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Competition With China Intensifies, The Balloon Incident Reveals More Than Spying.

It could take months for US intelligence agencies to compare the daring flight of a Chinese spy balloon across the country to prior intrusions into America’s national security systems and determine how it ranks.

After all, there is plenty of competition.

There was the theft of the designs of the F-35 about 15 years ago, enabling the Chinese air force to develop its look-alike stealth fighter, with Chinese characteristics. There was the case of China’s premier hacking team lifting the security clearance files for 22 million Americans from the barely secured computers of the Office of Personnel Management in 2015. That, combined with stolen medical files from Anthem and travel records from Marriott hotels, has presumably helped the Chinese create a detailed blueprint of America’s national security infrastructure.

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But for pure gall, there was something different about the balloon. It became the subject of public fascination as it floated over nuclear silos of Montana, then was spotted near Kansas City and met its cinematic end when a Sidewinder missile took it down over shallow waters off the coast of South Carolina. Not surprisingly, now it is coveted by military and intelligence officials who desperately want to reverse-engineer whatever remains the Coast Guard and the Navy can recover.

Yet beyond the made-for-cable-news spectacle, the entire incident also speaks volumes about how little Washington and Beijing communicate, almost 22 years after the collision of an American spy plane and a Chinese fighter about 70 miles off the coast of Hainan Island led both sides to vow that they would improve their crisis management.

“We don’t know what the intelligence yield was for the Chinese,” said Evan Medeiros, a Georgetown professor who advised President Barack Obama on China and Asia with the National Security Council. “But there is no doubt it was a gross violation of sovereignty,” something the Chinese object to vociferously when the United States flies over and sails through the islands China has built from sandbars in the South China Sea.

“And this made visceral the China challenge,” Medeiros said, “to look up when you are out walking your dog, and you see a Chinese spy balloon in the sky.”

As it turns out, it was hardly the first time. Hours before the giant balloon met its deflated end, the Pentagon said there was another one in flight, over South America. And it noted a long history of Chinese balloons flying over the United States (which the Pentagon, somehow, never wanted to talk about before, until this incident forced it to).

“Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years,” Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder said in a statement published Thursday. One senior official said many of those were in the Pacific, some near Hawaii, where the Indo-Pacific Command is based, along with much of the naval capability and surveillance gear of the Pacific Fleet.

Ryder’s admission raises the question of whether the United States failed to set a red line years ago about the balloon surveillance, essentially encouraging China to grow bolder and bolder. “The fact that they have come into airspace before is not comforting,” said Amy B. Zegart, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and author of “Spies, Lies and Algorithms,” a study of new technologies in ubiquitous surveillance. “We should have had a strategy earlier,” she said, and “we should have signaled our limits much earlier.”

Of course, there is nothing new about superpowers spying on one another, even from balloons. President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized surveillance of the Soviet Union by lofting cameras on balloons in the mid-1950s, flying them “over Soviet bloc countries under the guise of meteorological research,” according to an article published by the National Archives in 2009. It “yielded more protests from the Kremlin than it did useful intelligence,” author David Haight, an archivist at the Eisenhower Library, reported.

With the advent of the first spy satellites, balloons appeared to become obsolete.

Now they are making a comeback, because while spy satellites can see almost everything, balloons equipped with high-tech sensors hover over a site far longer and can pick up radio, cellular and other transmissions that cannot be detected from space. That is why the Montana sighting of the balloon was critical; in recent years, the National Security Agency and United States Strategic Command, which oversees the American nuclear arsenal, have been remaking communications with nuclear weapons sites. That would be one, but only one, of the natural targets for China’s Ministry of State Security, which oversees many of its national security hacks.

The NSA also targets China, of course. From the revelations of Edward Snowden, the former contractor who revealed many of the agency’s operations a decade ago, the world learned that the United States broke into the networks of Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications firm, and also tracked the movements of Chinese leaders and soldiers responsible for moving Chinese nuclear weapons. That is only a small sliver of American surveillance in China.

Such activities add to China’s argument that everyone does it. Because they are largely hidden — save for the occasional revelation of a big hack — they have rarely become wrapped in national politics. That is changing.

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The balloon incident came at a moment when Democrats and Republicans are competing to demonstrate who can be stronger on China. And that showed: The new chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio, echoed the many Republicans who argued the balloon needed to come down sooner.

He called the shoot-down “sort of like tackling the quarterback after the game is over. The satellite had completed its mission. It should never have been allowed to enter the United States, and it never should have been allowed to complete its mission.”

It is not yet clear what that “mission” was, or whether the risk of letting it proceed truly outweighed the risk of taking the balloon down over land, as Turner seemed to imply. It is only a small part of the increasingly aggressive “Spy vs. Spy” moves of superpower competitors. That has only intensified as control of semiconductor production equipment, artificial intelligence tools, 5G telecommunications, quantum computing and biological sciences has become the source of new arms races. And both sides play.

Yet it was the obviousness of the balloon that made many in Washington wonder whether the intelligence community and the civilian leadership in Beijing are communicating with each other.

“Whatever the value of what the Chinese might have obtained,” said Gen. Michael Rogers, former director of the National Security Agency during the Obama and Trump administrations, “what was different here was the visibility. It just has a different feel when it is a physical intrusion on the country.” And once it was detected, China “handled it badly,’’ he said.

The balloon drifted over the continental United States just days before Secretary of State Antony Blinken was supposed to make the first visit of a top American diplomat to Beijing in many years. Chinese officials maintained that it was a weather balloon that had entered U.S. airspace by accident.

Blinken canceled his trip — a public slap that many U.S. officials believe President Xi Jinping cannot be happy about, at a moment the Chinese leader appears to be trying to stabilize the fast-descending relationship with Washington.

This was hardly a life-threatening crisis. But the fact that Chinese officials, realizing that the balloon had been spotted, did not call to work out a way to deal with it was revealing.

That kind of problem was supposed to be resolved after the 2001 collision of an EP-3 spy plane and a Chinese fighter that brought down both planes. For days after that incident, President George W. Bush could not get Chinese leaders on the phone. Efforts by the secretary of state at the time, Gen. Colin Powell, also failed. “It made you wonder what might happen in a deeper crisis,” Powell said later.

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Afterward, hotlines were set up, and promises made about better communications. Clearly, those failed. When the balloon was shot down, China issued a statement saying “for the United States to insist on using armed forces is clearly an excessive reaction.”

Few experts doubt that had the situation been reversed, China would have used force — it has threatened to do that when it believed outsiders were entering disputed waters, much less established Chinese territory.



“It makes you wonder who was talking to whom in China,” Zegart said. “This is clearly the greatest unforced error the Chinese have made in some time.”

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Report Finds NY Police Abusive To George Floyd Protesters.

According to a report released on Monday, an independent New York City police review board has recommended that the NYPD discipline scores of officers for excessive use of force and other alleged misbehavior during protests following the 2020 murder of George Floyd.

Among the complaints, officers were found to have used batons and pepper spray on peaceful protesters in 140 instances. Dozens of allegations of abuse of authority, including officers refusing to identify themselves, concealing their badges and making false or misleading statements, were also substantiated, the report by Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) said.

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More than 600, or 43%, of misconduct allegations were closed after officers could not be identified, raising a big obstacle in the board’s review, the report said.

“This report shows why the NYPD cannot continue to have a monopoly on discipline,” Molly Biklen, deputy legal director at the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “When New Yorkers took to the streets calling for racial justice in 2020, the NYPD responded with violence.”

Thousands of protesters flooded New York streets for weeks in demonstrations against police brutality days after Floyd, a Black man accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill, died when a white Minneapolis police officer pinned his neck to the ground with a knee for several minutes in May 2020. Smaller-scale protests continued into early fall.

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The New York Police Department (NYPD) objected to many of the report’s findings, saying less than 15% of all allegations were substantiated. In a statement, it accused the board of exaggerating the extent of any misconduct, saying it involved less than 1% of 22,000 officers deployed during the protests.

The less that 15% substantiation rate of allegations against officers confirms “that the NYPD’s response to the protests during the summer of 2020 was largely professional, commendable, and responsive to the unique circumstances that were present at the time,” NYPD Acting Deputy Commissioner Carrie Talansky said in a statement.

Hundreds of officers were injured and the department had already implemented many of the 17 policy changes recommended by the board, NYPD said.

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“Protests against police brutality bred more instances of police misconduct,” CCRB Interim Chair Arva Rice said in the report. “If this misconduct goes unaddressed, it will never be reformed.”

Of the 146 officers cited by the report, 89 of them should face internal charges, which can result in termination. The board recommended discipline, which can include the loss of vacation days, for the other 57 officers.


