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From today, January 24, 2020
- Exclusive: The inside story of how the U.S. gave up a chance to kill Soleimani in 2007
In the first years of the occupation, Qassem Soleimani had moved back and forth between Iran and Iraq ?constantly,? but had always taken the precautions to be expected from a seasoned intelligence officer, said John Maguire, a former senior CIA official stationed in Baghdad in the mid-2000s. Soleimani disguised his rank and identity, used only ground transportation and avoided speaking on the phone or the radio, preferring to give orders to proxies and subordinates in Iraq in person.
- Steyer: U.S. reparations for slavery will help 'repair the damage'
- Arizona mother admits killing her 3 children, police say
- A University of Minnesota student was arrested in China and sentenced to 6 months in prison for tweeting cartoons making fun of President Xi Jingping
- Ghislaine Maxwell: Hackers 'breached' computer belonging to Jeffrey Epstein associate, attorney says
Lawyers for the woman accused of procuring underage girls to have sex with Jeffrey Epstein told a judge that hackers ?breached? her computer after a court failed to redact her email address in filings it released last year.Ghislaine Maxwell?s lawyer Ty Gee said in a December letter to Judge Loretta A Preska that, ?despite the Second Circuit?s best efforts, it made serious mistakes? when redacting thousands of pages of records associated with a defamation lawsuit filed by one of Epstein?s accusers, Virginia Giuffre.
- Nigeria Surprised by News of Possible U.S. Travel Restrictions
(Bloomberg) -- Nigeria?s government was surprised by the news that the U.S. is considering travel restrictions on its citizens and the ban would mean officials will have to find new ways to meet with investors, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said.Nigeria is one of seven countries, more than half of which are in Africa, included in a list that may be affected if the Homeland Security Department?s recommendation to expand restrictions is approved, according to a person familiar with the matter. President Donald Trump is reviewing it. The other African states targeted because of security concerns are Eritrea, Sudan and Tanzania.?It will mean restrictions in being able to meet with investors in the U.S. and to be able to meet with Bretton Woods institutions that are in the U.S.,? Ahmed said Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg TV at the World Economic Forum in Davos. ?It means we will have to make meeting arrangements alternative to the U.S. because there are options that are open to us,? such as the U.K., she said.Nigeria, which vies with South Africa to be the continent?s biggest economy, is struggling to boost economic growth after a 2016 contraction. The International Monetary Fund projects gross domestic product will expand 2.5% this year. The possible travel restrictions won?t hurt growth, Ahmed said.?We have some very active investors in the Nigerian bond market that are in the U.S. and also some that have taken up our Eurobonds,? Ahmed said. ?We connect with them directly and through our advisers such as Standard Chartered and Citibank, who have offices in the U.S.?While Nigeria is Africa?s largest oil producer, it imports fuel and relies on foreign investment inflows to help prop up the naira.Zainab said she?s met with investors in London to discuss the possibility of issuing naira-denominated bonds on the London Stock Exchange.?We are very positive that we will be able to refinance our debt obligations as well as acquire new financing to fund our major infrastructure projects,? she said.Tanzania?s government hasn?t received confirmation that the country is being considered for a travel ban.?We are also reading these reports from the media,? Emmanuel Buhohela, director of communications at the foreign-affairs ministry, said by phone. ?So for now we are still waiting for official communication before we can react.?\--With assistance from Ken Karuri.To contact the reporters on this story: Haslinda Amin in Singapore at email@example.com;Ruth Olurounbi in Abuja at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Osae-Brown at email@example.com, Rene Vollgraaff, Gordon BellFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
- Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows two-thirds of voters want the Senate to call new impeachment witnesses
- Did asteroid that hit Australia help thaw ancient 'snowball Earth'?
Scientists have identified Earth's oldest-known impact crater, and in doing so may have solved a mystery about how our planet emerged from one of its most dire periods. Researchers have determined that the 45-mile-wide (70-km-wide) Yarrabubba crater in Australia formed when an asteroid struck Earth just over 2.2 billion years ago. "Looking at our planet from space, it would have looked very different," said isotope geology professor Chris Kirkland of Curtin University in Australia, one of the researchers in the study published in the journal Nature Communications.
- REI?s January Sale Offers 50% off Cold-Weather Outdoor Gear
- Are North Korea's Vaunted Submarines Actually Any Good?
