Senate Confirms Nikki Haley as Next U.N. Ambassador
The Senate overwhelmingly voted for Nikki Haley to be the next ambassador to the United Nations. Haley, who has served as the Republican governor of South Carolina since 2010, was approved with a 96-4 vote. As my colleague Russell Berman writes:
Despite her lack of foreign policy experience, Haley faced little opposition from Democrats, who were impressed with her performance in private meetings and at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
She is the fourth Trump nominee to get Senate approval.
Yahya Jammeh, the ousted president of Gambia, has found a new home in Equatorial Guinea. Jammeh fled Gambia last week after finally conceding defeat in December’s presidential race. For months, he said he would remain in power, only deciding to leave after West African troops, led by Senegal, invaded and threatened to remove him from power. Adama Barrow, who defeated Jammeh, was sworn in last week. He has not returned from Senegal, where he sought refuge during the political crisis. If Jammeh had remained, he would likely face charges related to human rights abuses over the two decades he was in power. According to Brian Klaas, a fellow at the London School of Economics, since the end of the Cold War, 23 percent of ousted sub-Saharan African rulers have been forced into exile. Jammeh joins that list. Equatorial Guinea is a Central African nation located around 2,000 miles southeast of Gambia. The oil-rich nation is ranked amongst the worst human rights abusers in the world.
LAPD Officers Won't Face Charges in Ezell Ford Shooting, DA Says
Los Angeles County prosecutors said Tuesday the Los Angeles Police Department officers who shot and killed Ezell Ford in August 2014 will not face criminal charges, the Los Angeles Times reports. The prosecutors concluded that Ford posed “an immediate threat” to LAPD officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas, causing them to respond with deadly force. On August 11, 2014, the officers stopped and engaged in a physical altercation with Ford, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. LAPD officials said the 25-year-old then grabbed Wampler’s gun, prompting the two officers to open fire. The shooting, which took place two days after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked large local protests. In 2015, the Los Angeles Police Commission ruled that though Villegas’ actions were justified, Wampler’s actions violated LAPD policy, including both his initial contact with Ford and well as his decision to use lethal and nonlethal force. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, in response to Tuesday’s decision, said: “I accept the decision made by the District Attorney, but rededicate my administration to the search for better ways to protect the safety of all Angelenos, and reiterate my support for the Police Commission’s goal of reinforcing de-escalation in the training of our officers.”
Michigan Says Lead in Flint's Water Has Fallen to Safe Levels
Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality says the lead in Flint’s drinking water has fallen to 12 parts per billion from July to December 2016—below the federally safe limit of of 15 ppb. Lead levels were 20 ppb in the first six months of the 2016. The city’s 100,000 residents have struggled without safe drinking water since 2014 because of the manmade crisis. The state acknowledged unsafe levels of lead last October. Residents have relied on bottled water since that time.
Trump Moves to Advance Construction of Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines
President Trump signed executive actions Tuesday to advance the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines. The projects, which are aimed at constructing pipelines from Canadian tar sands to the Texas gulf coast and from oil fields in North Dakota to southern Illinois, respectively, were blocked by the Obama administration. The move is one the Trump administration said it would tackle on Day One, and serves as a blow to environmentalists who opposed the impact both projects could have on the environment and, in the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the damage it could inflict on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s water supply and sacred sites. Here’s more from my colleague Robinson Meyer on what the executive orders say here.
The Israeli government approved Tuesday the construction of 2,500 settlement homes in the West Bank. The move comes two days after the Jerusalem City Council approved 566 housing units in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as their future capital, and two days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone with President Trump. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s defense minister, said the West Bank construction would take place in existing settlement blocs, adding: “There’s nothing new here. We always built, also under [President] Obama.” Indeed, Israeli settlement expansion thrived under the Obama administration, though it was usually met with disapproval. Trump is expected to take a softer position. David Friedman, Trump’s pick for U.S. ambassador to Israel, has argued that Israel’s settlements are legal; Trump called for the Obama administration to veto the U.N. Security Council resolution last month criticizing Israeli settlement activity in the Palestinian territories. The Israeli announcement Tuesday was condemned by the Palestinian leadership, which called the move “a deliberate escalation of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.”
Iraqi Government Announces Recapture of Eastern Mosul From ISIS
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi confirmed Tuesday the recapture of eastern Mosul from the Islamic State. The announcement comes less than a week after Lieutenant General Talib Shaghati, head of the country’s counterterrorism service, said Iraqi forces had reclaimed the eastern portion of the country’s second largest city, which was first seized by ISIS militants in 2014. The city was the last remaining urban center under ISIS control, and the recapture of its eastern portion marks a major blow to the group, which has lost territory in both Iraq and neighboring Syria. ISIS still maintains control over parts of Mosul west of the Tigris River, where the United Nations estimates 750,000 people remain.
