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 A similar resolution was withdrawn from Egypt earlier this week following pressure from Israel and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.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.
Despite the easing of taboos and the rise of hookup apps, Americans are in the midst of a sex recession.
These should be boom times for sex.
The share of Americans who say sex between unmarried adults is “not wrong at all” is at an all-time high. New cases of HIV are at an all-time low. Most women can—at last—get birth control for free, and the morning-after pill without a prescription.
If hookups are your thing, Grindr and Tinder offer the prospect of casual sex within the hour. The phrase If something exists, there is porn of it used to be a clever internet meme; now it’s a truism. BDSM plays at the local multiplex—but why bother going? Sex is portrayed, often graphically and sometimes gorgeously, on prime-time cable. Sexting is, statistically speaking, normal.
The president was unusually specific in his attacks against the special counsel.
With his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen meeting with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team this week, and with his son, Donald Trump Jr., speculating that he himself will soon be indicted, President Donald Trump apparently couldn’t contain himself anymore.
“The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess,” he tweeted on Thursday morning. “They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts.” He added, without providing evidence, that Mueller’s team was “screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want,” and called the investigators “thugs,” “a disgrace to our Nation,” and “highly conflicted.”
It isn’t clear what prompted Trump’s early-morning tirade. After all, the outburst was not exactly out of character: Trump has attacked Mueller and the Russia investigation on Twitter nearly 50 times this year alone. But it could be a sign that he received negative news from his legal team or that new indictments against his family or associates are coming down the pike.
So long as the GOP stays loyal to President Trump, its prospects on the electoral map will be sharply restricted.
In last week’s election, the bill came due on the defining bet placed by congressional Republicans during the Donald Trump era.
Led by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House and Senate Republicans made a strategic decision to lock arms around Trump over the past two years. They resolutely rejected any meaningful oversight of his administration; excused, or even actively defended, his most incendiary remarks; buried legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller; and worked in harness with the president to pass an agenda aimed almost entirely at the preferences and priorities of voters within the GOP coalition, including tax cuts and the unsuccessful attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Even as Trump’s presidency careened through daily storms, many of his own making, they lashed themselves to its mast.
Polarization. Conspiracy theories. Attacks on the free press. An obsession with loyalty. Recent events in the United States follow a pattern Europeans know all too well.
On December 31, 1999, we threw a party. It was the end of one millennium and the start of a new one; people very much wanted to celebrate, preferably somewhere exotic. Our party fulfilled that criterion. We held it at Chobielin, the manor house in northwest Poland that my husband and his parents had purchased a decade earlier, when it was a mildewed ruin. We had restored the house, very slowly. It was not exactly finished in 1999, but it did have a new roof. It also had a large, freshly painted, and completely unfurnished salon—perfect for a party.
The guests were various: journalist friends from London and Berlin, a few diplomats based in Warsaw, two friends who flew in from New York. But most of them were Poles, friends of ours and colleagues of my husband, who was then a deputy foreign minister in the Polish government. A handful of youngish Polish journalists came too—none then particularly famous—along with a few civil servants and one or two members of the government.
The president encouraged Britain to leave the EU—but now that things are falling apart, he’s abdicating his responsibility to help.
President Trump commits outrage after outrage that no previous U.S. president has done before. But, at the same time, he also omits to do things that every previous president has done or would do.
America’s close friend, Great Britain, has thrust itself into desperate trouble. In a tight referendum marred by aggressive disinformation and violations of campaign-finance law, the United Kingdom voted in summer 2016 to exit the European Union.
That vote triggered a negotiating process that yesterday reached its perverse but inevitable outcome. The U.K. and the EU have committed to negotiate a new trade accord. Pending that treaty—which could take many years—Britain will remain within many EU structures, subject to EU rules but lacking any voice in the making of those rules. Meanwhile, in order to avoid redrawing a hard boundary across the island of Ireland, the Northern Irish part of the United Kingdom will face different rules from the rest of the United Kingdom. In other words, a vote to affirm the sovereignty of the British state has instead dissolved the unity of the British state.
