By James Mackenzie SORAB, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Chung, leading a team of U.S. advisers in Helmand province to help train the Afghan army's embattled 215th Corps, knows he does not have much time. If Washington sticks to its schedule for withdrawing troops, by the time his tour ends in November, the NATO training mission in Afghanistan will be nearing its end, despite local forces struggling to fight the Taliban insurgency alone. "There is still much work to do," said Chung, a veteran of several Afghan tours, speaking at Sorab base, a dusty expanse of blast walls and wire fences in Helmand. "You have to adjust your expectations," he told Reuters during a recent visit to the base in the southern province, where Taliban militants, bent on overthrowing the government and driving out foreign forces, made major gains in recent months. Corruption and issues like irregular leave due to heavy fighting and pay have undermined efficiency and hurt morale among local troops. He has seen progress since arriving in February but remains realistic: "We understand we're not going to be able to fix all that." As things stand, U.S. forces in Afghanistan are due to be nearly halved to 5,500 from the current level of 9,800 by the start of 2017. At that level, U.S. officials say the training mission would not be able to continue. But the timetable is coming under scrutiny, as the new U.S. commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan conducts a review of security before making recommendations to Washington some time in June. General John Nicholson recently told Reuters that heavy fighting and casualties in 2015 had meant the training mission was behind schedule. NATO commanders say big strides have been made by fledgling Afghan security forces, built virtually from scratch since the Taliban was toppled from power in 2001. But the sharp escalation in casualties and territorial losses in 2015, the first year Afghan forces fought without combat support from NATO, has underlined the risks involved in having only 5,500 U.S. soldiers in the country. Afghan officials say forces lack vital resources including close air support, which the small local air force cannot yet provide at anything like the levels NATO could, as well as expertise in areas like maintenance and logistics. "Those capabilities are still under development and there is a lot more work needed," Acting Defence Minister Masoom Stanekzai said on a recent visit to the Afghan 215th Corps headquarters at Sorab. "We need international assistance." FROM DEFENSE TO OFFENsE One of the biggest challenges Chung said he faced was trying to change the mindset of Afghan soldiers, as NATO pushes them to be more offensive in operations against the Taliban. "They'd go out to a certain area, and the first thing they'd do is ... build a checkpoint. From that point on, they'd become very stationary," he said, describing how local forces tended to operate. Chung and his team are among around 500 U.S. troops dispatched to bolster 215th Corps, a reflection of international alarm at how Helmand security had deteriorated early in 2016. The training, mainly by Afghan officers backed up by U.S. mentors, covers everything from battle tactics to driving, vehicle maintenance, equipment care and bomb disposal. "At some point, there's going to be an end-date on this," Chung said. "We're here to help them build something that they can sustain and manage." But U.S. officials acknowledge that the task has been complicated by problems including corruption among some officers that undermined confidence and morale. "If you don't know someone higher up in the army, all your benefits go to soldiers who know army officials," said Darweza Khan, a 215th Corps soldier serving in Gereshk district. A spokesman for the "Resolute Support" training mission said earlier this year that several senior officers in the 215th Corps had been replaced for graft that led to soldiers not being adequately looked after and supplies and equipment being stolen. "MORE TIME WOULD BE GREAT" Nicholson has declined to comment on troop levels as he prepares his review, but U.S. military spokesman Brigadier General Charles Cleveland said asking for more flexibility, including in use of air power, was among options he was considering. That would be welcome by the government, which has struggled to contain the insurgency since NATO formally ended combat operations at the end of 2014, leaving only a fraction of an international force that peaked at more than 130,000. Whether there is appetite for more delays in reducing U.S. forces remains to be seen, particularly in election year. If the current plan remains, U.S. focus will switch to counterterrorism operations against Islamic State, al Qaeda and other groups, with little capacity for training and advising. Foreign officers involved in the program remain realistic, given that time is running short. "This is not an overnight fix," said British Major General Paul Nanson, commandant of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, which has worked closely with the Afghan army's officer training school near Kabul on building a new generation of army leaders. "This is a generational change. We've now committed to seeing it through 2016 which is good news. If we haven't got more time, we've got to do the best we can with the time available." (Additional reporting by Mohammad Stanekzai in Lashkar Gah; Editing by Mike Collett-White)
- The Independent
‘I look for that moderate middle,’ West Virginia Democrat explains
Oprah said Prince Harry told her the Queen and Prince Philip were not the ones who had 'concerns' about the skin color of his and Meghan's son
Oprah Winfrey said that Prince Harry was keen to communicate that his grandparents were not behind the racist remark.
