—At least 29 people were killed after explosions went off through Mexico’s best-known fireworks market in Tultapec. More here
—German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the deadly attack at a Christmas market in Berlin as a likely “act of terrorism.” At least 12 people were killed Monday when a truck plowed through a crowd at the open-air shopping area. The suspect remains at large. More here.
—The District of Columbia passed the most generous paid-family-leave law in the country. More here
—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
29 Killed, Dozens Injured in Mexico Fireworks Market Explosion
Updated at 9 p.m.
At least 29 people were killed after explosions went off through Mexico’s best-known fireworks market Tuesday in Tultapec, Reuters reports. Luis Felipe Puente, Mexico’s National Civil Protection coordinator, said at least 60 people were injured. The explosions caused huge plums of smoke to rise from the open-air market. This is what the scene looked like:
D.C. Passes the Most Generous Paid-Family-Leave Law in the U.S.
The District of Columbia passed the most generous paid-family-leave law in the country Tuesday, joining a growing number of state and local governments implementing similar legislation. The D.C. council passed the legislation by a vote of 9 to 4, enough to override a possible veto by Mayor Muriel Bowser. As my colleague Alexia Campbell explains, the legislation will provide full- and part-time employees with eight weeks of paid parental leave. It also provides two weeks of sick time and six weeks to take care of ailing family members. The fund for the legislation, which provides up to 90 percent of a worker’s wages for eight weeks, capped at $1,000 a week, comes from a 0.62-percent increase in employer payroll taxes, which would raise $250 million every year in new taxes. The legislation does not apply to federal or District government workers. The legislation was opposed by business groups, including the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world without a national paid-family-leave law.
Obama Bans Offshore Drilling in Large Parts of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans
President Obama permanently protected hundreds of millions of acres of U.S.-owned large sections of the Arctic Ocean and some sections of the Atlantic Ocean from oil and gas leasing. Announcing the withdrawal Tuesday, the White House said the move was designed in part to protect 31 canyons stretching from Massachusetts to Virginia along the edge of the Atlantic continental shelf and the wildlife that depends on the area. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced similar plans Tuesday for that nation’s section of the Arctic Ocean. Obama, in using the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953, guaranteed that subsequent presidents cannot override his order, The Washington Postreports. Congress, though, may act on its own. The U.S. has relied less on crude from the Arctic. According to the Associated Press, just 0.1 percent of offshore production came from that region. The move also protects tourism and the fishing industry in those regions.
Swiss Police Say Gunman Had No Links to Terrorist Organizations
The gunman who shot three people worshipping at a mosque in Zurich had no links to terrorist organizations, and was a Swiss-born man with Ghanaian roots, police said Tuesday. Officers did not give the name of the suspect, who killed himself 300 yards from the mosque, but they did say he was a 24-year-old from the nearby town of Uster. Investigators said the man quit his job on Friday, then killed another man, an acquaintance, on Sunday. The motive for the attack is not yet known.
The Chinese Navy returned the unmanned drone it seized in international waters back to the United States Monday near the area where it was taken, the Department of Defense said. The Chinese government also confirmed its return. The drone was deployed Thursday as part of a mission to collect data on ocean and weather patterns in the South China Sea when a Chinese vessel seized it and left, ignoring calls by the U.S. crew that deployed it to give it back. The incident prompted the State Department to file a formal request asking China to return the drone—an incident Peter Cook, a Defense Department spokesman, called “inconsistent with both international law and standards of professionalism for conduct between navies at sea.” It is unclear what condition the drone was in when it was returned. President-elect Donald Trump condemned the seizure as an “unprecedented act,” then suggested that China should keep the drone. China’s Defense Ministry accused the U.S. of “hyping up” the incident Sunday, adding that the drone would be returned in an “appropriate manner.”
Swiss Police Call Off Search for Suspect in Mosque Shooting
Police in Zurich have stopped the search for the assailant who shot and wounded three people inside a mosque Monday night. Officials believe a body found nearby the Islamic Center in the Swiss city may be that of the suspect. Three people, all men, sustained injuries at the mosque, which is popular among Somali immigrants, and are in the hospital in serious condition.Investigators do not consider the attack to be an act of terrorism. Police are expected to release more information at a press conference later today.
