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.
The president’s act of clemency was less about mercy than self-interest.
Here’s the first and most important thing to understand about the crime for which President Trump just pardoned former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn: Flynn did not lie to protect himself. He lied to protect Donald Trump.
At the end of December 2016, Flynn had a series of conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. A month later, on January 24, 2017, Flynn was asked about those conversations by the FBI agent Peter Strzok.
In the first set of conversations, Flynn urged Kislyak to oppose a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity. The second set occurred a week later, while Flynn was on holiday in the Dominican Republic. There, Flynn sought to convince Kislyak to persuade the Russian government not to retaliate against the United States, over a round of sanctions punishing Russia for intervening in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump.
More people than ever are hospitalized with COVID-19. Health-care workers can’t go on like this.
On Saturday morning, Megan Ranney was about to put on her scrubs when she heard that Joe Biden had won the presidential election. That day, she treated people with COVID-19 while street parties erupted around the country. She was still in the ER in the late evening when Biden and Vice President–elect Kamala Harris made their victory speeches. These days, her shifts at Rhode Island Hospital are long, and they “are not going to change in the next 73 days,” before Biden becomes president, she told me on Monday. Every time Ranney returns to the hospital, there are more COVID-19 patients.
This is why you can eat in a restaurant but can’t have Thanksgiving.
Two weeks ago, I staged a reluctant intervention via Instagram direct message. The subject was a longtime friend, Josh, who had been sharing photos of himself and his fiancé occasionally dining indoors at restaurants since New York City, where we both live, had reopened them in late September. At first, I hadn’t said anything. Preliminary research suggests that when people congregate indoors, an infected person is almost 20 times more likely to transmit the virus than if they were outside. But restaurants are open legally in New York, and I am not the COVID police. Josh and I had chatted several times in the early months of the pandemic about safety, and I felt sure that he was making an informed decision, even if it wasn’t the one I’d make.
The question shouldn’t be whether the president can pardon himself but whether he can grant himself a pardon—and those are not the same thing.
As Donald Trump’s tenure in office comes in for its landing, a major question is whether the president—facing questions about liability for offenses including bank and tax fraud—can pardon himself.
This might seem like the right operational question, but it is imprecise as a constitutional one. Article II of the Constitution says that the president “shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” Did you catch that? The president has the power not to pardon people, but “to grant … Pardons” (emphasis added). So the question is not whether Trump can pardon himself. It’s whether he can grant himself a pardon.
The new Netflix film is a think-piece trap—shiny on the outside, hollow on the inside.
“Everyone in this world is one of three kinds,” declares Mamaw (played by Glenn Close), the wise grand-matriarch of Ron Howard’s new film, Hillbilly Elegy. “A good Terminator, a bad Terminator, and neutral.” I hate to correct Mamaw, who is trying to encourage her impressionable grandson, J. D. Vance (Gabriel Basso), to follow a righteous path by invoking Arnold Schwarzenegger’s beloved action franchise. But there is no such thing as a “neutral” Terminator; those cyborg heroes exist to either protect or destroy. I cannot imagine what a neutral Terminator would do, save sit in a chair and remain forever shiny and inactive.
Mamaw is entitled to her bad movie opinions, of course. But this monologue is the kind of speechifying that rings hollow throughout Hillbilly Elegy, an adaptation of Vance’s best-selling 2016 memoir that debuts on Netflix tomorrow. When it first arrived on bookshelves, Vance’s story was celebrated as a glimpse into an oft-ignored pocket of America: the white working class of Appalachia and the Rust Belt who swung to Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Hailed as an “anger translator” and cited by Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton, Vance wrote about growing up poor, living with a heroin-addicted mother, and clawing his way into Yale Law School. The book arrived at a seemingly serendipitous moment, offering a bleak but candid view of communities gutted by drug abuse and poverty.
In the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks, the French government has introduced new legislation that threatens the very freedoms it vows to defend.
