By Michael Georgy BAGHDAD (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Saturday U.S. airstrikes had destroyed arms that Islamic State militants could have used against Iraqi Kurds, but warned there was no quick fix to a crisis that threatens to tear Iraq apart. Speaking the day after U.S. warplanes hit militants in Iraq, Obama said it would take more than bombs to restore stability, and criticised Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government for failing to empower Sunnis. "I don't think we're going to solve this problem in weeks. This is going to take some time," Obama told a news conference in Washington. Islamic State has captured wide swathes of northern Iraq since June, executing non-Sunni Muslim captives, displacing tens of thousands of people and drawing the first U.S. air strikes in the region since Washington withdrew troops in 2011. After routing Kurdish forces this week, the militants are just 30 minutes' drive from Arbil, the Iraqi Kurdish capital, which up to now has been spared the sectarian bloodshed that has scarred other parts of Iraq for a decade. The U.S. president said Washington would continue to provide military assistance and advice to Baghdad and Kurdish forces, but stressed repeatedly the importance of Iraq, which is a major oil exporter, forming its own inclusive government. Maliki has been widely criticised for authoritarian and sectarian policies that have alienated Sunnis and prompted some to support the insurgency. "I think this a wake-up call for a lot of Iraqis inside of Baghdad recognizing that we're going to have to rethink how we do business if we're going to hold our country together," Obama said, before departing on a two-week vacation. Employees of foreign oil firms have been leaving Arbil, and Kurds have snapped up AK-47 assault rifles in arms markets for fear of imminent attack, although these have proved ineffective against the superior firepower of the Islamic State fighters. Given the Islamic State threat, a source in the Kurdistan Regional Government said it had received extra supplies of heavy weaponry from the Baghdad federal government "and other governments" in the past few days, but declined to elaborate. In their latest advance through northern Iraq, the Islamic State seized a fifth oil field, several towns and Iraq's biggest dam, sending tens of thousands fleeing for their lives. An engineer at the Mosul dam told Reuters that Islamic State fighters had brought in engineers to repair an emergency power line to the city, Iraq's biggest in the north, that had been cut off four days ago, causing power outages and water shortages. "They are gathering people to work at the dam," he said. A dam administrator said militants were putting up the trademark Islamic State black flags and patrolling with flatbed trucks mounted with machineguns to protect the facility they seized from Kurdish forces earlier this week. RELIEF SUPPLIES The Islamic State, comprised mainly of Arabs and foreign fighters who want to reshape the map of the Middle East, pose the biggest threat to Iraq since Saddam Hussein was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The Sunni militants, who have beheaded and crucified captives in their drive to eradicate unbelievers, first arrived in northern Iraq in June from Syria where they have captured wide tracts of territory in that country's civil war. Almost unopposed by U.S.-trained Iraqi government forces who fled by the thousands, the insurgents swept through the region and have threatened to march on Baghdad with Iraqi military tanks, armoured personnel carriers and machineguns they seized. The U.S. Defense Department said two F/A-18 warplanes from an aircraft carrier in the Gulf had dropped laser-guided 500-pound bombs on Islamic State artillery batteries. Other air strikes targeted mortar positions and an Islamic State convoy. Obama has said this was needed to halt the Islamist advance, protect Americans in the region as well as hundreds of thousands of Christians and members of other religious minorities at risk. U.S. military aircraft dropped relief supplies to members of the ancient Yazidi sect, tens of thousands of whom have collected on a desert mountaintop seeking shelter from insurgents who had ordered them to convert to Islam or die. Highlighting their predicament, more than 300 Yazidi families in the villages of Koja, Hatimiya and Qaboshi have been threatened by death unless they change religion, witnesses and a Yazidi lawmaker told Reuters on Saturday. Following the U.S. example, Britain and France also pledged on Saturday to deliver humanitarian supplies to people trapped by the militant advance. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said London was especially concerned by the fate of Yazidis who are cornered in their ancient homeland of Sinjar in mountainous northern Iraq. "We are more widely looking at how to support this group of people and get them off that mountain," he told the BBC. The Islamic State's campaign has returned Iraq to levels of violence not seen since a civil war peaked in 2006-2007 during the U.S. occupation. The territorial gains of Islamic State, who also control a third of Syria and have fought this past week inside Lebanon, has unnerved the Middle East and threatens to shatter Iraq, a country split between mostly Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds. The semi-autonomous Kurdish region has until now been the only part of Iraq to survive the past decade of civil war without a serious security threat. Its vaunted "peshmerga" fighters - those who "confront death" - also controlled wide stretches of territory outside the autonomous zone, which served as sanctuary for fleeing Christians and other minorities when Islamic State fighters stormed into the region last month. But the past week saw the peshmerga crumble in the face of Islamic State fighters, who have heavy weapons seized from fleeing Iraqi troops and are flush with cash looted from banks. (Editing by Mark Heinrich and Crispian Balmer)
- Yahoo News
Former President Donald Trump’s “big lie” about a stolen election may have been discredited over and over in the courts, and disgraced by the attack on the U.S. Capitol, but the corrosive effect of his dishonesty will linger on, complicating efforts to strengthen American elections.
