By David Alexander WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel criticized nine U.S. states on Thursday for refusing to issue identity cards to same-sex spouses and said he expected the adjutants general for the state militias to comply with lawful directions and Pentagon policy. Hagel, in remarks prepared for delivery to a Jewish rights group in New York, also announced the United States has agreed to sell Israel six vertical liftoff V-22 Osprey aircraft - the first U.S. ally to receive the plane. Hagel said the Defense Department moved to begin issuing identity cards to the spouses in same-sex couples following a Supreme Court ruling this year that cleared the way for them to receive the same work-related benefits given to heterosexual couples. "Several states are refusing to issue these IDs to same-sex spouses at National Guard facilities," Hagel told the Anti-Defamation League. "Not only does this violate the states' obligations under federal law, their actions have created hardship and inequality." Refusal to issue the cards at state militia facilities means couples may have to travel long distances to federal bases to obtain the cards there, Hagel told the centennial dinner of the Anti-Defamation League. "This is wrong. It causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice, which DoD (Defense Department) has fought to extinguish," Hagel told the group in remarks honoring his predecessor, Leon Panetta. The American Civil Liberties Union applauded Hagel's remarks, saying he made "clear that this resistance to the equal treatment of all married military couples is not only grossly unfair, but also a violation of federal law." The Pentagon abandoned its "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military during Panetta's tenure as defense secretary. When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act on June 26, the department began issuing identity cards to ensure the spouses in same-sex couples would receive the benefits to which they were entitled. Before the first cards were issued in September, the state of Texas announced it would not issue the cards at National Guard facilities. Eight other states have taken similar stances in recent weeks, a senior defense official said: Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia. Across the nine states, 114 Army and Air National Guard sites are not providing cards, the official said. Hagel told the Anti-Defamation League he had directed General Frank Grass, the National Guard chief, to meet with adjutants general from the nine states to deal with the issue. "The adjutants general will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DoD (Defense Department) policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions," Hagel said. 'QUALITATIVE MILITARY EDGE' Hagel said the agreement to sell Israel six of the tilt-rotor V-22s, built by Bell Helicopter and Boeing, would "greatly enhance the range and effectiveness of the Israeli special forces." "I have directed the Marine Corps to make sure this order is expedited," he said. During his first visit to the Middle East as defense secretary earlier this year, Hagel announced $10 billion in arms sales to Middle East allies, including 25 F-16 Fighting Falcon weapons for the United Arab Emirates as well as other precision arms for the UAE and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Hagel said the United States, which has a policy of maintaining Israel's "qualitative military edge," had decided to offer Israel the V-22 aircraft as well as the KC-135 refueling airplane. After its annual budget review earlier this week, Israel sent the Defense Department an official request for six V-22 Ospreys, a senior defense official said. (Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Ken Wills and Lisa Shumaker)
- Yahoo News
Early data on the rollout of the vaccines for COVID-19 shows that minority populations in the United States already disproportionately affected by the pandemic are not being immunized at the same rate as white Americans.
- The Week
Biden did not, in fact, remove Trump's 'Diet Coke button' from the Resolute Desk, White House clarifies
The new Biden administration has yet not disclosed the secrets of Area 51 or explained what the Air Force really knows about UFOs, but it did clarify, at least, the mystery of the vanished "Diet Coke button" former President Donald Trump would use to summon refreshments in the Oval Office. The usher button, as it is formally known, is not gone, even if it is no longer used to summon Diet Cokes, a White House official tells Politico.The White House official "unfortunately wouldn't say what Biden will use the button for," Politico's Daniel Lippman writes, suggesting Biden might summon Orange Gatorade and not the obvious answer, ice cream — or, let's get real, coffee. What's more, there are evidently two usher buttons in the Oval Office, one at the Resolute Desk and the other next to the chair by the fireplace, a former White House official told Politico, adding that Trump didn't actually use the Diet Coke button all that much because "he would usually just verbally ask the valets, who were around all day, for what he needed."In any case, it is not the placement of the button that matters, of course, but how you use it. And Biden will presumably know better than to order ice cream treats during a top-secret national security briefing.More stories from theweek.com Democrats are getting Chuck Grassleyed MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell permanently banned from Twitter Josh Hawley knows exactly what he's doing
- Associated Press
The Biden administration on Monday suspended some of the terrorism sanctions that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo imposed on Yemen’s Houthi rebels in his waning days in office. The Treasury Department said it would exempt certain transactions involving the Houthis from sanctions resulting from Pompeo's designation of the group as a “foreign terrorist organization” on Jan. 10. The exemption will expire Feb. 26, according to a statement from Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control announcing a general license for transactions that involve entities owned by the Iran-backed Houthis.
