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.
A tectonic demographic shift is under way. Can the country hold together?
Democracy depends on the consent of the losers. For most of the 20th century, parties and candidates in the United States have competed in elections with the understanding that electoral defeats are neither permanent nor intolerable. The losers could accept the result, adjust their ideas and coalitions, and move on to fight in the next election. Ideas and policies would be contested, sometimes viciously, but however heated the rhetoric got, defeat was not generally equated with political annihilation. The stakes could feel high, but rarely existential. In recent years, however, beginning before the election of Donald Trump and accelerating since, that has changed.
A record-setting acqua alta has left much of Venice submerged, following stormy conditions blowing in from the Adriatic Sea.
Yesterday, strong winds and rainstorms pushed water levels in Venice, Italy, to the second-highest levels ever recorded. The high-water mark hit 74 inches (187 centimeters), just short of the record set in 1966. This exceptional acqua alta has flooded businesses and historic structures, sank boats, and been blamed for one death so far.
HONG KONG—For months now, I’ve been told that Hong Kong’s protests would end soon. They’ll end when school starts, I heard during the summer. School did start, but the protests wore on, only now I saw high-school students in crisp school uniforms joining the protesters’ ranks. Next, the mask ban of early October was supposed to slow protesters down, but the very first day after that ban, I watched streams of protesters in masks and helmets make their way to their usual haunts on Hong Kong Island.
The government shut down many of the subway lines that day, a practice that has become a de facto curfew, because Hong Kong’s über-efficient subway system is the way most people get around. No matter; the protesters ended up walking, sometimes a lot, and I walked with them, asking some of the same questions I had asked for months: Do you think you will continue protesting? What would it take for you to stop?
The GOP will not be a great or a good party until those who lead it straighten their backbones.
The first day of public hearings into the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump included an explosive revelation. William B. Taylor, Jr., the senior American diplomat in Ukraine, tied Trump even more directly than we previously knew to the effort to pressure Ukraine to probe his political opponent.
But as damaging as Taylor’s testimony proved, it was merely another massive boulder in the avalanche of evidence against the president. We are well beyond the point that any disinterested person can deny the president abused his power and acted in a corrupt manner, in ways the American founders explicitly warned against.
That the president acted the way he did should surprise exactly no one, given his disordered personality and Nietzschean ethic, his pathological lying and brutishness and bullying, and his history of personal and professional depravity. The president is a deeply damaged human being—and therefore a deeply dangerous president.
Corbyn and Trump are both populists and in a battle with ‘the swamp.’ Brexit aside, Johnson is not.
Donald Trump has claimed Boris Johnson as his bumbling, blond-haired mini-me from across the water. The U.K. Labour Party is doing all it can to push the same message ahead of next month’s general election, claiming there is a Trump-Johnson alliance at foot. Even Hillary Clinton has criticized the British prime minister for his refusal to publish a report into Russia’s involvement in the Brexit referendum.
And yet, by any serious audit of the two men and what they represent, it is not Boris Johnson who is Britain’s Trump. It’s Jeremy Corbyn.
Take away Brexit, and Johnson is a run-of-the-mill conservative whose policy agenda, instincts, and world view, as opposed to his personality, verge on the dull; a member and defender of the establishment whose wish is to climb atop it, not rip it down. Corbyn is the opposite: a populist who believes in the inherent corruption of the established order, at home and abroad; a man who sees conspiracy and injustice everywhere. Only one of these descriptions comes close to the U.S. president.
Suppose that the biblical story of Creation were true: God created the universe in six days, including all the laws of physics and all the physical constants that apply throughout the universe. Now imagine that one day, in the early 21st century, God became bored and, just for fun, doubled the gravitational constant. What would it be like to live through such a change? We’d all be pulled toward the floor; many buildings would collapse; birds would fall from the sky; the Earth would move closer to the sun, reestablishing orbit in a far hotter zone.
Let’s rerun this thought experiment in the social and political world, rather than the physical one. The U.S. Constitution was an exercise in intelligent design. The Founding Fathers knew that most previous democracies had been unstable and short-lived. But they were excellent psychologists, and they strove to create institutions and procedures that would work with human nature to resist the forces that had torn apart so many other attempts at self-governance.
Alumni of the Obama administration love Joe Biden. But some of them think that Deval Patrick is better equipped to win the presidency.
Joe Biden rarely goes anywhere without mentioning “my friend Barack.” Pete Buttigieg has a line in his stump speech about how he first went to Iowa to campaign for another “young man with a funny name.” Even though Barack Obama will not endorse in this primary, he has made a point of meeting with almost all the candidates, and he looms over the race.
But the politician personally closest to Obama is Deval Patrick. As several people in Obama’s inner circle have been saying to me for months before Patrick’s potential presidential candidacy leaked out on Monday, Biden originally came into the Obama fold as a matter of transactional politics, picked to balance the 2008 ticket; Patrick is an actual longtime friend based on mutual affinities. That Patrick seems poised to jump into the race at the last minute is the clearest sign yet of how much anxiety there is among Obama’s inner circle about Biden’s campaign. “Deval is a lot like Obama,” a former Obama aide told me. “People who were drawn to Obama would be drawn to Patrick.”
The first day of impeachment hearings showed Trump’s improper bullying of Ukraine setting off alarms throughout the government.
George Tenet, the former CIA director, told the 9/11 Commission that, given the stream of intelligence warnings about potential terrorist attacks against the United States before 9/11, “the system was blinking red.” Those words reflected just how widespread the concern was across the U.S. government that something bad was unfolding—in that case, a terrorist attack. It turns out that in the summer of 2019, the system was again blinking red.
Those who listened to the first day of public impeachment hearings, focused on Ukraine-related matters, heard a lot about Donald Trump and a lot about Rudy Giuliani. And for good reason: Both were central players in the White House–driven push to trade American weapons and a meeting at the White House for Ukraine’s help with Trump’s reelection.
The ambassador to Ukraine detailed a previously unknown phone call involving President Trump, potentially adding to the Democrats’ case that he put his own interests above the nation’s.
It took all of about 90 minutes for the public phase of the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump to yield its first big new revelation.
Appearing this morning before the House Intelligence Committee, Ambassador William Taylor told lawmakers—and the millions of people watching around the world—that on the day after his now-infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump personally asked a top U.S. diplomat, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, about the investigations he wanted Zelensky to pursue against the Biden family. Taylor told the committee that a member of his staff overheard the call between Trump and Sondland and then asked Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, what the president thought about Ukraine.
One suffocating city is a harbinger of health crises around the world.
Officials have implored the people of New Delhi to stay inside, indefinitely. Five million children in India’s capital have been handed face masks. Everyone is to keep windows closed. Contrary to the most fundamental medical advice, the city’s chief minister urged residents this week to “avoid outdoor physical activities.”
News images seem cut from an apocalyptic outbreak film. One of India’s holiest rivers is covered in toxic foam that looks like white cotton candy. Midday visibility is like a foggy dusk. The air reportedly causes people’s eyes to burn.
At the root is not some panic-inducing virus, though. The cause is simply pollution from agriculture and transportation. And the city’s air crisis is unique only in degree. The same elements are accumulating in the air everywhere.