- Yahoo News
Black National Guardsman describes being deployed to protect Biden’s inauguration: 'I just felt this huge sense of pride'
As most of the 25,000 National Guardsmen who were called upon to protect Washington, D.C., during the presidential inauguration began heading home this week, one Black service member agreed to speak to Yahoo News about the experience of protecting the nation’s capital in the wake of a pro-Trump riot on Capitol Hill.
- NBC News
President Joe Biden vowed to ultimately put an end to private prisons, but activists says the move isn't enough to fully address mass incarcerations.
- The Telegraph
The leader of the Proud Boys extremist group has been unmasked as a "prolific" former FBI informant. Enrique Tarrio, 36, worked undercover exposing a human trafficking ring, and helped with drug and gambling cases, according to court documents. Tarrio's documented involvement with law enforcement related to the period 2012 -2014. There was no evidence of him cooperating after that. But the revelation raised further questions over why police did not take further steps to secure the US Capitol ahead of the riots on Jan 6. At least half a dozen members of the Proud Boys were arrested over involvement in the riots. Tarrio denied ever being an informer, telling Reuters: "I don’t know any of this. I don’t recall any of this."
Explainer: Why Trump's post-presidency perks, like a pension and office, are safe for the rest of his life
The impeachment proceeding against Donald Trump on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has fueled speculation online that he could lose some of the benefits extended to former presidents. But according to legal experts, under the laws currently in effect, Trump will retain perks including a pension, office space and security detail even in the unlikely event that he is convicted by the Senate in its impeachment trial. Trump can thank a relatively obscure law, the Former Presidents Act.
- U.S.News & World Report
Global financial markets are receiving much-needed boosts heading into this year, thanks to earlier-than-anticipated approvals and distributions of multiple vaccines that are spurring hopes of recovery from the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But until inoculations become more widespread, policy support from governments will drive economic recovery worldwide, according to the 2021 Global Financial Stability Report Update released on Wednesday by the International Monetary Fund.
- Yahoo News
“By signing this order, President Biden indicates that he’s more interested in the views of the citizens of Paris than in the jobs of the citizens of Pittsburgh,” Cruz said.
A phone call in the middle of the night led one Swiss lawyer to pursue Nigeria's stolen money.
- The Telegraph
Russian authorities target Navalny's associates and wife in series of police raids ahead of protests
Russian authorities raided the homes of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and his associates on Wednesday, piling pressure on opposition figures ahead of a major rally planned for this weekend. Masked police on Wednesday afternoon broke down the door of Mr Navalny’s rented flat despite the pleas from his wife who was inside, asking for her lawyer, Veronika Polyakova. Ms Polyakova arrived at her house but was not allowed in to witness the search, a clear violation of the Russian law,she told the Dozhd TV channel. In the biggest wave of police action against the opposition in months, law enforcement agents raided at least seven homes on Wednesday, including a Moscow property owned by Mr Navalny but where he has not lived for years, and the office of his associates who run his YouTube channel. A video posted online by Lyubov Sobol, a close ally of Mr Navalny, showed black-clad masked men break down the door and walk into the office.
