Mike Flynn Reportedly Offers to be Interviewed in Exchange for Immunity
Mike Flynn, President Trump’s former national-security adviser, has told the FBI and congressional investigators he is willing to be interviewed in exchange for immunity from prosecution, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Journal, which cited anonymous officials with knowledge of the matter, said Flynn has so far found no takers for his offer. More from the Journal:
It wasn’t clear if Flynn had offered to talk about specific aspects of his time working for Trump, but the fact that he was seeking immunity suggested Flynn feels he may be in legal jeopardy following his brief stint as the national security adviser, one official said.
Flynn resigned as national-security adviser last month following reports he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump administration officials about the nature of his talks in December with Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington. His resignation, just 23 days after Trump named him to the post, made him the shortest-serving national-security adviser in history. The FBI and intelligence committees in both the House and Senate are investigating Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, as well as links between Trump’s top aides and Russian officials. Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, have both volunteered to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee. The Journal’s report comes amid revelations Flynn was paid for speeches made to Russian companies before he joined Trump’s campaign; add to this the spectacular claim, also reported by the Journal, that he’d suggested an extrajudicial extradition to Turkey of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric whom the Turkish leadership regards an enemy; Flynn served as a lobbyist for a client representing Turkey’s interests.
Israel Approves New West Bank Settlement for First Time in Over 20 Years
Updated at 11:48 a.m. ET
Israel’s security cabinet unanimously approved Thursday a new settlement in the occupied West Bank, marking the first time the country has established a West Bank settlement in more than two decades. It is unclear when construction of the settlement, which will be located near the existing settlement of Shiloh in the northern West Bank, will begin. Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, reports that the decision stems from a promise Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made following the eviction last month of settlers from the West Bank outpost of Amona, which the Israeli Supreme Court deemed illegal because it was built on private Palestinian land. The Israeli move will almost certainly draw criticism from Palestinians, who claim the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem as part of their future state. Though President Trump asked Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit” during the Israeli premier’s visit last month, the White House did not condemn the move, noting in a statement that Netanyahu “made a commitment to the Amona settlers prior to President Trump laying out his expectations” and that “going forward ... the Israeli government has made clear that Israel's intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes President Trump's concerns into consideration.”
Ex-South Korean President Park Arrested Over Corruption Scandal
South Korea’s recently ousted president Park Geun Hye was arrested Thursday over a corruption scandal that resulted in her impeachment. Park, whose ouster last month caused her to lose her immunity from prosecution, is accused of bribery, abuse of authority, coercion, and leaking government secrets—charges the former leader denies. Park is the third South Korean leader to be arrested over criminal allegations, following former Presidents Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo in 1995 (though both were later pardoned). State prosecutors now have up to 20 days to formally indict Park. In the meantime, South Korea considers the candidates running to be Park’s successor in an election scheduled for May 9.
U.S. State Department Employee Charged for Concealing Ties With Chinese Officials
A U.S. State Department employee has been charged with obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI over her alleged contacts with Chinese foreign intelligence agents, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday. Candace Marie Claiborne, a 60-year-old who began working at the State Department in 1999, is accused of failing to report her contacts with two Chinese agents “who provided her with thousands of dollars of gifts and benefits,” Mary B. McCord, the acting assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement, adding Claiborne “used her position and her access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit.” These gifts, according to the affidavit, included an Apple iPhone and laptop computer, international travel and vacations, tuition at a Chinese fashion school, a fully furnished apartment, and cash wired to Clairborne’s bank account. Prosecutors say Claiborne confided to an unnamed co-conspirator she knew the agents were spies, and that she noted in her journal that she could “generate 20k in 1 year” by working with them. Claiborne pleaded not guilty to the charges Wednesday and, if convicted, faces up to a 20-year sentence for obstruction and a five-year sentence for making false statements to the FBI.
Malaysia Returns Kim Jong Nam's Body to North Korea
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced Thursday the return of the remains of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to North Korea in exchange for nine Malaysian nationals being held in Pyongyang. “I am pleased to announce that the nine Malaysians who had been barred from leaving North Korea have now been allowed to return to Malaysia,” Razak said in a statement. “We will now allow North Koreans to leave Malaysia.” Tensions between the two countries began over the death last month of Kim Jong Nam at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport—an assassination Malaysia accused North Korea of orchestrating, though the North has denied this claim. The dispute led to North Korea barring all Malaysians from leaving the country, and Malaysia soon followed in kind with its own travel ban on North Korean nationals. Though the return of Kim Jong Nam’s body to Pyongyang and the lifting of the travel bans could signal an end in diplomatic tensions between the two countries, Razak reaffirmed that Malaysia’s investigation into Kim Jong Un’s death would continue, adding: “I have instructed for all possible measures to be taken to bring those responsible for this murder to justice.”