Pirates who seized 15 sailors when they stormed a Turkish-crewed container ship in the Gulf of Guinea two days ago have not yet made contact with authorities, Turkey's foreign minister said on Monday. "We have not yet received word from the pirates," foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara. Turkey was in contact with officials in Gabon, where he said the Liberian-flagged container ship Mozart had docked with its remaining crew, and with authorities in neighbouring countries.
- The Telegraph
Why would the European Union threaten to block coronavirus vaccine exports? EU countries have long been waiting for the AstraZeneca vaccine – and now, at the last, it has been snatched from their grasp. In August, the European Commission announced that it had secured 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab, with an option for a further 100 million. With enough doses for 200 million people, the supply could have vaccinated roughly half of all EU citizens. It brought the European Commission's highly ambitious target of vaccinating 70 percent of all EU citizens by the summer, and even a revival of the tourism trade, into the realms of possibility. The European Medicines Agency is expected to grant market authorisation at the end of the week, meaning doses could be shipped out to the member states. But on Friday, AstraZeneca wrote to the EU executive saying it had supply chain problems and would not be able to fulfil its contractual obligations. The news was a bitter blow to the commission, which has led negotiations in the EU joint vaccine procurement process, but especially for the bloc's member states. National governments are now faced with the unenviable task of explaining to their voters why the promised vaccines are not coming. Many EU countries bet on the AstraZeneca jab, foregoing its more expensive and difficult to store rivals.That made it an attractive proposition for poorer member states, and easier to get to more remote areas than those requiring complicated storage technology. They were waiting for the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite growing pressure from their voters. Dissatisfaction with coronavirus restrictions is growing in Europe, with the Dutch rioting against a coronavirus curfew at the weekend.
- Los Angeles Times Opinion
Gov. Newsom needs to do a better job communicating California's statewide COVID restrictions with the public, and with other state officials.
- The Week
President Biden has pledged to get 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Americans in his first 100 days in office. And when reporters asked Biden if that plan was ambitious enough last week, he doubled down on the original plan.Even though the U.S. hasn't reached Biden's goal of giving 1 million vaccines each day, Biden still seemed ready to push forward on Monday. "I am quite confident that in the next three weeks or so," the U.S. will get that pace up to 1 million per day, and quickly after could make it to 1.5 million, the president said in a press conference. Every American who wants to get a vaccine will be able to do so by spring, Biden promised, though the COVID-19 pandemic itself could rage through summer and "early fall," he added. Immunologists meanwhile contend distributing only 1 million vaccines per day will drag the pandemic into 2022.Biden is pushing to get Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill after signing a series of coronavirus-related executive orders last week. He declared "time is of the essence" when it comes to passing the bill, but wouldn't pull out specific pieces of the legislation to prioritize on Monday.Biden also gave a confusing interpretation of his calls for unity, suggesting that a bill that doesn't have bipartisan support doesn't necessarily lack unity.> Unity doesn't have to be bipartisan, Biden says. "Trying to get at a minimum if you pass piece of legislation that breaks down along party lines when it gets passed. it doesn't mean there wasn't unity. It just means it wasn't bipartisan. I prefer these things to be bipartisan..."> > — Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) January 25, 2021That comment comes as the Senate tries to work out a power-sharing agreement that's essentially at a standstill.More stories from theweek.com Democrats are getting Chuck Grassleyed Biden did not, in fact, remove Trump's 'Diet Coke button' from the Resolute Desk, White House clarifies MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell permanently banned from Twitter
Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is being used by the West to try to destabilise Russia, a prominent hardliner and ally of President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday, saying he must be held to account for repeatedly breaking the law. Navalny was remanded in custody for 30 days last week after returning from Germany where he had been recovering from a nerve agent poisoning. Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Security Council, called for Navalny to face the full force of the law in comments that offered a glimpse into the mood inside Russia's security establishment after tens of thousands of Navalny's supporters protested against his jailing on Saturday.
