Working from home causes new leasing trend
Black women in the US respond to Meghan Markle's revelations about racism and Britain.
Iraq's prime minister on Monday called on the country's rival political groups to use dialogue to solve their differences, a move he said would reflect the "love and tolerance" shown by Pope Francis' historic visit to the country. Iraq suffers from chronic mismanagement and corruption, and a steady level of violence often linked to the rivalry between Iran and the United States in the region 18 years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. “In the atmosphere of love and tolerance promoted by the visit of His Holiness the Pope to the land of Iraq, we present today the call for a national dialogue,” Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said in a televised speech.
- Business Insider
QAnon Shaman's '60 Minutes' interview backfired. Judge cites interview when ruling he must remain jailed until trial.
Jacob Chansley's perception of his actions on January 6 show a "detachment from reality," a federal judge argued in new court documents.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson avoided wading into the clash of British royals on Monday, praising the queen but sidestepping questions about racism and insensitivity at the palace after an interview by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan. The former Hollywood actress, whose mother is Black and father is white, accused the royal family of pushing her to the brink of suicide. In a tell-all television interview, she said someone in the royal household had raised questions about the colour of her son's skin.
7 unanswered questions we can't stop thinking about after Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's jaw-dropping interview
People are now wondering about the status of Prince Harry and Charles' relationship, as well as Meghan Markle's with Kate Middleton.
Prince Harry said he and Meghan Markle hadn't planned on signing streaming deals, but they needed the money for security
Harry told Oprah he was financially cut off by the royals and that his family's security was taken away, so he signed deals with Netflix and Spotify.
New Zealand is unlikely to stop having Queen Elizabeth as its head of state anytime soon, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, in comments following Oprah Winfrey's interview with Prince Harry and Meghan. Ardern was asked by a reporter if the interview, and the picture painted of the royal family, had given her pause around New Zealand's constitutional ties with the royals. A former British colony, New Zealand retains Queen Elizabeth as its constitutional monarch and head of state.
- Business Insider
A world-leading health expert has warned that spring breakers could increase the spread of highly-transmissible coronavirus variants across the US.
Joining hundreds of women in Istanbul to protest at China's treatment of Uighurs, Nursiman Abdurasit tearfully thinks of her jailed mother in Xinjiang and fears that Uighurs like her in Turkey may one day be sent back under an extradition deal. Beijing approved an extradition treaty between the two nations in December and with the deal awaiting ratification by Ankara's parliament, activists among some 40,000 Uighurs living in Turkey have stepped up efforts to highlight their plight.
- The Daily Beast
Tom Williams/GettyRep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) did not buy or sell any stocks in his first 13 months as a congressman. That changed in March 2020, when he made half a dozen buys as the largest economic relief package in history was written and debated.Five of those purchases came in the three days between March 25 and 27, as the Senate and House voted on the CARES Act and former President Trump signed it into law. Crenshaw, who supported the bill, did not initially disclose the transactions, in violation of the STOCK Act, a law that requires members of Congress to tell the public when they engage in securities trades. Months later he amended his records to reflect the purchases.The trades, which are listed only in a range of values, add up to a maximum of $120,000, and do not compare in size or volume to the kinds of headline-grabbing transactions executed ahead of the pandemic by Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. They only appeared in December, when Crenshaw amended his annual report, originally submitted in August.