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January 11, 2017

Watergate is burning.

The fire broke out about 1:40 p.m. EST in the infamous D.C. complex known for break-ins, wiretapping, and loaning its suffix to lesser scandals involving pizza or football. Having originated in a vacant residence on the 13th floor, the blaze was quickly extinguished by responding firefighters and nobody was injured — unless, of course, you consider the whole thing to be a giant, depressing metaphor. Jeva Lange

11:12 a.m. ET
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Russian interference in the 2016 election "is really the political equivalent of 9/11 — it is deadly, deadly serious," said former Undersecretary of Defense Michael Vickers, who served in the Obama administration, in an NBC News interview Saturday. "The Russians will definitely be back, given the success they had," he added. "I don't see much evidence of a response."

Vickers' comments come one day after The Washington Post's comprehensive report detailing former President Obama's inaction in response to Russian election interference in 2016. President Trump and congressional Democrats have also criticized the Obama administration's "inadequate" response.

Read The Week's analysis of how Russia weaponized the internet here. Bonnie Kristian

10:11 a.m. ET
Niklas Halle'n /Getty Images

Builders misused a combustible cladding to cover the sides of London's Grenfell Tower, the apartment building where 79 people were killed in a massive fire last week, Reuters reported Saturday. The material was intended for buildings a maximum of 10 meters tall, about the height of firefighters' ladders; Grenfell was more than six times that height.

Email correspondence reveals the cladding manufacturer, Arconic, sold the siding knowing it would be used inappropriately. "While we publish general usage guidelines, regulations and codes vary by country and need to be determined by the local building code experts," Arconic said in a statement to Reuters pledging to "fully support the authorities as they investigate this tragedy."

British authorities are now reviewing other high-rises for combustible cladding, and at least four buildings have been evacuated. "I know it's difficult, but Grenfell changes everything and I just don't believe we can take any risk with our residents' safety," said Georgia Gould, leader of the Camden Council, which evacuated the four high-rises Friday. "I have to put them first." Bonnie Kristian

8:38 a.m. ET

A devastating landslide is believed to have buried more than 140 people in southwest China on Saturday, local officials reported. The landslide occurred in a mountainous region of Sichuan province, with tons of rocks — estimated to be enough to fill 3,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools — pouring down on top of 46 homes in Xinmo village around 6 a.m. local time.

"Initial accounts from villagers nearby said there had been rain in the area, but some said it was not very heavy and there was no sign of an impending landslide," NPR's Rob Schmitz reported. A team of 500 rescue workers is scouring the area with sniffer dogs to locate bodies and possible survivors. Bonnie Kristian

8:20 a.m. ET
Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images

Congressional Democrats have leveled criticism at former President Obama following The Washington Post's Friday publication of a comprehensive report detailing the Obama administration's reactions to mounting evidence of Russian election meddling in 2016.

Obama's response "was inadequate," said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). "I think [the administration] could have done a better job informing the American people of the extent of the attack." Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), who serves on the House Intelligence Committee with Swalwell, said the penalties the Obama team imposed on Russia were "barely a slap on the wrist."

Of course, President Trump has also castigated his predecessor over the report. "Just out," he tweeted Friday night. "The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?"

For a quick take on what has everyone so worked up, read The Week's summary of the Post report's major revelations here. Bonnie Kristian

June 23, 2017
iStock

A Pennsylvania high school valedictorian had his microphone cut off in the middle of his speech when he began criticizing the school's "authoritative nature." Peter Butera received a standing ovation from fellow students when the principal ordered him off the stage for saying that administrators suppressed student expression. "Cutting the microphone," Butera said, "proved my point to be true." The Week Staff

June 23, 2017
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At a dinner during the SkyBridge Alternatives (SALT) Conference last month, former Vice President Joe Biden reportedly ripped into financier Bill Ackman in a way that only Biden can. The scuffle between Biden and the man known for his losing bets on Herbalife stock apparently started after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) asked Biden why he didn't run for president in 2016, Fox Business reported:

Biden explained that part of the decision stemmed from the death of his son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015. The room grew quiet as Biden became emotional, and said: "I'm sorry ... I've said enough."

That's when Ackman blurted out, "Why? That's never stopped you before."

The formal, and understated, dinner conversation suddenly turned tense, according three people who were present and confirmed both the substance and the wording of Biden's responses.

Biden, these people say, turned to someone seated near him, and asked, "Who is this asshole?," a reference to Ackman.

Then he turned directly to Ackman and stated: "Look, I don't know who you are, wiseass, but never disrespect the memory of my dead son!" these people say.

Ackman attempted what was described as an apology, to which Biden said, "Just shut the hell up." [Fox Business]

Attendees — including talk show host Steve Harvey, 60 Minutes reporter Lara Logan, and former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou — were apparently "stunned" by the exchange. "Biden was in rare form," a person with "direct knowledge" of the incident told Fox Business.

Biden's spokeswoman declined to comment, though she did not deny the incident. Ackman's spokesman denied there was an argument between Biden and Ackman, though he did not dispute the words that were reportedly exchanged. Becca Stanek

June 23, 2017

CNN has a new weapon in the ongoing war between the media and the White House: a court room sketch artist.

On Friday, the press was banned from bringing cameras into the daily briefing with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, so CNN sent its sketch artist, Bill Hennessy, to illustrate the scene. "Some conservative media voices dismissed it as a stunt," CNN writes, "but CNN argued that the sketch session did serve a journalistic purpose, in the same way that courtroom sketches do. CNN equated the briefing to a Supreme Court argument — an on-the-record event at which cameras are banned."

The White House hasn't been clear about why it is increasingly banning cameras from the briefings — Spicer said it's because he doesn't want reporters using the briefings to become YouTube stars (?), while White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon alleged it's because Spicer "got fatter" (??).

While you won't get to enjoy any of Spicer's signature irritation or moans of "Seaaaaan" from the reporters, this will have to do. Jeva Lange

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