While the United States waits for the results of the presidential election, here are some of the other big stories from around the country and the world:
The civilian cost of the battle for Mosul: Iraqi security forces moved closer to retaking Mosul, the ISIS stronghold in northern Iraq. The operation has gone so well for Iraqi forces, Kurdish peshmerga, and the Shia Popular Mobilization Forces that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader, made an almost-frantic appeal for insurgents to stay, fight, and die. More than 10,000 civilians live in Mosul, where oil fires set by ISIS has contaminated water sources. Iraqi troops found a mass grave this week while advancing toward Mosul. —J. Weston Phippen
The muddy state of Brexit: The U.K. High Court ruled last week that the government must seek Parliament’s approval before invoking Article 50 of the EU charter to begin talks on the country’s departure from the bloc. The decision was a setback for the government, which had hoped the results of the June referendum would be enough to invoke Article 50. The government said it would appeal to the Supreme Court, but on Tuesday, Scotland—which overwhelmingly voted to stay in the EU, but will have to follow the rest of the U.K. out—said it would seek to intervene in the case. The Supreme Court will hear the government’s appeal on December 5. A ruling is expected early next year. —Krishnadev Calamur
The abuse of Boko Haram’s victims: Nigeria will deploy 100 female police officers to protect women in displaced-persons camps after a report by Human Rights Watch revealed abuses of dozens of women by Nigerian officials, according to local media. The report, released last week, documented 43 cases of rape and sexual exploitation since July in camps designated for those internally displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram throughout Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. Damian Chukwu, the Borno state police commissioner, said the female officers “will ensure the protection of women and girls” in the camps and that male officers’ roles would be limited within the camps. —Yasmeen Serhan
The Russia-Ukraine conflict hits radio: At least 25 percent of playlists on Ukrainian radio must include Ukrainian songs, according to a new law that aims to discourage pro-Russian sentiment in the country, the BBC reported Tuesday. Right now, less than 4 percent of the songs played on radio in Ukraine is in Ukrainian. President Petro Poroshenko, who favors closer ties with the West, wrote a Facebook post Tuesday encouraging users to share their favorite Ukrainian songs. A memo explaining the change said speaking Ukrainian in public is related to “the level of separatist moods among people and their vulnerability to Russia's information attacks and manipulations.” —Marina Koren
After the Cubs won the World Series: Five million people flooded the streets of Chicago last Friday, from Wrigley Field to Grant Park, to celebrate the first World Series win for the Cubs in 108 years. That crowd estimate, which came from city officials at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, would put that celebration as the most widely attended event in U.S. history and the seventh-largest gathering in world history. But is that number actually possible? While Cubs fans from all over the country came to celebrate the long-awaited championship, Chicago has just 2.7 million residents. The Ringer, in an article Tuesday, investigates the whopping estimate. They say it couldn’t have been that large. Cubs fans, elated from lifting the billy goat curse, likely don’t care though. —Matt Vasilogambros
Walgreens is suing lab-testing company and former business partner Theranos for $140 million for an alleged breach of contract.
That amount, The Wall Street Journalreports, is how much Walgreens originally invested in the once-lauded Silicon Valley startup before federal regulators discovered major failings in the lab-testing techniques. The civil suit was filed in a Delaware federal court. The Journal has more:
Walgreens is alleging Theranos misled it about the state of its technology when the two firms initially forged their agreement, the people familiar with the matter said.
One of the people said the action also alleges Theranos continued to mislead Walgreens, as questions about its technology and operations arose over the past year and put Walgreens and its customers at risk.
Theranos once had 40 blood-testing devices in Walgreens stores in Arizona and California before the startup’s problems were reported. Both companies had plans to expand the blood-testing operations to thousands of stores nationwide.
In October, Theranos shut down its blood-testing facilities and laid off 40 percent of its workforce. The company’s CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, was already banned by regulators from blood-testing for two years because of the scandal.
The Royal Family Wants the Media to Leave Prince Harry's New Girlfriend Alone
The U.K.’s royal family has issued a sharp rebuke of British media coverage of Prince Harry’s new girlfriend, criticizing the “racial undertones” of some reports.
Harry’s spokesperson said Monday that recent reporting of the prince’s new relationship with Meghan Markle, the American actress, whose father is white and mother is black, had crossed a line. The statement decried “the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”
The Guardianreports the front-page “smear” to which the statement refers is a Sun cover from last week that bore a photo of Markle with the headline “Harry’s girl on Pornhub.” On Sunday, the Daily Mail’s Rachel Johnson addressed Markle’s backgrounddirectly. “If there is issue from her alleged union with Prince Harry, the Windsors will thicken their watery, thin blue blood and Spencer pale skin and ginger hair with some rich and exotic DNA,” she wrote.
