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.
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.
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.
A class developed in Duluth, Minnesota, has heavily influenced how domestic abusers are rehabilitated across the U.S. But critics question whether it works.
The photograph above shows Andrew Lisdahl and his fiancée, Theresa, at their home, along with Andrew's daughter with his ex-wife (left) and one of Theresa's daughters (right).
Andrew Lisdahl was mad. His wife, Gretchen, had smoked a cigarette, a habit he detested. They fought, and Gretchen spent the night at a friend’s house. The next day, Andrew drank a bottle of tequila and hitched a ride to the stained-glass studio where Gretchen, an artist, gave lessons. When Andrew found her, he grabbed her left hand and tried to remove her wedding ring, but Gretchen fought him off. As Andrew stumbled away, he took Gretchen’s car keys and phone.
After work, Gretchen’s father drove her back home to retrieve her things. Inside, Andrew had been passed out on the couch, but he woke up and yelled at Gretchen, “Get the fuck out!” When she didn’t, he grabbed her by the hair, dragged her into the living room, threw her on the carpet, kicked her in the chest, and pinned her to the ground. As Gretchen’s father approached the house, Andrew let her go and she was able to escape.
His sometimes-goofy bid has been a surprise success. But can he make voters take the idea of Commander in Chief Yang seriously?
BURLINGTON, Iowa—Not long ago, Andrew Yang would have considered his presidential campaign a success just for having injected a discussion of job automation into the race. He was a novelty candidate, a single-issue candidate, known as much for joking around on the debate stage and for viral videos (like the one that shows him squirting whipped cream into the mouths of two kneeling volunteers) as for his signature policy position, the “freedom dividend,” a universal basic income of $1,000 a month.
But now that Yang has outlasted a number of more conventional and better-known rivals—and achieved surprisingly robust poll numbers and fundraising totals—his campaign has started to dream about what could happen if their candidate could transcend his novelty status. So when Yang’s top staff gathered at the end of December, his campaign chief, Nick Ryan, made clear that the strategy for the final weeks before voting starts would be to “present our guy as President Yang, Commander in Chief Yang.” How do you do that when Yang is the $1,000-a-month guy—not the bilateral-summit guy or the Situation Room guy? He’s the candidate who loves to crowd-surf, whose fans meme him into Obi-Wan Kenobi robes (“He is our only hope”), who wears his thick blue-and-red campaign scarf everywhere he goes. Can he convince voters he’s commander-in-chief material while continuing to indulge in the oddball routine to which he ascribes much of his success so far?
The new film starring Robert Downey Jr. as a doctor who talks to animals is transfixing at times, if only because it’s such a disaster.
Hollywood makes bad movies all the time. Sometimes they’re highly enjoyable pieces of schlock that divert your attention for 90 minutes before vanishing from memory. Sometimes they’re unwatchable slogs, similarly not worth remembering. Then there are the debacles of the release calendar: genuine catastrophes such as Dolittle, the likes of which are rarer than a talking dragonfly. The newest adaptation of Hugh Lofting’s whimsical 1920s stories about a doctor who can commune with animals stars Robert Downey Jr. and a boatload of CGI critters, and clearly no expense has been spared in bringing it to the big screen. But that doesn’t keep it from being one of the worst cinematic fiascos I’ve seen in years.
The president’s habit of shooting the messenger is going to prove costly.
The Trump administration has placed civil servants and nonpolitical government employees in a terrible position. Their job is to provide accurate, nonpartisan information and make decisions grounded in law; sometimes that involves providing testimony to Congress, which legally must be truthful. Yet if they tell the truth, President Donald Trump and his allies will publicly crucify them. Bureaucrats, of course, are not viewed by most people as terribly sympathetic victims, but if you shoot these messengers, you end up wounding citizens. Taxpayers send money to the government so it can develop accurate information, not partisan pabulum—but Trump is doing all he can to change that.
Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office, an independent watchdog within the federal government, released a decision on whether the Trump administration violated the law by freezing millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine. The GAO found that it wasn’t even a close call.
The president, however inadvertently, may be reminding the world of the reality of international relations.
A year and a half into Donald Trump’s presidency, Henry Kissinger set out a theory. “I think Trump may be one of those figures in history who appears from time to time to mark the end of an era and to force it to give up its old pretences,” he told the Financial Times. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that he knows this, or that he is considering any great alternative. It could just be an accident.”
A term has been coined to describe this notion: Ryan Evans of War on the Rocks calls them “Trumportunities.” It is the idea that, whether by accident or design, Trump creates chances to solve long-running international problems that a conventional leader would not. His bellicose isolationist agenda, for instance, might already be forcing Europe to confront its geopolitical weakness; China, its need for a lasting economic settlement with the U.S.; and countries throughout the Middle East, the limits of their power.
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.
Not with Trump, not with the Green New Deal, and not with the Democrats running for president
SANTA MONICA, Calif.—In another world, Arnold Schwarzenegger might be an elder statesman in his party. The former Republican governor of California might even be a top ally of the entertainment president: They used to be friendly, and Schwarzenegger was Donald Trump’s successor on Celebrity Apprentice.
In Trump’s world, though, Schwarzenegger is a GOP apostate. Fresh off of playing the president of the United States in a new movie—the upcoming Kung Fury 2, which has a plot about “Thundercops,” time travel, and the Miami Kung Fu Academy—Schwarzenegger is coming into 2020 trying to sort out his role in politics in the year ahead. He thinks Republicans should follow his lead on environmentalism and redistricting reform. He thinks the whole country should follow California’s lead on integrating economic growth into environmental protection.