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.
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s tell-all book about the first lady is as sordid as it is fascinating.
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff is one of those patriotic Americans who went to work in the Trump White House, only to come soaring back over the gates, rejected by the host organism. Like many before her, she decided to write a book about her experiences, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship With the First Lady, and she proffers it to us as an act of public service, although possibly also as a comprehensive case for the defense if this whole acid trip ends up at The Hague. She is another member of Plastic Camelot, the ever-changing group of personal friends, celebrities, and weirdos whom the Trumps bring close to them and then, in the manner of bored kings, dispatch to the tombs. Maybe they’re no more disturbing a collection of advisers and jesters than the men and women on whom other presidents have depended. Who’s to say that Omarosa is so much worse than Henry Kissinger? She certainly has a better record on human rights.
The GOP is in danger of losing an entire system of political control.
I doubted that Mitch McConnell could do it, but he did. With only a week remaining before Election Day, McConnell crammed through the confirmation of a sixth conservative justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. The people who tally such things reckon that Amy Coney Barrett is the first justice since 1869 to receive not a single vote from the minority party in the Senate.
It was a move of raw power. But it was also motivated by raw desperation.
Polls suggest Republicans are facing defeat in the 2020 races, and probably by big margins. Joe Biden and Donald Trump are neck and neck in Georgia and Texas, nobody’s previous idea of swing states. Republican senators are at risk not only in Maine and Colorado, but also in Iowa and even Kansas.
When The Office originally aired, its resident fool made for easy comedy. Fifteen years later, it’s hard to watch Dwight without seeing tragedy.
These are boom times for the lolsob. Watching the news, I sometimes find myself staring at the screen, eyes wide, brain broken, not sure whether to laugh or cry. The farce and tragedy tangle so tightly that it can be hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. How do you make sense, for example, of a leader who, in the midst of a deadly pandemic, muses about the curative powers of bleach? How do you process a president’s attempt to edit a hurricane with a Sharpie? The words, after a while, stop working. The categories collapse. Many true things have been written about what living under this regime feels like; one of the truest I’ve encountered is a 2017 prediction from the writer Hayes Brown: “This is going to be the dumbest dystopia.”
More than 80 percent of Republicans think the president is doing a great job with the pandemic. Here’s why.
Kurtis, a young accountant in McKinney, Texas, likes the thing that many people hate about Donald Trump: that the president has left the pandemic response almost entirely up to local officials.
“He left it up to each state to make their own decision on how they wanted to proceed,” Kurtis told me recently. Most experts think the absence of a national strategy for tackling the coronavirus has been a disaster. But Kurtis argues that North Dakota, for example, shouldn’t have to follow the same rules as New York City. Kurtis voted for Trump in 2016, and he plans to do so again this year.
Some 82 percent of Republicans approve of Trump’s coronavirus response—a higher percentage than before the president was diagnosed with the virus. This is despite the fact that more than 220,000 Americans have died, and virtually every public-health expert, including those who have worked for Republican administrations, says the president has performed abysmally.
Yesterday afternoon, the “senior administration official” who wrote a prominent anti-Trump New York Times op-ed and book named himself, ripping off his mask to reveal … a face so forgettable, so forgotten, that it was unclear whether the mask had been ripped off at all, or whether he was like the Robert Stack character in Airplane!, dramatically removing his sunglasses to reveal an identical pair of sunglasses underneath. Anonymous is Miles Taylor, a Republican operative who started as chief of staff of the Department of Homeland Security in February 2019, five months after publishing his op-ed. He left that position in June 2019 and is now campaigning for Joe Biden. At the time of the op-ed’s publication, Taylor was the DHS deputy chief of staff, and his name did not appear on the DHS leadership page at all. Most people thought the author was more famous, not an unknown appointee but a real grand fromage, perhaps at the level of a Cabinet secretary.
Abraham Enriquez speaks with the clarity of a levelheaded TV anchor. The 25-year-old Latino from Lubbock, Texas, was the first in his family to be born in the United States, after his grandparents immigrated from Mexico in the 1980s and brought his then-2-year-old mother with them. He visits his family across the border at least once a year for service trips with his grandparents’ church. When we talked recently about the state of American politics, I recognized the air of authority I had heard in clips of his eponymous web show and his public speeches rallying Latinos in Texas to vote—for Donald Trump.