The beheading of the middle-school teacher Samuel Paty on October 16 by a young man enraged by Paty’s showing his class caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to vow that France will never flinch in its defense of freedom of expression. In the name of upholding the core values of the French Republic, however, Macron’s government and members of his party have introduced new legislation that effectively restricts them. Unless the proposed laws are modified or scrapped, France will soon be a far less free country than it is now.
Three new pieces of legislation aim to make the French more secure by restricting democratic rights. A bill that sets the research budget for French universities for the next decade, adopted by France’s Senate on November 20, targets student protests and took a stab at academic freedom. The bill includes a provision criminalizing on-campus gatherings that “trouble the tranquility and good order of the establishment” with a fine of up to 45,000 euros and a prison term of up to three years. An amendment requiring that academic research hew to the “values of the Republic” was scrapped only at the last minute, after strong pushback by scholars who feared that its intent was to restrict freedom of inquiry.
“We are on an absolutely catastrophic path,” said a COVID-19 doctor at America’s best-prepared hospital.
Perhaps no hospital in the United States was better prepared for a pandemic than the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
After the SARS outbreak of 2003, its staff began specifically preparing for emerging infections. The center has the nation’s only federal quarantine facility and its largest biocontainment unit, which cared for airlifted Ebola patients in 2014. The people on staff had detailed pandemic plans. They ran drills. Ron Klain, who was President Barack Obama’s “Ebola czar” and will be Joe Biden’s chief of staff in the White House, once told me that UNMC is “arguably the best in the country” at handling dangerous and unusual diseases. There’s a reason many of the Americans who were airlifted from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in February were sent to UNMC.
Cynical public speech aimed at winning political power has consequences.
Three weeks after the conclusion of the 2020 presidential election, many Republican members of Congress find themselves boxed in. Some have privatelycongratulated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for their historic win. But publicly, most Republicans have remained silent, while others have actively encouraged President Donald Trump’s baseless accusations of mass voter fraud.
The situation these Republicans face is one that many southern members of Congress would have recognized during the aftermath of the 1860 election. Southern congressmen had spent years stirring up anger and promoting fear of their opponents, and were so successful that by 1860 they had lost control of their message. Abraham Lincoln’s election caused a mass movement among white southerners to leave the Union. Even though they knew that the claims being embraced by their constituents were conspiratorial and overblown, many southern members of Congress felt they had to get on board or be left behind.
The president’s abuse of his clemency power is an assault on one of the few truly humane aspects of the American legal system.
President Donald Trump’s announcement that he has pardoned Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, is infuriating—and not merely because of the gross favoritism on display. What Trump has done once again is corrupt something that ought to be beyond corruption: the mercy that the most powerful person in the world can bestow upon those who are in chains.
I know the beauty of this power. I’ve seen it at work myself.
On a bright August day in 2016, I received a call from a number at the Department of Justice. The official on the other end told me that three of my law-school clinic’s clients had been granted commutations that would free them from life sentences on cocaine offenses, after each had served 25 years or more in prison. I was to call each of them immediately, and tell them the news.
Penguin Random House purchasing Simon & Schuster is not the gravest danger to the publishing business. The deal is transpiring in a larger context—and that context is Amazon.
In 1960, Dwight Eisenhower’s attorney general, William Rogers, read the paper with alarm. He learned that Random House intended to purchase the venerable publisher Alfred A. Knopf. Rogers began making calls to prod his antitrust division into blocking the sale. In those days, monopoly loomed as a central concern of government—and a competitive book business was widely seen as essential to preserving both intellectual life and democracy. After checking with his sources, Rogers discovered that the merger would yield a company that controlled a mere 1 percent of the book market, and he let the matter drop.
Not so long ago, Democratic and Republican administrations alike wouldn’t hesitate to block a merger like the one proposed today, which intends to fold the giant publisher Simon & Schuster into the even more gigantic Penguin Random House. How big would the combined company be? By one estimate, it might publish a third of all books in the U.S. This deal is so expansive that it’s hard to find an author to write about it who isn’t somehow implicated. Based on the odds, I suppose, it’s not terribly surprising to reveal that I’m published by Penguin Random House.