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Britney Spears says she’s working on new music

Britney Spears has announced she is making new music again.

House panel asks Supreme Court to say by mid-January whether it’s taking Trump’s January 6 records case

Former President Donald Trump appealed to the Supreme Court on Thursday to block the release of documents from his White House to the House committee investigating the January 6 riot at the Capitol, escalating his effort to keep about 700 pages of records secret.

Hours after Trump’s request was filed, the House olukai shoes committee asked the justices to expedite their consideration of the request, with a proposed schedule that would allow the court to say by the middle of next month whether it was taking up the case.
The committee, which is charged with investigating the US Capitol attack to provide recommendations for preventing such assaults in the future, seeks the documents as it explores Trump’s role in trying to overturn the election. That includes his appearance at a January 6 rally when he directed followers to go to the Capitol where lawmakers were set to certify the election results and “fight” for their county. The documents are currently held by the National Archives.
Then-President Donald Trump walks from Marine One after arriving on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, October 1, 2020, following campaign events in New Jersey.
In filings submitted to the Supreme Court on Thursday, Trump asked the justices to take up a full review of the case and he requested that while they consider his position, they put a hold on the lower court decision permitting the disclosure of his records while they consider taking up the case.
“The limited interest the Committee may have in immediately obtaining the requested records pales in comparison to President Trump’s interest in securing judicial review before he suffers irreparable harm,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in the court filings.

Records could answer longstanding questions about riot

At issue are hundreds of documents including activity logs, schedules, speech notes and three pages of handwritten notes from then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — paperwork that could reveal goings-on inside the West Wing as Trump supporters gathered in Washington and then overran the US Capitol, disrupting the certification of the 2020 vote. The records could answer some of the most closely guarded facts of what happened hoka shoes for women between Trump and other high-level officials, including those under siege on Capitol Hill on January 6.
Trump is also seeking to keep secret a draft proclamation honoring two police officers who died in the siege and memos and other documents about supposed election fraud and efforts to overturn Trump’s loss of the presidency, the National Archives has said in court documents.
In its expedition request Thursday evening, the House committee said that any delay in the Supreme Court’s consideration would “inflict a serious injury on the Select Committee and the public.”
“The Select Committee needs the requested documents now to help shape the direction of the investigation and allow the Select Committee to timely recommend remedial legislation,” the panel said. It said the committee and the Biden administration would file by December 30 their responses to Trump’s request that the Supreme Court take up the case. The lawmakers are asking the Supreme Court to consider during its January 14 conference whether it will take up the case.
The fight over the documents stems from a lawsuit Trump filed against the Archives as well as the House committee, seeking to stop the records’ disclosure. Trump is arguing that those documents should remain secret under the former President’s own assertions of executive privilege, though so far, lower courts have rejected his arguments.
Thursday’s filing with the Supreme Court marks an escalation of the dispute, in which President Joe Biden has determined that withholding the documents based on executive privilege is not in the interest of the United States. In a letter to the National Archives in October, White House Counsel Dana A. Remus said that the President had declined to assert privilege because Congress has a “compelling need in service of its legislative functions to understand the circumstances that led to these horrific events.”
In their filings with the Supreme Court Thursday, the former President’s lawyers said that the House’s request for the Trump White House documents was “untethered from any valid legislative purpose and exceeds the authority of Congress under the Constitution and the Presidential Records Act.”
Trump told the Supreme Court that the case posed “novel and important questions of law that the Court should resolve.”
“While the protections of executive privilege and restrictions on access to presidential records are qualified, it is critical that future Presidents and their advisers understand the contours and perimeters of that privilege—and its exceptions—after the conclusion of a presidential term,” Trump said in his request that the court take up the case.
Arguments rejected by lower courts
Previously, both a district court judge and the DC US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Trump’s arguments in decisions that backed the legitimacy of the document requests and the investigation more broadly.
“Former President Trump has given this court no hoka shoes legal reason to cast aside President Biden’s assessment of the Executive Branch interests at stake, or to create a separation of powers conflict that the Political Branches have avoided,” the DC Circuit said in its opinion earlier this month. In its December 9 ruling against Trump, the appeals court gave him 14 days to request a Supreme Court intervention.
In his application with Chief Justice John Roberts — who oversees emergency matters arising from the DC Circuit — to put the appeals court decision on hold, Trump said that allowing for the documents to be released before the Supreme Court considered the case would “detrimentally impact Presidential decisionmaking for all future Presidents.”
“There will not be another Presidential transition for more than three years; Congress has time to allow this Court to consider this expedited appeal,” Trump wrote in the filing.
Left unsaid was that Republicans are expected to take control of the House in next year’s election and would likely end the House select committee’s investigation.

Rare sea eagle from Asia spotted thousands of miles from home in Massachusetts

A rare Steller's sea eagle perches in a tree Monday in Dighton Rock State Park in Massachusetts.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope rolls out for Christmas launch

The James Webb Space Telescope is finally on the launchpad. The space observatory, safely tucked inside an Ariane 5 rocket, is expected to launch on December 25.

The rocket and its precious cargo rolled out to the Arianespace ELA-3 launch complex at Europe’s Spaceport located near Kourou, French Guiana on Wednesday.
The rollout took about two hours to complete, according to NASA.
Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket, with NASA's James Webb Space Telescope onboard, was rolled out to the launchpad in French Guiana on Thursday.