Angela Merkel Calls Truck Rampage at Christmas Market 'Act of Terrorism'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday the truck rampage at a Christmas market in Berlin a day earlier was likely “an act of terrorism.” At least 12 people were killed and 48 injured when a vehicle plowed through the crowded open-air shopping area, pinning people under its wheels or throwing them onto pavement. Police detained a person suspected of driving the truck, but the AP now reports, citing Berlin’s police chief, that officials are not sure they have the right suspect in custody. The rest of Berlin’s Christmas markets were closed Tuesday, and flags were flown at half-mast across the country. We’ll be following further developments on this story here.
The “Great Resignation” remains one of the buzziest economic stories of 2021. But the more people talk about it, the more I wonder whether most people know what they’re talking about. As so often happens with other nifty phrases and neologisms, use of the term and abuse of the term are in equal proportion.
Let’s start with what’s true. More Americans left their job in April this year than in any other month on record, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ analysis of what it calls “quits.” Even more people quit in July, setting a new record. We broke that new record again in August. And then again in September. This is what people refer to as the “Great Resignation,” and it is, as I’ve written, getting greater by the month.
The rich philosophical tradition I fell in love with has been reduced to Fox News and voter suppression.
I fell in love with conservatism in my 20s. As a politics and crime reporter in Chicago, I often found myself around public-housing projects like Cabrini-Green and the Robert Taylor Homes, which had been built with the best of intentions but had become nightmares. The urban planners who designed those projects thought they could improve lives by replacing ramshackle old neighborhoods with a series of neatly ordered high-rises.
But, as the sociologist Richard Sennett, who lived in part of the Cabrini-Green complex as a child, noted, the planners never really consulted the residents themselves. They disrespected the residents by turning them into unseen, passive spectators of their own lives. By the time I encountered the projects they were national symbols of urban decay.
January 6 was practice. Donald Trump’s GOP is much better positioned to subvert the next election.
Technically, the next attempt to overthrow a national election may not qualify as a coup. It will rely on subversion more than violence, although each will have its place. If the plot succeeds, the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024. Thousands of votes will be thrown away, or millions, to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be certified president-elect.
The prospect of this democratic collapse is not remote. People with the motive to make it happen are manufacturing the means. Given the opportunity, they will act. They are acting already.
Who or what will safeguard our constitutional order is not apparent today. It is not even apparent who will try. Democrats, big and small D, are not behaving as if they believe the threat is real. Some of them, including President Joe Biden, have taken passing rhetorical notice, but their attention wanders. They are making a grievous mistake.
If vaccinated people are less likely to transmit the coronavirus, maybe they should be able to test out of isolation.
For most fully vaccinated people, a breakthrough coronavirus infection will not ruin their health. It will, however, assuming that they follow all the relevant guidelines, ruin at least a week of their life.
That very frustrating week began for Joe Russell on November 11, the day he found out he’d tested positive for the virus, just one month after getting a Pfizer booster, and about five or six days after he’d first felt an annoying tickle in his throat. Russell, a 35-year-old hospital-supply technician in Minnesota, dutifully cloistered himself in his basement, far from his fully vaccinated wife and his fully unvaccinated 2-year-old son, and phoned in sick to work. He stayed there through the 15th—the requisite 10 days past his symptoms’ start. Then, fearful of passing the pathogen to his family, he tacked on one more day, before venturing upstairs on the 17th, still in a mask.
A poster in the window of Cahoots Corner Cafe—great potatoes, good coffee—advertised a family event at the Oakdale, California, rodeo grounds. There would be food trucks, carnival games, live music, a raffle, and the opportunity to support the cause of “freeing child sex slaves.”
The event, called the Festival of Hope, was a fundraiser for the anti-child-sex-trafficking group Operation Underground Railroad, which was founded in Utah in 2013 and has achieved immense popularity on social media in the past year and a half, attracting an outsize share of attention during a new wave of concern about imperiled children. It is beloved by parenting groups on Facebook, lifestyle influencers on Instagram, and fitness guys on YouTube, who are impressed by its muscular approach to rescuing the innocent. (The nonprofit group is known for taking part in overseas sting operations in which it ensnares alleged child sex traffickers; it also operates a CrossFit gym in Utah.) Supporters commit to “shine OUR light”—the middle word a reference to the group’s acronym—and to “break the chain,” which refers to human bondage and to cycles of exploitation.
Countries with low vaccination rates are suffering from more than just inequity.