- The brazen (and careless) Russian assassination team behind the Salisbury poisonings has been spotted in Europe, again
- Militant sentenced to 19 years for role in Benghazi attacks
A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a Libyan militant to more than 19 years in prison for his role in the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador. A jury convicted Mustafa al-Imam last year of conspiring to support the extremist militia that launched the fiery assaults on the U.S. compounds but deadlocked on 15 other counts. Al-Imam was sentenced to a total of 236 months behind bars.
- Family attorneys say cruise line's story of toddler's death is 'physically impossible'
- Additional U.S. troops have been flown out of Iraq following Iranian missile attack
- The American Airlines flight attendant union is calling on US airlines to step up precautions for the deadly Wuhan coronavirus
- NYT Ed Board Member Wrote Out ?Full Draft? of Biden Endorsement, but Scrapped It over His ?Normal? Message and Lack of ?Urgency?
Kathleen Kingsbury, a deputy editorial page editor and member of The New York Times?s editorial board, revealed Thursday that she wrote a full 2,000-word endorsement of Joe Biden, only for the board to reject it because ?it didn?t match the moment.?The Times broke new ground this cycle by conducting on-the-record interviews with nine of the top candidates and airing the interviews, which have historically been off-the-record, on their documentary show The Weekly on FX.Kingsbury explained to Times columnists on the The Argument podcast how the Times editorial board arrived at its first-ever dual endorsement of Senators Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), saying that ?policy prescriptions? and the ?messages? drove much of the thought-process. She also dismissed concerns about electability, calling the effort to predict which candidate would be most successful in the general election a ?fool?s errand.??What we realized is that the party needs to have that conversation amongst itself. It?s really not the role of the editorial board to determine the future of the Democratic Party,? Kingsbury said.But she revealed that, following heightened tensions with Iran after President Trump?s decision to kill Qasem Soleimani, she went ahead and drafted an endorsement of Biden, citing his opposition to the war in Afghanistan.?Right after we had the outbreak of conflict with Iran, I sat down and I wrote an entire endorsement of Joe Biden,? Klingsbury said. ?I think that came from a desire on my part for the comfort of having someone who during his interviews, spoke so fluently about foreign policy, who?s been in the room in some of those more difficult decision-making [moments].?In August, Biden fabricated an Afghanistan-war story about how he resisted safety concerns to travel to ?godforsaken country? and honor a war hero.?We can lose a vice president,? he recounted at a campaign event. ?We can?t lose many more of these kids. Not a joke.?Klingsbury then explained why the Times ultimately did not pursue Biden?s endorsement, implying that Biden?s campaign hasn't meaningfully grappled with the conditions that gave rise to Trump's election.?Joe Biden?s message simply is ?let?s go back to normal, whatever normal is, right?? For a lot of Americans, ?normal? wasn?t working and I think that there needs to be some recognition that at least for some portion of the American public, the government and the economic systems were failing them,? she said.In an emailed statement to National Review, Kingsbury said she did not ?have much to say beyond what I said on The Argument.? She declined to comment on whether the board wrote any other endorsement drafts, or when it decided to scrap Biden?s.?Once I had a draft in hand, I realized I should return to the wisdom of my board,? she explained ". . . [Biden?s] message and his proposed plans don?t feel like they match the urgency of the moment.?
- Man in Mexico Now Ill After Visiting Coronavirus Ground Zero
(Bloomberg) -- A man who fell ill in Mexico on Monday following a December trip to Wuhan, China, is under observation as a potential case of the coronavirus, the respiratory virus that has killed at least 17 people worldwide.The 57-year-old molecular biology professor works for the Instituto Politecnico Nacional university in the city of Reynosa, which borders with the U.S. The man returned to Mexico on Jan. 10 through a Mexico City airport and then flew to the state of Tamaulipas, Mexican authorities said.Tamaulipas State Health Minister Gloria Molina said in a radio interview that the man immediately reported his situation to authorities after feeling sick. He is now in his home under monitoring to prevent any potential spread. His test results are expected on Thursday, Mexico?s chief epidemiologist Jose Luis Alomia said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon.Molina said the man also had layovers at the border city of Tijuana when he left and returned to Mexico, according to journalist Joaquin Lopez Doriga?s news site.Link: China Seeks to Contain Virus as Death Toll Jumps to 17Earlier on