September 16, 2019

Count Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) among those who might support military action against Iran if intelligence determines Tehran was indeed behind the weekend attacks on major Saudi oil facilities.

Coons, appearing Monday on Fox & Friends, told host Brian Kilmeade that if intelligence supports claims that Tehran, rather than Yemen's Houthi rebels, were behind the strikes, "this may well be the thing that calls for military action against Iran." The Houthis, who are backed by Tehran in Yemen's civil war, claimed responsibility for the drone attacks, but Coons said it "seems credible" that the rebel group does not employ the advanced weaponry used against the facilities. Of course, the U.S. already believes Iran supplies the Houthis with arms and training, so it is likely Washington will consider Tehran responsible, whether directly or indirectly.

Regardless, this may be the final straw for Coons. The senator acknowledged that the U.S.'s relationship with the Saudis "has been badly strained" by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but added that "Iran is really pushing our resolve." If Tehran attacks American allies in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel, Coons said, "we need to take seriously taking action against them."

That prompted a compliment from Kilmeade, who seemed inspired by the fact that a military operation against Iran could unite Democrats and Republicans — if the evidence supports the accusations, that is. Watch the exchange below. Tim O'Donnell

February 27, 2020

Every political ad in South Carolina ahead of Saturday's Democratic presidential primary seems to feature former President Barack Obama, "so it seems a lot of white folks think standing next to a cool black person gives them legitimacy," Jordan Klepper said on Thursday's Daily Show. "But is it effective? Let's ask my good friend, Roy Wood Jr." Klepper and Wood traveled to Charleston to get the pulse of black voters, a group that gets its first real say in South Carolina's primary. And they left with one big question: "Who is Tom Steyer?!?"

The black voters they talked with were "not easily duped by the slick political advertising strategy of 'My One Black Friend,'" Klepper said. "But who was breaking through?" The surprise answer was Steyer, who has spent the most money on ads in South Carolina, even though his Obama connection is once-removed. To understand the appeal, Klepper and Wood asked Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) about Steyer, and then Steyer himself. Wood left him hanging. Watch below. Peter Weber

February 27, 2020

A senior Turkish official on Thursday said Turkey will no longer attempt to stop Syrian refugees heading to Europe.

"We have decided, effective immediately, not to stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe by land or sea," the unidentified official told Reuters. "All refugees, including Syrians, are now welcome to cross into the European Union."

There are 3.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, and in 2016, the European Union agreed to send the country billions of Euros in aid with the understanding that Turkey would prevent the migrants from going on to Europe. Now, as fighting has intensified in Syria's Idlib province and hundreds of thousands of Syrians are displaced, the burden of housing refugees is "too heavy for any single country to carry," the official told Reuters.

In Idlib, Turkish-backed rebels have been trying to keep control of territory they seized from the Syrian government, supported by Russia. On Thursday, a Syrian government airstrike in Idlib killed at least 33 Turkish soldiers, a Turkish official said. In response, Turkish air and land support units are firing on "all known" Syrian government targets, according to Fahrettin Altun, Turkey's communications director. Catherine Garcia

February 27, 2020

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will continue its reign as the longest-running live-action prime-time television series for at least three more years.

NBC announced on Thursday it is giving three-year renewals to all of producer Dick Wolf's shows that air on the network: Law & Order: SVU, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., and Chicago Med. "Dick Wolf has proven time and time again that he makes shows audiences love," NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy said in a statement, adding that the network is "delighted, excited, and proud" that the series will continue.

Starring Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU is now in its 21st season; it is the second-longest-running TV series of any kind, behind The Simpsons. Catherine Garcia

February 27, 2020

Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iran's vice president for women and family affairs, is the latest Iranian government official to contract the COVID-19 coronavirus.

At least seven officials in the country have tested positive for the coronavirus. Ebtekar is the highest-ranking woman in Iran's government, and is now quarantined at home, her deputy announced on Thursday. She was photographed on Wednesday during a cabinet meeting, sitting just a few yards away from President Hassan Rouhani.