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The board, composed of 15 members appointed by the mayor, city council and police commissioner, has the power to conduct administrative prosecutions, but the commissioner has final say over any discipline

US Navy divers search Atlantic for wreckage after shooting down Chinese surveillance ballon.

US Navy divers are working to recover the wreckage of the Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina.

The high-altitude balloon – thought to be the size of three buses – was shot out of the sky by a Sidewinder air-to-air missile fired from an F-22 jet fighter. It came down about six nautical miles off the US coast at 14:39 EST (19:39 GMT) on Saturday.

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US TV networks broadcast the moment the missile struck, with the giant white object falling to the sea after a small explosion.

The debris landed in 47ft (14m) of water shallower than they had expected – and is spread over seven miles (11km).

Explaining the decision to shoot the balloon down, a US defence official said in a statement, that “while we took all necessary steps to protect against the PRC [China] surveillance balloon’s collection of sensitive information, the surveillance balloon’s overflight of US territory was of intelligence value to us.”

China’s foreign ministry expressed “strong dissatisfaction and protest against the US’s use of force to attack civilian unmanned aircraft”.

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In a written statement, the Chinese government said it would “resolutely safeguard” the rights and interests of the company operating the balloon and that it reserved the right to “make further responses if necessary”.

The US believes the balloon was monitoring sensitive military sites and top military officers believe the search for debris would happen relatively quickly so that experts could begin analysing its equipment.

The ballon incidence set off a diplomatic crisis, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken immediately calling off this weekend’s trip to China over the “irresponsible act”.

The Chinese authorities denied it was used for spying and insisted it was a weather ship blown astray.

Admiral Mike Mullen, former chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Sunday, February 5 he thought the Chinese military might have launched the balloon intentionally to disrupt Mr Blinken’s trip to China. His visit would have been the first high level US-China meeting there in years.

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Mullen rejected China’s suggestion it might have blown off course, saying it was manoeuvrable because “it has propellers on it”.

“This was not an accident. This was deliberate. It was intelligence,” he added.

Biden first approved the plan to bring down the balloon on Wednesday, but decided to wait until the object was over water so as not to put people on the ground at risk.



Relations between China and the US have been exacerbated by the incident, with the Pentagon calling it an “unacceptable violation” of its sovereignty

Many questions remain over alleged Chinese spy balloon in US sky.

A suspected Chinese surveillance balloon flew over sensitive United States ballistic missile sites on Friday, and later a second Chinese surveillance balloon was spotted over Latin America. But what exactly is this massive white orb sweeping across U.S. airspace which has triggered a diplomatic maelstrom and is blowing up on social media?

China insists it’s just an errant civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research that went off course due to winds. With only limited “self-steering” capabilities.

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However, the U.S. says it’s a Chinese spy balloon without a doubt. And its presence prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a weekend trip to China aimed at dialing down tensions already high between the countries.

The Pentagon says the balloon carrying sensors and surveillance equipment is maneuverable and has shown it can change course. However, it has loitered over sensitive areas of Montana where nuclear warheads are siloed, prompting the military to take actions to prevent it from collecting intelligence.

A Pentagon spokesperson said it could remain aloft over the U.S. for “a few days,” extending uncertainty about where it will go or if the U.S. will try to take it down safely.

A look at what’s known about the balloon – and what isn’t.

A bird, a plane, a balloon
The Pentagon and other U.S. officials say it’s a Chinese spy balloon – about the size of three school buses – moving east over America at an altitude of about 18,600 meters (60,000 feet). The U.S. says it was being used for surveillance and intelligence collection, but officials have provided few details.

U.S. officials say the Biden administration was aware of it before it crossed into American airspace in Alaska early this week. Some officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive topic.

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The White House said President Joe Biden was first briefed on the balloon on Tuesday. And the State Department noted Blinken and Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman spoke with China’s senior Washington-based official on Wednesday evening about the matter.

In the first public U.S. statement, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, said Thursday evening that the balloon was not a military or physical threat – an acknowledgment that it was not carrying weapons. And he said that “once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”

Even if it’s not armed, the balloon poses a risk to the U.S., says retired Army Gen. John Ferrari, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The flight itself, he said, can be used to test America’s ability to detect incoming threats and to find holes in the country’s air defense warning system. It may also allow the Chinese to sense electromagnetic emissions that higher-altitude satellites can’t detect, such as low-power radio frequencies that could help them understand how different U.S. weapons systems communicate.

He also said the Chinese may have sent the balloon “to show us that they can do it, and maybe next time it could have a weapon. So now we have to spend money and time on it” developing defenses.

Let it fly, shoot down?
Senior administration officials said President Joe Biden initially wanted to shoot the balloon down. And some members of Congress have echoed that sentiment.

But top Pentagon leaders strongly advised Biden against that move because of risks to the safety of people on the ground, and Biden agreed.

One official said the sensor package the balloon is carrying weighs as much as 1,000 pounds. And the balloon is large enough and high enough in the air that the potential debris field could stretch for miles, with no control over where it would eventually land.

For now, officials said the U.S. would monitor it, using “a variety of methods,” including aircraft. The Pentagon also has said the balloon isn’t a military threat and doesn’t give China any surveillance capabilities it doesn’t already have with spy satellites.

But the U.S. is keeping its options open and will continue to monitor the flight.

Rep. Jim Himes, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, suggested that it could be valuable to try and capture the balloon to study it. “I would much rather own a Chinese surveillance balloon than be cleaning one up over a 100-square-mile debris field,” Himes said.

How did it get here?
Deliberate or an accident? There’s also disagreement.

As far as wind patterns go, China’s account that global air currents – winds known as the Westerlies – carried the balloon from its territory to the western United States is plausible said Dan Jaffe, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of Washington. Jaffe has studied the role those same wind patterns play in carrying air pollution from Chinese cities, wildfire smoke from Siberia, and dust from Gobi Desert sand storms to the U.S. for two decades.

“It’s entirely consistent with everything we know about the winds,” Jaffe said. “Transit time from China to the United States would be about a week.” “The higher it goes, the faster it goes,” Jaffe said. He said that weather and research balloons typically have a range of steering capabilities depending on their sophistication, from no steering to limited steering ability.

The U.S. is essentially mum on this issue but insists the balloon is maneuverable, suggesting that China somehow deliberately moved the balloon toward or into U.S. airspace.

History of spy balloons
Spy balloons aren’t new – primitive ones date back centuries, but they came into greater use in World War II. Administration officials said Friday that there had been other similar incidents of Chinese spy balloons, with one saying it happened twice during the Trump administration but was never made public.

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At the Pentagon, Ryder confirmed other incidents where balloons came close to or crossed the U.S. border. Still, he and others agree that what makes this different is the length of time it’s been over U.S. territory and how far into the country it penetrated.

Craig Singleton, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said Chinese surveillance balloons had been sighted numerous times over the past five years in different parts of the Pacific, including near sensitive U.S. military installations in Hawaii. The high-altitude inflatables, he said, serve as low-cost platforms to collect intelligence, and some can reportedly be used to detect hypersonic missiles.

During World War II, Japan launched thousands of hydrogen balloons carrying bombs, and hundreds ended up in the U.S. and Canada. Most were ineffective, but one was lethal. In May 1945, six civilians died when they found one of the balloons on the ground in Oregon, which exploded.

In the aftermath of the war, America’s balloon effort ignited the alien stories and lore linked to Roswell, New Mexico.

According to military research documents and studies, the U.S. began using giant trains of balloons and sensors that were strung together and stretching more than 600 feet as part of an early effort to detect Soviet missile launches during the post-World War II era. They called it Project Mogul.

One of the balloon trains crash-landed at the Roswell Army Airfield in 1947, and Air Force personnel unaware of the program found debris. However, the unusual experimental equipment made it difficult to identify, leaving the airmen with unanswered questions that, aided by UFO enthusiasts, took on a life of their own. According to the military reports, the simple answer was just over the Sacramento Mountains at the Project Mogul launch site in Alamogordo.



In 2015, an unmanned Army surveillance blimp broke loose from its mooring at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. It floated over Pennsylvania for hours with two fighter jets on its tail, triggering blackouts as it dragged its tether across power lines. Then, as residents gawked, the 240-foot blimp came down in pieces in the Muncy, Pennsylvania, countryside. It still had helium in its nose when it fell, and state police used shotguns – about 100 shots – to deflate it.

Blinken postpones China trip over spy balloon.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken decided to postpone a trip to China after the discovery of a high-altitude Chinese spy balloon over the U.S. on Friday.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Air Force One that President Joe Biden supported Blinken’s decision.