'La La Land' Ties Oscar Record With 14 Nominations
La La Land, the musical set in Los Angeles, received 14 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, a record that it now shares with Titanic and All About Eve. Also among the Best Picture nominees announced Tuesday by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences are Arrival , Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures, Lion, Moonlight, Fences, Hell or High Water, and Manchester by the Sea. Three of those films—Hidden Figures, Fences, and Moonlight—feature predominantly black casts in leading roles—a departure from nominations in recent years that prompted the hashtag #OscarSoWhite. My colleague David Sims has more on the nominations here. Full list of nominations here:
Russia, Turkey, Iran Strike a Deal on Syria Ceasefire Mechanism
Russia, Turkey, and Iran have agreed to monitor a ceasefire between the Syrian government and rebels at the second day of talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. The government of President Bashar al-Assad and Syrian rebel groups agreed on December 30 to the truce, which has mostly been holding since then though each side has accused the other of violations. The talks in Astana, which were brokered by Russia and Iran, which back Assad, and Turkey, which backs the rebels, began Monday and were intended as a step to end the more than five-year-long civil war.
U.K. Supreme Court Says Parliament Must Approve Brexit Trigger
The U.K. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Parliament must vote on when the government can invoke Article 50 of the EU charter, the mechanism by which the U.K.’s departure from the European Union is triggered. Prime Minister Theresa May had previously argued lawmakers did not need to approve the trigger. Having said that, Parliament is expected to approve the start of the process before the government’s deadline of March 31. Britons voted last summer to leave the EU. Although there was much consternation at the idea of a departure from the bloc, the margin of victory for the remain side (52 percent to 48 percent, or about 1.4 million votes) makes the prospect of reversing that decision slim to none. Invocation of Article 50 would result in negotiations between the U.K. and the EU on what a future relationship would look like. Last week May argued the U.K. isn’t isn’t seeking “membership of the single market, but the greatest possible access to it.”
The pandemic has exposed a fundamental weakness in the system.
America has too many managers.
In a 2016 Harvard Business Review analysis, two writers calculated the annual cost of excess corporate bureaucracy as about $3 trillion, with an average of one manager per every 4.7 workers. Their story mentioned several case studies—a successful GE plant with 300 technicians and a single supervisor, a Swedish bank with 12,000 workers and three levels of hierarchy—that showed that reducing the number of managers usually led to more productivity and profit. And yet, at the time of the story, 17.6 percent of the U.S. workforce (and 30 percent of the workforce’s compensation) was made up of managers and administrators—an alarming statistic that shows how bloated America’s management ranks had become.
There are no simple rules for timing on a third jab—but maybe don’t rush it.
After a long and tense meeting today, an FDA committee unanimously recommended that the agency authorize third shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for Americans who are over 65 or at high risk of severe COVID. The vote came after the panel voted overwhelmingly against the original question up for its consideration: authorizing boosters for everyone over 16. If the FDA follows the committee’s recommendation (as is expected), a CDC committee will help refine those guidelines next week, clarifying which groups qualify as “high risk.”
Even as we await these final decisions, the nation’s summer wave of COVID infections seems like it’s beginning to pass. Cases and hospitalizations are trending slightly downward. Now that we have more clarity about whether (and which) Americans need booster shots—and given that so many people are already getting boosters, eligibility be damned—more questions loom: When, exactly, should those people get those shots? Is it better to load up on extra antibodies as soon as possible, or should people wait until COVID rates start to rise again?
The dining room of the French ambassador’s residence is one of the most beautiful places in Washington, D.C., a confection of frothed plaster overlooking a garden in the poodle-clipped style the French so love. Before COVID-19, the room was known for the discussion sessions held there, hosted by a gracious series of ambassadors. It’s been a long time since anyone was able to enjoy an in-person event at the residence. So when invitations arrived to celebrate Constitution Day, September 17, at the residence in a lunchtime discussion with a former justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and an equally distinguished French judge, well, the RSVPs returned quickly.
The timing, however, was unfortunate, as it coincided with an angry upset in Franco-American relations. The United States had snatched a $90 billion submarine contract with Australia from French shipyards. To add (security policy) insult to the (lost jobs and revenues) injury, the redirected submarine contract would consolidate a new U.S.-U.K.-Australia naval defense agreement in the Indo-Pacific, an agreement into which France had not been invited.
The United States has allied with Britain and Australia to form a new anti-China grouping.
A new world is beginning to take shape, even if it remains disguised in the clothes of the old.
The United States, Britain, and Australia have announced what is in effect a new “Anglo” military alliance. The basics are these: In 2016, Australia struck a deal with France to buy a fleet of diesel-powered submarines, rejecting an Anglo-American alternative for nuclear-powered vessels. In March this year, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (or, “that fellow down under,” as Joe Biden referred to him), began talking with Washington about reversing its decision. Then, last night, in a live three-way public announcement, Biden, Morrison, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that the Australians would scrap their agreement with France to team up with Britain and the U.S. instead, forming a new “AUKUS” military alliance in the process.
What I learned about transcendence from a very boring 100-mile trek
“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness.
