By Firas Makdesi PALMYRA, Syria (Reuters) - Islamic State militants retreating from Palmyra laid thousands of mines that they planned to set off simultaneously as the army moved in, a Syrian officer told Reuters in the ancient city after its recapture from the jihadist fighters. The officer said main streets and side roads in Palmyra had been rigged with explosives weighing up to 50 kg. More than 3,000 had already been safely detonated since government forces, backed by Russian jets, retook the city on Sunday, he said. He did not say why the Islamic State fighters failed to set off the explosives before pulling out, but his assertion echoed comments from Syria's antiquities chief, who said the militants intended to dynamite a greater area of the city's 2,000-year-old ruins than they already had. The officer, who did not give his name, said the bombs left behind were linked so they could go off together. "All the government buildings are rigged in a network connected to the Daesh leadership headquarters," he said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State. "The idea was that as we enter it would all go off at once, not just bomb by bomb. And there are a really huge number of bombs." Islamic State's defeat in Palmyra was not only a significant military victory for President Bashar al-Assad, opening up the country's central desert to government forces and their allies. It also cast the Syrian army as an effective fighting force against jihadists bent on cultural vandalism and wanton killing. A military source told Reuters on Saturday troops had identified 45 bodies in a mass grave in Palmyra, including civilians and Syrian army members captured by Islamic State. Parts of Palmyra have been cleared, including the road from Homs. But Syrian soldiers -- soon to be joined by Russian de-mining experts -- are still working on defusing or detonating explosives. "We cannot leave them there. We are dealing with 90 percent of them by exploding them because they are buried firmly in the ground, cemented in the asphalt," the officer said. Civilians, most of whom fled before Syrian and allied forces began the offensive, cannot return until de-mining is complete. Smoke could be seen rising from some parts of the modern, residential city of Palmyra, which lies next to the 2,000-year-old ruins, during a visit by journalists on Friday. But few people were to be seen and no shops were open. Residential areas had been damaged and traces of explosions could be seen on the ground. GRAFFITI ON RUINS As well as a network of bombs, Islamic State left traces of their 10-month rule in Palmyra. Graffiti was evident on some of the ancient stones. "Remaining", it read, part of the Islamic State motto of "remaining and expanding". On a stone among the remains of the Temple of Bel was scrawled: "No shooting without the permission of the Emir." A signpost on a road through the ruins, now bent at 90 degrees to the ground, tells travelers in the group's trademark black and white colors to "Respect God". "When we show humility, God will deliver us," the sign says, above a passage from the Koran which says: "God made you victorious at the (battle of) Badr when you were but a humble (force)," referring to a battle from the early Muslim era which the ultra-hardline group looks back to with reverence. The ancient Roman amphitheatre, where Islamic State shot dead around 20 men as it took over the city last May, appears unscathed. The Temple of Bel, an imposing monument before it was blown up last year, has been reduced to a couple of columns and a heap of rubble, although antiquities chief Maamoun Abdelkarim says it is not totally beyond repair. Other structures blown up by Islamic State include Palmyra's triumphal arch, three funerary towers and the temple of Baal Shamin. Before serious renovation can take place, officials say, the area needs to be made fully safe. Moscow has sent de-miners to help with the clear-up, and Russian military servicemen will start defusing mines in Palmyra in a few days, Russian news agencies reported on Saturday, citing the defense ministry. The first batch of specialists has left Russian airbase Khmeimim in western Syria. The convoy, consisting of more than 20 vehicles, will be guarded by Mi-24 and Mi-28 helicopters. The de-miners will deal with more than 180 hectares of territory, Russia's defense ministry has said, citing initial estimates. The aim is to clear the historic part of the ancient city as well as residential areas. (Writing by Lisa Barrington in Beirut.; Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow and Kinda Makiyeh in Damascus; Editing by Dominic Evans and Larry King)
- The Independent
CPAC: Gaetz says media ‘biased’ over Ted Cruz’s Cancun trip and should have focused on ‘caravans’ of migrants instead
Outspoken GOP congressman complains ‘the left and the media’ were less concerned about ‘caravans going through Mexico’ than Texas senator visiting
- The Independent
Republican gathering began in 1974 and sees American conservatives debate social worries but has struggled with position on 'alt-right' in recent years
- The Independent
From ‘election integrity’ panels to outright falsehoods about a stolen election, how CPAC is relitigating the 2020 election as Republican lawmakers file legislation to restrict voting rights
The actor says his childhood insecurities were “exacerbated” by years of public mockery, and he doesn’t want kids to endure the same fate.
