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.”
She beat George W. Bush on Social Security privatization, and she’ll beat Trump on the wall.
Democrats sometimes portray themselves as high-minded and naive—unwilling to play as rough as the GOP. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is, once again, proving that self-image wrong. She’s not only refusing Donald Trump’s demand for a border wall. She’s trying to cripple his presidency. And she may well succeed.
Pelosi’s strategy resembles the one she employed to debilitate another Republican president: George W. Bush. Bush returned to Washington after his 2004 reelection victory determined to partially privatize Social Security. “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital,” he told the press, “and I intend to spend it.” Bush’s plan contained two main elements. The first was convincing the public that there was a crisis. Social Security, he declared in his 2005 State of the Union address, “is headed toward bankruptcy.” The second was persuading Democrats to offer their own proposals for changing it.
Once again, Trump tried and failed to strike a deal on Saturday.
President Donald Trump is trapped. He shut the government to impose his will on the incoming Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. That plan has miserably failed. Instead, Trump has found himself caught in the trap he supposed he had set for his opponents.
Now he is desperately seeking an exit.
Trump attempted Exit One on January 8.He spoke that evening to the nation from the Oval Office, hoping to mobilize public opinion behind him, pressing the Democratic leadership of the House to yield to him. That hope was miserably disappointed. Surveys post-speech found that Trump had swayed only 2 percent of TV viewers. In the 10 days since the speech, Trump’s approval ratings have dipped to about the lowest point in his presidency. The supposedly solid Trump base has measurably softened.
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.
[Please see Updates at the end of this post.] I don’t know who the young man in the MAGA hat in this photo is. And I don’t care to know.
His name, which the internet will inevitably turn up, really doesn’t matter. It matters to his parents, of course—and to his teachers. I hope they will be reflective, and I know they should be ashamed: of this smirking young man and the scores of other (nearly all white) students from a Catholic school in Kentucky. Today, on the National Mall in Washington, they apparently mocked, harassed, and menaced a Native American man who had fought for the United States in Vietnam and who today represented both the U.S. and his Omaha nation with poise, courage, and dignity.
The senator from Massachusetts announced she was running for president on New Year’s Eve—and then had the field largely to herself.
CLAREMONT, N.H.—Elizabeth Warren wants the look on her face to be funny. It’s somewhere between stern and confused and disappointed, complete with fists briefly on her hips, like she’s playing a mom in a commercial who just found an adorable kid making a mess on the floor.
That’s how the senator from Massachusetts responds late Friday when I ask her what she thinks will happen if the rest of the Democratic primary field doesn’t follow her lead and put talking about the economy at the center of their campaigns.
“I don’t know how anyone could not talk about the economy—and corruption!—and diagnose what’s wrong in America today. I just don’t know how they could do it,” she said, then added with a little snark creeping in to her voice, “Good luck …”
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.
Strategists considered sacrificing older pilots to patrol the skies in flying reactors. An Object Lesson.
The U.S. Navy recently asked Congress for $139 billion to update its fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. Unlike “conventional” submarines, which need to surface frequently, nuclear submarines can cruise below the sea at high speeds for decades without ever needing to refuel. Defense planners expect that the new submarines will run on one fueling for the entirety of deployment—up to a half century.
The advantages of nuclear submarines over their conventional cousins raise a question about another component of the military arsenal: Why don’t airplanes run on nuclear power?
The reasons are many. Making a nuclear reactor flightworthy is difficult. Shielding it from spewing dangerous radiation into the bodies of its crew might be impossible. During the Cold War, when the threat of nuclear apocalypse led to surprisingly pragmatic plans, engineers proposed to solve the problem by hiring elderly Air Force crews to pilot the hypothetical nuclear planes, because they would die before radiation exposure gave them fatal cancers.
A delightful “Weekend Update” appearance from John Mulaney and Pete Davidson gave a jolt of energy to an otherwise uninspired episode.
Pete Davidson has been largely absent from Saturday Night Live for the past couple of months. The 25-year-old comedian has had a tabloid spotlight trained on him since June 2018, when his engagement to the pop star Ariana Grande became the story of the summer. Davidson, whose comedic approach is raw and personal, would often stop by SNL’s “Weekend Update” segment to joke about the volatility of his relationship, which eventually collapsed. In November, he apologized to then-incoming Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw for mocking the veteran’s combat injury on the air. Less than a month later, Davidson posted on Instagram about feeling suicidal, alarming people enough that a police officer was sent to the SNL studios to check on him.
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.
The highest net worth on Capitol Hill is nearly $360 million—and that's before you even get to the Rockefeller heir.
Congress is rich. How rich? On Monday, Roll Call released its annual analysis of financial-disclosure forms, identifying the 50 richest members of Congress, and this isn’t an easy club to get into—it takes a minimum net worth of $7.4 million to crack this year’s list. So who has the most Benjamins? Darrell, Nancy, or Mitch? Here's what the list tells us about our legislators.
Members of Congress are way wealthier than average Americans.
For the second year in a row, Representative Darrell Issa tops the lot with a net worth of $357.25 million, largely the result of his spectacular success at manufacturing car alarms. Issa’s wealth is triple that of second-placed Michael McCaul ($117.54 million). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi placed third ($74.11 million), while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, with net assets totaling $11.97 million, slots in at number 32.