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 A similar resolution was withdrawn from Egypt earlier this week following pressure from Israel and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.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.
The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.
Three months ago, no one knew that SARS-CoV-2 existed. Now the virus has spread to almost every country, infecting at least 446,000 people whom we know about, and many more whom we do not. It has crashed economies and broken health-care systems, filled hospitals and emptied public spaces. It has separated people from their workplaces and their friends. It has disrupted modern society on a scale that most living people have never witnessed. Soon, most everyone in the United States will know someone who has been infected. Like World War II or the 9/11 attacks, this pandemic has already imprinted itself upon the nation’s psyche.
A global pandemic of this scale was inevitable. In recent years, hundreds of health experts have written books, white papers, and op-eds warning of the possibility. Bill Gates has been telling anyone who would listen, including the 18 million viewers of his TED Talk. In 2018, I wrote a story for The Atlantic arguing that America was not ready for the pandemic that would eventually come. In October, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security war-gamed what might happen if a new coronavirus swept the globe. And then one did. Hypotheticals became reality. “What if?” became “Now what?”
China warned Italy. Italy warned us. We didn’t listen. Now the onus is on the rest of America to listen to New York.
In the emergency-department waiting room, 150 people worry about a fever. Some just want a test, others badly need medical treatment. Those not at the brink of death have to wait six, eight, 10 hours before they can see a doctor. Those admitted to the hospital might wait a full day for a bed.
I am an emergency-medicine doctor who practices in both Manhattan and Queens; at the moment, I’m in Queens. Normally, I love coming to work here, even though in the best of times, my co-residents and I take care of one of New York City’s most vulnerable, underinsured patient populations. Many have underlying illnesses and a language barrier, and lack primary care.
The coronavirus outbreak may last for a year or two, but some elements of pre-pandemic life will likely be won back in the meantime.
The new coronavirus has brought American life to a near standstill, closing businesses, canceling large gatherings, and keeping people at home. All of those people must surely be wondering: When will things return to normal?
The answer is simple, if not exactly satisfying: when enough of the population—possibly 60 or 80 percent of people—is resistant to COVID-19 to stifle the disease’s spread from person to person. That is the end goal, although no one knows exactly how long it will take to get there.
There are two realistic paths to achieving this “population-level immunity.” One is the development of a vaccine. The other is for the disease to work its way through the population, surely killing many, but also leaving many others—those who contract the disease and then recover—immune. “They’re just Teflon at that point,” meaning they can’t get infected again and they won’t pass on the disease, explains Andrew Noymer, a public-health professor at the University of California at Irvine. Once enough people reach Teflon status—though we don’t yet know if recovering from the disease confers any immunity at all, let alone lifelong immunity—normalcy will be restored.
Trump is utterly unsuited to deal with this crisis, either intellectually or temperamentally.
For his entire adult life, and for his entire presidency, Donald Trump has created his own alternate reality, complete with his own alternate set of facts. He has shown himself to be erratic, impulsive, narcissistic, vindictive, cruel, mendacious, and devoid of empathy. None of that is new.
But we’re now entering the most dangerous phase of the Trump presidency. The pain and hardship that the United States is only beginning to experience stem from a crisis that the president is utterly unsuited to deal with, either intellectually or temperamentally. When things were going relatively well, the nation could more easily absorb the costs of Trump’s psychological and moral distortions and disfigurements. But those days are behind us. The coronavirus pandemic has created the conditions that can catalyze a destructive set of responses from an individual with Trump’s characterological defects and disordered personality.
“The thought of simply breathing in and out without coughing and reuniting with my children ... is goal enough. To—literally—live and let live will be enough.”
I can pinpoint the exact moment I started feeling off. My partner, Will, and I were on a bike ride on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 18, to escape our apartment and get some exercise. This was back when leaving a New York City apartment to get some exercise was still okay, or at least that’s what we’d read, or at least that’s what we thought? If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that what is considered dogma today might change tomorrow.
Ten minutes into our bike ride, I was overcome by an intense fatigue. “I think I have to go back,” I said.
Back home, I felt chilled. Took my temperature: 99.1. I’m normally 97.1, but still, not a huge deal. We’d been so careful about wiping down doorknobs, washing our hands, and keeping everyone except for our family out of our apartment. I’d been ambiently worried enough that my 13-year-old son could be a silent carrier of the virus that I’d yanked him out of his public middle school and off the crowded subways four days before Mayor Bill de Blasio pulled the plug– (far too belatedly, in my opinion). I was getting over a urinary-tract infection, so my fever, I thought, must be from that.
