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.
We’ve known about SARS-CoV-2 for only three months, but scientists can make some educated guesses about where it came from and why it’s behaving in such an extreme way.
One of the few mercies during this crisis is that, by their nature, individual coronaviruses are easily destroyed. Each virus particle consists of a small set of genes, enclosed by a sphere of fatty lipid molecules, and because lipid shells are easily torn apart by soap, 20 seconds of thorough hand-washing can take one down. Lipid shells are also vulnerable to the elements; a recent study shows that the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, survives for no more than a day on cardboard, and about two to three days on steel and plastic. These viruses don’t endure in the world. They need bodies.
But much about coronaviruses is still unclear. Susan Weiss, of the University of Pennsylvania, has been studying them for about 40 years. She says that in the early days, only a few dozen scientists shared her interest—and those numbers swelled only slightly after the SARS epidemic of 2002. “Until then people looked at us as a backward field with not a lot of importance to human health,” she says. But with the emergence of SARS-CoV-2—the cause of the COVID-19 disease—no one is likely to repeat that mistake again.
After growing up in a family that never lied, I spent decades being off-puttingly truthful.
When I was a child, my dad invented a game that I loved. Wherever we went, he’d predict what strangers were about to say or do. We’d walk into a store and he’d point at the salesman and say something like, “Watch this. When I tell him how much I’m willing to spend, he’ll immediately show me something more expensive.” The salesman did exactly as Dad had prophesized. When Dad took me to my first concert, he told me the musician would ask the audience how they were feeling tonight and, when everyone cheered wildly, would respond, “I can’t hear you!” It wasn’t long before the musician spoke those exact words.
It felt like magic, like Dad was telling the future or reading minds, so I asked how he did it. Most people follow a script, he said. I asked him why and I remember him replying, “Because they’re afraid that if they say what they really feel, people won’t like them. And they’d rather be liked than be honest.” I knew then that I wanted to be honest, regardless of the consequences. I stuck to that for the next 25 years. And there were consequences.
A devastating incident in Afghanistan shows the perils of relying on Special Operations alone to fight the nation’s battles.
Both the Trump and Obama administrations relied heavily on highly trained Special Forces units to keep Afghanistan from collapse. The strategy has kept recent episodes of the 21-year Afghan War out of the public eye, but it is failing to stabilize the country and is straining the United States military’s elite troops, who serve back-to-back combat tours without an end in sight and disproportionately give their lives in service of a war the public knows almost nothing about.
When Kunduz, a major city in northern Afghanistan, fell to the Taliban in 2015, U.S. Special Forces were dispatched on a secret mission to help Afghan commandos recapture it. Under-resourced and unprepared, the soldiers found themselves in the midst of a pitched battle with conflicting orders. The story of how it led to one of the U.S. military’s worst disasters in Afghanistan shows the perils of relying on Special Operations alone to fight the nation’s wars.
How typeface designers made room in The New York Times for the general-turned-president’s long last name.
Last Wednesday night, I was hanging around at home when a mysterious tweet crossed the transom.
“If anyone knows this it’s you,” the message said, with a link to another tweet that laid out a bit of a mystery:
“Rumor says in the 1950s, NYTimes created a special skinny ‘S’ so they could fit ‘EISENHOWER SAYS’ in one-column heds. True...?”
I was immediately intrigued. My Twitter pal had thought to include me not because I’m an expert in typography (I’m not), but because I spend an inordinate amount of time haunting various newspaper archives. (Evidence here, here, here, and here.)
But I’d never heard the legend of the Eisenhower ‘S.’ The rumor, Adam Lisberg told me in a follow-up tweet, came from a now-defunct copyediting newsletter he’d read in 1997, which is somehow (astonishingly) still preserved online. Under the delightful heading, “THE BURNED-OUT NEWSPAPERCREATURES GUILD'S NEWSLETTER,” is this anecdote attributed to Al JaCoby—presumably the longtime San Diego newspaperman who died in 2008.
Millions of Americans sympathize with the Capitol insurrection. Everyone else must figure out how to live alongside them.
They could be real-estate agents or police officers, bakers or firefighters, veterans of American wars or CEOs of American companies. They might live in Boise or Dallas, College Park or College Station, Sacramento or Delray Beach. Some are wealthy. Some are not. Relatively few of them were at the United States Capitol on January 6, determined to stop Congress from certifying a legitimate election. Millions more cheered the rioters on—and still do.
