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 fancy bike brand tried to depict a wellness journey. It didn’t go as planned.
The internet has some feedback on Peloton’s holiday ad campaign. The fitness-tech company, famous for its $2,400, Wi-Fi-enabled stationary bikes that let riders stream spin classes, debuted a new television commercial in mid-November, but it didn’t become infamous until earlier this week, when Twitter got ahold of it.
In the ad, a young mom gains confidence in the year after her husband buys her a Peloton for Christmas—or, at least, that’s what the ad seems to be aiming for. The commercial documents the woman (who is also documenting herself, via her phone’s front-facing camera) while she gets up early day after day to exercise or jumps on the bike after work. At the end, she presents the video of her exercise journey to her husband. “A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me,” she tells him. “Thank you.”
A spacecraft has finally gotten close enough to the sun to gather clues about some lingering questions.
For a little NASA spacecraft, the weather outside is frightful.
The Parker Solar Probe is on a mission toward the sun. The spacecraft has been exposed to scorching temperatures and intense sunlight as it draws closer with every loop around. Eventually, Parker will glide through the star’s outer atmosphere and feel the toastiness of nearly 2 million degrees Fahrenheit (more than 1 million degrees Celsius).
Parker is dressed appropriately for the journey. It wears a thick, custom-made shield to protect its scientific instruments and systems, and tubes with flowing water to cool itself down. Inside, it is a cozy 78 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius). Since it set out last summer, Parker has made three sweltering passes of the sun, with many more still to come in the next five years. And its findings are already surprising scientists back home.
A conversation with the evangelical pastor and theologian
Shortly after I met my wife, Cindy, in 1989—she was living in New York City at the time, while I was living in Northern Virginia—she told me about a new church she was attending in Manhattan: Redeemer Presbyterian. The young minister, she told me, was “the best pastor in America.”
His name was Timothy J. Keller.
Since that time Keller, 69, has become one of the most consequential figures in American Christianity. When he founded Redeemer in the fall of 1989, fewer than 100 people attended; in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001, Keller was preaching in multiple services in three different venues each Sunday to about 5,000 people—mostly young, single, professionally and ethnically diverse. He has written about two dozen books, several of them best sellers. And unlike that of many popular ministers, his reach extends farbeyond the Christian subculture.
Why is it so difficult to get a new pair of glasses or contacts in this country? It’s easier pretty much everywhere else.
On a beautiful summer day a few months ago, I walked down to the part of the Connecticut River that separates Vermont from New Hampshire, and rented a kayak. I pushed myself off the dock—and the next thing I remember is being underwater. Somehow, the kayak had capsized as it entered the river. I tried to swim up, toward the light, but found that my own boat blocked my way to safety. Doing my best not to panic, I swam down and away before finally coming up for air a few yards downriver. I clambered onto the dock, relieved to have found safety, but I was disturbed to find that the world was a blur. Could the adrenaline rush have been so strong that it had impaired my vision? No, the answer to the puzzle was far more trivial: I had been wearing glasses—glasses that were now rapidly sinking to the bottom of the Connecticut River.
Why everyone’s mornings seem more productive than yours
My mornings are the messiest part of my day. I do not rise and shine. Instead, I hit snooze on the alarm and throw the covers over my head. As I hear the early bus shuffle through my stop outside my window, my mind fills with thoughts from the night before, with to-do lists and deadlines. The alarm goes off again, and I repeat the snooze cycle twice more. By the time I roll out of bed, I’m a tangle of anxiety.
This never seems to be the case in other people’s morning routines. I know, because those routines now seem to be everywhere: in series like The Cut’s “How I Get It Done” and The New York Times’ “Sunday Morning,” in roundups on news outlets from CNN to Vogue, and in hashtagged Instagram pictures of frothy lattes cut with leafy designs. The subjects of most of these morning-routine reports are celebrities and other conventionally successful people. Richard Branson plays a “hard game” of tennis at 6 a.m. Elizabeth Gilbert makes homemade chai and dances.
The House Judiciary Committee needs a clearer plan for mobilizing public opinion in support of impeachment.
What on Earth was the point of the first day of the House Judiciary Committee hearings on impeachment?
The House Intelligence Committee hearings in November told a coherent story. Public-spirited career personnel and a Purple Heart Army officer were aligned on one side; venal and untruthful political operatives aligned on the other. Each witness was called for a reason.
