Wildfires Threaten Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Officials have had to close large sections of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as the area braces for potentially disastrous wildfires raging nearby. Air quality is already at hazardous levels. As the Southeast faces its worst drought in years and winds blow as strong as 70 mph, firefighters are struggling to quell 14 fires near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where some residents have been forced to evacuate. “We’ve had trees coming down, limbs coming down, and the fire is continuing to grow,” one National Park Service spokesperson said Monday. In recent weeks, wildfires have spread across the South, boosted by strong winds in Tennessee, Virginia, and north Carolina. Rain, though, is forecasted for the area in the coming days.
North Dakota Pipeline Protesters Ordered to Evacuate
The governor of North Dakota has ordered an emergency evacuation of all pipeline protesters camping on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land. All demonstrators protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, which they say goes through sacred Standing Rock Sioux land and could harm water sources, must leave their camps because of dangerous winter weather, Governor Jack Dalrymple said in the order signed Monday. A spokesman for the governor’s office told The West Fargo Pioneer, though, that the state would not forcibly remove people from the land, putting the burden on the federal government. The Corps said Friday that all protesters must leave the land north of the Cannonball River by December 5. The tribe, though, says it still plans to block the pipeline’s construction on reservation lands.
Texas Reports First Local Transmission of Zika Virus
The Zika virus has been transmitted by a mosquito in Texas for the first time, state health officials said Monday. The infected individual lives in Cameron County and has not traveled recently to countries where local transmission of the virus is common and well documented, officials said. She is also not pregnant. The Zika virus is most dangerous to pregnant women, and can cause a condition called microcephaly in babies born to infected women that results in smaller-than-normal heads. Officials say the virus was detected in the woman's urine and not her blood, which means the virus can no longer be spread through mosquito bites. Zika is primarily transmitted through Aedesaegypti mosquitoes, which thrive in warm climates, like in Texas and in South America, where the virus has led to thousands of cases of microcephaly since last year.
San Francisco's Transit System Is Back to Normal After a Ransomware Hack
San Francisco’s transit system returned to normal late Sunday after hackers hijacked its computer network over the weekend and granted tens of thousands of free fares. On Friday, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (Muni) payment screens read “OUT OF ORDER” in subway stations across the city. In agents’ booths the screens read: “You Hacked, ALL Data Encrypted.” The attackers, who were anonymous, also demanded through their message that Muni pay 100 Bitcoin, or about $73,000, to restore access to its software. The attack did not affect transit service other than rendering Muni’s payment system useless, so for much of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Muni was free. This type of hack is caused by ransomeware, in which hackers encrypt data until the owner pays a requested fee. Ransomware hacks have become increasingly common, and this past year several hospital computer systems were breached in similar attacks. Although Muni service had been restored, Hoodline, a local news site, reported that the hackers responsible claim to have accessed vital agency functions, like payroll, and are still demanding money.
Thousands of protesters demonstrated Monday against the Indian government’s decision to scrap 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee banknotes, the BBC reports. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who made the announcement earlier this month, said the move is an effort to fight corruption and to remove fraudulent notes from circulation. He added those still using the denominations would have until the end of the year to deposit them into banks. But critics say the move caused a “financial emergency” by removing 86 percent of the country’s cash overnight. Modi, meanwhile, has called on people to embrace digital, cashless forms of payment. More than 90 percent of India’s transactions are in cash.
German Court Upholds Former Nazi Guard's Conviction
A German federal court on Monday upheld the conviction of a former Nazi guard at the Auschwitz death camp. Oskar Gröning, now 95 years old, was convicted in July 2015 of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews. He appealed the ruling because he said he was only responsible for gathering and sorting valuables at Auschwitz, and was not involved in any crimes. The decision sets a precedent for prosecuting Nazi criminals; the ruling marks the first time an appeals court has determined that helping a concentration camp operate—or as the judge put it, participating in the “machinery of death”—is enough to be convicted, even if prosecutors lack evidence of specific killings. Deutsche Wellereports that the decision could affect several other pending Nazi wartime cases.
