—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.
Hundreds of thousands of deaths, from either tobacco or the pandemic, could be prevented with a single behavioral change.
It’s suddenly become acceptable to say that COVID is—or will soon be—like the flu. Such analogies have long been the preserve of pandemic minimizers, but lately they’ve been creeping into more enlightened circles. Last month the dean of a medical school wrote an open letter to his students suggesting that for a vaccinated person, the risk of death from COVID-19 is “in the same realm, or even lower, as the average American’s risk from flu.” A few days later, David Leonhardt said as much to his millions of readers in the The New York Times’ morning newsletter. And three prominent public-health experts have called for the government to recognize a “new normal” in which the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus “is but one of several circulating respiratory viruses that include influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and more.”
With its even partisan split, its history of racist policies, and its stark urban-rural divide, the state has proved to be a microcosm of national conflicts before.
The ad that signaled the coming catastrophe for democracy in North Carolina appeared just four days before the November 2012 election. As the ad opened, a woman’s voice wondered aloud whether voters “can trust Sam Ervin IV to be a fair judge.” Ervin, captured in black and white, looks shifty, moving his eyes back and forth before turning his head suddenly as if he is on the run. Ervin and his family, the ad announced, had donated to the campaign of the former Democratic governor, and later convicted felon, Mike Easley. The camera lingers on Ervin’s face as the ad explains that he went on to get a $100,000 state job; the portrait could be mistaken for a mug shot, were it not for his suit and tie.
Newer, better UV-blocking agents have been in use in other countries for years. Why can’t we have them here?
At 36, I am just old enough to remember when sunscreen wasn’t a big deal. My mom, despite being among the palest people alive, does not remember bringing it on our earliest vacations, or hearing any mention of sun protection by our pediatrician. The first memories I have of sunscreen are from the day camp that my brother and I attended in the 1990s, where we spent every day on a playground in the direct Georgia sun but were prompted to slather it on only once every two weeks, when we were bused to a community pool. On those days, mom dropped an ancient bottle of Coppertone, expiration date unknown, into my backpack, where I usually left it. In 2000, I started high school, just in time for the golden age of the tanning bed.
The deep-blue city seems to have grown weary of the more radical elements of the new racial-justice movement.
The San Francisco School Board recently returned the admissions policy at Lowell, the city’s most prestigious public high school, to the merit-based system that it had used for more than a century. Thus ended a short-lived lottery introduced in the name of racial equity. The board also abandoned a campaign to erase “The Life of Washington,” a WPA-era mural at George Washington High School by the artist Victor Arnautoff. Arnautoff was a Communist, and his mural, which depicts slaves picking cotton at Mount Vernon, was intentionally subversive. But an earlier incarnation of the board had voted first to destroy it, then to cover it up, saying that removing it from view was a form of “reparations.” The board member Alison Collins had said, “This mural is not historic. It is a relic.”
In the 1880s, Vancouver’s seafood joints served lots of salmon. These days they serve squid.
Vancouver, British Columbia, is nothing short of a seafood paradise. Situated at the mouth of the formerly salmon-rich Fraser River, the city overlooks Vancouver Island to the west, and beyond that, the open Pacific Ocean. Long before it had a skyline or a deepwater port, this was a bountiful fishing ground for the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, who still depend on its waters for cultural sustenance. Today, tourists come from all over the world to taste local favorites, such as salmon and halibut, fresh from the water. But beneath these waves, things are changing.
Climate change is an intensifying reality for the marine species that live near Vancouver and for the people who depend on them. In a new study, a team from the University of British Columbia (UBC) shows one unexpected way that climate effects are already manifesting in our daily lives. To find it, they looked not at thermometers or ice cores, but at restaurant menus.
How mosquitoes seek out and feed on their hosts are important factors in how a virus circulates in nature. Mosquitoes spread diseases by acting as carriers of viruses and other pathogens: A mosquito that bites a person infected with a virus can acquire the virus and pass it on to the next person it bites.
For immunologists and infectious-disease researchers like me, a better understanding of how a virus interacts with a host may offer new strategies for preventing and treating mosquito-borne diseases. In our recently published study, my colleagues and I found that some viruses can alter a mouse’s, and perhaps a person’s, body odor to be more attractive to mosquitoes, leading to more bites that allow a virus to spread.
The evidence for a possible criminal case against the former president is piling up.
From the moment the attack on the Capitol began, on January 6, 2021, Donald Trump’s moral culpability was clear. That mob would never have assembled on the National Mall but for Trump’s decision to relentlessly lie about the results of the 2020 election.
His legal culpability, however, was more ambiguous. We did not possess any evidence that he directly coordinated with the rioters prior to the invasion of the Capitol, and although his speech to the mob on January 6 itself admonished his followers to “fight like hell” and warned them that “you will never take back our country with weakness,” it also contained an explicit statement that they should march to the Capitol to “peacefully and patriotically” make their voices heard.
How to flaunt your modesty online, in three easy steps
“I was humbled to be awarded an honorary degree by the London School of Economics earlier this week. Thank you so much for this prestigious honour!”
— Tweet from Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank
Whenever I feel particularly humble, I tweet about myself. I have never earned an honorary degree from the London School of Economics, but if I ever did, I’d certainly tweet the hell out of it. I’d want to let the world know how humbled the experience had made me. I’d tweet my humility, Instagram my humility, and maybe even TikTok it if I could find dance moves humble enough to make my point.
In the meantime, I’m humbled by Lagarde’s tweet. I have spent years studying the fine art of humility display, and I am humbled by her masterful show of it. If you’ve spent any time on social media, and especially if you’re around the high-status world of the achievatrons, you are probably familiar with the basic rules of the form. The first rule is that you must never tweet about any event that could actually lead to humility. Never tweet: “I’m humbled that I went to a party, and nobody noticed me.” Never tweet: “I’m humbled that I got fired for incompetence.”
By establishing an official record of the insurrection, the members are creating clarity in a political moment fogged with lies.
During its astonishing Tuesday hearing about Donald Trump’s actions on the day of January 6, the House select committee investigating the insurrection made clear that the integrity of its work is under threat. “The same people who drove the former president’s pressure campaign to overturn the election are now trying to cover up the truth about January 6,” warned committee chair Bennie Thompson. “But thanks to the courage of certain individuals, the truth won’t be buried.” The main individual he seemed to have in mind was Cassidy Hutchinson, once an aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who testified to the former president’s violent and bizarre behavior—demanding that rally-goers with guns and knives be allowed onto the Ellipse to hear his speech and exploding in rage when his security detail refused to drive him to the Capitol, as rioters there began to overwhelm law enforcement.