By Can Sezer and Dasha Afanasieva ISTANBUL (Reuters) - For a man with ambitions to become Turkey's first popularly-elected president in a few months' time, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan appears to have done little to unite the country at a moment of national tragedy. He was heckled and one of his aides photographed kicking a protester this week as he visited a mining community where at least 283 people died and scores remain trapped in the nation's worst ever mining disaster. Erdogan expressed regret for the tragedy but told a news conference in the town that it was the sort of incident that happened all over the world, donning his glasses to read a list of mining accidents dating back a century and a half in response to suggestions that Turkish regulation may have been at fault. An amateur video clip appeared to show him saying "Come here and jeer at me!" as he walked through a hostile crowd in the town, flanked by security guards. His car was later kicked as it drove away. Even for a leader whose combative style has increasingly polarized Turkey in recent years, it might have seemed an ill-advisedly bellicose performance. But abrasiveness is Erdogan's stock-in-trade, a style with which he has over the past year weathered anti-government protests, a corruption scandal, and a feud with an influential Islamic preacher he accuses of trying to unseat him. In the narrow streets of Istanbul's Kasimpasa district, where Erdogan grew up and commands fervent support, his handling of the tragedy did little to dent loyalty to a man seen as a champion of the religiously conservative working classes. "He's been very blunt and his temperament has got the better of him," said 29-year old Sinan, a server in a fast-food shop opposite the local headquarters of Erdogan's ruling AK Party. "Some of my clients who are staunch supporters regret his crass style, but they would never say so in public and they would never vote for someone else... He does not have any serious political opponents," he said. Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade, is widely expected to run in the country's first direct elections for president in August, buoyed by a strong AK Party showing in municipal polls at the end of March. Until now, the president has been chosen by parliament and played a largely ceremonial role. Erdogan has said that the popular vote will give the post more authority, and has vowed to exercise its full powers if elected. "I'm not a man who cries but I cried yesterday," said Talip Dere, 45, a sports equipment shop owner, of the mine tragedy. "But all criticisms aside, Erdogan is a strong leader who delivers, and politicians need to deliver." UNDER HIS SPELL In Soma, the mining town, angry residents broke windows at the local government offices on Wednesday, some chanting "Erdogan resign", while parts of the crowd lined the street jeering as the prime minister walked through the town. There were also protests in Istanbul, Ankara and several other cities in southern Turkey, most of them organized by labor unions angered by what they see as crony capitalism and the private sector's disregard for workers' rights. A year ago Erdogan came under fire for a heavy-handed response to a protest against the redevelopment of Istanbul's Gezi Park, clashes which turned into large-scale demonstrations unprecedented during his time in office. The two-week closure of social networking site Twitter and a block on access to video-sharing platform YouTube as he battled the corruption scandal earlier this year drew further criticism at home and abroad of his authoritarian tendencies. But Erdogan cast both the protests and the corruption probe as part of a plot to undermine him, a strategy which helped push his ruling party to a sweeping victory in the March elections. He has warned "extremists" against exploiting the mine tragedy and some of his supporters have accused this week's protesters of trying to smear his government even as miners were still trapped underground. "There is a proper time and place for everything and this is not that," said Aydin, a 42-year old cook at a canteen in Kasimpasa, whose father and grandfather were coal miners in Zonguldak, the country's main mining area on the Black Sea. Turkey's opposition is divided along ideological lines, with the main Republican People's Party (CHP) seen as the preserve of a secularist elite and other parties failing to make much of an impact in more than small patches of the electoral map. In Kasimpasa, an area where most women cover their hair and the orange and blue bunting of the Islamist-rooted AK Party adorns most streets, there is simply no other option. "People will still vote for Erdogan because it's like being in love with someone for too long and not noticing how they have changed for the worse," said Sinan, the restaurant worker, reflecting on the events of recent days. "People are under his spell and not seeing his bad sides." (Editing by Nick Tattersall and Peter Graff)
- USA TODAY
Poll: Americans are more interested in getting stimulus than in seeing bipartisanship support for bill
Americans are more interested in seeing $1,400 stimulus checks issued to Americans faster than see any potential bill receive bipartisan support, according to a recent Monmouth poll.
The European Commission said on Tuesday that it was considering emergency approvals for COVID-19 vaccines as a faster alternative to more rigorous conditional marketing authorisations which have been used so far. The move would mark a big shift in approach to vaccine approvals, as it would entail using a procedure that the EU had considered dangerous and that before the COVID-19 pandemic had been reserved for exceptional authorisation at national level of drugs for terminally ill patients, including cancer treatments. The potential change comes as the EU executive and the bloc's drug regulator come under increasing pressure for what some consider slow vaccine approvals, which have contributed to a slower rollout of COVID-19 shots in the 27-nation union, compared to the United States and former EU member Britain.
- Associated Press
About 300 refugees from a Christian minority community from Myanmar held a demonstration in India's capital on Wednesday against last month’s military takeover in their country and demanded the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other Myanmar leaders. The demonstration was held at Jantar Mantar, an area of New Delhi close to Parliament that is often used for protests.
