By David Alexander WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. efforts against Islamic State militants in Iraq are "a drumbeat, a steady building pressure" on several fronts that will ultimately enable Iraqi forces to launch a counteroffensive at a time of their choosing, the top U.S. military officer said on Thursday. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said U.S. forces were not sitting idly in the key Iraqi cities of Baghdad or Arbil waiting until spring to launch an offensive but were actively working to weaken Islamic State in several areas. "When you ask me what are the prospects for a spring offensive, we're working with Iraqis, military and civilian leaders, to determine the pace at which we will encourage them and enable them to do a counteroffensive," Dempsey said. "But I want to make sure I also highlight the fact that this isn't about ... waiting till the spring to do anything." "This is a drumbeat, a steady building pressure on ISIL along eight or nine lines of effort: counter-financing, counter-foreign fighters, counter-message as well as the military operations," he added, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. Dempsey's spoke to reporters after meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Lieutenant General Benjamin Gantz, to discuss regional security and military cooperation as Gantz winds up his tenure as the chief of the Israel Defense Forces general staff. Dempsey said Iraq would initiate a counter-offensive against Islamic State when Baghdad felt it was ready to conduct the necessary military operations to recapture territory and follow it with humanitarian and reconstruction efforts. "In the meantime we're keeping steady pressure on and we're building their capacity," Dempsey said. He said several hundred Sunni tribesmen had been incorporated into Iraqi Security Force, a sign the mainly Shi'ite government was trying to become more inclusive. He also said several thousand troops had been newly trained. The chairman said U.S. forces were looking for ways to help Iraqis cope with improvised explosive devices, roadside bombs and houses rigged with explosives. "There's some things that we can do to help the Iraqi Security Forces reduce their casualties as they go forward and we're discussing that with them," he said. The Pentagon said this week that U.S. forces have hit or damaged some 3,222 Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria since August. U.S. military officials also said the department is looking into complaints that civilians may have been killed in U.S. air strikes. (Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
- NBC News
"The situation at the border isn't going to be transformed overnight," a senior Biden transition official told NBC News in an exclusive interview.
- Associated Press
A New Mexico county official and founder of the group Cowboys for Trump who had vowed to return to Washington after last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol to place a flag on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk has been arrested Sunday by the FBI. Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin was arrested on charges of illegally entering the U.S. Capitol. According to court documents, Griffin told investigators that he was “caught up” in the crowd, which pushed its way through the barricades and entered the restricted area of the U.S. Capitol, but he said he did not enter the building and instead remained on the U.S. Capitol steps.
- National Review
Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) warned Friday that one-third of Republican voters could leave the party if GOP senators vote in impeachment proceedings to convict President Trump. Paul made the comments in an interview on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle. The senator’s remarks come amid an increasing divide between congressional Republicans who oppose impeaching the president and a smaller number who support the measure following the riots at the Capitol on January 6. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) is reportedly hopeful that Republicans can use impeachment to purge Trump from the GOP, although he would need the support of at least 16 additional Republican senators to vote to convict. “Look, I didn’t agree with the [Capitol] fight that happened last week, and I voted against overturning the election, but at the same time, the impeachment is a wrongheaded, partisan notion, [and] if Republicans go along with it, it’ll destroy the party,” Paul said during the interview. “A third of the Republicans will leave the party,” Paul continued. “This isn’t about, anymore, the Electoral College, this is about the future of the party, and whether you’re going to ostracize and excommunicate President Trump from the party. Well, guess what? Millions of his fans will leave as well.” While a majority of Americans believe Trump should be removed from office immediately, just 17 percent of Republicans support expelling Trump from the presidency, according to an Axios–Ipsos poll released on Thursday. Support for Trump among Republicans has fallen since the Capitol riots; however, 60 percent believe the party should continue to follow Trump once he leaves office, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found.
