—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?
A new viral outbreak is testing whether the world has learned anything from COVID.
Yesterday afternoon, I called the UCLA epidemiologist Anne Rimoin to ask about the European outbreak of monkeypox—a rare but potentially severe viral illness with dozens of confirmed or suspected cases in the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal. “If we see those clusters, given the amount of travel between the United States and Europe, I wouldn’t be surprised to see cases here,” Rimoin, who studies the disease, told me. Ten minutes later, she stopped mid-sentence to say that a colleague had just texted her a press release: “Massachusetts Public Health Officials Confirm Case of Monkeypox.”
The virus behind monkeypox is a close relative of the one that caused smallpox but is less deadly and less transmissible, causing symptoms that include fever and a rash. Endemic to western and central Africa, it was first discovered in laboratory monkeys in 1958—hence the name—but the wild animals that harbor the virus are probably rodents. The virus occasionally spills over into humans, and such infections have become more common in recent decades. Rarely, monkeypox makes it to other continents, and when it does, outbreaks “are so small, they’re measured in single digits,” Thomas Inglesby, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told me. The only significant American outbreak occurred in 2003, when a shipment of Ghanaian rodents spread the virus to prairie dogs in Illinois, which were sold as pets and infected up to 47 people, none fatally. Just last year, two travelers independently carried the virus to the U.S. from Nigeria but infected no one else.
If you’ve tried to buy a home in the past two years, you have my most profound sympathies. Your experience has probably gone something like this: You found your dream home online; sent photos around to your family; visited the premises (or decided to buy, sight unseen); got your financial statements in order; smartly offered 10 percent over asking; and learned, several hours later, that no fewer than 831 other people had bid for the same house, which sold to a couple who paid 50 percent over asking, all cash, and cinched the deal with a contract amendment promising to name their firstborn child after the seller.
Yes, the American real-estate market really has been historically hellish, or historically hot, depending on whether you were trying to buy a home or sell one. Within the past year, just about every housing statistic you could imagine set some kind of berserk record. Home prices hit a record high, the share of homes that sold above asking hit a record high, and the number of available homes for sale hit a record low.
The conservative majority is likely to overturn major precedents this term—not just Roe.
Following the Supreme Court’s leak of a draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade, many Court-watchers and pundits have pointed to same-sex marriage and access to contraceptives as rights now potentially at risk. And while in the long run the logic set forth in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization could undermine those precedents, the Court may eviscerate other major areas of law far sooner—in fact, with cases on its docket this current term. Notably, the Court may soon declare the use of race in college admissions—affirmative action—illegal, and it may also massively constrain the power of the federal government to protect the environment.
The questions at hand in each case—Dobbs, Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, and West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency—differ. But they all raise issues that have been the targets of conservative legal scholars for decades, and they will now be decided by a right-wing Court with seemingly little commitment to its own precedents.
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A shadow box above Rebecca’s dining-room table, hanging there since 2006, displays an autographed copy of the Pirates of the Caribbean script—signed by Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, and Johnny Depp. Though Rebecca, at age 36, is emphatically no longer a Depp fan, she says she keeps the script on her wall as a conversation starter. If someone asks about it, maybe she’ll go into the full story, rather than pretending she never liked Depp. “Also it’s not like it’s his smug little face,” she told me.
That face is everywhere right now, on account of Depp’s ongoing and highly public lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard. The case is complicated, and the testimony is rife with sordid, disturbing details. In short, Depp has taken Heard to court for defamation over a 2018 essay she published in The Washington Post that identified her as a victim of domestic abuse and sexual violence. Heard also made abuse allegations when she filed for divorce from Depp in early 2016, and was granted a restraining order against him.
The film offers the same clinical gaze to both the mundane and graphic sides of the adult-entertainment business.
The protagonist of Pleasure is a plucky young performer who has moved to Los Angeles with a dream of superstardom. Bella Cherry (played by Sofia Kappel) has a Hollywood story that gets told off- and on-screen all the time: An ambitious starlet does anything she can to break into movies, grasps at celebrity while encountering corruption, and tries to maintain her integrity in a craven business. But despite following that well-worn formula, Pleasure distinguishes itself by looking into an underdiscussed cinematic niche: the porn industry.