- USA TODAY
'We're done with that lifestyle': Jessica Watkins, Ohio woman charged in Capitol riot, renounces Oath Keepers
Jessica Watkins, 38, says she has disbanded her local armed group and is canceling her Oath Keeper membership after her arrest.
- The Telegraph
Lady Gaga is poised to hand over a $500,000 reward to a mystery woman who returned her beloved French bulldogs kidnapped in a violent street robbery near her home in Hollywood. Koji and Gustav, thought to be worth up to $10,000 dollars each, were given in at a downtown LAPD Police Station by an unnamed woman late on Friday night. Authorities believe the woman who handed the dogs in was "uninvolved and unassociated" with the attack - but she is still eligible for the "unconditional" $500,000 and is said to be in contact with Gaga’s representatives. “If you bought or found them unknowingly, the reward is the same,” Gaga had said in a post confirming the hefty sum before the dogs were handed back on Friday. The violent abduction on Wednesday saw the singer’s dog-walker and close friend Ryan Fischer shot in the chest. Gaga's third dog named Miss Asia escaped the attack and was later found by police. The singer, whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, has kept silent since the dogs were handed into police. But her reward offer has raised eyebrows.
- Business Insider
Trump supporters and right-wing reporters wouldn't stop heckling CNN's Jim Acosta during second day of CPAC
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- USA TODAY
Nearly two dozen Republicans attending CPAC in Florida have designated a proxy to vote on their behalf, citing the "ongoing public health emergency."
- USA TODAY
GOP congresswoman's husband, whose truck had Three Percenters decal, says he never heard of armed group before
Illinois state Rep. Chris Miller said he was given the sticker featuring the armed group's logo by a friend "who said that it represented patriotism."
- Business Insider
Decades ago, 9 Russian hikers mysteriously fled their tent and froze to death. A new study sheds light on the cold case.
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- The Guardian
Artist Tommy Zegan reveals figure was constructed in country the former president has assailed and demonized Sculptor Tommy Zegan polishes his statue of Donald Trump at CPAC. Photograph: John Raoux/AP A golden statue of Donald Trump that has caused a stir at the annual US gathering of conservatives was made in Mexico – a country the former president frequently demonized. The statue is larger than life, with a golden head and Trump’s trademark suit jacket with white shirt and red tie. Video and pictures of the tribute being wheeled through the halls of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, went viral on Friday. The conference is seen as a vital gathering of the Republican right, and this year has become a symbol of Trump’s continued grip on the party, despite being cast out of office after two impeachments, seemingly endless parades of scandals and a botched response to the coronavirus pandemic that has cost half a million lives in the US. Now the artist behind the huge statue of Trump – Tommy Zegan – has revealed that the object was made in Mexico; a country that has been the target of much Trump racist abuse over his political career, and somewhere he has literally sought to build a wall against. “It was made in Mexico,” Zegan told Politico’s Playbook newsletter. Zegan, who lives in Mexico on a permanent resident visa, described the transport of the monument to CPAC in full to Playbook. Politico reported: “Zegan spent over six months crafting the 200lb fiberglass statue with the help of three men in Rosarito. He transported it to Tampa, Florida, where it was painted in chrome, then hauled it from there to CPAC.”
- Business Insider
Go back to the place you got your first shot if you lose your paper card, and make sure to take a photo of the vaccine card after your first dose.
- Business Insider
Ted Cruz engages in an online spat over Biden's HHS secretary nominee who sued the Trump administration more than 100 times
Cruz and Princeton historian Kevin M. Kruse had a back-and-forth over the qualifications of Xavier Becerra, Biden's nominee to lead the department.