A televised hearing in a high-stakes political contest is not a classroom seminar. It is not convened for the benefit of the already well informed. It is a show: a show that succeeds or fails according to whether it catalyzes the second-most-attentive and third-most-attentive tiers of citizens.
The Republican minority on the Judiciary Committee understood this basic rule. For all their intellectual and ethical limitations—and those were excruciating—Republicans on the committee arrived with a clear message. These hearings are a farce. We refuse to respect the most basic rules of decorum, and we grant permission to all like-minded Americans to dismiss them as thuggishly as we do. Ugly, but clear and comprehensible.
Defenders of the Electoral College argue that it was created to combat majority tyranny and support federalism, and that it continues to serve those purposes. This stance depends on a profound misunderstanding of the history of the institution.
Two of the nation’s last three presidents won the presidency in the Electoral College, even though they lost the popular vote nationwide. In 2000, Al Gore outpolled George W. Bush by more than 540,000 votes but lost in the Electoral College, 271–266. Sixteen years later, Hillary Clinton tallied almost 3 million more votes than Donald Trump but lost decisively in the Electoral College, 306–232. And, as a recent New York Times poll suggested, the 2020 election could very well again deliver the presidency to the loser of the popular vote.
Despite this, defenders of the Electoral College argue that it was created to combat majority tyranny and support federalism, and that it continues to serve those purposes. For example, Representative Dan Crenshaw of Texas, responding to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recent criticism of the Electoral College, tweeted that “we live in a republic, which means 51% of the population doesn’t get to boss around the other 49%,” and that the Electoral College “promotes more equal regional representation and protects the interests of sparsely populated states.”
Harry Reid may be the only person who can keep the Democrats from killing one another before selecting a nominee. But will he live long enough to do it?
LAS VEGAS—Swing past Caesars Palace; head up the Bellagio’s driveway, where its famous fountains are erupting to an auto-tuned Cher hit. Walk by the Dale Chihuly glass-flower ceiling above the check-in line, and the animatronic exhibit with the half-human, half-monkey figures. Head past the blackjack tables and the jangling slot machines and the chocolate fountain to the austere concrete corridors beyond them. There, getting wheeled around in a red metal-frame wheelchair is the 80-year-old man on whom the unity of the Democratic Party in 2020—if not the Democratic nomination—may hinge.
If he can stay alive that long.
Harry Reid, who retired in 2017 after representing Nevada for 30 years in the U.S. Senate—a dozen of them as chair of the Democratic caucus, eight of them as Senate majority leader—was supposed to be dead already; his pancreatic cancer was forecasted to prove fatal within weeks. But he’s still here, which is how I came to be talking with him, not long before Thanksgiving, in a conference room at the Bellagio, asking him why he remains the person to whom many of the Democratic presidential candidates come for advice and anointment.
GOP lawmakers used to oppose the president’s embrace of Putin and the Kremlin. Not anymore.
Just how far will Republicans go in following President Donald Trump’s embrace of Russia? An answer may be crystallizing as the GOP mobilizes its defense of the president against impeachment.
Both congressional Republicans and conservative commentators are defending Trump from impeachment partly by accusing Ukraine of intervening against him in the 2016 presidential election—despite repeated warnings from national-security and intelligence officials that those claims are not only baseless, but advance Vladimir Putin’s goal of discrediting Ukraine.
Earlier in Trump’s presidency, many Republicans sought to distance themselvesfrom his warm tone toward Putin. But just this week alone, a number of Republican lawmakers, the official House Republican report rebutting impeachment, and the Fox News host Tucker Carlson have repeated Kremlin lines on Ukraine.
Perhaps fittingly for the end of the decade, 2019 was filled with thoughtful, retrospective works from master filmmakers who cast an eye on the past amid the rapid changes of the present. While veterans like Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino wrestled with their moviemaking legacies, some of the other best works of the year were about the wrenching and rewarding labor that goes into a work of art, be it an 18th-century French portrait, an experimental student film in 1980s Britain, or one of the best-known works of American literature. By any measure, this was a thrilling year for the medium, featuring fascinating movies of all genres and styles to dissect, enjoy, and debate for decades to come. Here are my 10 favorites.