—Iraqi government forces and Kurdish militia launched a new operation Sunday near Mosul, the Iraqi city that has been held by Islamic State militants since 2014.
—Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump vowed to take legal action against the women who have accused him of sexual assault or other similar behavior. “All of these liars will be sued once the election is over,” Trump said during a speech Saturday in Pennsylvania. He added later: “I look so forward to doing that.” More here.
—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4).
Spain's Socialist Party has agreed to allow the conservative Popular Party to form a new government, ending months of political stalemate that began late last year after an inconclusive election.
Socialist Party leaders decided Sunday not to block the election of Mariano Rajoy, the Popular Party’s leader, as prime minister. The Socialist Party, commonly known by the abbreviation PSOE, voted 139 to 96 in favor of abstaining from the parliamentary vote, which was scheduled for next weekend. The decision means Rajoy will remain in the office of prime minister, which he has held on an acting basis since December 2015. His Popular Party gained the most votes in national elections in December and June, but did not win an overall majority. PSOE came in second in both elections. Rajoy has served as acting prime minister since.
Mr. Rajoy will have to lead a minority conservative government that faces serious territorial and budgetary challenges. Spain has been threatened with a European Union fine for failing to meet deficit targets agreed with Brussels. And the separatist regional government in Catalonia has pledged to hold an independence referendum in 2017, despite fierce opposition from Madrid and Spanish courts.
PSOE’s decision allows the country to avoid a third election in less than a year. Earlier this month, PSOE forced out its leader, Pedro Sanchez, because he was opposed against a vote of abstention that would cement Rajoy's government.
At least 13 people were killed and more than 30 were injured Sunday in California when a tour bus collided with a tractor-trailer.
The accident occurred at about 5 a.m. local time on Interstate 10, near Palm Springs, police said. Most of the victims were sitting in the front of the bus, which officials say was traveling at “a significant speed” when it hit the back of the truck. Photos from the scene show the front of the bus was destroyed.
The cause of the collision is not yet known. The driver was among the fatalities.
Desert Regional Medical Center, which has the Coachella Valley’s only trauma center, received 14 adult patients, including five who were in critical condition, said public information officer Richard Ramhoff.
Eisenhower Medical Center received 11 adult patients, all with minor injuries, said public information officer Lee Rice.
John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital received five adult patients with minor injuries, including neck strain and cuts and abrasions, said nursing supervisor Stephen Williams.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident.
A worker in Qatar has died during a construction accident at a stadium being built for the country's World Cup tournament in 2022.
The worker died Saturday morning at Al Wakrah Stadium, a 40,000-capacity venue scheduled to be completed by 2018, according to the AP. Officials did not identify the worker, but said his family has been notified. Qatar has previously reported three deaths at building sites for the soccer competition, but said those were not "work-related,"
Human-rights groups have accused Qatar of abusing the labor force behind the tournament, mostly migrant workers from other countries. This spring, Amnesty International interviewed more than 200 mostly South Asian migrants and found that workers were threatened for complaining about poor working conditions and were underpaid or sometimes not paid at all. FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, has also received criticism; human-rights say the organization has ignored allegations of mistreatment of workers in Qatar.
Qatar is building and renovating eight new stadiums for the 2022 tournament, the first time the World Cup will be held in the Middle East.
Iraqi and Kurdish forces launched a new military offensive Sunday on a town near Mosul, the ISIS-held Iraqi city, the AP reports.
The groups have been battling Islamic State militants around Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, over the last week in an attempt to wrest control from the terror organization, which seized it more than two years ago. The operation involves more than 25,000 Iraqi ground forces, advised by U.S. special forces and backed by U.S.-led coalition air strikes.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived in Irbil Sunday to meet with Kurdish leaders and U.S. servicemembers, after visiting Baghdad on Saturday to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Carter praised the Kurdish forces, who are known as peshmerga, and acknowledged the casualties they’ve suffered in the fight for Mosul. More from the AP:
Peshmerga Brig. Gen. Halgord Hekmet, a spokesman for the Kurdish forces, told reporters that 25 of their troops have been killed since the battle to retake Mosul began and a "large number" had been wounded. Speaking through an interpreter, he said the peshmerga have had good coalition air support, but could use more military resources, especially armored vehicles.
He said that most of the fallen peshmerga were riding in regular cars and were more vulnerable. A second priority, he said, would be more devices to help detect roadside bombs.
The operation to retake Mosul from ISIS is expected to take weeks or months.
The surprisingly short life of new electronic devices
Updated on March 22 at 9:06 p.m. ET.