“You’re referencing financial disclosures that use a range to report stock purchases, and you’re choosing the upper end of the range to come up with that $120,000 figure,” Justin Discigil, Crenshaw’s communications director, told the Daily Beast in an email. “The real number is around $30,000 at most,” Discigil said, and “in no way were his purchases unethical or related to official business.”The timing, however, along with Crenshaw’s own trading history and connections to the industry, raises questions about why he made the purchases and failed, twice, to disclose them.“Members of Congress should not be actively trading securities in the middle of a crisis. It shows that when the market crashes, that person is thinking about themselves and using the volatility to their own advantage,” said Ben Edwards, a securities law expert and professor at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Las Vegas Nevada. “We all have a limited amount of attention, and if you’ve got [an] eye on your stock portfolio, then you’re not giving that crisis or the American people the full attention they demand.”Crenshaw, elected in 2018, had never traded individual stocks in office until that crisis struck, according to public records. Then, when global markets crashed on March 12, Crenshaw bought between $1,001 and $15,000 in Amazon. Two weeks later, while Congress voted on the CARES Act, Crenshaw bought stocks valued at the same price range in Southwest, Boeing, energy infrastructure manfacturer SPX, and Kinder Morgan, a Texas-based company specializing in pipeline construction. He also bought into an index fund tied to the performance of the S&P 500.While it’s unclear why Crenshaw did not initially disclose the transactions, they came as an increasing number of high-profile lawmakers were getting snared in an insider-trading scandal. Except for the Amazon purchase, all of Crenshaw’s transactions came a week after ProPublica reported that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) had sold up to $1.72 million on the heels of private coronavirus briefings. On March 20, The Daily Beast reported that Loeffler and her husband had sold off seven figures worth of stock following her first confidential briefings on the pandemic. Scrutiny soon fell on trades executed by Sens. David Perdue (R-GA), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and John Hoeven (R-ND), spurring investigations by the Justice Department, the Senate Ethics Committee and the Securities and Exchange Commission. None of the lawmakers faced criminal charges. Perdue and Loeffler lost their re-election bids to Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock in runoff elections this January.In response to the scandal, the Campaign Legal Center analyzed all congressional stock trades made between Feb. 2 and April 8, finding that a dozen senators made a combined 127 transactions in the timeframe, and 37 House members made at least 1,358 transactions.Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw Dunks on Newly Elected QAnon Queen, Marjorie Taylor Greene Crenshaw’s name did not make it into those media reports, however, because he hadn’t disclosed his purchases. The STOCK Act, a 2012 law intended to deter federal elected officials from trading on inside knowledge, requires congress to post all transactions within 45 days. Not only did Crenshaw fail to disclose the transactions at the time, he didn’t include them in his annual disclosure, filed in August. And while that filing shows that Crenshaw holds the new assets, the form also requires members to list the transactions, including the dates, which Crenshaw left blank. They only appeared when the Lone Star Republican filed an amended annual report in December.Crenshaw’s spokesperson told The Daily Beast that the Harvard alum and former Navy SEAL had filed that amendment “to fix clerical issues in his report like making sure dates were correct.”At the time of the transactions, congress was scrambling to put together the CARES Act, a monumental emergency relief package that cost more than $2 trillion, and which Crenshaw supported. The Republican-led Senate approved the bill on March 25, the day Crenshaw bought stock in SPX and the S&P 500 fund. The package passed the House the next day, when Crenshaw scooped up Southwest and Kinder Morgan, and was signed into law by Trump on March 27, the day that Crenshaw acquired his stake Boeing.At the time, Crenshaw sat on the House committees for Budget and Homeland Security. Boeing in particular lobbied heavily, and successfully, for a piece of the CARES Act, asking at first for $60 billion and later hoping to receive a $17 billion slice that lawmakers set aside for “businesses critical to maintaining national security.” The nonpartisan Institute on Tax and Economic Policy said at the time that it was “generally understood that the bill’s