Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said in a pre-recorded statement Wednesday that he rejects President Trump’s plan to build a wall along the border between the two countries. “Mexico does not believe in walls,” he said. “I have said it over and over again: Mexico will not pay for any wall.” Peña Nieto is scheduled to travel to Washington next week to meet with Trump. Earlier Wednesday, aides to the Mexican president said Peña Nieto was considering scrapping the trip after Trump signed an executive order which put into motion the construction of a border wall. There are still several questions remaining about his proposed border wall, including the cost of the project. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Mexico would eventually pay for the wall. Peña Nieto, in the video statement, did not mention whether he would still travel to the U.S.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Meets With Syria's Assad
Representative Tulsi Gabbard revealed Wednesday that she met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a four-day fact-finding trip to Syria and Lebanon, and reaffirmed her opposition to U.S. funding for rebel groups opposing the Syrian leader. In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, the two-term Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii said though she did not initially plan to meet with Assad, she did so because “we’ve got to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace, and that’s exactly what we talked about.” She later added in a statement: “This regime change war does not serve America’s interest, and it certainly isn’t in the interest of the Syrian people.” Gabbard has long supported Assad maintaining power. Conversely, both the Obama administration and its Western allies had repeatedly called for the ouster of Assad—who has been accused of war crimes—and have thrown their support behind some of the rebel groups opposing his regime during Syria’s nearly six-year civil war. President Trump has called for a different approach, arguing that the U.S. should focus instead on ISIS—a stance which Gabbard supports. As my colleague Krishnadev Calamur noted, Gabbard’s trip to Syria may constitute a violation of the Logan Act, which restricts unauthorized individuals from contacting foreign governments engaged in a dispute with the U.S. No one has ever been prosecuted under the act, though, and Gabbard is not even the first U.S. leader to make such a trip. Virginia state Senator Dick Black met with Assad government officials on a trip to Damascus in April, and has expressed hopes to return this year. Like Gabbard, Black has been a vocal opponent of regime change in Syria, and has previously praised Assad as “heroic.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 20,000 for the first time Wednesday, after hovering around that figure since the election of President Trump and boosted by several positive economic numbers over the past month. The Dow was at 10,000 in March 1999 and has more than recovered the ground lost during the Great Recession. But, as my colleague Adrienne LaFrance noted: “There’s nothing magic about the Dow hitting 10,000—or 11,000, or 15,000, or 19,000 for that matter. The number is just a calculation based on the sum of stocks from 30 major companies… .” Still, it does hold psychological significance among traders.
Mary Tyler Moore, the actress who captivated television audiences first on TheDick Van Dyke Show and then on TheMary Tyler Moore Show, has died, her representative told several news organizations. Moore, who was hospitalized earlier this month in Connecticut, was 80 years old. Moore is perhaps best known for her role in the eponymous show in which she played Mary Richards, a local news producer in Minneapolis, from 1970 to 1977. During the course of her career, Moore won six Emmys and received a Best Actress Oscar nomination in 1980 for her work in Ordinary People. As my colleague David Sims notes, “Mary was a liberated woman in an era of television where such characters were scarce.”
Russia Arrests Kaspersky Lab Department Head for Alleged Treason
Ruslan Stoyanov, the head of computer-incidents investigation at Kaspersky Lab, was arrested over charges of treason, Russian media reported Wednesday. Kaspersky, the Moscow-based cybersecurity and anti-virus firm, issued a statement confirming the investigation, but said it concerned “a period predating [Stoyanov’s] employment at Kaspersky Lab.” Previous jobs listed on Stoyanov’s LinkedIn profile include a position at the Russian Interior Ministry’s cybercrime unit. As Sputnik, the state-run Russian news agency, reports, Stoyanov was arrested in December alongside an employee with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), who has also been charged with treason, though the details of the investigation into either person remains unknown. Andrei Soldatov, a Russian journalist and security services expert, told the Associated Press that such an arrest was “unprecedented” for intelligence agencies and companies like Kaspersky, adding: “Intelligence agencies used to ask for Kaspersky's advice, and this is how informal ties were built. This romance is clearly over."
Usain Bolt Loses Gold Medal After Teammate Tests Positive for Doping
Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt was forced to hand one of his gold medals back Wednesday after his teammate Nesta Carter tested positive for doping during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Carter, 31, was found to have taken methylhexaneamine, a prohibited performance-enhancing substance, ahead of competing in the first leg of the Men’s 4x100 meter relay, for which he earned the Jamaican team first place alongside sprinters Michael Frater, Asafa Powell, and Bolt—all of whom were stripped of their medals. The loss of the medal for the Jamaican team propelled Trinidad and Tobago to gold, Japan to silver, and Brazil to bronze.
