President-elect Joe Biden will not receive pressure from his European counterparts to rush back into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Officials from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom told the Journal that their countries are still supportive of the deal, but they don't think it will be possible or even desirable to achieve a full return to the agreement before Iran's presidential elections in June. Like several analysts, they think it's better to wait and see how things unfold before giving up any leverage.
Diplomats in Europe reportedly believe Iran will elect a more hard-line president than the comparatively moderate incumbent, Hassan Rouhani. If Biden successfully hurries the U.S. back into the deal while Rouhani remains in office, it could lead to his successor quickly reversing it on Tehran's end, making it much more difficult to reach a broader agreement that would prompt Iran to reverse its expanded nuclear activities.
What Europe does seem to want is for the Biden administration to ease the tensions and sanctions that have defined President Trump's relationship with Iran and offer Tehran "some tangible economic benefits" before the vote, theoretically creating incentive for the next government to negotiate. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell
It's very important to Martha Stewart that the world doesn't get the wrong impression about how many "glorious" peacocks she has.
Stewart took to Twitter to slam the New York Post for running a "fake news" story that said she has 16 peacocks on her farm. She'll have you know, in fact, that her peacock game is far stronger than that.
"I actually have 21 of these glorious birds whose house is impeccable," Stewart declared.
Stewart has apparently been absolutely thriving during the COVID-19 pandemic, previously saying she has "zero complaints" about quarantining on her 153-acre farm. While she was at it, she clarified on Twitter for anyone wondering that her peacocks "do not smell" and are "so clean," their "voices are loud but such fun to hear," and they're "so friendly."
So there you have it! In the Post's defense, People notes Stewart did write a blog post on "my peacocks and peahens" back in July 2020 in which she said, "I have 16 living in a coop surrounded by a large, fully-enclosed yard." But the Post has added a correction to its story, bumping up Stewart's number of peacock friends by five and possibly avoiding the libel case of the century. Brendan Morrow
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday the State Department requested "additional details" from Israel regarding "the justification" of its air strike on a tower in Gaza that housed offices for several media outlets, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. Blinken said he has "not seen any information provided," though that doesn't necessarily mean there was no communication between the U.S and Israel. Israel, which warned occupants to evacuate the building before the strike, has said Hamas was also using the tower for military purposes, making it a legitimate target.
In a column for HotAir.com, Ed Morrissey attempts to read between the lines of Blinken's remarks, arguing it would have made little sense for Israel to target the tower if it wasn't a Hamas facility. If the Israeli Defense Forces "just decided to indiscriminately take down buildings in Gaza ... they wouldn't have left the surrounding buildings intact and they'd be dropping much heavier ordinance," he writes, adding that it appears Israel "wanted to take out this building in particular with no loss of life and carefully set up the mission to accomplish it."
As for Blinken, Morrisey suggests he simply may have been out of the loop as information passed between Mossad and the CIA (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday the evidence would have been shared through intelligence channels), or "it might be that everyone already knew Hamas had a command center in the building," which would render a formal briefing unnecessary. In that case, Israel would put together a comprehensive "after-action report," and Blinken "might be signaling to Netanyahu to accelerate that process." Read more at The Associated Press and HotAir.com. Tim O'Donnell
AT&T on Monday announced it has reached a deal to spin off WarnerMedia and combine it with Discovery, creating a new standalone company, CNN reports. Discovery CEO David Zaslav will lead the new company, which The New York Times writes would be a "media juggernaut" that would be bigger than both Netflix and NBCUniversal, though not quite as big as Disney.
The $43 billion deal, CNN writes, would "combine two treasure troves of content," including the streaming services HBO Max and Discovery+. WarnerMedia owns HBO, CNN, TNT, TBS, and Warner Bros. among other assets, while Discovery's brands include HGTV, Food Network, and Animal Planet.
The combined company "would be a formidable competitor to" Netflix and Disney as the streaming wars continue to heat up, Bloomberg writes. The company is planning to spend about $20 billion on content, more than Netflix, Axios reports.
This announcement was also a "significant about-face" on the part of AT&T, which acquired Time Warner for over $85 billion in 2018, the Times writes.
AT&T CEO John Stankey said Monday the move "positions the new company to be one of the leading global direct-to-consumer streaming platforms." The deal is subject to regulatory approval, but the companies say they expect it to close in the middle of 2022. Brendan Morrow
The Pentagon was mired in chaos between former President Donald Trump's defeat Nov. 3 and his departure from office Jan. 20, Jonathan Swan reports at Axios, in a long look at Trump's final "war with his generals." After his loss, Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and named Christopher Miller as acting secretary, and his personnel director Johnny McEntee continued the purge of Pentagon leadership, installing loyalists to "steamroll the generals and extract America from its foreign engagements."
On Nov. 9, the same day Trump appointed Miller, McEntee offered controversial retired Col. Douglas Macgregor a job as Miller's senior adviser, handing him a list of goals for Trump's final weeks in office, Swan reports: "1. Get us out of Afghanistan. 2. Get us out of Iraq and Syria. 3. Complete the withdrawal from Germany. 4. Get us out of Africa." Macgregor said if Trump really wanted that, he had to sign an order to that effect. When Miller got a signed memo two days later, saying all U.S. forces had to be out of Somalia by Dec. 31 and out of Afghanistan by Jan. 15, his reaction, Swan reports, was "What the f--k is this?"
