Two explosions in Damascus, Syria, killed at least 40 Shiite pilgrims traveling to holy shrines, the United Nations says that with 20 million people at risk of starvation the world faces the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II, and more news from the U.S. and around the globe.
Manhattan US Attorney Says He's Been Fired by DOJ After Refusing to Resign
Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Saturday he was fired from his position after he refused a request from the U.S. Justice Department to resign. On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked the 46 remaining U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Obama to step down, something that usually happens much earlier in a new president’s term, but was delayed because the Trump administration had not lined up replacements. Asking for their resignations early on allows the U.S. attorneys to tie up loose ends on important investigations while their replacements are confirmed. What was surprising in Bharara’s case was that he was asked to remain in his current position after he and Trump met in Trump Tower in November. News of the firing came from Bharara’s personal Twitter account.
I did not resign. Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life.
Secret Service Arrests a Man After He Climbs the White House Fence
U.S. Secret Service says it arrested a man late Friday night after he climbed the White House fence and tried to enter the south entrance. The man was identified by police as Jonathan Tran, a 26-year-old from Milpitas, California. President Donald Trump was at the White House during the incident. Tran, who was carrying a backpack, climbed the fence just before midnight, and was found near the south entrance portico. A search of his belongings didn’t turn up anything hazardous, and he has been taken into custody. In the past few years, several people have scaled the fence around the White House, and one man, in 2014, made it through the north entrance doors with a small knife in his pocket. The first family was not at the White House at the time.
20 Million People Face Starvation in East Africa, the Worst Humanitarian Crisis Since WWII
The United Nations said more than 20 million people in four countries are facing starvation due to drought and exacerbated by conflict, marking the largest humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II. Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria are in immediate need of aid, otherwise “people will simply starve to death,” Stephen O’Brien, the UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told the security council at a meeting in New York late Friday. To “avert catastrophe,” O’Brien said, nonprofits would need about $4.4 billion by July. An unusual dry season has caused a drought in parts of East Africa, with crops wilting and livestock dying by the thousands. In South Sudan, where a famine was declared last month, the crisis has been exacerbated by a civil war. Famine is a technical term used to measure the risk of starvation in a country, and in order to meet the requirements, more than 30 percent of children would need to be suffering from acute malnutrition, with mortality rates of the country’s population reaching two starvation deaths per day for every 10,000 people. In Nigeria, too, Boko Haram has worsened the situation with attacks on villages in the country’s northeast, displacing 2.6 million people.
Explosions in Damascus Kill at Least 40 Shia Pilgrims
Two explosions killed at least 40 Shia pilgrims and wounded 120 others Saturday in Damascus, Syria. No group has claimed responsibility for the bombings. Local TV said the attack was carried out by two suicide bombers, Reuters reported, and images from the scene showed buses with windows shattered, bloodstains on the street, and random bits of scattered clothing. The pilgrims had gathered at a bus station nearby the Bab el Saghir Cemetery when the first bomb exploded, and about 10 minutes later, as victims were being tended to, the second blast went off. The pilgrims had just come from the shrine of Sayeda Zeinab, the granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad. The shrine is a frequent target of attack by ISIS because it’s regularly visited by Shia pilgrims.
The fires blazing in Brazil are part of a larger deforestation crisis, accelerated by President Jair Bolsonaro.
The Amazon is burning. There have been more than 74,000 fires across Brazil this year, and nearly 40,000 fires across the Amazon, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research. That’s the fastest rate of burning since record-keeping began, in 2013. Toxic smoke from the fires is so intense that darkness now falls hours before the sun sets in São Paulo, Brazil’s financial capital and the largest city in the Western Hemisphere.
The fires have captured the planet’s attention as little else does. The Amazon is the world’s largest and most diverse tract of rainforest, with millions of species and billions of trees. It stores vast amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide and produces 6 percent of the planet’s oxygen.
Meritocracy prizes achievement above all else, making everyone—even the rich—miserable. Maybe there’s a way out.
