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 A similar resolution was withdrawn from Egypt earlier this week following pressure from Israel and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.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.
Critics are letting their disdain for the president blind them to geopolitical realities.
When a new coronavirus emerged in China and began spreading around the world, including in the United States, President Donald Trump’s many critics in the American foreign-policy establishment were quick to identify him as part of the problem. Trump had campaigned on an “America first” foreign policy, which after his victory was enshrined in the official National Security Strategy that his administration published in 2017. At the time, I served in the administration and orchestrated the writing of that document. In the years since, Trump has been criticized for supposedly overturning the post–World War II order and rejecting the role the United States has long played in the world. Amid a global pandemic, he’s being accused—on this site and elsewhere—of alienating allies, undercutting multinational cooperation, and causing America to fight the coronavirus alone.
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?”
Widespread social-distancing measures have produced some jarring effects across land, air, and sea.
From inside her living room in London, Paula Koelemeijer can feel the world around her growing quieter.
Koelemeijer, a seismologist, has a miniature seismometer sitting on a concrete slab at the base of her first-floor fireplace. The apparatus, though smaller than a box of tissues, can sense all kinds of movement, from the rattle of trains on the tracks near Koelemeijer’s home to the waves of earthquakes rolling in from afar. Since the United Kingdom announced stricter social-distancing rules last month, telling residents not to leave their home except for essential reasons, the seismometer has registered a sharp decrease in the vibrations produced by human activity.
With fewer trains, buses, and people pounding the pavement, the usual hum of public life has vanished, and so has its dependable rhythms: Before the spread of COVID-19 shut down the city, Koelemeijer could plot the seismometer’s data and see the train schedule reflected in the spikes, down to the minute. Now, with fewer trains running, the spikes seem to come at random.
Far from making Americans crave stability, the pandemic underscores how everything is up for grabs.
Fear sweeps the land. Many businesses collapse. Some huge fortunes are made. Panicked consumers stockpile paper, food, and weapons. The government’s reaction is inconsistent and ineffectual. Ordinary commerce grinds to a halt; investors can find no safe assets. Political factionalism grows more intense. Everything falls apart.
This was all as true of revolutionary France in 1789 and 1790 as it is of the United States today. Are we at the beginning of a revolution that has yet to be named? Do we want to be? That we are on the verge of a major transformation seems obvious. The onset of the next Depression, a challenge akin to World War II, a national midlife crisis—these comparisons have been offered and many more. But few are calling our current moment a revolution, and some have suggested that the coronavirus pandemic—coinciding as it has with the surge in Joe Biden’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and the decline of Bernie Sanders’s—marks the end of any such possibility. “The Coronavirus Killed the Revolution,” declared the headline of a recent essay in The Atlantic by Shadi Hamid, who argued that the COVID-19 crisis makes people crave “normalcy” over deep structural change. As a historian of 18th- and 19th-century France, I think claims like these are mistaken.
How the coronavirus travels through the air has become one of the most divisive debates in this pandemic.
Updated at 7:22 p.m. ET on April 4, 2020.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many people are now overthinking things they never used to think about at all. Can you go outside? What if you’re walking downwind of another person? What if you’re stuck waiting at a crosswalk and someone is there? What if you’re going for a run, and another runner is heading toward you, and the sidewalk is narrow? Suddenly, daily mundanities seem to demand strategy.
Much of this confusion stems from the shifting conversation around the pandemic. Thus far, the official line has been that the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, could be transmitted only through close contact with infected people or contaminated surfaces. But recently, news reports have suggested that the coronavirus can spread through the air. After 60 choir members in Washington State rehearsed together, 45 fell sick, even though no one seemed symptomatic at the time. Now people who were already feeling cooped up are worrying about going outside. Many state guidelines are ambiguous, and medical advice can muddy matters further. When the writer Deborah Copaken came down with COVID-19 symptoms, her doctor chided her for riding her bike through New York City a week earlier. Going outside in the city wasn’t safe, the physician implied, with “viral load everywhere.”
Local officials and health-care workers are losing faith in the national response, and struggling to improvise their own solutions.
The federal government’s stockpile of medical supplies, gloves, and masks is nearly exhausted, President Donald Trump admitted at a White House briefing on Wednesday. Meanwhile, individual states are scrambling, bidding against one another for the equipment they need.
“The coronavirus pandemic is a damning indictment of this country’s health-care system,” Joseph Kantor, the assistant state health officer for the Louisiana Department of Health, told me. “The richest country in the world is scrounging around for ventilators” and personal protective equipment.
Kantor is one of a dozen health professionals across the country with whom I spoke this week. Taken together, those conversations reveal a federal government that has failed to protect, supply, and prepare the country and its cities. These health-care workers are looking with horror at the chaos in New York City, as evidence of what can happen to a vibrant city in the absence of national strategy and preparedness. As they struggle to avoid a similar crisis, they’re losing faith in the federal government, and resorting to their own improvised solutions.
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.
Updated at 4:40 ET on March 30, 2020.
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 UC 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. (It may also turn out to be the case that people who are immune to the disease can still pass it on under certain circumstances.)*
Donald Trump’s narcissism makes it impossible for him to carry out the duties of the presidency in the way the Constitution requires.
On a third-down play last season, the Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith stood in shotgun formation, five yards behind the line of scrimmage. As he called his signals, a Houston Texans cornerback, Kareem Jackson, suddenly sprinted forward from a position four yards behind the defensive line.
Enough already. When people try to be cheerful about social distancing and working from home, noting that William Shakespeare and Isaac Newton did some of theirbest work while England was ravaged by the plague, there is an obvious response: Neither of them had child-care responsibilities.
Shakespeare spent most of his career in London, where the theaters were, while his family lived in Stratford-upon-Avon. During the plague of 1606, the playwright was lucky to be spared from the epidemic—his landlady died at the height of the outbreak—and his wife and two adult daughters stayed safely in the Warwickshire countryside. Newton, meanwhile, never married or had children. He saw out the Great Plague of 1665–6 on his family’s estate in the east of England, and spent most of his adult life as a fellow at Cambridge University, where his meals and housekeeping were provided by the college.
The greatest error that geopolitical analysts can make may be believing that the crisis will be over in three to four months.
At this stage in the COVID-19 pandemic, uncertainty prevails. The greatest error that geopolitical analysts can make may be believing that the crisis will be over in three to four months, as the world’s leaders have been implying. As documented in The Atlantic and elsewhere, public-health experts make a compelling case that COVID-19 could be with us in one way or another until a vaccine comes on the market or herd immunity is achieved—either of which could take 12 to 18 months, unless we get lucky with a cure or an effective treatment before then. A long crisis, which is more likely than not, could stretch the international order to its breaking point. Even after a vaccine is available, life will not go back to normal. COVID-19 was not a black swan and will not be the last pandemic. A nervous world will be permanently changed.