Chicago is already well past the 491 homicide-mark of last year. But with the death of a 24-year-old man on the city’s southwest side Monday, the city passed another bloody milestone: 600 homicides.
There are more homicides this year in Chicago than there are in New York and Los Angeles combined. The city has had 24 percent more homicides than this time last year. Meanwhile, non-lethal shootings are also up, as 2,100 people have been shot and injured, 500 more people than were shot this time last year.
Eddie Johnson, Chicago’s chief of police, put the blame on repeat gun offenders, saying in a statement Tuesday:
While we have increased our enforcement efforts this month—including arrests for murder and illegal gun confiscations—the lack of accountability for repeat gun offenders is sickening and it continues to drive the cycle of violence in Chicago.
Chicago already announced plans to hire an additional 1,000 police officers to help combat the crime surge. It would be the largest police surge of the last two decades.
Alabama Declares State of Emergency After Pipeline Explosion
Alabama declared a state of emergency Tuesday following the explosion of a gas pipeline in Shelby County, which killed one worker and injured six others.
The blast at the Colonial Pipeline took place Monday after a group of nine workers conducting repairs struck one of the gas lines, causing a large fire and forcing the evacuations of several homes in the area, according to Reuters. Colonial Pipeline Co. said its main gasoline line could remain closed until at least Saturday—a decision which caused gasoline prices to rise as much as 15 percent in affected areas. The 5,500-mile pipeline is one of the largest pipeline systems in the country, supplying more than 3 million barrels of gasoline to 13 states within the southeast and northeast United States.
The state of emergency is in effect until December.
This is the second time the Colonial Pipeline has been shut down in recent months. As my colleague David Graham reported, drivers in Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina faced gasoline shortages and price increases during repairs to the pipeline in September.
The Pope Reaffirms That the Catholic Church Will Never Ordain Women
The pope has been in Sweden for the past two days commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On the plane heading back to Rome, reporters asked whether the Roman Catholic Church will ever ordain women as priests. Francis affirmed what the Church has long taught: Women cannot be part of the priesthood, and that teaching will likely stand forever. “Really? Never?” a reporter asked, according to Catholic News Service. “If one carefully reads the declaration of St. John Paul, it goes in that direction, yes,” the pope answered.
Francis has recently pushed the Church to take up the question of women’s leadership. Last spring, he announced that a new commission will study the possibility of women as deacons, ordained ministers of the Church who can lead worship and conduct weddings, funerals, and baptisms. Deacons cannot administer some of the most important Catholic rites, though, such as offering communion or hearing confession. Many people, including the female religious-order leaders who proposed the idea, were thrilled that the pope created an opening for expanded women’s roles. Some want to see the Church go further, advocating the full ordination of women as priests. But as the pope said Tuesday, there’s little chance of that happening.
While Francis spent the beginning of this week working to strengthen ties between Catholics and Lutherans, his comments on the ride home show just how different the two groups’ teachings still are. While the Lutheran World Federation doesn’t have fully centralized rules on women’s ordination like the Roman Catholic Church, “more than 80 percent of [its] member churches ordain women.” Lutherans have steadily moved toward greater female participation in their leadership ranks, while the Catholic Church has remained firm that the Church has “no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.” The pope may be working toward the “full communion of all Christians,” as he said during a mass in Malmo this week, but that doesn’t mean he will change the Church’s fundamental teachings.
Venezuela's President Releases 3 Imprisoned Opposition Activists
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro released three jailed political activists, days after he met with opposition party leaders for the first time in two years in talks mediated by the Vatican.
The most well-known activist released was Carlos Melo, who was arrested in August and accused of carrying an explosive device as part of a coup to oust Maduro. The others, Andres Moreno and Marco Trejo, were accused of damaging military morale for allegedly making a political video of a soldier suffering the same economic afflictions that have befallen many Venezuelans. Opposition leaders praised Maduro’s decision to release the activists, whom they regard as political prisoners.
