By Humeyra Pamuk and Umit Bektas KARKAMIS, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkish troops fired on U.S.-backed Kurdish militia fighters in northern Syria on Thursday, highlighting the complications of an incursion meant to secure the border region against both Islamic State and Kurdish advances. Syrian rebels backed by Turkish special forces, tanks and warplanes entered Jarablus, one of Islamic State's last strongholds on the Turkish-Syrian border, on Wednesday. But President Tayyip Erdogan and senior government officials have made clear the aim of "Operation Euphrates Shield" is as much about stopping the Kurdish YPG militia seizing territory and filling the void left by Islamic State as it is about eliminating the ultra-hardline Islamist group itself. A Turkish security source said the army shelled the People's Protection Units (YPG) south of Jarablus. Turkey's state-run Anadolu agency described the action as warning shots. Gunfire and explosions echoed around hills in the region on Thursday, a day after the incursion first began. Some of the blasts were triggered as Turkish security forces cleared mines and booby traps left by retreating Islamic State militants, according to Nuh Kocaaslan, the mayor of Karkamis, which sits just across the border from Jarablus. He said three Turkish-backed Syrian rebels were killed but no Turkish troops. Turkey, which has NATO's second biggest armed forces, demanded that the YPG retreat to the east side of the Euphrates river within a week. The Kurdish militia had moved west of the river earlier this month as part of a U.S.-backed operation, now completed, to capture the city of Manbij from Islamic State. Ankara views the YPG as a threat because of its close links to Kurdish militants waging a three-decade-old insurgency on its own soil. It has been alarmed by the YPG's gains in northern Syria since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, fearing it could extend Kurdish control along Turkish borders and fuel the ambitions of Kurdish insurgents in Turkey. Turkey's stance has put it at odds with Washington, which sees the YPG as a rare reliable ally on the ground in Syria, where Washington is trying to defeat Islamic State while also opposing President Bashar al-Assad's government in a complex, multi-sided, five-year-old civil war. The Syrian Kurdish force is one of the most powerful militias in Syria and regarded as the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed alliance formed last October to fight Islamic State. Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said the Kurdish PYD party, the political arm of the YPG, wanted to unite Kurdish-controlled cantons east of Jarablus with those further west. "We cannot let this happen," he said. "Islamic State should be completely cleansed, this is an absolute must. But it's not enough for us ... The PYD and the YPG militia should not replace Islamic State there," Isik told Turkish broadcaster NTV. EUPHRATES U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu by phone on Thursday that YPG fighters were retreating to the east side of the Euphrates, as Turkey has demanded, foreign ministry sources in Ankara said. A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State said the SDF had withdrawn across the Euphrates, doing so "to prepare for the eventual liberation" of Raqqa, the radical group's stronghold which lies further east. Isik said the retreat was not yet complete and Washington had given assurances that this would happen in the next week. "If the PYD does not retreat to east of the Euphrates, we have the right to do everything about it," the minister said. The offensive is Turkey's first major military operation since a failed July 15 coup shook confidence in its ability to step up the fight against Islamic State. It came four days after a suicide bomber suspected of links to the group killed 54 people at a wedding in the southeastern city of Gaziantep. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who met Erdogan during a trip to Turkey on Wednesday, said Turkey was ready to stay in Syria for as long as it takes to destroy the radical Islamist group. "I think there has been a gradual mind shift ... in Turkey, with the realization that ISIL is an existential threat to Turkey," he told reporters during a visit to Sweden, using an acronym for the militant group. A Turkish official said the ground incursion had been in the works for more than two years but had been delayed by U.S. reservations, resistance from some Turkish commanders, and a stand-off with Russia which had made air cover impossible. Turkey had made the case more strongly to Washington over the past few months, had patched up relations with Russia, and had removed some of the Turkish commanders from their posts after finding they were involved in the coup attempt, paving the way for the operation to go ahead, the official said. The incursion comes at a testing time for Turkish-U.S. relations. Erdogan wants the United States to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania for 17 years and whose religious movement Turkey blames for staging last month's failed coup. Washington says it needs clear evidence of Gulen's involvement and that it is a matter for the courts, a position that has sparked an outpouring of anti-Americanism from Turkey's pro-government media. Gulen denies any role in the coup attempt. REBELS ADVANCE The sound of gunfire, audible from a hill on the Turkish side of the border overlooking Jarablus, rang out on Thursday and black smoke rose over the town. War planes flew overhead. A senior Turkish official said there were now more than 20 Turkish tanks inside Syria and that additional tanks and construction machinery would be sent in as required. A Reuters witness saw at least nine tanks enter on Thursday, and 10 more were waiting outside a military outpost on the Turkish side. "We need construction machinery to open up roads ... and we may need more in the days ahead. We also have armored personnel carriers that could be used on the Syrian side. We may put them into service as needed," the official said. Erdogan said on Wednesday that Islamic State had been driven out of Jarablus and that it was now controlled by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, who are largely Arab and Turkmen. "The myth that the YPG is the only effective force fighting Islamic State has collapsed," Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter, reflecting Turkish frustration at how closely Washington has been working with the Kurdish militia. Saleh Muslim, head of the Kurdish PYD, said on Wednesday that Turkey was entering a "quagmire" in Syria and faced defeat there like Islamic State. Redur Xelil, spokesman for the YPG, said the intervention was a "blatant aggression in Syrian internal affairs". After seizing Jarablus, the Turkish-backed rebels have advanced up to 10 km (6 miles) south of the border town, rebel sources and a group monitoring the war said. But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said Kurdish-backed forces opposed by Ankara had gained up to 8 km of ground northwards, apparently seeking to pre-empt advances by the rebels. (Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun and Ece Toksabay in Ankara; Can Sezer, David Dolan, Cagan Uslu and Asli Kandemir in Istanbul, Tom Perry in Beirut, Jeff Mason in Stockholm; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Edmund Blair, Pravin Char and Peter Graff)
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These are the issues the Biden administration will be dealing with on the foreign policy front.
