Tesla is in the black for the first time in more than three years.
The motor company reported Wednesday that it made a net profit of $21.9 million in the third quarter, boosted by $139 million in zero emission credits from the state of California and $2.3 billion in revenue. Elon Musk, the electric carmaker’s CEO, said he expects the trend will continue into the fourth quarter as the company has reduced the costs of making its new Model 3 sedan.
The third quarter profit and a leaner capital spending plan could help grease the wheels for Musk if he does seek to tap the markets for cash. Turning a profit, even for one quarter, should help counter skeptics who have questioned his ambitious plans for combining Tesla and solar panel maker SolarCity into a company offering roof-to-garage no-carbon energy systems.
Just a year ago, the company recorded a loss of $229.9 million.
Musk has faced criticism in the past for not hitting product launch dates. The company is still reeling after the recent semi-autonomous driving system failure in the Model S.
The Model 3, targeted for a much wider market at a $35,000 starting price, is set to launch the second half of next year.
Venezuelans Protest the Maduro Regime in Widespread Rallies
Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered throughout Venezuela on Wednesday to express their opposition of the current president, Nicolas Maduro. In what has been deemed a “Takeover of Venezuela,” the capital city flooded with people in white, carrying Venezuelan flags, and chanting, "This government is going to fall!"
The protests come on the heels of a highly unpopular decision from Venezuela’s National Electoral Council to indefinitely suspend a referendum to recall Maduro. Although Maduro remains in power, recent polls show that around 80 percent of voters would like to see him ousted in the coming year.
Since assuming office in 2013, Maduro has been accused of carrying out an authoritarian regime by jailing opposition leaders and limiting access to newspapers that speak critically of his government. Venezuela also faces the worst economic crisis in the nation’s history, a situation for which many hold Maduro responsible.
"This has gone too far,” one protester, carrying a flag with the signatures of opposition leaders, told Reuters on Wednesday. “I do not like confrontation, but we have been too compromising and soft with the government.”
Wednesday’s rallies resulted in clashes between protesters and security forces in several cities. Dozens were injured, according to opposition leaders, and two protesters in Maracaibo were shot. A police officer was shot and killed, as well, while two others were injured. The protests mark yet another milestone in what portends to be a long and heated battle between opposition leaders and the Maduro regime. The leaders have already threatened a national strike on Friday and a march to the presidential palace on November 3 should the Electoral Council continue to suspend the referendum.
Two earthquakes struck central Italy on Wednesday, shaking historic buildings in Rome only three months after a temblor killed almost 300 people in the same region.
The first quake, a 5.4 temblor, struck near the town of Visso, the BBC reported. Visso is about 40 miles from Amatrice, the town where an earthquake struck in August. In the August quake, 295 people were killed; no death or injuries were reported in Wednesday’s first quake.
A few hours later, a 6.1 tremor shook the region, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which monitors seismic activity worldwide. Both of Wednesday’s quakes occurred within a few miles of one another.
Archeologists Get Their First Look at Jesus Christ's Tomb
For the first time in nearly a half-millennium, the tomb where Jesus Christ was supposedly laid to rest has been exposed by archaeologists in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Scientists removed the marble slab that covered the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the most sacred locations in Christianity, for renovations. It has covered the tomb since at least A.D. 1555.
Now comes the long process of analyzing the original rock surface of the burial bed in the limestone cave where tradition says Jesus Christ was laid shortly after being crucified by Romans. Christian teachings say he rose from the dead three days after his burial.
National Geographic, which is doing a documentary on the excavation, describes the location:
This burial couch is now enclosed by a small structure known as the Edicule (from the Latin aedicule, or "little house"), which was last reconstructed in 1808-1810 after being destroyed in a fire. The Edicule and the interior tomb are currently undergoing restoration by a team of scientists from the National Technical University of Athens, under the direction of Chief Scientific Supervisor Professor Antonia Moropoulou.