- Associated Press
A group of U.N experts has criticized Sri Lanka's requirement that those who die of COVID-19 be cremated, even it goes against a family's religious beliefs, and warned that decisions based on “discrimination and aggressive nationalism” could incite hatred and violence. The experts, who are part of the Special Procedures of the U.N Human Rights Council, said in a statement Monday that rule amounts to a human rights violation. “We deplore the implementation of such public health decisions based on discrimination, aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism amounting to persecution of Muslims and other minorities in the country,” the experts said.
- The Telegraph
The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has called on Joe Biden to end America's trade war against Beijing, warning against "a new Cold War". In his first speech since Mr Biden entered the White House five days ago, Mr Xi gave a thinly-veiled message to the new US leader to abandon the bellicose stance of his predecessor, Donald Trump. Mr Xi made his comments at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, in a speech that could set the tone for relations between Washington and Beijing for the next four years. "To build small cliques or start a new Cold War, to reject, threaten or intimidate others... will only push the world into division," Mr Xi said. While Mr Xi did not mention either Mr Biden or Mr Trump by name, his comments were clearly addressing the hostile relationship that developed between America and Washington during Trump years. In that time, Mr Trump slapped hefty import tariffs on Chinese goods, claiming that unfair trading practices were to blame for the loss of millions of US manufacturing jobs. While Mr Biden has pledged to end Mr Trump's "isolationist" approach to Beijing, he too has said that the US must remain "tough with China", and has accused Beijing of intellectual property theft and giving unfair subsidies to state-owned exporters. Instead, he wants a more unified diplomatic strategy, roping in European nations to pile pressure on Beijing. He also intends to step up criticism of China over its treatment of Uighur Muslims and its new security laws imposed on Hong Kong. Mr Xi, however, said China would not take kindly to either lecturing or sanctions over its human rights record or trade policies. "We should respect and accommodate differences, avoid meddling in other countries' internal affairs and resolve disagreements through consultation and dialogue," he said. "The misguided approach of antagonism and confrontation, be it in the form of cold war, hot war, trade war or tech war, will eventually hurt all countries' interests." Mr Xi expressed confidence that the world would eventually recover from the Covid 19 crisis, which had plunged it into its worst recession since World War II. But in an apparent signal of his view of China's new place in the global order, he stressed: "The world will not go back to the way it was in the past." While he said that Beijing was a supporter of multilateralism - a policy Donald Trump conspicuously abandoned - he envisaged it as a partnership of equals rather than one in which any nation was "superior" to another. Mr Biden is not due to speak at Davos, which is being held as an online summit because of the Covid outbreak. His US climate envoy, John Kerry, is due to address the event instead.
- The Week
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday night said that since Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) promised they have no intention to vote to abolish the 60-vote legislative filibuster, he will support a power-sharing agreement with Democrats.With Democrats in control of the House and Senate, some lawmakers have called for the elimination of the filibuster, and McConnell spent days stalling and trying to get Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to guarantee he would preserve it. The Senate is split 50-50; the last time this happened was in 2001, and the party with the vice presidency controlled the floor agenda.In a statement, McConnell said he is ready to move forward on a deal "modeled" on the 2001 "precedent" after Sinema and Manchin said they "agree with President Biden's and my view that no Senate majority should destroy the right of future minorities of both parties to help shape legislation."Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer, said Democrats are "glad Sen. McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand. We look forward to organizing the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold things done for the American people."More stories from theweek.com Democrats are getting Chuck Grassleyed Biden did not, in fact, remove Trump's 'Diet Coke button' from the Resolute Desk, White House clarifies MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell permanently banned from Twitter
- Associated Press
An Iranian-American has been sentenced to prison on spying charges, Iran's judiciary reported Tuesday, the latest dual national held in the country amid tensions with the West. Iran's judiciary did not name the man sentenced, but said he had been free on bail and re-arrested while trying to flee the country. Many prisoners in Iran have been out on bail amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the country.