Wednesday, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that a second possible case in Mexico had been ruled out. ?The coronavirus is being looked into. If we have more information we will release it later today,? he said.Mexico plans to inform daily on the latests developments of the virus around the world. A preventive travel recommendation is in place for the country and passengers arriving from international ports will be checked for any symptoms, Alomia said.Separately, Colombian authorities are also evaluating whether a Chinese man with a respiratory illness, who traveled to Colombia from Turkey, has the same virus, according to Blu, a Bogota-based radio station. The country?s health ministry declined to comment.The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said he needs to consider all evidence before deciding if the coronavirus that emerged from Wuhan is an international health emergency.(Adds Alomia comments in paragraphs 3 and 6, and WHO comments in last paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Cyntia Barrera Diaz in Mexico City at firstname.lastname@example.org;Lorena Rios in Mexico City at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ney Hayashi at firstname.lastname@example.org, Dale QuinnFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
- Justice Department says it should not have continued spying on former Trump adviser
The U.S. Justice Department has told a court it did not have enough evidence to justify continued surveillance of one of President Donald Trump's former campaign advisers in 2017, in a sign it believes the FBI on occasion went too far when it investigated Russian influence in the 2016 election. The department's assessment, made public on Thursday, came after an in-depth review by the Justice Department's internal watchdog found the FBI manipulated evidence and otherwise overstepped its bounds as it explored possible links between the Trump campaign and Moscow in 2016. The watchdog's review, made public in December, found that FBI agents acted legally when they asked in 2016 for court approval to begin surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
- See This Nuke? Meet the Most Destructive Nuclear Bomb Ever Made By Man
- Virologist who helped identify SARS on coronavirus outbreak: 'This time I'm scared'
Experts are seeing shocking similarities between the coronavirus that has now spread beyond China and the SARS outbreak of 2003.Like the infectious pneumonia that has killed at least 17 people, SARS was caused by a coronavirus that originated in China. But when one of the virologists who helped identify the SARS virus visited Wuhan, where this virus originated, he didn't see nearly enough being done to fight it. People were out at markets without masks, "preparing to ring in the New Year in peace and had no sense about the epidemic," Guan Yi of the University of Hong Kong's State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases told Caixin. Airports were hardly being disinfected, Guan continued, saying the local government hasn't "even been handing out quarantine guides to people who were leaving the city."The city did disinfect the market where the virus has been traced to, but Guan criticized Wuhan for that, saying it hurts researchers' abilities to track down the virus's source. "I've never felt scared," Guan told Caixin. "This time I'm scared."A case involving the coronavirus was identified in Washington state on Wednesday, and cases have also been identified in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. A total of 639 cases were confirmed in China.More stories from theweek.com Democrats walked right into Mitch McConnell's trap GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn questions patriotism of Purple Heart recipient Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman Adam Schiff delivers message to senators: 'If the truth doesn't matter, we're lost'
- Mother says she sang to her three children as she smothered them
A young mother in Arizona has reportedly told police that she killed her three children before placing them in the living room as if they were sleeping.Other family members were in the home at the time.
- Smugglers tried to bring 3,700 invasive crabs through the Port of Cincinnati
- Firefighting plane crashes in Australia, killing 3 Americans
Three American firefighting airplane crew members were killed Thursday when the C-130 Hercules aerial water tanker they were in crashed while battling wildfires in southeastern Australia, officials said. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed the deaths in the state's Snowy Monaro region, which came as Australia grapples with an unprecedented fire season that has left a large swath of destruction. Canada-based Coulson Aviation said in a statement that one of its Lockheed large air tankers was lost after it left Richmond in New South Wales with retardant for a firebombing mission.
- Residents left in Wuhan ? which China quarantined to stop the coronavirus ? are desperately stockpiling food and fuel, leaving empty shelves and prices skyrocketing
- Why Pay Off Your Student Loans if the Government Will Do It for You?