Several people were killed and wounded Wednesday after two explosions rocked the Dayah hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. Death toll estimates have ranged from at least eight to 15 people. Somali police said a group of attackers affiliated with al-Shabaab, an Islamist group, detonated a car bomb into the gate of the hotel before storming inside and opening fire. It is unclear how many attackers were involved in the attack, though Colonel Mohamoud Abdi, a senior Somali police officer, told the Associated Press that four militants were killed. A second blast was also reported outside the hotel, injuring some people in the area, including journalists. Al-Shabaab controlled much of Somalia before it was driven out by African Union and Somali forces in 2011l the group remains an active threat and is known for targeting hotels and other public places.
Economist Intelligence Unit Downgrades U.S. to 'Flawed Democracy,' Citing Longstanding Problems
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the Economist’s data arm, has downgraded the United States from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy.” The move, the EIU said, wasn’t a result of President Trump’s election victory, but rather “the election of Mr Trump as US president was in large part a consequence of the longstanding problems of democracy in the US.” EIU counts 19 “full” democracies—down from 20—57 “flawed” democracies, including 17 of the EU’s 28 members; 51 “authoritarian” regimes; and 40 “hybrid” ones. Globally, the EIU said populist backlashes against the ruling elites in the U.S., U.K., and other Western countries “were an expression of deep popular dissatisfaction with the status quo and of a desire for change.” Norway tops the EIU’s Democracy Index; North Korea is last. Full index here
President Trump is expected Wednesday to announce his border wall with Mexico, fulfilling a longstanding campaign pledge that he believes will keep stop the flow of people crossing the border illegally. This morning he also said he’d order an investigation into voter fraud. Trump says he believes voter fraud cost him the popular vote, but most credible elections experts dismiss that such fraud exists on a large scale. Our Politics team will have more on Trump’s announcements.
No matter what happens now, the virus will continue to circulate around the world.
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has sickened more than 16.5 million people across six continents. It is raging in countries that never contained the virus. It is resurgingin manyof the ones that did. If there was ever a time when this coronavirus could be contained, it has probably passed. One outcome is now looking almost certain: This virus is never going away.
The coronavirus is simply too widespread and too transmissible. The most likely scenario, experts say, is that the pandemic ends at some point—because enough people have been either infected or vaccinated—but the virus continues to circulate in lower levels around the globe. Cases will wax and wane over time. Outbreaks will pop up here and there. Even when a much-anticipated vaccine arrives, it is likely to only suppress but never completely eradicate the virus. (For context, consider that vaccines exist for more than a dozen human viruses but only one, smallpox, has ever been eradicated from the planet, and that took 15 years of immense global coordination.) We will probably be living with this virus for the rest of our lives.
A virus has brought the world’s most powerful country to its knees.
How did it come to this? A virus a thousand times smaller than a dust mote has humbled and humiliated the planet’s most powerful nation. America has failed to protect its people, leaving them with illness and financial ruin. It has lost its status as a global leader. It has careened between inaction and ineptitude. The breadth and magnitude of its errors are difficult, in the moment, to truly fathom.
In the first half of 2020, SARS‑CoV‑2—the new coronavirus behind the disease COVID‑19—infected 10 million people around the world and killed about half a million.
Schools are essential to the functioning of our society, and that makes teachers essential workers.
The other day my husband, a public-school teacher in New York City, got a string of texts from a work friend. After checking in on our family and picking up their ongoing conversation about books and TV shows, she wrote, “So, are we going on a teacher strike in the fall?”
“What!? No!” My husband is adamantly against a strike, because he understands on a deep, personal level his duty to serve his country in the classroom.
We have two young children, one of whom is developmentally disabled, and I’m an intensive-care nurse. Through the spring, I took care of COVID-19 patients at the hospital while he toggled between teaching on Zoom and helping our daughters through their own lessons. He knows that I did my part for society, and that now he should, too.
President Donald Trump finally seems to have noticed that he’s losing the election.
Trump has sought to project confidence about his odds of triumphing over Joe Biden, even as the pandemic has blazed across the country, the economy has tanked, and his poll numbers have sagged. In the midst of an ever-worsening national crisis that his administration has given up on even pretending to contain, Trump has taken solace in extreme selectivity: his high approval ratings within the shrinking Republican Party—96 percent, he noted in a recent tweet—and his approval ratings from Rasmussen Reports, a pollster that has generally shown higher favorability for the president than any other and whose work FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver has described as “mediocre.”
Some of the signers of a controversial open letter don’t stand behind its most alarming demand.
Princeton University is consumed from top to bottom with what seems to be the question of the moment: How should it reorder itself to fight racism?
