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.”
Stick shifts are dying. When they go, something bigger than driving will be lost.
This article was featured in One Story to Read Today, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a single must-read from The Atlantic, Monday through Friday. Sign up for it here.
I drive a stick shift. It’s a pain, sometimes. Clutching and shifting in bumper-to-bumper traffic wears you out. My wife can’t drive my car, which limits our transit options. And when I’m at the wheel, I can’t hold a cold, delicious slushie in one hand, at least not safely. But despite the inconvenience, I love a manual transmission. I love the feeling that I am operating my car, not just driving it. That’s why I’ve driven stick shifts for the past 20 years.
That streak may soon be over. When it comes time to replace my current car, I probably won’t be able to get another like it. In 2000, more than 15 percent of new and used cars sold by the auto retailer CarMax came with stick shifts; by 2020, that figure had dropped to 2.4 percent. Among the hundreds of new car models for sale in the United States this year, only about 30 can be purchased with a manual transmission. Electric cars, which now account for more than 5 percent of car sales, don’t even have gearboxes. There are rumors that Mercedes-Benz plans to retire manuals entirely by the end of next year, all around the world, in a decision driven partly by electrification; Volkswagen is said to be dropping its own by 2030, and other brands are sure to follow. Stick shifts have long been a niche market in the U.S. Soon they’ll be extinct.
Why August 8 may become a new hinge point in U.S. history
If Donald Trump committed crimes on his way out of the White House, he should be subject to the same treatment as any other alleged criminal. The reason for this is simple: Ours is a government of laws, not of men, as John Adams once observed. Nobody, not even a president, is above those laws.
Because this country is tracking toward a scale of political violence not seen since the Civil War. It’s evident to anyone who spends significant time dwelling in the physical or virtual spaces of the American right. Go to a gun show. Visit a right-wing church. Check out a Trump rally. No matter the venue, the doomsday prophesying is ubiquitous—and scary. Whenever and wherever I’ve heard hypothetical scenarios of imminent conflict articulated, the premise rests on an egregious abuse of power, typically Democrats weaponizing agencies of the state to target their political opponents. I’ve always walked away from these experiences thinking to myself: If America is a powder keg, then one overreach by the government, real or perceived, could light the fuse.
If you’re just eating one dish, you’re missing out.
In the 19th century, when European thinkers began developing the economic principle of diminishing marginal utility, they probably weren’t dwelling on its implications for the best strategy for ordering food at a restaurant. But nearly 200 years later, their work informs what I get for dinner.
The basic concept that these early economists were getting at is that as you consume more and more of a thing, each successive unit of that thing tends to bring you less satisfaction—or, to use the economic term, utility—than the previous one.
Recently, Adam Mastroianni, a postdoctoral research scholar at Columbia Business School, invoked this idea in his newsletter, Experimental History, to explain why a flight of beer can be more satisfying than a larger glass of a single brew. “The first sip is always the best sip,” he wrote, “and a flight allows you to have several first sips instead of just one.”
A bedrock principle is that no one—not even the president, much less the former president—is above the law, and if they commit crimes, they must answer for them.
Donald Trump would have you believe that Monday’s surprise FBI raid on his Florida estate was, like so many things he disdains, un-American.
Not much is known about the operation as of this writing. The FBI has not commented, and much of what is public comes from a statement by Trump, a notoriously unreliable source of information. Trump wrote, “My beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” who he said arrived unannounced and broke into a safe.
Reporting from The Washington Postand The New York Timesindicates that the raid appears to be connected to Trump’s removal of records from the White House at the end of his administration, in what critics have said was a clear violation of federal public-records law.
He’ll compel loyalty no matter what the FBI finds. If Republicans kowtow, they might as well hand him the 2024 nomination now.
You might think that the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago yesterday would provide a welcome opportunity for a Trump-weary Republican Party. This would be an entirely postpresidential scandal for Donald Trump. Unlike his two impeachments, this time any legal jeopardy is a purely personal Trump problem. Big donors and Fox News management have been trying for months to nudge the party away from Trump. Here was the perfect chance. Just say “No comment” and let justice take its course.