“With Webb and its rocket securely on the pad, the team will run electrical diagnostics to ensure all lights are green for launch,” according to an update from NASA. “Teams will power on the observatory while at the launch pad to run one final aliveness olukai shoes test to ensure all systems have power and are working before liftoff.”
The launch window opens Christmas morning at 7:20 a.m. ET and closes at 7:52 a.m. ET. Live coverage of the launch will stream on NASA’s TV channel and website beginning Saturday at 6 a.m.
The highly anticipated launch of the James Webb Space Telescope has been delayed multiple times.
Ahead of a planned launch for December 24, news of adverse weather conditions came shortly after NASA shared that the Launch Readiness Review for the telescope was completed on Tuesday.
The Ariane 5 rocket and its cargo towers above the surroundings in French Guiana.

Another weather forecast reviewed on Wednesday confirmed the new launch date of December 25.
Heralded to be the premier space observatory of the next decade, the telescope, initially planned for a 2018 launch, has endured years of delays, including a combination of factors brought on by the pandemic and technical challenges.
Last week, teams were working on “a communication issue between the observatory and the launch vehicle system” that pushed the launch to December 24, NASA shared in an online post. The agency has since stated that the problem has been mostly resolved and would not prevent the launch.
The name of NASA's most powerful telescope is still controversial one month before its launch
The previous launch date of December 18 was pushed to December 22 after an incident occurred during launch preparations in November.
As technicians were preparing to attach the telescope to the upper stage of the Ariane 5 rocket that will be used during the launch, “a sudden, unplanned release of a clamp band caused a vibration throughout the observatory,” according to the agency.
After testing and reviewing the observatory, teams concluded that the telescope was not damaged, and fueling was completed on December 3. The telescope was placed on top of the rocket on December 11.

What the telescope will do

Considered to be the world’s most powerful complex hoka shoes space observatory, Webb will answer questions about our solar system, study exoplanets in new ways and look deeper into the universe than we’ve ever been able to. Webb will peer into the very atmospheres of exoplanets, some of which are potentially habitable, and could uncover clues in the ongoing search for life outside of Earth.
The telescope comes equipped with a mirror that can extend 21 feet and 4 inches (6.5 meters) — a massive length that will allow the mirror to collect more light from the objects it observes once the telescope is in space. The more light the mirror can collect, the more details the telescope can observe.
The mirror includes 18 hexagonal gold-coated segments, each 4.3 feet (1.32 meters) in diameter.
James Webb Space Telescope tests its giant mirror ahead of 2021 launch
It’s the largest mirror NASA has ever built, the agency said, but its size created a unique problem. The mirror was so large that it couldn’t fit inside a rocket. So NASA teams designed the telescope as a series of moving parts that can fold origami-style and fit inside a 16-foot (5-meter) space for launch.
Webb will act as an infrared sleuth, detecting light that is invisible to us and revealing otherwise hidden regions of space, according to NASA.
Ball Aerospace optical technician Scott Murray inspects the first gold primary mirror segment of the telescope.

The concept for the telescope was first imagined as a successor to Hubble at a workshop in 1989, and construction on Webb first began in 2004. Since then, thousands of scientists, technicians and engineers from 14 countries have spent 40 million hours building the telescope.
Now, Webb could help researchers understand the origins of the universe and begin to answer key questions about our existence, such as where we came from and if we’re alone in the cosmos.
The most powerful telescope ever built is about to change how we see the universe
Once the telescope launches, it will travel for about a month until it reaches an orbit about 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) away from Earth. Over the course of 29 days, Webb will unfold its mirrors and unfurl a protective sunshield. This process involves thousands of parts that must work perfectly in the right sequence.
Fortunately, each step can be controlled from the ground in case there are issues.
Then Webb will go through a period of setting up shop in hoka shoes for women space that lasts for six months, which involves cooling down the instruments, alignment and calibration. All of the instruments will go through a checkout process to see how they are functioning.
Then, it will begin to collect data and its first images later in 2022. Thousands of scientists have been waiting for years to see what Webb can show us.

After Billie Eilish talks about porn, experts urge parents and kids to have straight talk about sex

Long gone are the days of accessing porn only at the local magazine and video stores. Today, internet and cable television services make pornographic content available to almost anyone. A lot of internet porn is available without charge, and some graphic novels and Japanese anime have incorporated pornographic or nearly pornographic images and plotlines.

In the cyber age, porn is easily accessible to adolescents online. In fact, most porn these days is accessed through the internet, according to a 2016 meta-analysis published in The Journal of Sex Research.
Adolescents who viewed violent, graphic pornography were six times more likely to be sexually aggressive than those who were not exposed, according to a 2011 study cited by a 2012 review of research. Kids aren’t only seeing porn at younger ages these days, but hoka shoes for women they are seeing more porn and more graphic porn than their parents did. Pornography, however, is no substitute for open and honest sex education.
Such was the consensus among some psychologists and educators this past week after brutally honest — and heartbreaking — comments from singer Billie Eilish about exposure to porn at a young age.
In an appearance on “The Howard Stern Show” on SiriusXM Radio, Eilish said she started watching porn around age 11. “It really destroyed my brain,” she said, adding that graphically violent imagery gave her nightmares and sleep paralysis.
Singer Billie Eilish opened up about  trauma from watching violent porn starting at age 11. She is shown at the 2021 iHeartRadio Music Festival  in Las Vegas, September 18.
“The first few times I had sex, I was not saying no to things that were not good; it was because I thought that’s what I was supposed to be attracted to,” said Eilish, who turned 20 on December 18. Eilish went on to say she “didn’t understand why it was a bad thing” and that she “thought that’s how you learned how to have sex.” When she told her mother, the Grammy Award winner said her mom was horrified by the idea that her daughter was learning about sex this way.
Her comments about being “traumatized” were a painful reminder of how porn and other sexualized media can impact young adults in today’s world, sex educators told CNN.
Emily Rothman, chair of the department of occupational therapy at Boston University who is also a professor of pediatrics and medicine, said Eilish’s comments serve as a wake-up call for parents and other trusted grown-ups to play a more active role in children’s lives.
“Having a conversation with youth about what they have seen, when, where and how many times, can be really helpful to try to prevent future incidents and answer their questions,” said Rothman, who teaches and researches about sex, sexuality and gender and has provided violence-related consulting to state departments of public health and coalitions of domestic violence programs.
“We need to do more to prevent youth from viewing sexually explicit media. And because no matter what we do, some of them will see it anyway, we also need to provide information and education to all youth about the fact that pornography is not an instruction manual on how to have sex.”