- The Telegraph
A Republican congresswoman is facing calls to resign over reports that she helped to spread falsehoods about the Parkland school shooting. Marjorie Taylor Greene reportedly agreed with a conspiracy theory about the 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed. Facebook screenshots showed a discussion about why a police officer had not rushed into the building, and someone claimed that the mass shooting was a "false flag planned shooting." Greene replied: “Exactly!" The social media giant later removed the posts after they were reported to them. Cameron Kasky, a former Parkland pupil who co-founded the group Never Again MSD, said: "She should resign. She can apologise. I don’t think anybody will accept it.” The congresswoman was elected in Georgia in November, backed Donald Trump's claims of election fraud, and has previously expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory. Fred Guttenberg, who's 14-year-old daughter Jaime died in the Parkland shooting, said: "Your feelings on gun laws are irrelevant to your claim that Parkland never happened. You are a fraud who must resign. Be prepared to meet me directly in person to explain your conspiracy theory, and soon." The comments by the politician were first reported by Media Matters for America. In a statement Ms Greene accused Media Matters for America of being "communists' and "fake news". Meanwhile, US Capitol Police were investigating an incident in which a Republican congressman was found carrying a concealed gun while trying to enter the floor of the House of Representatives. Andy Harris, a staunch gun-rights advocate, set off a metal detector going through security on his way to the House floor . Metal detectors were installed outside the chamber to beef up security in the aftermath of the Capitol riots on Jan 6.
- The Week
The evenly split Senate is having a hard time agreeing who's in charge.Georgia's two new Democratic senators were sworn in Wednesday, giving Republicans and Democrats 50 senators each, with Vice President Kamala Harris as a Democratic tiebreaker. The two parties are now working out a power-sharing agreement, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) commitment to the filibuster is standing in the way.McConnell on Thursday formally acknowledged Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as the chamber's new majority leader. But as he has been for days, McConnell again implored Democrats to preserve the filibuster that lets a senator extend debate and block a timely vote on a bill if there aren't 60 votes to stop it. Democrats "have no plans to gut the filibuster further, but argue it would be a mistake to take one of their tools off the table just as they're about to govern," Politico reports; More progressive senators do want to remove the option completely.If his filibuster demands aren't met, McConnell has threatened to block the Senate power-sharing agreement that would put Democrats in charge of the body's committees. But Democrats already seem confident in their newfound power, with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) telling Politico that "Chuck Schumer is the majority leader and he should be treated like majority leader." Giving in to McConnell "would be exactly the wrong way to begin," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) echoed.Other Democrats shared their resistance to McConnell's demands in tweets. > McConnell is threatening to filibuster the Organizing Resolution which allows Democrats to assume the committee Chair positions. It's an absolutely unprecedented, wacky, counterproductive request. We won the Senate. We get the gavels.> > -- Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 21, 2021> So after Mitch McConnell changed the Senate rules at a blistering pace during his 6 years in charge, he is threatening to filibuster the Senate's organizing resolution unless the Democratic majority agrees to never change the rules again.> > Huh.> > -- Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 21, 2021More stories from theweek.com McConnell is already moving to strangle the Biden presidency 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Biden's next executive order will let people stay on unemployment if they quit an unsafe job
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Counterintelligence official Michael Orlando joins a growing chorus of voices on both sides of the political aisle who point to China as a major national security threat, particularly in terms of technology and cybersecurity.
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The master tenant of a cluttered, dilapidated San Francisco Bay Area warehouse where 36 people perished in a late night fire in 2016 is scheduled to plead guilty Friday to the deaths, avoiding a second trial after the first ended in a hung jury.
Germany on Friday rejected a claim by Argentina that a request by airline Lufthansa to fly over Argentina en route to the Falkland Islands implied a recognition of them as Argentine territory. Argentina and Britain have long disputed ownership of the Falklands, with Argentina claiming sovereignty over the British-run islands it calls the Malvinas.