The statement also confirmed Harry’s rumored relationship with Markle, who starred in the TV show Suits.
“Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her,” Harry’s spokesperson said. “It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm.”
Harry, the younger son of Prince Charles and Diana, the princess of Wales, is fifth in line to the throne.
South Korean President Relinquishes Some Powers to Parliament Amid Scandal
Park Geun-hye, the South Korean leader, withdrew her nominee for prime minister Tuesday and asked parliament to choose a replacement in a move many have interpreted as an attempt to quell the political scandal that’s consuming her presidency.
Park’s decision to relinquish some of her decision-making powers to the legislature follows weeks of corruption allegations that have sent her presidency into disarray since it was revealed she received private counsel from her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, who critics say may have wielded undue influence on state affairs. Choi was arrested last week on charges of attempted fraud and abuse of authority. Meanwhile, Park’s approval rating has plummeted to 5 percent, with many calling for her to step down.
Tens of thousands of protesters rallied in Seoul over the weekend calling for Park’s resignation. Here’s what the protests looked like:
The Orlando Sentinel reported the city will pay the club’s owners about $2.25 million, more than the $1.65 million appraised value of the 4,500-square-foot building. The City Council, which must approve the purchase, will vote on the deal next week.
The nightclub, empty since a gunman who pledged allegiance to ISIS, opened fire during a dance party, has become a makeshift memorial to the 49 people who were killed in the shooting.
India's Modi Scraps Largest Currency Notes to Fight Corruption
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an unscheduled address to the nation Tuesday night, announced that starting Wednesday his government was scrapping 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee notes, the two largest denominations in circulation, in order to fight corruption.
The move is perhaps the boldest move undertaken by Modi to fight widespread graft and undeclared incomes in the country of 1.2 billion people where less than 2 percent of the population pays taxes, and where cash is used for most transactions from buying bread to purchasing million-dollar apartments.
Those 500-rupee (about $7.50) and 1,000-rupee ($15.05) notes still in circulation must be deposited in banks by the end of this year, Modi announced. The Reserve Bank of India, the country’s central bank, will issue a new 2,000-rupee note (about $30) as well as a fresh 500-rupee note, Modi added.
Corruption is rampant in India, which is the world’s fastest-growing major economy. It ranks 76 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. Previous attempt to clamp down on corruption and undeclared incomes—known locally as “black money”—have had limited impact.
Mind the Gap: Wider Toblerone Sparks Outrage in the U.K.
Is nothing sacred? Toblerone has replaced its mountain-like ridges in the U.K. with wider spaces between the triangular pieces. What’s next? Some sort of new Coke?
Consumers on social media were none too pleased with Toblerone’s debut of its new, more lightweight chocolate-bar design. The overall goal is to make Toblerone weigh less, reducing its 400-gram (14.1 ounces) bars to 360 grams (12.7 ounces) and its 170-gram (6 ounces) bars to 150 grams (5.3 ounces). The company warned last month the change was coming, attributing it to “higher [ingredient] costs” and its goal of ensuring “Toblerone remains on-shelf, … affordable, and … triangular.”
But that didn’t stop users from expressing their outrage over social media. While some criticized the aesthetics of the design, others blamed the move on Brexit—which has prompted other major brands to announce they would raise their prices to match the weakening of the British pound. Toberlone’s U.S.-based product maker Mondelez International, however, told the BBC the change “wasn’t done as a result of Brexit.”
Though many Toblerone fans were vocally upset by the news, others saw the silver lining.
A Hero's Burial for Ferdinand Marcos 3 Decades After His Death
The Philippines Supreme Court, ignoring petitions from leftist activists and the victims of human-rights abuses, voted 9-to-5 to give Ferdinand Marcos, the longtime U.S-backed dictator, a hero’s burial in a cemetery south of Manila.
In August, President Rodrigo Duterte, fulfilling a campaign promise, ordered Marcos to be buried at the cemetery. Those who suffered at the longtime president’s hands appealed to the Supreme Court, which sided with Duterte.
