• Meanwhile, a group of U.S. scientists warned on Tuesday that Arctic ice is melting at rates not seen in more than 1,500 years.

“The Arctic is going through the most unprecedented transition in human history, and we need better observations to understand and predict how these changes will affect everyone, not just the people of the north,” Jeremy Mathis said in a presentation at the 2017 meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans. Mathis is director of the Arctic Research Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a U.S. government agency.

Mathis was unveiling the 2017 Arctic Report Card, an annual NOAA report that documents the changing conditions for floating sea ice, the glaciers of Greenland, the thawing permafrost of the high latitudes, and more. Their research endures, no matter the views of the occupant of the White House.

• Democratic candidate Doug Jones completed a stunning upset, defeating Republican challenger Roy Moore by a narrow margin in a special election for Alabama's vacant Senate seat. It was a shocking upset in a solidly Republican state, in which massive turnout among African American voters helped defeat a candidate enthusiastically backed by President Trump. Moore, of course, was saddled by controversy surrounding his alleged past of child molestation and sexual harassment. He harbored extreme views on immigration, homosexuality and religion in government.

But he wasn't too radioactive for Trump, who whole-heartedly embraced Moore in the final weeks of the campaign and dismissed the allegations surrounding his conduct as "fake news."

Despite all projections indicating a clear enough margin for Jones over Moore, the Republican refused to concede on Tuesday night in the hopes of triggering an automatic recount the following day.

• Omar El Akkad, an American novelist whose recent book imagines a future civil war in United States, penned a long essay in Canada’s Globe and Mail about the polarization that has taken deeper root in the age of Trump:

“That angry, torch-wielding men feel comfortable conducting new-age Klan rallies in America in 2017 is chiefly the product of a right-wing conservatism that coddled and abetted white supremacism. But in the rebirth of open, uncoded racism in this country's public discourse, there is also evidence that mainstream American liberalism has never been particularly liberal — rather, just a comfortable insularity lacquered with niceness.

"One of the most infuriating things about living in America this year was watching countless well-meaning liberals point at the logical conclusion of centuries of systemic discrimination and say: ‘This is not us.’ In reality, the rise of the country's 45th President is exemplary of the most honest version of the American dream: a man who, by virtue of the color of his skin and the magnitude of his wealth — and absolutely no other qualification — transformed his utter contempt for all rules of nominally decent behavior into a limitless personal empire. The story of Donald Trump is a uniquely American story.”

• Almost half of Americans believe that corruption is pervasive in the White House under President Trump, according to a new report from Transparency International, the global anti-corruption watchdog. It marks a sharp increase from the previous year and belies Trump’s claims that he would the man to “drain the swamp” upon arriving in Washington.

• Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shrugged off rumors of his impending departure from the post during a rare town hall event with State Department staffers. My colleague Carol Morello has more on his remarks, including his hopes for progress with North Korea.

Australian Sen.&nbsp;Sam Dastyari&nbsp;during a press&nbsp;conference in Sydney on&nbsp;Dec.&nbsp;12. (Ben Rushton/Reuters)</p>

Australian Sen. Sam Dastyari during a press conference in Sydney on Dec. 12. (Ben Rushton/Reuters)

Dollar diplomacy

Relations between Australia and China have nosedived in the past week as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government moved to ban foreign political donations, citing “disturbing reports about Chinese influence” on Australian politics. Then, on Tuesday, that campaign claimed its first scalp: a prominent opposition lawmaker who pledged to quit over allegations he was bought by Chinese money.

Sen. Sam Dastyari of the center-left Labor Party was accused of endorsing Chinese actions in the disputed South China Sea — against his party’s platform — in return for support from donor Huang Xiangmo. He also reportedly gave Huang advice on how to evade Australian surveillance and unsuccessfully tried to pressure Labor’s deputy leader not to meet a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist in 2015.