America's mountain of student-loan debt keeps growing ever higher. But the factors driving the increase have changed, as detailed in a fascinating new report from Moody's.It used to be that we could blame colleges for failing to control their costs. But for the past decade or so, college costs have actually grown in line with the median household income, and the ?origination? of new student loans has slowed down a little. The reason we haven't seen a similar slowdown in overall student debt is that borrowers are making less progress on their loans. And a lot of the time they're doing it on purpose ? because they participate in programs that were dramatically expanded during the Obama years, and that forgive debt entirely so long as the borrower first makes small payments for a set period of time.Among students who graduated between 2006 and 2008, 60 percent made at least some progress on reducing their loan balances during their first five years post-graduation, despite the recession precipitated by the 2008 financial crisis. Students who left school between 2010 and 2012 faced a better job market as the economy slowly began to recover, but only 51 percent of them reduced their balances. In the aggregate, borrowers today are repaying only 3 percent of their loans each year, despite the ?baseline? student loan being one that is paid back in ten years.When someone doesn't manage to reduce his loan balance, there can be several reasons. One is that he?s not earning enough money to make significant payments. This is especially likely when a student either failed to graduate or attended a program that doesn't lead to real job opportunities ? both of which are especially likely at for-profit and two-year schools, enrollment in which was high in the aftermath of the recession. (It has fallen off since). Some borrowers also opt for longer repayment terms, meaning they pay off their loans more slowly than they otherwise would.But the report also points to another factor that would seem to have a lot of explanatory power, especially when it comes to those with the highest debts: the still-growing popularity of ?income-based repayment? (IBR) and similar programs, which were overhauled and dramatically expanded during the Obama years. Under these programs, students can make small payments for a decade or two, often not even covering the interest on their loans, and have the entire debt forgiven at the end.This is not necessarily a bad idea in principle, but ? as Jason Delisle has noted previously in this space ? the programs were structured in a way that encouraged their abuse by people with incredibly high debt levels, especially from graduate studies rather than two- or four-year degrees. As Delisle wrote,> Under current law, anyone who takes out a federal student loan today can enroll in IBR and have his payments fixed at 10 percent of his income, less an exemption of $18,700 (which increases with household size). . . . Then, after 20 years of payments (or only ten years for those working in any government or non-profit job), all of the remaining balance is forgiven, no matter how high it is.He further points out, that, using the Department of Education's own debt calculator, someone with $80,000 in debt and an income of $60,000 could receive $62,000 in debt forgiveness if he works for the government. Someone with $150,000 in debt and a $75,000 salary could pay for 20 years and still receive $82,000, more than half the initial balance. Meanwhile, as noted in the Moody's report, the median amount borrowed is just about $17?18,000.Income-based repayment is a giveaway to people who choose to spend abnormally large sums on higher education, often earning graduate degrees, but go on to make unremarkable middle-to-upper-middle-class salaries. It's far less generous to someone with a modest debt, even if that person also earns a modest income. It's simply not possible to wring $62,000 or $82,000 in debt forgiveness out of the system if you're a normal borrower and didn't take out anywhere near that much in loans to begin with.The Moody's report further demonstrates that income-based programs are, indeed, highly attractive to people with big debts: ?Only 5% of the total balances of borrowers who owe less than $5,000 are covered by [income-driven repayment programs]. Meanwhile, 53% of the balances of borrowers who owe more than $200,000 are in IDR programs.? And unsurprisingly, heavy borrowers have a disproportionate impact on student loans in general: Folks who borrow $20,000 or less represent 55 percent of borrowers but only 14 percent of the overall debt.All of this needs to be kept in mind as we ponder proposals to shovel even more money at people who carry student debt. College really does cost too much, but the costs seem to have finally stabilized. And those with incredibly high debt already have options for getting rid of it ? overly generous options that many of them are enthusiastically taking advantage of, at taxpayer expense.The concept of income-based repayment is not a bad one. Indeed, I think it would be an enormous improvement for more colleges to base the amounts they get repaid on the amounts students earn after graduating. But there's no justification for structuring such a program as a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to people with graduate degrees.
