U.S. Allows UN Resolution Criticizing Israeli Settlements
The U.S. decided not to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding that Israel end its settlements in Palestinian territories. The measure passed with 14 of 15 members voting yes. The abstention from the U.S. is a rare occasion where the U.S. did not protect Israel from criticism on the international stage. The U.S. has previously vetoed 30 resolutions regarding Israel and Palestinians. The resolution was co-sponsored by New Zealand, Malaysia, Senegal, and Venezuela. A similar resolution was withdrawn from Egypt earlier this week following pressure from Israel and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump. Israel has accused the Obama administration of being “shameful” and not supporting Israel on this issue. Secretary of State John Kerry has spoken strongly on this issue in the past. The resolution by the 15-member panel says that Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are a violation of international law. While it is highly unlikely that the Israeli government would abide by the resolution, the vote on Friday was a damning rebuke of the country’s actions. The vote could have major repercussions in the U.S., as Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, threatened the UN Friday afternoon if the resolution passed.
If UN moves forward with ill-conceived #Israel resolution, I'll work to form a bipartisan coalition to suspend/reduce US assistance to UN.
While criticizing what she called the UN’s bias against Israel, Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, quoted from Ronald Reagan's 1982 proposal for Israeli-Palestinian peace to say that “Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.” Though Reagan’s proposal was never adopted, Power said the vote Friday was “fully in line with the bipartisan history” how the U.S. approaches the Israeli settlement issue.
Deutsche Bank Agrees to Pay $7.2 Billion Settlement
Germany’s Deutsche Bank agreed Friday to a $7.2 billion settlement over an investigation into its sale of toxic mortgage securities leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. Under the agreement, the bank will pay a $3.1 billion penalty and provide $4.1 billion in consumer relief—such as loan modifications and loan forgiveness—over at least the next five years. The agreement is not final until it is approved by the Justice Department. If the sum is approved, it will be considerably lower than the $14 billion the U.S. originally asked for in September. Deutsche Bank is one of several institutions under investigation by the U.S. over allegations of selling and pooling toxic mortgage securities in the run-up to the financial crisis. The Justice Department announced Thursday that it will sue Barclay’s Bank over similar allegations.
West African Nations Will Send in Troops if Gambian President Refuses to Concede
If Gambian President Yahya Jammeh does not step down by the end of his term, West African nations will send in troops to intervene. The Economic Community of West African States said Friday that Senegal would lead the coalition if Jammeh, the long-time ruler who lost reelection on December 1, does not leave office by January 19. Except for a thin coastline, Senegal surrounds Gambia entirely. West African leaders have tried in vain to convince Jammeh to end his 22-year tenure and allow his rival Adama Barrow to take office. Jammeh and his ruling party have called for fresh elections, after first saying he would accept the results. In the weeks that followed the election, Jammeh has mobilized troops and seized national election headquarters. Jammeh recently said that only “Allah” can deprive him of his victory.
Record Number of Migrants Drown in the Mediterranean Sea in 2016
More than 5,000 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea this year, a record level during this crisis. According to the International Organization for Migration, two oversized inflatable dinghies capsized off the coast of Libya en route to Italy on Thursday. Authorities believe 100 passengers, mostly from West Africa, died, bringing the 2016 death toll up to record levels. This is a significant rise from 2015, where around 3,800 migrants died at sea. United Nations officials blame the rise in death on bad weather and the drastic measures used by smugglers to get migrants into Europe, including the use of fragile boats. Most migrants traveling by sea arrived in Europe through Italy and Greece. More than 358,000 migrants and refugees have gone to Europe by sea this year. Several European countries have closed their borders to new arrivals, forcing migrants to take the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.
Hostages Released After Libyan Plane Hijacked in Malta
Everyone on board the hijacked Afriqiyah Airways flight has been released and the hijackers taken into custody, Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced Friday. The 118-passenger flight A320, traveling from the southwestern Libyan city of Subha to Tripoli, the capital, was diverted to the Mediterranean island of Malta Friday morning local time after two hijackers threatened to blow the plane up with a hand grenade. Muscat said the passengers included 82 men, 28 women, and one infant, as well as seven crew members. Officials of the UN-brokered Libyan government told the Associated Press that the two men are in their early twenties and are seeking political asylum in Europe, though the hijackers’ demands were not made public. Muscat said in a press conference that the hijackers were armed with at least one hand grenade and a pistol, and that no demands for political asylum have been made.
Berlin Suspect Killed in Shoot-Out With Italian Police
The manhunt to find the suspect in the Berlin Christmas market attack ended Friday after the Tunisian man was killed in a shoot-out with Milan police. In a press conference following the standoff, Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti confirmed that the deceased person was Anis Amri, who authorities believe killed 12 people and injured 56 more when he drove a truck through a crowd in Germany on Monday. Police found Amri’s fingerprints in the truck. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, and said Friday the attacker pledged allegiance to the group in a video. The standoff ensued when two officers stopped Amri in a routine police check. After the officers asked for identification, Amri pulled a gun from his bag. One officer was shot in the right shoulder and is in good condition. Amri died from a gunshot wound to the chest. Amri arrived in Milan by train around 1 a.m. Friday, and was confronted by police two hours later. Police must now determine whether the gun Amri used in Milan was the same gun used in the death of the Polish truck driver killed in the attack in Berlin.