- Architectural Digest
She is residing at Blair House while the U.S. Naval Observatory undergoes renovations
- FOX News Videos
Biden administration has system in place where reporters will not ask president tough questions: Media critic
Steve Krakauer, editor at Fourth Watch, says 'it shouldn't be contingent' on one reporter to ask Biden tough questions.
- The Telegraph
China ramped up its pressure on democratic Taiwan over the weekend, with an unusually large number of fighter jets approaching the island in a "test" for the new administration of US President Joe Biden. On Sunday, 12 Chinese fighter jets entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, along with a reconnaissance aircraft and two anti-submarine aircraft, Taiwan’s defence ministry said. A day earlier, China sent eight bomber planes capable of carrying nuclear weapons and four fighter jets to the same area to the southwest of the island, as well as one reconnaissance aircraft. On both occasions, Taiwan sent up aircraft, issued radio warnings to the Chinese aircraft, and deployed air defence missile systems to monitor their activity. Beijing claims self-governing Taiwan as part of its territory, and has been angered by a show of increased US support for Taiwan during Donald Trump’s administration. In recent months, China has carried out frequent, at times daily, incursions aimed at pressuring President Tsai Ing-wen’s government to accept Beijing’s demand that it recognise Taiwan as part of China. These incursions have usually consisted of just one or two reconnaissance planes in recent weeks, rather than the warplanes seen over the weekend.
European Union member states could take AstraZeneca to court for a breach of supply contracts if the company does not honour the COVID-19 vaccine delivery schedule, Latvian foreign affairs minister Edgars Rinkevics said on Tuesday. "The possibility should be evaluated, and it should be coordinated among the EU countries," the minister told Reuters, via his spokesman. Each EU member state has a separate supply contract with the company.
- Associated Press
Chinese state media have stoked concerns about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, despite rigorous trials indicating it is safe. A government spokesperson has raised the unsubstantiated theory that the coronavirus could have emerged from a U.S. military lab, giving it more credence in China. As the ruling Communist Party faces growing questioning about China's vaccines and renewed criticism of its early COVID-19 response, it is hitting back by encouraging conspiracy theories that some experts say could cause harm.
- The Independent
‘I put my emotions behind me to do what I thought was right,’ Jackson Reffitt says
- The Telegraph
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced the establishment of its embassy in Tel Aviv as the US national security advisor announced that America hopes to build “on the success of Israel’s normalisation agreements” under the Biden administration. The UAE cabinet decision to approve establishing the embassy comes after they signed the Abraham Accords in September, becoming the first Gulf state to establish a full diplomatic relationship with Israel. No further details about the embassy were given in UAE media. While Israel’s government recognises Jerusalem as its capital, the international community does not, with Palestinians claiming East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Most countries base their embassies in Tel Aviv. Before the deal, Israel only had peace deals with only two Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan - where it has fortified embassies. Most Arab countries had previously refrained from recognising Israel, believing that recognition should only be granted if serious concessions are made in the Palestinian peace process. Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco later agreed to follow in the UAE’s footsteps and normalise ties with Israel under US-brokered deals.
Venezuela's Juan Guaido is a "privileged interlocutor" but no longer considered interim president, European Union states said in a statement on Monday, sticking by their decision to downgrade his status. The EU's 27 states had said on Jan. 6 they could no longer legally recognise Guaido as after he lost his position as head of parliament following legislative elections in Venezuela in December, despite the EU not recognising that vote. Following the disputed re-election of President Nicolas Maduro in 2018, Guaido, as head of parliament, became interim president.