What makes California’s current major wildfires so unusual

A stunning, sudden surge of wildfires is burning through California, threatening towns and sending choking smoke over major cities and across much of the United States. It’s creating an epic compounding disaster whose ingredients have been brewing for years.

Fire officials have grouped some of the smaller fires in an area into complexes to coordinate their response. The largest of these is the SCU Lightning Complex. It’s burned 229,000 acres as of Friday morning across parts of the southern San Francisco Bay Area, including Santa Clara and Alameda counties. The SCU Lightning Complex is now 10 percent contained, …

Did Putin have his top critic poisoned?

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critic is lying in a coma in a Siberian hospital from a suspected poisoning — and his family and supporters allege Putin and his government are behind it.

They have good reason to suspect that. The Kremlin has a long, sordid history of poisoning political dissidents, defectors, and other enemies of the state. Indeed, this is actually the second time Navalny — the leader of Russia’s splintered opposition — is suspected of having been poisoned in just a little over a year.

On Thursday, Navalny drank some tea at a Siberian airport before boarding …

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy promises to prioritize mail-in ballots, but questions about delays remain

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy promised a Senate committee Friday that election mail will be prioritized this November, and that he was “extremely highly confident” that ballots sent a week before Election Day would arrive on time and be counted.

“We will scour every plant each night leading up to Election Day — very, very confident,” DeJoy said Friday, responding to a question from Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT).

DeJoy’s answer was one of a number of assurances he gave lawmakers on the Republican-led Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee about the United States Postal Service’s ability to handle the huge …

How politicians showed off their books at the Democratic National Convention

Quarantine has brought one single, simple joy into our lives, and it is this: Snooping on celebs and their taste in books.

Now as never before, we have the chance to see inside the homes of not just our friends and families and coworkers, but of famous people. Now as never before, we have the chance to judge them by the details lurking in the background of every media appearance: the house plants, the throw pillows, and, most importantly, the books. For famous politicians especially, the background bookcase has become a fundamental signifier of intelligence and erudition, and what books …

What it will take to fight the sexist, racist attacks against Kamala Harris

When Kamala Harris accepted the vice presidential nomination on the third night of the Democratic National Convention, she pledged to honor uncelebrated women, like her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, and the late New York Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to run for the Democratic nomination and laid the groundwork for Harris’s rise.

“I accept your nomination for vice president of the United States of America. I do so committed to the values [my mother] taught me,” she said on Wednesday night. “And to a vision passed on through generations of Americans, one that Joe Biden shares, a …

Joe Biden likes you

It’s long been the cliché that voters judge politicians based on their likability. There’s truth to it, but in my experience, the deeper question isn’t how much voters like a politician, but whether they believe a politician likes them.

There isn’t enough charisma in the world to save you once a segment of the public thinks you hold them in contempt. The most damaging gaffes come when a politician insults, purposely or accidentally, a segment of the electorate — Barack Obama’s comment that voters get bitter and cling to guns and religion, Mitt Romney’s dismissal of the 47 percent who …

When is the first presidential debate? September 29.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot about the 2020 presidential campaign, but at least one thing is set to proceed mostly as planned: the debates. The first of those, between Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump, is set to take place next month in Cleveland, Ohio.

Currently, the debate is scheduled for September 29 on the joint campus shared by Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic. It will run from 9 to 10:30 pm Eastern time. It will be the first of the three standard debates between presidential candidates; two more will follow in October.…