Obamacare premiums will skyrocket next year, an attack at a Pakistani police college killed dozens, Pennsylvania’s former attorney general is heading to jail, and more from across the United States and around the world.
Attack on Pakistani Police College Kills Dozens of People
Three heavily armed militants wearing bomb vests stormed a police training college in southwestern Pakistan late Monday, killing dozens of cadets.
Officials say at least 54 cadets at the Balochistan Police College in Quetta were killed in the attack. That number is likely to rise. Two of the militants died after detonating their vests, while the third militant was killed by security forces.
Local authorities told Al Jazeera that hundreds were injured in the attack on the training center. The New York Timesreports:
The college’s three compounds has a single entrance, officials said, and the militants were able to enter by killing the sentry in a watchtower. Some 250 cadets were trapped for several hours as security forces mobilized to retake the compounds.
Police say the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group was responsible for the attack. Several attacks by militants have taken place in the Balochistan province, which is close to the Afghanistan border, including an August bombing that left 88 people dead.
Mumbai Mosque Lifts Ban Barring Women From Worship
Women will now be permitted to enter the Haji Ali Dargah, a mosque and dargah that is a prominent landmark in the southern part of Mumbai, India.
Prior to this decision, the trust that governs the mosque only allowed men to enter the inner sanctum, insisting the presence of women near the tomb of a revered saint signifies a “grievous sin” in Islam, Al Jazeera reports. The ban had been in place since 2011.
Restricting entry for women, though, was deemed illegal by the Bombay High Court in August, sparking multiple nationwide campaigns advocating for fair religious rights for women to worship.
In a previous hearing, T.S. Thakur, India’s chief justice, addressed the issue of equal access to the mosque.
“Exclusion is not there if nobody is allowed after a certain point. There is exclusion if women are not allowed after a certain point and men are,” the chief justice said, according toThe Hindu.
While women will be allowed to enter the mosque, they will not immediately be given clearance to worship. The trust told the Supreme Court Monday it will take several weeks in order to implement various alterations, including the creation of special entries to the tomb and removal of certain structural obstructions inside the dargah in order to give women an unrestricted view of the sanctum.
Built in 1431 A.D., the Haji Ali Dargah was built by a wealthy Muslim merchant who later became a saint named Haji Ali Shah Bukhari after he renounced all worldly pleasures before embarking on a pilgrimage to Mecca. The 400-year-old sanctuary attracts thousands of worshipers every year.
Noorjehan Niaz, co-founder of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, an organization that describes itself as an “autonomous, secular, rights-based mass organization led by Muslim women,” told Agence France-Presse the appeal helps restore the equality that has always been present within Islam. Niaz was one of several petitioners who pushed back against the trust’s decision to keep women out, citing constitutional grounds.
“It is restoring the Islamic values of what we have always believed as Muslims, that Islam is a religion of equality, democracy and women’s rights,” Niaz said.
Just weeks before the general election, the Affordable Care Act is about to face a new wave of criticism.
The Obama administration confirmed Monday that health care premiums may increase by double-digits next year, while some consumers may be limited to just one insurer. The Associated Press has more:
Before taxpayer-provided subsidies, premiums for a midlevel benchmark plan will increase an average of 25 percent across the 39 states served by the federally run online market, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services. Some states will see much bigger jumps, others less.
Moreover, about 1 in 5 consumers will only have plans from a single insurer to pick from, after major national carriers such as UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Aetna scaled back their roles.
Administration officials, though, claim that subsidies will rise along with the premiums, making health insurance more affordable for consumers. Most of the 10 million HealthCare.gov consumers receive subsidies.
Republicans have long criticized the law, saying Obamacare would shoot premium rates up. And despite recent setbacks in states across the country, where it has become harder to make treatment affordable and widely accessible, the Obama administration has defended the law.
The new sign-up season starts on November 1, one week before the election. Republicans running for national office, from congressional seats to the presidency, have advocated for repealing the law and replacing it with someone new. Hillary Clinton and other Democrats have argued the law should be fixed without a full repeal.
Netflix announced Monday it plans to raise $800 million of debt in order to finance new original content.
The new debt offering brings the company’s long-term debt load to approximately more than $3 billion, according to Business Insider. Netflix’s statement highlights that the company “intends to use the net proceeds from this offering for general corporate purposes, which may include content acquisitions, capital expenditures, investments, working capital and potential acquisitions and strategic transactions.”
This new plan follows Netflix’s letter to shareholders released last week, where the company said its primary goal is to achieve 50 percent original content, accompanied by 1,000 hours of new programming in 2017. The company also estimates an expansion of its content budget to roughly $6 billion in 2017.
In its third quarter, the company announced last week that global streaming revenue totaled $2.2 billion, of which 40 percent was generated abroad. Its operating income amounted to $106 million while net income was $52 million. The company cited the strong influence of the fantastical thriller, Stranger Things, and how its cross-demographic appeal helped distinguish Netflix’s original programming. By the time 2016 concludes, the company said, Netflix will have issued approximately 600 hours of original programming.
