News Daily: US Iraq confusion and Long-Bailey enters Labour contest

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US denies Iraq pullout plan

“There has been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,” the US defence secretary has said. Mark Esper made the statement after one of his country’s generals wrote a letter saying the military would be “repositioning forces in the coming days and weeks”.

The confusion over the Trump administration’s position follows threats to US forces in the wake of the killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in an air strike in Baghdad last week. Here is a profile of him.

So what is happening? BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale says the memo from Brig Gen William H Seely appears genuine but “misleading and badly phrased”. It means the US is moving forces from the Green Zone to provide more protection elsewhere in Iraq, he adds.

Meanwhile, thousands of mourners have turned out in Soleimani’s home town of Kerman to pay their respects ahead of his burial.

And the BBC looks at what the death of Soleimani means for Mr Trump’s chances of being re-elected as president next year.

Labour leadership: Long-Bailey enters contest

There are now six candidates to become the next Labour leader. Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey has entered the contest, promising to maintain a “socialist agenda” and “fight the establishment tooth and nail”.

Nominations open today, with the ballot taking place from 21 February to 2 April. The result is due on 4 April. Take a look at the candidates to have declared so far.

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London Bridge attack: Convicted murderer on tackling knifeman

A convicted murderer who tackled the London Bridge knifeman with only a chair, and then a narwhal tusk, has given his first interview since the events of 29 November. Steven Gallant, 42, said: “He was a clear danger to all, so I didn’t hesitate.”

Gallant was out on licence to attend the prisoner rehabilitation event where the knife attack began. He is serving a minimum of 17 years for the killing of ex-firefighter Barrie Jackson in Hull, 15 years ago. Read about Gallant’s interview here.

And here are the details of what we know about the London Bridge attack.

How to travel by train instead of plane

By Rosie Blunt

Trains may take longer, but converts say it is a far more enriching experience than flying.

When Elias Bohun, who lives in Vienna, Austria, finished school, he was desperate to travel around south-east Asia. However, his environmental conscience stopped him booking a flight.

Instead, the 19-year-old and his girlfriend travelled to Vietnam overland. “It was the most exciting experience I’ve ever had in my life,” he says.

Read the full article

What the papers say

The conviction of Reynhard Sinaga, described by the Daily Mirror as “Britain’s worst ever rapist”, is the front page story in several newspapers. The Daily Mail asks “how many more” men fell victim to the PhD student, while the Guardian leads on police suggestions that the total number may be around 200. Elsewhere, the i says the UK is “caught between Trump and Europe” on how to react to the aftermath of the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. And the Daily Express predicts a “massive spending spree” in March’s Budget. Read the paper review in full.

Daily digest

Puerto Rico Punta Ventana stone arch collapses as powerful earthquake hits

Keep on running Doing marathon “cuts artery age by four years”

Budget date Statement set for 11 March, says government

London fire Koko music venue engulfed in flames

If you see one thing today

Teaching school kids to be entrepreneurs

If you listen to one thing today

Could eating microalgae be the next big thing?

If you read one thing today

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How can we stop our village flooding again?

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Lookahead

Today Paris marks the fifth anniversary of attacks on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, a Kosher supermarket and the suburb of Montrouge, in which 17 people were killed.

14:30 The House of Commons sits, as MPs return from the Christmas recess.

On this day

1976 A British naval frigate, HMS Andromeda, is dented when it is involved in a collision with an Icelandic gunboat, Thor, in the Atlantic.

From elsewhere

The future of America’s contest with China (New Yorker)

How the iPhone tormented the world’s happiest nation (Bloomberg)

On the buses: A brief history of moquette (Londonist)

A touch of colour casts new light on the Dickensian lives of ordinary Victorians (Daily Telegraph)

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