The director Ninja Thyberg’s new film is graphic yet deeply unerotic. It’s loaded with sex and nudity, but both are largely presented in a clinical, businesslike way. The opening sequence sees Bella going through the procedures of her first porn shoot, signing paperwork and talking through sexual logistics with the detached tone of someone about to assemble IKEA furniture. These slice-of-life details, while sporadic, make Pleasure compelling, offering a distinct perspective on a creative process that can be mundane but seems always at risk of spinning out of control.
There will be no return to normalcy or status quo ante.
Staff officers often seethe quietly at an absence of precise political objectives for a war. After all, they frequently think, the really hard part is the marshaling and direction of air, land, and sea forces against a reacting enemy. Surely politicians could make that task easier by providing clear and constant purposes. Alas, the officers are invariably disappointed, and the war in Ukraine shows why.
One might think Ukrainian objectives should be clear. Not so. They include independence, a free form of government, and the restoration of sovereignty within Ukrainian territory. But Kyiv will have to decide what the last goal means—accepting the loss of further terrain in the east and south, pushing for the restoration of the pre–February 24 line of contact, recovering portions of Donbas lost in the 2010s, or recovering everything, including Crimea, that was part of Ukraine in 2013.
Facing the painful parts of life head-on is the only way to feel at home with yourself.
“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness. Click here to listen to his podcast series on all things happiness, How to Build a Happy Life.
Some years ago, a friend told me that his marriage was suffering because he was on the road so much for work. I started counseling him on how to fix things—to move more meetings online, to make do with less money. But no matter what I suggested, he always had a counterargument for why it was impossible. Finally, it dawned on me: His issue wasn’t a logistics or work-management problem. It was a home problem. As he ultimately acknowledged, he didn’t like being there, but he was unwilling to confront the real source of his troubles.
“What do you think of this company Netscape?” my parents asked. It was 1995, and they had called me on the landline, which back then just meant the telephone. Netscape was a company that made a graphical web browser—the web browser, really—but gave it away for free. Its income statement showed only modest revenue (and substantial losses). The web was new and exciting but unproven, so I steered my folks away from Netscape’s IPO.
Hahaha. Netscape stock doubled its $28 offering price the day it went public, making its founders half billionaires and ushering in the dot-com era. By the end of the year, the stock hit $174, and when AOL acquired the company in 1999, just before the dot-com crash, the deal was worth $10 billion.
Sixty years ago, Helen Gurley Brown’s best-selling book promised women sexual freedom. Today, it reads like an omen.
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In 1991, as the SupremeCourt hearings of Clarence Thomas were turning sexual-harassment allegations into television, Helen Gurley Brown, the editor and muse of Cosmopolitan magazine, was asked whether any of her staffers had been harassed. “I certainly hope so!” she replied.
The sentiment would not have come as a surprise to readers of the book that had, roughly three decades earlier, shot Brown to fame and infamy. Sex and the Single Girl, first published in 1962, is part memoir and part advice manual, offering tips about careers, fashion, beauty, diet, hobbies, self-care, travel, home decorating, and, yes, dating. The book—like its author, both ahead of its time and deeply of it—often reads as resolutely backward. But it is best remembered, today, for one of the arguments it put forward: Sex, as Brown summed it up in her introduction to the book’s 2003 reissue, “is enjoyed by single women who participate not to please a man as may have been the case in olden times but to please themselves.”
The two countries conceptually seem destined to be partners, yet for decades have held remarkably divergent worldviews.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has resurrected Cold War hostilities, harkening back to a world in which the United States saw itself pitted in a Manichaean struggle, facing a choice between good and evil. The U.S. is using similar rhetoric today to persuade countries to isolate and punish Moscow. President Joe Biden has garnered support among his NATO allies to impose crippling sanctions on Russia, but his efforts elsewhere have been only partially successful. Australia and Japan—which, along with the U.S., make up three-quarters of the Quad, a relatively new Asian-security grouping—have signed on, but India, the fourth member of the bloc, has declined to join the chorus of condemnation.
Several high-level Western envoys have been dispatched to New Delhi to persuade Indian authorities to join the global coalition against Russia, while Moscow has courted the country in the hopes that it will hold firm. Biden stepped up the pressure during virtual talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month, and has publicly called India’s response “shaky,” making clear that he is frustrated by India’s intransigence.