But that was not to be.
The former president has discovered a new test of power: using his own misconduct to compel party leaders to rally to him. One by one, they have executed the ritual of submission: Kevin McCarthy, Marco Rubio, even the would-be Trump replacer Ron DeSantis. Maybe they’re inwardly hoping the FBI will do for them what they are too weak and frightened to do for themselves. But outwardly, they are all indignation and threats of retribution.
The secret history of the U.S. government’s family-separation policy
As a therapist for children who are being processed through the American immigration system, Cynthia Quintana has a routine that she repeats each time she meets a new patient in her office in Grand Rapids, Michigan: She calls the parents or closest relatives to let them know the child is safe and well cared for, and provides 24-hour contact information.
This process usually plays out within hours of when the children arrive. Most are teens who have memorized or written down their relatives’ phone numbers in notebooks they carried with them across the border. By the time of that initial call, their families are typically worried, waiting anxiously for news after having—in an act of desperation—sent their children into another country alone in pursuit of safety and the hope of a future.
The FBI search at Mar-a-Lago prompts sincere talk of violence. But some threats remain mere threats.
In some corners of MAGA-land, a new civil war is getting under way. The FBI’s arrival at Mar-a-Lago yesterday evening to collect evidence in a criminal investigation related to former President Donald Trump is the trigger that some of his supporters needed to suggest that violence is imminent. Predictably, the unverified Twitter accounts of armchair revolutionaries circulated claims such as “I already bought my ammo” and dark talk of “kinetic civil war” and “Civil War 2.0.”
Not to be outdone, the National Rifle Association posted an image of Justice Clarence Thomas above an indignant quotation from a majority opinion he wrote: “The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not ‘a second class right.’” Verified right-wing influencers got in on the martial rhetoric, too. “Tomorrow is war. Sleep well,” Steven Crowder promised.
The FBI raided Donald Trump’s home in Florida, but we don’t know why. Early reports suggest a link to Trump’s alleged removal of classified material from the White House, but until we know more, there is no point in speculating on why the Justice Department has taken the remarkable step of searching the home of a former president. Republicans, of course, are now screaming that the FBI must be destroyed. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has gone so far as to suggest that federal agents planted evidence in Trump’s Florida manse; so much for the GOP as the party of “law and order.”
The merits of a potential government case against Donald Trump, and of the basis for the FBI’s raid on Mar-a-Lago, cannot yet be evaluated, despite the assertions of many of Trump’s supporters and critics. A federal search warrant can be obtained only with probable cause and with the approval of a federal magistrate, but that does not mean that Trump is guilty of whatever alleged crime the FBI is investigating. Nor does the fact that Trump may be guilty of criminal conduct in other contexts mean that he is guilty here. But at the same time, the reflexive Republican insistence that the investigation is politically motivated is itself unmoored from the available evidence.
In a Hollywood-worthy plot twist, television writers are embracing fan theorists who try to “solve” their shows.
Dan Erickson, the creator of Severance, has been having what he calls “anxiety daydreams.” He’s working on the second season of the acclaimed Apple TV+ series, and though the show just got nominated for a bevy of Emmys, he’s already picturing the worst: headlines about disappointed viewers, articles analyzing his ineptitude, reviews pronouncing “the biggest precipitous drop-off in quality in the history of television,” he told me over the phone, laughing nervously. “I don’t think it’s going to be,” he clarified, “but, I mean, that’s the worry from somebody in my position.”
After all, Erickson isn’t just the showrunner of a hit drama. He’s the showrunner of a hit drama with the most discerning of audiences: the theorists. These are the fans who pick apart scenes for clues, listen to dialogue with the intensity of an FBI sting, and can anticipate entire storytelling arcs long before the show actually gets there. They don’t simply watch something; they solve it. Severance follows in the footsteps of series such as Lost, Mr. Robot, and Westworld, puzzlebox mysteries that attracted fans who feverishly speculated online. These shows spawned an entire industry built on watching a project solely to see if a prediction, no matter how tame or ludicrous, panned out.