Marcos’s 1965-1986 presidency became a byword for corruption, nepotism, and abuses. He was staunchly anti-communist, making him an important U.S. ally during the Cold War when Washington was worried about Moscow’s influence in Asia. Marcos cracked down on leftist students and groups, who formed the bulk of the opposition against him. But he and his wife, Imelda Marcos, now a prominent lawmaker, were also loved by their supporters.
Marcos was deposed in 1986 in a popular uprising against his rule. He died in exile in Honolulu three years later at the age of 72. Successive Philippines government have refused to allow Marcos to be buried at the cemetery outside Manila. His body is on display in a mausoleum in Ilocos Norte, in the north of the country.
The Father of a Slain Dallas Officer Is Suing BLM For Inciting a 'Race War Against Police'
The father of an officer killed in the shootings in Dallas this July is suing Black Lives Matter (BLM), saying the group influenced the shooter with anti-police rhetoric, and that it has convinced supporters there is a “civil war between blacks and law enforcement.”
The dead officer’s father, Enrique Zamarripa, is also suing President Obama, a leader with the Nation of Islam, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Al Sharpton, Deray McKesson, as well as several other leaders in the BLM movement. Zamarripa is represented by Larry Klayman, a prominent lawyer who has filed lawsuits against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for her role in the attacks in Benghazi. Also listed as plaintiffs in the suit are all “U.S. police officers, Jews, and Caucasians.” More here
Soldiers Find Dozens of Decapitated Bodies in a Mass Grave Near Mosul
Iraqi troops advancing from the south toward the Islamic State-held city of Mosul on Monday stopped their march in the town of Hamam al-Alil after the smell of decomposing bodies led them to a mass grave. Investigators found nearly 100 decapitated corpses; soldiers found at least one child’s stuffed animal among the dead.
The operation to retake the ISIS stronghold is now in its fourth week, and as Iraqi security forces have made a quick advance into the city from the east, ISIS has rounded up civilians to use as humans shields. About 41,000 people have been displaced. Preventing civilian losses has been a major concern, because more than a million people live in Mosul, and ISIS has proven it is capable of atrocities when in retreat.
This mass grave in Hamam al-Alil, about 19 miles southeast of Mosul, was located on the grounds of an agricultural college. Iraqi investigators used a bulldozer to uncover the earth, and found headless corpses with rotting flesh. The UN human rights office in Geneva said it was investigating reports some of the dead were police officers executed just weeks ago. There were reports ISIS killed some 50 officers in a building outside Mosul, and the agricultural college now seems to be the building cited by these reports of the mass execution.
Hungary's Government Falls Short in Vote to Ban Migrants
Hungary’s government fell two votes short of the two-thirds of Parliament needed to stop the EU’s plan to resettle migrants in the country. Prime Minister Viktor Orban needed 133 votes in the 199-member chamber; he got 131 after opposition parties boycotted the vote.
Last month, nearly 98 percent of Hungarians voted in a referendum to reject the EU-mandated quota on migrants, but the turnout was below the 50-percent threshold needed to make the results legally binding. Orban then turned to Parliament to buttress the referendum’s results, which he called a moral victory.
The EU plan to redistribute 160,000 asylum-seekers across the bloc would have resulted in 1,294 people being resettled in Hungary. Orban strongly opposed the plan, and has erected barriers to prevent migrants from entering the country.
Orban’s Fidesz party remains popular in Hungary, but Tuesday’s setback could hurt the prime minister’s negotiations with the EU on migrants.
Scotland Says It Will Intervene in U.K. Government's Brexit Appeal
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland’s most senior law officer will apply to the U.K. Supreme Court to intervene in the U.K. government’s appeal against last week’s High Court ruling on Brexit.
The High Court ruled the U.K. government must seek parliamentary approval on invoking Article 50 of the EU charter, which would begin the formal negotiation on the country’s departure from the European Union. The U.K. voted last June 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the EU. But voters in Scotland chose overwhelmingly to remain, hence Sturgeon’s statement Tuesday on the lord advocate’s application to the Supreme Court.
"Triggering Article 50 will inevitably deprive Scottish people and Scottish businesses of rights and freedoms which they currently enjoy,” she said. “It simply cannot be right that those rights can be removed by the U.K. government on the say-so of a prime minister without parliamentary debate, scrutiny or consent.”
The United Kingdom comprises England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
German authorities reportedly arrested Tuesday five alleged ISIS members, including one described as a senior recruiter, in coordinated raids in Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia.
