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.
How should Democrats fight against a president who has no moral or legal compass?
Democratic primary voters care deeply about electability. What most want is simple: a candidate who can beat President Donald Trump in November. So they worry about whether former Vice President Joe Biden will inspire young people, and about whether Senator Bernie Sanders will scare away old people. They debate whether a political revolution is necessary to energize the base, or whether the revolution will dissuade independents. Will the historic candidacy of a woman or a gay man take off or implode?
But these concerns about policy and broad cultural appeal are secondary to the true “electability” crisis facing whichever Democrat wins the nomination: He or she will need to run against a president seemingly prepared, and empowered, to lie and cheat his way to reelection.
The family structure we’ve held up as the cultural ideal for the past half century has been a catastrophe for many. It’s time to figure out better ways to live together.
The scene is one many of us have somewhere in our family history: Dozens of people celebrating Thanksgiving or some other holiday around a makeshift stretch of family tables—siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, great-aunts. The grandparents are telling the old family stories for the 37th time. “It was the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen in your life,” says one, remembering his first day in America. “There were lights everywhere … It was a celebration of light! I thought they were for me.”
The oldsters start squabbling about whose memory is better. “It was cold that day,” one says about some faraway memory. “What are you talking about? It was May, late May,” says another. The young children sit wide-eyed, absorbing family lore and trying to piece together the plotline of the generations.
Many in the party elite remain deeply skeptical of the Vermont senator, but rank-and-file voters do not share that hesitation.
Judging by media coverage and the comments of party luminaries, you might think Democrats are bitterly polarized over Bernie Sanders’s presidential bid. Last month, Hillary Clinton declared that “nobody likes” the Vermont senator. Last week, James Carville, who ran Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, said he was “scared to death” of the Sanders campaign, which he likened to “a cult.” Since the beginning of the year, news organization after news organization has speculated that Sanders’ssuccess may set off a Democratic “civil war.”
But polls of Democratic voters show nothing of the sort. Among ordinary Democrats, Sanders is strikingly popular, even with voters who favor his rivals. He sparks less opposition—in some cases far less—than his major competitors. On paper, he appears well positioned to unify the party should he win its presidential nomination.
When a senior White House aide would brief President Donald Trump in 2018 about an Ebola-virus outbreak in central Africa, it was plainly evident that hardships roiling a far-flung part of the world didn’t command his attention. He was zoning out. “It was like talking to a wall,” a person familiar with the matter told me.
Now a new coronavirus that originated in China is confronting him with a potential pandemic, a problem that Trump seems ill-prepared to meet. A crisis that is heading into its third month could draw out every personal and managerial failing that the president has shown to this point. Much of what he’s said publicly about the virus has been wrong, a consequence of downplaying any troubles on his watch. He has long stoked fears that foreigners entering the United States bring disease. Now he may double down on xenophobic suspicions. He has hollowed out federal agencies and belittled expertise, prioritizing instead his own intuition and the demands of his political base. But he’ll need to rely on a bureaucracy he’s maligned to stop the virus’s spread.
How new technologies and techniques pioneered by dictators will shape the 2020 election
Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET on February 10, 2020.
One day last fall, I sat down to create a new Facebook account. I picked a forgettable name, snapped a profile pic with my face obscured, and clicked “Like” on the official pages of Donald Trump and his reelection campaign. Facebook’s algorithm prodded me to follow Ann Coulter, Fox Business, and a variety of fan pages with names like “In Trump We Trust.” I complied. I also gave my cellphone number to the Trump campaign, and joined a handful of private Facebook groups for MAGA diehards, one of which required an application that seemed designed to screen out interlopers.
The president’s reelection campaign was then in the midst of a multimillion-dollar ad blitz aimed at shaping Americans’ understanding of the recently launched impeachment proceedings. Thousands of micro-targeted ads had flooded the internet, portraying Trump as a heroic reformer cracking down on foreign corruption while Democrats plotted a coup. That this narrative bore little resemblance to reality seemed only to accelerate its spread. Right-wing websites amplified every claim. Pro-Trump forums teemed with conspiracy theories. An alternate information ecosystem was taking shape around the biggest news story in the country, and I wanted to see it from the inside.
