Priorities were skewed. That’s how President Donald Trump sees Wednesday’s Florida high school shooting that killed 17 people. The FBI reportedly didn’t act on a tip about threats apparently posted by the admitted shooter, expelled student Nikolas Cruz. The president tweeted Saturday that the agency was “spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion” when it should “Get back to the basics.” Meanwhile, calls for gun control gained traction, with top Florida Republican donor Al Hoffman Jr. saying he “will not write another check unless they all support a ban on assault weapons.”
The Presidential Daily Brief
They’re “simply fantasies.” That’s how Moscow’s former ambassador to Washington described Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s election interference indictment of 13 Russians and three organizations. It’s the first time Mueller’s probe has brought election meddling charges, but the 37-page document implicates neither the Russian government nor President Trump’s campaigners, whose cooperation was “unwitting.” The alleged scheme, dating back to 2014, included using Americans’ identities to “spread distrust” toward candidates and the electoral system. Trump tweeted that the charges prove his campaign didn’t collude with Russians, but experts note that Mueller’s probe isn’t finished.
An Iranian commercial airliner crashed today in the country’s mountainous south, with no survivors expected from among its 60 passengers, including a child, and six crew, according to state media. The Aseman Airlines turboprop ATR-72 was near its destination city, Yasuj, nearly 500 miles south of Tehran, when it struck 1,440-foot Mount Dena in the Zagros range. Rescue helicopters, hampered by foggy conditions, couldn’t initially reach or reportedly even find the crash site. Iran’s commercial aircraft have aged under international sanctions, whose relief under a 2015 nuclear agreement has allowed airlines, including Aseman, to begin updating their fleets.
They were blindsided. Distracted by one scandal alleging political bias, Facebook’s leadership missed its chance to stem another that eventually engulfed the entire world — both digitally and politically. In its clumsy quest to remain a neutral platform, as well as become a go-to source for news, the social media giant failed to fully realize its ability, as one critic put it, to “amplify the worst aspects of human nature” while helping poison American democracy. Now, the social network must act, warns Sen. Dianne Feinstein, “or we will.”
He’ll think of something. Out of respect for the victims of the Florida shooting, President Trump’s postponed a trip to Pennsylvania, billed as a stop for his 2020 re-election bid, but widely expected to double as help for GOP congressional special election hopeful Rick Saccone. The tight race threatens to be another in a string of setbacks for the party, whose luminaries are set to discuss thwarting a feared midterm disaster at the Conservative Political Action Conference, which begins Wednesday in Maryland, with Trump as its keynote speaker.
Call it nuclear NIMBYism. Anyone solely blaming Russian intransigence for the Cold War-style crisis that’s playing out between Moscow and Washington should probably consider the Kremlin’s perspective, argues economist and author Benn Steil. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO has encroached on its traditional turf, and then refused to heed its anxieties about antagonistic forces closing in. U.S. policymakers might do better, Steil says, to realize that Western military expansion has actually been the primary catalyst for Moscow’s assertiveness — and eventually accept that Russia’s got a sphere of influence too.
The Week Ahead: Danica Patrick plans to compete today in her last stock car race, the Daytona 500 in Florida. On Wednesday, uneasy investors hope to be reassured by minutes from the Federal Reserve’s January meeting. And two embattled leaders who’ve feuded in the past, President Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, plan to meet Friday at the White House.
Know This: Tibetan Buddhists fear the worst as they wait for Chinese authorities to release information about damage from a major fire at Lhasa’s Jokhang temple, one of Tibet’s holiest sites. Israel launched airstrikes in the Gaza Strip overnight after a Saturday explosion wounded four of its soldiers. And a helicopter carrying officials viewing damage from Friday’s 7.2-magnitude earthquake in southern Mexico crashed Saturday, killing 14 people, including a baby.
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It happened again: A flurry of polarizing clickbait misinformation spread after Wednesday’s Florida school shooting. It’s part of a societal pathology foretold by tech researcher Aviv Ovadya, who believes things are going to get much, much worse. While the frantic screeds polluting the internet deserve our skepticism, he says, “you should be alarmist about this stuff.” Advances in artificial intelligence promise to make disinformation so believable — with seamlessly faked videos, for instance — that information consumers will begin doubting even accurate reporting, leaving society without the knowledge needed to sustain democracy.
It’s a higher league of bush. Tanzanian companies are attracting new safari customers with more creature comforts for those wanting to get up close and personal with exotic fauna without having to forgo flush toilets. Why suffer a bumpy drive when you can fly into camps with service that some — willing to drop perhaps $900 a night — say rivals five-star hotels. Tourism provides livelihoods for about 1.5 million people and generates $2 billion annually for the East African nation, which hopes its growing, innovative industry will stay ahead of its neighbors’.
Big Brother is rating you. For some in China, “social credit” analyzes their citizenship numerically — whether it’s what people buy, what they post or what rules they violate. A “sincerity” score can determine such things as exclusive school admissions or qualification for a deposit-free apartment rental. It’s still being tested by the Chinese government, but success could give it legs. Other governments or entrepreneurs might give the rest of humanity individual measurements of trustworthiness. But would such a future be utopia or something best confined to a Black Mirror script?
Its time has come. Friday’s phenomenally anticipated release of Black Panther felt less like a typical Hollywood comic book big-screen premiere than a cultural moment for Black Americans. Conceived in 1966 to give Black audiences a hero to identify with, its modern incarnation is a latecomer in a Marvel Cinematic Universe awash with white superhumans. The film takes Afrofuturism mainstream, depicting the protagonist’s wealthy and powerful African kingdom fighting to protect a hypervaluable natural resource. While Wakanda may be fictional, its real-life parallels could make it a rallying cry.
They took it for the team. Striker Paolo Guerrero, captain of Peru’s national soccer team, was going to miss his squad’s first trip to the World Cup since 1982 after testing positive for benzoylecgonine, a cocaine byproduct, and being banned for a year. But Guerrero’s lawyers got FIFA to halve the suspension, saying that he only drank traditional tea made from coca leaves. As proof, they cited benzoylecgonine in ancient Incan mummies — sacrificed after ritual coca consumption — helping get Guerrero cleared for World Cup play this summer in Russia.