The Vatican-mediated talks come amid a backdrop of economic and political instability in Venezuela. The country’s economy has nearly collapsed amid the declining price of oil, a major contributor to the economy. Attempts to recall Maduro through a nationwide referendum, passed by the opposition-controlled legislature, were stymied by the electoral commission, which is packed with the president’s loyalists. The protests that followed turned violent. About 100 or so Maduro opponents are still in jail, and Maduro has called any motion to remove him from office a coup. Opposition leaders have also called for a march on the presidential palace this week.
Civilian areas throughout Aleppo have faced repeated air strikes—attacks the United Nations says have been committed by “all sides” in the Syrian conflict and may amount to war crimes.
“All parties in Aleppo are conducting hostilities which are resulting in large numbers of civilian casualties, and creating an atmosphere of terror for those who continue to live in the city,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in Geneva Tuesday.
The remarks follow a weekend of heightened violence after rebel groups launched an offensive Friday to break the Syrian government’s siege on the eastern part of the city, considered the rebels’ last major stronghold in Syria. Eastern Aleppo has seen unparalleled destruction since Syrian and Russian forces began a bombing campaign in September to retake the city. Of the 275,000 people remaining in the city, more than 2,000 have been killed.
Western governments have accused Moscow and Damascus of war crimes, and on Sunday Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria, said he was “appalled and shocked” that rebels conducted what he called “relentless and indiscriminate” rocket attacks in civilian centers, from which the BBC reports an estimated 40 people have been killed.
In Damascus, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reaffirmed Monday the government’s aim to regain control of the entire country, which he said he expects to rule until the end of his term in 2021.
The Bizarre Political Scandal That Has Embroiled South Korea's President
Park Geun-hye, the South Korean president, has been embroiled in political scandal since it emergedlast week that she had allegedly received private counsel from her longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil—accusations that have spurred protests calling for Park’s resignation. Now, Choi, who has been compared to Rasputin, has been placed under emergency detention until authorities can determine if they’ll formally press charges, according to local media.
“Choi has denied all of the charges against her, and we're concerned that she may destroy evidence,” a prosecution official told Yonhap News Agency on Monday. “She has fled overseas in the past, and she doesn't have a permanent address in Korea, making her a flight risk. She is also in an extremely unstable psychological state, and it's possible an unexpected event could occur if she is released.”
Here’s what happened: Last Tuesday, Park issued a public apology after it was revealed she had received private counsel from Choi ranging from edits to her campaign speeches to sharing “certain” official documents with Choi. Though Park has denied receiving any improper counsel—having only apologized for causing “public distress”—her critics say the relationship afforded Choi, who holds neither public office nor security clearance, undue influence. They’ve accused Choi of embezzlement and of using her connection to the president to solicit millions of dollars in corporate donations for her two foundations. They further allege Choi’s daughter was admitted to one of the country’s top universities because of her mother’s relationship to Park.
Choi appeared before prosecutors Monday during which she said: “I have committed a crime I deserve to die for. Please forgive me.” With 48 hours to decide whether or not to press formal charges, Yonhap reported Tuesday, authorities are reviewing Choi’s financial records to determine if the embezzlement allegations are true.
Iraqi security forces continued to push into Mosul from the east on Tuesday, where they were met with sniper fire, mortars blasts, and booby-trapped car bombs set by the Islamic State. Meanwhile, to the north and west of the city, Kurdish fighters and government-backed Shia paramilitary forces have encircled the city in what is becoming a much quicker operation than expected to take back the ISIS stronghold in northern Iraq.
On Monday, Iraqi forces entered Mosul for the first time since ISIS claimed it in 2014. It is the largest city under ISIS’s control.
The battle for Mosul began a little more than two weeks ago, and though it could be months before it ends, the 50,000 Iraqi security troops have cleared most surrounding villages and are now pressing upon all sides toward the city’s center. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Monday that remaining ISIS fighters—believed to be about 3,000 to 5,000 strong—“have no escape, they either die or surrender."
