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.”
Approximately half of the luxury-condo units that have come onto the market in the past five years are still unsold.
In Manhattan, the homeless shelters are full, and the luxury skyscrapers are vacant.
Such is the tale of two cities within America’s largest metro. Even as 80,000 people sleep in New York City’s shelters or on its streets, Manhattan residents have watched skinny condominium skyscrapers rise across the island. These colossal stalagmites initially transformed not only the city’s skyline but also the real-estate market for new homes. From 2011 to 2019, the average price of a newly listed condo in New York soared from $1.15 million to $3.77 million.
But the bust is upon us. Today, nearly half of the Manhattan luxury-condo units that have come onto the market in the past five years are still unsold, according to The New York Times.
Somewhere near the heart of the Ukraine scandal is the oligarch Dmytro Firtash. Evidence has long suggested this fact. But over the past week, in a televised interview and in documents he supplied to Congress, Rudy Giuliani’s former business partner Lev Parnas pointed his finger at the Ukrainian oligarch. According to Parnas, Giuliani’s team had a deal with Firtash. Giulani would get the Justice Department to drop its attempt to extradite the oligarch on bribery charges. In return, according to Parnas, the oligarch promised to pass along evidence that would supposedly discredit both Joe Biden and Robert Mueller.
Parnas’s account, of course, is hardly definitive. Throughout his career, he has attempted to inflate his importance to make money. (Firtash apparently paid him $1 million for his services, though it’s still not totally clear what those services were.) And his description of Firtash’s involvement raises as many questions as it settles. Still, the apparent centrality of Firtash should inform any assessment of Giuliani’s escapades and the entire Ukraine story.
Every year, plenty of excellent films are excluded from the awards-season conversation for reasons that have nothing to do with talent or artistry. This year is no different.
“Who will be interested in a story of domestic struggles and joys? It doesn’t have any real importance,” says Jo March (played by Saoirse Ronan) in a scene near the end of 2019’s Little Women, fearing that no one will want to read the book she’s writing about her family. “Maybe we don’t see those things as important because people don’t write about them,” her sister Amy (Florence Pugh) replies. The question of what art gets to be lionized and revered is one that Little Women’s writer and director, Greta Gerwig, fixated on when adapting the work for the big screen.
Analyzing her own screenplay in Vanity Fair, Gerwig said that while she worried this exchange between Jo and Amy would be too on the nose—it’s one of the only elements she didn’t borrow from the book or from author Louisa May Alcott’s other writing—she decided to include it. “I still think we very much have a hierarchy of stories,” Gerwig said. “I think that the top of the hierarchy is male violence—man on man, man on woman, etc. I think if you look at the books and films and stories that we consider to be ‘important,’ that is a common theme, either explicitly or implicitly.”
As a black American woman married to a member of Britain’s upper class, I have caught just a glimpse of Meghan Markle’s world.
The world Meghan Markle entered when she married Prince Harry is unlike any other. But, as a black American woman married to a member of Britain’s upper class, I have caught just a glimpse of it, from a roughly similar perspective.
For a while I lived in London and, through the man who would become my husband, I was introduced to some of the ancient class dynamics that permeate British society. He went to Eton, the elite boys’ boarding school attended by Prince William, Prince Harry, and many prime ministers.
Once, I went with him to the christening of an old classmate’s child. At the event, I sat across from David Cameron, an Old Etonian—or OE, as Eton’s former students are called—who was then the Tory party leader. His wife and my partner were both godparents to the new baby. If I were British, the christening and subsequent lunch with a gaggle of OEs and their equally posh wives would likely have made me nervous, angry, and uncomfortable. But I was somewhat insulated by the fact that, as an outsider, I didn’t have negative associations—or really any associations—with their traditions and ways of expressing themselves.
The streaming service has turned the star’s controversial e-commerce brand into a series. Soft-lit chaos ensues.
In an episode of the new Netflix series The Goop Lab, a young woman, Ana, gets a reading from the psychic medium Laura Lynne Jackson. Things do not go well. Jackson tells Ana, a Goop employee who is skeptical about clairvoyance, that she senses a twin in her family. Ana can’t think of any twins. “I have a female figure coming in, and I feel like it’s your grandmother’s sister,” Jackson says. “My grandmother didn’t have a sister,” Ana replies. Jackson asks whether Ana might be planning a trip to Mexico. (No.) “Is there, like, a funny story or a picture about a donkey? Or is there something with Shrek?” (Also no.) The reading, staged for the show’s cameras, quickly spirals from gauzy mysticism to blunt awkwardness. Even Ana seems surprised at how correct she was to distrust the premise of the exercise—which is also, as it happens, the premise of Goop as a lifestyle brand: that the physical world is, to some extent, a faith-based initiative.