Chinese President to Meet With Trump at Mar-a-Lago Next Week
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has confirmed that President Xi Jinping will meet with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s estate in Florida, next week—the first meeting between the two leaders since Trump’s election. Trump had complained about China’s trade policies during the campaign trail, and since becoming president he’s added to his litany of grievances against Beijing, citing its military policy in the South China Sea and what he sees as its lack of cooperation on North Korea. The April 6-7 meeting at Mar-a-Lago follows a visit to Beijing this month by Rex Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state. Although this will be the first meeting between Trump and Xi, the two leaders spoke by telephone shortly after Trump’s inauguration as president. Trump had angered China by accepting a phone call from Taiwan’s leader shortly after he was elected president last November. But in his conversation with Xi in February, Trump reiterated U.S. support for the one-China policy, which states the U.S. recognizes the Chinese government in Beijing and has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Hawaii Federal Judge Extends Order Blocking Trump's Travel Order
A U.S. federal judge in Hawaii extended his nationwide order blocking President Trump’s revised immigration order that temporarily bans the entry of visitors from six Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries and suspends the U.S. refugee program—the latest setback to the White House’s attempt to define who enters the United States. The government’s lawyers argued that Trump’s order fell within the president's power to protect national security, but urged U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson to restrict his order only to the ban on travelers—not the restriction on refugees. Watson wasn’t persuaded. He wrote:
National security is unquestionably of vital importance to the public interest. The same is true with respect to affording appropriate deference to the president’s constitutional and statutory responsibilities to set immigration policy and provide for the national defense. Upon careful consideration of the totality of the circumstances, however, the court reaffirms its prior finding that the balance of equities and public interest weigh in favor of maintaining the status quo.
The order comes two weeks after Watson temporarily blocked the order from going into effect, saying Trump’s executive order “violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” In his order Wednesday, Watson repeated that idea, noting “the entirety of the Executive Order runs afoul of the Establishment Clause, where openly available data support a commonsense conclusion that a religious objective permeated the government's action.’” Trump’s revised executive order was an attempt to find a way around successful legal challenges to the previous version of the order. Here’s what I wrote about it two weeks ago:
The president’s first immigration order was blocked by a federal court in San Francisco. That executive order temporarily blocked the entry of the citizens of seven Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries. But the White House revised the order, dropping Iraq from the list of countries whose citizens were temporarily blocked. The first order also suspended the entry of refugees for 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely. The new order no longer blocks Syrian refugees indefinitely.
The case in Hawaii was brought by the state and Ismail Elshikh, the imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, whose mother-in-law’s application for an immigrant visa was being processed. Elshikh argued that the new order would ban his mother-in-law from entering the country.
Syrian Refugees Top 5 Million for the First Time, UN Says
The international community must do more to help those fleeing the civil war in Syria, as their numbers exceed 5 million for the first time, Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said today. His remarks come a year after a meeting on Syria in which the world’s powers pledged to resettle 500,000 refugees; so far, half those places have been made available, the UN said. The Syrian civil war is in its sixth year with President Bashar al-Assad firmly in control of the country. A cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey is mostly holding, as Syrian forces and their allies—Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah—as well as those supporting rebel groups—Turkey, the U.S., and other allied countries—turn their attention to ISIS and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria. The humanitarian crisis created by the civil war caused a political crisis across Europe, where many of the refugees fled, but it also strained the resources of Syria’s neighbors—Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and others—where the overwhelming majority of Syrian refugees live.
North Carolina's Lawmakers and Governor Reach a Deal to Repeal H.B. 2
Updated at 1:43 p.m.
Lawmakers in North Carolina have approved a measure to replace the “bathroom bill” and sent it to Governor Roy Cooper for his signature. Cooper is expected to sign the measure despite opposition from LGBTQ groups that say the replacement retains a key part of the original measure.
Original post at 7:10 a.m.
Lawmakers in North Carolina and the state’s governor have reached a deal to repeal H.B. 2, the state’s controversial “bathroom bill.” Among other things, H.B. 2 dictated that transgender people use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates. The agreement, which has already been criticized by LGBTQ groups, repeals the measure, but keeps a key part of it. Under the deal, the regulation of bathrooms is left to the state; cities and local governments can't pass their own anti-discrimination laws until December 2020, CNN reports. Lawmakers in the GOP-controlled legislature will vote on the measure today. Roy Cooper, the state’s Democratic governor, in a statement late Wednesday said “it’s not a perfect deal, but … it begins to repair our reputation.” Criticism of the bill resulted in businesses, sporting events, and other groups leaving North Carolina, as David Graham wrote in December.
