Wednesday, 17 Jul 2024

California Wildfires, Amazon, Midterms: Your Tuesday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. California wildfires are still blazing out of control, and the death toll has risen to at least 44.

The Camp Fire in Northern California, blamed for at least 42 deaths, is now the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history.

The sheriff’s office in Paradise, a retirement community wiped out by the fire, said that more than 200 residents were unaccounted for. Our journalists visited a mobile home park, where residents waited anxiously for news of their neighbors. Above, a search team in Paradise.

Outside Los Angeles, the Woolsey Fire has killed two and burned nearly 100,000 acres. One of our correspondents, a former Baghdad bureau chief, writes that the scorched landscapes are reminiscent of war zones — not just in how they look, but also in how they make people feel.


2. A week after the midterm elections, with a more complete tally of votes, the results are better for Democrats and worse for Republicans than they first appeared.

In the House, Democrats have gained 32 seats so far and could pick up 35 to 40 when counting is complete. In the Senate, following a win in Arizona, Democrats are likely to lose one or two seats in the final tally, rather than the three or four they expected after Election Day.

Underlying shifts in the electorate suggest President Trump may have to walk a precarious path to re-election in 2020. Republicans suffered losses among women, young people, independent voters and Latino voters, researchers said, while Democrats gained with suburbanites and seniors.

But, our Upshot columnist writes, Democrats have some significant weak spots, too. Above, the Capitol.


3. President Trump is considering firing Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, in a major shuffle of his cabinet and West Wing staff, our reporters learned.

Ms. Nielsen, above, has long been a target of the president, who has criticized her for being ineffective in implementing his administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies.

Other shake-ups could be in store, including the renewed possibility that Mr. Trump might push out John Kelly, his chief of staff and Ms. Nielsen’s old boss.

And Mira Ricardel, a foreign policy hard-liner who had been serving as a deputy to the national security adviser, was expected to be dismissed after running afoul of Melania Trump.

“It is the position of the office of the first lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” a spokeswoman said.

Separately, Maryland has asked a federal judge to declare that the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, is the rightful acting attorney general — not Matthew Whitaker, the president’s choice. Mr. Trump may not “bypass the constitutional and statutory requirements for appointing someone to that office,” the plaintiffs said in court papers.


4. Amazon announced that it would split its second headquarters between two East Coast locations: Long Island City in Queens, above, and the area around Crystal City in Arlington, Va., just outside Washington.

The new sites will eventually house at least 25,000 employees each, the company said, and will require $5 billion in construction and other investments. Amazon also said it would develop a smaller site in Nashville.

The two locations sealed the deal with promises of more than $2 billion in tax incentives, tied to the number of jobs the company creates.

So what should we think about tech’s migration into wealthy U.S. cities? Our architecture critic weighs in.


5. The Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, which became law nearly a year ago, has lifted the American economy. Spending is up, paychecks are fatter, above, and large corporations are seeing bigger profits.

But accounting for inflation, wage growth has yet to pick up.

Supporters of President Trump’s tax cuts said they would result in long-term changes in economic growth and business behavior. Did that happen?

The results so far are mixed, according to our reporter covering economic and tax policy.


6. No more mango.

Juul Labs, the largest e-cigarette maker in the U.S., said it would remove nearly all of its flavored vaping pods from stores, and halt most social media promotion.

The company is trying to stay ahead of new F.D.A. restrictions, expected this week, that would ban sales of flavored e-cigarettes and require age verification for online sales.

Juul’s device has become popular among children and teenagers, and the company has come under sharp criticism for its marketing. Above, a shop in Manhattan.

The head of the F.D.A. has repeatedly called youth vaping an epidemic, and vowed to stop it.


7. Boeing is facing new scrutiny over a crash in Indonesia.

Pilots said the aircraft maker didn’t tell them about changes to the emergency system on its new 737 Max 8 jet, the model in the Lion Air 610 disaster that killed 189 people.

Investigators have been focused on whether the emergency system caused the accident. It’s designed to automatically correct a plane’s angle if it appears to be stalling. But if it malfunctions, it could send a plane into a potentially fatal nose dive. Above, the plane’s engine.

Indonesian transportation officials have said the manual for the new Boeing model didn’t contain information about the update. And pilots said the onboard checklist, which contains information about overriding the emergency system, was incorrect.

More than 4,700 orders have been placed worldwide for the Max 8. It is especially popular with low-cost carriers looking for dependable workhorses for shorter flights.


8. There’s a plan for Brexit.

After months of deadlock, Britain and the E.U. have reached a draft agreement over the terms of their divorce.

But there’s still a long road ahead. The plan first needs approval from Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet, where hard-line Brexiteers could put up a fight, then from a Parliament stacked with opponents. Here are the sticking points that could derail the deal. Above, a demonstrator in London.

Details of the outline agreement aren’t available yet, but the prime minister has made it clear she wants to avoid a so-called no-deal Brexit, an abrupt withdrawal with no measures to avoid a chaotic transition.

The cabinet is scheduled to meet Wednesday. If members give the plan the green light, European leaders will need to give it their blessing at the end of the month. Britain is scheduled to leave the bloc in March.


9. Russia’s efforts to meddle with U.S. elections are not a hoax.

The 2016 campaign capped Moscow’s decades-long strategy of creating divisions in the West and undermining democracies, often in places ill-equipped to combat the threat.

Our Opinion team paired up with the BBC to produce a three-part documentary called “Operation InfeKtion” that exposes the K.G.B. spies who invented fake news, Russia’s disinformation playbook and the global spread of the war on truth.


10. Finally, for newly arrived immigrants, Thanksgiving — the most American meal — can be perplexing.

Our Food writer followed cooks from across the globe who are preparing their first Thanksgiving feasts, part of their passage to American life.

“People do things in so many different ways here,” said Mayada Anjari, a Syrian refugee, above. “I was surprised that there’s a holiday that everyone celebrates.”

Have a gratifying evening.

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