—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?
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s tell-all book about the first lady is as sordid as it is fascinating.
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff is one of those patriotic Americans who went to work in the Trump White House, only to come soaring back over the gates, rejected by the host organism. Like many before her, she decided to write a book about her experiences, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship With the First Lady, and she proffers it to us as an act of public service, although possibly also as a comprehensive case for the defense if this whole acid trip ends up at The Hague. She is another member of Plastic Camelot, the ever-changing group of personal friends, celebrities, and weirdos whom the Trumps bring close to them and then, in the manner of bored kings, dispatch to the tombs. Maybe they’re no more disturbing a collection of advisers and jesters than the men and women on whom other presidents have depended. Who’s to say that Omarosa is so much worse than Henry Kissinger? She certainly has a better record on human rights.
More than 80 percent of Republicans think the president is doing a great job with the pandemic. Here’s why.
Kurtis, a young accountant in McKinney, Texas, likes the thing that many people hate about Donald Trump: that the president has left the pandemic response almost entirely up to local officials.
“He left it up to each state to make their own decision on how they wanted to proceed,” Kurtis told me recently. Most experts think the absence of a national strategy for tackling the coronavirus has been a disaster. But Kurtis argues that North Dakota, for example, shouldn’t have to follow the same rules as New York City. Kurtis voted for Trump in 2016, and he plans to do so again this year.
Some 82 percent of Republicans approve of Trump’s coronavirus response—a higher percentage than before the president was diagnosed with the virus. This is despite the fact that more than 220,000 Americans have died, and virtually every public-health expert, including those who have worked for Republican administrations, says the president has performed abysmally.
The GOP is in danger of losing an entire system of political control.
I doubted that Mitch McConnell could do it, but he did. With only a week remaining before Election Day, McConnell crammed through the confirmation of a sixth conservative justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. The people who tally such things reckon that Amy Coney Barrett is the first justice since 1869 to receive not a single vote from the minority party in the Senate.
It was a move of raw power. But it was also motivated by raw desperation.
Polls suggest Republicans are facing defeat in the 2020 races, and probably by big margins. Joe Biden and Donald Trump are neck and neck in Georgia and Texas, nobody’s previous idea of swing states. Republican senators are at risk not only in Maine and Colorado, but also in Iowa and even Kansas.
When The Office originally aired, its resident fool made for easy comedy. Fifteen years later, it’s hard to watch Dwight without seeing tragedy.
These are boom times for the lolsob. Watching the news, I sometimes find myself staring at the screen, eyes wide, brain broken, not sure whether to laugh or cry. The farce and tragedy tangle so tightly that it can be hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. How do you make sense, for example, of a leader who, in the midst of a deadly pandemic, muses about the curative powers of bleach? How do you process a president’s attempt to edit a hurricane with a Sharpie? The words, after a while, stop working. The categories collapse. Many true things have been written about what living under this regime feels like; one of the truest I’ve encountered is a 2017 prediction from the writer Hayes Brown: “This is going to be the dumbest dystopia.”
Many Democrats are worried that pollsters are making the same mistakes they did four years ago, but this election is different.
“I want to feel hopeful about Joe Biden’s chances this year, but I just can’t,” my neighbor confessed to me, as we stood in line outside a coffee shop. What had begun as pleasant conversation—dogs, the temperature, clouds—had been pulled, through the vortex known as Late October in an Election Year, into an airing of political anxieties. “I’m still so afraid that 2016 is going to happen again and Trump is going to win,” she said.
Based on the sample size of my life, every Democrat feels this way. Yes, they’ll preface, the polls look all right for Biden. But four years ago, they looked good for Hillary Clinton too. And so, they fear, the horror film of 2016 is about to get its sequel.
There is a small chance that their fears will come true. But for the past few weeks, I’ve been stockpiling all of the quantitative reasons why the 2020 election is really, truly different from 2016, from new polling methodologies to fewer undecided voters. As always, do not allow any level of optimism (or pessimism) to guide your decision to vote. Just vote.