Blinken told his Chinese counterpart that it was “irresponsible” of Beijing to send a surveillance balloon over U.S. soil as he explained why he postponed a visit.

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In a phone call with Wang Yi, Blinken noted China’s “statement of regret but conveyed that this is an irresponsible act and a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law that undermined the purpose of the trip,” a State Department statement said.

The postponement of Blinken’s trip, which had been arranged in November by Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, is a blow to those on both sides who saw it as an overdue opportunity to stabilize an increasingly fractious relationship. The last visit by a U.S. secretary of state was in 2017.

A Chinese spy balloon was spotted at about 60,000 feet (18,300 meters) over the central United States, demonstrating a capability to maneuver, the U.S. military said on Friday.

The disclosure about the spy balloon’s maneuverability directly challenges China’s assertion that the balloon was merely a civilian airship that had strayed into U.S. territory after being blown off course.

“We know this is a Chinese (surveillance) balloon and that it has the ability to maneuver,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told a news briefing at the Pentagon, declining to say precisely how it was powered or who in China was controlling its flight path.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday decided against shooting down the balloon as it floated over Montana due to U.S. military concerns about the likely dispersal of debris, American officials say.

The Pentagon expects the balloon to continue traveling over U.S. airspace for a few more days, Ryder said, declining to speculate on what options the U.S. military might develop in that time as speculation swirled about whether Biden could still order the balloon be destroyed or perhaps captured.

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Ryder said the U.S. military would not specify where precisely the balloon was positioned over the central United States, saying he didn’t want to get into an “hour-by-hour” cycle of updates. He said people in any given U.S. state could look up into the sky if they wanted.

“The public certainly has the ability to look up in the sky and see where the balloon is,” Ryder said.

Sen. Roger Marshall from Kansas said the spy balloon was over the northeastern part of his state and his staff was in contact with law enforcement officials.

“I condemn any attempts the Chinese make to spy on Americans. President Biden must protect the sovereignty of the U.S.,” Marshall posted on Twitter.

Ryder added the balloon posed no risk to people on the ground.

He spoke amid growing political fallout over the Chinese balloon’s presence over the U.S.

Biden ignored questions about the balloon when giving remarks on the economy Friday morning.

Chinese spy satellites carry similar sensors to what U.S. officials believe is on the spy balloon, raising questions about why Beijing would risk such a brazen act on the eve of a major diplomatic event.

Still, the Chinese spy balloon has taken a flight path that would carry it over a number of sensitive sites, officials said. One such site could be military bases, including in Montana, which is home to intercontinental ballistic missile silos.


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The Billings, Montana, airport on Wednesday issued a ground stop as the military mobilized assets including F-22 fighter jets in case Biden ordered that the balloon be shot down.

Suspected Chinese spy balloon under US close monitoring.

The U.S. is closely monitoring a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that has been hovering in U.S. airspace for several days, prompting the Pentagon to forgo the usual protocol of shooting it down because of the risks of collateral damage, according to officials on Thursday.

The presence of the balloon further complicates already tense U.S.-China relations.

A senior defense official told Pentagon reporters that the U.S. has “very high confidence” it is a Chinese high-altitude balloon and it was flying over sensitive sites to collect information. One of the places the balloon was spotted was Montana, which is home to one of the nation’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

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Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, provided a brief statement on the issue, saying the government continues to track the balloon. He said it is “currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.”

He said similar balloon activity has been seen in the past several years. He added that the U.S. took steps to ensure it did not collect sensitive information.

The defense official said the U.S. has “engaged” Chinese officials through multiple channels and communicated the seriousness of the matter.

The incident comes as Secretary of State Antony Blinken was supposed to make his first trip to Beijing, expected this weekend, to try to find some common ground. Although the trip has not been formally announced, both Beijing and Washington have been talking about his imminent arrival.

It was not immediately clear if the discovery of the balloon would impact Blinken’s travel plans.

The senior defense official said the U.S. did get fighter jets, including F-22s, ready to shoot down the balloon if ordered to by the White House. The Pentagon ultimately recommended against it, noting that even as the balloon was over a sparsely populated area of Montana, its size would create a debris field large enough that it could have put people at risk.

The official would not specify the size of the balloon but said it was large enough that despite its high altitude, commercial pilots could see it. All air traffic at the Billings, Montana, Logan International Airport was placed on a temporary ground stop Wednesday as the military provided options to the White House. The Billings Gazette captured a photograph of a large white balloon lingering over the area, but the Pentagon would not confirm if that was the surveillance balloon.

The official said what concerned them about this launch was the altitude the balloon was flying at and the time it lingered over a location, without providing specifics.

Tensions with China are particularly high on numerous issues, ranging from Taiwan and the South China Sea to human rights in China’s western Xinjiang region and the clampdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong. Not least on that list of irritants are China’s tacit support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its refusal to rein in North Korea’s expanding ballistic missile program and ongoing disputes over trade and technology.

On Tuesday, Taiwan scrambled fighter jets, put its navy on alert and activated missile systems in response to nearby operations by 34 Chinese military aircraft and nine warships that are part of Beijing’s strategy to unsettle and intimidate the self-governing island democracy.

Twenty of those aircraft crossed the central line in the Taiwan Strait that has long been an unofficial buffer zone between the two sides, which separated during a civil war in 1949.



Beijing has also increased preparations for a potential blockade or military action against Taiwan, which has stirred increasing concern among military leaders, diplomats and elected officials in the U.S., Taiwan’s key ally.

The surveillance balloon was first reported by NBC News

US to send Ukraine longer-range bombs after months of agonizing.

The United States has agreed to send longer-range bombs to Ukraine after months of agonizing, as Kyiv prepares to launch a spring offensive to retake territory Russia captured last year, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The new weapons will roughly have double the range of any other offensive weapon provided by America, officials confirmed.

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The U.S. will provide ground-launched small diameter bombs as part of a $2.17 billion aid package it is expected to announce on Friday, several U.S. officials said.

The package also for the first time includes equipment to connect the different air defense systems Western allies have rushed to the battlefield, and integrate them into Kviv’s own air defenses to help them better defend against Russia’s continued missile attacks.

For months, U.S. officials have hesitated to send longer-range systems to Ukraine out of concern that they would be used to target inside Russia, escalating the conflict and drawing the U.S. deeper in.

The longer-range bombs are the latest advanced system, such as Abrams tanks and the Patriot missile defense system, that the U.S. has eventually agreed to provide Ukraine after refusing initially. U.S. officials, though, have continued to reject Ukraine’s requests for fighter jets.

Ukrainian leaders have urgently pressed for longer-range munitions and on Thursday, officials said the U.S. will send an undisclosed number of the ground-launched, small diameter bombs, which have a range of about 95 miles (150 kilometers). The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the aid package not yet made public.

To date, the longest-range missile provided by the U.S. is about 50 miles (80 kilometers). The funding in the aid package is for longer-term purchases, so it was not clear on Thursday as to how long it will take to get the bomb to the battlefield in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s defense minister Oleskii Reznikov said on Thursday the country is prepared to offer guarantees to its Western partners that their weapons will not be used to strike inside Russian territory, adding that Kyiv needs weapons with the range of up to 300 kilometers (186 miles) to expel Russian forces.

“If we could strike at a distance of up to 300 kilometers, the Russian army wouldn’t be able to mount a defense and will have to withdraw. Ukraine is ready to provide guarantees that your weapons will not be involved in attacks on the Russian territory. We have enough targets in the occupied areas of Ukraine, and we’re prepared to coordinate on (these) targets with our partners,” Reznikov said at a meeting with EU officials.

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The U.S. aid package includes $425 million in ammunition and support equipment that will be pulled from existing Pentagon stockpiles and $1.75 billion in new funding through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which is used to purchase new weapons from industry.

The USAI, which will pay for the longer-range bombs and the air defense system integration, also funds two HAWK air defense systems, anti-aircraft guns and ammunition, and counter-drone systems.

Since Russia’s invasion last February, Western allies have pledged a myriad of air defense systems to Ukraine to bolster Kyiv’s own Soviet-made S-300 surface-to-air missile defense systems, and the latest aid package aims to provide the capability to integrate them all, which could improve Ukraine’s ability to protect itself against incoming Russian attacks.

The U.S. has pledged medium to long-range National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, and truck-launched short-range Avenger air defense systems; the Netherlands, Germany and the U.S. are sending Patriot missile defense systems; Germany is sending medium-range IRIS-T air defense systems; and Spain is sending Aspide anti-aircraft air defense systems.