The senior recruiter is allegedly Ahmad Abdelazziz A., a 32-year-old Iraqi imam also known as Abu Walaa. Authorities say he and the others—a 50-year-old Turkish national, a 36-year-old German-Serb, a 27-year-old German, and a 26-year-old Cameroonian—tried to recruit young Germans into ISIS. The news was reported by WDR and NDR, the German broadcasters, and Süddeutsche newspaper. Deutsche Welle, the German broadcaster, adds:
Federal prosecutors had been investigating Walaa and his associates since last fall. In July, officials raided a mosque in the city of Hildesheim, which is known for being a key meeting place for the German salafist movement.
Walaa, who was colloquially known as the "preacher without a face," hosted sermons at the mosque about waging jihad in the Middle East. Security officials observed that a number of people who attended the seminars later left Germany to travel to Syria.
Authorities were reportedly aided by the testimony of a former ISIS fighter who fled the group in Syria.
When a currency’s value is based on belief alone, it’s liable to evaporate.
Carnage in the cryptocurrency market is nothing new. Over the past decade, even as the value of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether has risen sharply, crashes have been a regular feature of the market. (There’s a reason HODL—“Hold on for dear life”—is a mantra among crypto believers.) But even by crypto standards, the destruction of value over the past six months—and in particular, over the past few weeks—has been staggering.
Since November, something like $1.5 trillion in cryptocurrency value has been erased. Bitcoin and Ethereum, the market’s bellwethers, are both down about 60 percent from their peaks. And most strikingly, the so-called stablecoin Terra and its sister token, Luna, which together were valued at about $60 billion six weeks ago, imploded in a matter of days and are now essentially worthless.
The U.S. is more dangerously divided than any other wealthy democracy. Is there a way back from the brink?
Until a few decades ago, most Democrats did not hate Republicans, and most Republicans did not hate Democrats. Very few Americans thought the policies of the other side were a threat to the country or worried about their child marrying a spouse who belonged to a different political party.
All of that has changed. A 2016 survey found that 60 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Republicans would now balk at their child’s marrying a supporter of a different political party. In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, the Pew Research Center reported that roughly nine out of 10 supporters of Joe Biden and of Donald Trump alike were convinced that a victory by their opponent would cause “lasting harm” to the United States.
A new viral outbreak is testing whether the world has learned anything from COVID.
Updated at 9:51 a.m. on May 20, 2022
Yesterday afternoon, I called the UCLA epidemiologist Anne Rimoin to ask about the European outbreak of monkeypox—a rare but potentially severe viral illness with dozens of confirmed or suspected cases in the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal. “If we see those clusters, given the amount of travel between the United States and Europe, I wouldn’t be surprised to see cases here,” Rimoin, who studies the disease, told me. Ten minutes later, she stopped mid-sentence to say that a colleague had just texted her a press release: “Massachusetts Public Health Officials Confirm Case of Monkeypox.”
The virus behind monkeypox is a close relative of the one that caused smallpox but is less deadly and less transmissible, causing symptoms that include fever and a rash. Endemic to western and central Africa, it was first discovered in laboratory monkeys in 1958—hence the name—but the wild animals that harbor the virus are probably rodents. The virus occasionally spills over into humans, and such infections have become more common in recent decades. Rarely, monkeypox makes it to other continents, and when it does, outbreaks “are so small, they’re measured in single digits,” Thomas Inglesby, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told me. The only significant American outbreak occurred in 2003, when a shipment of Ghanaian rodents spread the virus to prairie dogs in Illinois, which were sold as pets and infected up to 47 people, none fatally. Just last year, two travelers independently carried the virus to the U.S. from Nigeria but infected no one else.
A conservative justice’s draft treats pregnancy as a simple matter: Either a uterus is occupied by a fetus or it is not.
When I train medical students, I emphasize that almost nobody is more acutely aware of time than an obstetrician is. Whenever doctors in my field are briefed about a new patient, the first question we ask is: “How many weeks?” The answer affects everything. A pregnant patient diagnosed with high blood pressure at 12 weeks is usually suffering from chronic hypertension, a condition not immediately dangerous to her. At 37 weeks, a similar blood-pressure reading signals preeclampsia, a direct risk to the patient and her fetus. A patient whose water breaks the week before her due date, at 39 weeks, is probably going to have a healthy baby; someone in the same situation at 20 weeks faces a terrifying ordeal that will probably end in infection and pregnancy loss. The dangers that a patient faces, the treatment options we can consider, the risks she may be willing to take—all of these evolve over the nine months of a pregnancy. The only people who understand this better than obstetricians do are our pregnant patients themselves, who count every passing moment in their bodies.