The location of Christ’s tomb was identified in A.D. 326 by Helena, the mother of the Roman emperor Constantine. It has since become the destination for pilgrims and tourists for centuries, adorned with marble, candles, and icons.
The church is operated through an often-contentious partnership between the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and the Syriac Orthodox Church. All secs recently agreed to allowing renovations for the tomb, which has been damaged by decay, fires, and earthquakes.
At least 26 civilians, mostly children, were killed Wednesday when air strikes hit a school and residential area in northern Syria.
About 20 of the dead were children who were leaving school when strikes hit in the town of Hass at about 11:30 a.m. local time. As many as 30 civilians were injured, some critically, according to the White Helmets, a volunteer group in rebel-controlled Syria, which tweeted frequent updates. Ten children were among the wounded.
Russian forces are suspected in the attack. Hass is located in Idlib province, which is controlled by Syrian opposition groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Russia has been bombing rebels in the country on behalf of Assad’s government for more than a year.
At least 300,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict since 2011. Schools and hospitals have been caught in the crossfire, leading to the deaths of dozens of children and medical workers.
Two days before Wednesday’s air strikes, more than 80 human-rights and aid organizations called for Russia’s removal from the United Nations Human Rights Council, asking member states to “question seriously whether Russia's role in Syria—which includes supporting and undertaking military actions which have routinely targeted civilians and civilian objects—renders it fit to serve on the UN's premier intergovernmental human-rights institution.”
7th-Century Scroll Reveals Oldest Hebrew Reference to Jerusalem
Israeli archaeologists unveiled Wednesday an ancient papyrus scroll said to contain the oldest uncovered reference to Jerusalem in Hebrew.
The ancient text, believed to have originated from a Judean Desert cave during the time of Solomon’s Temple, was acquired in 2012 by the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Times of Israelreports. The scroll dates back to 7th century BCE—putting it centuries ahead of the Dead Sea Scrolls—and in Hebrew says, “From the female servant of the king, from Naharata (place near Jericho) two wineskins to Jerusalem.”
The unveiling follows a controversy caused by a UNESCO resolution that criticized Israel’s policies in the region’s holy sites—a resolution Israel has denounced as ignoring Jewish ties to the region. The resolution, which the UN cultural agency approved last week, referred to the Temple Mount—known in Arabic as Haram al-Sharif and in Hebrew as Har HaBayit—using only its Islamic name in a move Israeli officials called “delusional.”
On Wednesday, Israel recalled its ambassador to UNESCO in protest of what Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said was a second resolution adopted by the agency said to ignore Jewish ties to Jerusalem. The new draft resolution, Haaretz reports, was submitted by Lebanon and Tunisia and, unlike the previous resolution, does refer to the Western Wall by its Hebrew name.
U.S. Abstains From UN Vote Condemning Cuba Embargo
The U.S. abstained for the first time ever from a UN General Assembly vote Wednesday on a resolution to condemn the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba. Although the vote is nonbinding and largely symbolic, the U.S. abstention signals a huge shift in its relations with Cuba.
The U.S. and Israel always opposed the annual vote ever since it was first introduced in 1991. But this year, both countries abstained, and the 193-member assembly passed the resolution with no opposing votes. When Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, announced Wednesday the U.S. would abstain, assembly members applauded.
"Abstaining on this resolution does not mean that the United States agrees with all of the policies and practices of the Cuban government. We do not," Power told the assembly. "We are profoundly concerned by the serious human rights violations that the Cuban government continues to commit with impunity against its own people."
It was an important step, but one that was unsurprising. U.S. President Obama has asked Congress to lift the 50-year-old economic embargo on Cuba, but under Republican control that has not been possible. Instead, Obama has used executive powers to ease travel and trade restrictions. Along with allowing commercial flights to Cuba, the White House most recently relaxed controls on how much Cuban rum and cigars U.S. tourists could bring home with them.