authors want much, if not all, of this $17 billion to go to a single company: Boeing.” But in late April, the manufacturer passed on the deal, opting instead to raise $25 billion in private investment thanks to moves that the Federal Reserve made independently of the CARES Act. The day that Crenshaw bought Boeing, markets snapped their brief positive burst, and the company led the boards that day in losses. His investment has now grown more than 38%. Boeing’s employee PAC gave $3,000 to Crenshaw’s 2020 campaign.All of Crenshaw’s purchases have shown returns, with the biggest yields from Boeing, Amazon and Southwest Airlines. Amazon bounced up from about $1,820 a share on March 12 to $2,979 today, and Southwest Airlines rose from around $41 to a little over $60.“It’s not hard to see that airlines would be among the hardest-hit stocks in a global pandemic that restricted air travel,” Edwards said. “So the short-term is that they’re going to get hammered, but in the long term, the sky is going to be busy again.” That calculation includes the likelihood that the federal government would pitch in to keep the industry aloft, and in mid-April the airlines got their $25 billion bailout.Edwards said that while the limited available information makes it impossible to know why Crenshaw and other officials make specific trades, new reforms introduced in response to the trading scandal would make such transactions impossible.“Some of the proposals for limiting stock purchases would really cut back on activity like this. For instance, Senator Warren’s plan would prohibit buying and selling individual stocks, and just allowing members to track markets through index funds,” he said. “Another proposal is to require lawmakers to disclose their trading plans in advance, which executives of publicly traded companies already do. That would reduce the likelihood or suspicion that they’re using private information or their own legislative powers to their advantage.”Kedric Payne, senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, told The Daily Beast in November that lawmakers in the public’s trust shouldn’t risk even the appearance of having a personal financial stake in their government work."It is nearly impossible to make decisions affecting an industry and then receive a personal financial benefit without appearing to have a conflict of interest," Payne said. "Even if officials rely on financial advisors to make trading decisions on their behalf, the perception of conflicts of interest remains, because the public does not know if there are winks and nods prompting the trades."Last week, Business Insider reported that Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), an advocate for transparency, had failed to disclose dozens of stock transactions over the course of 2020. Malinowski, who like Perdue — but unlike Crenshaw — claims that a third-party financial adviser independently executes his trades, said that his time in the barrell sharpened his appetite for reform.“This does reinforce my view that members of Congress should not be invested in the stock market or, if they are, they should not have any visibility into the stocks they own,” Malinowski later told NJ.com. “Inevitably, even if the decisions are made by an investment firm with no input from the member of Congress, there can be this perception of influence because what we do in Congress affects every aspect of the economy.”Crenshaw doesn’t own many individual stocks, currently. Beyond the trades in March, he only holds shares in Starbucks, Alphabet — Google’s parent company — and a small stake in Schlumberger, a global oilfield services provider primarily based in Europe, with a branch in Houston. The energy-dependent metropolis also hosts Kinder Morgan, but the offices of both companies are located just outside the lines of Crenshaw’s gerrymandered district.The trades intersect with Crenshaw’s government work, specifically in energy. The oil and gas industry contributed a total $453,247 to his 2020 re-election efforts, and was his largest industry patron in terms of PAC donations. And while this may not have posed a direct conflict of interest last year, that may no longer be the case: On Jan. 21, House Republican leadership took Crenshaw off of his Homeland Security and Budget committee assignments and moved him to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Meghan Markle says she was told she couldn't get help despite having suicidal thoughts, but royals have seen therapists before
Prince Harry and Princess Diana both opened up about getting mental health treatment in the past, and Prince William has supported the cause.
