Trump pressed on conspiracy retweets by Savannah Guthrie
Donald Trump defended spreading a preposterous conspiracy theory about the death of Osama bin Laden during a town hall on NBC Thursday night, saying he had merely been passing along a supporter’s view. “That was an opinion of somebody and that was a retweet. I’ll put it out there. People...
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Montrezl Harrell got a laughable technical foul for yelling 'and-1'
It wasn't a banner night for NBA officiating on Wednesday. While the Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert laid down petty, expletive-laden rants about how there's a grand conspiracy to keep small market teams down because they're not getting the calls they want, Montrezl Harrell and the Los Angeles Lakers had an actual, legitimate gripe with the refs in their 123-120 loss to the Sacramento Kings.Read Full StoryNbaBasketballSacramento KingsNBA DefenseThe Utah Jazz 'sThe Los Angeles LakersUtah JazzAnd-1NBA RefsLakers GamesReferee Jenna SchroederManExpletive-laden RantsHearingTechnicalsMontrezl HarrellDonovan MitchellRudy Gobert
The biggest challenge for vaccine workers in Pakistan? Staying alive.
In 2019, Wajid Ali Mohmand, a front-line health worker in his 30s, was doing his part in a nationwide campaign in Pakistan to eradicate polio, a disease that can permanently paralyze children if they are not vaccinated. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where the...Read Full StoryCiaAbbottabadHealth WorkersAfghanistanTalibanHealth OfficialsCIAGallupMisinformationSEAL Team SixThe GuardianUnited NationsFATAVaccine WorkersVaccine FearsOsama Bin LadenImran KhanBarack Obama
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Nigeria is trapped in a cycle of kidnappings and thousands are missing amid predatory practices
Some of the students who were abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe, Nigeria, on March 2, 2021, in Gusau, northern Nigeria. Sunday Alamba/AP Shortly after midnight last Friday, gunmen burst into the dormitory of a girls boarding school in Northwest Nigeria and rekindled a nightmare that, for most of the world, had lain dormant for almost seven years. In the Government Girls Secondary School of the small town of Jangebe, hundreds of students had been sleeping in bunk beds when they heard gunshots followed by voices ordering them to gather in the courtyard. Fifty-five ran and hid in a bathroom or behind furniture where panicked parents found them hours later. By then, about 300 of their classmates, ages 11 to 17 had been marched into a forest. Tuesday morning the girls were set free, stirred from their sleep by their captors’ celebrations that a ransom had arrived. “You idiots, wake up, the money has come,” several of the girls recalled being told. Nigeria's cycle of kidnappings Nigeria is trapped in a cycle of school child kidnappings that recall one of the most infamous abductions in recent years: In early May 2014, more than two million people tweeted #BringBackOurGirls, a clarion call to free teenagers taken from the Nigerian town of Chibok by terrorist group Boko Haram. That hashtag peaked after a few days, before social media moved onto its next viral cause, the Ice Bucket Challenge. To this day, most people don’t know how these millions of tweets propelled a sequence of events that involved drones scouring Lake Chad and millions of euros being handed to Boko Haram , inadvertently feeding a predatory business model that persists to this day. To answer Twitter’s demands, seven foreign militaries, alongside spies and mercenaries deployed to northern Nigeria, dispatching drones and satellites over a region that had barely begun to use the internet. None of those interventions freed a single girl. As military force failed, a team of Swiss and Nigerian volunteers bravely, but secretly organized hostage talks with Boko Haram, taking the struggle offline, boarding motorbikes and canoes into insurgent territory to deliver messages, and sometimes communicating by fax. The schoolgirls spent three years in captivity before a 3 million euro ransom was conceded as part of a deal that returned 103 of them to their parents. Fast forward several years, and kidnapping students has become one of the fastest growing sectors of Nigeria’s economy , a business that didn’t begin with the Chibok kidnapping but has since become lucrative and commonplace. Friday’s attack was the third mass abduction of schoolchildren in two months. After a decade of war with Boko Haram, 23,992 Nigerians are registered missing with the local Red Cross, the humanitarian agency’s highest toll on earth. