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 A similar resolution was withdrawn from Egypt earlier this week following pressure from Israel and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.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.
Credentialed authorities are comically bad at predicting the future. But reliable forecasting is possible.
The bet was on, and it was over the fate of humanity. On one side was the Stanford biologist Paul R. Ehrlich. In his 1968 best seller, The Population Bomb, Ehrlich insisted that it was too late to prevent a doomsday apocalypse resulting from overpopulation. Resource shortages would cause hundreds of millions of starvation deaths within a decade. It was cold, hard math: The human population was growing exponentially; the food supply was not. Ehrlich was an accomplished butterfly specialist. He knew that nature did not regulate animal populations delicately. Populations exploded, blowing past the available resources, and then crashed.
In his book, Ehrlich played out hypothetical scenarios that represented “the kinds of disasters that will occur.” In the worst-case scenario, famine rages across the planet. Russia, China, and the United States are dragged into nuclear war, and the resulting environmental degradation soon extinguishes the human race. In the “cheerful” scenario, population controls begin. Famine spreads, and countries teeter, but the major death wave ends in the mid-1980s. Only half a billion or so people die of starvation. “I challenge you to create one more optimistic,” Ehrlich wrote, adding that he would not count scenarios involving benevolent aliens bearing care packages.
To save the Church, Catholics must detach themselves from the clerical hierarchy—and take the faith back into their own hands.
To feel relief at my mother’s being dead was once unthinkable, but then the news came from Ireland. It would have crushed her. An immigrant’s daughter, my mother lived with an eye cast back to the old country, the land against which she measured every virtue. Ireland was heaven to her, and the Catholic Church was heaven’s choir. Then came the Ryan Report.
Not long before The Boston Globe began publishing its series on predator priests, in 2002—the “Spotlight” series that became a movie of the same name—the government of Ireland established a commission, ultimately chaired by Judge Sean Ryan, to investigate accounts and rumors of child abuse in Ireland’s residential institutions for children, nearly all of which were run by the Catholic Church.
No president I know of has asserted a blanket power to reject any request that doesn’t suit him—until Donald Trump.
In my long career as an academic jack-of-all-trades, I sometimes teach law students Jurisprudence—that is, Philosophy of Law. The course begins with the question “What is law?” and its corollary, “What is lawlessness?”
The latter comes in two flavors. The first is anarchy—Hobbes’s “war of all against all,” a Mad Max moonscape in which only stealth and brute force provide even a semblance of safety. Such situations existed for millennia and, though relatively rare, exist in remote parts of the globe today.
But there is an authoritarian lawlessness that is far more common in the 21st century, and next time I teach the course, I will have the most precise example of this second version I have ever seen: the dispute over 26 U.S. Code § 6103(f)(1), which reads: “Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary [of the Treasury] shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request,” subject only to a requirement that the return be considered in closed session.
It expands by 10,000 times in a fraction of a second, it’s 100,000 times softer than Jell-O, and it fends off sharks and Priuses alike.
At first glance, the hagfish—a sinuous, tubular animal with pink-grey skin and a paddle-shaped tail—looks very much like an eel. Naturalists can tell the two apart because hagfish, unlike other fish, lack backbones (and, also, jaws). For everyone else, there’s an even easier method. “Look at the hand holding the fish,” the marine biologist Andrew Thaler once noted. “Is it completely covered in slime? Then, it’s a hagfish.”
Hagfish produce slime the way humans produce opinions—readily, swiftly, defensively, and prodigiously. They slime when attacked or simply when stressed. On July 14, 2017, a truck full of hagfishoverturned on an Oregon highway. The animals were destined for South Korea, where they are eaten as a delicacy, but instead, they were strewn across a stretch of Highway 101, covering the road (and at least one unfortunate car) in slime.
The send-off to Season 44 might end up functioning as a send-off to a particularly toothless era for the show.
Saturday Night Live opened the last episode of its 44th season with a sketch featuring Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump, sitting in the Oval Office, telling a few jokes, and then singing a song with a coterie of characters from his administration. That might sound like par for the course for this show, but it was actually Baldwin’s first appearance in character sinceMarch, when SNL mocked the president’sreaction to the Mueller report. Almost three years into a presidency one could charitably describe as newsworthy, the best this show could come up with for a season finale was Trump singing Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” and shimmying behind his desk, as if daring the audience to, well, stop him.