Brazil and Colombia Are Getting an Army of Modified Mosquitoes
Scientists have pledged to release an army of genetically modified mosquitoes in urban areas of Brazil and Colombia starting early next year.
The decision is part of an $18 million project funded by an international team of donors, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that aims to protect people from mosquito-borne viruses like Zika, chikungunya, and dengue, the BBC reported Wednesday. The project has also received funding from local governments in Latin America, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
Brazil is at the epicenter of a Zika outbreak that has spread to more than 50 countries since last year. Zika is particularly dangerous for pregnant women; the virus has been shown to cause a severe developmental condition called microcephaly in infants born to infected mothers. Since the start of the outbreak, more than 2,000 babies in Brazil have been born with microcephaly.
Although the idea of “mutant mosquitoes” may sound like science fiction, it’s been the subject of research for the last decade. Based on a number of small-scale trials, researchers at the Eliminate Dengue Program at Australia’s Monash University have found that genetically modified mosquitoes can help reduce the spread of Zika, chikungunya, and dengue to humans.
Here’s how scientists create these modified insects: Aedes aegypti mosquitoes—the kind that often spread viruses like Zika—are injected with a bug called Wolbachia, which is harmless to human beings.The bug is believed to make mosquitoes resistant to viruses, in turn preventing the spread of disease. When the modified mosquitoes are released into the environment, they also breed with other mosquitoes, helping to introduce the Wolbachia bug to future generations.
Ravi Durvasula, who studies medicine and infectious diseases at University of New Mexico School of Medicine, toldThe Atlantic’s Adrienne LaFrance earlier this year that there are some risks to deploying genetically modified mosquitoes. The modified bugs could end up exacerbating the Zika problem instead of eliminating it, he said. But between lab-altered mosquitoes and an incurable disease like Zika, Durvasula said that genetic modification is likely the “lesser of two evils.”
Scientists plan to monitor the project over the next three years to look for reduced cases of mosquito-borne illness. So far, they are excited by its prospects. “Wolbachia could be a revolutionary protection against mosquito-borne disease,” Dr. Trevor Mundel of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation told the BBC Wednesday. "We are eager to study its impact and how it can help countries."
Dozens of Women Come Forward in Sexual-Assault Case at Wisconsin College
Two weeks ago, a college student in Wisconsin filed a complaint with the local police department, claiming she had been sexually assaulted multiple times near campus. Days later, another student came forward, saying she'd been assaulted by the same man. By the end of last week, nine criminal charges had been filed against Alec Cook, a 20-year-old student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
The university’s campus police is investigating “multiple” further complaints, while the Madison Police Department has been contacted by “dozens of other females,” according to a search warrant filed last week. Three more charges against Cook are expected to be filed Thursday.
The allegations against Cook may constitute one of the largest sexual-assault cases at the University of Wisconsin, a school with more than 43,000 students. Cook reportedly denied any wrongdoing during a police interview, but the university has already placed him on emergency leave. “This is a serious case and the university is responding,” said Dean of Students Lori Berquam. The university’s Chancellor, Rebecca Blank, also issued a statement via Twitter:
Cook currently faces 30 counts—among them charges of felony sexual assault, false imprisonment, and strangulation—said Collette Sampson, a Dane County prosecutor, in a statement to The Washington Post on Wednesday. According to Sampson, the Dane County Police Department discovered a notebook among Cook’s belongings detailing various “grooming and stalking techniques.”
The local WKOW-TV station reported Wednesday that the notebook contained a series of entries with women’s names. “Each entry showed how he met the female, and what he liked about them,” reads an affidavit from Madison police detective Grant Humerickhouse. “Further entries went on to document what he wanted to do with the females. Disturbingly enough there were statements of 'kill' and statements of 'sexual' desires.’”
Many women have taken to Facebook to express their horror over Cook’s actions. “I remember feeling quietly afraid of you at that party,” one woman wrote in an open letter addressed to Cook. “The saying ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ doesn’t apply here because, Alec, you are a wolf—plain and simple.”