For grieving families, the photos preserve the only memories they have of their child.
Since 1997, Todd Hochberg has been going to hospitals to photograph families after the death of a baby. These requests come at all times of day and night—more often at night, it seems, when it is a stillbirth. If he can, Hochberg will be there for the birth itself, and then in the emotional hours after as parents see and hold and even bathe their dead child while saying goodbye.
For parents, these photographs document one of the worst days of their life. But they also represent the few cherished memories they will ever have of their child. Hospitals used to whisk stillborn babies away from their parents, but they now recognize the importance of memories in grieving. Many offer photography, along with mementos such as footprints and locks of hair. Organizations such as Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep also have a network of volunteer photographers around the country.
The Trump administration’s attempt to kill one of America’s strongest climate policies has been a complete debacle.
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—On a drizzly day in January 2018, Jeff Alson, an engineer at the Environmental Protection Agency’s motor-vehicles office, gathered with his colleagues to make a video call to Washington, D.C.
They had made the same call dozens of times before. For nearly a decade, the EPA team had worked closely with another group of engineers in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, pronounced nits-uh) to write the federal tailpipe-pollution standards, one of the most consequential climate protections in American history. The two teams had done virtually all the technical research—testing engines in a lab, interviewing scientists and automakers, and overseeing complex economic simulations—underpinning the rules, which have applied to every new car and light truck, including SUVs and vans, sold in the United States since 2012.
The attorney general is working to destroy the integrity and independence of the Justice Department, in order to make Donald Trump a president who can operate above the law.
When Donald Trump chose Bill Barr to serve as attorney general in December 2018, even some moderates and liberals greeted the choice with optimism. One exuberant Democrat described him as “an excellent choice,” who could be counted on to “stand up for the department’s institutional prerogatives and … push back on any improper attempt to inject politics into its work.”
At the end of his first year of service, Barr’s conduct has shown that such expectations were misplaced. Beginning in March with his public whitewashing of Robert Mueller’s report, which included powerful evidence of repeated obstruction of justice by the president, Barr has appeared to function much more as the president’s personal advocate than as an attorney general serving the people and government of the United States. Among the most widely reported and disturbing events have been Barr’s statements that a judicially authorized FBI investigation amounted to “spying” on the Trump campaign, and his public rejection in December of the inspector general’s considered conclusion that the Russia probe was properly initiated and overseen in an unbiased manner. Also quite unsettling was Trump’s explicit mention of Barr and Rudy Giuliani in the same breath in his July 25 phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, as individuals the Ukrainian president should speak with regarding the phony investigation that Ukraine was expected to publicly announce.
What would the attorney general say were a future administration to follow his lead?
On November 15 of last year, Attorney General Bill Barr gave a speech before the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention, in which he addressed, among other things, respect for norms in our polarized times. “One of the ironies of today is that those who oppose this president constantly accuse this administration of ‘shredding’ constitutional norms and waging a war on the rule of law,” he said. “When I ask my friends on the other side, what exactly are you referring to? I get vacuous stares, followed by sputtering about the travel ban or some such thing.”
“The fact of the matter,” Barr went on, “is that, in waging a scorched-earth, no-holds-barred war of ‘resistance’ against this administration, it is the left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law.”
The surprising persistence of the mail-order business
When you enter the RH (formerly Restoration Hardware) megastore in New York City’s Meatpacking District, you might think it’s a place to buy furniture. Technically it is, with tens of thousands of square feet filled with dining-room sets and king-size beds and couches, upholstered in shades of gray and beige and beiger, and accessorized with plush rugs and metal-armed lamps. Or maybe you’ll mistake it for a hotel lobby, with its high ceilings, ample seating, and smiling concierge.
But on either side of the store’s broad central path, you’ll see its true spiritual, if not practical, purpose: as a temple to the high-end furniture chain’s infamous “source books.” On twin circular tables large enough for an extended family’s Thanksgiving dinner (yours for $7,995 each), eight different editions sit in neat stacks and offer inspiration tailored to ski chalets, beach getaways, or nurseries for rich babies, depending on the tome. Bathed in golden light from enormous $12,000 chandeliers, the gods of direct-mail marketing beckon enticingly from their “carbonized split bamboo” altars.