By Lanre Ola and Abdoulaye Massalaki BAUCHI, Nigeria/NIAMEY, Niger (Reuters) - Nigerian forces backed by air strikes seized the northeastern border town of Baga from Islamist group Boko Haram on Saturday, the military said, a significant victory in an offensive against an insurgency affecting four African states. Retaking the town - at Nigeria's border with Chad, Niger and Cameroon - was one of several in the past two weeks, and particularly important as Baga was the headquarters of a multinational force of troops from all four countries. The militants had claimed a Jan. 3 attack that killed scores, possibly hundreds, and left the jihadists in control. "We have secured Baga. We are now in full control. There are only mopping up exercises left to do," Defense Spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade said by telephone. In a statement minutes earlier Olukolade had said that "a large number of terrorists had drowned in Lake Chad" as troops advanced on Baga. The Islamist fighters appear to be on the run in many parts of Nigeria and regions near its borders, after being subjected to a major offensive on all sides, although they have seemed defeated in the past only to bounce back deadlier than ever. "Not even the strategy of mining over 1,500 spots with land mines on the routes leading to the town could save the terrorists from the aggressive move of advancing troops," Olukolade had said in a statement earlier in the day. Successes in pushing back Boko Haram are welcome news for Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan as he faces an election on March 28 that was delayed by six weeks on the grounds that more time was needed to fight the insurgency. The poll, however, also provides a strong motive for the government and military to talk up successes. LAKE CHAD FIGHTING The Sunni Islamist militants have killed thousands of people and kidnapped hundreds in a six-year insurgency and have gained strength in the past year, carving out a territory the size of Belgium and intensifying cross-border raids. To counter that threat, neighboring states, where Boko Haram fighters habitually flee after hit-and-run attacks, are pursuing a strategy of pushing them back into Nigeria. A spokesman for Chad's army said his troops did not participate in the Baga offensive. Niger and Cameroonian militaries were not immediately available for comment. But in a sign of their ability to strike at neighbors, at least 23 people were killed in fighting overnight in an attack on the island of Karamga, on the Niger side of Lake Chad, held by Niger's army. Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou reiterated a pledge to defeat the group in a speech in the southern border town of Diffa, the scene of a wave of attacks this month. "We are going to win this war because we are not alone," he said on Saturday outside an army barracks. "We will come out from this test more experienced and battle-hardened." In a visit to Chad and Cameroon on Saturday, French defense minister Laurent Fabius expressed his solidarity and said international allies needed to give more financial support. "We are working to get the force off the ground and contribute financially so that the burden is not heavy on the countries concerned," he said, referring to an 8,700-strong force from the four countries plus Benin that military chiefs plan to agree on next week in Chad's capital N'Djamena. "We want a donor conference which could help with the financial charges," he said. France already provides intelligence and logistical support to regional armies but has stopped short of direct intervention, despite a strong military presence across the region. (Additional reporting by Daniel Flynn in Mao and Bate Felix in Yaounde; Writing by Tim Cocks and Emma Farge; Editing by Louise Ireland)
- NBC News
Election experts have uniformly declared that the 2020 election was conducted fairly.
- Associated Press
Vice President Mike Pence will be returning to his southern Indiana hometown Wednesday afternoon following the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. The Republican former Indiana governor and his wife Karen are expected to attend Biden’s inauguration and will then fly into the Columbus Municipal Airport, where they will be greeted by some supporters, the Indiana Republican Party said Tuesday. Pence grew up in Columbus and some family members still live there.