- The Daily Beast
Joe Pugliese/CBSThe contemplation of suicide, blatant racism, and a family of “trapped,” emotionally stunted snobs: nobody expected Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey to be as dramatic as it was, or as grim. It was less a night for popcorn and low-stakes royal dish, and more one for stricken looks of surprise. One bombshell and within-palace-walls horror story followed another, one numbing thud after another. The opening revelation that Kate Middleton had made Meghan cry, not the other way round—as had been previously reported—was a relatively innocent aperitif. This grand guignol was just getting started.Meghan Markle: ‘I Just Didn’t Want to Be Alive Anymore’Harry and Meghan told a similar raw story of gilded nightmares just as Princess Diana told BBC’s Panorama in 1995. We have heard it before, and assumed the institution might have changed in response to the criticism that followed. Not a chance.It was every terrible part of being a princess/duchess in a fairytale-gone-wrong as Diana had told—with a happy ending of a kind, although the question lingering at the end, despite the principals’ smiles was: at what cost? Harry said he felt his mother’s spirit during this time, as well as living off her money having been cut off by the royal family. “She saw it coming,” he said.The British tabloid press, and Harry and Meghan’s harshest critics, will likely find ways to dismiss their words, to criticize them anew. Perhaps, as has happened before, Meghan and Harry will be decried as rich cry-babies, entitled whiners. But these familiar attacks will be harder to make, given how the couple told their stories to Oprah. Britain will finally see this documentary tonight, Monday.Oprah did not, as her detractors expected, simply act as a friend with a shoulder to cry on; she didn’t supply warm bathos or easy platitudes. Sure, she visited the couple’s hens. She joyfully welcomed Meghan’s pregnancy bump. But she interviewed with care and rigor. Every time Meghan or Harry waffled or said something imprecise, she asked them to be precise—especially when it came to identifying the racist or racists within the palace who demeaned Meghan, and who queried how dark Archie’s skin would be when he was born.That person (or persons’) identity remains unknown, but the stricken expressions on Meghan and Harry’s faces, their determination not to tell Oprah, suggest someone who was very close to them, or significant within the palace. The possible darkness of Archie’s skin, the fact he would be the child of a biracial couple, apparently necessitated he would not be thought of as a prince, and that he deserved no security.Oprah asked questions about what had gone wrong in the royal family, and was told bluntly about a catastrophe that—if true—shows just how unfit for modern purpose the royal family is. This was such a compelling interview, brilliantly done, that two hours did not seem enough. Indeed, Oprah said more would be revealed on CBS This Morning in a few hours time, co-anchored by her best friend Gayle King. Sure, Meghan was not asked about the investigation into bullying allegations that broke after the interview was recorded and had so focused minds before its transmission, and which seem—for now at least—the least of the royal family’s concerns.That family is very selective when it comes to opening investigations. For instance, at the time of writing there is one underway about alleged bullying by Meghan Markle of palace staff, and not one about Prince Andrew’s friendship with dead pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.Here is a suggestion for a few more, after Meghan and Prince Harry’s interview.Is it true a palace figure raised “concerns” about the “darkness” of unborn Archie’s skin? If so, whose racism was this? Why did they feel they could voice it to the baby’s father and mother? Why is this being said in the 21st century? What does it say about the royal family as an institution? Was it a royal family member, an aide, who? Will they be as thoroughly investigated, and if necessary reprimanded, as Meghan? What does the royal family have to say about this proud racism it exhibits directly to a woman of color, carrying a royal family member in her belly?Another investigation idea. Meghan said she felt suicidal when she was five months pregnant and that she approached the palace authorities seeking help, and was effectively told to get lost—when they surely have access to all the best doctors and specialists in the land. This reminds the casual royal observer of the complete dereliction of care when it came to Princess Diana, who was also left by this family to go mad within the confines of the palace.This investigation would focus both on both alleged cruelty and ignorance. Cruelty, because a woman is clearly struggling to maintain her psychological equilibrium. She is not only suffering, she is suffering right in front of you, and you are essentially rolling your eyes at her as if she is an inconvenience. Is this true? Who are you, the people that reportedly did this? And what are you, the institution that facilitates this behavior?After Diana died, so much was written about the changing royal family; that it would be the wake-up call to embrace at least the vestiges of 20th and now 21st century thinking. “Progressive” was the word. Harry and Meghan’s interview showed just how bogus that PR window dressing was. This is an institution, if Harry and Meghan are telling the truth, that is incapable of change, and more than that—actively resistant to it, and vicious to those who represent change, or who herald it. The royal family is not geared to welcoming such figures or forces. According to Harry and Meghan, the institutional instinct rather is to destroy. Prince Harry made brutally clear how deficient his father Prince