- Associated Press
A former teacher extradited from Israel after a six-year legal battle appeared in an Australian court Thursday to face child sex abuse charges. Malka Leifer, 54, appeared in Melbourne Magistrates Court by video link from a police station where she is in COVID-19 quarantine. Guards in the room with Leifer confirmed that the audio-visual link was working.
- The Week
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) flies to Florida to raise money on Thursday, and he's making a stop at Mar-a-Lago to meet with former President Donald Trump around lunchtime, Politico reports. McCarthy reportedly asked for the meeting, his first with Trump since the Jan. 6 Capitol siege by a mob of Trump supporters, and he has been effusive about the tête-à-tête. "Kevin can't shut up about it," one Trump adviser joked to Politico. McCarthy sees the visit as a way to smooth over their absolute "soap opera" of a relationship since the insurrection, and also as a way to inquire about Trump's political plans, Politico reports. "Unlike Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who reportedly doesn't want to speak to the ex-president ever again, McCarthy believes it's in his interest to be on Trump's good side," since Trump is still widely popular with the GOP base McCarthy needs to show up in 2022. But "Trump world is ecstatic about the visit," too, "viewing the huddle as proof of a comeback in the making," Politico adds. Trump will "give Kevin an earful" about the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him, the Trump adviser said. But McCarthy's pilgrimage is "the first solid bit of evidence that Donald Trump is still in charge of the party." Read more at Politico's Playbook. More stories from theweek.comWith Senate Republicans balking at convicting Trump, Democrats explore alternative censuresGameStop makes the case for financial regulationMitch McConnell is the GOAT
- The Independent
Biden news - live: Republican Party suffers ‘mass exodus’ as Marjorie Taylor Greene scandal consumes Congress
Follow the latest updates
- The Telegraph
A doctor with terminal cancer killed a female paediatrician and then himself after taking hostages at a children's clinic in Austin, Texas. Dr Bharat Narumanchi held hostages in a five-hour siege before killing Dr Katherine Lindley Dodson. Narumanchi had applied for a volunteer position at the clinic a week ago and was declined. He later came back carrying a pistol, a shotgun and two duffel bags. Police spokesman Jeff Greenwalt said Narumanchi had recently been given "weeks to live" after a cancer diagnosis. He said: "The case as far as who did this is closed. We know who did it. And we know that there's no longer a threat to the public. But we really, really want to answer the question of why." Dr Lindley Dodson, 43, was beloved by patients and their families. Karen Vladeck, whose two children were among her patients, told the Austin American-Statesman: "You saw her at your worst when your kid was sick, and she just always had a smile on her face. "She made you feel like you were the only parent there, even though there was a line of kids waiting." During the siege a SWAT team used a megaphone to communicate with the armed doctor. A hostage negotiator shouted: "Your life is very important to me. And I know life is very important to you. "You don't deserve to go through this. For all you have done for others. That is why I want to help you work through this. You have saved a lot of lives." Police first sent in a robot and then officers went into the medical office where they found two bodies. They did not comment on how the two doctors died. A police spokesman said: "The SWAT situation has ended. Two subjects have been located and were pronounced deceased."
Australia's most populous state of New South Wales recorded its 11th day of zero local coronavirus cases on Thursday, allowing neighbouring Queensland state to lift border restrictions while Victoria state also hinted at relaxing travel with Sydney. Australian states imposed quarantine or hard border restrictions for travellers from New South Wales (NSW) after an outbreak in Sydney in late December, throwing Christmas holiday plans of thousands of Australians into chaos. The Sydney clusters have now been curbed, giving other states the confidence to reopen borders.
- Architectural Digest
Let’s get loudOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- Yahoo News Video
China toughened its language toward Taiwan on Thursday, warning after recent stepped-up military activities near the island that "independence means war" and that its armed forces were taking action to respond to provocation and foreign interference.
- Associated Press
Now, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont is stepping into one of his most visible and physically grueling roles: presiding over former President Donald Trump's second Senate impeachment trial. Leahy, the Senate's longest-serving current member, will be doing it after a brief health scare that saw him taken by ambulance to a hospital Tuesday evening, only to gavel the Senate into order Wednesday morning. “I had some muscle spasms," Leahy, 80, told reporters the morning after feeling ill in his Capitol office.
- NBC News
Analysis: Biden had nothing to gain and everything to lose from fighting a quixotic war over the filibuster just days into his presidency.