- Coronavirus Patient Had Close Contact With 16 in Washington State
SEATTLE?Washington state officials said they have determined the man with the first known case of Wuhan coronavirus in the United States had close contact with at least 16 people since returning from China.But authorities said there was no reason to panic?even as Seattle residents rushed to buy face masks at drug stores and fretted about whether the bug that has killed 17 people overseas would spread across the United States.?I would expect that at some point we?re going to have more cases in the U.S.,? state Health Secretary John Wiesman said, stressing that public health officials are well-equipped and trained to handle and contain outbreaks.The initial patient, a man in his 30s, returned from a trip to China on Jan. 15 but did not fall ill until several days later. He had seen news of the outbreak that has infected hundreds in China and went to a Snohomish County clinic on Jan. 19, and told doctors about his travel history. Samples sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came back positive for the virus on Monday, prompting the patient?s hospitalization in an isolation unit at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. Officials confirmed the case the following morning, followed by the afternoon press conference.China?s Deadly Coronavirus Cover-Up Is Getting Worse as First Case Hits U.S.Wiesman said the man, who lives alone, is doing well. He?s being observed in a bio-containment room under precautions that include security guards and a robot with a stethoscope to limit physical contact with hospital staff, KOMO-TV reported.Wiesman said that after confirming the virus, health investigators immediately began tracing the patient?s steps to identify who had close contact with him. He said they had identified and were in the process of notifying and monitoring 16 people?but cautioned that number could rise. Officials are not recommending isolation for those people unless they develop symptoms, at which point they would be infectious, he said.Despite the messages of reassurance, Seattle residents were snapping up available anti-viral face masks. In the city?s Capitol Hill neighborhood, a manager for Bartell Drugs said the store?s stock had been essentially cleaned out by noon on Tuesday. A few blocks away at Rite Aid, a single box of face masks remained, and at a nearby Walgreens, a last-minute shopper bought one of two remaining 20-packs. Boya, 31, a mental health therapist from Seattle, said the Walgreens face masks weren?t her first choice but would have to do given her ?complex? situation. She requested that her last name not be used because both she and her partner would be traveling to China soon, and she worried that the Chinese government hadn?t been entirely truthful about the outbreak?s extent.Boya?s partner was due to fly to Hong Kong and then Chengdu, China, on Thursday, she said, and had enlisted her help after being unable to find any face masks at other stores. In February, Boya said, she herself would fly to Shanghai.Some hospitals also appeared to be taking extra precautions. At the entrance to the Emergency & Trauma Center at Harborview Medical Center near downtown, staff had posted red signs on the sliding glass door and by the metal detector that read, ?Ask for a mask if you have a fever, rash, cough, runny nose, red eyes, or feel ill.? The air smelled of alcohol as a gloved security guard wiped down round security trays with Purell.China?s Deadly Coronavirus Cover-Up Is Getting Worse as First Case Hits U.S.A few blocks away, the Swedish First Hill Emergency Room waiting area was quiet and mostly empty, and only one young man wore a face mask. A retired public health worker who was waiting for her granddaughter but declined to give her name said she felt fortunate to be living in the county because of its public health capabilities. Even so, she said, messages about the coronavirus would have to overcome language and cultural barriers to be effective.At Walgreens, Boya agreed that the newly confirmed case didn?t pose an immediate threat to her. ?Here, I feel safe,? she said. But her grandparents and some other relatives still live in Wuhan, the outbreak?s epicenter. She also worried about her partner?s safety and her own during their upcoming trips. ?I?m calm but still have concern here,? she said, pointing at her chest.Janet Baseman, a professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health at the University of Washington, said she was impressed by the rapid response of health officials. ?This is the way that the public health surveillance system is supposed to work,? she said. ?So I?m very pleased.?The virus, officially called 2019-nCoV, was first identified in December in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in central China. Officials originally linked the outbreak to a large seafood and animal market. Since then, they have confirmed human-to-human transmission as well, though it?s not yet clear how easily the virus can spread. By Wednesday, more than 400 cases and 17 deaths had been reported in at least five countries, and screenings in the U.S. had expanded to include airports in Chicago and Atlanta.For the general public, Baseman said, ?unless they are traveling to affected areas in China, they are at very, very low risk.? Evidence from other coronaviruses like SARS, she said, suggests that person-to-person transmission occurs primarily when an infected individual coughs, sneezes, or otherwise comes into close contact with someone else. In this case, she noted, the Washington state patient didn?t report any symptoms until several days after his arrival in the U.S. For other people in the vicinity, she said, ?That makes transmission very, very, very unlikely. Usually people do not transmit viruses like this to other people until they have symptoms themselves.?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.
- Let them speak: Most Americans want witnesses in Trump impeachment trial - Reuters/Ipsos poll
The poll, which ran from Jan. 17-22, also showed that U.S. public opinion has moved little since the U.S. House of Representatives impeached Trump in mid-December. About 44% of adults in the United States say Trump should be removed from office, another 15% say he should be reprimanded formally with a congressional censure, and 31% said the charges should be dismissed. Trump so far has blocked the Democrats' requests for documents related to the administration's activities in Ukraine last year.
- Presidential candidate Tom Steyer: ?I?m for reparations?
On Yahoo News? ?Hot Mic with Brittany Shepherd,? Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer spoke about race and reparations, saying that if he were elected to office, ?I would start a commission on race on day one.?