Yesterday afternoon, the “senior administration official” who wrote a prominent anti-Trump New York Times op-ed and book named himself, ripping off his mask to reveal … a face so forgettable, so forgotten, that it was unclear whether the mask had been ripped off at all, or whether he was like the Robert Stack character in Airplane!, dramatically removing his sunglasses to reveal an identical pair of sunglasses underneath. Anonymous is Miles Taylor, a Republican operative who started as chief of staff of the Department of Homeland Security in February 2019, five months after publishing his op-ed. He left that position in June 2019 and is now campaigning for Joe Biden. At the time of the op-ed’s publication, Taylor was the DHS deputy chief of staff, and his name did not appear on the DHS leadership page at all. Most people thought the author was more famous, not an unknown appointee but a real grand fromage, perhaps at the level of a Cabinet secretary.
Abraham Enriquez speaks with the clarity of a levelheaded TV anchor. The 25-year-old Latino from Lubbock, Texas, was the first in his family to be born in the United States, after his grandparents immigrated from Mexico in the 1980s and brought his then-2-year-old mother with them. He visits his family across the border at least once a year for service trips with his grandparents’ church. When we talked recently about the state of American politics, I recognized the air of authority I had heard in clips of his eponymous web show and his public speeches rallying Latinos in Texas to vote—for Donald Trump.
Enriquez is one of millions of Latinos who will (or already have) cast a ballot for Trump this year. Nearly a third of Latinos routinely vote for Republicans in American elections, and the Trump campaign’s appeals to them show an understanding of their unique worldview, one rooted in deeply held beliefs about individualism, economic opportunity, and traditional social values. Across nationality, class, immigrant experience, and age, Trump-voting Latinos have one thing in common: a different vision from other Latinos of what it means to be American—and they believe their liberal counterparts and the broader public just don’t understand that.
Why the grandiose promises of multilevel marketing and QAnon conspiracy theories go hand in hand
Jordan Schrandt—blond, beautiful, mother of eight, founder of The Farmhouse Movement magazine, which teaches readers how to achieve “a lifestyle of authenticity, simplicity, and kindness”—is a Royal Crown Diamond.
Less than 1 percent of the independent distributors who sell essential oils and related products through the Utah-based multilevel-marketing company Young Living reach that top ranking. Those who have net an average annual income of $1.5 million and resemble celebrities within the organization, counting tens of thousands of followers on social media. Their success sometimes even allows them to charge for access to advice on how to become more like them—a private Facebook group for business coaching from Schrandt costs $10 a month, and the cheapest single ticket for a recent “Diamond Bound” conference she hosted in Dallas was $309.
If the vote is close, Donald Trump could easily throw the election into chaos and subvert the result. Who will stop him?
Illustrations by Guillem Casasús / Renderings by Borja Alegre
There is a cohort of close observers of our presidential elections, scholars and lawyers and political strategists, who find themselves in the uneasy position of intelligence analysts in the months before 9/11. As November 3 approaches, their screens are blinking red, alight with warnings that the political system does not know how to absorb. They see the obvious signs that we all see, but they also know subtle things that most of us do not. Something dangerous has hove into view, and the nation is lurching into its path.
The danger is not merely that the 2020 election will bring discord. Those who fear something worse take turbulence and controversy for granted. The coronavirus pandemic, a reckless incumbent, a deluge of mail-in ballots, a vandalized Postal Service, a resurgent effort to suppress votes, and a trainload of lawsuits are bearing down on the nation’s creaky electoral machinery.
Jared Bernstein says progressives are getting the Democratic nominee all wrong.
Not long after the 2008 election, Jared Bernstein caught a predawn Amtrak train to Wilmington, Delaware, and then schlepped several miles to Joe Biden’s house for a job interview. As Biden walked him into the kitchen, Bernstein spotted a brand-new espresso machine, the kind you might hear squealing away at an overpriced coffee shop. “Want a cup?” Biden asked Bernstein. He reached into a cabinet just above the espresso machine and took out a jar of instant coffee.
“To this day, I think he was testing me,” Bernstein told me. “If I had said, I’m not going to drink that, I probably wouldn’t have got the job.”
Biden’s pointedly lowbrow tastes are part of the case that Bernstein, a labor economist, has been making on behalf of the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. You might think that Biden is some flavorless, middle-of-the-road Democrat, but Bernstein insists that the former vice president is really a populist rabble-rouser with a proven left-wing streak—just like him. “Sometimes people say, Biden’s a moderate,” he said. “But I don’t know any moderates who have been that closely linked to the labor movement for their whole political career.”