- The Telegraph
Five Hong Kong protesters who reportedly fled to Taiwan by boat six months ago have arrived in the United States and intend to seek asylum, according to an activist group. The activists, all under the age of 30, faced protest-related arrests or charges in Hong Kong, and escaped the city by boat in July last year, the Washington, DC-based Hong Kong Democracy Council (HKDC) said. They are the latest protesters to seek sanctuary in the West after Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in June that makes it easier to crack down on dissent in the Chinese city. In recent weeks, police have arrested dozens of pro-democracy activists and former lawmakers in Hong Kong. The HKDC statement didn't confirm that the five that are now in the US had been in Taiwan - a popular destination for protesters, but which closed its borders last year because of the pandemic. Simon Chu, managing director of the nonprofit HKDC, said he had welcomed the five to the US last week after a "perilous journey to freedom". "The dangerous trip made by these activists illustrates how it remains difficult for Hong Kongers to seek safe harbour in the US and that options for safe passage are limited," he said. "Their desperate effort exemplifies the rapidly deteriorating human rights condition and growing humanitarian crisis Hong Kong is in right now," he said. Media in Taiwan had reported last year that the five had been intercepted by the Taiwanese coast guard as they tried to flee to the self-ruled island in late July. Officials in Taiwan have repeatedly declined to comment on the case. Activists say the five were held incommunicado in Taiwan as negotiations were carried out to help them leave for the US. In August, another group of Hongkongers attempted to flee to Taiwan in a speedboat, but were caught by the Chinese coastguard. Ten of the 12 Hongkongers were sentenced to up to three years in prison for organising and participating in an illegal border crossing last month after a "secret" trial that was condemned by Britain and others.
- The Independent
Police announce second arrest at security perimeter set-up to protect Joe Biden’s inauguration
After a probe found "significant errors of judgment and procedure" in the termination of the employee, GitHub's head of human resources resigned, GitHub Chief Operating Officer Erica Brescia said on Sunday. "In light of these findings, we immediately reversed the decision to separate with the employee and are in communication with his representative," Brescia said in a blog https://bit.ly/2KnkVhI, adding that the company apologized to that employee.
- Associated Press
When Joe Biden takes the oath of office Wednesday outside a wounded U.S. Capitol, he will begin reshaping the office of the presidency itself as he sets out to lead a bitterly divided nation struggling with a devastating pandemic and an insurrection meant to stop his ascension to power. Biden had campaigned as a rebuke to President Donald Trump, a singular figure whose political power was fueled by discord and grievance. The Democrat framed his election as one to “heal the soul” of the nation and repair the presidency, restoring the White House image as a symbol of stability and credibility.
- The Week
Israel has vaccinated at least 25 percent of its population against the coronavirus so far, which leads the world and makes it "the country to watch for herd effects from" the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, says infectious disease expert David Fishman. Recently, the case rate in Israel appears to have declined sharply, and while there could be a few reasons for that, it's possible the vaccination effort is beginning to play a role.> Israel's reproduction number appears to have declined rather sharply in recent days, with around 25% of the country vaccinated, and some additional percentage having at least partial immunity via prior infection. pic.twitter.com/sVyCYYd9dj> > — David Fisman (@DFisman) January 17, 2021One study from Clalit that was published last week reports that 14 days after receiving the first Pfizer-BioNTech shot, infection rates among 200,000 Israelis older than 60 fell 33 percent among those vaccinated compared to 200,000 from the same demographic who hadn't received a jab.At first glance, Fishman writes, that might seem disappointing since clinical trials suggested the vaccine was more than 90 percent effective. But he actually believes the 33 percent figure is "auspicious." Because vaccinated and non-vaccinated people are mingling, there could be "herd effects of immunization." In other words, when inoculated people interact with people who haven't had their shot, the latter individual may still be protected because the other person is. On a larger scale, that would drive down the number of infections among non-vaccinated people, thus shrinking the gap between the two groups' infection rates.> Estimated vaccine efficacy is a function of relative risk of infection in the vaccinated...when there is indirect protection via herd effects, we expect efficacy estimates to decrease because the risk among unvaccinated individuals declines.> > — David Fisman (@DFisman) January 17, 2021More data needs to come in, and Fishman thinks "we'll know more" this week, but he's cautiously optimistic about how things are going.More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump's vaccine delay is getting suspicious The pandemic windfall
- Yahoo News Video
The spokesman for Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert has quit less than two weeks after she was sworn into office, saying he felt like he need to due to the insurrection at the nation's Capitol.