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A shadow box above Rebecca’s dining-room table, hanging there since 2006, displays an autographed copy of the Pirates of the Caribbean script—signed by Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, and Johnny Depp. Though Rebecca, at age 36, is emphatically no longer a Depp fan, she says she keeps the script on her wall as a conversation starter. If someone asks about it, maybe she’ll go into the full story, rather than pretending she never liked Depp. “Also it’s not like it’s his smug little face,” she told me.
That face is everywhere right now, on account of Depp’s ongoing and highly public lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard. The case is complicated, and the testimony is rife with sordid, disturbing details. In short, Depp has taken Heard to court for defamation over a 2018 essay she published in The Washington Post that identified her as a victim of domestic abuse and sexual violence. Heard also made abuse allegations when she filed for divorce from Depp in early 2016, and was granted a restraining order against him.
If you’ve tried to buy a home in the past two years, you have my most profound sympathies. Your experience has probably gone something like this: You found your dream home online; sent photos around to your family; visited the premises (or decided to buy, sight unseen); got your financial statements in order; smartly offered 10 percent over asking; and learned, several hours later, that no fewer than 831 other people had bid for the same house, which sold to a couple who paid 50 percent over asking, all cash, and cinched the deal with a contract amendment promising to name their firstborn child after the seller.
Yes, the American real-estate market really has been historically hellish, or historically hot, depending on whether you were trying to buy a home or sell one. Within the past year, just about every housing statistic you could imagine set some kind of berserk record. Home prices hit a record high, the share of homes that sold above asking hit a record high, and the number of available homes for sale hit a record low.
Hundreds of thousands of deaths, from either tobacco or the pandemic, could be prevented with a single behavioral change.
It’s suddenly become acceptable to say that COVID is—or will soon be—like the flu. Such analogies have long been the preserve of pandemic minimizers, but lately they’ve been creeping into more enlightened circles. Last month the dean of a medical school wrote an open letter to his students suggesting that for a vaccinated person, the risk of death from COVID-19 is “in the same realm, or even lower, as the average American’s risk from flu.” A few days later, David Leonhardt said as much to his millions of readers in the The New York Times’ morning newsletter. And three prominent public-health experts have called for the government to recognize a “new normal” in which the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus “is but one of several circulating respiratory viruses that include influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and more.”
Don’t be fooled by the pastel tones and gentle sounds of Harry’s House.
So much music exists to provoke bold emotions—ecstasy, amazement, deep blues. Other music conjures pastel feelings, soft and in-between. For example, much of Harry Styles’s third album, Harry’s House, imparts the mild joy that one might get from completing a list of chores. Some songs spark the regret of failing to book the ideal dinner reservation. Over multiple listens, another sensation, like faint indigestion, may occur: concern.
The 28-year-old Styles is one of our era’s most dependable stars, the kind who can book 10 nights at Madison Square Garden. Charisma and preexisting fame explain some of this success, but he has far outrun his charming former bandmates in One Direction. Threealbums into a solo career, Styles has shown a knack for groovy, rock-inflected sing-alongs that could have come out anytime in the past 50 years. Yet Harry’s House also hints at something modern—a vague cheerfulness that isn’t escapist so much as it is dissociative.
An informal, online network is translating publicly available articles and social-media posts. That has been enough to rile Beijing.
In early March, Han Yang, a 50-year-old Sydney resident, was invited by a friend to join a WeChat group with other members of Australia’s Chinese diaspora that focused on Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine. Yang found that the others began posting a stream of offensive material—stories filled with vitriol toward Ukrainians, Russian-state disinformation, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories—accompanied by user comments cheering on Moscow’s violence.
When one user asked where in Sydney they could find a store selling Russian food, which they planned to purchase to show support for Moscow, Yang had enough. “That triggered me,” he told me. “It is so outlandish.” He remembers thinking: “You live in Sydney and you want to pay the Russians some money and buy their food just to show your support for their invasion of another country?”
What would it have been like to live in Babel in the days after its destruction? In the Book of Genesis, we are told that the descendants of Noah built a great city in the land of Shinar. They built a tower “with its top in the heavens” to “make a name” for themselves. God was offended by the hubris of humanity and said:
Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.
The text does not say that God destroyed the tower, but in many popular renderings of the story he does, so let’s hold that dramatic image in our minds: people wandering amid the ruins, unable to communicate, condemned to mutual incomprehension.