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the Jangebe kidnapping . But their motivation is clear: an attempt to raise the money, and perhaps infamy, that Boko Haram received in the wake of #BringBackOurGirls. What does this mean for those of us looking on from abroad, wondering what can be done? For years, we have interviewed hundreds of officials involved in the rescue efforts to free the Chibok girls, as well as twenty of the students who managed to survive over years of hardship. What we have found is a story of unintended outcomes. Cheered on by Twitter, the U.S. sent predator drones to find and free the girls, and deployed its Night Stalkers, the army regiment that helped kill Osama bin Laden. The National Security Agency hired Nigerian language speakers and the CIA’s Abuja station received aerial footage of the search zone beamed from bases in Germany and Chad. The U.K. discussed dispatching special forces. Biden's immigration policy: Stephen Miller caged children. And he thinks Biden's immigration policies are cruel? Some of the students who were abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe, Nigeria, on March 2, 2021, in Gusau, northern Nigeria. Sunday Alamba/AP But even the world’s most sophisticated militaries could not simultaneously locate and rescue hundreds of teenagers held in remote forests, nor could they overcome the challenge of doing so in a social media-immersed world: a single tweet from a bystander could have blown the cover on any raid. Instead of rescuing the students, American efforts delivered a lesson in the myriad offline obstacles to satisfying an online cause. Thousands are still struggling for freedom Ultimately, the Chibok girls became actors in their own struggle for freedom. When interventions broke down, they were forced to take survival into their own hands. As the months dragged into years, the students, most of them Christians, came of age in captivity. They began whispering prayers together at night or keeping secret diaries, and copied passages about Mary from a smuggled Bible. They fasted for days, snuck food to captives Boko Haram was trying to starve, and memorized the Book of Job. COVID immunity: COVID-19 cases are falling. This could be the beginning of the end of the pandemic. We came to know one of the students, Naomi Adamu, who found her voice as a leader of a group who refused to convert to Boko Haram’s creed. At risk of beatings and torture, she and her classmates softly sang gospel songs from Chibok, fortifying each other with a hymn: “We, the children of Israel, will not bow.” Her fellow hostages called her “maman mu,” our mother, while the furious insurgents gave her another nickname: “the chief infidel.” Ms. Adamu is home now, released thanks to the quiet diplomacy of Switzerland, whose famously discreet government stepped in after social media moved on. Only on the day she went free did she learn there had been a hashtag campaign demanding her return. More than 112 of her classmates remain missing after seven years. And all across the north of Nigeria, parents are left fearing their school will be next. Joe Parkinson (@JoeWSJ), the Wall Street Journal’s Africa Bureau Chief and Drew Hinshaw (@drewhinshaw), a Wall Street Journal Senior Reporter, are authors of Bring Back Our Girls: The Untold Search for Nigeria’s Missing Schoolgirls. You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page , on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter . To respond to a column, submit a comment to [email protected] This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nigeria is trapped in a cycle of kidnappings and thousands are missing amid predatory practices CiaHostagesPoliticsGunmenThird World WarAlamba/APLainThe Ice Bucket ChallengeTwitterSwissNigeriansRed CrossCIAAbujaAmericanOsama Bin LadenJoe Parkinson
Osama bin Laden’s son is an avid painter of Americana
Omar bin Laden, the fourth-eldest of Osama bin Laden’s sons, loves to paint Americana. In a rare interview, Omar, 39, told Vice that classic Western flicks — such as Clint Eastwood’s 1992 film “Unforgiven,” his favorite — serve as inspiration for the man whom Vice dubs the “heir apparent of [al-Qaida].” His work — a naif style defined by its rudimentary use of color and brushstroke — often depicts the indicative elements of Westerns, such as desert landscapes with cacti, train tracks and dried bones.Read Full StoryAmericanaWashington , DcFamily StyleStyle InspirationFront ManAl-QaidaFrenchAmerican DreamCowboy DignityDesert LandscapesLoveNajwa GhanemClassic Western FlicksChildhoodTerrorOsama Bin LadenOmar Bin LadenClint Eastwood
Saudi Arabia says it intercepts missile attack over capital
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Miocene: a giant fossil tree on Lesbos
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Opinion | Mohammed bin Salman Is an Odious Murderer. We Should Help Saudi Arabia Anyway.