The addition of longer-range bombs into the latest aid package was first reported by Reuters.

Ukraine is still seeking F-16 fighter jets, which U.S. President Joe Biden has opposed sending since the beginning of the war. Asked on Monday if his administration was considering sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, Biden responded, “No.”

On Tuesday, Ukraine’s defense minister Oleksii Reznikov was asked if Biden’s “no” to F-16s was the final word.

“All types of help first passed through the ‘no’ stage, which only means ‘no’ at today’s given moment. The second stage is, ‘Let’s talk and study technical possibilities.’ The third stage is, ‘Let’s get your personnel trained.’ And the fourth stage is the transfer (of equipment),” Reznikov underlined



US House removes Muslim lawmaker Ilhan Omar from major committee.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday voted to oust Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

House Speaker was able to solidify Republican support against the Somali-born Muslim woman in the new Congress although some GOP lawmakers had expressed reservations. Removal of lawmakers from House committees was until the Democratic ousters two years ago of hard-right Republican of Georgia, and of Arizona.

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The 218-211 vote, along party lines, came after a heated, voices-raised debate in which Democrats accused the GOP of targeting Omar based on her race. Omar defended herself on the House floor, asking if anyone was surprised she was being targeted, “because when you push power, power pushes back.” Democratic colleagues hugged and embraced their colleague during the vote.

“My voice will get louder and stronger, and my leadership will be celebrated around the world,” Omar said in a closing speech.

Republicans focused on six statements Omar has made that “under the totality of the circumstances, disqualify her from serving on the Committee of Foreign Affairs,” said Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss.

“All members, both Republicans and Democrats alike who seek to serve on Foreign Affairs, should be held to the highest standard of conduct due to international sensitivity and national security concerns under the jurisdiction of this committee,” Guest said.

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The resolution proposed by Rep. Max Miller, R-Ohio, a former official in the Trump administration, declared, “Omar’s comments have brought dishonor to the House of Representatives.”

Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York said Omar has at times “made mistakes” and used anti-Semitic tropes that were condemned by House Democrats four years ago. But that is not what Thursday’s vote was about, he said.

“It’s not about accountability, it’s about political vengeance,” Jeffries said.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, went took it one step further, saying that the GOP’s action was one of the “disgusting legacies after 9/11,” a reference to he Sept. 11, 2001, attack – “the targeting and racism against Muslim-Americans throughout the United States of America. And this is an extension of that legacy.”

She added, “This is about targeting women of color.”

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Omar is one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. She is also the first to wear a headscarf (Hijab) in the House chamber after floor rules were changed to allow members to wear head coverings for religious reasons.

She quickly generated controversy after entering Congress in 2019 with a pair of tweets that suggested lawmakers who supported Israel were motivated by money.

In the first, she criticized the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. “It’s all about the Benjamin’s baby,” she wrote, invoking slang about $100 bills.

Asked on Twitter who she thought was paying members of Congress to support Israel, Omar responded, “AIPAC!”

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The comments sparked a public rebuke from then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats who made clear that Omar had overstepped.

She soon apologized.

“We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me about my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize,” Omar tweeted.

Democrats rallied in a fiery defense of Omar and the experiences she brings to Congress.

Black, Latino and progressive lawmakers in particular spoke of her unique voice in the House and criticized Republicans for what they called a racist attack.

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“Racist gaslighting,” said Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo. A “revenge resolution,” said Rep. Primila Jayapal of Washington, the chair of the progressive caucus.

“It’s so painful to watch,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., who joined Congress with Omar in 2019, being among the first two female Muslims elected to the House.

“To Congresswoman Omar, I am so sorry that our country is failing you today through this chamber. You belong on that committee,” Tlaib said through tears.

Omar’s previous comments were among several remarks highlighted in the resolutions seeking her removal from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

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The chairman of the committee, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, argued for excluding Omar from the panel during a recent closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans.

“It’s just that her worldview of Israel is so diametrically opposed to the committee’s. I don’t mind having differences of opinion, but this goes beyond that,” McCaul told reporters in describing his stance.

Several Republicans skeptical of removing Omar wanted “due process” for lawmakers who face removal. McCarthy said he told them he would work with Democrats on creating a due process system, but acknowledged it is still a work in progress



Seven killed in armed attack on synagogue.

Seven people were dead after a perpetrator carried out an armed attack in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday, police said.

Police said several others were injured in the attack on a synagogue. Rescue services said some of these were in critical condition.

The attacker was “neutralized,” police said.

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Police originally put the number of fatalities at eight. Several others were injured, the police said on Twitter.

The attacker went to a synagogue in the illegal settlement of Neve Yaakov at around 8:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m. GMT) and opened fire, according to police.

The security situation in Israel and Palestine has worsened sharply in the past few days.

A spokesperson for the Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, said Friday’s attack was in retaliation for an Israeli army raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank on Thursday.

Nine Palestinians, including an elderly woman, were killed and 20 others injured in an Israeli raid in Jenin.

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The Palestinian Health Ministry accused Israeli forces of deliberately firing tear gas inside a hospital’s pediatric ward, leaving children choking – a claim denied by an Israeli army spokesperson who added that gas may have drifted into the clinic through a window.

The bloodiest day in the West Bank in years erupted during a raid on the crowded refugee camp in the northern city of Jenin, where gunshots rang through the streets and smoke billowed from burning street barricades.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said the death toll from the clashes rose to “nine martyrs” including a woman, and that 20 people were wounded before the Israeli forces withdrew midmorning.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem told Reuters: “This operation is a response to the crime conducted by the occupation in Jenin and a natural response to the occupation’s criminal actions,” though he stopped short of claiming the attack.

World condemns attack
The United States quickly condemned the attack.

“This is absolutely horrific,” State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters.

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“We condemn this apparent terrorist attack in the strongest terms. Our commitment to Israel’s security remains ironclad, and we are in direct touch with our Israeli partners.”

“We stand with the Israeli people in solidarity,” he said.

Patel told reporters at a news briefing that U.S. officials were in touch with their Israeli counterparts and that he did not expect changes to Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s vist to Israel next week.

U.S. President Joe Biden directed his national security team to offer support to their Israeli counterparts.

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U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned the attack.

“The Secretary-General strongly condemns today’s terrorist attack,” his spokesman said. “It is particularly abhorrent that the attack occurred at a place of worship, and on the very day we commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day.”

However, he urged the sides to exercise the “utmost restraint.” Guterres is “deeply worried” by the current escalation of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) also condemned Friday’s synagogue attack on the outskirts of East Jerusalem, state news agency (WAM) reported citing a foreign ministry statement.

Britain’s foreign secretary, James Cleverly, also condemned the attack. “To attack worshippers at a synagogue on Holocaust Memorial Day, and during Shabbat, is horrific. We stand with our Israeli friends,” he said in a statement on Twitter.

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Türkiye also condemned the attack and called on all sides to take steps to prevent any further violence.

Immediate measures’
The surging violence comes a month after a new government, led by veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, took power.

Netanyahu and his extreme-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the scene on Friday, as crowds chanted “death to Arabs,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) journalists at the scene said.

Speaking on television after visiting the scene, Netanyahu said his Security Cabinet would soon announce “immediate measures” in response and urged Israelis not to “take the law into their own hands.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, who was on a family visit to the U.S., has cut short his trip and is returning to Israel, his office told AFP.

“The attack against civilians this Friday evening was horrific,” Gallant said in a statement, vowing to “operate decisively and forcefully against terror and will reach anyone involved in the attack.”



2023: We Have Full Confidence In INEC – US Gov’t.

The US government has expressed full confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission’s ability to conduct free and fair elections.

This is coming shortly after announcing a visa ban against Nigerians accused of truncating democracy in the country.

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Speaking at the 20th Daily Trust Dialogue in Abuja, Mary Beth Leonard, U.S ambassador to Nigeria said they’ve got no favourite candidate but are only seeking a peaceful and transparent election in Nigeria.

Leonard said;

“The United States supports credible and transparent elections that will reflect the will of the people in a process that will be conducted peacefully. We have confidence in INEC to conduct the elections.

“2023 is an opportunity for Nigeria to claim its place as the democratic leader in Africa. We favour no candidate. We favour open and transparent elections conducted in a peaceful process. This is the foundation of democracy and legitimate transfer of power.

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“It’s good that we reflect on the fact that since 1999, Nigerians voters have successfully exercise their democratic rights. For more than two decades, Nigeria has demonstrated to Africa and the world its strong commitment to peaceful and transparent elections.”