- Business Insider
Thousands of people who visited a COVID-19 vaccination site in California reportedly received the wrong dose, but officials say nobody needs a booster shot
An estimated 4,300 people at the Oakland Coliseum received a lesser dosage of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on March 1, KTVU reported.
With plenty of practice sending coronavirus relief payments to Americans, the federal government should be able to launch the delivery of $1,400 checks almost immediately once Congress finalizes the new aid bill and President Joe Biden signs it, tax experts say. Some Americans might see direct payments as soon as this week if the bill passes the House of Representatives on Tuesday as expected, compared with several weeks' lag in April 2020. Nearly 160 million households are expected to get payments, the White House estimates.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), America's ultimate swing voter, told me on "Axios on HBO" that he'll insist Republicans have more of a voice on President Biden's next big package than they did on the COVID stimulus.The big picture: Manchin said he'll push for tax hikes to pay for Biden's upcoming infrastructure and climate proposal, and will use his Energy Committee chairmanship to force the GOP to confront climate reality.Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freeWhy it matters: My conversation yielded the most extensive preview yet of how Manchin — a Democrat from a Trump state, in a 50-50 Senate, who relishes standing up to a Democratic White House — will use his singular power. Manchin, 73, said Biden expects, and understands, the pushback: "He's the first president we've had to really, really understand the workings of the Senate since LBJ."Manchin said that with just a few concessions, it would have been possible to get some Republicans on the COVID relief package that passed the Senate this weekend on a party-line vote. And he said he'll block Biden's next big package — $2 trillion to $4 trillion for climate and infrastructure — if Republicans aren't included. "I'm not going to do it through reconciliation," which requires only a simple majority, like the COVID stimulus, Manchin said. "I am not going to get on a bill that cuts them out completely before we start trying."Asked if he believes it's possible to get 10 Republicans on the infrastructure package, which could yield the 60 votes needed under normal Senate rules, Manchin said: "I sure do."Manchin said the infrastructure bill can be big — as much as $4 trillion — as long as it's paid for with tax increases. He said he'll start his bargaining by requiring the package be 100% paid for.Manchin said that with all the debt we're piling up, he's worried about "a tremendous deep recession that could lead into a depression if we're not careful. ... We're just setting ourselves up."He talked up an array of tax increases, including raising the corporate tax rate from the current 21% to 25% "at least," and repealing "a lot of" the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy. Manchin, sitting down with HBO in the Energy Committee hearing room where he now holds the gavel, said he'll use his new position "to try and inject some reality" — starting with a hearing "on climate facts."Asked about Republican senators who won't say that humans have affected climate, Manchin said: "Well, I think I think they know it." Manchin warned fellow Democrats about ramming through legislation by simple majority: "I would say this to my friends. You've got power ... Don't abuse it. And that's exactly what you'll be doing if you throw the filibuster out."Watch a clip.Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.
- The Telegraph
The fraudster known as 'the fake heiress' takes criticism of her as a 'sociopath' as a compliment, she has revealed in her first post-prison interview. Anna Sorokin, 30, a Russian-born German citizen who moved to the US in 2013 was charged with grand larceny after she conned the New York elite for several years, pretending to be a rich heiress called Anna Delvey. Her crimes earned her the nickname, 'the fake heiress'. She was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison for her crimes in 2019, but was released early for good behaviour on February 11 and now temporarily lives at the NoMad luxury hotel in New York. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Sorokin, who faces deportation in Germany, refused to say whether she was ashamed of her crimes. She also responded to criticism from one of her victims, who described her as a "sociopath". "I actually see it as a compliment because they see Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk and Steve Jobs as sociopaths, so if they mean it in that way, I’ll take it," she said. In her first interview since being released, she added that prison was a "pointless waste of time", called the prosecution against her an "insult to her intelligence" and boasted that guards treated her like a "celebrity". She also described her time in prison as an intellectual challenge where she had to work out how she could get guards to get her things without being able to offer anything in exchange.
- Associated Press
It’s sleepy by Donald Trump’s standards, but the former president's century-old estate in New York's Westchester County could end up being one of his bigger legal nightmares. Seven Springs, a 213-acre swath of nature surrounding a Georgian-style mansion, is a subject of two state investigations: a criminal probe by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and a civil inquiry by New York Attorney General Letitia James. Both investigations focus on whether Trump manipulated the property's value to reap greater tax benefits from an environmental conservation arrangement he made at the end of 2015, while running for president.