Charles had been, and said—just as he felt “trapped,” so did his father and brother. The only winner in his recitation of awfulness was the queen, who Harry praised to the hilt.If we believe the couple, their departure from the royal family was quite literally a life or death situation. Harry left the royal family to save his wife’s life, and his son’s future. And to save himself. In her one misconceived idea, Oprah edged into the finale-of-Pretty-Woman territory, when she set up the dynamic of the couple saving each other, and it would have been easy for Meghan and Harry to go along with that, summoning up the image of Richard Gere and Julia Roberts on that apartment ladder joyfully clinging on to each other, allegedly equal saviors (but really, c’mon!).But Meghan could not go there. She said one of her regrets was “believing them when they said I would be protected,” meaning the royal family. They had done the opposite; they had left her not only exposed, she made clear, but life-endangeringly desperate. She told them this, and they did nothing. (Buckingham Palace, of course, may respond to this litany of charges, and claim things unfolded very differently—we shall see.) Harry and Meghan cautiously accepted the Pretty Woman dynamic Oprah offered, but their grim smiles suggested this was less a triumphant romantic ending, and more a case of lives saved by the grittiest of margins.Let’s say Pretty Woman had ended with Richard Gere weeping with fear on the ladder because of his fear of heights, and Julia Roberts coming to help him with the aid of the emergency services—that was more the tone of the end of the Oprah interview. When Meghan said it was “greater than any fairytale you ever read,” it sounded like she meant that this story could have ended very differently; that happiness had only just been snatched from the jaws of unhappiness and desperation.There seem to be a number of vying forces, which will govern the future of royal relationships after this shattering interview. The royal family were right to be nervous. This morning they will likely be pondering how on earth to respond to it.Judging by the sheer scale of anti-Harry and Meghan briefing hours before the broadcast, a war—and one without end—seemed very much on. We learned, variously, in the British Sunday papers that Meghan had exploded over a blanket shaded the wrong kind of red; that Harry was nicknamed “The Hostage” before his wedding, and that he had shouted “What Meghan wants, Meghan gets” in a row over a tiara.The other forces, probably mindful of how this rift might look publicly, were telling certain reporters that reconciliation between the warring Harry and William might be on the cards. The Sunday Telegraph said William and Kate were hopeful for a reconciliation whatever was said in the Oprah interview, and the Telegraph said that Harry was “determined to stand shoulder to shoulder” with William at the unveiling of a statue of their mother Princess Diana, scheduled for July 1 at Kensington Palace on what would have been her 60th birthday.Harry “desperately hopes” to attend the event and considers it “a priority,” the Telegraph said. That sense of old-school royal duty and loyalty mirrors the undertones of Queen Elizabeth’s message to the Commonwealth, broadcast earlier on Sunday by the BBC. The queen spoke of “friendship and a spirit of unity” in her address, praising examples of “courage, commitment, and selfless dedication to duty” in Commonwealth nations and territories, notably by those working on the front line, whether in health care or other public services. “The testing times experienced by so many have led to a deeper appreciation of the mutual support and spiritual sustenance we enjoy by being connected to others,” the queen said in the gentle program—also starring Prince Charles, Kate, William, Camilla, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex—which was in marked dramatic contrast to the Harry and Meghan interview. Post-pandemic, the queen said she looked forward to “a common future that is sustainable and more secure.”Harry and Meghan said they wanted to “move on” after the broadcast of the interview, considering it their opportunity to have their say, and now “consider the matter closed,” sources told the Telegraph. “It was something they felt they wanted and needed to do but now they have done it, they feel a line has been drawn under that chapter of their lives and they want to move on,” a friend told the paper.After the Oprah interview, however, all of this seems entirely unlikely—unless the royal family finally opens its minds and hearts to the multi-layered dysfunctionality it so willingly fosters and tolerates. The number and nature of revelations requiring detailed and considered response by the palace are simply too many. The fact that Meghan came so close to taking her own life; the fact the color of Archie’s skin was a matter of “concern” are matters that are un-spinnable (unless the palace challenges their veracity)—as is Harry’s damning summation of his relationship with Prince Charles. The Oprah interview is a depth charge. It can only be a roadmap to restored relations if the royal family rouses itself from its air of lost-in-time prejudices and snobbery, and answers the questions Meghan and Harry have laid at its door. As for Harry and Meghan, they didn’t seem too bothered about making friends, or making nice. Telling their truth seemed far more important, and this they did—devastatingly.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- Business Insider
Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, says he will fight for Republicans to get a say in Biden's infrastructure bill and block it if they don't
Manchin, who has become a pivotal figure in the finely balanced Senate, wants to see Democrats seek bipartisan backing for bills.