The other infected officials are Iraj Harirchim, deputy health minister; Mojtaba Zolnour, a Parliament member from Qom and head of Parliament's national security and foreign policy committee; Mahmoud Sadeghi, a member of Parliament from Tehran; Morteza Rahmanzadeh, the mayor of a Tehran district; Dr. Mohamad Reza Ghadir, head of coronavirus management in Qom; and Hadi Khosroshahi, a major cleric and former ambassador to the Vatican. Iran's official media has reported that Khosroshahi, 81, has died.

The first case of coronavirus in Iran was reported on Feb. 19 in Qom. Health Ministry officials on Thursday said there are 245 confirmed cases in the country, and at least 26 people have died from the virus. Health experts estimate there are many more COVID-19 cases in Iran, because the death rate is so high. Friday prayers have been canceled in Tehran and 22 other cities, and all schools and universities are closed until March 21. Catherine Garcia

February 27, 2020

Federal health employees who met coronavirus evacuees at two California military bases earlier this year did not receive proper training in safety protocols until five days after their arrival, a whistleblower said.

The New York Times obtained a portion of the whistleblower's complaint, which said the workers also did not have adequate protective gear. The whistleblower, described as being a senior leader at the Department of Health and Human Services, submitted the complaint to the Office of the Special Counsel.

The whistleblower said the workers were "improperly deployed" to March Air Reserve Base and Travis Air Force Base. They went into the quarantined areas where the evacuees were being processed and then would walk around other areas of the base. At least one worker stayed at a nearby hotel and flew back home on a commercial flight, and only a few knew that they needed to monitor their temperature three times a day.

The whistleblower said that throughout the operation, he or she fielded "panicked calls" from deployed staffers who "expressed concern with the lack of HHS communication and coordination." When senior Trump administration officials later heard their concerns, the staffers were "admonished," the whistleblower said, and had their "mental health and emotional stability questioned." The staffers believe the administration is trying to "whitewash" what happened, the whistleblower continued, and won't listen to their health and safety concerns.

Travis Air Force Base is in Solano County in Northern California. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first known instance of a person in the United States testing positive for coronavirus without traveling abroad or having known exposure to someone with the virus. The patient lives in Solano County, and the CDC said it is possible they came in contact with a person who caught coronavirus abroad and came to the United States infected. Catherine Garcia

February 27, 2020

A Syrian government airstrike Thursday in the country's Idlib province killed at least 29 Turkish soldiers, a Turkish official said.

Rahmi Dogan, the governor of Turkey's Hatay province, said additional troops were injured, while the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll higher, at 34. Local media reports that after the airstrike, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called an emergency meeting of his top security officials.

Syrian rebels backed by Turkey have control of some territory in Idlib, and the Syrian government, with the support of Russia, is trying to retake those areas. Turkey began sending more troops to Idlib earlier this month, in an attempt to slow down the Syrian army's advance across the province. The intense fighting has sparked Syria's latest humanitarian crisis, as hundreds of thousands of displaced people are now fleeing toward the Turkish border. Catherine Garcia

February 27, 2020

Caity Weaver at The New York Times has laid out a fascinating "royal Instagram mystery" proposing that something fishy is afoot when it comes to the follower counts of Prince William and Kate Middleton's @KensingtonRoyal account, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's newer @SussexRoyal account.

"From the outset, @SussexRoyal was runaway popular," Weaver writes, adding that within a month and a half, Harry and Meghan's account amassed as many followers as @KensingtonRoyal had managed in four years. And yet "it seemed, from the outside, that no matter how many followers @SussexRoyal gained, it could never quite catch up" with William and Kate's account.

Coincidence? Or is @KensingtonRoyal "receiving follower boosts in the form of bots" to keep it ahead?

Read more at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

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