Cook’s lawyer, Van Wagner, told the Wisconsin State Journal Tuesday that “much of what has been reported on [social media] has been, for lack of a better expression, character assassination of my client… [It] has prompted a lot of people to apparently go back and re-examine their relationships with him and conclude, whether accurately or not, that they were the victim of a crime.”
Cook is being held in Dane County jail. He is scheduled to appear Thursday in county court, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Mexico Charges the Police Chief in Command During the 'Ayotzinapa 43' Disappearance
A Mexican police chief has been charged in connection with the 2014 disappearance of 43 students in the state of Guerrero—known as the Ayotzinapa 43. The chief, Felipe Flores, spent two years in hiding and was captured last Friday in Iguala, the state’s capital.
Authorities say they hope Flores can provide insight into why the students were taken off a bus on September 26, 2014, and what happened to their bodies. The students all attended Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College in Iguala, in the country’s southwest. The students had stopped and commandeered a bus—a custom common among students in the area—for a protest in Mexico City. Local police stopped the bus and fired on the unarmed students. From there the story becomes murky.
The official account is that local police, under Flores’ command, took orders from the corrupt mayor of Iguala and his wife, and turned the students over to local drug traffickers. In this account, the traffickers killed the students, burned their bodies beyond recognition, buried some charred remains, and cast the rest into a river. But a panel of international lawyers challenged this account.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a report in April that found much of the government’s evidence was provided by suspects who’d been tortured, and that officers and government officials had tampered with evidence. The report said the government’s primary concern was a quick arrest to end bad press. One theory of why top officials would want to cover up the case says the military and federal police were involved in the students’ disappearance—or at the very least knew about it as it happened. That presumption would cause problems for federal officials, as Peña Nieto’s government has tried to remake Mexico’s image.
13 Israelis Charged for Inciting Violence in Wedding Video
Thirteen Israelis were indicted Wednesday in connection with a wedding video in which attendees were filmed hoisting weapons and celebrating the death of a Palestinian toddler in an arson attack last year.
The 13 individuals—including five minors and Yakir Ashbel, the 21-year-old bridegroom—were indicted on a number of charges, including incitement to violence, supporting a terror group, racist incitement, and weapons offenses, the Times of Israelreports.
The video from the wedding, which took place in December 2015, shows some wedding-goers dancing with guns and knives, while others were filmed stabbing a photograph of Ali Dawabsheh, the 18-month-old who was killed alongside his parents after his home in the West Bank town of Duma was firebombed. Amiram Ben-Uliel, a 21-year-old from an Israeli settlement north of Hebron, was charged in January with carrying out the “price-tag” attack, a term used to describe violence against the Palestinian population by Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, condemned the video, which he said shows “the real face of a group that poses danger to Israeli society and security.”
More than 30 civilians were kidnapped and at least 20 killed by a group of armed men said to be loyal to the Islamic State, Afghan officials said.
Nasir Khazeh, the governor of Ghor province, told Agence France-Presse the victims were discovered Wednesday morning—a day after a group of civilians were abducted by a former Taliban unit near the provincial capital of Firozkoh. The attack, Khazeh said, followed fighting between the group and Afghan security forces, in which the group’s commander was killed.
“Our security forces with the help of local shepherds conducted an operation and killed a Daesh (IS) commander yesterday,” Khazeh said, using the pejorative term for the Islamic State. “Daesh fighters in retaliation abducted around 30 villagers, mostly shepherds.”
Though the Islamic State did not formally take credit for the attack, the Taliban was quick to disassociate itself from the incident. Zabihullah Mujahid, the insurgent group’s spokesman, tweeted Wednesday that the attack “had nothing to do with the mujahadeen.”
Though the number of civilians killed is not yet clear, estimates range from 23 to as high as 30. The United Nations put the number of those killed at 26.
