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.
A tectonic demographic shift is under way. Can the country hold together?
Democracy depends on the consent of the losers. For most of the 20th century, parties and candidates in the United States have competed in elections with the understanding that electoral defeats are neither permanent nor intolerable. The losers could accept the result, adjust their ideas and coalitions, and move on to fight in the next election. Ideas and policies would be contested, sometimes viciously, but however heated the rhetoric got, defeat was not generally equated with political annihilation. The stakes could feel high, but rarely existential. In recent years, however, beginning before the election of Donald Trump and accelerating since, that has changed.
A record-setting acqua alta has left much of Venice submerged, following stormy conditions blowing in from the Adriatic Sea.
Yesterday, strong winds and rainstorms pushed water levels in Venice, Italy, to the second-highest levels ever recorded. The high-water mark hit 74 inches (187 centimeters), just short of the record set in 1966. This exceptional acqua alta has flooded businesses and historic structures, sank boats, and been blamed for one death so far.
HONG KONG—For months now, I’ve been told that Hong Kong’s protests would end soon. They’ll end when school starts, I heard during the summer. School did start, but the protests wore on, only now I saw high-school students in crisp school uniforms joining the protesters’ ranks. Next, the mask ban of early October was supposed to slow protesters down, but the very first day after that ban, I watched streams of protesters in masks and helmets make their way to their usual haunts on Hong Kong Island.
The government shut down many of the subway lines that day, a practice that has become a de facto curfew, because Hong Kong’s über-efficient subway system is the way most people get around. No matter; the protesters ended up walking, sometimes a lot, and I walked with them, asking some of the same questions I had asked for months: Do you think you will continue protesting? What would it take for you to stop?
The GOP will not be a great or a good party until those who lead it straighten their backbones.
The first day of public hearings into the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump included an explosive revelation. William B. Taylor, Jr., the senior American diplomat in Ukraine, tied Trump even more directly than we previously knew to the effort to pressure Ukraine to probe his political opponent.
But as damaging as Taylor’s testimony proved, it was merely another massive boulder in the avalanche of evidence against the president. We are well beyond the point that any disinterested person can deny the president abused his power and acted in a corrupt manner, in ways the American founders explicitly warned against.
That the president acted the way he did should surprise exactly no one, given his disordered personality and Nietzschean ethic, his pathological lying and brutishness and bullying, and his history of personal and professional depravity. The president is a deeply damaged human being—and therefore a deeply dangerous president.
Suppose that the biblical story of Creation were true: God created the universe in six days, including all the laws of physics and all the physical constants that apply throughout the universe. Now imagine that one day, in the early 21st century, God became bored and, just for fun, doubled the gravitational constant. What would it be like to live through such a change? We’d all be pulled toward the floor; many buildings would collapse; birds would fall from the sky; the Earth would move closer to the sun, reestablishing orbit in a far hotter zone.
Let’s rerun this thought experiment in the social and political world, rather than the physical one. The U.S. Constitution was an exercise in intelligent design. The Founding Fathers knew that most previous democracies had been unstable and short-lived. But they were excellent psychologists, and they strove to create institutions and procedures that would work with human nature to resist the forces that had torn apart so many other attempts at self-governance.
Corbyn and Trump are both populists and in a battle with ‘the swamp.’ Brexit aside, Johnson is not.
Donald Trump has claimed Boris Johnson as his bumbling, blond-haired mini-me from across the water. The U.K. Labour Party is doing all it can to push the same message ahead of next month’s general election, claiming there is a Trump-Johnson alliance at foot. Even Hillary Clinton has criticized the British prime minister for his refusal to publish a report into Russia’s involvement in the Brexit referendum.
And yet, by any serious audit of the two men and what they represent, it is not Boris Johnson who is Britain’s Trump. It’s Jeremy Corbyn.
Take away Brexit, and Johnson is a run-of-the-mill conservative whose policy agenda, instincts, and world view, as opposed to his personality, verge on the dull; a member and defender of the establishment whose wish is to climb atop it, not rip it down. Corbyn is the opposite: a populist who believes in the inherent corruption of the established order, at home and abroad; a man who sees conspiracy and injustice everywhere. Only one of these descriptions comes close to the U.S. president.
Alumni of the Obama administration love Joe Biden. But some of them think that Deval Patrick is better equipped to win the presidency.
Joe Biden rarely goes anywhere without mentioning “my friend Barack.” Pete Buttigieg has a line in his stump speech about how he first went to Iowa to campaign for another “young man with a funny name.” Even though Barack Obama will not endorse in this primary, he has made a point of meeting with almost all the candidates, and he looms over the race.
But the politician personally closest to Obama is Deval Patrick. As several people in Obama’s inner circle have been saying to me for months before Patrick’s potential presidential candidacy leaked out on Monday, Biden originally came into the Obama fold as a matter of transactional politics, picked to balance the 2008 ticket; Patrick is an actual longtime friend based on mutual affinities. That Patrick seems poised to jump into the race at the last minute is the clearest sign yet of how much anxiety there is among Obama’s inner circle about Biden’s campaign. “Deval is a lot like Obama,” a former Obama aide told me. “People who were drawn to Obama would be drawn to Patrick.”
The forces of hatred that Trump stoked to benefit himself politically are spiraling out of control.
Donald Trump is 73. Mitch McConnell is 77. Rush Limbaugh is 68. The median Fox News viewer is 65. For good reason, observers of the American right often focus on folks who already qualify for Medicare and Social Security. But anyone wanting to understand the right’s future would do well to study the public-speaking appearance that Donald Trump Jr. made Sunday at UCLA.
Don Jr. expected leftist protesters.
As it turned out, he and his girlfriend, the former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, were drowned out and forced off stage by chanting alt-right activists.
Understanding the unexpected turn requires a bit of background. But the effort is worth it. Few events better illustrate the complex interplay of ideologies, tactics, and hypocrisies that are influencing the right’s youngest activists, who’ll ultimately decide what to do with the Birchers of their generation.
The first day of impeachment hearings showed Trump’s improper bullying of Ukraine setting off alarms throughout the government.
George Tenet, the former CIA director, told the 9/11 Commission that, given the stream of intelligence warnings about potential terrorist attacks against the United States before 9/11, “the system was blinking red.” Those words reflected just how widespread the concern was across the U.S. government that something bad was unfolding—in that case, a terrorist attack. It turns out that in the summer of 2019, the system was again blinking red.
Those who listened to the first day of public impeachment hearings, focused on Ukraine-related matters, heard a lot about Donald Trump and a lot about Rudy Giuliani. And for good reason: Both were central players in the White House–driven push to trade American weapons and a meeting at the White House for Ukraine’s help with Trump’s reelection.
The ambassador to Ukraine detailed a previously unknown phone call involving President Trump, potentially adding to the Democrats’ case that he put his own interests above the nation’s.
It took all of about 90 minutes for the public phase of the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump to yield its first big new revelation.
Appearing this morning before the House Intelligence Committee, Ambassador William Taylor told lawmakers—and the millions of people watching around the world—that on the day after his now-infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump personally asked a top U.S. diplomat, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, about the investigations he wanted Zelensky to pursue against the Biden family. Taylor told the committee that a member of his staff overheard the call between Trump and Sondland and then asked Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, what the president thought about Ukraine.