The brewing news going into last night’s episode was that Kate McKinnon, the indisputable star of this era of SNL, might be departing for greener pastures. Her contract is up as of now and she may be ready to move on to movie stardom like countless breakout actors before her. But if this was her last hurrah, there was little sign of it, and certainly no grand send-off like the ones Kristen Wiig or Bill Hader got. Instead, there was the same slightly lackluster mix of topical material and unmemorable goofy sketch writing that has defined the show in recent years. SNL has survived for so many decades by knowing when to pull the trigger on a revamp, and Baldwin’s dismal karaoke work last night was the surest sign yet that something needs to change.
In many ways, he’s running the same kind of campaign he would have in a pre-Trump, pre-Sanders era.
PHILADELPHIA—If the new rules of politics post-2016 were to hold up, the official launch rally Joe Biden held here on Saturday would mean that he is in trouble: The crowd wasn’t huge, was largely white and older, and, for the most part, only really got into it when he mentioned Barack Obama or Donald Trump.
Yet Biden’s high-and-getting-higher poll numbers, the early fundraising success that has surprised even his own aides, and the enthusiastic responses I heard from supporters who came out on a hot afternoon to see him don’t show a candidate in much trouble at all. Biden’s campaign is a bet: that in the four years since Trump launched his campaign, the country hasn’t changed, the Democratic Party hasn’t changed, and politics hasn’t changed.
Representative Justin Amash is the first member of the House GOP to call for the constitutional remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors.
On Saturday, Representative Justin Amash became the first Republican member of Congress to suggest that President Trump should be impeached for his misdeeds, a stand that puts him at odds with the GOP and risks his future in the party.
For nine years, the libertarian-leaning Michigander has been an unusually principled and independent-minded pol, breaking partisan ranks whenever he felt the Constitution demanded it. He used Twitter to lay out his conclusions about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Attorney General William Barr’s characterizations of that report, the portions that have not been released to the public, and his belief that many of his fellow lawmakers are not fully informed about the matter.
They say religious discrimination against Christians is as big a problem as discrimination against other groups.
Many, many Christians believe they are subject to religious discrimination in the United States. A new report from the Public Religion Research Institute and Brookings offers evidence: Almost half of Americans say discrimination against Christians is as big of a problem as discrimination against other groups, including blacks and minorities. Three-quarters of Republicans and Trump supporters said this, and so did nearly eight out of 10 white evangelical Protestants. Of the latter group, six in 10 believe that although America once was a Christian nation, it is no longer—a huge jump from 2012.
Polling data can be split up in a million different ways. It’s possible to sort by ethnicity, age, political party, and more. The benefit of sorting by religion, though, is that it highlights people’s beliefs: the way their ideological and spiritual convictions shape their self-understanding. This survey suggests that race is not enough to explain the sense of loss some white Americans seem to feel about their country, although it’s part of the story; the same is true of age, education level, and political affiliation. People’s beliefs seem to have a distinctive bearing on how they view changes in American culture, politics, and law—and whether they feel threatened. No group is more likely to express this fear than conservative Christians.
It was a blockbuster discovery at the time. The team found that a less active version of the gene was more common among 454 people who had mood disorders than in 570 who did not. In theory, anyone who had this particular gene variant could be at higher risk for depression, and that finding, they said, might help in diagnosing such disorders, assessing suicidal behavior, or even predicting a person’s response to antidepressants.
Back then, tools for sequencing DNA weren’t as cheap or powerful as they are today. When researchers wanted to work out which genes might affect a disease or trait, they made educated guesses, and picked likely “candidate genes.” For depression, SLC6A4 seemed like a great candidate: It’s responsible for getting a chemical called serotonin into brain cells, and serotonin had already been linked to mood and depression. Over two decades, this one gene inspired at least 450 research papers.
A philanthropist surprised Morehouse College graduates at commencement by announcing he would pay off their student loans. But one person—even a very generous one—can only do so much.
Commencement speakers have a routine: a few words of encouragement, a good—or maybe not so good—joke, and a bit of advice. But this year, Robert F. Smith, the billionaire founder of the private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, who delivered the commencement address on Sunday morning at Morehouse College, a historically black college in Atlanta, took a different approach.
“You great Morehouse men are bound only by the limits of your own conviction and creativity,” Smith told the soon-to-be graduates of the venerated HBCU (historically black college or university). Smith then did something astonishing: He did what he could to make that actually true, telling the class that his family would be eliminating the graduates’ student debt. The crowd, as expected, went wild.