National Geographic’s Iconic ‘Afghan Girl’ Faces 14 Years in Jail
When she was 12 years old, Sharbat Gula appeared on the 1985 cover ofNational Geographic in what would later become one of the most iconic magazine issues ever released. More than 30 years later, Gula now faces a fine and up to 14 years in jail following her arrest for identification fraud.
Gula was arrested Wednesday in the northwestern city of Peshawar for the possession of false identity papers, following a two-year investigation in the area by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency. She had previously applied for an ID card in April 2014 under the name Sharbat Bibi. The fraud was reported months later by Pakistan’s National Database Registration Authority, but the three staff members who issued Gula’s false papers went missing, Shahid Ilyas, an official from NADRA, told Agence France-Presse.
Two men listed as Gula’s sons also received ID cards when she applied for them in 2014. "They may not be her sons, but this is a common practice among Afghan refugees whereby they list names of non-relatives as their children to obtain documents,” an unnamed NADRA source told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper.
When photographer Steve McCurry, who took the renowned photo of Gula, tracked her down in 2002, he found her living in an Afghan village with her husband and three daughters. But according to the paperwork she filed, Gula has been residing in the Nasir Bagh camp for Afghan refugees since 1984. It remains unclear how long Gula has been Pakistan.
Her arrest comes at a time when Pakistan is cracking down on ID fraud in an effort to control the refugee crisis. The government’s investigations have found some 60,675 ID cards in the hands of non-nationals, while the United Nations estimates that there are about 1 million unregistered refugees in Pakistan.
Auvi-Q to Introduce Cheaper Alternative to EpiPen Market
EpiPen will have some competition in the new year.
Kaléo, a privately held pharmaceutical company, announced Wednesday its plans to reintroduce its Auvi-Qepinephrine auto-injector to the epinephrine auto-injector market in 2017, providing an alternative the company says “all patients can afford.”
Though Kaléo did not say how much it expects to charge for Auvi-Q, the introduction of new competition stands to make an impact on the U.S. market, which has until recently been controlled almost exclusively by Mylan Pharmaceuticals’ EpiPen. In September, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch defended to congressional lawmakers her company’s 500 percent price increase of the life-saving drug—from $100 to $608. Amid the backlash, Mylan announced in August it would introduce a more generic version of the EpiPen that would be sold for about $300.
As The New York Timesreports, Auvi-Q first came to market in 2013 as a slimmer, and more pocket-friendly alternative to EpiPen. The product was later licensed to French pharmaceutical company Sanofi, which recalled the product in 2015 due to complaints that it wasn’t delivering the right epinephrine doses. In February, Kaléo regained the rights to the product.
Audits completed in September found that nearly 10,000 California National Guardsmen weren’t eligible for the re-enlistment bonuses they received—$15,000 or more. The Pentagon said it wanted the money back, leaving about 2,000 veterans—who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan—straddled with unexpected debts. The backlash resulted in lawmakers and others demanding that the Defense Department forgive the debt.
The issue came to light last month when audits found that nearly 10,000 California National Guardsmen weren’t eligible for the re-enlistment bonuses they received. The Los Angeles Timesreported last week that investigators found the bonuses were paid mostly between 2006 and 2008 after National Guard officials tried to meet enlistment goals during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only soldiers with specific assignments were supposed to receive the money.
Gambia Wants Out of the International Criminal Court
Gambia announced it will leave the International Criminal Court, saying the judicial body meant to try some of the world’s worst war crimes was really a caucasian court “for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans."
Sheriff Bojang, Gambia’s information minister, made the announcement late Tuesday, reasoning the court repeatedly ignored the prosecution of Western leaders. Gambia is the third African country to leave in two weeks. The others are Burundi and South Africa, and their collective denouncement of the court may signal the exodus of more African nations. Already, Namibia and Kenya have raised the possibility of leaving the ICC.