A hotly contested, supposedly ancient manuscript suggests Christ was married. But believing its origin story—a real-life Da Vinci Code, involving a Harvard professor, a onetime Florida pornographer, and an escape from East Germany—requires a big leap of faith.
On a humid afternoon this past November, I pulled off Interstate 75 into a stretch of Florida pine forest tangled with runaway vines. My GPS was homing in on the house of a man I thought might hold the master key to one of the strangest scholarly mysteries in recent decades: a 1,300-year-old scrap of papyrus that bore the phrase “Jesus said to them, My wife.” The fragment, written in the ancient language of Coptic, had set off shock waves when an eminent Harvard historian of early Christianity, Karen L. King, presented it in September 2012 at a conference in Rome.
Never before had an ancient manuscript alluded to Jesus’s being married. The papyrus’s lines were incomplete, but they seemed to describe a dialogue between Jesus and the apostles over whether his “wife”—possibly Mary Magdalene—was “worthy” of discipleship. Its main point, King argued, was that “women who are wives and mothers can be Jesus’s disciples.” She thought the passage likely figured into ancient debates over whether “marriage or celibacy [was] the ideal mode of Christian life” and, ultimately, whether a person could be both sexual and holy.
It has taken a good deal longer than it should have, but Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain.
When, in January 2016, I wrote that despite being a lifelong Republican who worked in the previous three GOP administrations, I would never vote for Donald Trump, even though his administration would align much more with my policy views than a Hillary Clinton presidency would, a lot of my Republican friends were befuddled. How could I not vote for a person who checked far more of my policy boxes than his opponent?
What I explained then, and what I have said many times since, is that Trump is fundamentally unfit—intellectually, morally, temperamentally, and psychologically—for office. For me, that is the paramount consideration in electing a president, in part because at some point it’s reasonable to expect that a president will face an unexpected crisis—and at that point, the president’s judgment and discernment, his character and leadership ability, will really matter.
The president can’t simply cancel the fall balloting, but his state-level allies could still deliver him a second term.
Even under a normal president, the coronavirus pandemic would present real challenges to the 2020 American election. Everything about in-person voting could be dangerous. Waiting in line, touching a voting machine, and working in polling stations all run afoul of social-distancing mandates. Already, Maryland, Kentucky, Georgia, and Louisiana have postponed their presidential primaries, while Wyoming, New York, and Ohio have altered their voting procedures. Of course, other democracies face similar problems; the United Kingdom has postponed local elections for one year.
But under President Donald Trump, the possibilities for how the coronavirus could wreak havoc on the election are all the more concerning. This is not a president who cares about the sanctity of the electoral process. After all, he has never seemed particularly concerned about Russia’s efforts to manipulate the 2016 outcome (presumably because they were on his behalf), and he was impeached for demanding Ukrainian help in his reelection efforts.
The government is showing how not to handle a pandemic.
By now, the global timeline of the coronavirus’s development has been well established: The first case reportedly appeared in mid-November; in December, the Chinese government was still attributing hospitalizations to a peculiar form of pneumonia; through January and February, the outbreak began spreading around the world; and its epicenter is today firmly in Europe and the United States.
Throughout, another set of events were occurring here in India. Late last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government introduced and passed a controversial new law, ostensibly in support of minorities in neighboring countries, that in fact openly discriminated against Muslims and undermined India’s secular foundations. Then, early this year, protests over that new law snowballed into a pogrom in which dozens of people—mostly Muslims—have been killed.
One of the ironies of social distancing is that it can put privacy in short supply.
This week, a new version of an old joke made the rounds: the meme of Spider-Man pointing at Spider-Man, modified for a time of quarantine. @zahraloum’s update of the classic image featured, this time around, not two Spider-Men but seven—arranged in a circle, all of them pointing at one another. Each had a label: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. The image, shared with a brief commentary—“how everyday feels”—struck a chord. On Twitter, since it was posted on Tuesday, the tweet has been shared more than 350,000 times, and liked more than 1 million.
I liked it too. The tweet’s three terse words captured something about the way time works in a moment that, for many, has brought panic and pain and loneliness and fear and frustration—but also, sometimes, basic, blunt-force boredom. Days flatten into one another, Sunday and Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday, their divisions dissolving, their hours—unstructured by commutes or classes or social gatherings—liquid.