Graphic porn is easily accessible to tweens and teens

Eilish described what she was watching as “abusive porn,” depicting violence against women “without consent.” What’s more, her experiences might be more common than most adults choose to admit.
Break the ice with your tween or teen using TV shows, social media and podcasts
Porn “is available all the time on the internet, and even if parents put up blockers, kids are finding ways to access it,” said Michael Robb, senior director of research at Common Sense Media, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that publishes entertainment and technology recommendations for families. “Whether they’re seeking it out themselves or they’re accessing it unintentionally through friends or older siblings, it’s there.”
There isn’t much trustworthy and recent research about the intersection of tweens and porn, according to Robb. It’s an area that researchers have had difficulty studying due to ethical questions and lack of participation. Furthermore, Robb analyzes the studies hoka shoes on the subject of kids and porn, and said many of these endeavors have had questionable methodologies.
More reliable data that do exist suggest Eilish’s experiences are typical, Robb said. One he cites often:
A 2017 survey of 1,001 young people and children in the United Kingdom, which indicated that 28% of those 11-12-year olds reported seeing porn, while 65% of 15-16 year olds reported seeing it. Robb said these numbers are likely higher now because of increased screen use during the Covid-19 pandemic.

All about education

Of course, as Rothman suggested, the real issue underlying most conversations about porn is education.
Tweens and teens watch the material like Eilish did and think it’s real life, laying the groundwork for distorted reality and associated problems down the road, according to David Ley, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Ley added that the real disconnect comes with what porn doesn’t show.
“Healthy sexual interactions require negotiation and consent and honesty and self-control and respect,” he said. “Most porn skips over all of this, and without the proper context, kids who are curious and watch it aren’t going to understand how important all of these issues are to healthy sexual relationships.”
Part of the challenge here is educating kids about healthy sexual interactions, Ley noted.
Sex ed conversations you need to have with your tween or teen
While most formal sex education in the United States doesn’t start until middle school, many other nations start teaching kids about it at a younger age. Ley said the effects of this early exposure are indisputable: In the Netherlands, where the basics of sex education begin between ages 4 and 6, there are lower rates of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and sexual assault.
“We have this idea and belief that we have if you don’t talk about something it won’t happen,” he said. “The reality is that not talking about it sets up kids for unfortunate lessons.”
These comments resonated with author Peggy Orenstein.
Over the last 15 years, Orenstein has written six books about young people, sexuality and sex, and she’s interviewed hundreds of tweens and teens along the way. In talking to these kids, she said she has learned they are picking up misplaced messages from a variety of media.
“It’s imperative to talk to young people about sexuality that’s legal and ethical and good,” Orenstein said. “The values of male sexual entitlement, female submissiveness and availability, and female performance for male pleasure are prevalent in today’s world. It’s not just porn (where kids see these values). It’s easy to get alarmed about many of the things young people are seeing.”

Sex as meaningful human connection

Many experts said the best way for parents to engage in conversation with kids about human sexuality is to discuss it as a celebration of the human condition and how people can connect on deeper, more meaningful levels.
This also makes it critically important to recognize different sexual identities.
Aredvi Azad, co-executive director of The Heal Project, a nonprofit that teaches kids about healthy living, noted that any modern conversation about sex, sexuality and gender must extend beyond the heteronormative, cisgendered relationships depicted in most mainstream pornography.
Guiding gender-atypical kids through puberty
“If we don’t talk about sex more broadly, we are unintentionally creating a situation where kids who don’t have interests within what is deemed normal can easily descend into a shame spiral,” Azad said.
“We need to help kids understand every aspect of sexual and gender identity, and that asexuality is a thing, too,” said Azad, who identifies as genderfluid and uses they/them pronouns.

For adults only

It’s also important to note that pornography isn’t always considered bad.
A recent op-ed by noted sex educator Cindy Gallop pointed out that porn can be innovative, creative, and even downright feminist if made with a focus on a woman’s comfort and desires.
Chelsea Kurnick, an LGBTQ advocate and community builder in Sonoma County, California, agreed. Kurnick said olukai shoes there is a host of porn outside the mainstream that is “beautiful and instructive and can be empowering for adults to watch.”
In many cases, “queer and trans people, fat people (and) disabled people” can gain useful and helpful knowledge from porn that’s made by and for them, Kurnick said. She added that this material is strictly for adults.
“It is totally true that there are often unrealistic expectations set by porn and that you can find violent or disturbing stuff online,” she said. “It’s also important to remember that porn isn’t made for 11-year-olds, it can be healthy for adults to see, and it’s something real people do for a living.”