- The Week
The House is expected to clear President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill on Tuesday, after the Senate narrowly passed it Saturday morning, following a lengthily negotiation with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) over unemployment benefits. The narrow Democratic majority is now discussing how to pass other legislative priorities, and Manchin said Sunday he's open to reforming the filibuster. "The filibuster should be painful, it really should be painful. and we've made it more comfortable over the years," Manchin said on Fox News Sunday. "Maybe it has to be more painful." One solution could be to require a "talking filibuster," where senators can block legislation temporarily through feats of endurance. "If you want to make it a little bit more painful, make him stand there and talk," Manchin said on NBC's Meet The Press.. "I'm willing to look at any way we can, but I'm not willing to take away the involvement of the minority." Manchin repeated that he's "not going to change my mind" on ending the filibuster, but his comments were still greeted positively by filibuster opponents. The talking filibuster "preserves some ability for the minority to slow a bill as long as they physically hold the floor, but then allows an up-or-down vote once they give up," Demand Justice executive director Brian Fallon tweeted. "This is the Jimmy Stewart model." Manchin also expressed an openness to exploring other ways to sidestep blanket GOP opposition, suggesting that perhaps the budget reconciliation process could be used to pass voting-rights legislation — it can't — or other priorities. "But I'm not going to go there until my Republican friends have the ability to have their say also," he said. "I'm hoping they will get involved to the point where we have 10 of them that will work with 50 of us." "If we continue to see obstruction from our Republican colleagues — as we saw through this COVID relief package — I think the patience is going to wear thin, even on moderate Democrats," Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) said Sunday on CNN. "But we'll see." More stories from theweek.com7 spondiferously funny cartoons about the Dr. Seuss controversyWhy the Dr. Seuss 'cancellation' is chillingPolitics needs fiscal constraints
Meghan Markle told Oprah Winfrey she had suicidal thoughts in recent years, while Prince Harry said Charles once stopped returning his phone calls.
- Business Insider
Lindsey Graham says he deals with Trump's 'dark side' because he thinks he has a 'magic' other Republicans don't
Graham told "Axios on HBO" that former President Donald Trump could make the party bigger, stronger, and more diverse but "also could destroy it."
- The Telegraph
Forget hiding behind the sofa, the Royal family needed a bullet-proof vest as Harry and Meghan let rip
It was both everything we had come to expect - and not what we were expecting at all. We knew it was going to be blockbuster TV. But what we didn’t anticipate about the Duke and Duchess of Sussexes’ Oprah interview is how unvarnished their “truth” was actually going to be. From Meghan’s revelation that she was almost driven to suicide by being in the Royal family, to the astonishing claim that Harry was questioned about the potential colour of Archie’s skin, it’s fair to say this two-hour tell-all represented a worst-case scenario for what the couple kept referring to as The Firm. Talk of Royals “hiding behind the sofa” ahead of the primetime, no-holds-barred chat appeared to underestimate quite what the couple had in store. At first, it seemed as if Meghan casually letting slip that she and Harry were secretly “married” by the Archbishop of Canterbury three days before their actual wedding day in Windsor in May 2018 would be the biggest marmalade dropper of the morning. But viewers had only just settled into the cosy tete-a-tete in someone else’s Santa Barbara back yard when the blows quickly started raining down on the Duchess of Cambridge. Dressed in a black Armani dress with a distinctive white splodge and with her hair tied back in a matronly bun, the pregnant mother-of-one, 39, unleashed on her sister-in-law as the UK entered the second hour of International Women’s Day. Contrary to reports, which first surfaced in the Daily Telegraph in November 2018, that Meghan had made Kate cry during a bridesmaids’ dress fitting, the former actress insisted it was actually the other way round. Implying a distinct lack of sisterly support from the mother-of-three, even when “everything was going on with my Dad”, Meghan insisted: “I’m not sharing that in any way to be disparaging about her,” adding: “I would hope that she would want that to be corrected.”
