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.”
Oxytocin, often lauded as the “hug hormone,” might not be necessary to induce affection.
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Of the dozens of hormones found in the human body, oxytocin might just be the most overrated. Linked to the pleasures of romance, orgasms, philanthropy, and more, the chemical has been endlessly billed as the “hug hormone,” the “moral molecule,” even “the source of love and prosperity.” It has inspired popular books and TED Talks. Scientists and writers have insisted that spritzing it up human nostrils can instill compassion and generosity; online sellers have marketed snake-oil oxytocin concoctions as “Liquid Trust.”
A series of viral Facebook posts by a recent Jeopardy contestant named Yogesh Raut have caused something of a minor kerfuffle among watchers of the show. Raut, to put it mildly, is unimpressed by the intellectual level of America’s premier game show. He won three games, but after the episodes began to air, he went online to argue that the show’s status as “the Olympics of quizzing” is undeserved.
How the new obesity pills could upend American society
This is Work in Progress, a newsletter by Derek Thompson about work, technology, and how to solve some of America’s biggest problems. Sign up here to get it every week.
About a decade ago, Susan Yanovski, an obesity researcher at the National Institutes of Health, held a symposium to discuss a question that bedeviled her field: Why was it so hard to develop weight-loss drugs that actually worked and didn’t harm the people they were meant to help?
For years, the most popular weight-loss pills had earned their stigma. For example, the drug cocktail known as fen-phen was taken off the market for causing heart disease almost as reliably as it promoted healthy weight loss. The only intervention that seemed to work consistently was bariatric surgery. Doctors sliced into patients’ digestive system to reduce stomach size and slow the absorption of nutrients to stave off feelings of hunger. But these operations were expensive and complicated, and in some cases posed serious risks.
Smaller countries forced NATO’s greatest powers to give Ukraine the vehicles it needs.
When the German and U.S. governments finally agreed this week to supply some of their most formidable battle tanks to Ukraine, the balance of power within Europe perceptibly shifted. For months, President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, fearing an escalation of conflict between the West and Russia, had stubbornly put off Ukrainian requests for the powerful, highly maneuverable vehicles, and the European states most directly vulnerable to Russian aggression—in Scandinavia, the Baltic region, and Central and Eastern Europe—had grown more and more frustrated with Washington and Berlin. Finally, the smaller countries had had enough. In an impressive show of diplomatic muscle, they forced NATO’s two greatest powers to take a step that Biden and especially Scholz have clearly been afraid of taking.
The police officers who fatally beat Tyre Nichols must have known their actions were being recorded, but that hardly seemed to deter them.
Even before the city of Memphis released video Friday evening of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, it seemed the footage would be horrifying. Defense attorneys compared it to the Rodney King beating in 1991, a comparison that now rings true, but the Memphis police chief and head of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation similarly said they were appalled by what they saw. Cops often remind critics that their job necessarily entails violence, so when seasoned law-enforcement officers react this way, it’s telling.
They were right to be appalled. Though the public might have started to become accustomed to the stream of de facto snuff films of people dying at the hands of police, this video is shocking, showing officers wantonly beating a 29-year-old Black man. If they did not intend to kill him, they showed little hesitation in beating him near to death and little remorse after they’d finished. Five officers have been fired, and all five have been charged with second-degree murder. All of them were part of a vaunted hot-spot policing unit called SCORPION, only established in 2021.
Biden’s team should have been more transparent about his classified documents. But the strategy could still work for him in the end.
Crisis communications, at its core, is pretty simple: Discern where the story is going. Fully disclose the facts. Admit where mistakes were made. And do it all as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
So it’s been a little confounding to watch Joe Biden’s White House deal with the discovery of classified documents from his years as vice president and in the Senate casually stored in a variety of locations, including his garage in Wilmington, Delaware, beside his prized 1967 Corvette.
The impact of the first discovery, on November 2, must have been immediately apparent to Biden’s team, given the public uproar and legal thicket Donald Trump created by absconding with hundreds of classified documents when he left the White House in 2021, only to dump them at his Mar-a-Lago resort. President Biden criticized Trump for that in the fall, asking, “How could anyone be that irresponsible?”
The officers charged in Tyre Nichols’s death were all members of the SCORPION team, which poured law-enforcement resources into the most violent parts of the city.
Like many American cities, Memphis, Tennessee, has a long history of vexed relationships between the police and Black citizens. Also like many cities, it has seen an increase in activism for police reform in recent years. But over the past two years, as I reported on policing in Memphis, I heard laments from activists that they struggled to bring the attention of elected officials and a broad swath of citizens to the problems they saw.
The lack of attention may no longer be an issue—at least for now.
Earlier this month, 29-year-old Tyre Nichols died after an encounter with officers near his home. Officials initially said Nichols was stopped for reckless driving. They described a confrontation with officers and said Nichols tried to flee before another confrontation. How true this account is remains to be seen. No footage of the incident has yet been made public, but the city is expected to release it this evening.
Despite the easing of taboos and the rise of hookup apps, Americans are in the midst of a sex recession.
These should be boom times for sex.
The share of Americans who say sex between unmarried adults is “not wrong at all” is at an all-time high. New cases of HIV are at an all-time low. Most women can—at last—get birth control for free, and the morning-after pill without a prescription.
If hookups are your thing, Grindr and Tinder offer the prospect of casual sex within the hour. The phrase If something exists, there is porn of it used to be a clever internet meme; now it’s a truism. BDSM plays at the local multiplex—but why bother going? Sex is portrayed, often graphically and sometimes gorgeously, on prime-time cable. Sexting is, statistically speaking, normal.
The GOP’s self-proclaimed “pragmatists” could soon have the most power in Congress—if they choose to use it.
Early this summer, the federal government will, in all likelihood, exhaust the “extraordinary measures” it is now employing to keep paying the nation’s bills. As the country careens toward that fiscal abyss, Congress will face a now-familiar stalemate: Republicans will refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to cut spending. Democrats will balk. Markets will slide—perhaps precipitously—and the economy will swiftly turn south.
When that moment arrives, the most important people in Washington won’t be those who work in the White House, or even the party leaders who occupy the Capitol’s most palatial offices. They will be the House Republicans who sit closest to the political center: the so-called moderates. The GOP’s majority is narrow enough that any five Republicans could dash Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s plan to demand a ransom for the debt ceiling. They will have to decide whether to stand with him or join with Democrats to avert a first-ever default on the nation’s debt.
The existence of love, trust, respect, and safety in a relationship is often dependent on moments you might write off as petty disagreements.
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The things that destroy love and marriage often disguise themselves as unimportant. Many dangerous things neither appear nor feel dangerous as they’re happening. They’re not bombs and gunshots. They’re pinpricks. They’re paper cuts. And that is the danger. When we don’t recognize something as threatening, then we’re not on guard. These tiny wounds start to bleed, and the bleed-out is so gradual that many of us don’t recognize the threat until it’s too late to stop it.
I spent most of my life believing that what ended marriages were behaviors I classify as Major Marriage Crimes. If murder, rape, and armed robbery are major crimes in the criminal-justice system, I viewed sexual affairs, physical spousal abuse, and gambling away the family savings as major crimes in marriage.