Technology-related shares sold off on Monday in a big downturn that pushed the Nasdaq into a correction and offset stocks that rose on hopes the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill will spur the U.S. economic recovery. The Dow hit a record intra-day high but the big tech stocks that have led Wall Street to scale successive peaks over the past year fell, with the Nasdaq closing down 2.41%. The Nasdaq is now down 10.6% from its Feb. 12 record close, or more than a 10% slide the market considers a correction.
- FOX News Videos
Administration officials visited migrant facilities, Fox News' Peter Doocy on 'Special Report'
- Associated Press
Dubai’s airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, can already feel surreal, with its cavernous duty-free stores, artificial palm trees, gleaming terminals, water cascades and near-Arctic levels of air conditioning. It’s the latest artificial intelligence program the United Arab Emirates has launched amid the surging coronavirus pandemic, contact-less technology the government promotes as helping to stem the spread of the virus. Dubai's airport started offering the program to all passengers last month.
Meghan Markle told Oprah Winfrey she had suicidal thoughts in recent years, while Prince Harry said Charles once stopped returning his phone calls.
- The New York Times
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has nominated two female generals to elite, four-star commands, the Defense Department announced, months after their Pentagon bosses had agreed on their promotions but held them back out of fears that former President Donald Trump would reject the officers because they were women. The nominations of Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost of the Air Force to head the Transportation Command, which oversees the military’s sprawling global transportation network, and of Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson of the Army to head the Southern Command, which oversees military activities in Latin America, now advance to the Senate, where they are expected to be approved. The unusual strategy to delay the officers’ promotions — intended to protect their accomplished careers — was devised last fall by Mark Esper, the defense secretary at the time, and Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times They both thought the two generals were exceptional officers deserving of the commands. But under Trump, they worried that any candidates other than white men for jobs mostly held by white men might run into resistance once their nominations reached the White House. Esper and Milley feared that if they even broached the women’s names, Trump and some of his top aides would replace them with their own candidates before leaving office. So the Pentagon officials delayed their recommendations until after the election in November, betting that if Biden won, then he and his aides would be more supportive of the picks than Trump, who had feuded with Esper and Milley and had a history of disparaging women. They stuck to the plan even after Trump fired Esper six days after the election. “They were chosen because they were the best officers for the jobs, and I didn’t want their promotions derailed because someone in the Trump White House saw that I recommended them or thought DOD was playing politics,” Esper, referring to the Department of Defense, said in an interview with The New York Times, which first reported the strategy last month. “This was not the case,” Esper added. “They were the best qualified. We were doing the right thing.” The strategy paid off Saturday, when the Pentagon announced in separate afternoon statements and in Twitter messages from its press secretary, John Kirby, that Biden had endorsed the generals’ promotions and that the White House was formally submitting them to the Senate for approval. The disclosure last month that the Pentagon senior leadership had held back the nominations to protect the careers of the two officers from Trump prompted a lively debate in military journals and on social media. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who left the military last summer after his own entanglement with the White House, argued in the national security blog Lawfare that Esper and Milley should have fought it out with Trump. “Upholding good order and discipline within the military does not mean dodging difficult debates with the commander in chief,” Vindman wrote. But defenders of Esper and Milley’s strategy say that Vindman’s argument ignores the civil-military crisis between Trump and the senior Pentagon leaders in the fall. Trump, furious that they had stood up to him when he wanted to use active-duty troops to battle Black Lives Matter protesters, was openly disparaging of Esper to his aides and to the public. Trump was also countermanding the Pentagon at seemingly every turn, especially on social issues. When Milley and senior Army officials sought to set up a commission to look into renaming bases that were named after Confederate generals, Trump took to Twitter, vowing that “my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.” Lloyd J. Austin III, the new defense secretary, declined last month to