Dylann Roof Can Represent Himself at His Death-Penalty Trial
A federal judge in South Carolina ruled Monday that Dylann Roof, who is charged in the killing of nine black churchgoers last year, can represent himself in his death-penalty trial. Judge Richard Gergel of the Federal District Court in Charleston, speaking directly to Roof, called the decision “strategically unwise” but that “it is a decision you have the right to make." Roof made the last-minute request Monday morning as jury selection in his case was set to begin. Roof is accused of shooting and killing nine people at Emanuel AME church in June 2015. Federal authorities say he targeted the individuals because they were black. Roof offered to plead guilty last week in exchange for a life sentence, but prosecutors refused the deal. If Roof does represent himself, it will allow the self-avowed white supremacist to interview witnesses and family members called to testify.
At least 11 people were injured in an attack at the Ohio State University Monday morning. The suspect was shot and killed by police. Nine people sustained stab wounds wounds. One person is in critical condition. Earlier, OSU said there’s an active shooter on campus, and urged students to shelter in place—but it’s unclear if a gun was used in the attacks.
Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College.
Japanese Amusement Park Shuts Down Its Ice Rink Filled With Thousands of Frozen Fish
A Japanese theme park was closed Sunday after widespread complaints about its new ice-skating rink, an attraction that featured thousands of dead fish frozen in ice. The rink in the southwest city of Kitakyushu opened two weeks ago and advertised its “Freezing Port” as a world first. It featured about 5,000 dead mackerel, sprats, crabs, and other fish bought from a local market entombed in the ice, some with their mouths open. CNN reported that a Facebook ad for the park featured photos of the frozen fish with caption: “I am d... d... drowning, s ... s... suffocating" (the post has since been deleted). Space World’s manager told CNN the park would unfreeze the fish and hold an “appropriate religious service"; then reuse them as fertilizer.
Syrian Government Troops Take a Key Rebel-Held Part of Aleppo
Syrian government troops have captured Sakhour, a district in the rebel-controlled portion of Aleppo, effectively dividing the city in two, according to state media and the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group. Russian state-run news sources say the government now controls 40 percent of eastern Aleppo, the last major rebel stronghold; the BBC puts that figures at about one-third. The development is a boost to President Bashar al-Assad, who with the help of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah, now appears more firmly in charge of Syria than at any point since the civil war began more than five years ago. About 250,000 civilians live in rebel-held eastern Aleppo; the Syrian government’s assault on the divided city has been criticized by human-rights groups who have called it a war crime.
President-elect Donald Trump is expected to reveal more members of his Cabinet this week. Among those positions likely to be announced is secretary of state. Mitt Romney—the former Massachusetts governor, 2012 GOP presidential nominee, and leading Republican critic of Trump—is said to be a contender, though Kellyanne Conway, a Trump adviser, appeared to dismiss that idea on ABC. Separately, responding to efforts by Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee, to seek a recount in several states Trump won, the president-elect, in a series of tweets, suggested—with no evidence—that voter fraud had denied him the popular vote, which Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival, is leading by about 2 million votes. As my colleague Adam Serwer noted this morning: “The source of Trump’s claim that ‘millions’ of votes were cast illegally appears to be a report from the conspiracy theory website InfoWars, itself based on a tweet from an anti-vote fraud activist who provided no evidence for his claim.” Separately, Trump said Monday: “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.”
Paul Nuttall has been elected the new leader of the U.K. Independence Party. He takes over from Nigel Farage, who had stepped in as interim leader after Diane James, the previous winner, quit the post after 18 days on the job. Nuttall, 39, was UKIP’s deputy leader. He defeated Suzanne Evans, a former deputy chair of the party, and John Rees-Evans. “We must hold the government’s feet to the fire on leaving the EU,” Nuttall said after his victory. “Brexit must mean Brexit.” Although UKIP wasn’t an official part of the “Leave” campaign, the far-right party championed the U.K.’s exit from the EU.
But unless other Democrats take a page from his book—stressing the practical over the theoretical, the universal over the particular—they won’t prevail either.