- National Review
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) on Friday urged the New York State legislature to open an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Governor Andrew Cuomo brought by his former staffer, Lindsey Boylan. The progressive congresswoman told reporters that survivors “deserve to be heard” and noted that the “process for hearing this allegation falls squarely in the state legislature.” Meanwhile, New York attorney general Letitia James is reportedly reviewing a letter from state Republicans who have also called for an investigation into the allegations against the governor, according to Fox News. Lindsey Boylan, the former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to Cuomo, on Wednesday published an essay detailing alleged sexual harassment she endured while working for the governor, including unwanted kissing and touching. She wrote in the essay that Cuomo, with the help of top female aides, “created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected.” She also detailed an increasingly uncomfortable relationship she developed with the governor, in which he sought her out and set up one-on-one meetings with her. Boylan recounted a flight she shared with the governor from an event in October 2017 in which Cuomo allegedly said, “Let’s play strip poker.” On another occasion, Boylan says the pair met one-on-one for a briefing when Cuomo allegedly kissed her. “We were in his New York City office on Third Avenue,” she writes. “As I got up to leave and walk toward an open door, he stepped in front of me and kissed me on the lips. I was in shock, but I kept walking.” Boylan later resigned on September 26, 2018.
- The State
“Her daddy got to heaven just before she did.”
- The Daily Beast
Twitter/Lady GagaLady Gaga’s two French bulldogs, stolen off the streets of Los Angeles Wednesday night, were found tied to a pole in an alley by a passerby who took them to a police station on Friday night, according to TMZ.The unidentified woman reportedly turned the animals in to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Olympic Community Police Station around 6 p.m., Capt. Jonathan Tippett told a local NBC outlet. Tippett said that the woman was “uninvolved and unassociated” with the dog thieves. No arrests have been made in the case. The canines were unharmed, and the singer’s representatives confirmed they were the right animals. Lady Gaga, who is currently in Rome, had offered a $500,000 reward for the canines’ return, “no questions.”TMZ reported Lady Gaga wept “tears of joy” upon receiving the news and sources told the outlet Gaga would “gladly” pay the $500,000 reward to the woman.Lady Gaga’s father, Joe Germanotta, told The Daily Beast on Saturday morning that the family is “extremely happy” with the news. “The phone rang last night, everybody was relieved and there were a lot of happy tears,” he said. Germanotta also thanked the LAPD, and the doctors and nurses who treated dog walker Ryan Fischer, who was shot once in the chest during the robbery. “That’s the most important thing, that Ryan is going to be okay,” he added. “Now, it’s about finding these guys.” Why Lady Gaga’s Dognapping Has Stumped Pet DetectivesMultiple assailants stole the animals from Lady Gaga’s dog walker as he took them for a walk Wednesday evening in Hollywood. They pulled up beside Fischer in a white Nissan Altima with four doors, surrounded him, and shot him in the chest before making off with two of the dogs, Koji and Gustav. A third, Asia, escaped and later made it back to Fischer. Fischer is in treatment and is expected to recover. The LAPD released a description of the two suspects in a Thursday night statement.The suspect who shot Fischer was described as a Black male, aged 20-25, with blond dreadlocks and wearing a black hoodie. He was armed with a semi-automatic handgun. The second man was described as a Black male, aged 20-25, wearing dark clothing.My beloved dogs Koji and Gustav were taken in Hollywood two nights ago. My heart is sick and I am praying my family will be whole again with an act of kindness. I will pay $500,000 for their safe return. Email KojiandGustav@gmail.com to contact us. pic.twitter.com/3NY9u7Mw2K— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) February 26, 2021 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.
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Martin hosted The Russ Martin Show on 97.1 The Eagle.
Jill Biden said on "The Kelly Clarkson Show" that she and President Biden have a dinner date ritual before he goes back to work and she grades papers.
- Business Insider
Kelly Pichardo, 30, and Leeza Rodriguez, 29, were charged with disorderly conduct and Pichardo also faced an additional assault charge.
A plastic surgeon attended his virtual traffic trial while performing surgery on a patient in California
Dr. Scott Green from Sacramento, California, was wearing scrubs and appeared to be in an operating room during the Zoom court appearance.