The U.S ambassador added that while democracy is being tampered with in many places in Africa, the practice is deepening in Nigeria



US gov’t slams visa ban on Nigerians, confirms 2023 election monitoring.

The United States on Wednesday announced visa restrictions on specific individuals in Nigeria.

The American government said those affected undermined the process in a recent election.

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The recent electoral race in the country were the governorship polls in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States.

A statement by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, reiterated the commitment of the U.S. to supporting and advancing democracy in Nigeria and around the world.

“Today, I am announcing visa restrictions on specific individuals in Nigeria for undermining the democratic process in a recent Nigerian election.”

Under Section 212(a)(3)C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the individuals will be found ineligible for visas to America.

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Blinken noted that certain family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions.

“Additional persons who undermine the democratic process in Nigeria—including in the lead-up to, during, and following Nigeria’s 2023 elections—may be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy,” he said.

Blinken clarified that the latest visa restrictions targets only certain persons and are not directed at the people or the government.

“The decision to impose visa restrictions reflects the commitment of the United States to support Nigerian aspirations to combat corruption and strengthen democracy and the rule of law,” the official concluded


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US to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine: Biden.

U.S. President Joe Biden confirmed that his country will send 31 advanced M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, as he highlighted cooperation with Europe and thanked German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for agreeing to send Leopard tanks to Kyiv.

Biden called the Abrams tanks the “most capable in the world,” in a speech at the White House on Wednesday. He said the U.S. would provide Ukraine with parts and equipment, in addition to training.

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The president praised German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s earlier announcement that 14 Leopard tanks would be delivered to Ukraine.

“Germany has really stepped up and the chancellor has been a strong voice for unity” among Ukraine’s allies, Biden said.

“The expectation on the part of Russia is we’re going to break up,” Biden said of the U.S. and European allies. “But we are fully, totally and thoroughly united.”

The United States had been cool to the idea of deploying the difficult-to-maintain Abrams tanks but had to change tack in order to persuade Germany to send its more easily used Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

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Still, the Abrams — among the most powerful U.S. tanks — will not be heading to Ukraine anytime soon.

Senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the decision said it will take months, not weeks, for the Abrams to be delivered and described the move in terms of providing for Ukraine’s long-term defense.

Members of the Ukrainian military will be trained on using the Abrams in a yet-to-be determined location. While a highly sophisticated and expensive weapon, the Abrams is difficult to maintain and provides a logistical resupply challenge because it runs on jet fuel.

The total cost of a single Abrams tanks can vary, and can be over $10 million per tanks when including training and sustainment.

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The decisions by Washington and Berlin come as the Western allies help Ukraine prepare for a possible spring counter-offensive to try to drive Russia out of territory it has seized.

“There is no offensive threat to Russia,” Biden said.

Biden speaks with Scholz before announcement
Biden and Scholz spoke in a telephone conversation on Wednesday that also involved French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Scholz’s spokesperson confirmed the call and it was mentioned during Biden’s announcement on Wednesday.

The five-way phone call focused on the security situation in Ukraine and continued support for the Ukrainian fight against Russian forces. All five heads of state and government agreed to continue military support for Ukraine and cooperate closely, it said


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LGBTQI: Outrage as US trains Nigerians, agencies on gay rights.

The United States Embassy’s tutoring of Nigerians on how to respect and protect the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons has sparked outrage.

LGBTQI is the acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex.

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On Tuesday, the U.S. Mission announced it funded a 4-day “train-the-trainers awareness workshop” for Nigerian law enforcement officers and other relevant agencies.

The information relayed on Twitter did not go well with social media users as they accused America of disrespecting Nigerian laws.

“What is the essence of this training when the laws of the land does not approve LGBTQI,” @Suleaaron replied.

“Your politics of lack of respect towards the African nations and the Chinese politics is very clear to the world. It is like the difference between good and evil”, @IsZhrdn fumed.

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“There’s legislation prohibiting it, but the State Department went ahead to fund a campaign on the issue because the US embassy always does not respect the beliefs and laws of their host countries,” @MusaYakubuMust tweeted.

“Why not spend funds on training officers on how to handle voters during general elections 2023. This is Diverse Nigeria with many cultures and traditions. We need to get leadership right first before other ancillary objectives,” said @jcpruzo.

“It is morally and culturally not acceptable here! Here is a very simple suggestion, gather them LGBTQI+ persons, give them free visa and citizenship in the US where they can enjoy the privileges of being LGBTQI+,” Mc_lumia advised.

“US law forbids bigamy and polygamy, African traditions. Nigerian law forbids homosexual but the US is forcing it in our throat. Hopefully, @USinNigeria will not bring democracy and military intervention to protect the LGBTI people”, @EkitiDuke wrote.

In January 2014, former President Goodluck signed a bill that criminalises same-sex relationships, shunning western pressure over gay rights.

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“Persons who enter into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union commit an offence and are each liable on conviction to a term of 14 years in prison,” the bill says.

The U.S. government denounced the legalisation through a strong statement issued by then Secretary of State, John Kerry.

“Beyond even prohibiting same sex marriage, this law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly … and expression for all Nigerians,” he said.

Jerry added that the law was not consistent with Nigeria’s international legal obligations and undermined democratic reforms and human rights protections.

In October 2019, Jonathan revealed the U.S. and the U.K. stood against him because he signed the Anti-Same sex Marriage Bill into law.

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The former leader commented on a portion of ex-Prime Minister David Cameron’s memoir which recalled his reaction after Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, Borno State.

“When he eventually made a statement, it was to accuse the campaigners of politicising the tragedy. When we offered to help rescue the girls we had located, he refused,” it read.

Jonathan dismissed the claim, narrating he came under intense pressure from the Cameron administration to pass legislation supporting same sex marriage.

“I signed the Prohibition Bill into law…in line with the wishes of the Nigerian people. This happened after a study of 39 nations by the US Pew Research Centre indicated that 98 per cent of Nigerians were opposed to gay marriage.

“My government came under almost unbearable pressure from Mr. Cameron, who reached me through envoys, and made subtle and not so subtle threats against me and my government”, he said.

Jonathan added that meetings critical of him were held at the White House and the Portcullis House in the U.K. Parliament with leaders of then opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC)


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Gunman Kill 3 In Washington.

A gunman who shot dead three people in what police say was a random attack was being hunted in the western US state of Washington Tuesday.


The attack came on the heels of two mass shootings in California that have left 18 people dead and as the United States grapples yet again with the horror of spiraling gun violence.

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Police in the city of Yakima say a man killed three people at a convenience store overnight in an apparently unprovoked attack.

“It appears to be a random situation,” Yakima Police Chief Matthew Murray said.

“There was no there was no apparent conflict between the parties. They just walked in and started shooting.”


Murray said officers were examining surveillance footage from the area around the Circle K store after the attack at 3:30 am (1130 GMT).

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“The first shooting was inside the store. Then he came outside the store and shot a victim outside the store and then went across the street and apparently shot one more person.

“We have three confirmed deceased parties.”

The suspect then made off in a stolen car from a nearby gas station, Murray said.


Police initially believed a fourth victim was in that car, but later said they did not think any other people had been hurt.

“This is a dangerous person and it’s random so there is a danger to the community,” he said.

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“We don’t have a motive, we don’t know why. We will do everything we can to locate and apprehend that person.”

Yakima, which sits 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Seattle, is a city of around 100,000 people.


The region is largely agricultural, with fruit and hops the main crops.

The shooting in Yakima is the latest spasm of gun violence to shake the United States.

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On Monday, seven people died at two agricultural sites south of San Francisco when a Chinese-American farmworker is believed to have opened fire on his colleagues.

Some of his victims are known also to be Chinese.

On Saturday night, an elderly Asian man rampaged through a dance studio in Monterey Park near Los Angeles, killing 11 people who had gathered for Lunar New Year celebrations.

Huu Can Tran shot himself dead several hours later as police moved in on his van



9 killed in California mass shooting after Lunar New Year festival.

At least nine people were reportedly killed in a mass shooting late Saturday in a city east of Los Angeles following a Lunar New Year celebration that attracted thousands, police said.

Sgt. Bob Boese of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said early Sunday that the shooting occurred at a business on Garvey Ave in Monterey Park. The shooter is a male, Boese said.

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This was likely U.S.’ first mass shooting incident in 2023.

Earlier dozens of police officers responded to the reports of the shooting in Monterey Park, a city of about 60,000 people with a large Asian population that’s about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from downtown Los Angeles.

Earlier in the day, thousands of people attended the annual festival.