Gambia’s decision reflects a wider suspicion held among some African leaders that the ICC, established in 2002, has been aimed only at trying suspected criminals from its continent. They point out that of the ICC’s 10 current investigations, nine involve African countries. Gambia has been especially frustrated because for the past year it has sought without success to bring punishment against the European Union for allowing thousands of African migrants to die while crossing the sea to its coasts. South Africa left last week after it allowed Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, to visit even though the court had ordered his arrest on charges of crimes against humanity. Burundi left the ICC earlier this month after the court opened an investigation into its president, Pierre Nkurunziza, who won a controversial third term in 2015 and has since led a bloody crackdown on protesters and opposition.
The Philippines President Now Wants to Kick Out U.S. Troops In Two Years
Last week Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted U.S. troops out of the Philippines. Earlier this week, he apologized for those remarks. On Wednesday he said he does in fact want them out, and for the first time he set a time frame for their departure.
During a trip to Japan, Duterte said he wanted U.S. troops—and all foreign troops—gone from the Philippines in “maybe two years.” He also said he was open to revoking deals signed in 2014 with the U.S. to expand bases in the country. “And if I have to revise or abrogate agreements,” Duterte said Wednesday, “executive agreements, this shall be the last maneuver, war games between the United States and the Philippines military."
That agreement was one of U.S. President Obama’s main efforts to increase military presence in Southeast Asia, and to push back on China’s claims of the South China Sea. The agreement, approved by a Philippines court this January, is supposed to allow the Pentagon to station forces at five bases in the country, and would be used to deploy planes and train U.S. and Filipino soldiers.
Last week Duterte announced the Philippines’s “separation” from the U.S. When asked to clarify, he said he didn’t really mean separation. Then Tuesday he retracted his retraction, saying he was not a “lap dog” to any country and that he still planned to kick out U.S. troops.
French authorities say the makeshift migrant camp in Calais dubbed “The Jungle’ has been cleared of the roughly 6,000 people who lived there as officials continue to dismantle the facility.
Over the weekend, authorities clashed with migrants ahead of the planned operation to dismantle the camp. They began clearing the camp Monday. Nearly 2,000 people left voluntarily and were taken to migrant-processing centers across France where they will be allowed to seek asylum. Those whose applications are rejected will be deported. Some of the remaining migrants set “The Jungle” ablaze Wednesday as authorities cleared it.
Many of the migrants in the “Jungle” tried to enter the UK illegally from Calais, from where trucks and other forms of traffic make their way between continental Europe and the UK.
WATCH: Newt Gingrich's Exchange With Fox's Megyn Kelly
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and current surrogate for Donald Trump, told Megyn Kelly, the Fox News anchor, that she is “fascinated with sex.” They were discussing the allegations of sexual misconduct against the Republican presidential nominee.
Kelly’s reaction was incredulous but amused: “Me? Really?” You can watch the full exchange here (it starts at about the 4:40 mark):
Gingrich appeared to be pleased with his exchange, which he touted on Twitter last night:
Brexit poses an existential dilemma for Northern Ireland’s communities.
BELFAST—I’m driving across Europe’s most divided city, where politics is existential and fear often only a few streets away.
We’re heading west toward the River Lagan from the largely Protestant east, the flags of illegal paramilitary groups hanging limply from lampposts. Sitting beside me in the car is someone who describes himself as “an active loyalist”—loyal to the British Crown and state and opposed to a united Ireland—but, like other unionists I spoke with, asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. He is a member of the city’s Protestant working class, which has united in anger at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s prospective Brexit deal with the European Union, principally because of the de facto customs border that it proposes between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, in order to avoid one with the Republic of Ireland.
For some kids, the weekly trash pickup is a must-see spectacle. Parents, children, waste-management professionals, and experts on childhood all offer theories as to why.
For Ryan Rucker, a dad in Vacaville, California, the weekly summons comes on Wednesday mornings, usually around seven. For Rosanne Sweeting on Grand Bahama island, in the Bahamas, it’s twice a week—Mondays and Thursdays, anytime from 6 to 8:30 a.m.—and for Whitney Schlander in Scottsdale, Arizona, it’s every Tuesday morning at half-past seven.