As ISIS retreats, its fighters have lit oil fields on fire and used civilians as human shields. The group’s tactics has worried some humanitarian groups who fear for the 1 million citizens still living in Mosul. As Iraqi troops pressed into the edges of the city, there were reports of mass executions while ISIS moved people into the city center. About 18,000 civilians have been displaced since the operation began October 17. On Tuesday, Iraqi forces moved 500 citizens to a camp beyond the frontline, some of whom held white flags as they led their livestock away from the city.
Gannett, the media giant that owns USA Today, says it will no longer pursue its acquisition ofTronc, which publishes the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.
News of the possible acquisition first emerged in April, but Tronc rejected as inadequate Gannett’s offer of $12.25 per share. The two companies continued talks over the next few months and had apparently agreed that Gannett would pay $18.75 for each Tronc share. A deal was expected to be announced last week, but lenders deemed $18.75 too high given the state of the newspaper industry and the health of the two companies, Bloombergreported. Consequently, shares of both companies plunged sharply last week; Gannett’s decline was compounded by its poor third-quarter earnings.
The collapse of the deal is a blow to Gannett, the largest U.S. newspaper publisher. The LA Times notes the failure undermines the company’s “strategy to fight the decline in newspaper circulation by assembling a nationwide network for advertisers and saving money through consolidation and operational efficiencies.”
A successful deal would have brought under one roof USA Today, the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, San Diego Union-Tribune, Baltimore Sun, and hundreds of other daily newspapers.
Nearly 5,000 transit workers in Philadelphiabegan a strike at midnight Tuesday after talks between the Transport Workers Union Local 234 and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) broke down over a new contract.
Here’s Philly.com on the issues separating the two sides:
Union workers were unwilling to accept the possibility of health care hikes that could have boosted their contribution from $552 a year to up to $6,000 if they wanted to keep equivalent medical coverage, union representatives said. They also were unhappy about a pension cap at $50,000 for workers while managers' pensions had no cap at all. Matters not related to dollars and cents were also in dispute. TWU members said SEPTA's break policies for vehicle operators barely left them enough time to use the bathroom between routes, and complained the nine hours of down time a worker must receive between shifts was not enough, forcing operators to drive vehicles while fatigued.
SEPTA, for its part, argued its $1.2 billion pension is only 62 percent funded and a substantial increase in pension benefits would make that disparity worse. It also said workers currently enjoy a "Cadillac" health care plan that costs them just $46 a month, and that work was already underway to adjust schedules.
The strike affects all of SEPTA’s operations: buses, trolleys, and subways, which together run about 850,000 trips per day. SEPTA said Regional Rail train service will be the only option for travel in and around Philadelphia.
It’s unclear how long the strike will last, but a prolonged dispute could have an impact on next Tuesday’s presidential election. Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, is targeting Pennsylvania, a Democratic stronghold. But Hillary Clinton’s campaign is relying heavily on the strongly Democratic turnout in Philadelphia and its suburbs to keep the state blue. SEPTA could seek a court injunction to force workers back to their jobs if the strike lasts until Election Day.
The new Netflix film is a think-piece trap—shiny on the outside, hollow on the inside.
“Everyone in this world is one of three kinds,” declares Mamaw (played by Glenn Close), the wise grand-matriarch of Ron Howard’s new film, Hillbilly Elegy. “A good Terminator, a bad Terminator, and neutral.” I hate to correct Mamaw, who is trying to encourage her impressionable grandson, J. D. Vance (Gabriel Basso), to follow a righteous path by invoking Arnold Schwarzenegger’s beloved action franchise. But there is no such thing as a “neutral” Terminator; those cyborg heroes exist to either protect or destroy. I cannot imagine what a neutral Terminator would do, save sit in a chair and remain forever shiny and inactive.
Mamaw is entitled to her bad movie opinions, of course. But this monologue is the kind of speechifying that rings hollow throughout Hillbilly Elegy, an adaptation of Vance’s best-selling 2016 memoir that debuts on Netflix tomorrow. When it first arrived on bookshelves, Vance’s story was celebrated as a glimpse into an oft-ignored pocket of America: the white working class of Appalachia and the Rust Belt who swung to Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Hailed as an “anger translator” and cited by Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton, Vance wrote about growing up poor, living with a heroin-addicted mother, and clawing his way into Yale Law School. The book arrived at a seemingly serendipitous moment, offering a bleak but candid view of communities gutted by drug abuse and poverty.