Successful marriages are defined not by improvement, but by avoiding decline.
There’s an elegant symmetry to traditional wedding vows: for better or for worse. But love is not symmetrical, and most of us don’t realize how lopsided it can be. The worse matters far more than the better in marriage or any other relationship. That’s how the brain works.
Our thoughts and feelings are skewed by what researchers call the negativity effect, which is our tendency to respond more strongly to negative events and emotions than to positive ones. When we hear a mix of compliments and criticism, we obsess over the criticism instead of enjoying the praise. This imbalance, also known as the negativity bias, evolved in the brain because it kept our ancestors alert to deadly threats, but too often it warps our perspective and behavior. A slight conflict can have ruinous consequences when the power of bad overwhelms your judgment, provoking you to actions that further alienate your partner. You’d fare better by using your rational brain to override your irrational impulses, but to do that you need first to understand just how powerful bad can be.
The Iranian people are, for the first time in decades, worried about whether the leaders who have been their captors are not also their protectors.
Yesterday Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, delivered his first Friday sermon in eight years, a fulminating but boring rant against America after the death of Qassem Soleimani. The rant brought back memories for me, like hearing a familiar Beatles song.
Sixteen years ago, as an unwashed backpacker, I went to Friday prayers at the University of Tehran. I can pass as Afghan or Turkmen, and no one questioned me as I approached, walking in a large crowd. Delivering the sermon was Khamenei, then 64 years old and 15 years into his reign. Minutes before prayers, I turned off into an alley and watched the streets full of people drain into the university, until I was the only one left outside; I listened to Khamenei’s sermon through the loudspeakers within. I remember little of it, other than the hammy and perfunctory sign-off, which was “Death to America, death to Israel”—but delivered without the venom I expected, and instead with the casual tone of a Catskills comedian at his thousandth performance (“You’ve been a lovely audience”).
Eliminating an unfair tradition made our university more accessible to all talented students.
When I served as the dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto—Canada’s most selective law school—I would be asked every so often by one of our alumni what preference their children would enjoy when applying. The answer I gave was always the same: none whatsoever. When I became president of John Hopkins University 10 years ago, I found that one in eight newly admitted students benefitted from preferences given to relatives of alumni. Today, it’s important that I’m able to give the same answer to Hopkins alumni that I once gave in Toronto.
Legacy preferences—the admissions advantage given to family of alumni—are generally alien to Canadian (and, indeed, European) universities. And I never became reconciled to the prevalence of this form of hereditary privilege in American higher education, particularly given this country’s deeply ingrained commitment to the ideals of merit and equal opportunity.
Many parents get caught in such a loop, but that doesn’t mean the solution is to just stay home with the kids.
On Tuesday evening, the Democratic-debate moderator Brianne Pfannenstiel posed a challenging question to presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg. Tiffany, a young mother in Iowa who’d had to quit a job she loved because child care was eating up two-thirds of her income, had written in, pointing out that many parents in the state had to either quit their jobs or settle for cheaper, lower-quality child care. “How will you prioritize accessing quality affordable child care in your first 100 days in office?” Tiffany wanted to know.
“It makes no sense for child care to cost two-thirds of somebody’s income. We’ve got to drive it to 7 percent or below, and zero for those families who are living in poverty,” Buttigieg began, citing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ standard of 7 percent of household income as the high-water mark for child-care affordability. “But this is happening to folks at every level of the income spectrum,” he added, promptly coining something like a catchphrase. “I meet professionals who sometimes say that they’re working in order to be able to afford child care, in order to be able to be working.”
Policing correct female behavior keeps all women in their place.
Are you Team Kate or Team Meghan? If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to pick a side—and you don’t think there should be “sides” at all. Yet ever since Meghan Markle married Prince Harry, parts of the media have pitted the former actor against her sister-in-law.
Where Kate Middleton was once depicted as a dull social climber, she is now presented as the epitome of female virtue: a respectable, silent, discreet, and selfless mother. Meghan must therefore be her opposite—a political, manipulative, “woke” careerist.
Essentially, the two duchesses have been assigned to opposite sides of the culture war. All kinds of seemingly unrelated items have become symbols of one side or the other—quinoa, avocados, the English flag, attitudes toward the death penalty—and now Kate and Meghan have been conscripted too.