- Associated Press
Washington will not have cheerleaders for the first time since the NFL’s longest-running cheerleading team was founded in 1962, with a coed dance team taking its place. The move is part of the organization's rebranding effort and not related to a confidential settlement reached with members of the 2008 and 2010 cheerleading teams. Lawyers for the team and those cheerleaders told The Associated Press last month that “the matter has been resolved” but would not say when the settlement was reached.
- Reuters Videos
Wearing yellow and white construction helmets, some holding home-made shields made out of wood, others with a satellite dish, Myanmar's protests against the military coup showed no sign of letting up on Wednesday.Security forces fired rubber bullets, stun gun grenades and tear gas to break up the protests and local media reported several people were hurt. Later, there were reports of live ammunition fired and at least nine people were killed. It comes a day after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations - or ASEAN - urged restraint but they failed to unite behind a call for the military to release ousted government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and restore democracy.Meanwhile inside the country, a prominent activist called for sanctions on businesses linked to the military.Across the nation on Wednesday, nine people were hurt and at least two people were killed when police fired rubber bullets in the second largest city Mandalay, that's according to the Myanmar Now news agency.In Yangon hundreds of people were detained including several protest leaders, an activist said. As well as local media reports of firing and deaths in the central towns of Myingyan and Magway.Media also reported five people were wounded in the town of Monywa.The military has justified the coup saying its complaints of voter fraud in the Nov. 8 elections were ignored.Nearly 1,300 people who have been detained, according to activists, including six journalists in Yangon.
- The Independent
‘Everything is made in China,’ said a business partner behind the six foot replica
- The Daily Beast
Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via ReutersA criminal case against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and others in the Saudi hierarchy has been filed in a German court for the brutal 2018 murder, dismemberment, and disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, despite the kingdom’s denial of MBS’ direct involvement and the Biden administration’s flaccid response to the killing.The 500-page complaint filed by the press-freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is the first time a criminal case has been lodged outside of what was largely considered a show trial in Saudi Arabia. That trial saw the conviction of eight people who were later pardoned after members of the Khashoggi family were said to have forgiven them.Saudi’s Crown Prince Is a Killer. So Why Is Biden Just Shrugging?On Monday, the Saudi ambassador to the United Nations disputed a four-page CIA report released last week that pointed to MBS’ involvement, tweeting, “Let us all move forward to tackle the serious business of world issues!!”Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi called the American report, which has been widely criticized as weak, as being “based on could’ve, should’ve and would’ve and does not rise to anywhere close to proving the accusation beyond reasonable doubt.”The report, which was held back by the Trump administration and released last week by Biden, does not directly accuse MBS of ordering the hit on Khashoggi but does say he had “absolute control” over all activities carried out by the kingdom’s intelligence service. Al-Mouallimi argued in a Twitter tirade that “the Prince courageously accepted moral responsibility, presented the accused to the justice system, and pledged to reform the intelligence organizations. Case closed!”Khashoggi was ambushed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a 15-member hit squad that includes a bone-saw-wielding surgeon and seven members of MBS’ elite personal security team in October 2018. The journalist’s body has never been found.The complaint in Germany was filed Monday with public prosecutors in the city of Karlsruhe, according to an RSF statement. The dossier outlines the arbitrary detention of 34 journalists and the brutal murder of Khashoggi to underscore what it calls the kingdom’s “widespread and systematic” persecution of the press.“These journalists are the victims of unlawful killing, torture, sexual violence, and coercion and forced disappearance,” Christophe Deloire, RSF secretary-general, said at a press conference Tuesday morning. “Those responsible for the persecution of journalists in Saudi Arabia, including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, must be held accountable for their crimes.”The RSF statement names MBS and four other suspects: Saud Al-Qahtani, a close adviser to the crown prince who they allege took direct part in the planning and execution of the murder as well as in the implementation of the policy of persecution of journalists in Saudi Arabia; Ahmad Mohammed Asiri, the former deputy head of intelligence, who is suspected of personally supervising Khashoggi’s murder; Mohammad Al-Otaibi, the consul general in Istanbul at the time of the murder; and Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, an intelligence officer who led the team that “tortured, killed, and forceably disappeared Jamal Khashoggi.”The complaint was filed in Germany because laws there can extend “universal jurisdiction” to some serious international crimes, even when the victims are not German. The case is bolstered by the recent conviction in a German court of a Syrian secret-service officer for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity for the torture of protesters at one of Bashar al-Assad’s prisons, according to The Guardian.“The official opening of a criminal investigation in Germany into the crimes against humanity in Saudi Arabia would be a world first,” RSF’s Germany director Christian Mihr said. “We ask the public prosecutor general to open a situation analysis, with a view to formally launching a prosecutorial investigation and issuing arrest warrants.”RSF ranks Saudi Arabia 170th out of 180 countries in its press-freedom index. “Saudi Arabia permits no independent media,” the RSF rationale states. “Despite his talk of reform, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has intensified the repression since his appointment as crown prince in June 2017. The number of journalists and citizen-journalists in detention has tripled since the start of 2017.”The German court has not yet accepted the claim and no court date has been set.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
The Kremlin on Wednesday played down the impact of sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union over Moscow's treatment of opposition politician Alexei Navalny, but said it would retaliate with reciprocal measures. In President Joe Biden's most direct challenge yet to the Kremlin, the United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions to punish Russia for what it described as Moscow's attempt to poison Navalny with a nerve agent last year.
From blockbusters like "Skyfall" and "Dunkirk" to smaller gems like "Wuthering Heights," here are the 25 best British movies of the last decade.
- LA Times
Op-Ed: It's official. Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for Jamal Khashoggi's murder. Hold him accountable
President Biden's failure to punish the Saudi crown prince defies justice and weakens the rule of law everywhere.
- The Independent
5,000 National Guard troops remain in DC amid QAnon frenzy that Trump will be inaugurated again this week
QAnon followers believe that on 4 March, which was once the inauguration date of US presidents, Donald Trump will become president again
- Associated Press
When Eddie Murphy made the original “Coming to America,” he was, almost indisputably, the funniest man in America. Murphy was at the very height of his fame, coming off “Beverly Hills Cop II” and the stand-up special “Raw.” Arsenio Hall, Murphy’s longtime friend and co-star in “Coming to America,” remembers them sneaking out during the shoot to a Hollywood nightclub while still dressed as Prince Akeem and his loyal aide Semmi.
- Associated Press
President Joe Biden and Democrats agreed to tighten eligibility limits for stimulus checks Wednesday, bowing to party moderates as leaders prepared to move their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill through the Senate. At the same time, the White House and top Democrats stood by progressives and agreed that the Senate package would retain the $400 weekly emergency unemployment benefits included in the House-passed pandemic legislation. Moderates have wanted to trim those payments to $300 after Republicans have called the bill so heedlessly generous that it would prompt some people to not return to work.
- WCVB - Boston
Winds caused issues for firefighters in Lynn.
- USA TODAY
Plus: People spend free money to better themselves, and thefts of French bulldogs are on the rise.
- Associated Press
A national panel of vaccine experts in Canada recommended Wednesday that provinces extend the interval between the two doses of a COVID-19 shot to four months to quickly inoculate more people amid a shortage of doses in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also expressed optimism that vaccination timelines could be sped up. The current protocol is an interval of three to four weeks between doses for the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.
During a recent interview on Good Morning America with host Robin Roberts, former First Lady Michelle Obama opened up about how she and her husband, former President Barack Obama, have open communications with their two young-adult daughters. “I always have wanted them to start practicing the power of their voices very early on,” Mrs. Obama shared of Sasha, 19, and Malia, 22.
- The Week
During the campaign for the two Georgia Senate races, Joe Biden repeatedly promised to pass $2,000 stimulus checks if the Democrats won. After they did, the administration argued that $2,000 really meant $1,400 in addition to the $600 that had already gone out in the December rescue package. Whether that is true or not, now Biden is inarguably breaking his promise. Under pressure from moderate Senate Democrats, he has reportedly agreed to cut down the formula under which the checks will be sent out. In the previous packages, the amount started phasing out at $75,000 in income for individuals and $150,000 for joint filers, and vanished entirely at $100,000 and $200,000 respectively (as of 2019). Now the phase-out will start start in the same place but end at $80,000 for singles and $160,000 for couples. The $1,400 promise clearly implied at least that the checks would go out according to the previous formula used under Trump. But now singles making between $80,000-100,000 and couples making between $160,000-200,000 will get nothing. The Washington Post's Jeff Stein reports that roughly 17 million people who previously got checks now will not. The supposed justification here is that moderates want the aid to be more "targeted." In fact this formula is horribly inaccurate, because the income data the IRS uses is from the year before the pandemic (unless people have already filed their taxes — and by the way, if your income decreased in 2020, you should do that immediately). This formula is therefore doubly wrong — there are no doubt millions of people who have lost jobs and should qualify but won't, and a smaller number that have gotten raises and shouldn't qualify but will. And this change will only save a pitiful $12 billion. The survival checks are one of the most popular government programs in American history. Polls have them at something like 4-1 approval. "Moderation," for Senate Democrats, apparently means breaking their party's promises in the service of unpopular, pointless actions that make their president seem less generous than Donald Trump. More stories from theweek.com7 scathingly funny cartoons about Trump's CPAC appearanceInspector general found Elaine Chao used office to benefit her familyThe lost art of being reasonable
- NBC News
All federal government agencies have until noon Friday to download the latest software update to block the perpetrator.
- Associated Press
The Biden administration sanctioned seven mid-level and senior Russian officials on Tuesday, along with more than a dozen government entities, over a nearly fatal nerve-agent attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing. The measures, emphasizing the use of the Russian nerve agent as a banned chemical weapon, marked the Biden administration's first sanctions against associates of President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader was a favorite of former President Donald Trump even during covert Russian hacking and social media campaigns aimed at destabilizing the U.S.