—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 former California governor called President Trump’s attacks on John McCain “absolutely unacceptable.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger and John McCain saw in each other a willingness to buck the Republican Party and became fast friends and political allies. Mindful of McCain’s legacy, the former California governor said on Wednesday he couldn’t stay silent in the face of President Trump’s recent spate of attacks on the late senator.
He told me Trump’s swipes at McCain are both disgraceful and destructive. “He was just an unbelievable person,” Schwarzenegger said. “So an attack on him is absolutely unacceptable if he’s alive or dead—but even twice as unacceptable since he passed away a few months ago. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to do that. I just think it’s a shame that the president lets himself down to that kind of level. We will be lucky if everyone in Washington followed McCain’s example, because he represented courage.”
Trump’s continuing attacks on John McCain reveal a worrisome state of mind.
Donald Trump is not well. Over the weekend, he continued his weird obsession with a dead war hero. This time, his attacks on John McCain came two days after the anniversary of McCain’s release from a North Vietnamese prison camp. He tweeted this:
Spreading the fake and totally discredited Dossier “is unfortunately a very dark stain against John McCain.” Ken Starr, Former Independent Counsel. He had far worse “stains” than this, including thumbs down on repeal and replace after years of campaigning to repeal and replace!
So it was indeed (just proven in court papers) “last in his class” (Annapolis) John McCain that sent the Fake Dossier to the FBI and Media hoping to have it printed BEFORE the Election. He & the Dems, working together, failed (as usual). Even the Fake News refused this garbage!
Michael Jackson’s music is a gift. What do we do with it now?
The camera flies high above the palm trees of Hollywood, soaring north and west, all the way to the suburb of Simi Valley, where it slows down to seek out a certain street, and then slows some more until it finds a particular house. It hovers above it, and then swoops down, pushing in all the way to the doorstep, where it rests, impatient. It is the house where James Safechuck, one of the two men at the center of Leaving Neverland, an HBO documentary, grew up, but in a way it might as well be the Darlings’ house: “Peter Pan chose this particular house because there were people here who believed in him.”
But the Safechucks are not the only people who believe, because here is another suburban house, and here again is that seeking, searching intelligence, the camera pushing closer and closer. It is the house in Brisbane, Australia, where the other subject of the documentary, Wade Robson, grew up. The implication is clear: Michael Jackson could have any little boy in the world; all he needed were parents who would serve up their sons to him.
A newly discovered giant virus turns its victims to “stone.”
The very first giant virus was discovered in a water-cooling tower in 2003. As the name suggests, giant viruses are unusually large and their genomes unusually complex, all of which went against the prevailing idea of viruses as small, simple, and primitive. Then one baffling giant virus became many, as scientists kept discovering different types: in water off the Chilean coast, in Siberian permafrost, in an Austrian sewage plant, and now in mud from a Japanese hot spring.
The newest giant virus is Medusavirus, so named because of the way it infects amoebas, single-celled organisms that commonly live in water. When Masaharu Takemura, a virologist at Tokyo University of Science, first grew microbes from the hot-spring mud in his lab, he noticed that some amoebas would die in the presence of the giant virus. The dead amoeba cells burst open. But others would shrivel and harden, which amoebas sometimes do when guarding against bacteria that also prey on them. (It’s a dangerous life out there for amoebas.)
Unwritten rules underlie all of elite-university life—and students who don’t come from a wealthy background have a hard time navigating them.
Last Tuesday, the Justice Department charged 50 people with involvement in an elaborate scheme to purchase spots in some of the country’s top schools. The tactics described in the indictment were complex and multipronged, requiring multiple steps of deception and bribery by parents and their co-conspirators to secure their children’s admission to the schools of their choice. The plot purportedly included faking learning disabilities, using Photoshopped images to make it seem as if students played sports that they did not actually play, and pretending that students were of different ethnicities in an effort to exploit affirmative-action programs. The alleged scheme was led by a man named William Singer, who called his business venture a “side door” into college. On Tuesday, Singer pleaded guilty to all charges.
When my wife was struck by mysterious, debilitating symptoms, our trip to the ER revealed the sexism inherent in emergency treatment.
Early on a Wednesday morning, I heard an anguished cry—then silence.
I rushed into the bedroom and watched my wife, Rachel, stumble from the bathroom, doubled over, hugging herself in pain.
“Something’s wrong,” she gasped.
This scared me. Rachel’s not the type to sound the alarm over every pinch or twinge. She cut her finger badly once, when we lived in Iowa City, and joked all the way to Mercy Hospital as the rag wrapped around the wound reddened with her blood. Once, hobbled by a training injury in the days before a marathon, she limped across the finish line anyway.
So when I saw Rachel collapse on our bed, her hands grasping and ungrasping like an infant’s, I called the ambulance. I gave the dispatcher our address, then helped my wife to the bathroom to vomit.
Donald Cline must have thought no one would ever know. Then DNA testing came along.
Updated at 5:23 p.m. ET on March 18, 2019.
The first Facebookmessage arrived when Heather Woock was packing for vacation, in August 2017. It was from a stranger claiming to be her half sibling. She assumed the message was some kind of scam; her parents had never told her she might have siblings. But the message contained one detail that spooked her. The sender mentioned a doctor, Donald Cline. Woock knew that name; her mother had gone to Cline for fertility treatments before she was born. Had this person somehow gotten her mother’s medical history?
Her mom said not to worry. So Woock, who is 33 and lives just outside Indianapolis, flew to the West Coast for her vacation. She got a couple more messages from other supposed half siblings while she was away. Their persistence was strange. But then her phone broke, and she spent the next week and a half outdoors in Seattle and Vancouver, blissfully disconnected.
The biology of mental illness is still a mystery, but practitioners don’t want to admit it.
In 1886, Clark Bell, the editor of the journal of the Medico-Legal Society of New York, relayed to a physician named Pliny Earle a query bound to be of interest to his journal’s readers: Exactly what mental illnesses can be said to exist? In his 50-year career as a psychiatrist, Earle had developed curricula to teach medical students about mental disorders, co-founded the first professional organization of psychiatrists, and opened one of the first private psychiatric practices in the country. He had also run a couple of asylums, where he instituted novel treatment strategies such as providing education to the mentally ill. If any American doctor was in a position to answer Bell’s query, it was Pliny Earle.
The justices will decide four new cases without strong partisan valence.
Big-agenda, partisan issues—the census, reapportionment and gerrymandering, the Second Amendment, abortion—are bearing down on the Supreme Court like a ship with black sails. I am not optimistic that a majority will defy Republican orthodoxy on any of these—and if that is correct, the Court will emerge next spring as both a very live political issue and a shadow of its former self.
Not every case is an agenda case, though. On Monday, the Court granted certiorari in four new criminal-justice cases that, by and large, lack a strong partisan valence. These cases will involve the Court doing, well, you know, law,and in particular, cleaning up some loose ends of its criminal jurisprudence.
Did I mention that they are really, really interesting?
Thailand—where military coups have a business-as-usual feel—holds elections this weekend.
If military dictatorship is defined in the strictest sense as the rule of a junta or military officer who comes to power through a coup and then doesn’t hold elections to offer a veneer of legitimacy, then Thailand is the world’s last military dictatorship.
It seems difficult to believe that such a peaceful, thriving country that welcomes millions of tourists each year is in fact a military dictatorship, let alone the last one. Yet Thailand has been through so many military coups that they almost have a business-as-usual feel to them. The reality of army rule in the country is that it is, in a political sense, thoroughly unremarkable, reliant on a familiar mix of repression and political control, with one key difference: It has the blessings of a powerful protector.