Through the 2016 campaign, I posted a series called “Trump Time Capsule” in this space. The idea was to record, in real time, what was known about Donald Trump’s fitness for office—and to do so not when people were looking back on our era but while the Republican Party was deciding whether to line up behind him and voters were preparing to make their choice.
The series reached 152 installments by election day. I argued that even then there was no doubt of Trump’s mental, emotional, civic, and ethical unfitness for national leadership. If you’re hazy on the details, the series is (once again) here.
That background has equipped me to view Trump’s performance in office as consistently shocking but rarely surprising. He lied on the campaign trail, and he lies in office. He insulted women, minorities, “the other” as a candidate, and he does it as a president. He led “lock her up!” cheers at the Republican National Convention and he smiles at “send them back!” cheers now. He did not know how the “nuclear triad” worked then, and he does not know how tariffs work now. He flared at perceived personal slights when they came from Senator John McCain, and he does so when they come from the Prime Minister of Denmark. He is who he was.
Meritocracy prizes achievement above all else, making everyone—even the rich—miserable. Maybe there’s a way out.
In the summer of 1987, I graduated from a public high school in Austin, Texas, and headed northeast to attend Yale. I then spent nearly 15 years studying at various universities—the London School of Economics, the University of Oxford, Harvard, and finally Yale Law School—picking up a string of degrees along the way. Today, I teach at Yale Law, where my students unnervingly resemble my younger self: They are, overwhelmingly, products of professional parents and high-class universities. I pass on to them the advantages that my own teachers bestowed on me. They, and I, owe our prosperity and our caste to meritocracy.
Two decades ago, when I started writing about economic inequality, meritocracy seemed more likely a cure than a cause. Meritocracy’s early advocates championed social mobility. In the 1960s, for instance, Yale President Kingman Brewster brought meritocratic admissions to the university with the express aim of breaking a hereditary elite. Alumni had long believed that their sons had a birthright to follow them to Yale; now prospective students would gain admission based on achievement rather than breeding. Meritocracy—for a time—replaced complacent insiders with talented and hardworking outsiders.
What speech should be protected by the First Amendment is open to debate. Americans can, and should, argue about what the law ought to be. That’s what free people do. But while we’re all entitled to our own opinions, we’re not entitled to our own facts, even in 2019. In fact, the First Amendment is broad, robust, aggressively and consistently protected by the Supreme Court, and not subject to the many exceptions and qualifications that commentators seek to graft upon it. The majority of contemptible, bigoted speech is protected.
The president crossed an important line when he canceled a meeting with the Danish prime minister.
Yesterday, President Donald Trump canceled a meeting with the new Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, because she refuses to discuss the sale of Greenland. Greenland used to be a Danish colony but now belongs to the people of Greenland—the Danish government could not sell the island even if it wanted to. Trump likely did not know that Denmark is one of America’s most reliable allies. Danish troops, for example, fought alongside U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffered 50 fatalities, and Danish forces were among the earliest to join the fight against the Islamic State.
Many Americans may laugh off Trump’s latest outrage, but Trump crossed an important line. It is one thing to float a cockamamie idea that no one believes is serious or will go anywhere. “Let’s buy Greenland!” Yes, very funny. A good distraction from the economy, the failure to deal with white supremacy, White House staff problems, or whatever is the news of the day. It is quite another to use leverage and impose costs on Denmark in pursuit of that goal—and make no mistake, canceling a presidential visit is using leverage and imposing costs. What’s next, refusing to exempt Denmark from various tariffs because it won’t discuss Greenland? Musing on Twitter that America’s defense commitments to Denmark are conditional on the negotiation? Intellectual justifications from Trump-friendly publications, citing previous purchase proposals and noting Greenland’s strategic value and abundance of natural resources? (That last one has already happened.)
He understands men in America better than most people do. The rest of the country should start paying attention.
Every morning of my Joe Rogan experience began the same way Joe Rogan begins his: with the mushroom coffee.
It’s a pour-and-stir powder made from lion’s mane and chaga—“two rock-star mushrooms,” according to Joe—and it’s made by a company called Four Sigmatic, a regular advertiser on Joe Rogan’s wildly popular podcast. As a coffee lover, the mere existence of mushroom coffee offends me. (“I’ll have your most delicious thing, made from your least delicious things, please,” a friend said, scornfully.) But it tastes fine, and even better after another cup of actual coffee.