Enriquez is one of millions of Latinos who will (or already have) cast a ballot for Trump this year. Nearly a third of Latinos routinely vote for Republicans in American elections, and the Trump campaign’s appeals to them show an understanding of their unique worldview, one rooted in deeply held beliefs about individualism, economic opportunity, and traditional social values. Across nationality, class, immigrant experience, and age, Trump-voting Latinos have one thing in common: a different vision from other Latinos of what it means to be American—and they believe their liberal counterparts and the broader public just don’t understand that.
Many Democrats are worried that pollsters are making the same mistakes they did four years ago, but this election is different.
“I want to feel hopeful about Joe Biden’s chances this year, but I just can’t,” my neighbor confessed to me, as we stood in line outside a coffee shop. What had begun as pleasant conversation—dogs, the temperature, clouds—had been pulled, through the vortex known as Late October in an Election Year, into an airing of political anxieties. “I’m still so afraid that 2016 is going to happen again and Trump is going to win,” she said.
Based on the sample size of my life, every Democrat feels this way. Yes, they’ll preface, the polls look all right for Biden. But four years ago, they looked good for Hillary Clinton too. And so, they fear, the horror film of 2016 is about to get its sequel.
There is a small chance that their fears will come true. But for the past few weeks, I’ve been stockpiling all of the quantitative reasons why the 2020 election is really, truly different from 2016, from new polling methodologies to fewer undecided voters. As always, do not allow any level of optimism (or pessimism) to guide your decision to vote. Just vote.
Totally Under Control delivers a damning—and essential—report card on the White House’s mismanagement of the pandemic.
Given the ongoing nature of the pandemic, it may seem senseless to make a two-hour film that looks back on how the coronavirus ran rampant in the U.S. And yet, Totally Under Control—from the Oscar-winning writer-director Alex Gibney and his co-directors, Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger—not only documents the chaos of 2020 with clear-eyed precision, but also successfully argues for its own existence.
Filmed in secret over five months, Totally Under Control (streaming on Hulu) uses news footage and interviews with experts and government whistleblowers to show how the administration missed each opportunity to either stop the virus from arriving in the U.S. or prevent its spread. The filmmakers present these events in rapid, blow-by-blow succession, lending the doc an urgency that contrasts with the languid federal response to the pandemic. The result is a film that—unlike 76 Days, the moving and intimate documentary on the lockdown in Wuhan, China, made without talking heads—feels shocking to watch in retrospect for its crisp frankness. Viewers may have grown numb to the constant churn of distressing news and learned to stomach the administration’s failure to contain the virus. But Totally Under Control refuses to look away, and being reminded of how many warnings went unheeded is unnerving.
Why the grandiose promises of multilevel marketing and QAnon conspiracy theories go hand in hand
Jordan Schrandt—blond, beautiful, mother of eight, founder of The Farmhouse Movement magazine, which teaches readers how to achieve “a lifestyle of authenticity, simplicity, and kindness”—is a Royal Crown Diamond.
Less than 1 percent of the independent distributors who sell essential oils and related products through the Utah-based multilevel-marketing company Young Living reach that top ranking. Those who have net an average annual income of $1.5 million and resemble celebrities within the organization, counting tens of thousands of followers on social media. Their success sometimes even allows them to charge for access to advice on how to become more like them—a private Facebook group for business coaching from Schrandt costs $10 a month, and the cheapest single ticket for a recent “Diamond Bound” conference she hosted in Dallas was $309.
Media outlets appear to be operating on the assumption that Trump will lose, and are covering his latest scandals accordingly.
You can teach old journalists the occasional new trick, but two? Forget it.
The 2016 election persuaded the press to avoid publicly presuming that Donald Trump will lose and the Democrat will win. The very cautious news coverage about Joe Biden’s chances, despite his formidable advantage in polls, makes this plain.
But even though reporters are loath to say that the president is a serious underdog, they are repeating another 2016 error. Trump is getting off easy for a series of recent scandals, most likely because press outlets have concluded that he is doomed and that coverage is largely pointless. From a radical reorganization of the civil service to sketchy Chinese bank accounts, the president has faced little scrutiny on what should be major topics of concern for voters.