- The Telegraph
'Kate made me cry': Duchess of Sussex claims it was the Duchess of Cambridge who upset her in row over bridesmaids dresses
Follow the latest in our live blog here The Duchess of Sussex claimed during her interview with Oprah Winfrey that the Duchess of Cambridge made her cry during wedding planning, not the other way round, as had been reported. Megan Markle said in a blockbuster interview that Kate Middleton made her cry during a discussion about the bridesmaid outfit that her daughter, Princess Charlotte, would wear. The incident was first reported in Tatler magazine, which claimed that there had been a “row” over whether the young bridesmaids should wear tights for the Sussexes' wedding in 2018. The Duchess of Cambridge felt that they should, saying it was protocol, while the Duchess of Sussex reportedly did not want them to. In a rare statement, Kensington Palace denied the claims at the time. “Everyone in the institution knew that didn’t happen," the Duchess of Sussex said during the bombshell interview broadcast on Sunday night in the US. “What actually happened? The reverse,” she told Ms Winfrey. “I am not sharing this to be in any way disparaging about her [Kate],” she went on. “I would hope that she would want that to be corrected.”
- The Week
Britain's tabloids, vilified by Harry and Meghan, are all agog over the 'devastating' Oprah interview
Oprah Winfrey's interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the duke and duchess of Sussex, aired in the wee small hours of Monday morning in Britain. But the British press, one of the two institutions that came out poorly — along with the British royal family — stayed awake for the tightly held interview. Their headlines steered away from the media criticism and focused on the allegations of dysfunction and, above all, racism at Buckingham Palace. Markle's revelation, backed up by her husband, that an unidentified member of the royal family expressed concern "about how dark" their soon-to-be born son's "skin might be" is "devastating," BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond wrote. "This is heading into 'worst-case scenario' territory for the palace." And Harry's description of his father and brother being "trapped" inside the cold, sclerotic royalty "is a velvet covered dagger into the institution he has left," Dymond adds. The Daily Mail, whose parent company recently lost a privacy lawsuit to Markle, and the Daily Mirror focused on the racism charge, while The Sun headlined her suicidal ideation amid a double blow of palace-ordered isolation and tabloid harassment. Monday’s Daily MAIL (3am edition): “How Dark Will Baby’s Skin Be?” #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/LHR04di1nP — Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) March 8, 2021 Monday’s Daily MIRROR (later edition): “ ‘They asked how dark Archie’s skin would be’ “ #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/jKvwEo9RDv — Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) March 8, 2021 Monday’s SUN (3am edition): “Meg: I Felt Suicidal” #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/LrfawLF8fr — Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) March 8, 2021 The Daily Express led with Markle upending tabloid gossip, while the Daily Star tried to snark off the whole thing. Monday’s Daily EXPRESS: (2am edition) “All Care Homes Must Open Up To Loved Ones” #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/9vkEMUAfmT — Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) March 8, 2021 Front-page of Monday’s Daily Star, they’re having some laugh with this story; savages! pic.twitter.com/fmQPc4FRmZ — Tommy Rooney (@TomasORuanaidh) March 7, 2021 The Daily Telegraph featured a column calling the couple "woke" but focused its top story on pre-interview comments by Queen Elizabeth II. The front page of tomorrow's Daily Telegraph: 'Harry and Meghan embody the woke generation'#TomorrowsPapersToday Sign up for the Front Page newsletterhttps://t.co/tlYMNUKPpj pic.twitter.com/4wXW399s14 — The Telegraph (@Telegraph) March 7, 2021 The "devastating interview" delivered "a body blow to the institution" of the royal family and "upended the narrative created by Britain's bestselling newspapers," Dymond writes. But "the newspapers that the couple so despise — will they change their tune? It is not in their nature." More stories from theweek.com7 spondiferously funny cartoons about the Dr. Seuss controversySen. Joe Manchin, a key Democratic swing vote, is open to crafting a 'more painful' filibusterWhy the Dr. Seuss 'cancellation' is chilling
- The Telegraph
Prince Harry has revealed that he was financially able to step back from the Royal family because his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales left him an inheritance, telling Oprah Winfrey: "I think she saw it coming". The Duke of Sussex told the interviewer Oprah Winfrey that he was now living off money left to him by his late mother after he was “cut off financially” early last year when he and the Duchess moved to the US. “I have what my mum left me and without that we wouldn’t have been able to do this,” he said of his new life in Los Angeles. “It’s like she saw it coming and she’s been with us through this whole process.” The princes were left about £6.5 million each when their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, died 23 years ago. The sum was invested and gathered substantial interest, so Prince Harry inherited around £10 million on his 30th birthday. Diana's sons were also left her wedding dress, designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel and made of thousands of pearls, silk layers and a 25ft-train. In 2013, Earl Spencer, Diana's brother, said that other items would also be handed over to William and Harry, in accordance with their mother's will. Other items handed down include: 28 other dresses, designer suits and evening gowns that belonged to Diana, two diamond tiaras, the original text of the Earl Spencer’s tribute to his sister at the funeral in Westminister Abbey and the score and lyrics of the Sir Elton John and Bernie Taupin's version of Candle in the Wind, played by Sir Elton at Diana's funeral.