- National Review
Dozens were arrested Monday night in New York City when Black Lives Matter protesters clashed with police outside City Hall during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march. Hundreds of demonstrators marched peacefully from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to City Hall in Manhattan, where they were met with a heavy police presence. The demonstration turned violent around 8:30 p.m. in City Hall Park, and police began making arrests after demonstrators started throwing projectiles, blocking traffic, and vandalizing property. Videos posted on social media show police urging the crowd to disperse before starting to make arrests. At least 29 people were arrested near Chambers and Centre streets and eleven officers were injured, including a captain who was hit in the head with a glass bottle. None of the officers are in serious condition. It is unclear how many protesters were injured during the clashes. In another video, police can be seen shoving several protesters as well as wrestling one person to the ground. Protesters can be heard shouting obscenities at officers. Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the New York Police Department over the “excessive enforcement” used against protesters calling for racial justice over the summer, including using pepper spray and batons on protesters and “kettling” or trapping demonstrators. James is calling for federal oversight of the NYPD. The federal government is already monitoring the NYPD to ensure that it retires its stop-and-frisk policy, which was found in 2013 to have been used in an unconstitutional manner. Last summer, riots broke out in New York City following the police custody death of George Floyd in May. About 450 businesses across the city were damaged and in many cases looted over May and June, according to the city’s Department of Small Business Services. More than 2,000 people were arrested at those demonstrations over the same period.
- Yahoo News Video
President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health, leaving her poised to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
A boy who was killed in an alleged murder-suicide by his father has been identified as 9-year-old Pierce O’Loughlin. Family tragedy: The boy and his father, Stephen O'Loughlin, 49, were both found dead at their home on Scott Street, Marina District in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, SF Chronicle reports. The boy’s mother, Lesley Hu, asked authorities to check on her son after learning that he did not show up for school that day.
- The Independent
Nancy Pelosi called pro-Trump rioters ‘Putin puppets’ and the Capitol siege a ‘gift’ to the Russian president
The incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is considering creating a White House position focused on competition policy and issues relating to antitrust, two sources familiar with internal deliberations said. The idea remains under consideration and the Biden White House may not ultimately make the move, one of the sources said. "It is yet to be determined if this will be more of a coordinator kind of a role or if this person will really sit at the White House," said another source.
- Architectural Digest
Mercedes-Benz’s Hyperscreen, General Motors’ Bright Drop, and Jeep’s Electric Wrangler were among the unveils that turned headsOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- The Telegraph
A valuable 16th century copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Saviour of the World has been recovered by Italian police in a cupboard in a flat in Naples. The museum from which it was stolen had no idea it was missing. The copy of Salvator Mundi, which depicts Christ with one hand raised in a blessing and the other holding a crystal orb, is believed to have been painted by a pupil of Leonardo. It was stolen some time in the last few months from a collection of art works inside the Basilica di San Domenico Maggiore in Naples. The painting was of “inestimable value”, Italian police said in a statement. It was found “hidden in a bedroom” in an apartment in Naples. The owner of the flat, a 36-year-old man, was arrested not far from the property on charges of receiving stolen goods, police said. The oil painting, which dates to the early 1500s, is believed to be by artist Giacomo Alibrandi, a member of the artistic school of Leonardo. The museum had not noticed its theft because it had been closed for three months as a result of Italy’s coronavirus lockdown measures. Police are trying to ascertain how it was stolen, said Giovanni Melillo, a Naples prosecutor. “It is plausible that it was a theft commissioned by an organisation working in the international art trade," he said.
John Whitley, assistant secretary of the Army for financial management and comptroller, will serve as the acting secretary.
Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken said at a confirmation hearing on Tuesday that it was “extraordinary how frightened Vladimir Putin seems to be of one man” — Alexey Navalny.Why it matters: Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, Navalny, returned to Russia on Sunday and was swiftly arrested. He spent the previous five months recovering in Germany after being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. His detention poses an early foreign policy challenge for the Biden administration.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.What he’s saying: Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Navalny served as a voice for millions of Russians, “and their voice needs to be heard in Russia.” * “The attempts to silence that voice by silencing Mr. Navalny is something that we strongly condemn,” Blinken added, noting that Navalny's arrest and other points of tension with Russia would be “very high on the agenda for an incoming administration.” * Incoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan previously called for Navalny's immediate release.The latest: Navalny was ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days. He was officially arrested for violating the conditions of a suspended prison term by missing an appointment in December.Worth noting: Blinken praised Sen. Mitt Romney, who serves on the committee, for being “prescient” on Russia. Romney was mocked for referring to Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe” in a 2012 presidential debate with Barack Obama, including by Obama himself.Go deeper: Bill Browder on Russia-U.S. relations after Alexei Navalny's arrestGet smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- The Independent
President-elect celebrates his hometown: ‘You were with me my whole career, through the good times and the bad’
- Associated Press
A woman accused of entering the U.S. Capitol illegally during the Jan. 6 riot will likely be charged with stealing a computer from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a federal prosecutor said in court Tuesday. U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin Carlson in Harrisburg said he will consider bail and that he plans to conduct a preliminary hearing on Thursday in the case of Riley June Williams. Williams is charged with trespassing as well as violent entry of the Capitol and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors, and is being held in the county jail in Harrisburg.
The company's comments come after California's top epidemiologist on Sunday issued a statement recommending providers pause vaccination from lot no. 41L20A due to possible allergic reactions that are under investigation. The vaccine maker said it was unaware of comparable cases of adverse events from other vaccination centers which may have administered vaccines from the same lot or from other lots of its vaccine.
- The Week
Anthony Scaramucci was right: The White House appears to be having trouble rounding up a sizable crowd for President Trump's official send-off from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Wednesday."In what looks like a desperate attempt to build a crowd for the crowd-obsessed president, an email has been making the rounds to current and former White House officials inviting them, and as many as five plus-ones, to Trump's elaborate exit ceremony," Politico reported Tuesday morning. "The go-to excuse for skipping out has been the 6 a.m. call time at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. But truly, many just don't want to be photographed sending off their former boss."Trump's current staffers have a good reason to avoid their outgoing boss. "Former White House officials and campaign staffers who would typically land plum jobs in corporate America after serving their time are now out in the cold," Politico says. One former White House official who got out early put it this way: "No one wants to touch them, they're just toxic." Another former Trump aide, pointing to the fallout from the Jan. 6 insurrection, was more blunt, telling Politico: "They're f---ed."Trump will be the first president since Andrew Johnson, another member of the tiny impeached president club, to skip the inauguration of his successor. "Johnson snubbed Ulysses S. Grant in 1869," The Washington Post notes. More stories from theweek.com Chief Justice John Roberts reportedly wants no part of Trump's impeachment trial 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump tried to act like a mob boss. Instead he's just a thug.
A prominent Iranian-born scholar arrested Monday was secretly paid to write columns favorable to Tehran and lobby at least one U.S. lawmaker on its behalf, federal prosecutors say.Why it matters: Kaveh Afrasiabi’s writings showed up in prominent publications such as the New York Times and the Guardian as, the Justice Department says, he drew regular payments from the Iranian government and communicated frequently with the country’s diplomatic staff. None of these professional or financial conflicts was disclosed.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.What’s new: Federal officers charged Afrasiabi with acting as an unregistered foreign agent. * Prosecutors say Iran’s mission to the United Nations paid him more than $265,000 from July 2007 through November 2020. Many of the checks described payments to Afrasiabi as a “salary.” * Prosecutors say Afrasiabi also received health insurance benefits from the Iranian U.N. mission since 2011.During that time, Afrasiabi made media appearances and published writings in major publications that described him as an independent scholar and expert on Iranian affairs. * Afrasiabi’s columns have appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, and HuffPost. He’s also appeared on Chinese and Russian state media in the U.S. * His writings uniformly aligned with Tehran’s position on world affairs, and, according to the indictment, were often written in consultation with Iranian diplomatic staff. * Prosecutors say Afrasiabi also helped craft an April 2015 column in the New York Times written by Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif.Afrasiabi’s work also included direct communications with an unidentified member of Congress and his staff, prosecutors say. * According to the indictment, Afrasiabi helped write a December 2009 letter from the unnamed congressman to then-President Barack Obama regarding Iranian nuclear negotiations.Be smart: DOJ’s indictment was unsealed on Tuesday, as the Trump administration unveils last-minute measures going after foreign powers it considers top U.S. adversaries.Go deeper: "U.S. declares China's actions against Uighurs 'genocide'"Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
- NBC News
Suspect William McCall Calhoun Jr. faces a host of charges stemming from the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol Building.