In the public-health world, the rise of Omicron prompted a great, big “I told you so.” Since the new variant was detected in South Africa, advocacy groups, the WHO, and global-health experts have said the new variant was a predictable consequence of vaccine inequity. Rich countries are hoarding vaccine doses, they said, leaving much of the developing world under-vaccinated. But in reality, countries with low vaccination rates are suffering from more than just inequity.
South Africa, the country where the variant was first reported, did receive vaccines far too late, partly because wealthy countries did not donate enough doses and pharmaceutical companies refused to share their technology. At one point, South Africa had to export doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that it had manufactured in-country in order to comply with a contract it had signed with the company. The COVID-19 vaccines must be kept cold, and because not everywhere in South Africa has reliable roads and refrigeration, the country has struggled to store and transport vaccine doses to far-flung areas.
Echoing the New Democrats of the Clinton era, some liberal critics are begging Democrats to change course.
Maybe Bill Clinton got a few things right after all.
For years, Democrats have rarely cited Clinton and the centrist New Democrat movement he led through the ’90s except to renounce his “third way” approach to welfare, crime, and other issues as a violation of the party’s principles. Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and even Bill Clinton himself have distanced themselves from key components of his record as president.
But now a loose constellation of internal party critics is reprising the Clintonites’ core arguments to make the case that progressives are steering Democrats toward unsustainable and unelectable positions, particularly on cultural and social questions.
Just like the centrists who clustered around Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council that he led decades ago, today’s dissenters argue that Democrats risk a sustained exodus from power unless they can recapture more of the culturally conservative voters without a college education who are drifting away from the party. (That group, these dissenters argue, now includes not only white Americans but also working-class Hispanics and even some Black Americans.) And just as then, these arguments face fierce pushback from other Democrats who believe that the centrists would sacrifice the party’s commitment to racial equity in a futile attempt to regain right-leaning voters irretrievably lost to conservative Republican messages.
Choosing what to read is both a small decision and one of utmost importance. For students, that choice is crucial in getting kids to read at all. Some books feel like magic, world-making and unforgettable. Some feel dangerous, upsetting. Many inspire both feelings, especially in young people. Reading is meant to be challenging, and literature should serve as a way to explore ideas that feel unthinkable, unfamiliar, and even illicit. So it is a matter of tremendous concern to witness government officials blatantly interfering with a free exchange of ideas within school libraries.
Matt Krause, a Republican in the Texas House of Representatives, has gone hunting in public-school libraries for any books that might generate “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of [a student’s] race or sex.” In October, he distributed a watch list of 850 books. The Texas governor, Greg Abbott, has in parallel called for a criminal investigation into the availability of “pornographic” books in public schools. What we’re witnessing is plainly a shakedown. And this week, a San Antonio school district pulled 414 books from its libraries in response to the ongoing pressure from Texas lawmakers and a vocal segment of angry parents to limit what children can choose to read.
Lauren Boebert is using her family Christmas portrait to evoke liberal hysteria. But the photo reveals something much more significant about how America has changed.
As families around the country prepare to send out Christmas cards with letters and photos commemorating the year gone by, many elected officials do the same. Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky tweeted one such family picture on Saturday, featuring himself and his clan armed to the teeth on a leather love seat, a merry tree glittering in the backdrop. Massie’s photo drew some ire. Not to be outdone, Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, dropped her own Christmas-themed gun portrait today. “The Boeberts have your six, @RepThomasMassie!” Boebert tweeted. “No spare ammo for you, though.”
We don’t know how severe Omicron is, but we do know it’s spreading very fast.
A lot is still unknown around Omicron, but a worrying trend has become clear: This variant sure is spreading fast. In South Africa, the U.K., and Denmark—countries with the best variant surveillance and high immunity against COVID—Omicron cases are growing exponentially. The variant has outcompeted the already highly transmissible Delta in South Africa and may soon do the same elsewhere. According to preliminary estimates, every person with Omicron is infecting 3–3.5 others, which is roughly on par with how fast the coronavirus spread when it first went global in early 2020.
In other words, Omicron is spreading in highly immune populations as quickly as the original virus did in populations with no immunity at all. If this holds and is left uncontrolled, a big Omicron wave lies ahead—bigger than we would have expected with Delta. Cases were already surging ahead of winter. The U.S. already had a too-low vaccination rate. And now Omicron threatens to eat away at the immunity we thought we had.