Good morning, I’m Tim Walker with today’s essential stories.
Top story: US president’s warning over Turkish threat to Kurds
Donald Trump has said the US will “devastate” Turkey’s economy if Ankara decides to attack Kurdish forces following the withdrawal of US troops from Syria. In a tweet, the president also urged the Kurds not to “provoke” Turkey. A spokesman for the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, replied that it was a “fatal mistake” for Trump to confuse Syrian Kurds – who have allied with the US during the Syrian conflict – with the Kurdistan Workers party (PKK), a longstanding enemy of the Turkish state.
Isis endures? Trump said the Syria pullout was “long overdue” but promised to hit any remaining Isis strongholds “hard, and from many directions”.
Iran strikes. The White House asked the Pentagon to draw up options for military strikes against Iran last year after militia attacks close to US facilities in Iraq, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
Christian nationalists push new legislation in states
Rightwing religious hardliners have introduced new bills in at least six US states to “protect religious freedom” as part of a Christian nationalist political strategy known as Project Blitz. So-called “In God We Trust” bills have been introduced in Alaska, Kentucky, Missouri and South Carolina in the early days of 2019, demanding the phrase be emblazoned in various public spaces. In Missouri, Florida and North Dakota there are new bills that would require public high schools to offer Bible-study classes.
Counter-offensive. Texas and Georgia lawmakers will also shortly consider new religious bills, but civil rights activists are preparing to launch a counter-offensive to Project Blitz on 16 January, which is Religious Freedom Day.
Is Kamala Harris preparing to run for president?
Kamala Harris, the junior Democratic senator from California, certainly looks and sounds like a 2020 presidential candidate. She recently published a political memoir. And, appearing at a sold-out theatre in Los Angeles as part of her national book tour on Sunday, she said that, were she elected president, she would fight back against the “powerful voices that are trying to sow hate and division”. Unlike fellow Senator Elizabeth Warren, however, Harris is yet to throw her hat into the ring for the Democratic nomination.
Young contenders. Julián Castro, the former federal housing secretary, and Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran and the US representative from Hawaii, both announced this weekend that they would seek the Democratic presidential nomination.
American dreamer? The only other Democrat to declare besides Warren is the former US congressman from Maryland John Delaney, who announced he would run back in 2017. He spoke to David Smith.
Trump and Republicans blamed for continuing shutdown
Trump has reportedly told aides he believes the battle over funding for his coveted border wall is a political win for him. The American public disagrees, according to a new poll from ABC News and the Washington Post, which found that 53% of respondents blamed Trump and Republicans in Congress for the partial government shutdown, now in its 24th day. Just 29% blamed Democrats, while 13% blamed a combination of the two. However, overall support for a border wall has increased from 34% to 42% since January 2018.
Listen to Today in Focus: China’s Muslim detention camps
China faces international condemnation for its mass detention of up to a million Muslims in camps in the country’s Xinjiang province. But authorities are nonetheless expanding the camps and increasing surveillance on ethnic minorities, as Lily Kuo reports.
Trump’s alleged assaults turned into ‘Pussy Grabber Plays’
The journalist Natasha Stoynoff was one of more than a dozen women to accuse Trump of sexual assault during the 2016 election campaign. Now she has helped to turn that experience into a stage play, which debuts in New York this week, she tells Lauren Gambino.
The Sopranos at 20: how Tony and co transformed a genre
It is two decades since Tony Soprano first appeared on HBO, reshaping the gangster genre and the entire TV landscape. But Charles Bramesco says the show’s legacy includes plenty of bastard offspring that learned all the wrong lessons from The Sopranos.
Should California be moving the homeless into sheds?
The city of Oakland has cleared homeless communities off the street and rehoused them in basic, purpose-built cabins. Sam Levin asks whether this “innovative” solution to a vast crisis is actually improving lives, or just pushing the problem further out of sight.
Mutiny on the sex raft: a 70s social experiment gone wrong
In 1973, a Mexican anthropologist decided to expand his research on the links between violence and sexuality in monkeys by sailing the Atlantic with 10 attractive young people. Their voyage is now the subject of a remarkable documentary, as Stuart Jeffries reports.
A Silicon Valley-based university has been lauded for its “radically new” fee plan that allows graduates to pay back debts in increments determined by their salary. That’s been the tuition fee model in England for decades, says Amelia Tait, so why do we keep praising the tech industry for “inventing” old ideas?
Not only are these products nowhere near as revolutionary as they sound, these companies and their inventors often ignore the majority of people to improve lives for a privileged minority.
Underrated by Jose Mourinho, Marcus Rashford shone under Manchester United’s new manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, as he put the club 1-0 up against Spurs on Sunday. That’s one of 10 talking points from the weekend’s action in the Premier League.
Maroon 5, Big Boi and Travis Scott will provide the half-time entertainment at this year’s Super Bowl, at which – following this weekend’s playoffs – one of the New Orleans Saints or LA Rams will face either Kansas City or the Patriots.
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