Getty Images It is easy to frame the release of the intelligence report on the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul as an attempt by President Joe Biden to “reset” the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Biden has disdained the Trump administration’s closeness with the Saudi kingdom, characterized by unquestioned support and limitless weapons sales, sometimes coordinated via WhatsApp between Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The report from the Director of National Intelligence provided almost no new information directly linking bin Salman to the murder, affirming only that he “approved an operation to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.” Still, that’s a tougher line than the Trump administration ever used. Several top Saudi officials now face sanctions , including General Ahmed al-Asiri, previously the deputy head of Saudi intelligence, and the members of the Saudi Rapid Intervention Force who conducted the killing; notably, however, the crown prince—commonly referred to by his initials, MBS—will not be sanctioned. The only move that could affect him is that the State Department will now be empowered to revoke or restrict visas for individuals harassing dissidents and journalists extraterritorially, a fairly clear reference to the crown prince. Yet, despite these moves, like so many aspects of his nascent presidency, Biden’s approach to Saudi Arabia so far is mostly a reversion to the pre-Trump status quo, rather than an overdue and fundamental shift in policy. But a fundamental shift in policy is needed. The status quo in Saudi Arabia is unsustainable. As the world shifts away from reliance on Saudi oil, leaders in Riyadh can no longer afford to pay male citizens to sit in an office and female citizens to sit at home, while the real work is done by expat laborers. MBS has accelerated an economic and social transition that is necessary and should be encouraged. Eventually moving toward “normality” will mean either revolution in Saudi Arabia, or a less authoritarian government. Biden should help support Saudi Arabia in this transition. But to avoid the Iran model, i.e., Saudi Arabia going through a violent revolution and 40 years of hostility toward the U.S., Biden should support Saudi normalization, despite MBS’ murderous despotism. The dysfunction of the U.S.-Saudi relationship long predates Trump. The most glaring contemporary ignominy was the Obama administration’s support for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen, launched with the United Arab Emirates and seven other Arab coalition partners in 2015. The Obama administration backed the Saudi-led war because it hoped the Saudis would temper their objections to the Iran nuclear deal. The gamble did not pay off: The Saudis loudly condemned the deal, and Yemen was and is devastated. Over 2 million children under age 5 are in danger of acute malnutrition in the coming months because of the war and blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, on top of hundreds of thousands already killed. While internal warring factions, especially the Houthi rebels, share responsibility for Yemen’s misery, two-thirds of civilian casualties are the result of Saudi airstrikes, conducted until recently with U.S. support. The dysfunction of the U.S.-Saudi relationship also precedes MBS, although his actions have made the incompatibilities harder to overlook. 9/11 was motivated in part by Osama bin Laden’s rage at the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War. The Saudi king’s status as the guardian of the two holiest sites in Islam makes partnership with the U.S. likewise awkward for the Saudis, especially given their promotion of an intensely conservative and intolerant interpretation of Islam. Decades of U.S. support, predicated on America’s dependence on Saudi oil, assured the ruling Saudis of their secure position, guaranteed by the might of the U.S. military, regardless of setbacks (such as the 1973 oil embargo). U.S. policy has typically been to reassure Saudi Arabia in hopes of encouraging good behavior, as Biden did earlier this month when he demanded an end to the war in Yemen but consoled Saudi Arabia with promises of defense against Iran. American protection has allowed Saudi Arabia, especially under MBS, to pursue reckless policies that destabilize the region. It was only after the Iranian attack on Saudi oil facilities in September 2019, when the response from the Trump administration was admirably muted, that Saudi Arabia toned down its bluster and quietly reached out to Iran to reduce tensions. The projection of American military power over the region has traditionally been justified by the need to secure access to Persian Gulf oil; thanks to fracking and other changes in U.S. energy usage, that is no longer necessary. America’s massive military presence in the region now reflects inertia rather than U.S. interests. U.S. security partners in the Middle East, including the UAE and Israel, want the United States to remain the military hegemon in the region to provide backup for their own regional ambitions. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel all want to fight Iran to the last American . That is not in the U.S.’ interest. As indicated by the airstrikes Biden ordered against an Iranian target in Syria this week, the possibility of escalation is dangerously close. To avoid being dragged into yet another war in the Middle East, Biden should go further than Obama and pursue a policy that punishes the Saudis in the short term with the goal of rewarding them in the long term. First, he must address the immediate harm caused by Saudi Arabia under MBS’ leadership. Biden must make clear that the crown prince’s reckless aggression abroad will not be tolerated. Saudi Arabia must stop bombing Yemen, lift the blockade and take the lead on paying for reconstruction. (Biden should also commit significant funding to assist Yemen, approaching the approximately $10.7 billion per year in weapons the U.S. agreed to sell Saudi Arabia over the past six years. Requiring those that profit from war to pay for its consequences might help dissuade countries from investing in weapons manufacture as a viable industry.) With Biden’s stated commitment to assist Saudi Arabia to defend itself, MBS may be ready to disengage from his most expensive and disastrous mistake. Biden also must press MBS to end the brutal repression of his subjects. This month’s release of human rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul , as well as dual U.S.-Saudi citizens Salah al-Haidar and Bader al-Ibrahim, demonstrates that MBS is willing to make certain concessions. Biden should pressure the crown prince to release the many hundreds of Saudis he has imprisoned, including senior members of his own family. MBS is unlikely to oblige, given the threat that individuals like his uncle Ahmed bin Abdulaziz and his cousin Mohammed bin Nayef, the former crown prince, pose to his power. But Biden should insist that activists and clerics such as Salman al-Ouda be freed. If MBS demonstrates that he is willing to rein in violence abroad and cruelty at home, Biden should then transition to a longer-term strategy: supporting Saudi Arabia in a manner that does not fuel recklessness or repression. He should welcome MBS’ more productive impulses, namely toward diversifying the Saudi economy and reducing societal restrictions. Bin Salman has laid out a plan for the future of Saudi Arabia called “ Vision 2030 ” that expresses a desire to reduce Saudi dependence on oil exports and to become an “epicenter of trade.” Biden should take him at his word, reduce U.S. military support for the kingdom and support Saudi efforts to diversify economically. This should come as part of a general strategy of reduced military assistance to the entire region and greater emphasis on economic partnerships. The United States cannot claim to support peace as long as it remains the world’s top exporter of weapons. Many young Saudis support MBS' Vision 2030 for its promises of employment, prosperity, and less stringent gender regulations, which are especially welcome to the generation of Saudi millennials who spent their college years abroad and are eager for their country to be "normal." Americans should remember that the people of Saudi Arabia are not responsible for MBS’ crimes, so the economic and social transitions that MBS has accelerated should be encouraged, however offensive they consider the crown prince’s other actions. Oil and the U.S. military are what keep Arab dictators in power. The global economy is slowly scaling back its addiction to the fossil fuels that are killing the planet. The U.S. can and should stop propping up Arab dictators with weapons sales and instead help wean their economies off of oil. While many rightly consider engagement with MBS distasteful, for the sake of Saudi and American citizens as well as the global climate, Biden should help MBS achieve his more admirable goals while constraining his malignant inclinations. Annelle Sheline is a research fellow for the Middle East at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and a nonresident fellow with Rice University’s Baker Institute Center for the Middle East. SaudisPoliticsSyriaIslamTrumpWhatsAppNational IntelligenceMBSThe State DepartmentHouthiAmericanIranianSaudi JournalistSaudi IntelligenceSaudi AirstrikesMohammed Bin SalmanJamal KhashoggiJoe BidenJared KushnerOsama Bin LadenAhmed Bin AbdulazizSalman Of Saudi Arabia