Miller and Trump's national security team pushed back, painting a scenario like helicopters leaving Saigon in a chaotic retreat, and "Trump folded on total withdrawal for the last time as president," Swan reports. Still, "the situation inside the senior levels of the Trump administration was also growing more fraught. The tension between the civilian leadership of the Pentagon and the generals was as bad as it had been in living memory."
In early December, top Trump administration officials decided from National Security Agency intercepts that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Mark Milley was undercutting the Pentagon's civilian leadership, "a serious, likely fireable issue," Swan reports. But nobody wanted to bring the intel to Trump, "because you didn't want to get sucked into some weird scandal and be testifying," a source familiar with the discussions told Axios.
Miller, Swan reports, told associated he had his own "three goals for the final weeks of the Trump administration: No. 1: No major war. No. 2: No military coup. No. 3: No troops fighting citizens on the streets." He mostly succeeded. Read more at Axios. Peter Weber
Rev. Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and one of former President Trump's earliest and most influential evangelical Christian backers, told Axios on HBO it would "be a very tough thing" for Trump to seek a second term in 2024. "I think for him, everything will depend on his health at that time," said Graham, 68. "If he still has energy and strength like he does. I don't." Trump, 74, "does not eat well, you know, and it's amazing the energy that he has," Graham added. "He's lost weight, 15 pounds, maybe. So he might be in good health and in good shape. I don't know."
Graham may be a Trump supporter, but he told Axios he would "absolutely" work with President Biden's administration, if asked, to encourage people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Rev. @Franklin_Graham says he'd "absolutely" work with Biden to reach out to Christians about getting vaccinated if he were asked to:
White evangelical Christians are one of the groups most hesitant to get vaccinated, according to multiple surveys. Graham was public about getting vaccinated himself, drawing jeers from many of his supporters, but he was clear with Axios that he sees encouraging people to get vaccinated right up there with saving souls. "I want people to know that COVID-19 can kill you, so we have a vaccine out there that could possibly save your life," he said. "And if you wait, it could be too late." Peter Weber
GlaxoSmithKline said Monday that a Phase 2 trial of its COVID-19 vaccine, developed with French partner Sanofi, showed a "strong neutralizing antibody response" in adult participates of all age groups and raised no safety issues. "We believe that this vaccine candidate can make a significant contribution to the ongoing fight against COVID-19 and will move to Phase 3 as soon as possible to meet our goal of making it available before the end of the year," said Roger Connor, president of GSK's vaccines program.
The Phase 3 trial, expected to start in the next few weeks, is slated to involve 35,000 adults from a number of countries. The vaccine is based on Sanofi's seasonal flu vaccine, combined with a immunity-boosting adjuvant from GSK. The companies had hoped to seek regulatory approval in the first half of 2021, but pushed back those plans after disappointing results in December. The favorable new findings will help GSK CEO Emma Walmsley stave off pressure from activist investor Elliott Management, which took a large stake in GSK in April, The Guardian reports. Peter Weber
Guns are everywhere in America, "but this story isn't so much about guns themselves as it is about one particular law that significantly expanded how they're used," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "Stand Your Ground" laws, on the books in 30 states, "were originally pitched as a law-and-order measure to protect people forced to make difficult decision in impossible life-or-death situations," but "in practice, they can be invoked in incidents that really seem like they didn't need to turn deadly."
"Don't worry, we're not going to show you the far-too-plentiful footage of people getting shot in public places tonight — frankly, we're just one senseless murder away from HBO Max putting this show in the 'Endless Parade of Human Misery' category, alongside Chernobyl and Entourage," Oliver joked darky. "But given the prevalence of Stand Your Ground laws and the racial disparities in who they do and, crucially, don't protect, we thought tonight it would be worth taking a look at them."
Stand Your Ground laws are "redundant solutions to a made-up problem and they are actively doing harm," Oliver said. Basically, "if you have a reasonable fear someone might hurt you, you have just as much right to shoot them in the street as you would if they were coming though the window of your house." One woman, gun lobbyist Marion Hammer, has done more than anyone to push through these laws, he explained, running through her story.
A big problem with the laws is "it all comes down to perceived fear, whether you legitimately saw someone as a threat, and that is definitionally subjective," Oliver said. "And it's made even harder by the fact that often the only other person who know what happened in the incident is now dead." There are literal scripts for how to describe fatal shootings to avoid jail, he added. "It seems all you have to do is memorize a few key phrases, and you too could be free to shoot with impunity. It's basically Rosetta Stone for Justified Homicides."
"Stand Your Ground laws have contributed to a society where vigilantes with guns feel they have the right to decide what is safety, who is a threat, and what the punishment should be," Oliver said. "They have turbo-charged everything from road rage incidents to pointless disputes over dog weights." And yes, that last dispute is real. Watch below. Peter Weber