Where do shoppers turn when an industry built on novelty runs out of new ideas?
Nearly half a decade has elapsed since I last worked in the fashion industry, but one thing from my previous career remains a compulsion to this day: I look at people’s purses. In the brain space that might otherwise be occupied by dear childhood memories or the dates and times of future doctor appointments, I tend to an apparently undeletable mental spreadsheet of who is carrying what. Bottega Veneta Cassette, green padded leather, Soho, 20-something woman. Louis Vuitton Pochette Métis, logo canvas, Hoyt-Schermerhorn subway stop, 40-ish woman. For 10 years, these data points informed my obsessive, detailed coverage of the luxury-handbag market. Now they just accumulate. Rarely do I see something I can’t place.
Russia’s unprovoked invasion is impossible to justify. Now is not the time to relent in helping Ukraine.
Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine last year and, for that matter, its first invasion of its neighbor eight years before are impossible to justify. Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to convince his public that this war is existential, but with little success. Russia’s existence as a strong, sovereign state is not dependent on its control of Ukraine or even parts of the Donbas or Crimea. That’s why, since Putin implemented a partial mobilization last fall, hundreds of thousands of men have fled Russia rather than march to the sound of the guns, and it’s why he still refuses to declare war and order a full mobilization.
And yet a small band of critics has rallied beneath the banner of realism to argue against continued Western support for Ukraine’s effort to defend itself. “Russia may be waging a war of aggression as a matter of law,” Mario Loyola wrote in a recent essay in The Atlantic, “but as a matter of history and strategy it is moving to forestall a grave deterioration in its strategic position, with stakes that are almost as existential for it as they are for Ukraine.” But actual realism must be grounded in the details of the situations it assesses. And in the case of Ukraine, those facts lead to very different conclusions.
Opponents of COVID vaccines terrorize grieving families on social media.
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My 6-year-old boy died in January. We lost him after a household accident, one likely brought on by a rare cerebral-swelling condition. Paramedics got his heart beating, but it was too late to save his brain. I could hold his hand, look at the small birthmark on it, comb his hair, and call out for him, but if he could hear me or feel me, he gave no sign. He had been a child in perpetual motion, but now we couldn’t get him to wiggle a finger.
My grief is profound, ragged, desperate. I cannot imagine how anything could feel worse.
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In the course of a single month this year, the following news reports emanated from Florida: A gun enthusiast in Tampa built a 55-foot backyard pool shaped like a revolver, with a hot tub in the hammer. A 32-year-old from Cutler Bay was arrested for biting off the head of his girlfriend’s pet python during a domestic dispute. A 40-year-old man cracked open a beer during a police traffic stop in Cape Coral. A father from East Orlando punched a bobcat in the face for attacking his daughter’s dog.
In headlines, all of these exploits were attributed to a single character, one first popularized in 2013 by a Twitter account of the same name: “Florida Man,” also known as “the world’s worst superhero,” a creature of eccentric rule-breaking, rugged defiance, and unhinged minor atrocities. “Florida Man Known as ‘Sedition Panda’ Arrested for Allegedly Storming Capitol,” a recent news story declared, because why merely rebel against the government when you could dress up in a bear suit while doing it?
Don’t make them, don’t “like” them, don’t pass them on.
Every year at this time, viral college-acceptance videos start making the rounds, passed along from student to student, parent to parent, racking up views in the tens of millions. The videos—which have expanded their reach from YouTube to TikTok—follow a formula that goes like this: A teenager looks nervous and might even be crying, claiming that she’s absolutely, positively certain she won’t get in. Next comes a monologue about how she’s shaking so much, she can’t move or even breathe. Somehow, she manages to log in to the admissions portal and see that the decision is available. There’s more freaking out about how she won’t get in. Finally, she clicks a button and—OH MY GOD—she got in! Expressions of utter shock and piercing screams ensue. One can spend hours watching thousands of videos like these, and many teens do.
An infrequent astronomical event offers a new way of processing the unthinkable.
This is an edition of Up for Debate, a newsletter by Conor Friedersdorf. On Wednesdays, he rounds up timely conversations and solicits reader responses to one thought-provoking question. Later, he publishes some thoughtful replies. Sign up for the newsletter here.
Question of the Week
This week, five planets are aligning in the night sky: Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Uranus, and Mars will all be visible just after sunset, alongside the moon. I’d like to take this cosmic occasion to ask: What role has outer space played in your life, your worldview, or your imagination?