At these times, the quiet of the morning is broken by the beep beep beeping of an approaching garbage truck—and broken further when their kids start hollering, begging to be escorted outside to wave or just watch in awe as the truck collects and majestically hauls away the household trash. Rucker’s daughter Raegan, 3, takes her stuffed animals outside with her to watch the pickup. Cassidy Sweeting, 4, enlists her mom’s help to deliver granola bars and water bottles to the three trash collectors. Finn Schlander, 3, invited the neighborhood garbage-truck driver to his birthday party. (Ultimately, he was unable to attend, but the party had garbage-truck decorations nonetheless.)
It’s time to abandon the dogma that’s driven our foreign policy and led to so much disaster in the region.
President Donald Trump’s October decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria produced a rare moment of bipartisanship in foreign policy. With a shared sense of alarm, Republicans and Democrats alike accused Trump of betrayal.
Certainly, it was a betrayal of the Kurdish partners who bled for us in the fight against the Islamic State. It was also a betrayal of process—leaving our military leaders and diplomats struggling to keep up with tweets, our allies in the dark, our messaging all over the map, and chaos on the ground.
If all this episode engenders, however, is a bipartisan dip in the warm waters of self-righteous criticism, it will be a tragedy—or worse, a mistake. We have to come to grips with the deeper and more consequential betrayal of common sense—the notion that the only antidote to Trump’s fumbling attempts to disentangle the United States from the region is a retreat to the magical thinking that has animated so much of America’s moment in the Middle East since the end of the Cold War.
I served as a career diplomat throughout most of this era, sharing in our successes as well as our failures. Despite important achievements, we all too often misread regional currents and mismatched ends and means. In our episodic missionary zeal, especially after the terrible jolt to our system on 9/11, we tended to overreach militarily and underinvest diplomatically. We let our ambitions outstrip the practical possibilities of a region where perfect is rarely on the menu, and second- and third-order consequences are rarely uplifting. The temptations of magical thinking, the persistent tendency to assume too much about our influence and too little about the obstacles in our path and the agency of other actors, led to indiscipline and disappointments—steadily diminishing the appetite of most Americans for Middle East adventures.
That leaves American policy at a crossroads. Our moment as the singular dominant outside player in the Middle East has faded, but we still have a solid hand to play. The key to playing it well will be neither restoration of the inflated ambition and over-militarization of much of the post-9/11 period nor sweeping disengagement. Instead, we need a significant shift in the terms of our engagement in the region—lowering our expectations for transformation, ending our habit of indulging the worst instincts of our partners and engaging in cosmic confrontation with state adversaries, finding a more focused and sustainable approach to counterterrorism, and putting more emphasis on diplomacy backed up by military leverage, instead of the other way around.
The surreal story of how a comedian who played the Ukrainian president on TV became the president in real life—then found himself at the center of an American political scandal
Last May, in the weeks leading up to his presidential inauguration, Volodymyr Zelensky learned that a man named Rudy Giuliani wanted to meet with him. The name was only distantly familiar. But the former mayor of New York City was the personal attorney of the president of the United States, and he apparently wanted to make the case that certain investigations deserved the full attention of the new Ukrainian administration. Zelensky understood that it might be hard to say no.
Zelensky had won his country’s highest office despite having been a politician for little more than four months. Even as he prepared to assume the presidency, he remained a professional comedian and a fixture on television shows, including League of Laughter. Unsure of whether he should agree to meet Giuliani, Zelensky gathered advisers in the headquarters of his entertainment company.
The fancy bike brand tried to depict a wellness journey. It didn’t go as planned.
The internet has some feedback on Peloton’s holiday ad campaign. The fitness-tech company, famous for its $2,400, Wi-Fi-enabled stationary bikes that let riders stream spin classes, debuted a new television commercial in mid-November, but it didn’t become infamous until earlier this week, when Twitter got ahold of it.