In the summer of 1987, I graduated from a public high school in Austin, Texas, and headed northeast to attend Yale. I then spent nearly 15 years studying at various universities—the London School of Economics, the University of Oxford, Harvard, and finally Yale Law School—picking up a string of degrees along the way. Today, I teach at Yale Law, where my students unnervingly resemble my younger self: They are, overwhelmingly, products of professional parents and high-class universities. I pass on to them the advantages that my own teachers bestowed on me. They, and I, owe our prosperity and our caste to meritocracy.
Two decades ago, when I started writing about economic inequality, meritocracy seemed more likely a cure than a cause. Meritocracy’s early advocates championed social mobility. In the 1960s, for instance, Yale President Kingman Brewster brought meritocratic admissions to the university with the express aim of breaking a hereditary elite. Alumni had long believed that their sons had a birthright to follow them to Yale; now prospective students would gain admission based on achievement rather than breeding. Meritocracy—for a time—replaced complacent insiders with talented and hardworking outsiders.
If elected, can the candidate be trusted to hold government officials accountable and oversee a progressive criminal justice system? Her past says no.
When Senator Kamala Harris is criticized for actions she took as San Francisco’s district attorney or as California’s attorney general, the Democratic presidential hopeful responds in two ways. She cites the most progressive aspects of her record, arguing that she’ll advocate in the White House for more reforms to the criminal-justice system. And she asserts that it is laudable to work for change from within broken institutions, “at the table where the decisions are made.”
She says very little, and nothing convincing, about some of the most serious charges against her, like that she fought hard to keep innocents in prison and failed to fight hard against corrupt cops.
If elected president, Harris seems as likely as any of her Democratic rivals, and far more likely than Donald Trump, to pursue a criminal-justice-reform agenda that overlaps with policies I favor as a civil libertarian. And I do not hold it against Harris that as a municipal and state official she enforced many laws that I regard as unjust. All the candidates now running for president will, if elected, preside over the enforcement of some laws that they and I regard as unjust.
One person shouldn’t have the power to set policies that doom the rest of humanity’s shot at mitigating rising temperatures.
When Jair Bolosonaro won Brazil’s presidential election last year, having run on a platform of deforestation, David Wallace-Wells asked, “How much damage can one person do to the planet?” Bolsonaro didn’t pour lighter fluid to ignite the flames now ravishing the Amazon, but with his policies and rhetoric, he might as well have. The destruction he inspired—and allowed to rage with his days of stubborn unwillingness to douse the flames—has placed the planet at a hinge moment in its ecological history. Unfortunately, the planet doesn’t have a clue about how it should respond.
In part, the problem is that so much of the world is now governed by leaders who share Bolsonaro’s sensibility. Even before Bolsonaro presided over the incineration of the world’s storehouse of oxygen, he led a dubious regime. His path to power began with the corrupt impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, followed by the arrest of his higher-polling electoral rival.
He understands men in America better than most people do. The rest of the country should start paying attention.
Every morning of my Joe Rogan experience began the same way Joe Rogan begins his: with the mushroom coffee.
It’s a pour-and-stir powder made from lion’s mane and chaga—“two rock-star mushrooms,” according to Joe—and it’s made by a company called Four Sigmatic, a regular advertiser on Joe Rogan’s wildly popular podcast. As a coffee lover, the mere existence of mushroom coffee offends me. (“I’ll have your most delicious thing, made from your least delicious things, please,” a friend said, scornfully.) But it tastes fine, and even better after another cup of actual coffee.
Next, I took several vitamin supplements from a company called Onnit, whose core philosophy is “total human optimization” and whose website sells all kinds of wicked-cool fitness gear—a Darth Vader kettlebell ($199.95); a 50-foot roll of two-and-a-half-inch-thick battle rope ($249.95); a 25-pound quad mace ($147.95), which according to one fitness-equipment site is a weapon dating back to 11th-century Persia. I stuck to the health products, though, because you know how it goes—you buy one quad mace and soon your apartment is filled with them. I stirred a packet of Onnit Gut Health powder into my mushroom coffee, then downed an enormous pair of Alpha Brain pills, filled with nootropics to help with “memory and focus.”