“Rich people don’t get their own ‘better’ firefighters, or at least they aren’t supposed to.”
As multiple devastating wildfires raged across California, a private firefighting crew reportedly helped save Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s home in Calabasas, TMZ reported this week. The successful defense of the $50 million mansion is the most prominent example of a trend that’s begun to receive national attention: for-hire firefighters protecting homes, usually on the payroll of an insurance company with a lot at risk.
The insurance companies AIG and Chubb have publicly talked about their private wildfire teams. AIG has its own “Wildfire Protection Unit,” while Chubb—and up to a dozen other insurers—contract with Wildfire Defense Systems, a Montana company that claims to have made 550 “wildfire responses on behalf of insurers,” including 255 in just the past two years. Right now in California, the company has 53 engines working to protect close to 1,000 homes.
The billionaire is drilling for futuristic transit under Los Angeles. He didn’t have to ask the neighbors first.
Vicky Warren feels like she’s been attacked from all sides lately. Across the street from her rental apartment in the working-class Los Angeles County city of Hawthorne, noisy planes take off and land at all hours, diverted to the local municipal airport from wealthier Santa Monica, where neighbor complaints have restricted air traffic. On the other side of her apartment, cars on the 105 Freeway sound the frustration of L.A. traffic. She’s even getting assailed within her walls: Termites have invaded so completely that she can’t keep any food uncovered. Flea bites cover her legs; rats are aggressively attacking the boxes she has stored in her garage.
So Warren was disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that invaders are coming from underground, too. She lives on 120th Street, where 40 feet underground Elon Musk’s Boring Company is building a 14-foot-wide, mile-long tunnel to pilot a futuristic transit system untested anywhere in the world. When it’s finished in December, the tunnel will start at the nearby headquarters of SpaceX, Musk’s aerospace company, and end a few blocks past Warren’s apartment. “We’re just sandwiched in between so much already,” Warren told me, shaking her head.
The industry’s fall from grace may feel unprecedented, but we have a model for what happens when a beloved industry fails us.
Think back a few years, before the Amazon HQ2 sweepstakes, before Susan Fowler’s viral blog post, before the #MeToo movement, before the 2016 election. Across the nation, Silicon Valley was the crown jewel of the economy. The companies were youthful and ambitious. The culture was loose and exciting. The capabilities they put into the world’s pockets were astonishing: talk to anyone, know everything, buy anything, all with a few little taps on glass. Yes, this had unleashed unprecedented surveillance possibilities, as Edward Snowden revealed, but these were still the most beloved companies in the country. Their founders were legends.
The past several weeks have been like the past two years in miniature. First, The New York Times released a blockbuster article about Google’s sexual-harassment problems that placed the blame both on the institution itself and on the co-founder and current CEO, Larry Page. Then, Amazon selected its new headquarters, releasing a torrent of criticism of the deals: Why were municipalities subsidizing the richest man in the world in their race to the bottom? And finally, yesterday, the Times put out a 50-source story about Facebook’s obliviousness to its own platform’s darker possibilities. (In a statement today, Facebook’s board of directors called the story “grossly unfair.”)
Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. I’m one of them.
Since 2013,the Federal Reserve Board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?
Law enforcement has better tools available now than when Ted Kaczynski was caught in 1996. But Kaczynski was also much more sophisticated than the latest mail bomber.
The man law enforcement believes briefly terrorized the country with a series of mail bombs appeared in court on Thursday, pleading not guilty to a 30-count indictment including charges of mailing weapons of mass destruction. What he’s accused of was perhaps the largest attempted mass political assassination through the mail since anarchists mailed more than 30 bombs to public figures in 1919.
What it wasn’t, however, was sophisticated. None of the bombs actually went off; more than one were incorrectly addressed; the packages were nearly identical, with the word “Florida” conspicuously misspelled as “Florids” on all of them. The Justice Department alleges that Cesar Sayoc’s fingerprints were on two of the envelopes. Within five days, he was in custody.