Next, I took several vitamin supplements from a company called Onnit, whose core philosophy is “total human optimization” and whose website sells all kinds of wicked-cool fitness gear—a Darth Vader kettlebell ($199.95); a 50-foot roll of two-and-a-half-inch-thick battle rope ($249.95); a 25-pound quad mace ($147.95), which according to one fitness-equipment site is a weapon dating back to 11th-century Persia. I stuck to the health products, though, because you know how it goes—you buy one quad mace and soon your apartment is filled with them. I stirred a packet of Onnit Gut Health powder into my mushroom coffee, then downed an enormous pair of Alpha Brain pills, filled with nootropics to help with “memory and focus.”
The famed economist’s “shareholder theory” provides corporations with too much room to violate consumers’ rights and trust.
On Monday, the Business Roundtable, a group that represents CEOs of big corporations, declared that it had changed its mind about the “purpose of a corporation.” That purpose is no longer to maximize profits for shareholders, but to benefit other “stakeholders” as well, including employees, customers, and citizens.
While the statement is a welcome repudiation of a highly influential but spurious theory of corporate responsibility, this new philosophy will not likely change the way corporations behave. The only way to force corporations to act in the public interest is to subject them to legal regulation.
The shareholder theory is usually credited to Milton Friedman, the University of Chicago economist and Nobel laureate. In a famous 1970 New York Timesarticle, Friedman argued that because the CEO is an “employee” of the shareholders, he or she must act in their interest, which is to give them the highest return possible. Friedman pointed out that if a CEO acts otherwise—let’s say, donates corporate funds to an environmental cause or to an anti-poverty program—the CEO must get those funds from customers (through higher prices), workers (through lower wages), or shareholders (through lower returns). But then the CEO is just imposing a “tax” on other people, and using the funds for a social cause that he or she has no particular expertise in. It would be better to let customers, workers, or investors use that money to make their own charitable contributions if they wish to.
Hundreds of people say a Michigan doctor falsely diagnosed them with epilepsy. He wouldn’t be the first to lie to patients about how sick they are.
The headaches started when Mariah Martinez was 10 years old. It was 2003, and she was living in Dearborn, Michigan, with her mother and two sisters. Whenever a headache struck, she would want to put her head down, stay in the dark, and be alone.
Martinez saw her primary-care physician, who referred her to Yasser Awaad, a pediatric neurologist at a hospital that was then known as Oakwood Healthcare. Right away, Martinez told me, Awaad ordered an electroencephalogram, or EEG, a test that uses electrodes to detect abnormal electrical activity in the brain. In a small room, Martinez was wrapped in bandages and had wires placed all over her head. The procedure required her to be sleep-deprived; she came in on one or two hours of sleep after staying up much of the night watching TV.
The debate over Britain leaving the European Union has polarized the country and normalized what was previously unthinkable.
Brexit isn’t what it used to be. In the months immediately after Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016, two flavors were on offer—“hard” and “soft.” A soft Brexit generally meant leaving the bloc’s political structures but not its economic ones, such as the single market for goods and services. The hard version meant leaving those, too. Crucially, both versions would see Britain formally agree to a new relationship with the EU.
“In the summer of 2016, everyone was a soft Brexiter, really,” Anand Menon, a professor of European politics and foreign affairs at King’s College London, told me.
Now no one is. The political landscape is polarized. What was once considered “hard” is now denounced by the loudest Brexiteers as a squalid compromise. Instead, “no deal” has become the purest, truest form of Brexit—“No deal is the best deal,” the official account of the Brexit Party, the most doctrinaire of Brexit-supporting groups, recently tweeted.
The U.S. president canceled his visit to the kingdom over his failed attempt to buy Greenland. Danes are reacting with bewilderment, anger, and humor.
COPENHAGEN—At first there was disbelief, then anger, and then, following a script now familiar to a growing number of nations, Denmark turned, in its attempt to explain the inexplicable, to speculation. After waking yesterday morning to the news that the president of the United States had canceled a state visit that he himself had requested, Danes found themselves moving through the stages of Donald Trump grief.
Trump tweeted early yesterday here, just two weeks before he was to come to Denmark, that the trip was off. “Based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting,” he wrote. (His tweet was sent just hours after Carla Sands, the U.S. ambassador to Denmark, tweeted: “Denmark is ready for the POTUS.”)
Even if the party sweeps Congress and the White House in 2020, the Senate rule would let a faction of the reddest, whitest states stymie its agenda.
Even if Democrats regain unified control of the White House and Congress in 2020, the fate of their ambitious legislative agenda will still likely hinge on a fundamental question: Do they try to end the Senate filibuster?
If the party chooses to keep the filibuster, it faces a daunting prospect: Democrats elected primarily by voters in states at the forefront of the country’s demographic, cultural, and economic changes will likely have their agenda blocked by Republican senators largely representing the smaller, rural states least touched by all of those changes. In fact, since the Senate gives each state two seats, the filibuster allows Republican senators from states representing only about one-fifth of the country’s population to be in a position to stymie Democratic legislation.