- Miami Herald
A man who did prison time for aggravated stalking and has convictions for domestic violence and violating a restraining order has an 18-year-old girl he has kidnapped at gunpoint, Pembroke Pines police said.
Kevin McCarthy warned members to not call out colleagues by name, citing potential political violence
Members of the House Republican Conference ignored leader Kevin McCarthy last week when he warned them against criticizing colleagues by name based on intelligence that doing so could trigger more political violence. Why it matters: McCarthy made clear that name-dropping opponents, instead of spelling out complaints in more general terms, can put a literal target on a politician, especially with tensions so high following the events of Jan. 6.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.That's what happened to Rep. Liz Cheney, the GOP conference chairperson, after she said she would support impeaching President Trump. * She and several other members had to increase their security and take extra precautions because of death threats and other alarming warnings after their colleagues singled them out in their complaints.What McCarthy said: The House minority leader issued his warning during a conference call last Monday. He said his concern was driven by the FBI briefings he receives. * "It doesn’t matter which side of the position you were: I respect it, I respect why you did what you did. But what we are saying on television, when we say a member’s name. ... This is not the moment in time to do it." * "You can incite something else. The country is very divided and we know this. Let’s not put any member, I don’t care who they are Republican, Democrat or any person not even in Congress. Watch our words closely. I get these reports on a weekly basis. I’ve seen something I haven’t seen before.”Several minutes later, McCarthy repeated the message: “Emotions are high. What you say matters. Let’s not put other people in danger. Let’s watch what words we’re using and definitely not be using other members' names in any media.”Days later, some GOP members ignored him and openly criticized their colleagues * Rep. Adam Kinzinger tweeted that the name of his Republican colleague, Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene, "will be one forgotten by next January." * Rep. Lauren Boebart (R-Colo.) mocked Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the House's new mask fines.One of the most blatant attacks, leading to a media firestorm, was when several members of the House Freedom Caucus went after Cheney for voting to impeach Trump. * On the day of the vote, the members circulated a petition to remove her from her leadership role. * Cheney is now fielding a series of threats against her, many from fiery Trump supporters angered by her vote, a source with direct knowledge of the threat said. * “We don’t comment on security matters,” Cheney’s communications director, Jeremy Adler, told Axios.What we’re hearing: McCarthy's team told Axios he isn't looking for repercussions. Spokesman Matt Sparks said the leader wants to lower the temperature and is encouraging members to be mindful of the current environment.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
U.S. President Donald Trump at this point is opting not to issue a pardon for himself as he prepares an expansive list of more than 100 pardons and commutations for release on Tuesday, a source familiar with the effort said. White House advisers have said Trump has privately debated with advisers whether to take the extraordinary step of issuing a pardon for himself but some administration officials have cautioned Trump against a self-pardon because it would make him look guilty. Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House of Representatives last week on charges of inciting the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by pro-Trump protesters.
The U.S. Army has identified a 1st Armored Division staff sergeant from Fort Bliss, Texas found dead at his home Thursday.
- Associated Press
China on Saturday finished building a 1,500-room hospital for COVID-19 patients to fight a surge in infections the government said are harder to contain and that it blamed on infected people or goods from abroad. The hospital is one of six with a total of 6,500 rooms being built in Nangong, south of Beijing in Hebei province, the official Xinhua News Agency said. China had largely contained the coronavirus that first was detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 but has suffered a surge of cases since December.