What parents can do

The best way parents can respond to children’s natural curiosity about pornography is to be proactive and supportive in the process of discussing it with kids.
What body positivity means to today's teens
As Gallop wrote in her recent essay, this means parents must commit to talking to kids about sex frankly and straightforwardly.
Orenstein said that for her, it means conversations should focus on the notion that all people are worthy of dignity and respect.
To achieve these goals, parents must strive to create from the very beginning an atmosphere where children don’t feel or experience shame for expressing curiosities as they develop, according to Jennifer Kelman, a therapist and clinical social worker in Boca Raton, Florida.
Parents also should commit to parenting with positivity, answering just about every question that kids ask, Kelman said, even if the answers simply state that children are not yet old enough for more information to satisfy their request.
“Parents need to be open about (kids) possibly being exposed to (porn) and validate their natural curiosity around it, while allowing them to express their thoughts and feelings around sexual intimacy,” Kelman said. “There is no shame in natural growth and curiosity, so (parents must) talk to kids about real love and the harms that pornography can do.”

How children were used in a 48-hour deadly rampage for gold

The men were shot as they slept outside, having spent their days underground, choking in the Sahel dust, digging and panning for gold.

They were killed by children — some apparently as young as 12 — and men who had arrived on dozens of motorbikes and were egged on in their murderous spree by women who knew the village well, according to witnesses. The local militia had left. The army came to the rescue for a matter of hours in the morning but then left before dusk, letting the attackers return the following night to burn the village down and most likely steal what gold it had.
In the end, somewhere between 170 and 200 people died, according to estimates by a local police source and other officials, and it still remains unclear who the killers were.
The massacre in Solhan, northern Burkina Faso, took place over two nights of extraordinary brutality in June 2021. The killings soon faded from international headlines, absorbed into the rhythms of persistent violence in the Sahel region, an arid stretch of land olukai shoes sandwiched by the Sahara Desert and the African savannah, and wracked by the climate emergency.
In the lawless and remote communities of the Sahel, jihadists increasingly hold sway. Yet one likely culprit in this incident, al Qaeda’s local affiliate JNIM, condemned the attack’s brutality. And the other main suspect, ISIS, chose to blame it on al Qaeda, according to an ISIS-affiliated newspaper.
Dozens of interviews by CNN with survivors, local witnesses and Burkina Faso officials paint the most complete and disturbing narrative yet of a rampage perpetrated over 48 hours, partially by children, that the US-backed and trained Burkina Faso military was powerless to stop.
Yet few officials or witnesses agree on a coherent and consistent motive for the attack. Were the child attackers sent for Solhan’s gold, as currency for their Islamist masters? Was it a punishment killing ordered by jihadists against villagers loyal to the government?
The story of Solhan is a notable mark in the patina of brutality spreading across the Sahel. The intervention — and now ongoing drawdown — of the French military, the arrival of European Union forces, and the Pentagon’s sustained support mean billions have been spent in attempts to bolster the local security forces. Yet violence has spiraled instead, particularly in Burkina Faso over recent years.
The crisis in some of sub-Saharan Africa’s poorest states presents an imminent threat to Europe’s security, and by extension the United States, analysts say, in providing a secure and spacious breeding ground for terror networks. US officials have described the “wildfire of terrorism” in the Sahel, with al Qaeda and ISIS “on the march” in West Africa, aiming to “carve out a new caliphate.”
Illicit gold has emerged as a key source of funding for jihadist groups, who have been seizing so-called “informal mines” — small-scale mining sites which rely largely on physical labor and basic technology to extract precious metals and minerals — in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger since 2016, according to a Crisis Group report from 2019.
In this file photo taken in February 2020, miners work at a gold mine in Bouda, Burkina Faso. A growing number of small-scale gold miners are out of work in Burkina Faso as jihadists try to seize control of the country's most lucrative industry.

Bachir Ismael Ouédraogo, Burkina Faso’s minister of energy and mines, told CNN the country lost 20 tons of gold through informal mining and exports every year, worth roughly $1 billion on the open market.
Ouédraogo describes it as a “war economy,” a system that uses well-coordinated routes across the African continent. “The gold you end up buying is financing terrorism, and affecting our families here,” he added.

The first night: Massacre

Trapped in the arid plains around 400 kilometers (250 miles) northeast of the capital Ouagadougou, Solhan’s gold is the village’s only asset, and its curse.
Satellite images of the village show the damage that informal mining has done to the terracotta soil — the charred grey tailings and spoil from the intense activity of men who spend so many hours digging underground that they must sleep outdoors to recover.
A satelite view of the site of the attack on Solhan in Burkina Faso.

