×
Noted
October 5, 2018

French police have opened an investigation into the whereabouts of Meng Hongwei, the head of the international police agency Interpol, after his wife reported him missing Friday during a trip to China. Meng, 64, traveled to his home country on Sept. 29, and his wife told French police at Interpol's Lyon headquarters she hasn't heard from his since. He was elected president of Interpol in November 2016 and his term runs until 2020. Meng has held several positions in China, including vice minister of public security and director of anti-narcotics and anti-terrorism offices. Interpol's main purpose is to give police forces in different countries a way to alert their peers about wanted suspects. Peter Weber

October 2, 2018

On Monday, the Trump administration started denying diplomatic visas to non-married domestic partners of gay foreign diplomats and United Nations employees. Foreign diplomats and U.N. employees already in the U.S. must get married by Dec. 31 or their partners will be forced to leave the country within 30 days. The policy change, announced in July, was portrayed by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations as a step forward for equality, noting that "same-sex spouses of U.S. diplomats now enjoy the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex spouses."

In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opted to grant visas to domestic partners of gay U.S. and foreign diplomats, but not heterosexual domestic partners. After the landmark 2015 Supreme Court case recognizing a national right to same-sex marriage, the U.S. started issuing diplomatic visas only to married spouses of U.S. diplomats, regardless of sexual orientation. This new policy brings the visa rules for foreign diplomats in line with the U.S. rules for U.S. diplomats.

The problem, as former U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power noted on Twitter, is that "only 12 percent of U.N. member states allow same-sex marriage." And diplomats from the other 88 percent of nations won't be able to bring their partners to the U.S. or, if they get married in the U.S., could face prosecution upon returning home. "With this change, the State Department is enforcing parity in the way they recognize opposite-sex partnerships and same-sex partnerships," said U.N. Globe, an LGBT advocacy group for U.N. staff. "It is an unfortunate change in rules, since same-sex couples, unlike opposite-sex couples, have limited choices when it comes to marriage." Peter Weber

September 24, 2018

The Indian Ocean island nation the Maldives held a national election on Sunday, and in an upset, opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih beat incumbent President Abdulla Yameen, 134,616 votes to 96,132, according to provisional results. Yameen, accused of increasing authoritarianism, conceded, saying: "The Maldivian people have decided what they want. I have accepted the results." The election had pitted not only Yameen against Solih, but also China against India. Yameen had accepted economic aid and investment from Beijing and moved the Maldives closer to China; Solih, known as Abu, is expected to bring the nation back into India's orbit.

Solih led a coalition including his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the Jumhooree Party, and the Adhaalath Party, running on a platform of democratic reform. "The message is loud and clear," he said after the results came in. "The people of Maldives want change, peace, and justice." Yameen, who has sharply cracked down on dissent in recent months, is the half-brother of former longtime autocratic leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was jailed in June. The Maldives, made up of 1,192 islands and 26 coral atolls, is one of the countries most at risk from rising sea levels tied to climate change. Peter Weber

September 6, 2018

On Thursday, India's Supreme Court ruled that a 157-year-old law that criminalized gay sex "is irrational, arbitrary, and manifestly unconstitutional," as Chief Justice Dipak Misra said in reading the opinion. The colonial-era law, known as section 377, made certain "unnatural offenses," like "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal," punishable by up to 10 years in jail. It technically banned all anal and oral sex, BBC News reports, but it was used primarily against same-sex couples. The Delhi high court struck the law down in 2009, but the Supreme Court reinstated it four years later. Peter Weber

September 4, 2018

Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of Afganistan's Haqqani militant network, has died after years of illness, the Taliban announced Tuesday. Haqqani, who had been paralyzed for a decade, was a prized CIA asset during the U.S.-backed Afghan guerrilla war against Soviet occupation in the 1980s, but he aligned himself with the Taliban and al Qaeda in the 1990s. The U.S. declared his network a terrorist organization in 2012, and his son is believed to have taken over control of the group in 2001. Haqqani "endured long illness during his later years," the Taliban said in a statement, calling him an "exemplary warrior ... and among the great distinguished Jihadi personalities of this era."

The Haqqani network, which operates primarily out of Pakistan, has been blamed for some of the deadliest violence in Afghanistan during the U.S.-led NATO campaign in the country, including a 2017 truck bomb that killed more than 150 people in Kabul. Peter Weber

August 30, 2018

On Thursday, President Trump informed Congress in a letter that he intends to freeze the salaries of 2 million federal workers in 2019, seeking to avert an automatic 2.1 percent raise. "We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases," the president wrote. He cited authority used by himself and previous presidents to scrap raises "because of 'national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.'" Congress can override Trump's request, but his proposal and potential veto increases the likelihood of a pre-election government shutdown — the House has passed legislation with no mention of pay raises while the Senate set a 1.9 percent raise. The House and Senate already have to iron out differences on Trump's proposed border wall and cuts to social programs.

Lawmakers, mostly Democrats, and federal unions criticized the move, pointing to the deficit-busting $1.5 trillion tax cut Trump signed last December, his apparent general antipathy to the federal workforce, and his proclamations that America's economy is the best it has ever been.

"We cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal employees and I will work with my House and Senate colleagues to keep the pay increase in our appropriations measures that we vote on in September," said Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.). J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, noted that a third of civilian federal employees are veterans, "while many more work to support spouses or children who are actively serving." Military personnel will get a 2.6 percent raise under a spending law Trump has already signed. Peter Weber

August 1, 2018

The Labor Department said Tuesday that its employment-cost index rose 2.8 percent between June 2017 and June 2018, as did wages and salaries. That's the strongest increase for both measures of worker pay since right before the brutal recession of 2008, The Wall Street Journal reports, in another sign that "employers have raised pay to attract and retain workers" in response to the tightening labor market. At the same time, the Journal notes, inflation "is eating at some of the gains for workers." The Commerce Department said Tuesday that over the same 12-month period, prices for personal-consumption expenditures were up 2.2 percent, and core inflation rose 1.9 percent. Peter Weber

June 1, 2018

Samantha Bee accepted a Television Academy Honors award Thursday night for Full Frontal's coverage of the Time's Up and #MeToo movements. And in her acceptance speech, Bee addressed the elephant in the room: her widely criticized use of the term "feckless c--t" to refer to Ivanka Trump on Wednesday night's show. Earlier Thursday, Bee apologized to Trump for her "inappropriate and inexcusable" comment, and TBS also issued a mea culpa: "Those words should not have been aired. It was our mistake too, and we regret it." White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested TBS cancel the show.

"Every week I strive to show the world as I see it, unfiltered," Bee told the audience at NeueHouse in Hollywood, according to a copy of the speech obtained by IndieWire. "Sometimes I should probably have a filter. I accept that. I take it seriously when I get it right and I do take responsibility when I get it wrong." She explained the context for her slur — the treatment of immigrant children by President Trump and previous administrations — and lamented that "we spent the day wrestling with the repercussions of one bad word, when we all should have spent the day incensed that as a nation we are wrenching children from their parents and treating people legally seeking asylum as criminals."

Bee circled back to the controversy when discussing the #MeToo pieces, applauding her writers and the women who stepped forward: "Leaders of the #MeToo movement are changing the world. And we are honored to stand with you and support you as best we can. There is power in saying what you feel without apology ... okay, and sometimes you also have to apologize." She thanked TBS: "You always have our back." The Television Academy disinvited the press Thursday afternoon from the post-awards reception, citing "today's events involving Samantha B.," and Bee and her Full Frontal crew skipped the red carpet. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads