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January 8, 2016
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Two men who came to the United States as refugees from the Middle East have been arrested on federal terrorism charges in Texas and California, U.S. officials announced Thursday.

Both are Palestinians born in Iraq, and a source told Reuters that while they were not involved in a single plot, they may have been in contact with each other. Authorities arrested Omar Faraj Saeed al-Hardan in Houston, and Aws Mohammed Younis al-Jayab in Sacramento. Al-Hardeen came to the U.S. as an Iraqi refugee in November 2009, court documents say, and al-Jayab arrived in the U.S. in 2012 as a refugee from Syria.

Al-Harden was charged with providing material support to the Islamic State and for making false statements about ties to the group while seeking U.S. naturalization, court documents say. In a criminal complaint, the FBI says that Al-Jayab lied about traveling to Syria and about posting on social media about his support for terrorist organizations. Catherine Garcia

8:03 p.m. ET
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Foreign fighters are leaving the Islamic State in droves, with many surrendering to or being caught by Turkish border police over the last few weeks, The Guardian reports.

People who sympathized with the terror group are also fleeing, as ISIS loses ground in its stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. Last week, Kary Paul Kleman, a 46-year-old from Florida, and Stefan Aristidou of London surrendered at the Kilis crossing, accompanied by Aristidou's British wife, Kleman's Syrian wife, and two Egyptian women whose husbands were killed in battle, The Guardian reports. Aristidou claimed he traveled to Syria two years ago not to fight but to live, later admitting he was in Raqqa. Kleman's mother said after he got a divorce, he converted to Islam and moved to Egypt in 2011. He married and divorced an Egyptian woman, then moved to Dubai and married a Syrian woman. His family said he went to Syria in 2015 to help with humanitarian efforts.

The United States estimates that up to 30,000 foreign fighters have likely crossed into Syria to fight with ISIS, and as many as 25,000 have been killed. Turkish and European officials have said their embassies are being contacted by ISIS fighters who have joined in recent years and are asking to return home, The Guardian reports. While many foreigners are ready to leave ISIS, there are others more committed than ever; western intelligence officials believe that at least 250 ISIS fighters over the last two years have been smuggled over the Turkish border and are now in Europe. Catherine Garcia

6:59 p.m. ET
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On Wednesday, senators were briefed at the White House by top national security advisers on the situation in North Korea, but several said they left the meeting without hearing any solid details on how the U.S. will deal with the country as it remains intent on building a nuclear arsenal.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asked for the briefing, which was delivered by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, National Intelligence Director Daniel Coats, and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In a statement, Tillerson, Mattis, and Coats said the goal of the United States is to "convince the regime to de-escalate and return to a path of dialogue" toward peace. The U.S. does remain "open to negotiations," the statement read, but is "prepared to defend ourselves and our allies."

Several senators told The Washington Post that during the briefing, they did not learn much about how the U.S. will deal with North Korea and its provocations. "There was very little, if anything, new," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said. "I remain mystified about why the entire Senate had to be taken over to the White House rather than conducting it here." A Republican senator told the Post the "basic gist of it at the beginning was that we're going to get more aggressive, we've waited and they've continued to be bad actors." The senators wanted to know what "we should be looking for as the trigger that something is about to happen and that we'd end up taking some kind of action. That's where things got a little elliptical."

Earlier in the day, Admiral Harry Harris, the top U.S. commander in the Pacific, told Congress the U.S. needs to take threats from North Korea very seriously, and should strengthen missile defenses in key areas like Hawaii. Catherine Garcia

5:49 p.m. ET
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In an interview with the Washington Examiner on Wednesday, President Trump revealed he's "absolutely" thought about breaking up the 9th Circuit Court. That's the same court that was singled out in a White House statement Tuesday after U.S. District Judge William Orrick ruled to temporarily block Trump's executive order that threatens to cut off federal funding for sanctuary cities.

Though Orrick does not sit on the 9th Circuit Court, the White House pummeled that court all the same after Orrick's ruling. "First the 9th Circuit Court rules against the ban," Trump wrote on Twitter, "and now it hits again on sanctuary cities — both ridiculous rulings." He also vowed to see the 9th Circuit Court "in the Supreme Court!"

Judges who are on the 9th Circuit Court have blocked both versions of Trump's immigration executive order. Orrick sits on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, whose appealed cases go to the 9th Circuit Court, but does not sit on that court himself.