A local government-backed militia called the VDP (a French acronym meaning Volunteers for the Defense of the Country) provides some security. Yet on the night of June 4, Solhan was left mostly defenseless.
More than 100 jihadists, on dozens of tricycles and motorbikes, had been spotted 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Solhan that afternoon, according to Boureima Ly, the emir of the local region of Yagha.
The army was warned of a possible attack, but it was unclear if it would target Solhan or nearby Sebba — according to Aly Bokoum, an activist with the Sahel Regional Youth Council in Burkina Faso — so the local unit chose to stay in Sebba, where it is based. The VDP in Solhan also contacted hoka shoes for women the army about the threat but were told to leave the village, according to Bokoum.
CNN has made multiple attempts to contact Burkina Faso’s army for comment.
Gold appeared to set the attackers’ priorities. Mines at Mousiga, a tiny settlement to Solhan’s east, were hit first, according to a mining official and a miner who were present. Many of the survivors, witnesses and officials requested anonymity for their safety.
“Their faces were hidden with scarves,” the miner said of the assailants. “There were many of them on bikes and they started shooting. I started running for my life — for 30 kilometers, all night, to safety.” This miner said he did not see children among this group and two other officials denied the involvement of children at the Mousiga mines.
The distant gunfire from Mousiga was misinterpreted by the Solhan miners, who “thought it was the army coming” on a routine patrol and so “stayed next to their wells,” said the mining official. The attackers then hit a VDP base on the road into the village, before moving on to their main target.
On entering Solhan, the convoy of children, women and likely some men split. One group turned left towards the mines. Another drove calmly into the center of the village.
A local shop in Solhan was completely destroyed in the attack.

The first shots in Solhan, heard by witnesses at 2:08 a.m., were at the mines, the police source said. “The gold-diggers were first … ambushed … killed at random,” he said, while describing the typical night-time scene. “Most of the [miners] sleep outside, on site. They can’t sleep indoors, and they don’t go home either. Usually only a few of them get into the well late at night, and most come out because of the heat.”
One miner said some victims were shot dead as they slept outside and others were slaughtered as they worked, trapped underground. “All [the attackers] found outside were people sleeping,” he said. “That’s what made it possible for them to massacre them like that.”
Another miner said: “People started coming out of the pits and running … running for our lives.” He added that others hid inside the 30-foot-deep wells.
The mining official described how a large gun was positioned beneath a nearby tree for use in the attack. “Many ran away, but when you run, you’re going to be seen and they shoot,” he said, adding that some miners survived by hiding in the pits until 8 a.m. “The first person who went down to the site [the following day] called me, and said the bodies were lying like fish,” the official said.
Several witnesses and officials told CNN that the attackers had in-depth knowledge of Solhan’s layout. “These are people who take the time to study their target,” confirmed the police source, who said witnesses mentioned distinctly hearing women’s voices among the attackers. “They indicated to ‘go to into this guy’s house, do this and that,’ and told children to ‘go here and there,’ that they couldn’t let one person leave,” the source said.
Local activist Abdou Hoeffi, from the human rights group Burkina Faso Movement for Human and People’s Rights (MBDHP), said the women played a cheerleading role with the child assailants, with shouts of: “You are a good shooter! You go!”
One witness, who said his parents were killed in the attack, told CNN in Solhan: “They came with women and little children holding guns. Francois, a shopkeeper, he was taken away, my friend. If it was a man, they killed him — a boy, they kidnapped him. A little one like that,” he said, gesturing the embrace of an infant in his arms, “who was breastfeeding [was taken away]. His mother lost her mind.”
The road leading into Solhan. The attackers arrived on motorbikes, according to eyewitnesses.

One Solhan woman, her bright blue dress glistening as she sifted grains through a sieve, described surviving the night: “They destroyed everything … I fled into my house with my child on my back … I couldn’t sleep all night. We saw the light from the bullets all over the place … It was only God who saved us, otherwise they were going to exterminate us all.”
Another witness said he and his wife were in bed with their 5-day-old baby when they heard the gunfire. “Three terrorists passed by my house, in front of me, talking. They did not stop. I could see the bullets raining down everywhere in the night.” The witness, a former hoka shoes security guard for the local cellphone antenna, said the attackers disabled the phone mast that night and removed its battery, cutting the village off from the outside world and a chance of help.
The attackers left at dawn, and the same witness said that the villagers started to venture outside again by 5 a.m. “I couldn’t count the number of corpses that were on the side of the road,” he recalled. “Everywhere you go, there are bodies lying around.”
The mine was also an apocalyptic scene. “We found that everyone died at the well. I made up to eight trips with a motorcycle cab to carry corpses,” said another survivor.” The mining official added that “everyone was loaded on and off the motorbikes like bags of grain.”
The area around the mine at Solhan was left damaged.

Then the army finally arrived. One miner told CNN the attackers depended on the military’s slow reaction when launching their assault. “This is Burkina Faso. There is no fast response,” the miner said. “If they knew that in 30 or 40 minutes the army would come, they wouldn’t [attack]. But they took all their time.”
When the military did arrive, there was little to do but bury the dead, he said. “They dug a big hole. There was no other solution.”
The ex-phone antenna guard said the security forces asked villagers “to go back home and lock the door, and to not hide any terrorists.”
Six bodies were found at this location after the attack on Solhan in June 2021.

Two officials said the militants’ convoy did not really leave at first light but instead relocated to a hideout in the brush, and waited. The mining official specified a remote border area where he believed they had hidden. The police source said it was not clear if they met leaders there for further instructions, or just waited for the cover of night.
Some of the villagers who remained in Solhan tried to flee, said the police source. “They didn’t know if it was over or not,” he said. The hospital in the nearest city, Dori, was “overwhelmed,” he said. But it was unclear if the attackers were finished with Solhan. At dusk, the answer came.