Working on economic policy at the White House, I came to understand that the stakes of the confrontation are far higher than those of trade alone.
I spent much of the past two years on the staff of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, thinking about U.S. trade policy toward China. Many people, including me, were focused on the economics of this issue. Many still are.
The blow-by-blow of the bout between the world’s two economic heavyweights is easy to follow. The world’s stock markets gyrate in response to the trade news of the day; the U.S. dollar falls versus the Chinese yuan, and the president responds. Each new piece of macroeconomic data is interrogated until it mumbles something about tariffs. Even the Federal Reserve has weighed in.
But the economics of the U.S.-China trade dispute will never tell its full story. Sooner or later, the current U.S.-China trade conflict will be resolved, and either the U.S. or China will be seen as the winner, in terms of direct economic consequences.
I used to find humor in the stupid mishaps that plagued my family. But I don't laugh anymore.
For years, I laughed off guns. They were part of the scenery where I grew up in Chicago. Street gangs fought each other with switchblades and brass knuckles and sometimes you heard the pop of gunfire at night. I shrugged it off. Made jokes about the situation. Closed my eyes and went to sleep.
In America, we “go ballistic” when we get angry. We “shoot from the hip” when we talk out of turn. We have “trigger warnings” in the classroom. Guns and gun culture are everywhere in our lives.
Living with gun violence can desensitize you. Humor was our coping mechanism, designed to keep complex emotions at bay. I’m ashamed to say that I made fun of family members who were shot and lived to tell the tale.
Many families of killers are left to sort through their confusion and shock as some assume they are to blame.
Last weekend, a shooter killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio, before being killed by police. The suspect was identified as Connor Betts, a 24-year-old, and among the victims was his younger sister, Megan. “It seems to just defy believability that he would shoot his own sister,” Dayton’s police chief said. “But it’s also hard to believe he didn’t recognize that was his sister, so we just don’t know.”
Many in Dayton, and in the country, are trying to comprehend the incident, not least the parents of the siblings. Having lost two children, they are left with a brutal twist on a question faced by so many other parents in the era of mass shootings: How does one make sense of having a child who has killed several people?
Like humans, galaxies need to breathe and expire when they can't. How exactly they do so is a mystery.
Most of what astronomers know about the universe comes from what they can see. So their ideas have been prejudiced toward stars and galaxies, which are bright. But most of the regular matter in the universe is in the form of gas, which is dim. Gas called the intergalactic medium fills the space between galaxies; the gas of the circumgalactic medium surrounds galaxies more closely. The gas in both places regulates the birth, life, and death of the galaxies, and holds a detailed history of the universe. Only lately have astronomers been able to detect it.
Shortly after its birth, the universe was filled with gas, mostly hydrogen. Over time, here and there, gravity pulled the gas into clouds, which turned into galaxies and in which stars ignited. Stars shine by thermonuclear burning of the gas; of those that die in explosions, some blow the gas back out of the galaxies. Out in intergalactic space, the gas cools and gets denser, until gravity pulls it back into the galaxy where new stars form. The process repeats: Gravity condenses gas into galaxies and stars, stars blow up and kick the gas out, gravity cycles the gas back in and makes new stars.
Police in Oregon manipulated a photo to make a suspect look more like the perpetrator.
Last week, The Oregonian newspaper exposed what ought to be a headline-grabbing scandal in the course of reporting on an otherwise obscure criminal trial.
The dicey behavior began when Portland cops investigating a series of bank robberies felt they knew the perpetrator’s identity: Tyrone Lamont Allen, a 50-year-old whose face is covered by several prominent tattoos.
But there was a problem. None of the bank tellers had noted seeing any face tattoos on the robber. And no tattoos were visible in recovered surveillance footage.
Rather than looking for other suspects, or even proceeding with a photo lineup knowing that the tellers were unlikely to positively identify Allen, the police officers turned to a piece of software to solve their problem.