- Yes, South Korea's Army Is Better Than North Korea's (But There's a Problem)
- Ex-Maryland police officer has been charged with raping and attempting to transmit HIV to a woman he pulled over
- Family of Kristin Smart, who went missing in 1996, now says there's no news coming soon
- Fifth condemned Tennessee inmate opts for the electric chair
A Tennessee inmate has chosen the electric chair for his scheduled execution next month, opting like four other inmates in little more than a year for electrocution over the state's preferred execution method of lethal injection. Nicholas Sutton, 58, is scheduled to be put to death Feb. 20 for the stabbing death of a fellow inmate decades ago while serving a life sentence for his grandmother's slaying. An affidavit signed on Tuesday said he waives the right to be executed by lethal injection and chooses electrocution.
- These 9 Dining Chairs Are Sculptural, Surprising, and Downright Sleek
- 'End of the world': Wuhan a ghost town under quarantine
Wuhan residents called for help and shared worries of food shortages Thursday, with streets in the virus-hit central Chinese city left deserted after it was put on lockdown. After he bought some, the person behind him in the queue bought the remaining stock in the shop.
- Health experts issued an ominous warning about a coronavirus pandemic 3 months ago. Their simulation showed it could kill 65 million people.
- U.S. Secretary of State cautions nations against taking 'easy money' from China
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a visit to Jamaica on Wednesday, cautioned nations against taking "easy money" from China, warning it could be counterproductive, in a second attack in as many days against China's economic role in the region. On Tuesday, he drew the ire of Chinese officials when he said "flashy" Chinese economic promises often produces debt dependency and erode the sovereignty of borrower nations.
- Alarmists Were Wrong about the Soleimani Strike
Two weeks ago, the United States seemed on the brink of starting another war in the Middle East after a drone strike killed Iran?s most notorious spymaster, Qasem Soleimani, as he departed an international airport in Baghdad. The shadowy general, in charge of the Iranian equivalent of the CIA, was one of the most effective operatives in the Middle East?s history. He built a sprawling army of proxy militias throughout the region and helped expand Tehran?s dominance in nearby countries.But the dust has now settled, and none of the doomsday scenarios that so many in the media warned about has come to pass. It is true that Iran launched a missile attack into U.S. bases in Iraq, but the attack was merely symbolic. As Iraqi officials revealed the following day, Iran had informed them of an imminent attack on U.S. bases, a message that the Iraqis promptly and predictably passed on to the Americans. No fatalities were recorded, but the Iranian regime still told its followers that dozens if not hundreds of Americans were killed as a result of the retaliation.Indeed, none of the doomsday scenarios were plausible to begin with. Iran has a narrow menu of options in terms of escalation against the U.S. It is not interested in a direct war with the U.S., nor are any of its proxies or allies in the region. The regime faces increasingly crippling sanctions imposed by Washington, and domestic unrest is building up with occasional street protests. Also, its allies in Iraq and Lebanon have been under unprecedented pressure from grassroots protests, persistent since October. In Syria, the currency is collapsing on historic levels as more than one third of the country remains outside the control of the Iranian-backed government. Iran is embroiled in domestic and regional crises, and many of the gains it made in recent years are still tenuous.In the panic that followed the news of Soleimani?s killing, that essential context was overlooked. Pundits and former officials warned of a showdown, between Iran and the U.S., that Tehran would not want. When the confrontation did not pan out, critics still maintained that this was mere luck. One journalist suggested that the war was averted because the mullahs in Iran exercised ?more restraint? than the U.S. did.In reality, the alarmism was never warranted. The circumstances around Soleimani?s killing exposed not just Iran?s many vulnerabilities and limited options for escalation against the U.S. but also serious myths that shape much of the American perception of the Iranian regime. Specifically, the idea that Iran can inflict damage on the U.S. is an outdated view about the situation in the region.In 2020, unlike the early years after the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. has little footprint in conflict zones such Iraq and Syria. Iran, on the other hand, has invested heavily in keeping its allies in power, almost all of them now under domestic pressure. In other words, in a reverse of the Iraq War dynamics, the U.S. can mess with Iran in many more ways than Iran can retaliate. That is a new reality to which pundits and policymakers in the U.S. still need to catch up. The policy shift toward Iran under the Trump administration ? to increase military, political, and economic pressure to weaken its regional hegemony ? is exposing such vulnerabilities and demonstrating that the U.S. can deter Iran with minimal costs.The apocalyptic commentary we witnessed this month has become the default response to provocations from Iran or its allies. Consider, for example, the reactions when President Obama announced he would launch