- The Telegraph
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex unloaded on Prince Charles, The Duchess of Cambridge, and the tabloid press in their extraordinary tell-all with Oprah Winfrey. But despite the numerous allegations levelled at named and unnamed members of the Royal family, The Queen emerged unscathed, and instead received glowing praise from the couple. Meghan described how "everyone" welcomed her to the royal set-up initially, but singled out the Queen as making her particularly comfortable. In another sign of their positive relationship, the Duchess said: “I just pick up the phone and I call the Queen - just to check-in. Meghan said the Queen has "always been wonderful" to her and that she reminded the Duchess of her own grandmother. "She’s always been warm and inviting," the Duchess added. The Duchess shared a touching anecdote on how her future husband’s grandmother gave her "some beautiful pearl earrings and a matching necklace" for the couple's first joint engagement together, and that the monarch also shared her blanket while travelling together between visits. The pair attended a ceremony for the opening of the new Mersey Gateway Bridge, in Widnes, Cheshire in June 2018 and travelled north on the Royal train.
- LA Times
Before reuniting with her "Real World" cast mates, Julie Gentry had to grapple with the very public life of a 'naive' 19-year-old from Birmingham, Ala.,: herself.
- Business Insider
At his speech at CPAC last week, Trump said the GOP should "get rid" of Cheney and other Republicans who didn't support him during his impeachment.
China turned on Chloé Zhao, the Beijing-born Golden Globe winner, and censored her film after people found old interviews where she slammed China
Chloé Zhao - the first Asian woman to win a Golden Globe - said in 2013 China was "a place where there are lies everywhere."
- The Telegraph
Harry and Meghan's Oprah interview: Queen and Philip not members of Royal family that asked about Archie's skin tone
Blow-by-blow: Prince Harry and Meghan's claims Royal family discussed Archie's skin colour 'Kate made me cry' says Duchess of Sussex Harry and Meghan expecting baby girl Couple secretly married three days before Royal wedding Camilla Tominey | Forget hiding behind sofa, Royals need bulletproof vest It was not the Queen nor Prince Philip who voiced concerns about Archie's skin tone, it can be revealed. Buckingham Palace is under pressure to investigate claims of racism after Harry and Meghan's bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in which it was claimed a member of the Royal family asked about how dark their firstborn's skin would be. The host appeared on CBS This Morning, and said: "He [Prince Harry] did not share the identity with me but he wanted to make sure that I knew and if I had an opportunity to share it that it was not his grandmother nor his grandfather were a part of those conversations." In other key developments during the two-hour interview, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex told Oprah: Prince of Wales "stopped taking" Harry’s calls after their royal departure Meghan contemplated suicide, saying she "just didn't want to be alive any more" Duchess of Cambridge made the Duchess of Sussex cry before her wedding, she claimed Couple had a private marriage ceremony three days before their wedding officiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury Sussexes wanted Archie to be a prince so he would have security Queen wasn’t “blindsided” by their departure the Duke insisted Couple are expecting a baby girl during the summer Princess Diana foresaw his departure from the Royal family, Prince Harry claimed Royal family has an "invisible contract" with the tabloid press, Harry claimed Follow our live blog for a play-by-play of the explosive interview and the global reaction.
- The Telegraph
The Duke of Sussex said he felt "let down" by his father who had at one point "stopped taking my calls". In an emotional discussion with Oprah Winfrey about his relationship with the Prince of Wales, he said there was "a lot of hurt". He also said his father, and his brother the Duke of Cambridge, were "trapped" in the Royal family. The Duke said his late mother Diana, Princess of Wales would have been "angry" at the way the Royal family had treated his wife. Speaking about his relationship with his father, he said: "There's a lot to work through there. I feel really let down because he's been through something similar. He knows what pain feels like, and Archie's his grandson. "At the same time I will always love him, but there's a lot of hurt that's happened. "I will continue to make it one of my priorities to try and heal that relationship, but they only know what they know." The Duchess interjected: "Or what they're told."