—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.
This has become a common refrain among the cautious—and it’s wrong.
For many fully vaccinated Americans, the Delta surge spoiled what should’ve been a glorious summer. Those who had cast their masks aside months ago were asked to dust them off. Many are still taking no chances. Some have even returned to all the same precautions they took before getting their shots, including avoiding the company of other fully vaccinated people.
Among this last group, a common refrain I’ve heard to justify their renewed vigilance is that “vaccinated people are just as likely to spread the coronavirus.”
This misunderstanding, born out of confusing statements from public-health authorities and misleading media headlines, is a shame. It is resulting in unnecessary fear among vaccinated people, all the while undermining the public’s understanding of the importance—and effectiveness—of getting vaccinated.
Some of the plots to overturn the election happened in secret. But don’t forget the ones that unfolded in the open.
Last year, John Eastman, whom CNN describes as an attorney working with Donald Trump’s legal team, wrote a preposterous memo outlining how then–Vice President Mike Pence could overturn the 2020 election by fiat or, failing that, throw the election to the House of Representatives, where Republicans could install Trump in office despite his loss to Joe Biden. The document, which was first reported by the Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their new book, is a step-by-step plan to overthrow the government of the United States through a preposterous interpretation of legal procedure.
Pence apparently took the idea seriously—so seriously, in fact, that, according to Woodward and Costa, former Vice President Dan Quayle had to talk him out of it. Prior to November, the possibility of Trump attempting a coup was seen as the deranged fever dream of crazed liberals. But as it turns out, Trump and his advisers had devised explicit plans for reversing Trump’s loss. Republican leaders deliberately stoked election conspiracy theories they knew to be false, in order to lay a political pretext for invalidating the results. Now, more than 10 months after the election, the country knows of at least five ways in which Trump attempted to retain power despite his defeat.
The pandemic keeps changing, but these principles can guide your thinking through the seasons to come.
Updated at 9:28 a.m. on September 21, 2021.
For nearly two years now, Americans have lived with SARS-CoV-2. We know it better than we once did. We know that it can set off both acute and chronic illness, that it spreads best indoors, that masks help block it, that our vaccines are powerful against it. We know that we can live with it—that we’re going to have to live with it—but that it can and will exact a heavy toll.
Still, this virus has the capacity to surprise us, especially if we’re not paying attention. It is changing all the time, a tweak to the genetic code here and there; sometimes, those tweaks add up to new danger. In a matter of weeks, the Delta variant upended the relative peace of America’s early summer and ushered in a new set of calculations about risk, masking, and testing. The pandemic’s endgame shifted.
The jet-setting cosmopolitans of popular imagination exist, but they are far outnumbered by a less exalted and less discussed elite group, one that sits at the pinnacle of America’s local hierarchies.
American wealth and power usually have a certain look: glass-walled penthouse apartments in glittering urban skyscrapers, sprawling country mansions, ivy-covered prep schools, vacation homes in the Hamptons. These are the outward symbols of an entrenched oligarchy, the political-economic ruling class portrayed by the media that entertains us and the conspiracy theories that animate the darker corners of the American imagination.
The reality of American wealth and power is more banal. The conspicuously consuming celebrities and jet-setting cosmopolitans of popular imagination exist, but they are far outnumbered by a less exalted and less discussed elite group, one that sits at the pinnacle of the local hierarchies that govern daily life for tens of millions of people. Donald Trump grasped this group’s existence and its importance, acting, as he often does, on unthinking but effective instinct. When he crowed about his “beautiful boaters,” lauding the flotillas of supporters trailing MAGA flags from their watercraft in his honor, or addressed his devoted followers among a rioting January 6 crowd that included people who had flown to the event on private jets, he knew what he was doing. Trump was courting the support of the American gentry, the salt-of-the-earth millionaires who see themselves as local leaders in business and politics, the unappreciated backbone of a once-great nation.
On the day that SpaceX’s first space tourists launched, Elon Musk was there at Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, to see them off, cheering as the private astronauts walked to the Teslas that would take them to suit up. And after they landed safely, having orbited Earth about 45 times, Musk was there again to congratulate them in person.
The Inspiration4 mission marked SpaceX’s fourth successful human spaceflight, and a SpaceX official says the company wants to fly paying customers “three, four, five, six times a year at least.” In this era’s space race among private companies, Musk’s SpaceX pulled ahead on essentially every measure but one—giving the CEO a lift above the atmosphere. Branson did it, Bezos did it—so why hasn’t Musk himself flown yet?
After last year’s eerie lull, flu viruses could be poised to return packing a bigger punch.