Finally, a fantasy film that’s not embarrassed of itself.
The best sessions of Dungeons & Dragons walk the line between stirring tales of teamwork and achingly nerdy jokes. A barbarian, a bard, a sorcerer, and a druid walk into an inn—what happens next? Why, deeds of derring-do, of course, or at least a bit of hearty axe-swinging. The collaborative tabletop game invites every player to get creative; the most inspired renditions plop players into a fantasy world and ask them to improvise their way through. That unpredictability is grounded by some helpful clichés: The rules of D&D magic will be familiar to anyone who’s seen half a Hobbit, and most of the story narratives follow a tried-and-true hero’s arc.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, a new film directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, perfectly bottles that mix of lore and role-playing invention. It pits a group of underdogs against a merciless and all-powerful villain but makes that familiar formula sing—and not just because Chris Pine’s character plays a mean lute. It’s a modern blockbuster, laden with elaborate CGI creatures and extravagant set pieces. But its sincerity recalls a pre-Marvel age: Honor Among Thieves is free of winky jokes to the camera and desperate attempts to set the story up for a legion of hypothetical sequels.
The idea that we exercise to get thin may be more dangerous than ever.
In the summer of 2015, one of my best friends died at work. Shannon was 38, childless, single and thriving, and working as an executive at a global public-relations firm, where she handled a major client. She was set to take a family vacation—treating her nephews to a Disney trip or some such—when her boss sent down an edict that no one on her account was allowed to take time off. Saying no to your boss is hard, but disappointing your nephews is even harder, so Shannon stood her ground and refused to cancel her trip.
She then proceeded—in a conference room—to have a panic attack about how the decision might affect her career. The panic attack triggered a heart attack; the heart attack revealed a preexisting tear in a heart valve; the tear led to internal bleeding that, after a two-week-long coma, led to her death. You can see why, though it isn’t technically true, I say that Shannon “died at work.” You can also see how my 36-year-old self—also single, also childless, also stuck in a successful but frustrating career and in need of some time off—–was very messed up by this. Everyone who knew Shannon was. As the bench in Prospect Park we dedicated to our friend says: Shannon, she gave a lovely light.
The insects’ sweet tooth should have made them easy to kill. But they outsmarted us with warp-speed evolution.
In the centuries-long war between humans and cockroaches, the most bitter blow was dealt roughly 40 years ago. Tired of chasing after the pests with noxious sprays and bombs, researchers started to infuse their poisons with delicious flavors that could compel roaches to approach of their own accord, and then feast upon their own demise. The secret was sugar: Cockroaches, like us, simply couldn’t resist their sweet tooth.
The advent of these baits “revolutionized pest control,” says Coby Schal, an entomologist at North Carolina State University. Manufacturers were sure that they had, after centuries of strife, gained a decisive upper hand. And victory was sweet.
But not even a decade passed before the battlefield shifted once again. In the late 1980s, the manufacturers of Combat, a popular roach bait, received a perplexed call from a pest-control operator in Florida. He’d been planting Combat all over homes for years, but suddenly, it was failing to seduce German cockroaches to their deaths. One of the company’s researchers, Jules Silverman, plucked several roaches from a Gainesville apartment—and was flabbergasted to find that the insects were no longer tempted by Combat’s corn syrup and instead scuttled away in disgust.
the gun heard the first shot the gun thought it was a bursting pipe the
gun heard the second shot and the third and the fourth the gun real-
ized this was not a pipe the gun’s teacher told everyone to get on the
ground the gun’s teacher went to lock the door the gun saw glass
break and the teacher slump and bleed and fall silent the gun
texted its parents and said i love youi’m so sorry for any trouble i’ve caused all these yearsyou mean so much to mei’m so sorry the gun
thought it would never leave the classroom the gun moved to a closet
filled with several other shaking guns the gun texted its best friends in
the group chat to see if they were okay the gun waited on a response
the gun received one the gun did not receive another the gun waited
for an hour the gun heard the door kicked open the gun was still in
the closet and didn’t know who had entered the room the gun thought
this was the end the gun thought of prom and graduation and college
and children and all the things the gun would never have the gun heard
more bullets the gun heard he’s down! the gun climbed out of the closet
the gun put its hands on its head the gun walked outside the gun
saw the cameras the gun hugged its sobbing mother and cried into her
arms the gun heard thoughts and prayers the gun heard Second Amend-
ment the gun heard lone wolf the gun texted its friend again the gun
waited for a message the message never came