First, Defense Secretary James Mattis was retiring “with distinction.” But that Thursday @realDonaldTrump tweet was quickly overshadowed by Mattis’ “protest” resignation letter. Sparked by Trump’s sudden decision to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, it contrasted the former Marine general’s commitment to allies and care with adversaries to the president’s. Reportedly furious, the commander-in-chief decided Mattis would leave Jan 1, two months earlier than planned, and his deputy, Patrick Shanahan, would become acting secretary. Congress’ top Democratic senator, Chuck Schumer, said “this turmoil” is making America “less prosperous and less secure.”
The Presidential Daily Brief
A tsunami hit Indonesia’s Sunda Strait Saturday night, killing more than 220 people, injuring hundreds and triggering memories of a similar Indonesian disaster that killed 2,500 in September. Some victims were at a concert by Indonesian rock band Seventeen, captured on video being heaved with their stage into their audience by a sudden wave. Landslides, perhaps underwater, triggered by the eruption of the Anak Krakatau volcano, are thought to have caused the tsunami, Indonesian scientific authorities said. The name means “Child of Krakatoa” — emerging from a volcanic island obliterated by a historic 1883 eruption.
This may be a while. Emerging from a Saturday lunch with the president, Capitol Hill allies said resolving a dispute on border wall funding won’t happen soon, possibly continuing the shutdown of non-essential government functions, which began Saturday morning, into the new year. While Trump on Friday night urged, “Let’s be bipartisan,” Democrats complained that instead of dining with like-minded lawmakers, he should be negotiating with those who can cut a deal to reopen the government. While Border Patrol and other vital employees continue to work, they won’t be paid until the impasse is broken.
This fight is over. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned Thursday after President Trump said he’s pulling 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria. Mattis cited “strongly held” views on respecting allies and keeping foes in check, as well as the president’s need to have someone “better aligned” with his views. On Friday, Brett McGurk, Trump’s special envoy for the multinational Islamic State-fighting coalition, also resigned over the withdrawal. John McLaughlin, former deputy CIA director, tells OZY that Russia’s doing a “victory lap” after the U.S. abdication, which leaves allies “wondering what the hell is going on.”
Millions of Americans and millions more around the world will mark the Christmas holiday — some solemnly as Christ’s ceremonial birthday, others as a time to unite with family and still others as a time to party — while many will welcome the end of another exhausting orgy of consumerism. Either way, there’s lots to partake of: good food, special Christmas episodes of your favorite shows and, if you’re a YouTube addict, LadBaby’s repurposing of history’s worst pop hit as an even more laughable U.K. favorite celebrating sausage rolls.
The Rio Grande Valley is on the front line of America’s immigration crisis, seeing 41 percent of illegal crossings from Mexico. In the midst of that movement, residents of Roma, Texas, are forced to choose whether to back the Border Patrol deployed by the U.S. president or its targets. It’s a battle swayed by fear, compassion and concern: Faced with an injured immigrant, residents might notify their priest instead of the authorities, and the priest might find a medic who doesn’t report undocumented patients — and everyone involved risks time in jail.
The Week Ahead: On Tuesday, aka Christmas Day, On the Basis of Sex, a biopic about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, will be released on the heels of news about her lung cancer surgery. And on Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau is to report home sales data, sure to provoke skittish investors, but the government shutdown may delay its release.
Know This: Japanese Emperor Akihito gave his final birthday address today before abdicating in April. Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined the Supreme Court’s four liberal members in refusing to immediately reinstate the Trump administration’s order rejecting asylum claims from those who enter the country illegally. And the tech-dominated Nasdaq stock index dropped 3 percent Friday, bringing it down 21.9 percent since its August 29 peak and officially into bear market territory.
#OZYFacts: This next toast is not to your health: More than a third of the illicit alcohol consumption in El Salvador isn’t intended for drinking, like rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer.
It was only a matter of time. The Hungarian leader seemed to hit a wall last week when protesters took on the ruling Fidesz party’s law that allows employers to demand 400 hours of overtime from workers. While government mouthpieces dismissed “slave law” protests as coming from urban political opposition, it turned out to be more far-reaching. In towns across the party’s heartland, angry workers demonstrated — against the party and its media allies — suggesting that the populist government may lack the cards to play another hand like this.
“It takes a strong woman to balance those things.” Marlanna Evans sings of that balance, the kind found by her heroes, whom she channels as the rapper Rapsody. Evans has shared the Grammys stage with Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar and Migos but hasn’t forgotten her roots on North Carolina’s coastal plain. While her influences may include towering figures like Aretha Franklin, it’s her artist mother whom the once quiet child has immortalized with her album Laila’s Wisdom.
Nothing says Canadian wilderness like caribou, though they might end up as only a symbol. In the United States, the last of the great herds recently consisted of just two females, which meant caribou were functionally extinct. They’re dwindling north of the border too, where First Nations communities are struggling against logging and industry to save them. “It’s an extreme situation,” says Roland Willson, chief of the West Moberly First Nations. It’s gotten so bad, he says, that conservationists have resorted to rearing caribou calves away from natural predators.
Lemonade stands are so last century. It’s the influencer marketing industry that’s generating big bucks for children today. With an expected worth of up to $10 billion by 2020, opportunities for kids — and their parents — are only growing. But so are concerns about exploitation as mini-models become the child stars of the information age. Parents face criticism for keeping their kids in the dark about their burgeoning fame or even potentially exposing them to pedophiles and other threats, to say nothing of violating child labor laws.
“You can’t be a month behind.” That’s Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s warning about the NFL’s information arms race. With the rise of player-tracking data, the sport is kicking off a new era of analytics. Although there are too few games and too many variables for baseball-style analysis, teams have used the data dump to develop more aggressive fourth-down strategy or to scout players by tracking their game-day speed. As others try to catch up, the leaders are channeling copious stat streams to put points on the board.