—The negotiated evacuation of citizens in Aleppo’s rebel-held eastern district has been halted, trapping between 50,000 and 100,000 people. More here
—The FBI and the director of national intelligence now agree with the CIA’s assessment that the Russian government intervened in the presidential election to help President-elect Donald Trump win. More here
—A Chinese Navy warship seized an unmanned, underwater glider drone from an American vessel in the South China Sea. More here
—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
Princeton's Men's Swimming and Diving Team Is the Latest to Be Suspended for Sexist Messages
Princeton University joined the growing list of academic institutions that have suspended sports teams for exchanging offensive remarks online. The New Jersey school on Thursday announced its decision to suspend the men’s swimming and diving team’s season after discovering content on the team’s mailing list that the university described as “vulgar and offensive, as well as misogynistic and racist in nature.” John Cramer, a Princeton spokesman, told the university’s student newspaper, The DailyPrincetonian, that the specific contents of the emails were being withheld to ensure the privacy of “members of the women’s swimming and diving team,” though he did not confirm whether the women’s team members were the subject of the emails.
Other university sports teams have faced similar allegations resulting in suspensions. Massachusetts’ Amherst College announced Sunday the suspension of its men’s cross-country team after several of the team’s emails published by Amherst’s student magazine, The Indicator, revealed its members used lewd comments about eight of their female peers—including language referring to some of the women as a “meatslab” or a “walking STD”— that the university described as “racist, misogynist, and homophobic.” Harvard University canceled its men’s soccer team’s season last month after it was revealed that the team produced a “scouting report” of the women’s soccer team’s recruits, assigning each one a numerical rating and a hypothetical sexual position. Columbia University also announced last month its decision to suspend members of its wrestling team after eight of its members were revealed to have sent racist and sexually explicit messages in a group text.
Report: FBI Backs CIA Assessment That Russia Intervened to Help Trump
Multiple news outlets are reporting that the FBI and director of national intelligence now agree with the CIA’s assessment that the Russian government intervened in the presidential election to help President-elect Donald Trump win. TheWashington Post reported Friday that CIA Director John Brennan recently told the agency’s employees that there is a “strong consensus” among himself, FBI Director James Comey, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election.” According to NBC News, the FBI now believes Russian support for Trump was “one part” of a broader effort to undermine American democratic institutions. News outlets first reported last week that the CIA, which had already deemed Russia the culprit in the hacking, had revised its assessment to conclude the Russian government hoped to clandestinely aid Trump by undermining his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. President Obama has ordered all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies to prepare a report on foreign interference in recent presidential elections by January 20, the day Trump takes office.
It was an emotional few days for people in New York City who hoped to save a deer that wandered into Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem. For two weeks the “Harlem Deer” or “Lefty,” as the white-tailed, one-horned buck came to be known, had attracted crowds of excited locals. Meanwhile, city and state officials bickered over its fate. The city, citing state law, said the deer should be euthanized, because its chances of survival were low. Governor Andrew Cuomo, however, wanted to see the deer alive. The battle drew out to the final moment, with the deer’s execution scheduled for Friday. Friday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on The Brian Lehrer Show on WYNYC radio, “If a deer is already in a natural location and you can leave them there, then they have a chance of survival, but if not, you don’t really have another option. It’s a question of is it going to be a quick and merciful death versus potentially a very long painful process.” Still, Cuomo, who has a reputation for inserting himself in city matters, was obstinate. Just before noon, the state Department of Environmental Conservation drove to the East Harlem shelter where the deer was kept and drove it, away heading somewhere beyond the city where it could live safely. Alas, on the way to freedom, the deer died. City officials blamed the stress of captivity.
U.S. Official: Chinese Navy Seized American Drone in South China Sea
A Chinese Navy warship seized an unmanned, underwater glider drone from an American vessel in the South China Sea, the Department of Defense said Friday in a statement. The Pentagon says the incident took place Thursday in international waters off the coast of the Philippines at noon local time, officials said. A Chinese Navy vessel retrieved the U.S. drone from the water. An official said the USS Bowditch, an oceanographic research vessel, had deployed the drone as part of a survey mission to collect data on ocean and weather patterns. When the Bowditch’s crew asked for the drone back, the Chinese vessel reportedly ignored the request and left. The act prompted the State Department to file a demarche, or formal diplomatic request, asking that the drone be returned. This isn’t the first time the U.S. and China have clashed on the South China Sea. Beijing and Manila have both claimed portions of the area. The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled unanimously in favor of the Philippines in July when it declared that China has no legal rights to the contested waters, but China has rejected the ruling, and the international tribunal cannot enforce it. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to take a more hardline approach to China—and tensions have been heightened since Trump’s recent phone call with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, marking a departure from U.S. protocol, which treats Taiwan as an ally but does not recognize its independence.