comment on the lengths to which Esper and Milley went to ensure that Van Ovost and Richardson received their command assignments. “I would just say that I’ve seen the records of both of these women,” he said. “They are outstanding.” Promotions for the military’s top generals and admirals are decided months before they take over their new positions. So the delay in formally submitting the two officers’ promotions should not affect when they start their new jobs, most likely this summer, Pentagon and congressional officials said. Van Ovost is a four-star officer, leading the Air Force’s Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. Of the 43 four-star generals and admirals in the U.S. military, she is the only woman. Richardson is the three-star commander of the Army component of the Pentagon’s Northern Command, based in San Antonio, which is playing an important role in providing military assistance to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s coronavirus vaccination program. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
- The Telegraph
America has warned the Afghan president he may face a renewed Taliban spring onslaught without US troops, unless he considers urgent new proposals to try to jump start stalled negotiations. A full withdrawal of American troop is still being mulled, despite Afghan hopes Joe Biden's arrival in the White House would see him halt the pull out, according to a leaked letter from the new secretary of state. In what appeared to be a blunt attempt to pressure Ashraf Ghani, Antony Blinken wrote that without US troops he was concerned "the security situation will worsen and that the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains”. He called on Mr Ghani to show to show "urgent leadership" and he hoped the Afghan premier would "understand the urgency of my tone." The veiled threat came amid intense American frustration that the year-long Doha negotiation process has gone almost nowhere, while a deadline to withdraw US troops is quickly approaching. Mr Biden is currently reviewing whether to pull out all troops by May 1, as agreed in Donald Trump's withdrawal pact with the Taliban, or to extend the deployment to give peace talks more time to make progress. Washington believes the Taliban have not kept their end of the deal by failing to cut violence and remaining close to al-Qaeda. But it has also become frustrated at intransigence in Kabul. Michael Kugelman, deputy Asia director at the US-based Wilson Centre think tank, said: “In a sceptical reading of the letter, the US is reading Ghani the riot act: "Help us do these things now, because we may be leaving in just a few weeks." In a more optimistic analysis, America was saying "This won't be easy. You'll need to make sacrifices. But let's get it done before it's too late", he said. Afghanistan is braced for the start of the annual Taliban spring offensive as morale has plummeted in the Afghan forces. US troop numbers have already fallen from 14,000 a year ago to around 2,500 now, denying the beleaguered Afghan forces critical air strikes and surveillance drones. Troops have struggled to roll back Taliban offensives around Lashkar Gah and Kandahar in southern Afghanistan and roads between the major cities are increasingly hit by the Taliban. According to the letter, the US is pursuing high-level diplomatic efforts "to move matters more fundamentally and quickly toward a settlement and a permanent and comprehensive cease-fire". An international conference in Turkey will be held within weeks, assembling envoys from Iran, Pakistan, China and India to endorse an interim government featuring the Taliban. Any transitional administration would probably spell the end of Mr Ghani's rule and the dismissal of an internationally-recognised government. Mr Ghani's vice president, Amrullah Saleh, said on Monday that the country would "never accept a coerced and imposed peace" Roland Kobia, the EU envoy to Afghanistan, also appeared to question the US approach, saying Afghanistan had its own constitution, elections and agreements. “[Afghanistan] has the support of the vast majority of the international community and the world in UN security council, and Geneva has committed to protect its achievements republic.” Washington also resorted to threats last year to try to get Mr Ghani and his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, to end their feud over a contested presidential election result. Mike Pompeo at the time cut $1bn of aid to Kabul after the two men held rival inaugurations. The Telegraph View: Afghanistan will be Biden's first big foreign policy test
- Associated Press
Chloe Zhao's success — she's the first Asian woman and the second woman ever to win a Golden Globe for best director for her film “Nomadland” — has not been met with universal applause in her country of birth. Censors have removed some social media posts about the film, which has raised questions about whether it will still be released in China. Over the past week, Chinese web users questioned whether Zhao, who was educated in the U.K. and the U.S., was still a Chinese citizen and if she could be counted as Chinese given a critical comment she made about the country in 2013.