“Left but not woke”is the Bernie Sanders brand. If anybody failed to recognize it before, nobody can miss it now. Last week, the mega-podcaster Joe Rogan endorsed Sanders. The Sanders campaign tweeted a video of the Rogan endorsement from Sanders’s own account. That tweet then triggered an avalanche of disapproval from other voices in the Democratic coalition.
Rogan is not an ally to the cultural causes that have come to predominate on the contemporary left. He even mocks many of those causes, while also dancing around conspiratorial thinking of the left and right fringes: 9/11 denialism, Obama birtherism, and speculation about dark deeds concerning Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.
The former national security adviser’s secrets are valuable, and will come at a cost.
John Bolton, Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, announced the title of his forthcoming memoir last night: The Room Where It Happened, a reference to the Oval Office, the scene of some of the misdeeds he is likely to attribute to the president. (I had hoped for something jauntier, perhaps ’Stached in the Cabinet.) Accompanying that announcement was a story in The New York Times teasing readers with revelations. The most significant is that Trump allegedly conditioned his release of Ukrainian military aid not only on that country’s announcement of an investigation into Hunter and Joe Biden, but also on its release of evidence of the Biden family’s involvement in Robert Mueller’s probe. In fact, there is no such evidence, and the only people who believe that there is such evidence are wing-nut conspiracy theorists and, it seems, the president of the United States.
Understanding the events of 1979 is crucial for those trying to figure out a better future for today’s Middle East.
What happened to us? The question haunts us in the Arab and Muslim world. We repeat it like a mantra. You will hear it from Iran to Syria, from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, and in my own country, Lebanon. For us, the past is a different country, one not mired in the horrors of sectarian killings. It is a more vibrant place, without the crushing intolerance of religious zealots and seemingly endless, amorphous wars.
Though the past had coups and wars too, they were contained in time and space, and the future still held much promise. What happened to us? The question may not occur to those too young to remember a different world, whose parents did not tell them of a youth spent reciting poetry in Peshawar, debating Marxism in the bars of Beirut, or riding bicycles on the banks of the Tigris in Baghdad. The question may surprise those in the West who assume that the extremism and bloodletting of today have always been the norm.
The “crazy worms” remaking forests aren’t your friendly neighborhood garden worms. Then again, those aren’t so great either.
On a sweltering July day, I follow Annise Dobson down an overgrown path into the heart of Seton Falls Park. It’s a splotch of unruly forest, surrounded by the clamoring streets and cramped rowhouses of the Bronx. Broken glass, food wrappers, and condoms litter the ground. But Dobson, bounding ahead in khaki hiking pants with her blond ponytail swinging, appears unfazed. As I quickly learn, neither trash nor oppressive humidity nor ecological catastrophe can dampen her ample enthusiasm.
At the bottom of the hill, Dobson veers off the trail and stops in a shady clearing. This seems like a promising spot. She kicks away the dead oak leaves and tosses a square frame made of PVC pipe onto the damp earth. Then she unscrews a milk jug. It holds a pale yellow slurry of mustard powder and water that’s completely benign—unless you’re a worm.
A regional election offers lessons on combatting the rise of the far right, both across the Continent and in the United States.
Updated at 4:55 a.m. ET on January 28, 2020.
BOLOGNA, Italy—About a week ago, 30,000 people showed up to a piazza in this elegant city, known for its porticoes and tortellini, for a free concert. The event had been organized by the Sardines, a nascent civic-minded uprising that has been holding peaceful demonstrations to contest the nativist rhetoric of Matteo Salvini, Italy’s opposition leader and the head of its right-wing League party, a man who dominates airwaves and social-media channels with his sovereignist, anti-immigrant message. The atmosphere at the concert was convivial. Many waved cardboard cutouts of fish and sang along to renditions of “Bella Ciao,” the old communist anthem.