Seung Won Choi, who owns the Clam House seafood barbecue restaurant across the street from where the shooting happened, told the Los Angles Times that three people rushed into his business and told him to lock the door.

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The people also told Choi that there was a shooter with a machine gun who had multiple rounds of ammunition on him so he could reload. Choi said he believes the shooting took place at a dance club.

The newspaper reported that the shooting happened after 10 p.m.

Saturday was the start of the two-day festival, which is one of the largest Lunar New Year events in Southern California.



Eritrea Troops Seen Leaving Tigray As US Hails ‘Withdrawal’

Eritrean forces have been leaving towns in the war-torn region of Tigray, locals told AFP, as the United States hailed a pullout seen as key to a landmark peace deal.

Fighting between federal troops and Tigray rebels erupted in northern Ethiopia in November 2020 and raged for two years before the two sides signed a peace deal in South Africa’s capital Pretoria on November 2, 2022.

Under the agreement, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) agreed to disarm and re-establish the authority of the federal government in return for the Ethiopian government reopening access to the war-torn region in dire need of food and aid.

READ ALSO: NDLEA, EFCC Destroy Cannabis Warehouses, Seize Fake $269,000 In Edo, Lagos

But the Pretoria agreement made no provision for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops, who fought on the side of the federal government and who were accused by the United States and human rights groups of some of the worst abuses in the bloody conflict.

The United States, along with the European Union, had sought to put pressure on Eritrea to remove its troops. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Saturday of their “ongoing withdrawal” in a telephone call with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

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Blinken called the withdrawal “significant progress” in the peace agreement.

“The Secretary welcomed this development, noting that it was key to securing a sustainable peace in northern Ethiopia, and urged access for international human rights monitors,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Convoys leaving
On the ground in Tigray, locals told AFP that convoys of Eritrean troops have been leaving the towns of Shire and Adwa, although some soldiers remained.

“I saw some Eritrean forces leaving Shire towards the northeast. I don’t know if they’re making a full retreat,” said one resident, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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Another local confirmed having seen a convoy of trucks, buses, tanks and artillery pieces rolling out of town.

However, he said some Eritrean soldiers were still “walking the streets and around the markets” on Saturday.

“People are waiting to find out if the Eritrean forces are really withdrawing,” one resident in Adwa told AFP on Saturday. “There have already been announcements of Eritrean soldiers leaving, only for them to come back later from other directions.”

With access to Tigray limited, it is impossible to independently verify the situation on the ground.

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The withdrawal has not yet been confirmed by peace deal signatories or the agreement’s observation mission.

War toll unknown
The war broke out in November 2020 when the TPLF, which had held power in Ethiopia until the Abiy’s rise, attacked Ethiopian federal military facilities in Tigray.

Abiy, who had won the Nobel Peace Prize in part for reconciling with Eritrea, unleashed a major offensive against the TPLF, which at one point had appeared close to advancing on the capital Addis Ababa.

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Situated on the border with Tigray, Eritrea sent in troops at the start of the conflict to support Ethiopian forces.

Addis Ababa and Asmara denied for months any Eritrean involvement in the conflict but Abiy later admitted their presence in March 2021.

The departure of Eritrean troops has been announced several times before but never verified.

The exact toll of the war, which has largely come to an end, remains unknown. The International Crisis Group think tank and Amnesty International have called it “one of the deadliest in the world”.

The conflict displaced more than two million people and left millions more in need of humanitarian aid.



More classified docs found in Joe Biden’s home.

Officials from the US Department of Justice found six more classified documents during a search of Joe Biden’s family home in Delaware this week, the president’s personal lawyer said in a statement Saturday.

The new disclosure served up another embarrassing twist for Biden in an affair dogging him just as he gets ready to declare whether he will run for another term in 2024.

READ ALSO: Lula Sacks Army Commander After Anti-Government Riots

Biden insists he has done nothing wrong and has downplayed the affair as a case of an innocent mistake.

Documents from Biden’s time as vice president and with classified markings first turned up an office space at a Biden-affiliated think tank in Washington, and then again at his home in Delaware. Altogether they are about a dozen documents.

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After the second find, the White House offered to let the Department of Justice search the Delaware home — the search was carried out on Friday and is now concluded, Biden attorney Bob Bauer said.

“DOJ took possession of materials it deemed within the scope of its inquiry, including six items consisting of documents with classification markings and surrounding materials,” Bauer said.

The search lasted almost 12 hours and covered “all working, living and storage spaces in the home,” Bauer said.

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“DOJ had full access to the President’s home, including personally handwritten notes, files, papers, binders, memorabilia, to-do lists, schedules, and reminders going back decades,” he said.

Some of the new papers seized were from Biden’s time in the Senate and some of which were from his tenure as vice president, Bauer said.

On Thursday Biden dismissed the furor over the discovery of the old classified documents.

Asked by reporters during a trip to California about the issue, he said: “I think you’re going to find there’s nothing there.”

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“I have no regrets. I’m following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do. It’s exactly what we’re doing. There’s no there there.”

Although the case is far less serious than Republican Donald Trump’s hauling off of hundreds of documents from the White House to his Florida residence after leaving office, Biden is under severe pressure from the media, Republicans in Congress and a Justice Department probe run by a special counsel



Several People Injured After Shooting In Monterey Park, Los Angeles.

Emerging reports suggest that several persons have been left injured following a shooting in Los Angeles.

US media reports stated that Police in California were responding to the incident which happened late on Saturday night in Monterey Park.

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In marking the Monterey Park Lunar New Year festival, thousands of people had earlier gathered in the city, it is, however, not clear yet how many people were shot or whether anyone has died.

Videos on social media showed a large police presence in the area, as security operates try to get to the root of the incident.

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Further details regarding this development are expected within the hour.



Anthony Blinken To Visit Beijing On Feb 5.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold talks in Beijing on February 5-6, a US official said Tuesday, giving dates for a long-awaited trip aimed at keeping high tensions in check.

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The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Blinken would arrive in the Chinese capital on February 5 and also hold talks the following day, going ahead with the visit despite mounting concern about Covid-19 cases in China.

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Greek opposition blames govt for US jet sale to Türkiye.

The Greek opposition accused the government of “catastrophic failure” in implementing proper foreign policies to prevent the United States from selling F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye.

After the U.S. State Department announced its decision on the potential sale of 40 jets and 79 modernization kits for tiered review in Congress, the leftist Syriza party said that the development highlighted the policy failure of being Washington’s “faithful and devoted ally”, the Efsyn news outlet reported on Sunday.

“The government’s dangerous foreign policy has increased adverse consequences for Greek interests,” it added.

Separately, the Greek Communist Party (KKE) warned that the foreign policy choices of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ administration were opening dangerous pathways for a special regime on the Greek islands in which NATO would have the first say.

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The far-right Elliniki Lisi was also harsh in its criticism of Mitsotakis’ conservative Nea Dimokratia (ND) government, which it accused of abandoning the Greek diaspora in the U.S. alone in its efforts to block the arms sale to Ankara.

Accusing the government of leaving the diaspora to work by itself to prevent the U.S. administration’s decision, it argued that this was tantamount to national humiliation.

The U.S. State Department sent Congress its decision on the potential sale of F-16 fighter jets to Türkiye for tiered review, sources told Anadolu Agency on Friday.

The notification on the sale of new F-16 jets and modernization kits has been conveyed to the chairpersons and ranking members of relevant committees in the House of Representatives and Senate, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The State Department is expected to officially announce its notification this week. The congressional notification of the sales will start a 15-day window for lawmakers to raise objections.

Akar said in late December that Ankara expected “positive and concrete steps” from the U.S. regarding the fighter jets sale that Türkiye requested in October 2021.

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US Medical Centre Names Dora Akunyili’s Daughter CMO.

Jersey City Medical Centre, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, has announced the appointment of Ijeoma Akunyili, as its new Chief Medical Officer.

Ijeoma is the daughter of the late former Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and ex-Minister of Information, Dora Akunyili.

Announcing the appointment in a statement on Wednesday, the medical centre said Ijeoma is its first Black Chief Medical Officer.

The centre’s MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical and Quality Officer, Andy Anderson, said the younger Akunyili would be a tremendous asset to the medical team.

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“RWJBarnabas Health is proud to add Dr. Akunyili to its executive clinical leadership team,” Anderson was quoted as saying.

“Her experience managing multi-specialty physician groups in integrated health care systems will help support Jersey City Medical Center in providing comprehensive health care throughout the community.”

President and Chief Executive Officer of the medical centre, Michael Prilutsky, also described Ijeoma as having a wealth of experience and knowledge.