Islamist Terrorism Is Not Done With Us, Warns Former al Qaeda Hostage Theo Padnos
It was not long ago (on the calendar, at least) that either name could summon, if not profound discomfort, at least a hint of the queasiness that swept over Theo Padnos as he sat in front of a TV in southwestern Syria the morning of Aug. 20, 2014. At the time, Padnos was a prisoner of al Qaeda, the terrorist group that commanded the attention of the entire world back when a radical religious ideology was considered the major threat to life as we know it. But that morning, Padnos watched in real time as Osama bin Laden’s creation lost top billing.Read Full StoryTheo PadnosIsisISIS FightersIslamic JihadTerrorismGlobal JihadToyotaThe Islamic StateAmericansArabicSunni MuslimGulf StateIslamist TerrorPadnos NumbersHostage VideosOsama Bin LadenKayla MuellerSteven SotloffRebecca WestGeorge OrwellPeter Kassig
Recent drone attack on Saudi royal palace launched from Iraq
Explosive-laden drones that targeted Saudi Arabia's royal palace in the kingdom's capital last month were launched from inside Iraq , a senior Iran -backed militia official in Baghdad and a U.S. official said. Speaking to The Associated Press this week, the militia official said three drones were launched from Iraq i-Saudi border areas by a relatively unknown Iran -backed faction in Iraq and crashed into the royal complex in Riyadh on Jan. 23, exacerbating regional tensions. Attacks on the Saudi capital have been sporadic amid the kingdom's yearslong war against neighboring Yemen's Houthi rebels. Earlier this month, the rebels targeted an airport in southwestern Saudi Arabia with bomb-laden drones, causing a civilian plane on the tarmac to catch fire. The Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, however, denied carrying out the attack that targeted Saudi Arabia's Yamama Palace on Jan. 23. The comments by the senior Iraqi militia official mark the first time an Iran-backed group has acknowledged that Iraq was the origin of the attack, and points to the challenge Baghdad faces in halting attacks by Iranian-backed militia factions in Iraq. It followed a claim of responsibility allegedly issued by a little-known group called Awliya Wa’ad al-Haq, or “The True Promise Brigades,” that circulated on social media, calling it retaliation for a suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State group in a Baghdad shopping district on Jan. 21. The militia official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the attack, said the drones came “in parts from Iran and were assembled in Iraq, and were launched from Iraq.” He did not disclose where along the border the drones were launched and did not provide more details about the group claiming the attack. Iran-backed groups have splintered significantly since the Washington-directed strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad more than a year ago. Both were key in commanding and controlling a wide array of Iran-backed groups operating in Iraq. Since their deaths, militias have become increasingly unruly and disparate. Some Washington-based analysts argue the militias have become splintered only to allow them to claim attacks under different names to mask their involvement. A U.S. official said Washington believes the Jan. 23 attack on the Yamama Palace was launched from inside Iraq. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not elaborate or say how the U.S. came to this conclusion. An Iraqi official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said the U.S. intelligence was shared with Iraq's government. Launching a strike from Iraq would pose a challenge to Saudi air defenses, now focused on threats from Iran to the northeast and Yemen from the south. Such drones also are small enough and fly low enough to the ground to not be picked up on radar. The attack comes as Iraq seeks to deepen economic ties with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies over a variety of investment projects. Last week, Iraq's President Barham Salih visited the United Arab Emirates and Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein visited Saudi Arabia this week, apparently to discuss the attack. ——— Associated Press writers Robert Burns in Washington and Samya Kullab in Baghdad contributed to this report. Abu Mahdi Al-muhandisYemenRoyal PalaceDrone AttacksThe Associated PressHouthiIraqiSouthwestern Saudi ArabiaSaudi Air DefensesRiyadhBaghdadSuicide BombingThe Islamic StateMilitiasExplosive-laden DronesBarham SalihFuad HusseinRobert Burns