Just the day before, in nearby Maranello, the home of the Ferrari race-car factory, Salvini himself had campaigned in front of the town’s fascist-era city hall, wearing a red Ferrari baseball cap. The League, Salvini told the crowd, is the party of moms and dads and workers, while the left wears “cashmere socks” and “sings ‘Bella Ciao’ with Rolexes on their wrists.” He said he would defend Italy’s borders with his life and “liberate” this part of the country—one of the best-run and wealthiest regions in Italy—from 70 years of left-wing rule.
With Senator Bernie Sanders rising in the Democratic-primary polls, it is becoming not just thinkable but even plausible that the United States could, for the first time, elect a self-described socialist to the White House.
Instead of relying on the party’s graying voters, Sanders has galvanized a younger coalition by promising a profound expansion of the welfare state, which would include free health care, free college, and the elimination of outstanding student debt.
Skeptical older voters might see little here but a list of fantastical promises that are utterly out of step with American traditional and modern capitalism. Socialism remains deeply unpopular among Americans born before 1975. Even in the Democratic Party, Sanders polls 30 points better among Americans under 45 than among those over 65.
Several photographers continue to report from Wuhan, China, where streets appear nearly deserted after a quarantine and traffic ban.
The outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus, first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, in Hubei province, has led to massive efforts to quarantine major cities and halt the spread. The current death toll has reached 82 in China, with another 2,900 confirmed cases. The city is rapidly building two hospitals in a matter of days, set up to accommodate more than 2,000 coronavirus patients. Several photographers continue to report from Wuhan, where streets appear nearly deserted after a traffic ban was put in place.
After observatories retire, they can still spend hundreds, even millions, of years trailing the Earth.
A collection of defunct spacecraft, their mission to chronicle the wonders of the universe long ended, glide silently in Earth’s vicinity. This week, NASA will turn off another, the Spitzer telescope, which has spent 16 years observing the cosmos. The telescope trails the Earth, looping around the sun, and little by little, it has drifted away from us.
The growing expanse, now hundreds of millions of miles wide, has made it trickier for engineers to operate Spitzer and point it at the right places—the sun, to charge itself; Earth, to transmit data; and the dusky universe beyond, to collect even more. So they’ve decided to junk it.
Objects in space, even very expensive, prized telescopes, are considered debris when they no longer have a purpose or function. Some, like Spitzer, were lofted into high altitudes or special orbits, and will stay out there for anywhere from hundreds to millions of years.
It’s tragic that a superstar known for his thoughtfulness and willingness to learn never fully reckoned with his life’s darkest off-court episode.
Yesterday afternoon, the shocking news that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash, alongside his daughter Gianna and seven others, ripped through my social-media feeds and group texts. Like many Lakers fans, I spent the first hour stunned and mostly silent, just trying to come to grips with the unreality of the first reports. But by the time night fell, I could no longer dwell on the tragedy’s scope, the lifelong heartbreak coming to Bryant’s family and so many others, the complexity of an off-court legacy left unfinished. As was so often the case during Bryant’s tenure as basketball’s most polarizing superstar, it was easier to think about the singular virtuosic beauty of his game.
Pro basketball can sometimes seem like a contest of upper bodies. Because the spectator’s eye follows the ball, it focuses easily on the jump shooter’s clean release or the controlled violence of a tomahawk dunk. But underneath, a player’s legs are always moving, creating space for the more dazzling work of the hands. Younger players use speed to conjure up these micro-islands of space on crowded hardwood, but fast-twitch muscles fade with age. To keep scoring at will, veterans must develop deceptive footwork, and few players had craftier footwork than Bryant.
The 18-year-old Eilish took home five of the six trophies she was nominated for last night, including all of the “big four” awards: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best New Artist. (Her 22-year-old brother, Finneas O’Connell, who produces and co-writes her songs, shared in the big four and won two awards of his own.) The only other time someone swept the general categories was in 1981, when the ultrasoft and now-obscure rocker Christopher Cross bested Pink Floyd’s The Wall in a year when Prince’s Dirty Mind and the Clash’s London Calling weren’t even nominated. Cross’s milestone is now often referenced to demonstrate how uncool the Grammys are, and Eilish would seem a much hipper pick. (Her songs are not about yachts, to start.) But for all her supposed edge, there’s safety in her sweep.