- The Conversation
Why it takes 2 shots to make mRNA vaccines do their antibody-creating best – and what the data shows on delaying the booster dose
After a second dose of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, a swarm of antibodies attacks the virus. Kateryna Kon/Science Photo Library via Getty ImagesWith the U.S. facing vaccination delays because of worker shortages and distribution problems, federal health officials now say it’s OK to push back the second dose of the two-part vaccine by as much as six weeks. As an infectious disease doctor, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions from my patients as well as my friends and family about whether the COVID-19 vaccine will still work if people are late receiving their second dose. Why you need two doses 3-4 weeks apart Two doses, separated by three to four weeks, is the tried-and-true approach to generate an effective immune response through vaccination, not just for COVID but for hepatitis A and B and other diseases as well. The first dose primes the immune system and introduces the body to the germ of interest. This allows the immune system to prepare its defense. The second dose, or booster, provides the opportunity for the immune system to ramp up the quality and quantity of the antibodies used to fight the virus. In the case of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, the second dose increases the protection afforded by the vaccine from 60% to approximately 95%. Why the CDC decided receiving the second dose within 42 days is OK In the clinical trial, the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine was administered as early as day 19 and as late as day 42 to 93% of the subjects. Since protection was approximately 95% for everyone who was vaccinated within this time “window,” there is little reason not to allow some flexibility in the timing of the second dose 2. As more vaccine becomes available, the timing of the second dose should be close to four weeks for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. But the good news is that even while supplies remain limited, the science suggests that there’s nothing bad about getting a second dose as late as 42 days after the first. What the immune system does between the first and second dose The biology through which the mRNA vaccines induce their protection from COVID-19 is fundamentally different from that with other vaccines. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA that encodes the spike glycoprotein. Upon injection of the vaccine, the mRNA enters into immune cells called dendritic cells. The dendritic cells use the instructions written in the mRNA to synthesize the hallmark spike glycoprotein, which characterizes the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. These immune cells then show the spike glycoprotein to B-cells, which then make anti-spike antibodies. Dendritic cells recognize viruses and present information about the spike protein to T-cells. T-cells provide information about the viral spike protein to B-cells, which are transformed to memory B-cells that store information about the virus. When this memory B-cell is activated with an infection or the second dose of the vaccine, this causes some of the B-cells to change into plasma B-cells that secrete protective antibodies that fight the virus. Kateryna Kon/Science Photo Library via Getty Images The mRNA vaccines are uniquely capable of inducing a special kind of immune cell – called a T-follicular helper cell – to help B-cells produce antibodies. The T-cells do this through direct contact with the B-cells and by sending chemical signals that tell the B-cells to produce antibodies. It is this help in antibody production that makes these vaccines so effective. But not all B-cells are the same. There are two kinds that make anti-spike antibodies: long-lived plasma cells and memory B-cells. The long-lived plasma cells, as their name implies, live in the bone marrow for years after vaccination, continuously churning out antibody – in this case anti-spike antibody. These long-lived B-cells do not need to be boosted. The memory B-cells, on the other hand, live in a state akin to hibernation. They do not produce antibodies until stimulated by a booster of the vaccine, or are exposed to infection with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. That is the reason we need that second dose. Together these two types of B-cells provide a constant level of protection. What happens if you don’t get the Pfizer or Moderna second dose on time? With current vaccine shortages, and problems with setting up the infrastructure to vaccinate millions of people, many physicians are concerned that the second dose of vaccine won’t be delivered in the prescribed three-to-four-week window. That booster shot is necessary for the T-cells to stimulate the memory B-cells to produce massive quantities of antibodies. If the booster isn’t given within the appropriate window, lower quantities of antibodies will be produced that may not provide as powerful protection from the virus. [Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: William Petri, University of Virginia. Read more:How mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna work, why they’re a breakthrough and why they need to be kept so coldCOVID-19 vaccines were developed in record time – but are these game-changers safe? William Petri receives research funding from the NIH, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Regeneron, Inc.
- The Independent
Grandmother ‘overjoyed’ to be outside after receiving Covid-19 vaccine killed in Portland vehicle attack
Police have not released a motive in the attack