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April 16, 2019

When the first fire alarm went off at Notre Dame cathedral on Monday evening, a staffer checked the most vulnerable part of the entire structure, the attic, and was relieved to see no flames, Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz said Tuesday.

That didn't last. Within 23 minutes, the attic was ablaze. Known as "the forest," the attic was full of wooden beams from trees cut down between 1160 and 1170, and over the centuries, they became extremely dry. The cathedral has gone through restorations, but firewalls and sprinkler systems were never installed in order to protect the design of the structure. It was also risky to add electrical wiring to the forest. "Everyone knew that the attic was the most fragile part," Pierre Housieaux, president of the Paris Historical Association, told The New York Times.

The flames spread across the attic and roof, up to the spire, which then toppled over and fell through the cathedral's ceiling. Experts say had there been sprinklers inside, the damage might not have been as extensive. Firefighters were prepared, having done exercises at Notre Dame before, and knew to get their water from the Seine. At least 500 were on hand to battle the blaze, with 100 focusing on saving the artifacts and relics inside. The cathedral was undergoing renovations when the fire broke out, including to repair attic beams, construction engineer Olivier de Chalus told the Times. The attic, he added, was Notre Dame's "jewel, the true piece of art that wasn't accessible to many." Catherine Garcia

7:31 a.m.

Britain's governing Conservative Party announced Tuesday that former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson won the internal Tory race to replace Theresa May as party leader and Britain's next prime minister. Johnson and his last remaining rival, current Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, campaigned heavily for the job, lobbying the fewer than 200,000 Conservative Party members who voted in the race for Britain's next leader.

Johnson will be sworn in as prime minister on Wednesday, and his first major challenge will be to follow through on his pledge to complete Britain's exit from the European Union in just over three months. Johnson was a leading proponent of Brexit, the issue that drove May from office. May congratulated him and pledged her support.

In his acceptance speech, Johnson laid out a new leadership slogan and not-quite-British acronym, DUDE.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was less optimistic, noting that Johnson's idea of getting Brexit "done" includes leaving the EU without a deal.

But Johnson, a former journalist and London mayor, has long wanted to be prime minister, and he has one full day to bask in his accomplishment before having to actually lead Britain. Peter Weber

6:56 a.m.

Stephen Colbert interviewed Marianne Williamson on Monday's Late Show, and he introduced her as an "activist, presidential candidate, and New York Times bestseller." Once seated, he asked her what makes her "different than the other 24 candidates who are running" for the Democratic nomination. "Well, in some of the policy positions, I think I'm very similar," Williamson said. "I'm a progressive, left-wing Democrat," though "I want to be an agent of change, I don't want to be an agent of chaos."

Williamson explained that her promotion of love wouldn't stop her from sending the U.S. military into war, but she wants a Department of Peace to make war less likely. The Pentagon has a $750 billion military budget, versus $40 billion for the State Department, which includes some "peacebuilding agencies," she said. "Our peacebuilders get less than $1 billion in the budget," and she would change that.

"Do you feel marginalized out there" during the debates? Colbert asked. "They're like, 'Oh, there's wacky Marianne Williamson, let's put her out there, out in the peace fields'?" "My placement on the podium is the least of the ways that I feel marginalized in this election," she said. "But I understand how it works, and I understand that there's a sort of political media industrial complex, and last time is was 'It has to be Bernie,' and this time it's 'Oh, it can be any of these four or five.' And I have a problem with that."

Williamson said it's silly to trust longtime politicians to save us from the political "ditch" politicians drove us into, and Colbert noted that like her, President Trump had business but no political experience. "The president's problem is not that he lacked political experience," she said. "The problem is that he lacks ethics and he seems to lack a visceral taste for democracy." Williamson ended with and expanded definition of political qualifications and fighting words for any 2020 rival who considers her a political amateur. Watch below. Peter Weber

5:52 a.m.

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller will testify publicly before House lawmakers for five hours on Wednesday, and the TV networks are promising blanket coverage. Will President Trump be watching? "No, I'm not going to be watching, probably," he told reporters Monday. "Maybe I'll see a little bit of it."

Trump and his aides are pre-emptively dismissing the hearings as old sour grapes, The New York Times notes, but "Trump's history of remaining glued to television news — especially when the coverage is about him — suggests that he is certain to be tuned in as Democrats on Capitol Hill use Mr. Mueller's appearance to amplify the damning report about the president and the people in his orbit."

Trump's approach to Mueller's report and upcoming testimony "reminds us of the line from the opening of Annie Hall," Glenn Kessler and Meg Kelly write at The Washington Post. "Two women are eating at a Catskills resort, and one says, 'The food at this place is really terrible.' The other replies, 'I know, and such small portions."' Trump has "spoken or tweeted about Mueller more than 300 times during his presidency," they add, and he appears to view Mueller's report as "both an exoneration and a source of bitter complaints," hailing "some of the report's findings — usually by mischaracterizing them — while denouncing its other conclusions."