The second night: Destruction

“I heard the sound of their motorcycles and said, ‘Ah, they are [here] again,'” one witness said. “I went back to my yard, turned off the lights in my house, took my mat, took my blanket.” He said he left for another village — traveling on foot with a group of Solhan’s children, elderly residents and pregnant women.
But the convoy’s focus was different this time: They wanted to eradicate or loot all that remained. “They started to burn. They entered the houses,” said one survivor. “At the stores, they took clothes, drinks, money, put them in their vehicles.”
“They came back, they found four motorcycles at our place,” another survivor said. “They burned everything. They burned all our houses, until even the sheet metal was gone. They took rice, sugar, oil and boxes of other things.”
Showing a cameraman around what remained of his home, the survivor gestured to the devastation — the walls black with soot, apart from a patch where the TV was fixed before it too was looted. “The grenade went through the wall and went to the other side,” he said, pointing at a missing patch of plaster. “The whole roof is gone.”
The mining official said 80 sheep were also slaughtered in the violence.
Young men who survived the onslaught sought medication for the psychological trauma in nearby Dori, he added. “They were given pills or injections, because they say they couldn’t close their eyes, because they could still see the dead bodies.”
Video filmed in July shows the charred village clinic — the hospital beds and consultation room beyond use. Shops and homes were incinerated, and rows of buildings left collapsed or with only their metal gates remaining. Motorcycles were torched. Even the mining machinery used to break rocks was half-smashed, yet in the video some of it still hummed around the mines that remained functioning.
Shell casings still lay on the ground. The scale of destruction — fueled, it seemed, by something more nihilistic than just looting — surprised some officials.
Shell casings were found at the site of the attack in Solhan.

Since June, officials, experts and survivors have been seeking to understand more about the massacre.
The government, facing protests in Dori over its inaction and security failings, blamed jihadists.
Government spokesperson Ousseni Tamboura told Radio France Internationale that two suspects had been detained before the attack and the arrests had led officials to link it to a little-known group called Mujahed al Qaeda, which is connected to the al Qaeda affiliate JNIM. Tamboura said gold was also a motivating factor. In the immediate aftermath, the government fired some security personnel and declared three days of national mourning.
Tamboura told CNN in November the government believes al Qaeda affiliate JNIM was behind the massacre. He put the death toll at 132, which includes attackers killed in the incident, and fatalities from a neighboring attack.
Tamboura declined to comment on the army’s absence in Solhan that night, and said that the Burkina Faso military followed all protocols set between them and the US as a condition for aid. The spokesman added that the jihadi groups were fueled by hunger to control resources, not by ideology.
A French military intelligence official, who didn’t want to be named discussing sensitive information, agreed that jihadists were likely responsible, saying the massacre was likely committed by a group “in the process of being formed,” linked to JNIM. The official said attacks against the general population, as indiscriminate as those on Solhan, were more the hallmark of ISIS, however.

Display of violence

Beds inside the local health clinic were burnt.

The display of violence has once again highlighted the rapid deterioration of social structures and security in the Sahel region.
A US intelligence official said: “There is absolutely a continued need for Western involvement and engagement to address the expansion of the al Qaeda- and ISIS-based groups in the area and not give them complete freedom of movement — as well as to build [the] capability [and] capacity of African partners.”
The US official added that the crisis seemed to be fueled by local partnerships between jihadists and not an influx of ISIS fighters from the collapse of the former ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria. They said that they have not noticed a broad trend of ISIS fighters moving from the Middle East to the Sahel area, with the exception of one or two persons of interest.
The official said the main concern was how ISIS affiliates across Africa were able to share tactics and build each other’s capabilities.
“Whether it’s physical facilitation capabilities from a group like ISIS Somalia with more skilled fighters [or] better media coordination from other groups, and being able to rapidly disseminate those capabilities more widely … it is hugely concerning,” they explained. “You could take a group that is probably not very effective and make them very effective quickly, if they’re able to leverage some of that skill set.”
In Burkina Faso and its Sahel neighbors Mali and Niger, armed Islamist groups have killed more than 800 civilians in attacks during 2021 alone, according to Human Rights Watch.
Three days of mourning was declared in Burkina Faso after an August attack in the village of Gorgadji, about 50 kilometers west of Dori, where militants killed 80 people, reported Agence France-Presse.
Fourteen soldiers were reportedly ambushed and killed in October near Yirgou, also in the north, the site of a similar attack that killed 15 police in June, according to Reuters.
Gunmen killed dozens of people in another massacre in Yirgou in 2019, according to Amnesty International.
People protest on June 22, 2019 in front of the Ouagadougou courthouse to demand "truth and justice" for the victims of a terrorist attack in Yirgou that left 49 dead.

This rise in violence has occurred despite the US’s enduring, low-profile military mission in Burkina Faso, which pumped in tens of millions of dollars in aid during 2018-19.
Dozens of advisers are reported to mentor elements of the country’s military, while a US embassy factsheet said the US has trained and equipped 3,000 soldiers and gendarmes.
Yet significant swathes of Burkina Faso’s volatile north remain outside of the government’s control. Long-running accusations of abuses by the military have also complicated its relationship with its key military backers, specifically France and the US.
Human rights organizations also face difficulties in Burkina Faso. The government suspended the operations of the Norwegian Refugee Council in September after the humanitarian group noted the country’s speed at registering displaced people.
For the police source, however, the massacre at Solhan was particularly methodical and unparalleled in its brutality. “These are people who take the time to study their target,” he said. “It is painful to see a woman instructing a child to kill such and such. Painful.”
And for the survivors, the initial absence of the army, as well as its departure as night fell, are indications of the dark place they live in.
“If the [army] are not with the people, how is that possible?,” one survivor said. “As soon as the army left, [the attackers] came again. This is a strange country. It’s a strange country.”

The Turkish lira swings wildly as Erdogan’s big gamble continues

Turkey’s experiment in cutting interest rates to fight inflation has sent its currency crashing to record lows this year. Now, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to prop up the lira with a raft of new unorthodox economic measures.