- NBC News
Couy Griffin, a county commissioner in New Mexico, planned to return to the Capitol with guns on Jan. 20, the FBI said.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) called on his Republican Party to rebuild itself and "repudiate the nonsense that has set our party on fire" in an in an op-ed for The Atlantic Saturday on the QAnon conspiracy theory.Why it matters: Many of the mob involved in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riots wore items signaling their support for the far-right QAnon and a prominent member of the cult was among those arrested following the siege.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here. * Several Republicans who ran for Congress last year publicly supported or defended the QAnon movement or some of its tenets — something Sasee noted in his op-ed, headlined "QAnon is Destroying the GOP From Within." * Sasse blames the violence on "the blossoming of a rotten seed that took root in the Republican Party some time ago and has been nourished by treachery, poor political judgment, and cowardice."Driving the news: Sasse wrote in his op-ed that "until last week, many party leaders and consultants thought they could preach the Constitution while winking at QAnon." * "They can't," he added. "The GOP must reject conspiracy theories or be consumed by them. Now is the time to decide what this party is about." * Sasse criticized House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for not denouncing QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) when she was running for Congress in 2020. * "She's already announced plans to try to impeach Joe Biden on his first full day as president," Sasse wrote. "She'll keep making fools out of herself, her constituents, and the Republican Party."Worth noting: Sasse said before the House impeached President Trump for a second time he'd consider "definitely consider" any articles of impeachment against him over his conduct and comments at a rally before the riots. * The Nebraska senator criticized Trump's embrace of QAnon supporters last August, warning that Democrats could "take the Senate" this "will be a big part of why they won." * Months later, the Democrats went on to win control of the Senate.The bottom line: Sasse wrote that his party faces a choice when Trump leaves office: "We can dedicate ourselves to defending the Constitution and perpetuating our best American institutions and traditions, or we can be a party of conspiracy theories."Go deeper: * The Capitol siege's QAnon roots * House freshmen at war after Capitol siegeSupport safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- The Telegraph
Donald Trump will leave office with his approval rating at an all-time low, according to a new poll. Mr Trump is now likely to complete his term in the White House with Mike Pence, the vice president, refusing to invoke the 25th amendment to remove him from office and an impeachment hearing due to begin after Joe Biden is inaugurated. The storming of Capitol Hill and Mr Trump’s refusal to accept that Mr Biden won the election has caused considerable damage to his reputation, a poll by Pew Research has found. His approval rating has slumped to 29 per cent – a fall of nine points since last August. Ominously for Mr Trump, who is said to be planning to run for the White House in 2024, his rating among Republicans has plummeted even more spectacularly.
Brazil's health regulator is seeking further data on Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine before considering its approval for emergency use. Documents supporting drugmaker Uniao Quimica's application for emergency use of the vaccine have been returned to the company because they did not meet its minimum criteria, the watchdog said on Saturday. In a statement on the Health Ministry's website, regulator Anvisa said the request failed to provide adequate assurances on Phase III clinical trials and issues related to the manufacture of the vaccine.
- Associated Press
Lottery players have another chance to win big next week since there were no winners of the top prize for both the Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots in their most recent drawings. The Powerball jackpot grew to an estimated $730 million after no one matched all five numbers and the red ball in the drawing on Saturday night. If a lottery player strikes big in the next Powerball drawing on Wednesday, it would be the fifth-largest jackpot ever in the United States.
- The Week
President Trump is known for going off script, but his premature presidential election victory declaration in the early hours of the morning on Nov. 4 wasn't a completely spur-of-the-moment decision, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.In the first installment of a reported series on Trump's final two months in office, Swan writes that Trump began "choreographing election night in earnest" during the second week of October following a "toxic" debate with President-elect Joe Biden on Sept. 29 and a bout with COVID-19 that led to his hospitalization. At that point, Trump's internal poll numbers had reportedly taken a tumble, Swan notes.With that in mind, he reportedly called his first White House chief of staff, a stunned Reince Priebus, and "acted out his script, including walking up to a podium and prematurely declaring victory on election night if it looked like he was ahead." Indeed, in the lead up to Election Day, Trump reportedly kept his focus on the so-called "red mirage," the early vote counts that would show many swing states leaning red because mail-in ballots had yet to be counted. Trump, Swan reports, intended to "weaponize it for his vast base of followers," who would go to bed thinking he had secured a second-term, likely planting the seeds of a stolen election. Read more at Axios. > As I've been writing, the plan was to steal the election all along. Fantastic reporting here. https://t.co/k8C73o8vH7> > -- Jonah Goldberg (@JonahDispatch) January 16, 2021More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump's vaccine delay is getting suspicious The pandemic windfall