Dastyari did not actually break any laws in accepting foreign money. But experts said Australia is now realizing how China's influence has grown in the country, following years of complacency when the Australian economy benefited hugely from Chinese demand for natural resources. “The government didn’t want to confront this situation until it had to, and now it’s playing catch-up," said Euan Graham, director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney.

Yet, with tensions rising — and the accusation by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton that Dastyari is a “double agent” — there is concern about taking things too far. Graham pointed out that Chinese money represented about 2 percent of total political donations in recent years, and that there was no indication the money had altered government positions.

“It’s a necessary correction, but it has played out at quite a shrill pitch,” Graham said.

China, meanwhile, has responded fiercely. The country's foreign ministry pronounced itself “astounded” by the Australian prime minister’s remarks, saying Turnbull poisoned the relationship between the two countries. The People’s Daily newspaper, mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, went even further, accusing Australian media of “hysterical paranoia” and racism.

But it's not clear whether that anger will have a lasting effect on Chinese-Australian ties. China is easily Australia’s biggest trading partner, buying $70 billion worth of its goods and services last year. David Kelly, the research director of the China Policy analysis firm in Beijing argued that the current fracas will have little long-term effect on the relationship between the two countries. Economic and trade tries, he said, “have a lot more momentum than people think.” — Simon Denyer


The Trump administration will set out its official National Security Strategy next week, but national security adviser H.R. McMaster laid out a preview of the new document on Tuesday. The Atlantic explains how President Trump will remake security policy, while War on the Rocks looks at what the strategy should have included — a much closer look at Trump himself. In India, Bloomberg View says another Gandhi can't fix what's wrong with the country's biggest opposition party, while The Post looks at how the death of Yemen's longtime leader can help achieve peace instead of deepening the chaos.

A national-security strategy devoid of values
H.R. McMaster previewed the administration’s new plan on Tuesday, which offers a striking contrast to the visions of other recent presidents. 
What would an honest National Security Strategy say?
The greatest threat to America’s national security is not some foreign enemy. It is the president of the United States.
India needs more than another Gandhi
The Congress Party still lacks a credible candidate for prime minister.
Why the death of Saleh offers a chance for peace in Yemen
A window opens for an end to war.

We don't know yet what the long-term effects of President Trump's deregulatory agenda will be. But the Atlantic focuses on what it could mean for the Consumer Product Safety Commission's 16-year campaign to make one of the most hazardous products on the market more safe. Meanwhile, New York Magazine reports on a militia from a small Kansas town that planned to welcome their new Somali neighbors with bombs, while the Verge profiles a Los Angeles music group forcing critics and fans to reevaluate the term "boy band."

The deaths that come when an industry's left to regulate itself
The Consumer Product Safety Commission tried for 16 years to make portable electric generators less dangerous. Then a Trump-selected official took charge of the agency.
A militia’s plot to bomb Somali refugees in a Kansas town
Garden City, Kansas, wanted to help refugees. Some Infowars-reading neighbors had another plan.
Boy band of the future
Brockhampton is redefining one of the most loaded terms in popular music

In Bangladesh's refugee camps, it's not just food and water that are in short supply for the Rohingya Muslims who fled from Burma. In the rush to leave their homes, the Rohingya were usually unable to bring any small thing of comfort or value, which included toys to occupy their children in exile. That caught the eye of AFP photographer Ed Jones, who documented the scraps that refugee kids fashioned into play objects — even including dangerous trash like razor blades. Here's what Jones saw among the "resourceful and mercifully adaptable" young Rohingya. (Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

Trump attacks Gillibrand in tweet critics say is sexually suggestive and demeaning
It prompted a swift and immediate backlash.
Winners and losers from the Alabama special election
Our recap of who won and lost (besides the candidates) in Doug Jones's big upset of Roy Moore.
Ex-NFL player Larry Johnson grapples with violent urges and memory loss. He thinks it’s CTE.
Former running back fears that, by the time he’s 50, he won’t remember his own name.

This video explains why you're wrong to assume that this is just an adorably skeptical bunny.