Erdogan said the government would try to protect Turkish savers worried about the tumbling value of their nest eggs by compensating them for the impact of the depreciation of the lira on their deposits.
The lira initially shot higher in response, and at one hoka shoes for women point on Monday had gained more than 20% against the dollar. But by Tuesday it was falling again, dropping more than 6%.
Analysts warned the new policy could end up costing the Turkish government a huge amount of money and Atilla Yesilada, a Turkish economist and country analyst for GlobalSource Partners, took a swipe at the decision.
“Please do not ask me to prove the earth IS NOT flat everyday,” he tweeted.
Why is the lira so unstable?
The Turkish president’s tendency to intervene in setting monetary policy, firing central bankers and finance ministers who don’t agree with his rate-cutting gamble, has undermined the lira. He frames Turkey’s economic woes as a result of foreign intervention and a struggle for more financial independence for the country.
Despite the gains on Monday, the lira has still lost about 40% of its value against the dollar so far this year.
On Sunday, Erdogan shrugged off criticism of his economic policy in a speech citing Islamic teachings on interest rates. His remarks only served to push the lira even lower.
“What do they say? They say I am lowering interest rates. They should expect nothing else from me. As a Muslim, whatever Islamic teachings require, that is what I will do. That is what I will continue to do. The religious command is clear,” he said.
Inflation in Turkey hit an annual rate of 21% in November, and economists think it could go even higher, with a rate of up to 30% possible over the next six to nine months.
Despite this, Turkey’s central bank cut interest rates for a fourth month in a row last week. Central banks typically raise interest rates when inflation is soaring to stop the economy from overheating.
The current central bank governor, Sahap Kavcioglu, took over in March 2021 after predecessor Naci Agbal was fired by Erdogan two days after hiking rates.
Why it matters
Jason Tuvey, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, warned that linking bank deposits to the currency rate could transfer risks in the foreign exchange system to the pubic sector, with the country’s treasury “on the line for a large bill.”
Mass compensation paid out to Turkish savers would cause the budget deficit to widen.
“That might not be a problem now given that Turkey’s public finances are relatively strong — public debt is low at around 40% of GDP — but it would cause hoka shoes the public debt dynamics to worsen,” he said.
The new instrument will apply to personal deposit accounts with fixed terms of between 3 and 12 months, the Turkish finance ministry said in a statement.
Soaring inflation is already piling on the pain for consumers, and making it difficult for businesses to plan ahead.
Erdogan announced a nearly 50% hike in the country’s minimum wage on Thursday, hoping it would provide relief to suffering workers.
“With this increase, I believe we have shown our determination not to allow workers to be crushed under the weight of increasing prices,” the president said at a press conference.
The move may give Erdogan a political boost. But higher wages are a known contributor to inflation, and they could make an already dire situation worse.
The Turkish Business Association recently criticized government economic policy for its disruptive impact “not only for the business world, but also for all our citizens.”
“In the long term, the risk of causing much larger structural problems has increased. Even our exporters, who are expected to benefit the most, are suffering from this environment,” it said in a statement on Saturday.
It said that the country must return to “generally accepted principles of economics within the framework of free markets.”
But a pro-Erdogan business group said that it supported the president’s low interest rate policy. The Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association said in a statement it believed it “will increase our export and employment-oriented gains many times over.”

Checkmate. Putin has the West cornered

As 2022 nears, the West is trying to figure out Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next move on a complex geopolitical chessboard — and preparing an “aggressive package” of sanctions, should he decide to make another land grab in Ukraine.