Last month, a survey by the travel industry found that a majority of Americans changed their vacation plans this summer because of the continuing coronavirus pandemic. But not everyone canceled their vacations entirely; travel spending has been almost as high this summer as it was in the summer of 2019. Some would-be adventurers simply found ways to do the exotic things they’d planned to do overseas in less exotic places. One of my friends, for instance, went bungee jumping in North Carolina instead of Costa Rica.
For my vacation, I did the opposite: I went with my family to a fairly exotic place to do a distinctly unexotic thing. I went to Spain and took a very quiet 100-mile walk.
Sure, it may be true. But that doesn’t mean it’s productive.
“Your refusal has cost all of us,” President Joe Biden said to unvaccinated people last week, as he announced a new COVID-vaccine mandate for all workers at private companies with more than 100 employees. The vaccinated, he said, are angry and frustrated with the nearly 80 million people who still haven’t received a vaccine, and their patience “is wearing thin.”
He’s not wrong about that. For people who understand that widespread vaccination is our best strategy for beating the pandemic, the 25 percent of Americans who still haven’t received a single shot are a barrier to freedom. Their exasperation is warranted.
But bullying the unvaccinated into getting their shots isn’t going to work in the long run.
It's surprisingly easy to get unauthorized COVID-19 vaccines for 10- and 11-year-olds who can “pass” for 12.
These days, the distance between ages 11 and 12 is more than a year. It is a chasm between danger and safety. Vaccines promise people 12 and older protection from COVID-19, but aren’t yet approved in the U.S. for younger children, and it isn’t clear exactly when they will be. Frustrated by the wait and desperate to protect their children, some parents are sneaking their 10- and 11-year-old kids across this chasm, and hoping not to get caught.
Meghan’s 10-year-old son has just started in-person school in Los Angeles County, and he’s fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (Meghan asked to be identified by her first name only, because she’s afraid of consequences if her lies are found out.) This summer, the rapidly spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus had Meghan worried for her kids’ safety. Her older children, ages 12 and 15, are also fully vaccinated, but the vaccines are still not approved for children younger than 12. So Meghan lied about her 10-year-old’s age. And this wasn’t her first time.
Some advocates on the left want America to talk about pregnancy and birth in gender-neutral terms. But this language change might not be so easy for the country to embrace.
Last year, a brand-new labor-and-delivery hospital opened on the well-to-do Upper East Side of New York City. Its name, the Alexandra Cohen Hospital for Women and Newborns, might strike most people as innocuous or straightforward. But to some people, the suggestion that a hospital where babies are born is for women is offensive, because transgender and nonbinary people who do not identify as women can also get pregnant and deliver babies.
Only niche groups tend to care about how Americans discuss gender and pregnancy—including whether it’s better to use the term pregnant people instead of pregnant women. But those groups care a lot. Representative Cori Bush of Missouri used the termbirthing people in a hearing, causing a mini-uproar on social media. “When we talk about ‘birthing people,’ we’re being inclusive. It’s that simple,” the pro-abortion-rights group NARAL tweeted in her defense. Others, however, see this kind of language as exclusionary because it erases women and mothers as worthy categories of identity. Ann Romney, the wife of Senator Mitt Romney, tweeted angrily in June, “The Biden administration diminishing motherhood to ‘birthing person’ is simply insulting to all moms.” It was the first time she had tweeted all year.
Anyone who’d rather have COVID-19 than get vaccinated is taking two gambles: that immunity will stick around, and that symptoms won’t.
Immune cells can learn the vagaries of a particular infectious disease in two main ways. The first is bona fide infection, and it’s a lot like being schooled in a war zone, where any lesson in protection might come at a terrible cost. Vaccines, by contrast, safely introduce immune cells to only the harmless mimic of a microbe, the immunological equivalent of training guards to recognize invaders before they ever show their face. The first option might be more instructive and immersive—it is, after all, the real thing. But the second has a major advantage: It provides crucial intel in the absence of risk.
Some pathogens aren’t memorable to the body, no matter the form in which they’re introduced. But with SARS-CoV-2, we’ve been lucky: Both inoculationand infection can marshal stellar protection. Past tussles with the virus, in fact, seem so immunologically instructive that in many places, including several nations in the European Union, Israel, and the United Kingdom, they can grant access to restaurants, bars, and travel hubs galore, just as full vaccination does.
Conventional wisdom says that venting is cathartic and that we should never go to bed angry. But couples who save disagreements for scheduled meetings show the benefits of a more patient approach to conflict.
For decades, when Liz Cutler’s husband, Tom Kreutz, did something that bothered her, Cutler would sometimes pull out a scrap of paper from the back of her desk drawer. On it she would scribble down her grievances: maybe Kreutz had stayed late at work without giving her a heads-up, or maybe he’d allowed their kids to do something she considered risky. The list was Cutler’s way of honoring a promise she and her husband had made. They would talk about their frustrations only in scheduled meetings—which they held once a year for a time, and later, every three months. It’s a system they’ve adhered to for more than 40 years.
Any psychologist will tell you that conflict is both an inevitable and a vital part of a close relationship. The challenge—which can make the difference between a lasting, satisfying partnership and one that combusts—is figuring out how to manage conflict constructively.