Two years ago, Desmond Hughes heard so many of his favorite podcasters extolling AirPods, Apple’s tiny, futuristic $170 wireless headphones, that he decided they were worth the splurge. He quickly became a convert.
Hughes is still listening to podcasters talk about their AirPods, but now they’re complaining. The battery can no longer hold a charge, they say, rendering them functionally useless. Apple bloggers agree: “AirPods are starting to show their age for early adopters,” Zac Hall, an editor at 9to5Mac, wrote in a post in January, detailing how he frequently hears a low-battery warning in his AirPods now. Earlier this month, Apple Insider tested a pair of AirPods purchased in 2016 against a pair from 2018, and found that the older pair died after two hours and 16 minutes. “That’s less than half the stated battery life for a new pair,” the writer William Gallagher concluded.
In hindsight, there were plenty of indications over the past decade that American politics were headed toward the partisan sniping and low-stakes media obsessions that crowd the news cycle today. Take Arugulagate. In 2007, Barack Obama was in Iowa, speaking as a presidential hopeful to a group of farmers who were worried about the stagnation of their crop prices while America’s grocery bills continued to rise.
In his speech, Obama referred to the inflated cost of arugula at Whole Foods, which was a small gaffe: Iowa didn’t have a Whole Foods, and the leafy vegetable wasn’t then familiar enough to be name-checked in a broad point about American grocery costs. But political media turned arugula into its own news cycle, with conservatives charging Obama with elitism. Around the same time, lattes were also being slandered. It was a big moment for food as proof of one’s true ability to govern.
Our birth-control methods failed, and we can’t afford a second child financially or career-wise.
My wife and I recently discovered she's about six weeks pregnant. This is devastating news for both of us. We have a 17-month-old daughter and we planned on having only one child. The birth control we had been using failed. I tried to have a vasectomy nine months ago and my wife objected at the doctor's office without citing reasons. She said she would get an IUD instead, but she was unable to get the IUD, because doctors had to remove a fibroid first. She learned about the pregnancy at the doctor's office during a consult on removing the fibroid.
Since hearing the news, I have been honest with her about my feelings. I reminded her that we simply cannot afford a second child and we can kiss our joint career aspirations goodbye if we have another baby. She agrees with me. More important, I said our marriage will be over in the sense that we will just be co-parents rather than lovers because I will resent her, and the baby will always be a reminder of my career sacrifice and our indebtedness.
The scandal is how much corruption it exposed—and how much turns out to have been perfectly legal.
So much about the rise of Donald Trump defied reason. But in the spring of 2016, he displayed one habit that I found beyond perplexing: He couldn’t stop praising Vladimir Putin. What made his obsequiousness so galling was that it often came in response to questions that warranted moral disdain: What about the assassination of journalists critical of the Russian government? Are you bothered by the invasion of Crimea? Whereas most of Trump’s policy positions shifted over the course of the campaign, his apologetics for Putin were a rare source of constancy.
As Trump raced to the Republican nomination, I began to search for ulterior explanations for Trump’s adoration of Putin—and the fact that his campaign served as a magnet for so many advisers and consultants with ties to Russian interests. On July 4, 2016, I published a piece in Slate pointing to Putin’s pattern of intervening on behalf of candidates hostile to the Western alliance, and arguing that we were seeing the same sort of interference unfolding in the United States. And I spent much of the next three years trying to understand the nature of that interference.
Half of the electorate is likely to reject Attorney General William Barr’s decision on obstruction.
The justice system cannot please everyone, but it at least aims to provide some sort of closure. That’s why one of the least satisfying outcomes of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the election, as summarized by Attorney General William Barr, is its approach to the question of whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice.
Though this message was delivered in a very different way, it is reminiscent not of Watergate or any of the other past presidential standards that have become common analogues, but instead of former FBI Director James Comey’s 2016 recommendation that Hillary Clinton not be charged with a crime in connection with her use of a personal email server while secretary of state. In both cases, Justice Department officials found evidence both for and against a crime. In both cases, they determined that prosecuting a case wasn’t tenable. And in both cases, the outcome is likely to enrage nearly half of the American electorate, splitting the country rather than providing a reconciliation.
The attorney general’s letter will do little to bridge the partisan divide.
We cannot yet see the report that Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted to Attorney General William Barr on Friday. But we can see its shadow in the four-page letter Barr sent to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on Sunday afternoon. The letter will be touted as vindication by President Donald Trump and his supporters, but will do little to bridge the partisan divide over Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation, and will inspire more vociferous demands to release the entire report.