Tensions are now at their highest since 2014, when Russia illegally hoka shoes for women annexed Crimea and dispatched “little green men” into Ukraine’s Donbas region. An all-out land invasion of Ukraine is now a real possibility.
But let’s face it. Putin could care less about the West’s threats, sitting as he does in the enviable position of being able to call the shots.
Michael Bociurkiw
Europe is in the grip of an energy crisis with low reserves. And with Russia supplying some 40% of the European Union’s gas imports, the Kremlin has already shown its ability to checkmate the West’s harshest sanctions by limiting production and potentially triggering rolling blackouts across the continent.
Putin’s endgame is USSR 2.0, coming almost 30 years to the day the Soviet Union collapsed. His next moves come at a delicate geopolitical moment, with Western fears of a Ukraine invasion, the colonization of Belarus, a Europe-wide energy crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stepping down as EU chief negotiator and concerns over US President Joe Biden’s discombobulated foreign policy.
If you’ve any doubt about Putin’s plans to roll back the clock, just read his 5,000-plus-word essay on why Russia, Belarus and Ukraine are doomed without closer integration with Mother Russia. Or his audacious demands Friday for a veto on who joins the NATO hoka shoes alliance and limits in stationing troops and weaponry in any country which joined the alliance after 1997.
Without firing a shot, Putin has managed to send the West into a collective panic — or at least into a position where they feel the need to appease the aging autocrat.
For the past four months, and particularly between September 7 and December 5 according to western intelligence sources quoted by CNN, Putin has been amassing tens of thousands of troops and heavy weaponry as close as 30 miles to Ukraine’s borders. U.S. intelligence reports suggest a build-up of up to 175,000 troops, enough to stage a swift and immediate incursion.
Another land grab would add to the territory seized in 2014 when Russia illegally annexed Crimea and sent Russian-backed combatants into the heavily industrialized eastern Donbas region of Ukraine.
Russia continues to amass new troops near Ukraine's border despite Biden urging Putin to de-escalate tensions
With so much muscle, Putin could be gunning for a land bridge between Russia proper and Crimea — a move which could be designed in part to free-up water resources blocked by Ukraine in the North Crimean Canal, which once accounted for up to 85% of the peninsula’s water needs.
The Kremlin’s actions have not been limited to Ukraine. Russia has been engaged in hybrid warfare with the West, including cyberhacking one of the US’s largest pipelines, spreading disinformation about coronavirus vaccines, interfering in US elections, and neutralizing opponents on foreign soil.
Most recently, Putin opened up another front with the West by establishing a military alliance with the man often dubbed “Europe’s last dictator,” Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. Emboldened by the Kremlin’s backing, Lukashenko has acted with impunity by jailing opponents, forcing down a Ryanair jet with a political opponent onboard and sending migrants toward its border with EU neighbors.
Yet, as recently as Thursday, European leaders were responding to Putin’s bullying tactics and intimidation by trying to nudge him toward the bargaining table. This could be a sign that the bloc fears that even if they sign off on further harsh sanctions on Russia olukai shoes should an invasion take place, Putin could respond by holding back gas production.
Andrei Soldatov, a Russian investigative journalist and security services expert, told me that the country is already heavily sanctioned, and that targeted Russian companies have been effectively inoculated with lucrative contracts from the defense forces and intelligence entities.
Russia has likely seen the impact of the 2018 harsh western sanctions on Iran and calculated it can withstand punitive measures even if it means suspension from the international SWIFT payment system.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Russia and China pledged this week to work jointly toward a closed trading network that would reduce dependence on the international financial system and limit transactions in US currency.
Putin rues Soviet collapse, says he moonlit as a taxi driver to survive economic crisis
At home, Putin has been brandishing the state’s power through fear and cohesion — chiefly by banning civil society groups, jailing high profile opponents and threatening Russian nationals who work for foreign embassies.
What are the tools left in the West’s diplomatic toolbox? Depressingly few. But some options remain: banning Russians from travel, blocking those multimillion dollar property deals which have transformed London and Miami into playgrounds for wealthy Russians — even ordering the immediate expulsion of Russian nationals from Western countries. In other words, whatever it takes short of direct military conflict.
Clearly, video chats with Biden and threats from European leaders of “serious consequences” will not deter Putin. With an invasion of Ukraine imminent, the West needs to clarify the pain that awaits Putin should he decide to make his next move.
The appearance of a lack of resolve, whether in diplomacy, on the battlefield or on the chessboard, is never a winning strategy.

Malaysia warns of more floods as Prime Minister admits lapse in rescue efforts

A local resident walks on a muddy path after floods hit Hulu Langat of Selangor state, Malaysia, on December 21.

Perfectly preserved baby dinosaur discovered curled up inside its egg

An unprecedented fossil of a baby dinosaur curled up perfectly inside its egg is shedding more light on the links between dinosaurs and birds.

The 70-million-year-old fossil preserves the embryonic skeleton of an oviraptorid dinosaur, which has been nicknamed Baby Yingliang after the name of the Chinese museum which houses the fossil. Baby dinosaur bones are small and fragile and are only very rarely preserved as fossils, making this a very lucky find, said Darla Zelenitsky, an associate professor in the department of geoscience at the University of Calgary in Canada.
A reconstruction of a soon-to-hatch baby dinosaur based on the fossil.

“It is an amazing specimen … I have been working on dinosaur eggs for 25 years and have yet to see anything like it,” said Zelenitsky, a coauthor of the research that published in the journal iScience on Tuesday.
“Up until now, little has been known of what was going on inside a dinosaur’s egg prior to hatching, as there are so few embryonic skeletons, particularly those that are complete and preserved in a life pose,” she said in an email.
The egg is around 17 centimeters (7 inches) long and the olukai shoes dinosaur was estimated to be 27 centimeters (11 inches) long from head to tail. The researchers believe as an adult, had it lived, it would have been about two to three meters long.
The researchers from China, the UK and Canada studied the positions of Baby Yingliang and other previously found oviraptorid embryos. They concluded that the dinosaurs were moving and changing poses before hatching in a way similar to baby birds.
In modern birds, such movements are associated with a behavior called tucking, which is controlled by the central nervous system and is critical for hatching success.
The baby dinosaur's position in the egg was similar to that of modern birds.

“Most known non-avian dinosaur embryos are incomplete with skeletons disarticulated (bones separated at the joints),” said Waisum Ma, the lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of Birmingham, UK, in a statement.
“We were surprised to see this embryo beautifully preserved inside a dinosaur egg, lying in a bird-like posture. This posture had not been recognized in non-avian dinosaurs before.”
An artist's reconstruction of the baby oviraptorid dinosaur.

All birds directly evolved from a group of two-legged dinosaurs known as theropods, whose members include the towering Tyrannosaurus rex and the smaller velociraptors.
The pre-hatching behavior isn’t the only behavior modern hoka shoes for women birds inherited from their dinosaur ancestors. The same kind of dinosaurs are also known to have sat on top of their eggs to incubate them in a way similar to birds, Zelenitsky said.
The fossil was found in China’s Jiangxi province and acquired in 2000 by Liang Liu, a director of a Chinese stone company called Yingliang Group. It ended up in storage, largely forgotten until about 10 years later, when museum staff sorted through the boxes and unearthed the fossil during the construction of Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum. The museum is subsidized by the company.