“And as our Chief Medical Officer, we look forward to creating a world-class experience for every patient at Jersey City Medical Center. I am confident that Hudson County will benefit in a great way from her leadership, and that her presence will have tremendous impact,” he said.

In her most recent role, Ijeoma is said to have served as the Regional Medical Director for TeamHealth, Northeast Group, where she had strategic, operational, and clinical oversight of nearly 20 emergency departments, critical care, and hospitalist service lines in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania.

READ ALSO: Resident Doctors Threaten Nationwide Strike Over Unresolved Grievances

The medical practitioner led an unprecedented fourfold expansion of service lines with a specific focus on medical services and access to care for underserved populations.

Also, she is said to have previously served as the chair of emergency medicine at Waterbury Hospital, a Level II trauma teaching hospital.

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There she was the change agent who led a dynamic team in dramatically reducing the lengths of stay, improving overall performance across multiple patient-centered metrics, and increasing physician staffing.

She was awarded the 2019 Medical Director of the Year Award for the impressive turnaround of the Waterbury Hospital Emergency Department.

In addition to her executive experience, Jersey City Medical Centre said Ijeoma has vast leadership and advocacy experience, and is currently serving as the President of the Connecticut College of Emergency Physicians (CCEP).

Prior, she served for several years on the board of directors of Texas and CCEP. She was an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine Houston, Texas, and she is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Yale University.

Commenting on her appointment, Ijeoma said, “I am grateful for this opportunity, and I look forward to serving the residents of Hudson County and continuing to provide safe, innovative, efficient, and equitable care. It is a true privilege to lead the clinical effort at Jersey City Medical Center and to create sustainable health outcomes for our community.”

According to the medical centre, the new Chief Medical Officer graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania and attended the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She completed her emergency medicine residency at the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston.

In addition, she earned an MPA in international development from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Ijeoma and her husband are the parents of two teenage children.

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Young Thug set to go on trial for gang conspiracy.

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A sprawling gang conspiracy trial involving US rapper Young Thug is expected to begin Monday, with prosecutors alleging the Atlanta artist’s record label to be a front for a crime ring.

The influential hip hop star born Jeffery Williams was one of more than two dozen people charged last spring by a Georgia grand jury, which said those named belong to a branch of the Bloods street gang, identified as Young Slime Life, or YSL.

The indictment shook the rap world in Atlanta — a nexus of hip hop for years and where Young Thug is considered among the industry’s most impactful figures forging contemporary rap’s sound.

Georgia prosecutors hit all defendants with conspiring to violate the state’s criminal racketeering law, which is modeled off the federal RICO Act.

In its early days, that statute was used to go after the mob, and more recently it took down the disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly for sex crimes.

Alleged individual crimes supporting the YSL conspiracy charge include murder, assault, carjacking, drug dealing and theft.

Young Thug, who founded the hip hop and trap label YSL Records in 2016, also faces one count of participation in criminal street gang activity.

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Defense lawyers insist YSL — also known as Young Stoner Life Records — represents nothing more than a label and vague association of artists.

Controversially, prosecutors are holding up rap lyrics from musicians including Young Thug as well as Gunna — who was also charged but took a plea deal — and even a bar from a posthumous Juice WRLD single.

“I think if you decide to admit your crimes over a beat, I’m going to use it,” said Fani Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, which includes Atlanta.

‘Rap on Trial’

It’s far from the first time hip hop lyrics have featured in courtrooms, a practice that’s sparked controversy numerous times over the past decades.

Authorities say the chart-topping artist Young Thug is the founder and chief of YSL — or Young Slime Life — a subset of the Bloods street gang whose predicate crimes Georgia state prosecutors say include murder, theft and assault

Erik Nielson, a University of Richmond professor and specialist on rap music as evidence in criminal trials, will likely testify as an expert witness on behalf of the defense.

His 2019 book with Andrea L. Dennis, “Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America,” holds that courts routinely take slice-of-life lyrics out of context to criminalize and imprison both professional rappers and aspiring artists who are primarily Black and brown.

Kevin Liles, a co-founder of the label 300 Entertainment — a division of Warner Music Group under which Young Thug started YSL Records as an imprint — months ago put forth a petition that has garnered tens of thousands of signatures to “protect Black art.”

“With increasing and troubling frequency, prosecutors are attempting to use rap lyrics as confessions,” reads the petition.

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“This practice isn’t just a violation of First Amendment protections for speech and creative expression. It punishes already marginalized communities and silences their stories of family, struggle, survival, and triumph.”

The petition urges federal and state legislation that would curb prosecutors’ ability to cite artistic expression as evidence of criminal activity or intent.

That already exists in California, where last fall Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act.

It doesn’t completely ban the use of lyrics in trials, but mandates a presumption of lyrics as minimally valuable evidence, with a number of stipulations prosecutors must now prove.

Similar legislation is pending in the states of New York and New Jersey, and last summer the RAP Act, aimed at protecting artists’ first amendment freedom of speech rights, was introduced in the US Congress.

Young Thug attends Rihanna’s 3rd Annual Diamond Ball benefitting The Clara Lionel Foundation at Cipriani Wall Street on September 14, 2017 in New York City

Brad Hoylman — a state senator in Manhattan who co-introduced the New York bill — told AFP that if unchecked, using lyrics as evidence in courtrooms could “chill freedom of expression” and “lead to a miscarriage of justice.”

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He also noted that “rap music is in its essence political speech: it can be painful, harrowing, uncomfortable, but vital to critiquing on society.”

Out of the 28 people originally named in the YSL indictment, 14 are anticipated to stand in the trial that could last six to nine months.

Six of the original defendants will be tried separately, and eight — including Gunna as well as Young Thug’s brother, Quantavious Grier — have taken plea deals.

Court documents show the state could potentially call well over 300 witnesses, including prominent rap world figures like Lil Wayne

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McCarthy proposes deal to break House speaker fight deadlock.

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The intricate outlines of a potentially transformative deal, one that could install Republican leader Kevin McCarthy as the House Speaker, have finally come into focus after a tumultuous 3 days and 11 unsuccessful ballots, a political drama unseen for over a century.

The failed attempts to unite the Grand Old Party (GOP) – have left the party in disarray, further exposing the fragility of the American democratic system.

The House will be back at it Friday, with Republicans trying to elect their new House speaker – this time, against the backdrop of the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. The attack was an unimaginable scene of chaos that shook the country when a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters tried to stop Congress from certifying his election defeat.

McCarthy made no promises of a final vote that would secure him the speaker’s gavel, but glimmers of a deal with at least some of the far-right holdouts who have denied him support were emerging.

“We’ve got some progress going on,” McCarthy said late Thursday, brushing back questions about the lengthy, messy process. “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

The agreement McCarthy presented to the holdouts from the conservative Freedom Caucus and others centered on rules changes they have been seeking for months. Those changes would shrink the power of the speaker’s office and give rank-and-file lawmakers more influence in drafting and passing legislation.

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Even if McCarthy is able to secure the votes he needs, he will emerge as a weakened speaker, having given away some powers and leaving him constantly under threat of being voted out by his detractors. But he would also be potentially emboldened as a survivor of one of the more brutal fights for the gavel in U.S. history.

At the core of the emerging deal is the reinstatement of a House rule that would allow a single lawmaker to make a motion to “vacate the chair,” essentially calling a vote to oust the speaker. McCarthy had resisted allowing it, because it had been held over the head of past Republican Speaker John Boehner, chasing him to early retirement.

The chairperson of the chamber’s Freedom Caucus, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who had been a leader in Trump’s efforts to challenge the 2020 presidential election, appeared receptive to the proposed package, tweeting the adage from Ronald Reagan, “Trust but verify.”

Other wins for the holdouts include provisions in the proposed deal to expand the number of seats available on the House Rules Committee, to mandate 72 hours for bills to be posted before votes and to promise to try for a constitutional amendment that would impose federal limits on the number of terms a person could serve in the House and Senate.

Lest hopes get ahead of reality, conservative holdout Ralph Norman of South Carolina said: “This is round one.”

It could be the makings of a deal to end a standoff that has left the House unable to fully function. Members have not been sworn in and almost no other business can happen. A memo sent out by the House’s chief administrative officer Thursday evening said that committees “shall only carry out core Constitutional responsibilities.” Payroll cannot be processed if the House isn’t functioning by Jan. 13.

After a long week of failed votes, Thursday’s tally was dismal: McCarthy lost seventh, eighth and then historic ninth, 10th and 11th rounds of voting, surpassing the number from 100 years ago in the last drawn-out fight to choose a speaker.

