from 400 million to 600 million pic.twitter.com/VFZ3qTmUK9 — NowThis (@nowthisnews) January 26, 2021 It's another sign that the government is raising expectations for the vaccine rollout. On Monday, Biden upped the daily vaccination goal from 1 million to 1.5 million throughout his first 100 days in office and suggested that any American who wants a shot could be able to get one by the spring. FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver applauded the administration for getting more ambitious, though he noted it could be difficult — impossible, even, unless the shots are approved for children — to find 300 million willing Americans to get vaccinated by the end of summer. In practice it's going to be hard to find 300m Americans willing to get vaccinated by Sept. 22. (It's literally impossible until vaccines are approved for children.) And we'll probably eventually mix in some one-dose vaccines. Still, ramping up to 2-2.5m/day is a laudable goal. — Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) January 26, 2021 More stories from theweek.comSarah Huckabee Sanders' shameless campaign for governorMitch McConnell is the GOATThe left's fake Senate majority
- NBC News
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said that warrants have been issued for David Vowell, who faces two counts of first degree murder.
- Architectural Digest
Let’s get loudOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- The Independent
Melissa Carone was widely mocked following her court appearance in December 2020
- Associated Press
After 18 years of denial, the Pakistani suspect convicted and later acquitted in the 2002 beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl has told a court he played a “minor" role in the killing, the Pearl family lawyer said Wednesday. A letter handwritten by Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh in 2019, in which he admits limited involvement in the killing of the Wall Street Journal reporter, was submitted to Pakistan's Supreme Court nearly two weeks ago. It wasn't until Wednesday that Sheikh's lawyers confirmed their client wrote it.
Russia and the United States have struck a deal to extend the New START nuclear arms control treaty, the Kremlin said on Tuesday, a move that preserves the last major pact of its kind between the world's two biggest nuclear powers. The White House did not immediately confirm the Kremlin's announcement but said President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed the issue by telephone and agreed that their teams work urgently to complete the extension by Feb. 5, when the treaty expires. Signed in 2010, the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is a cornerstone of global arms control.
- The Telegraph
AstraZeneca vaccines meant for and paid for by the EU could have ended up in Britain, diplomatic sources in Brussels claimed today. The suspicion is that the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company supplied the UK from the EU vaccine stock because Britain paid a higher price for the dose and approved it sooner. On Monday, Brussels threatened to block EU vaccine exports to non-EU countries, after AstraZeneca revealed that it would not be able to fulfil its contractual obligations as originally hoped. Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said on Tuesday that the EU would press on with the export mechanism that would force companies to ask for permission before vaccines could leave the bloc. In a speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mrs von der Leyen said, “Europe invested billions to help develop the world's first Covid-19 vaccines to create a truly global common good. Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good but it also means business.” She added: “And now, the companies must deliver. They must honour their obligations and this is why we will set up a vaccine export to transparency mechanism.” A European Commission spokesman said: "How worried are we about the state of vaccinations? Well, we are worried that is for sure. We are dealing with a very important pandemic and vaccination is very important." The UK is dependent on the Pfizer vaccine, which is produced in Belgium, and is expecting almost 3.5million doses to be delivered in the next three weeks. That supply could be jeopardised if the EU decided to block the exports after the AstraZeneca controversy.
- The Independent
McCarthy plans to have conversation with Ms Greene about ‘deeply disturbing’ comments