This is the media's rare chance "to correct a serious wrong" from it's "gullible" coverage of Attorney General William Barr's slanted recap of Mueller's report, which "essentially transmitted to the public — especially in all-important headlines and cable-news bulletins — what President Trump desperately wanted as the takeaway: No collusion; no obstruction," the Post's Margaret Sullivan argues. "Many Americans have made up their minds already about Mueller's findings," but "there is an opportunity here to remove a false, cartoon version of Mueller's investigation and to substitute a well-rendered portrait of a subject that could hardly be more important to the country." Peter Weber

4:48 a.m.

President Trump placed 14th in an annual survey of the world's most admired men, far behind top pick Bill Gates and No. 2 Barack Obama, Jimmy Kimmel said on Monday's Kimmel Live. But "this might boost the president's admirability factor: Over the weekend, he involved himself in a high-profile legal battle with authorities in Sweden. Trump is using his clout to try to secure the release of A$AP Rocky, the rapper, who was arrested after a street fight — not a joke — in Stockholm a few weeks ago."

Trump got involved at the behest of Kim and Kanye West, and "I feel like we don't fully appreciate how weird it is that Kim and Kanye have a direct line to the president," Kimmel said. Trump even offered to "personally vouch for his bail," which Kimmel translated as "a long-winded way of saying 'See, I'm not a racist!'" He turned to Trump's most recent attacks on "the Squad" of four Democratic congresswomen, in case you were persuaded.

The Daily Show's Trevor Noah, for one, found Trump's comments on intervening to free A$AP Rocky a little rich. "That's right, folks, we're all one," he said in Trump voice. "And anyone who doesn't agree with that can go back to their sh-thhole country. Send her back!"

"This is one of those moments where I genuinely cannot believe that we're living in real life," Noah said. "Listen to the story: Donald Trump, who is the president of the United States, got a call from his friend Kanye West to save a rapper from a Swedish prison. This sounds like a headline written by a newspaper on LSD." Still, things should have gotten better here, "but just like Melania, it turns out Sweden appears to be immune to Trump's charms," he said. "Sweden is saying that in their country, a president can't interfere with an ongoing investigation. Imagine how hard it must have been to try to explain that to Donald Trump." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:20 a.m.

The police chief of Grenta, Louisiana, announced Monday that he had fired two police officers for violating the department's social media policy. One of the fired officers, Charlie Rispoli, posted on Facebook a parody news story about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) with the comment: "This vile idiot needs a round ... and I don't mean the kind she used to serve." Ocasio-Cortez, a former bartender, has "the IQ of a Chiclet," he added, according to a screenshot of Rispoli's post captured by The New Orleans Advocate. Grenta is a city of about 18,000 outside New Orleans.

The second fired officer, Angelo Varisco, "liked" Rispoli's post, said Grenta Police Chief Arthur Lawson. It's not clear if either officer understood that the linked article was fake, even though it identified itself as a parody site. The entire incident "has been an embarrassment" to his department, Lawson added. "These officers have certainly acted in a manner which was unprofessional, alluding to a violent act to be conducted against a sitting U.S. (congresswoman), a member of our government," and although he did not believe they made a credible threat, both officers had signed the department's social media policy and been warned about such posts.

Ripoli posted his perceived threat on Ocasio-Cortez amid President Trump's repeated attacks on her and three fellow Democratic freshmen congresswomen. On Monday, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that the Grenta incident "is Trump's goal when he uses targeted language & threatens elected officials who don't agree w/ his political agenda. It's authoritarian behavior."

In recent weeks, a series of reports have also shone a spotlight on racist, violent, and misogynistic posts by law enforcement. The nonprofit Plain View Project found such posts on the accounts of 3,500 current and former police officers in eight departments, and Philadelphia has suspended 72 of them, 13 of whom are slated to be fired. Lawson said he had sent all his officers new articles on those 72 Philadelphia Police officers. Peter Weber

2:03 a.m.

Venezuela has once again been plunged into darkness, with a massive blackout leaving most of the country without electricity.

It is believed 19 of 24 states are affected, with the blackout hitting Caracas during rush hour Monday night, shutting down the subway system and causing heavy traffic jams. Government authorities claim the opposition conducted an "electromagnetic attack" against dams in southern Venezuela; during a huge blackout in March, President Nicolás Maduro blamed the U.S., accusing the country of sponsoring an attack on Guri Dam, which provides nearly 80 percent of Venezuela's electricity.

Venezuela is experiencing food and medicine shortages and extreme inflation, and opposition leader Juan Guaidó has called for protests across the country on Tuesday. Guaidó and other opponents say blackouts are proof Maduro has not invested in the country's infrastructure, and its electrical grid is in serious jeopardy. Catherine Garcia

1:42 a.m.

"Today we got a disturbing reminder" of what it means that Donald Trump is president, Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show, when Trump told Pakistan's prime minister he could win a war in Afghanistan in a week, but he'd kill 10 million people and "Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth." Yeah, "where's my Nobel Peace Prize?" Colbert added in Trump voice, after showing the clip. "Or at least my Nobel I-Could-Have-Killed-10-Million-People-But-I-Didn't Prize."

Trump also bragged about how he's "the best thing" that's ever happened to protest-fueled Puerto Rico. "Excuse me, 'the best thing'?" Colbert protested. "I've got two words for you: Ricky Martin. You, sir, are living La Vida Loca." He tied it back to Afghanistan with Trump's comment he could probably land a plan on America's new aircraft carrier. Watch below. Peter Weber

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