Did Rodrigo Duterte Personally Kill 3 People or Not?
Did Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte shoot and kill three men while he served as mayor of Davao? As of Friday, it would seem so. Since his election this summer, the bellicose president has brought a bloody war on drugs and crime to his country, with the most recent estimates putting the death toll at about 6,000. His idea to purge the Philippines of drug users and pushers was implemented and tested first when Duterte served as mayor of Davao, a once-troubled city on the country’s south, which has since become a financial center. A rumor—perpetuated in part by Duterte himself—has said he oversaw a death squad in Davao, and that he even killed three men personally. On Wednesday, Duterte admitted for the first time to a group of businessmen that he rode the streets of Davao on a motorcycle, “looking for a confrontation so I could kill." But on Thursday Duterte's spokesman chalked that up to the president being flip. Then on Friday, in an interview with BBC, Duterte put it bluntly: "I killed about three of them ... I don't know how many bullets from my gun went inside their bodies. It happened and I cannot lie about it." It’s not clear what repercussion this admission will have for Duterte—if any. He has publicly said he hopes to kill hundreds of thousands of people, and his approval rating as of October was 86 percent.
Cuba Offers to Repay Its Debts to the Czech Republic With Rum
Cuba owes the Czech Republic millions of dollars in Cold War-era debt—an obligation the country has offered to repay with its famous rum. The unusual proposal, which was announced Thursday by the Czech Republic’s finance ministry, would allow Cuba to repay its $276 million debt with its trademark liquor—enough to last the Czechs more than a century, based on their current intake of $2 million of Cuban rum per annum. The Czechs have been amenable to similar requests in the past. In 2010, the central European country considered allowing North Korea to repay a portion of its $10 million debt, which it also dates to the Cold War era, with ginseng. Though the Czech finance ministry said it would prefer that at least part of Cuba’s debt still be paid with cash, it is still weighing the offer, according to the Associated Press. We’ll drink to that. Na zdravi!
The negotiated evacuation of citizens in Aleppo’s rebel-held eastern district has been halted, trapping between 50,000 and 100,000 people. The cause of the stoppage was not immediately clear, and all sides blamed one other. The evacuation was brokered by Turkey and Russia to allow civilians to flee as Syrian government forces retake the city from rebels, and it was carried out by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the Red Cross. Evacuations began Thursday, and about 8,000 people escaped to rebel-held towns further east. But the column of buses, cars, and ambulances shuttling civilians out ground to a halt Friday morning. A World Health Organization official said Russia, which backs the Syrian government, ordered the evacuation stopped. The Syrian government accused rebels of trying to smuggle out weapons, and the rebels blamed the Syrian government for firing on evacuation buses. The Guardianreported the breakdown came after an al-Qaeda-affiliated group refused to allow the evacuation of wounded Syrian government supporters. In the past week Syrian government troops have swept through the city, which rebels have held since 2012, about a year after the civil war began. The Assad regime, with aid from Russia, has bombed the eastern district into rubble, and the status of the remaining civilian holdouts has become a humanitarian crisis. It is not yet clear when or if the evacuations will resume.
Obama Promises to Take Action Against Russia's Election Meddling
In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep that aired Friday, President Obama said the U.S. must retaliate for Russia’s cyberattacks during the presidential election. Obama did not say what form this retaliation would take, partly because he’s waiting for a final report on the matter, but he promised to take action “at a time and place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be." U.S. intelligence officials have concluded hackers working on behalf of Russia broke into the Democratic National Committee's computer network, and the email of John Podesta, a top adviser for Hillary Clinton. The question remains what Russia’s motivation was. Last week, The Washington Post published a secret CIA assessment claiming Russia aimed to help Donald Trump win. Reports this week have directly implicated Russian President Vladimir Putin in the hacks. Trump continues to dispute the intelligence assessments, and Thursday he tweeted:
If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?