“We are on an absolutely catastrophic path,” said a COVID-19 doctor at America’s best-prepared hospital.
Perhaps no hospital in the United States was better prepared for a pandemic than the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
After the SARS outbreak of 2003, its staff began specifically preparing for emerging infections. The center has the nation’s only federal quarantine facility and its largest biocontainment unit, which cared for airlifted Ebola patients in 2014. The people on staff had detailed pandemic plans. They ran drills. Ron Klain, who was President Barack Obama’s “Ebola czar” and will be Joe Biden’s chief of staff in the White House, once told me that UNMC is “arguably the best in the country” at handling dangerous and unusual diseases. There’s a reason many of the Americans who were airlifted from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in February were sent to UNMC.
Fox News acknowledged Trump’s loss. Facebook and Twitter cracked down on election lies. But true believers can get their misinformation elsewhere.
When Fox News called Arizona for Democrat Joe Biden shortly after the polls closed there on Election Night, right-wing social media erupted in fury. Fox is the most conservative of the nation’s major news outlets, and its aggressive Arizona call—which most other national outlets did not follow for days—left true believers on the right feeling betrayed. On the social-media app Parler, which has been gaining popularity among supporters of President Donald Trump, posts alleging electoral irregularities mixed with assorted hashtags decrying Fox itself: #BOYCOTTFOXNEWS, #DUMPFOXNEWS, #FAKEFOXNEWS, #FOXNEWSISDEAD, and #FOXNEWSSUCKS. Throughout Election Day, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube had been cracking down on a flurry of allegations about voter fraud in Arizona; the platforms quickly applied warning labels to new posts containing false or disputed information and reduced the distribution of groups spreading them. In response, pro-Trump influencers exhorted their followers to congregate on Parler, which tells users to “speak freely and express yourself openly, without fear of being ‘deplatformed’ for your views.”
The question shouldn’t be whether the president can pardon himself but whether he can grant himself a pardon—and those are not the same thing.
As Donald Trump’s tenure in office comes in for its landing, a major question is whether the president—facing questions about liability for offenses including bank and tax fraud—can pardon himself.
This might seem like the right operational question, but it is imprecise as a constitutional one. Article II of the Constitution says that the president “shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” Did you catch that? The president has the power not to pardon people, but “to grant … Pardons” (emphasis added). So the question is not whether Trump can pardon himself. It’s whether he can grant himself a pardon.
In delaying the transition, the General Services Administration chief is acting like an ideologue.
I don’t know for certain that Emily Murphy gets up in the morning, looks in the mirror and says to herself, “You are a good person.” But I am willing to bet that she does. Most people in her position—most people who are undermining the rules of their group, destroying their institution, harming their society—are doing so because they have become convinced that they are good people, virtuous people, brave people, dedicated people. Nothing suggests that Murphy is an exception.
Murphy is the head of the General Services Administration, the unglamorous bit of the federal government that actually runs the federal government. Part of her job—a part that no one has ever before considered controversial or even noteworthy—is to “ascertain” who has won the U.S. presidential election, and then to release the congressionally mandated funds that allow the winner to begin his transition. Usually, that process also unlocks cooperation between incoming and outgoing officials. Before leaving office in 2017, aides to Barack Obama had prepared elaborate explanations of the state of the world, including a 69-page playbook for how to manage a pandemic. They handed the documents over to Donald Trump’s transition team, which ignored them.
The U.S. could have hundreds of thousands of fewer births next year than it would have in the absence of a pandemic.
By now, the pandemic has disrupted Americans’ daily lives for nearly as long as a baby typically spends in the womb. This means that many children conceived in mid-March are weeks away from joining us in this disorienting new world, but just as notable are the children who won’t be joining us—the babies who would have been born were it not for the ongoing economic and public-health crises. These missing births, which could end up numbering in the hundreds of thousands in the U.S., will make up what’s been called the “COVIDbabybust.”