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A woman has been arrested and charged with murder after the dismembered remains of her missing roommate, Talina Galloway, were found in a freezer in the woods of Polk County, Arkansas last week. Talina, 53, was reported missing by her roommate, Kore Bommeli on April 17, 2020. Talina’s remains were found in the freezer on January 14, 2021. Bommeli, who has been a person of interest throughout the investigation, was located in Wisconsin and faces charges of murder and desecration of a corpse. Th
With the dawn of the Biden administration comes Cholleti Vinay Reddy, the country’s first Indian American presidential speechwriter. Reddy’s roots originate from Pothireddypeta, a rural village in the Indian state of Telangana, whose residents have been celebrating his latest milestone: Biden’s inaugural address. Born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, Reddy is believed to have acquired his political acumen from his grandfather, Tirupathi, who served as the village sarpanch (head) for 30 years.
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Iran's capital and major cities plunged into darkness in recent weeks as rolling outages left millions without electricity for hours. With toxic smog blanketing Tehran skies and the country buckling under the pandemic and other mounting crises, social media has been rife with speculation. Within days, as frustration spread among residents, the government launched a wide-ranging crackdown on Bitcoin processing centers, which require immense amounts of electricity to power their specialized computers and to keep them cool — a burden on Iran's power grid.
The number of people fleeing violence in West Africa's Sahel region has quadrupled in the past two years, with 2 million now displaced in their own countries, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said on Friday. Militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have expanded their reach in the semi-arid region on the edge of the Sahara, stoking ethnic conflict in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger and forcing whole communities to flee their homes. More than half of those displaced within their own country are in Burkina Faso, where many are forced to sleep outside and do not have enough water, UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov said at a briefing in Geneva.
America may not have won World War II and landed on the moon later if not for the contributions of a brilliant Chinese scientist named Qian Xuesen. Fearing communist presence after the war, the U.S., however, deported Qian to China, clueless that he would eventually spearhead programs that would target American troops and eventually propel China into space. Born to well-educated parents in 1911, it was evident from an early age that Qian had superior intellect.
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Sean Hannity denounces Biden’s first week as ‘disastrous’ before the president completed a full day of work
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Majority of House GOP reportedly supports removing Liz Cheney from leadership after impeachment vote
House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney is facing an internal resistance after splitting from her party on former President Donald Trump's impeachment.Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House, was one of only a handful of Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over his role in inciting the Capitol riot. More than a majority of GOP House members have since indicated they'd support ousting Cheney from her leadership spot, while at least two other Republicans have lined up to replace her, Politico reports.At least 107 House members — more than half the caucus — privately support removing Cheney from power, multiple GOP sources involved in the effort told Politico. Meanwhile New York Reps. Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin, who defended Trump during both of his impeachments, are reportedly looking to replace her.House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) have said they don't intend to remove Cheney. But McCarthy also echoed Republicans' reported anger that Cheney voiced her support of impeachment the day before the House vote, giving Democrats time to use her views in their own arguments. "Questions need to be answered," such as the "style in which things were delivered," McCarthy told reporters Thursday.Many other Republicans, including some who voted against impeachment, meanwhile don't want Cheney removed just for "vot[ing] her conscience," as Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) put it. Others argue removing Cheney would fly in the face of the party's unification message in the post-Trump era — something Cheney herself is trying to counter by making "making calls to all corners of the conference to hear lawmakers out," Politico reports.More stories from theweek.com McConnell is already moving to strangle the Biden presidency 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Biden's next executive order will let people stay on unemployment if they quit an unsafe job
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A Colombian businessman was carrying a letter from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accrediting him to Iran's supreme leader when he was arrested on a U.S. warrant last year, according to a new court filing in a politically charged corruption case ratcheting up tensions with the South American nation. Attorneys for Alex Saab made the filing in Miami federal court Thursday just hours after prosecutors in the African nation of Cape Verde said they granted the 49-year-old Colombian house arrest as he fights extradition to the U.S. to face money laundering charges. U.S. officials believe Saab holds numerous secrets about how Maduro, his family and top aides allegedly siphoned off millions of dollars in government contracts amid widespread hunger in the oil-rich nation.
- Architectural Digest
800 feet up in the sky, the Dreamy 6,000 square foot space offers panoramic views from the East River to the HudsonOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
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- The Independent
‘We’re a National Guard family’: Jill Biden visits Capitol troops with cookies after some were forced to stay in garage
"The National Guard always holds a special place in the hearts of all the Bidens. So thank you,” Dr Biden says
The European Parliament called on EU governments to recognise Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president in a resolution on Thursday, after a downgrade of his status by the bloc earlier this month. The EU's 27 states said on Jan. 6 they can no longer legally recognise Guaido as the country's legitimate head of state after he lost his position as head of parliament following legislative elections in Venezuela in December, despite the EU not recognising that vote. The European Parliament "calls on ... the member states to unequivocally recognise the constitutional continuation of the legitimate National Assembly of Venezuela elected in 2015 and the legitimate interim President of Venezuela Juan Guaido", it said.
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The latest jackpot-winning Powerball ticket, worth $731.1 million, was sold in a struggling coal mining town whose biggest previous claim to fame was being the hometown of baseball legend Lefty Grove. The store will get a $100,000 bonus for selling the ticket to the fifth-largest lottery prize in U.S. history. An even larger Mega Millions jackpot will be up for grabs Friday night.