Aides on Capitol Hill fear that a dramatic government failure may be the only thing to force President Trump and the Democrats back to the table.
As the longest government shutdown in American history lurches toward its fifth week, a grim but growing consensus has begun to emerge on Capitol Hill: There may be no way out of this mess until something disastrous happens.
This is, of course, not a sentiment lawmakers are eager to share on the record. But in interviews this week with congressional staffers on both sides of the aisle (whom I granted anonymity in exchange for candor), I heard the same morbid idea expressed again and again.
The basic theory—explained to me between weary sighs and defeated shrugs—goes like this: Washington is at an impasse that looks increasingly unbreakable. President Donald Trump is dug in; so is Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Democrats have public opinion on their side, but the president is focused on his conservative base. For a deal to shake loose in this environment, it may require a failure of government so dramatic, so shocking, as to galvanize public outrage and force the two parties back to the negotiating table.
Starting the process will rein in a president who is undermining American ideals—and bring the debate about his fitness for office into Congress, where it belongs.
On January 20, 2017,Donald Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol, raised his right hand, and solemnly swore to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has not kept that promise.
Instead, he has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed America’s divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us—of every race, gender, and creed—are created equal.
Insights into the little-studied realm of last words
Mort Felix liked to say that his name, when read as two Latin words, meant “happy death.” When he was sick with the flu, he used to jokingly remind his wife, Susan, that he wanted Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” played at his deathbed. But when his life’s end arrived at the age of 77, he lay in his study in his Berkeley, California, home, his body besieged by cancer and his consciousness cradled in morphine, uninterested in music and refusing food as he dwindled away over three weeks in 2012. “Enough,” he told Susan. “Thank you, and I love you, and enough.” When she came downstairs the next morning, she found Felix dead.
During those three weeks, Felix had talked. He was a clinical psychologist who had also spent a lifetime writing poetry, and though his end-of-life speech often didn’t make sense, it seemed to draw from his attention to language. “There’s so much so in sorrow,” he said at one point. “Let me down from here,” he said at another. “I’ve lost my modality.” To the surprise of his family members, the lifelong atheist also began hallucinating angels and complaining about the crowded room—even though no one was there.
A BuzzFeed report says President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, prompting the talk of impeachment even before the special counsel finishes his probe.
Late Thursday night, BuzzFeed News published a report that, if true, could prove historic: President Donald Trump allegedly directed his then–personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about a real-estate deal he was pursuing in Moscow during the 2016 election. Trump immediately denied the story, but for many Democrats, including those who had previously cautioned against impeaching the president before Special Counsel Robert Mueller produces his findings in the Russia investigation, the report was cause to consider proceeding with impeachment before the Russia probe is finished.
“If the @BuzzFeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached,” Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy weighed in, too. “If Mueller does have multiple sources confirming Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress, then we need to know this ASAP,” he wrote. “Mueller shouldn’t end his inquiry, but it’s about time for him to show Congress his cards before it’s too late for us to act.” Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley followed up on Friday morning: “If this report of Trump suborning false testimony is confirmed, then Trump committed a felony and must resign or be impeached,” he wrote. “This is obstruction of justice,” Democratic Representative David Cicilline, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, told CNN. “If the facts are true, this is suborning perjury. It’s an impeachable offense.” Representative Jamie Raskin, a member of House leadership, told CNN, “This is a completely impeachable offense, if this report is true.” He said Congress would need to hear from “everybody who was involved” in the alleged conspiracy before moving forward with impeachment.
Everyone’s winging it, but that’s not a bad thing.
Harvey Karp makes soothing babies look like a cinch. In the video that accompanies his best-selling book The Happiest Baby on the Block, he holds one screaming infant after another, deftly rolls them on their side, and bam!—the crying stops. “Side position” is just one of the techniques to calm a baby in Karp’s repertoire. He also uses swaddling, shushing, swinging, and sucking. Bleary-eyed parents ooh and aah over how Karp can instantly activate a baby’s calming reflex, or “automatic shut-off switch,” using his trademark “five S’s.”
I discovered the sixth S shortly after having my daughter nine years ago. A childbirth injury had left me bedridden with chronic pelvic pain, and for two months I lived on an air mattress in my living room because I couldn’t make it upstairs to my bedroom. I couldn’t sit in a comfortable position to nurse; I couldn’t stand to change my baby’s diaper or squat to bathe her; I couldn’t bounce her to calm her down. My husband stepped up, handling most things baby-related while I healed.