On Saturday morning, I finally rolled up my sleeve for the vaccine I’d been waiting for all summer: my annual flu shot, a technological marvel that I opt to receive every fall.
During non-pandemic times, the flu vaccine is a hot autumn commodity that holds a coveted place in the public-health spotlight. As of late, though, the shot’s been eclipsed by the prominence of its COVID-blocking cousins, fueled by debates over boosters and mandates. It’s also been a while since we’ve had to tussle with the flu directly. Thanks to the infection-prevention measures the world took to fight SARS-CoV-2 when the pandemic began, many other respiratory viruses vanished. Last winter, we essentially had “no flu season at all,” Florian Krammer, a virologist at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, told me. The human attention span is short; the flu’s brief sabbatical might have purged it from our minds at an inopportune time.
Eventually we might all have to deal with COVID-19—but a shorter, gentler version, thanks to vaccines.
Boghuma Kabisen Titanji was just 8 years old when the hyper-contagious virus swept through her classroom. Days later, she started to feel feverish, and developed a sparse, rosy rash. Three years after being fully dosed with the measles vaccine, one of the most durably effective immunizations in our roster, Titanji fell ill with the very pathogen her shots were designed to prevent.
Her parents rushed her to a pediatrician, worried that her first inoculations had failed to take. But the doctor allayed their fears: “It happens. She’ll be fine.” And she was. Her fever and rash cleared up in just a couple of days; she never sickened anyone else in her family. It was, says Titanji, now an infectious-disease physician and a researcher at Emory University, a textbook case of “modified” measles, a rare post-vaccination illness so mild and unthreatening that it doesn’t even deserve the full measles name.
Dear Evan Hansen was lauded on Broadway, but the film adaptation only emphasizes its flaws.
When Dear Evan Hansen premiered on Broadway in 2016, it drew near-universal praise from New York’s theater critics. Ben Platt, playing an anxious teenager who becomes an internet celebrity after misrepresenting his role in a local tragedy, was showered with plaudits, and the show ended up winning six Tony Awards—the most of the season—including Best Musical and a leading-actor trophy for Platt. A film version was thus hardly a surprise. But when the director Stephen Chbosky’s extremely faithful adaptation premiered as the opening-night movie of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival—the movie will be released in theaters this Friday—the reviews that followed were … broadly bad.
What changed? It wasn’t the story or the songs. Dear Evan Hansen the film is written by Steven Levenson, who wrote the narrative of the Broadway show, and largely retains the score, by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (a few of the least compelling numbers have been cut; others have been added). And while the cast around Platt is mostly filled out by movie stars rather than Broadway veterans, the performances from actors such as Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, and Amandla Stenberg are uniformly solid. Did something get lost in translation, or is this an emperor’s-new-clothes moment revealing that Dear Evan Hansen never was any good in the first place?
The Illinois representative thought the GOP was filled with democracy-loving internationalists. Now he sees the party as a corrupt shell of itself.
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Political courage is a fascinating phenomenon, particularly at moments when it is largely absent. Which is why I’m so interested in the imperiled career of Representative Adam Kinzinger, the Illinois Republican who has described Donald Trump’s demagogy for what it is—a danger to the republic—and who possesses spine enough to excoriate members of his own party for succumbing to Trump’s imbecilic authoritarianism.
As Anne Applebaum described so well in her Atlantic cover story last year, “We all feel the urge to conform; it is the most normal of human desires.” Her essay, “History Will Judge the Complicit,” made the argument that collaboration, and not dissent, is the default posture of frightened humans, including and especially careerist politicians. Dissent can often lead to social and political death (and sometimes, physical death), and, as we’ve learned in the months following the insurrection of January 6, most Republicans would sooner cast people like Kinzinger into the wilderness than risk ostracism.
His upcoming solo show is a headache for the White House—and a window into the murky finances of the international art market.
At some point in the coming weeks, hundreds of thousands of dollars will be funneled to the son of the sitting American president—and none of us will know anything about who sent the money, or where it originally came from, or why anyone chose to send it in the first place.
The transactions will nominally center on artwork created by Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son. After spending years working alongside post-Soviet oligarchs—work that complicated his father’s anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine—Hunter has tossed on a new hat as an emerging “artist.” CNN has reported that his debut shows—one in Los Angeles, another in New York—will be held in late September, though the dates haven’t been announced (which may be because of the scrutiny the sales have received). Whenever they happen, Hunter will make the transition from unqualified oil-and-gas adviser to budding Basquiat—and will offer his artwork to the highest bidders his gallery can attract. The sales have raised concerns that buyers will purchase the art to curry favor with the president, creating an ethics minefield for the White House.