Barr’s letter thoroughly quelled some of the fondest hopes of the anti-Trump “resistance.” The letter revealed that Mueller closed his investigation without recommending more criminal charges, and that no further indictments are under seal, as some had speculated. That’s a great relief for Trump and his family and associates, but it’s not the end of their federal criminal jeopardy. Barr also pointed out that Mueller “referred several matters to other offices for further action.” For instance, the special counsel sent the investigation of Michael Cohen’s hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which secured Cohen’s guilty plea for federal campaign-finance violations. That office is still actively investigating the matter—we know this because it carefully redacted the details of the investigation when it released the Cohen search warrants last week. But the special counsel’s investigation was the most prominent legal threat to the president and his family, and its closure without further indictments is a major victory for him.
A former Jehovah's Witness is using stolen documents to expose allegations that the religion has kept hidden for decades.
Updated at 3:34 p.m. ET on March 25, 2019.
In March 1997, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the nonprofit organization that oversees the Jehovah’s Witnesses, sent a letter to each of its 10,883 U.S. congregations, and to many more congregations worldwide. The organization was concerned about the legal risk posed by possible child molesters within its ranks. The letter laid out instructions on how to deal with a known predator: Write a detailed report answering 12 questions—Was this a onetime occurrence, or did the accused have a history of child molestation? How is the accused viewed within the community? Does anyone else know about the abuse?—and mail it to Watchtower’s headquarters in a special blue envelope. Keep a copy of the report in your congregation’s confidential file, the instructions continued, and do not share it with anyone.
The unusual situation facing Robert Mueller does not justify a repeal of well-established traditions of confidentiality.
As the nation awaits the Mueller report, a return to first principles is in order. One relevant first principle was dramatically illustrated in the breach during the waning weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign. Then–FBI Director James Comey announced at a press conference that no criminal charges would be brought against Hillary Clinton. Comey didn’t stop there, however. In that press conference, which will continue to live in infamy, Comey sharply criticized the former secretary of state for her ill-considered conduct in housing a server in her private residence, only to receive official and—not infrequently—classified information.
The nation should have risen, as one, in righteous indignation in the aftermath of the Comey press conference. In a single misadventure, Comey both seized power that was not his—the power to seek an indictment, a prerogative that was entrusted to the attorney general—and then violated one of the fundamental principles of public prosecution: Thou shalt not drag a subject or target of the investigation through the mud via public criticism. Prosecutors either seek an indictment, or remain quiet.
Between 1965 and 1969, more than a million American soldiers served in combat in Vietnam. One can argue that they should never have been sent there, but no one would argue that, once committed to battle, they should have been given inferior equipment. Yet that is what happened. During those years, in which more than 40,000 American soldiers were killed by hostile fire and more than 250,000 wounded, American troops in Vietnam were equipped with a rifle that their superiors knew would fail when put to the test.
The rifle was known as the M-16; it was a replacement for the M-14, a heavier weapon, which was the previous standard. The M-16, was a brilliant technical success in its early models, but was perverted by bureaucratic pressures into a weapon that betrayed its users in Vietnam. By the middle of 1967, when the M-16 had been in combat for about a year and a half, a sufficient number of soldiers had written to their parents about their unreliable equipment and a sufficient number of parents had sent those letters to their congressmen to attract the attention of the House Armed Services Committee, which formed an investigating subcommittee. The subcommittee, headed by Representative Ichord, a Democrat from Missouri, conducted a lengthy inquiry into the origins of the M-16 problem. Much of the credit for the hearings belongs to the committee’s counsel, Earl J. Morgan. The hearing record, nearly 600 pages long, is a forgotten document, which received modest press attention at the time and calls up only dim recollections now. Yet it is a pure portrayal of the banality of evil.
Newsmakers, pundits, and hustlers banked their future on the investigation taking down the president. The jig is up.
In a letter to Congress on Sunday, Attorney General William Barr declared that while Robert Mueller’s report found evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and did not exonerate President Donald Trump, it also did “not conclude that the president committed a crime.” And so the special counsel’s months-long investigation into Trump’s dealings with Russia ended with an inconclusive conclusion: No smoking gun would result in Trump’s hasty removal from office.
Not just Democratic lawmakers had been banking on a final blow to the Trump administration. Pundits, commentators, and opportunistic entrepreneurs had all held up Mueller as a hero for their cause—and, in the process, constructed a cottage industry of Mueller-pegged media content and accessories.