punitive strikes against the Iranian-backed Syrian regime after its use of chemical weapons in 2013. The case in favor of strikes could not have been more compelling: Damascus violated an explicit red line that Obama declared against an internationally forbidden weapon ? ?a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.?Similar scenarios of a ?Third World War? were presented. Some even pointed to Syria?s (nonexistent) formidable air defenses. Obama eventually backed down and struck what can be described only as a face-saving agreement with Russia, the regime?s international patron, to end Syria?s use of chemical weapons and dismantle its arsenal. Despite the agreement, such attacks persisted.It was President Trump who launched punitive strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad four years later Again, none of the scenarios that many had warned about developed. The Syrians stood by as 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles, launched from the Mediterranean Sea, landed on military bases. Unlike 2013, this time Russia was present on the ground inside Syria, after its military intervention in 2015, so the stakes were even higher for the U.S. in 2017.The point is that the usual pushback against any assertive U.S. policy toward Iran has little basis in reality. It is based largely on exaggeration and fear-mongering that emboldens the regime in Iran and provides it with the space to operate throughout the region with impunity. How else would one explain that Soleimani, who was accused of having American blood on his hands, was making public appearances not far from American forces during the fight against the Islamic State? He organized the Benghazi-style storming of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Just days before he was killed, he had ordered a proxy attack, on a military base housing U.S. forces, that killed an American civilian contractor. Yet he still traveled to Iraq, probably suspecting that the U.S. would not dare to target him.Indeed, nobody had expected the U.S. would carry out such a high-level attack. Under both the Obama and the Trump administrations, the U.S. seemed to have given Iran a free hand in the region ? not responding to its provocations as long as Iran acted with plausible deniability. The basis of the U.S. policy became that Iran, not the U.S., had the upper hand. Just in the six months before Soleimani?s killing, Iran was accused of being behind tanker attacks in the Persian Gulf, the downing of a U.S. drone over international waters, and the targeting of Saudi oil facilities, besides the killing of the U.S. contractor and the storming of the U.S. embassy.Iran, then, had reason to feel that it could get comfortable around the U.S. Tehran suspected that the only tools the U.S. had were economic sanctions, which it could endure or circumvent through its proxy and state networks in the region. The new policy, under the current administration, started to deploy other tools, including the frequent targeting of Iranian proxies in places such as Syria ? to prevent the building of similar networks as those it established in Iraq ? and an extensive and enforced sanctions regime.Those tools started to hurt the Iranian regime and its allies. The increased pressure caused Tehran to act erratically, and the uncharacteristically provocative attacks last year were in large part symptomatic of its anxiety. Then came the killing of Soleimani, which was arguably a strategic, not a tactical, decision by the Trump administration, to reestablish deterrence and disrupt the cycle of escalation and counter-escalation.Despite alarmism, the circumstances around the killing of Soleimani show that the current policy toward Iran is working as intended. The ?maximum pressure? approach is tightening the economic screws on Iran and organizing regional efforts to increase pressure on the regime. The intent is not just to force Tehran to ?return to the table? to negotiate its nuclear program, as it is often publicly stated, but to reduce Iran?s ability to dominate the areas around it. The pressure is working not because it was not tried before but because it follows numerous challenges ? primarily popular protests and the growing nationalist sentiments that are overshadowing the sectarian tensions that once helped the regime ? that the Iranian regime is facing at home and in the areas where it has built deep presence.The ?maximum pressure? is exacerbating these challenges for Iran. Also, Tehran?s attempts to mobilize Iraqis to end the U.S. presence in their country has so far failed, after Washington insisted that the presence now be more vital, to keep up the pressure against ISIS. Even Iran?s attempt to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its European allies backfired: After Tehran announced that it would no longer comply with the nuclear agreement?s limitations on uranium enrichment, the Europeans put Tehran on notice and threatened to reimpose sanctions.A major part of this effort is to convince the Iranian regime that the old policies that enabled it to fill the void, after the 2003 war in Iraq and the 2011 popular uprisings in the Middle East, are over. In this sense, the U.S. targeting of Soleimani could prove to be a game-changer for Iran?s role in the Middle East, not just because Tehran lost a shrewd operative but because the operation reminded it that it should not get too comfortable with its current behavior in the region. All the U.S. needs to do now is to press on with its policy, calmly and consistently, to limit Iran?s reach.