Trump on Wednesday told the Washington Examiner that "there are many people that want to break up the 9th Circuit." "It's outrageous," Trump said. "Everybody immediately runs to the 9th Circuit," he went on. "And we have a big country. We have lots of other locations. But they immediately run to the 9th Circuit. Because they know that's like, semi-automatic." Becca Stanek

4:58 p.m. ET
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President Trump's proposal to slash taxes for businesses and families could cost the nation $5.5 trillion, the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget revealed Wednesday. Trump's tax proposal, which he unveiled Wednesday, includes plans to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent and to whittle the seven existing tax brackets down to three rates of 10, 25, and 35 percent.

While Trump may bill his plan as family-friendly, the CRFB noted in its fiscal tax check that it could "drive up the federal debt, harming economic growth instead of boosting it" if "adequate offsets" aren't put in place. "With interest costs, a $5.5 trillion tax plan would be enough to increase debt to 111 percent of Gross Domestic Product (compared to 89 percent of GDP in CBO's baseline) by 2027," the CRFB wrote. "That would be higher than any time in U.S. history, and no achievable amount of economic growth could finance it."

Read the full report here. Becca Stanek

4:18 p.m. ET
San Diego Natural History Museum

Researchers may have been off by nearly 115,000 years when they estimated that humans arrived in North America about 15,000 years ago. The potential miscalculation was uncovered by a collection of mastodon bones, which were discovered during construction work on a California freeway in 1992. After toiling for years to date the bones, researchers announced this week in a paper published in the scientific journal Nature that they'd determined the remains of the adult male mastodon to be about 130,000 years old — and to contain signs of human activity.

The finding is likely to be controversial. Already, Smithsonian Magazine noted, the question of when humans arrived in North America is "a flashpoint among archaeologists." There is no other evidence to indicate humans arrived tens of thousands of years earlier than has been suggested, but paleontologist Thomas Deméré, one of the study's authors, said they have the evidence to back up the claim. "I realize that 130,000 years is a really old date," Deméré said. "Of course, extraordinary claims like this require extraordinary evidence."

The mastodon bones that were uncovered bear "impact marks suggesting that they had been smacked with a hard object," Smithsonian Magazine reported. Researchers also discovered five massive stones at the site, which they believe humans may have used as hammers or anvils. The stones "showed signs of impact," Smithsonian Magazine said, and the bones were found piled up right around these stones.

"[W]e can eliminate all of the natural processes that break bones like this," said Steven Holen, another study co-author. "These bones were not broken by carnivore-chewing, they were not broken by other animals trampling on the bone." Becca Stanek

2:46 p.m. ET

It seems tennis star Serena Williams' accuracy is better on the court than on Snapchat. A week after surprising the world with the news that she's pregnant, Williams admitted during an interview Tuesday at the 2017 Ted Talks Conference that she didn't actually mean to send out that selfie of her growing baby bump. The photo of a swimsuit-clad Williams, with the simple caption "20 weeks," almost immediately made headlines.

"I was on vacation just taking some time for myself and I have this thing where I've been checking my status and taking pictures every week to see how far along I'm going," Williams said. She said she hadn't told "a lot of people to be quite honest" because she was "saving" the news.

"You know how social media is, you press the wrong button and ... ," Williams said. When she checked her phone 30 minutes later, she was surprised to see several missed calls. "But it was a good moment," she said. "I was going to wait, literally, just five or six more days [to share the announcement]."

Williams said she found out she was pregnant just two days before the Australian Open, where she bested sister Venus Williams to claim her 23rd Grand Slam singles title.

Watch Williams get candid about her pregnancy reveal below. Becca Stanek

2:15 p.m. ET
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After a long back-and-forth with the University of California, Berkeley, over her slated April 27 speech, conservative commentator Ann Coulter gave her final answer on Wednesday, a day before she was originally scheduled to speak. "There will be no speech," Coulter wrote in an email to Reuters.

The hubbub over Coulter's speech started last week, when Berkeley announced it was cancelling the event because of security concerns amid threats of protest. The school had been forced in February to cancel alt-right media figure Milo Yiannopoulos' appearance after violent protests erupted hours before it was scheduled to begin. Despite the uncertainty, Coulter had maintained that, nevertheless, she would persist and give her critical speech about pro-immigration policies.

Coulter's insistence that she would go ahead and speak prompted Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to reconsider. The school later re-invited Coulter to speak, though at a more "appropriate, protectable venue" and on a later date.

But Coulter put the kibosh on giving a Berkeley speech at all Wednesday, which she declared a "sad day for free speech." Coulter credited her decision to the fact that Young America's Foundation, one of two groups helping Coulter in her legal battle to speak at Berkeley, had decided to step down due to concerns about risking "the safety of its staff or students."

"I looked over my shoulder and my allies had joined the other team," Coulter told Reuters. She also noted to The New York Times that it seemed as though "everyone who should believe in free speech fought against it or ran away." Becca Stanek

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