The school’s president, Christopher L. Eisgruber, ordered 23 of the institution’s most senior academic and administrative leaders to focus on how to marshal Princeton’s teaching, research, operations, and partnerships in service of “eliminating racism” on and off campus. By August 21, they are to report on what specifically can be done “to identify, understand, and combat” it. The university is also giving $1,500 grants to students who want to fight racism, and has made available new funding for faculty to run scholarly projects or expand course offerings related to racism.
Five years ago, the flight vanished into the Indian Ocean. Officials on land know more about why than they dare to say.
1. The Disappearance
At 12:42 a.m. on the quiet, moonlit night of March 8, 2014, a Boeing 777-200ER operated by Malaysia Airlines took off from Kuala Lumpur and turned toward Beijing, climbing to its assigned cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. The designator for Malaysia Airlines is MH. The flight number was 370. Fariq Hamid, the first officer, was flying the airplane. He was 27 years old. This was a training flight for him, the last one; he would soon be fully certified. His trainer was the pilot in command, a man named Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who at 53 was one of the most senior captains at Malaysia Airlines. In Malaysian style, he was known by his first name, Zaharie. He was married and had three adult children. He lived in a gated development. He owned two houses. In his first house he had installed an elaborate Microsoft flight simulator.
It is time to stop pretending. Our children are staying home.
In March, we were all living in 15-day increments. Working from home and distance learning, for those who had the terrible luxury of such things, would be a weeks-long affair, surreal but temporary. Fifteen days to flatten the curve. Fifteen days to slow the spread.
Scientists warned us even then that a return to normalcy would take longer, but the telescoped timeline had obvious appeal. You can put up with almost anything for just 15 days.
Acting on the chance to get it right was essential, but we now know it was not temporary. We’ve seen the failures—in testing, in containment, in federal and state leadership—compound in catastrophic ways. And as our pandemic summer has stretched on, many of us have let go, one by one, of experiences from the world we used to inhabit. We bid goodbye to sleepaway camp, to live music, to distant travel, to boisterous weddings, and to spontaneity in general. Today, a new realization is dawning, and as the debate over schools reopening rages, we must acknowledge it plainly: We aren’t going back to how it was. And we shouldn’t.
How is it that six months into a respiratory pandemic, we are still doing so little to mitigate airborne transmission?
I recently took a drive-through COVID-19 test at the University of North Carolina. Everything was well organized and efficient: I was swabbed for 15 uncomfortable seconds and sent home with two pages of instructions on what to do if I were to test positive, and what precautions people living with or tending to COVID-19 patients should take. The instructions included many detailed sections devoted to preventing transmission via surfaces, and also went into great detail about laundry, disinfectants, and the exact proportions of bleach solutions I should use to wipe surfaces, and how.
My otherwise detailed instructions, however, included only a single sentence on “good ventilation”—a sentence with the potential to do some people more harm than good. I was advised to have “good air flow, such as from an air conditioner or an opened window, weather permitting.” But in certain cases, air-conditioning isn’t helpful. Jose-Luiz Jimenez, an air-quality professor at the University of Colorado, told me that some air conditioners can increase the chances of spreading infection in a household. Besides, “weather permitting” made it all seem insignificant, like an afterthought.
Superfans know the Florida theme park is a dangerous destination during the pandemic. But to them, a visit means more than a vacation.
Almost as soon as Serena Lyn stepped back inside the Magic Kingdom, she burst into tears. It’d been four months since the theme park and crown jewel of Walt Disney World’s Florida stronghold had shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. Before the parks closed, Lyn had been visiting them twice a week; it was part of her job as a Disney blogger and an Instagrammer with more than 71,000 followers. As a devoted Disney fan who’d moved with her husband, two kids, and dog to Orlando, close enough to the parks to see their fireworks shows every night, not being able to set foot inside Disney World had been painful.
So when the employees—“cast members,” in park parlance—greeted Lyn and her fellow returning annual passholders on July 9 with a warm welcome outside of the shops along Main Street, Lyn became overwhelmed. “I was bawling,” she said when we FaceTimed a week after she attended Disney World’s grand reopening. “I looked around, and everyone was crying.”
A fire in a structure near the port area of Beirut, Lebanon, led to an enormous explosion that shook the city. The shockwave from the blast destroyed buildings close by and shattered glass for miles around.
On August 4, a fire in a structure near the port area of Beirut, Lebanon, led to an enormous explosion that shook the city. The shockwave from the blast destroyed buildings close by and shattered glass for miles around, causing at least 10 deaths and hundreds of injuries, according to reporting from Reuters. The exact cause of the fire and explosion has yet to be determined. Below are some early images from the aftermath in Beirut.