In the ad, a young mom gains confidence in the year after her husband buys her a Peloton for Christmas—or, at least, that’s what the ad seems to be aiming for. The commercial documents the woman (who is also documenting herself, via her phone’s front-facing camera) while she gets up early day after day to exercise or jumps on the bike after work. At the end, she presents the video of her exercise journey to her husband. “A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me,” she tells him. “Thank you.”
An unusual confluence of events after World War II led to America’s bitter rivalry with the U.S.S.R. That pattern is not repeating.
Anyone looking for evidence of a growing economic and ideological conflict between China and the United States will have no trouble finding something—the trade war now roiling both countries’ economies, the standoff between police and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, Beijing’s swift retaliation against the NBA over a single Houston Rockets executive’s tweet in support of those same protesters. President Donald Trump seems to think a new cold war is at hand. His national-security strategy statement identifies China as an adversary bent on dismantling a U.S.-centered global order and forging a new one in its own favor. This point of view is catching on outside the administration, too. Earlier this year, the Committee on the Present Danger relaunched once again. First organized in the late 1940s to push for a massive military buildup and revived in the 1970s to promote a more confrontational approach toward the Soviet Union, the group now seeks to mobilize Americans for an existential struggle against China.
As anyone who has been called out for hypocrisy by a small child knows, kids are exquisitely attuned to gaps between what grown-ups say and what grown-ups do. If you survey American parents about what they want for their kids, more than 90 percent say one of their top priorities is that their children be caring. This makes sense: Kindness and concern for others are held as moral virtues in nearly every society and every major religion. But when you ask children what their parents want for them, 81 percent say their parents value achievement and happiness over caring.
Kids learn what’s important to adults not by listening to what we say, but by noticing what gets our attention. And in many developed societies, parents now pay more attention to individual achievement and happiness than anything else. However much we praise kindness and caring, we’re not actually showing our kids that we value these traits.
Why we need to face the best arguments from the other side
Images above: A protestor holding a sign that reads “Abortion Is Freedom” and protestors holding anti-abortion signs
In 1956, twoAmerican physicians, J. A. Presley and W. E. Brown, colleagues at the University of Arkansas School of Medicine, decided that four recent admissions to their hospital were significant enough to warrant a published report. “Lysol-Induced Criminal Abortion” appeared in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. It describes four women who were admitted to the hospital in extreme distress, all of them having had “criminal abortions” with what the doctors believed to be an unusual agent: Lysol. The powerful cleaner had been pumped into their wombs. Three of them survived, and one of them died.
The city’s leaders believe a revamped education system will make its people more loyal to China and less likely to protest.
HONG KONG—After months of protests, an embarrassing rebuke at the ballot box, a pair of new laws in the United States targeting Hong Kong, and a worsening economic outlook, the territory’s leader, Carrie Lam, promised to do some soul-searching. It seemed an appropriate response: Her city looked to have changed, gripped by a suddenly politically engaged populace determined to face down the authorities.
And in recent days, it appears Lam has indeed emerged with a solution for how to quell unrest here: Faced with demands for greater freedoms, an end to police brutality, and full universal suffrage, she has determined that what Hong Kong’s people really need is more Chinese-style patriotic education instead.
A conversation with the evangelical pastor and theologian
Shortly after I met my wife, Cindy, in 1989—she was living in New York City at the time, while I was living in Northern Virginia—she told me about a new church she was attending in Manhattan: Redeemer Presbyterian. The young minister, she told me, was “the best pastor in America.”
His name was Timothy J. Keller.
Since that time Keller, 69, has become one of the most consequential figures in American Christianity. When he founded Redeemer in the fall of 1989, fewer than 100 people attended; in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001, Keller was preaching in multiple services in three different venues each Sunday to about 5,000 people—mostly young, single, professionally and ethnically diverse. He has written about two dozen books, several of them best sellers. And unlike that of many popular ministers, his reach extends farbeyond the Christian subculture.