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(Bloomberg) -- Germany?s defense minister warned that Islamic State fighters could return in force in the Middle East if an international coalition is unable to continue its work against the militant organization.Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, speaking in an interview at the World Economic Forum on Thursday, said that Germany aims to keep its forces in Iraq, but can only do so at the behest of the government in Baghdad.?We need to keep in mind that in Iraq, IS is not yet defeated,? Kramp-Karrenbauer told Bloomberg Television in Davos, Switzerland. ?If the pressure is reduced, then the danger is great that it resumes its regime of terror.?The concerns by a key U.S. ally underscore how the mission has been shaken since the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, which prompted the Iraqis to demand the departure of 5,000 American troops from the country. The self-declared caliphate was largely subdued by early last year in Syria and Iraq, where it once controlled territory the size of Iceland.Germany, which has some 120 troops in Iraq as part of an anti-ISIS campaign, suspended its operations amid the crisis. Thirty-two German troops were transferred to Jordan and three to Kuwait.Kramp-Karrenbauer, who visited German troops in the region last week, said that the European nation had made progress in training Iraqi forces to fend off the militants.The German defense chief, who is also Chancellor Angela Merkel?s presumptive heir as leader of her Christian Democratic Union, said that her country is doing more to take on global responsibility in the face of public skepticism about troop presence in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Mali.?What we have to continue to explain in domestic politics is why these missions serve our own interests,? Kramp-Karrenbauer said.To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at email@example.com;Chad Thomas in Davos, Switzerland at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at email@example.com, Raymond ColittFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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Early in her weekly show Wednesday night, Samantha Bee played a clip of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) telling Fox News that he thinks not calling witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial is the ?right thing to do.? ?And if anyone?s an expert on witnesses not talking about the crimes they saw, it?s Jim Jordan,? the Full Frontal host said, putting up a headline about how the congressman allegedly knew about sexual abuse at Ohio State and said nothing. That was a preview of what was to come later in the opening segment when Bee took a closer look at President Trump?s defense team ?Continuing his tradition of appointing only the best, Trump?s defenders include Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz and Jim Jordan,? she said. ?It?s a virtual dream team of rape culture.? Trevor Noah Destroys Alan Dershowitz?s Impeachment HypocrisyBee ran through their troubling resumes, including Starr?s tenure as president of the Christian Baylor University. ?Just to be clear, when Jesus said to ?turn the other cheek,? he didn?t mean away from people getting assaulted,? she said. And there?s Dershowitz who once called statutory rape an ?outdated concept.? Bee added, ?In Dershowitz?s defense, it?s not like he was close friends with notorious pedophile and didn?t-kill-himself-er Jeffrey Epstein. Oh no, I?m sorry, he totally was.? ?It is infuriating that these three men are allowed to show their faces in polite society, much less defend the captain of the rape culture all-star team,? she said. ?Look, the impeachment case isn?t about sexual assault. But for women and survivors it is horrifying to see these men congeal together to protect each other.? The host ended the segment by predicting that when this is all over, Jordan, Starr and Deshowitz might just start their own rapist-defending law firm: ?The only law firm whose phone number is 911.? For more, listen to Samantha Bee on The Last Laugh podcast below: 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.
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Three alleged members of a white supremacist group were plotting to murder demonstrators at Monday's gun rights rally at the Virginia Capitol before they were arrested by the FBI last week, according to court documents.The men were caught discussing their plans on a hidden camera set up in their Delaware apartment by FBI agents.?We can?t let Virginia go to waste, we just can?t,? said Patrik J. Mathews, one member of the hate group "the Base" that promotes violence against African-Americans and Jews.According to authorities, the 27-year-old former Canadian Armed Forces reservist also discussed creating "instability" in Virginia by killing people, derailing trains, poisoning water, and shutting down highways in order to "kick off the economic collapse" and possibly start a "full blown civil war."Mathews also discussed the possibility of "executing" police officers and stealing their belongings and remarked that, ?We could essentially be like literally hunting people.??Virginia will be our day,? said 33-year-old Brian M. Lemley Jr., adding, ?I need to claim my first victim.??Lemley discussed using a thermal imaging scope affixed to his rifle to conduct ambush attacks,? the court filings read.The two were arrested along with a third man, 19, last Thursday. They are charged with federal firearms violations and ?transporting and harboring an alien,? referring to Mathews, who is a Canadian national. Four more members of The Base have also been arrested and charged in Georgia and Wisconsin.In a search of the apartment, prosecutors said that FBI agents found propaganda fliers for The Base, communications devices, empty rifle cases, "go bags" with "numerous Meals-Ready-to-Eat," knives, and materials for building an assault rifle.Tens of thousands of gun rights advocates rallied in Richmond on Monday to protest the state?s Democratic legislature's gun-control agenda. Critics raised fears beforehand that militant white supremacists could disrupt the rally, but the day ended peacefully with no violence.
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