The California Republican exited the chamber and quipped about the moment: “Apparently, I like to make history.”

Feelings of boredom, desperation and annoyance seemed increasingly evident.

One McCarthy critic, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, cast votes for Trump – a symbolic but pointed sign of the broad divisions over the Republican Party’s future. Then he went further, moving the day from protest toward the absurd in formally nominating the former president to be House speaker on the 11th ballot. Trump got one vote, from Gaetz, drawing laughter.

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Democrats said it was time to get serious. “This sacred House of Representatives needs a leader,” said Democrat Joe Neguse of Colorado, nominating his own party’s leader, Hakeem Jeffries, as speaker.

What started as a political novelty, the first time since 1923 a nominee had not won the gavel on the first vote, has devolved into a bitter Republican Party feud and deepening potential crisis.

Democratic leader Jeffries of New York won the most votes on every ballot but also remained short of a majority. McCarthy ran second, gaining no ground.

Pressure has grown with each passing day for McCarthy to somehow find the votes he needs or step aside. The incoming Republican chairpersons of the House’s Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence committees all said national security was at risk.

“The Biden administration is going unchecked and there is no oversight of the White House,” Republicans Michael McCaul, Mike Rogers and Mike Turner wrote in a joint statement.

But McCarthy’s right-flank detractors led by the Freedom Caucus and aligned with Trump appeared emboldened – even though the former president publicly backed McCarthy.

Republican Party holdouts repeatedly put forward the name of Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, ensuring the continuation of the stalemate that increasingly carried undercurrents of race and politics. They also put forward Republican Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, splitting the protest vote.

Donalds, who is Black, is seen as an emerging party leader and a GOP counterpoint to the Democratic leader, Jeffries, who is the first Black leader of a major political party in the U.S. Congress and on track himself to become speaker someday.

Ballots kept producing almost the same outcome, 20 conservative holdouts still refusing to support McCarthy and leaving him far short of the 218 typically needed to win the gavel.

In fact, McCarthy saw his support slipping to 201, as one fellow Republican switched to vote simply “present,” and later to 200. With just a 222-seat GOP majority, he could not spare votes.

The disorganized start to the new Congress pointed to difficulties ahead with Republicans now in control of the House, much the way that some past Republican speakers, including Boehner, had trouble leading a rebellious right flank. The result: Government shutdowns, standoffs and Boehner’s early retirement.

The longest fight for the gavel started in late 1855 and dragged on for two months, with 133 ballots, during debates over slavery in the run-up to the Civil War.

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Trump Urges Republicans To Back McCarthy As US House Deadlocked

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Donald Trump on Wednesday called for far-right Republicans to end their blocking of the party’s candidate to become US House speaker, after a damaging split prevented Kevin McCarthy from securing the key role.

Congress was thrown into disarray on Tuesday by the rebels’ move to derail McCarthy’s candidacy, with the House of Representatives failing to elect a speaker for the first time in a century.

Rather than celebrating their new control of the lower chamber, the Republican Party has instead been pitched into a drawn-out public fight that put McCarthy’s political career on the line.

“It’s now time for all of our great Republican House Members to vote for Kevin, close the deal and take victory,” Trump posted on social media.

“Republicans, do not turn a great triumph into a giant and embarrassing defeat.”

McCarthy needed 218 votes in the House, which flipped to a narrow 222-212 Republican majority after last year’s midterm elections.

But he failed to bring into line the party rebels, including several high-profile allies of former president Trump, and he was rocked by 19 “no” votes from his own side in each of the first two rounds, rising to 20 in the third.

Trump loyalty test
The House was adjourned on Tuesday and was expected to hold further ballots on Wednesday until someone emerges with a majority — and it is not out of the question that a new candidate could come to the fore.

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One roadblock to McCarthy’s anointment was the perception by some on his party’s right wing that he is insufficiently loyal to Trump, who is running for the White House again after losing to Joe Biden in 2020.

McCarthy, who defied a subpoena from the special House panel probing the 2021 assault by Trump supporters on the Capitol, has already promised the hardliners investigations of Biden’s family and administration, as well as of the FBI and CIA.

But the more he is seen as giving in to the right, the more likely he is to alienate moderates.

His performance was so weak that he lost out to the Democratic minority leader Hakeem Jeffries in each of the opening three ballots — although there remains little doubt a Republican will ultimately claim the speaker’s gavel.

The last time it took more than one round of voting to pick a speaker at the start of a new Congress was a century ago, in 1923. Another historic speaker selection process that began in December 1855 took 133 rounds of voting over two months.

“It’s time to celebrate, you deserve it,” Trump said. “Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a great job — just watch!”

The Speaker wields huge influence in Washington by presiding over House business and is second in line to the presidency, after the vice president.

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US house fails to elect new speaker in first rounds of voting.

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For the first time in nearly a century, the United States House of Representatives has failed to elect a speaker in the first rounds of voting, as Republican Kevin McCarthy fell short of securing a majority in the chamber to succeed Democrat Nancy Pelosi.

McCarthy was not able to overcome opposition within his caucus in the three rounds of voting on Tuesday before the legislators voted to adjourn the House’s first meeting.

Republicans narrowly won control of the chamber in November’s midterm elections, but several right-wing legislators in McCarthy’s own party have refused to back him for the speakership.

The speaker must acquire a majority of the votes, excluding absent legislators and those who vote “present”. On Tuesday, McCarthy needed 218 votes, but he only received 203 as 19 Republicans voted against him in the first two ballots. In the third round, he lost one more vote, bringing his tally down to 202.

In the first vote, most Republican dissenters backed Arizona Representative Andy Biggs or Ohio Representative Jim Jordan. In the second round, all 19 opposing Republican votes went to Jordan, a right-wing firebrand. Jordan increased his total to 20 votes in the third round.

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Before the voting began on Tuesday, far-right Congressman Paul Gosar had nominated Biggs as a candidate. But Jordan did not seek the speakership and voted for McCarthy three times himself.

In the second round, Jordan renominated McCarthy, and in turn, ultraconservative Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz nominated Jordan, acknowledging that the Ohio representative does not want the job.

The Democratic leader in the House, Hakeem Jeffries, received 212 votes in all three rounds — more than McCarthy — but he was never realistically in the running as his party is in the minority.

McCarthy, a California Republican, had served as House minority leader after Democrats took the majority in 2019.

Legislators will reconvene on Wednesday and hold subsequent votes until a candidate for the speakership wins a majority. The House will remain effectively non-functional without a new speaker.

The speaker is second in the line of succession for the US presidency and the country’s most powerful legislator, with decisive influence over what bills and amendments get to be considered.

The House is one of two chambers that makes up the US Congress. It, along with the Senate, passes federal legislation, allocates government spending and ensures oversight.

After the first round of voting, Biggs, an Arizona Republican, called on McCarthy to “stand down” and allow Republicans to choose another leader on the next ballot.

“We barely got through half the ballot before confirming that McCarthy is still well short of 218 votes,” he wrote on Twitter. “My colleagues have made clear that our party deserves a new leader.”

McCarthy had negotiated with the politicians who oppose his bid for speaker, offering concessions that were anticipated to dilute his power, should he become speaker.

He has promised to focus on the priorities of right-wing members, including investigating the business practices of President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, an issue that Democrats dismiss as a conspiracy theory.

McCarthy has also called on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to resign over his handling of migration at the southern border, threatening to investigate and impeach him.

Moreover, he promised to restore the committee assignments of Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was kicked off congressional panels in 2021 over anti-Jewish and Islamophobic comments.

But despite those promises, McCarthy still failed to quell opposition from the far right.

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Earlier on Tuesday, McCarthy signalled a willingness to withstand several rounds of voting. “I will always fight to put the American people first, not a few individuals that want something for themselves,” he told reporters. “So we may have a battle on the [House] floor, but the battle is for the [Republican] conference and the country, and that’s fine with me.”

His opponents also said they are in it for the long run. “I stand firmly committed to changing the status quo no matter how many ballots this takes,” Scott Perry, one of the leading Republican dissenters, wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Democrats have described Republicans’ inability to agree on a speaker as a demonstration of the GOP’s failure to lead.

“None of this is good for our country. None of it,” Democratic Senator Chris Murphy wrote in a social media post.

Key House Democrat Jamie Raskin called the inconclusive votes a “once-in-a-century humiliation” for McCarthy, accusing him of whitewashing “right-wing insurrectionism” that Raskin said took place during the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

Democrats could help McCarthy by voting for him or leaving the chamber for the next rounds of voting to lower the total of the votes, making it easier for him to attain a majority. But Congressman Eric Swalwell has ruled out the idea.

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