One would think that a baby bust would take at least nine months to reveal itself, but traces of one seem to have already appeared. As Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, has noted, births started to decline in California and Florida during the summer. That’d be too soon, though, to reflect a drop in conceptions during the pandemic, or a rise in abortions or miscarriages (which tend to happenearlier on in pregnancy). Three possible explanations, Cohen told me, are errors or lags in states’ data on births, large numbers of pregnant people moving during the pandemic and giving birth in another state, or a large, unexpected drop-off in births that was already going to happen regardless of the pandemic.
The president convinced many voters that his response to the pandemic was not a disaster. The psychology of medical fraud is simple, timeless, and tragic.
At some basic level, Americans do seem to agree that the coronavirus is a major threat. Despite attempts to politicize and divide us on the pandemic, we are at least united in anxiety. In September, a survey of almost 4,000 Americans found that only 12 percent disagreed with requiring masks in public. Fully 70 percent wanted the government to do more to protect people, and only 8 percent wanted it to do less.
Since then, though, the government under President Donald Trump has done less. The U.S. has suffered the most documented coronavirus deaths in the world, by far. The Trump administration has continued to downplay and ignore the virus as its spread has accelerated in almost every region of the country. On Wednesday, the U.S. shattered the world record for daily coronavirus cases by topping 100,000 for the first time—only to break the record again each subsequent day until a Saturday high of 128,000. Field hospitals and makeshift morgues are appearing around the country. Daily death counts have risen to more than 1,000.
Prenatal testing is changing who gets born and who doesn’t. This is just the beginning.
Photographs by Julia Sellmann
Every few weeks or so, Grete Fält-Hansen gets a call from a stranger asking a question for the first time: What is it like to raise a child with Down syndrome?
Sometimes the caller is a pregnant woman, deciding whether to have an abortion. Sometimes a husband and wife are on the line, the two of them in agonizing disagreement. Once, Fält-Hansen remembers, it was a couple who had waited for their prenatal screening to come back normal before announcing the pregnancy to friends and family. “We wanted to wait,” they’d told their loved ones, “because if it had Down syndrome, we would have had an abortion.” They called Fält-Hansen after their daughter was born—with slanted eyes, a flattened nose, and, most unmistakable, the extra copy of chromosome 21 that defines Down syndrome. They were afraid their friends and family would now think they didn’t love their daughter—so heavy are the moral judgments that accompany wanting or not wanting to bring a child with a disability into the world.
There is no perfectly safe way to gather. That said, here’s how to make the holiday less dangerous.
Most years, in the anxious days before Thanksgiving, I write a health-related FAQ. It’s meant to be fun, reminding us of the timeless risks that spike every year around this day, such as Salmonella poisoning and fires from exploding turkeys.
This year is different. On Thursday, the CDC advised Americans not to congregate with people outside their immediate household. If anything, the advisory understated the risk at hand, saying that “travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.” Travel does increase your risk. It should have read: Do not travel.Do not gather. Effectively, Thanksgiving is canceled. Just wait one year, and then have a basically normal holiday. If everyone in the United States did this, we’d likely save thousands of lives.
Growing up in fear of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
At the dawn of the 1960s, a couple of New York admen named Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass created the Christmas special. Before that, the networks hadn’t been sure exactly how they should entertain children during the holiday season. They had largely come down on the side of edification, as seen in NBC’s 1951 commission of a children’s opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, broadcast live on Christmas Eve, after which the show lived on in reruns, and—also on NBC—Babes in Toyland, a turn-of-the-last-century operetta based on the Mother Goose tales.
But American children of the 1960s weren’t going to put up with operas and nursery rhymes. We had grown strong on orange juice, casseroles, and chewable vitamins. We weren’t afraid of polio or tuberculosis—we had the Salk vaccine and the tine test. We had had one small step for mankind, 31 flavors, and 101 dalmatians. The previous decade had already established the whims of children as a legitimate market force; in two years, Wham-O had made $45 million on the Hula-Hoop. Rich guys in office buildings were taking us seriously. What did we want next?