An explosive report that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress provides a straightforwardly impeachable offense.
It’s not just the collusion. It’s the conspiracy.
On Thursday evening, BuzzFeed Newsdropped a bombshell, reporting that President Donald Trump told Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, to lie to Congress about the Trump Organization’s pursuit of a real-estate project in Moscow during the 2016 election, a period in which the Russian government was seeking to aid Trump’s presidential campaign.
“Assuming all the evidence adds up to the conclusion that the president asked Cohen to lie about the Russia deal, it’s evidence of conspiracy, of obstruction of justice, of suborning perjury,” said John Q. Barrett, a law professor at St. John’s and a former associate counsel in the Iran-Contra investigation. “It’s impeachment material.”
Dr. Sherman Hershfield woke up one morning and was surprised to find himself behind the wheel of his car. Somewhere between his Beverly Hills apartment and his practice in the San Fernando Valley, the silver-haired physician had blacked out. Somehow he’d avoided a crash, but this wasn’t the first time. “I didn’t know what was going on,” he admitted.
Apart from his frequent blackouts, Hershfield was in fine health for a man in his 50s. He was tall and lean, ran six miles a day, and was a strict vegetarian. “I believe a physician should provide exemplary motivation to patients,” he once wrote. “I don’t smoke and have cut out all alcohol.” Hershfield specialized in physical medicine and rehabilitation, and for decades had helped patients with brain injuries learn to walk again and rebuild their lives. Even with his experience, Hershfield didn’t know what was wrong inside his own head.
Corn lurks in so many surprising places, from table salt to apples to IV bags.
When Christine Robinson was first diagnosed with a corn allergy 17 years ago, she remembers thinking, “No more popcorn, no more tacos. I can do this.”
Then she tried to put salt on her tomatoes. (Table salt has dextrose, a sugar derived from corn.) She tried drinking bottled iced tea. (It contains citric acid, which often comes from mold grown in corn-derived sugar.) She tried bottled water. (Added minerals in some brands can be processed with a corn derivative.) She ultimately gave up on supermarket meat (sprayed with lactic acid from fermented corn sugars), bagged salads (citric acid, again), fish (dipped in cornstarch or syrup before freezing), grains (cross-contaminated in processing facilities), fruits like apples and citrus (waxed with corn-derived chemicals), tomatoes (ripened with ethylene gas from corn), milk (added vitamins processed with corn derivatives). And that’s not even getting to all the processed foods made with high-fructose corn syrup, modified food starch, xanthan gum, artificial flavorings, corn alcohol, maltodextrin—all of which are or contain derivatives of corn.
Seldom can one find so succinct a demonstration of the president’s anti-Muslim sentiments, reliance on right-wing media, and lack of interest in accuracy or truth.
Imagine you were charged with choosing an artifact to put in a time capsule so that future Americans could understand the current government shutdown. This is an unrealistic scenario, of course. No single item can explain the current moment, and moreover, there’s no reason to believe that the shutdown is actually going to end.
But playing along with the game, your best bet would be this Donald Trump tweet from Friday morning:
Border rancher: “We’ve found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal.” Washington Examiner People coming across the Southern Border from many countries, some of which would be a big surprise.
It offers a succinct window into the president’s mind and his approach to the shutdown: an obsession with border security. A dubious anonymous source. Assertions that are unproven at best and likely bogus. A reliance on right-wing media. Anti-Muslim sentiments. Xenophobia. It is the total package; it’s just that the package is a booby trap.
The president turns again to flimsy rumor to build support for his policies.
The president is tweeting again.
Three weeks into a government shutdown triggered when the president reneged on a deal to fund the government, insisting instead that any deal had to include money for a wall on the southern border, Donald Trump tweeted about a story from the Washington Examiner that cited an anonymous rancher who claimed that Muslim “prayer rugs” were found at the U.S. border. Although the president likely imagines that this strengthens the case for his border wall, it’s really just an example of how the president will say anything he thinks backs him up, regardless of whether it’s true.
“There’s a lot of people coming in not just from Mexico … People, the general public, just don’t get the terrorist threats of that,” the story quotes the rancher as saying. “That’s what’s really scary. You don’t know what’s coming across. We’ve found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal. It’s not just Mexican nationals that are coming across.”