As a group, it’s hard to know what to call them. They are too many to merit the term extremists. There are not enough of them to be secessionists. Some prominent historians and philosophers have been arguing for a revival of the word fascist; others think white supremacist is more appropriate, though there could also be a case for rebel. For want of a better term, I’m calling all of them seditionists—not just the people who took part in the riot, but the far larger number of Americans who are united by their belief that Donald Trump won the election, that Joe Biden lost, and that a long list of people and institutions are lying about it: Congress, the media, Mike Pence, the election officials in all 50 states, and the judges in dozens of courts.
“You can understand the predator wanting to be near the prey, but not really the other way around.”
To watch a bald eagle raid a nesting colony of great blue herons is a gut-churning experience. “The herons have a progression of alarms,” explains Ross Vennesland, a researcher with Environment and Climate Change Canada. “They start with a chortle, and quickly move to really hideous screaming as the eagle swoops in and lands on the nest.” The adult herons are usually forced to flee, while the eagle cracks open an egg or flies away with a chick. “It’s a pretty horrible scene to witness,” he says.
You’d think the herons would want to build their nests as far away from bald eagles as possible. But you’d be dead wrong. Research on the southwest coast of British Columbia shows that herons are deliberately seeking out nesting pairs of eagles—and building right next to them.
Republicans now face a choice between their long-term interests and short-term self-preservation.
The first impeachment of Donald Trump was an act of self-preservation by Democrats. The second is an act of self-preservation by Congress.
In 2019, the Democratic congressional leadership initially resisted the cries for impeachment that had been building since the party gained control of the House of Representatives; Speaker Nancy Pelosi memorably and ineffectually quipped that Trump was “almost self-impeaching” in May of that year.
But when a whistleblower revealed that Trump had attempted to strong-arm the leader of Ukraine into falsely implicating then-aspiring Democratic nominee Joe Biden in a crime, the House had to act. Allowing Trump to use his authority as president to coerce foreign leaders into doing his bidding would leave the country vulnerable to similar acts in the future. The sustained public attention to Trump’s corrupt motives also substantially neutralized his planned attack on Biden, who ultimately prevailed in November.
A new study proves that half of people are correct. The other is also correct.
This is a time of much division. Families and communities are splintered by polarizing narratives. Outrage surrounds geopolitical discourse—so much so that anxiety often becomes a sort of white noise, making it increasingly difficult to trigger intense, acute anger. The effect can be desensitizing, like driving 60 miles per hour and losing hold of the reality that a minor error could result in instant death.
One thing that apparently still has the power to infuriate people, though, is how many spaces should be used after a period at the end of an English sentence.
The war is alive again of late because a study that came out this month from Skidmore College. The study is, somehow, the first to look specifically at this question. It is titled: “Are Two Spaces Better Than One? The Effect of Spacing Following Periods and Commas During Reading.”
The handover of power was a solemn affair. There was no mistaking the new administration for the old one.
At dawn this morning, workers loaded couches and tables into a moving truck parked outside the West Wing. Men wearing white coveralls and carrying roller brushes and paint cans walked across the north driveway. Inside the White House, pictures of the 45th president had been removed from the walls. Only the hooks remained, ready for a new set of portraits of the 46th.
A lone Donald Trump press deputy, Judd Deere, sat in his small office, writing a note on a piece of stationery to whoever would be taking over his desk in a few hours. Deere was attempting to describe what it’s like to work in the building. When I looked in at noon, after the Trump presidency had officially ended, he was gone, his desk cleared. Even the magazine racks hanging on the wall had been emptied.
Israel has vaccinated six times more of its population than the United States. Can others learn from its success?
One nation has already provided more than a quarter of its people with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, outpacing every other country in the world and more than sextupling the percentage in the United States. During one recent three-day period, in fact, it administered a dose of the vaccine to a higher percentage of its population than the U.S. has altogether. Nearly three-fourths of those over age 60 have gotten their first shot. And most of the population could be vaccinated by the end of March, which would be earlier than any nation except, perhaps, tiny Palau and the Vatican. The government is now preparing “passports” for the twice-jabbed that will exempt them from quarantines.
It’s the kind of standout success one would expect from the now-familiar stars of the global response to COVID-19—Taiwan, South Korea, or New Zealand. But it’s actually been achieved by Israel, in several respects a surprising country to be the world’s front-runner on vaccine distribution. A 2019 Johns Hopkins study ranked Israel an unspectacular 54th among 195 countries in terms of preparedness for a pandemic. After initially appearing to vanquish the coronavirus, Israel has since suffered some of the world’s worst outbreaks—something that remains true as it celebrates its vaccine advances. And during a pandemic in which public trust in government has emerged as arguably the most consistent ingredient across countries for success in combatting the virus, public confidence in Israel’s political leaders is dismally low. The Israeli government currently has the distinction of being one of the most unstable in the democratic world.