- The Telegraph
The arrest of an Egyptian woman for baking and selling cupcakes bearing iced genitals sparked national debate across Egypt on Monday when the state’s security apparatus turned its full attention to the “cupcake incident”. The baker, whose identity has not been released by the authorities, was arrested on Monday reportedly on charges of ‘violating family values’ after photos of the adult cakes went viral on Facebook. She was later released on bail worth EGP 5,000 (£233). A group of “older” women had been enjoying the cakes at a birthday party at Cairo’s elite Gezira Sporting Club and posted the photo in the club’s Facebook group. Though the photos were taken down by the club’s management after complaints, they went viral on social media after being leaked outside of the private group days later. This led to the involvement of MPs and the formation of a legal committee to investigate the crime. According to Egypt’s Youm7 newspaper, the baker denied making the graphic decorations on top of the cakes. It is unclear from reports whether the group of women ordered the cakes, were sent them by accident, or decorated them themselves. The incident has garnered massive attention across Egypt’s state-controlled media, with the female baker being made an example of, in the country’s latest attempt at controlling public morality. The scandal quickly became the top-trending topic on Egyptian social media and prime-time TV hosts began to condemn the women on air, adding to the growing debate over cupcake gate. An Egyptian MP on Monday evening called for Dr Ashraf Sobhy, the minister of youth and sport (as the incident took place in a sporting club) to be summoned to provide an explanation. The minister quickly announced he had formed a legal committee to investigate the incident. According to newspaper Akhbar el-Yom, fines may be issued against the group of women - who were not arrested alongside the baker - if the investigation finds them guilty. The newspaper also reported claims that the toppers had been imported from America. From TikTok influencers to actresses, belly-dancers and novelists - the arrest of the baker is the latest in a string of charges and jail-time brought against Egyptians in recent years for harming public morals. Earlier this month two female TikTok influencers, who had served time in jail also for “violating family values” were acquitted, in the continued struggle for freedom of expression in the conservative country.
- The Week
Constitutionally-speaking, Chief Justice John Roberts is meant to preside over President Trump's impeachment trial, but he apparently wants out, Politico reports.Multiple Republican and Democratic sources have reportedly told Politico that Roberts is seeking a way to avoid the job because of how things played out when he oversaw Trump's first impeachment trial last year. Roberts, Politico notes, has worked hard to keep the Supreme Court apolitical during his tenure, so he was reportedly displeased that he "became a top target of the left" during the proceedings. "He wants no further part of this," one source told Politico, although there's been no official word from Roberts' camp about what he'll ultimately do.Trump's trial is a bit of a constitutional oddity. On the one hand, it's a presidential impeachment, but on the other hand, the trial will take place after he leaves office, which is why there's a chance Roberts may have some wiggle room. Historically, either the vice president or the longest-serving member of the Senate have taken up the mantle for lower-level impeachments, per Politico. That means Vice President-elect Kamala Harris or Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) could be the choice. Read more at Politico.More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump's White House staff and alumni are reportedly using the same excuse to skip his big sendoff Trump tried to act like a mob boss. Instead he's just a thug.
- Associated Press
The number of western monarch butterflies wintering along the California coast has plummeted precipitously to a record low, putting the orange-and-black insects closer to extinction, researchers announced Tuesday. An annual winter count by the Xerces Society recorded fewer than 2,000 butterflies, a massive decline from the tens of thousands tallied in recent years and the millions that clustered in trees from Northern California's Marin County to San Diego County in the south in the 1980s. Western monarch butterflies head south from the Pacific Northwest to California each winter, returning to the same places and even the same trees, where they cluster to keep warm.