Pennsylvania's Former Attorney General Sentenced 10 to 23 Months in Prison
Kathleen Kane, the former Pennsylvania attorney general, was sentenced Monday to 10 to 23 months in prison for illegally leaking grand-jury secrets and lying about it.
“This case is about ego—the ego of a politician consumed with her image from Day One," Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy said Monday of Kane, WTAE reports. “This case is about retaliation and revenge against perceived enemies who this defendant ... felt had embarrassed her in the press.”
Kane was also sentenced eight months of probation.
The first woman and Democrat elected to be the state’s top prosecutor, Kane was first charged in 2015 for orchestrating a leak of confidential grand jury documents in order to circulate a negative story about a political opponent, though she repeatedly denied the allegations. In August, Kane was convicted of nine criminal charges, including criminal conspiracy and perjury. She later resigned.
The one-term attorney general reportedly asked the court for leniency Monday, citing the effect a long sentence would have on her 14 and 15-year-old sons.
“There is no more torture in the world than to watch your children suffer and know you had something to do with it," Kane said. “I have been punished.”
The court, however, was less sympathetic.
“Your children are the ultimate ... collateral damages. They are casualties of your actions," Demchick-Alloy said. "But you did that, not this court.”
French Presidential Hopeful Draws Comparisons to Marie Antoinette
How much does a chocolate croissant cost in France? According to French presidential hopeful Jean-François Copé, not that much.
In an interview Monday with French broadcaster Europe 1, the center-right candidate was asked how much the popular pastry costs, to which he responded, “I have no idea … I think it must be around 10 or 15 cents”—far below it’s actual retail value of between 1.10 to 1.30 euros.
The gaffe gained widespread attention on social media, with many users comparing Copé to Marie Antoinette and her famous (probably apocryphal) words: Let them eat cake.
Polémique sur le prix du pain au chocolat : @jf_cope a raison. Pourquoi manger des pains au chocolat ? Que le peuple mange de la brioche !
“I confess to being very conscious of my waistline ... So to be honest I stopped the "chocolate" long ago!” he tweeted Monday.
This isn’t Copé’s first pastry-related controversy. In 2012, he faced backlash from both the left and the right after alleging that French children couldn’t enjoy chocolate croissants during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, citing “anti-white racism.”
The honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a little bit of everything.
She’s an associate justice of the Supreme Court, obviously.
She’s opinionated, sometimes unflinchingly.
But on one night this November, and one night only, Ginsburg, the justice dubbed “The Notorious R.B.G.,” will add yet another achievement to her résumé in the role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp in The Daughter of the Regiment, or La fille du régiment. The opera originally premiered in 1840 and was produced by Gaetano Donizetti.
She’ll appear in the non-singing role November 12, and Michael Solomon, senior press representative for the Washington National Opera, said this particular role has historically been portrayed by an operatic diva, of sorts.
"There's a long history of, you know, famous, larger-than-life women playing this particular part,” Solomon said. “So when we programmed this opera into our season, Justice Ginsburg was a very natural choice for the role and we're thrilled that she accepted."
Now, for context, the 19th century comedic opera operates a bit like an archaic rom-com: Marie, a young woman who is raised by soldiers, falls in love with a peasant, Tonio. In turn, she must convince her many surrogate fathers to allow her to marry her beloved, where meanwhile, a mysterious suitor from her past named Marquise also seeks her affections.
Francesca Zambello, artistic director for the Washington National Opera at The Kennedy Center, describes Ginsburg’s role as one with a “deus ex machina” responsibility. “She only has two appearances in the opera and all of her dialogue has been rewritten for her,” she said.
The performance will oscillate between English and French, and though Ginsburg holds a more than distinguished day job, she’ll be joining rehearsals to observe and participate closer to showtime. Cindy Gold, the actress, will assume the role for the remainder of performances following Ginsburg’s.
During the performance, there’ll be occasional winks at the audience, Solomon said. “People … will be able to hear snippets from her past decisions that are quite famous and other things that are, kind of, related to Justice Ginsburg,” Solomon said.
The Washington National Opera’s The Daughter of the Regiment premieres November 12 at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C..
It’s all but certain: The EU’s proposed trade deal with Canada is dead because of objections from Wallonia, the Belgian region.
“The federal government, the German community, and Flanders said ‘yes,’” Charles Michel, the Belgian prime minister, said Monday. “Wallonia, the Brussels city government, and the French community said ‘no.’”
That essentially means the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which was seven years in the making, won’t be signed later this week when Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, visits Brussels. We knew the deal was in trouble last week when Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s trade minister, walked out of talks, declaring the EU incapable of ratifying the deal.
Wallonia, a staunchly socialist region of 3.6 million people, expressed fears CETA would degrade consumer, labor, and environmental protections, while granting excessive power to multinational corporations. Belgian law mandates that all the country’s five subdivisions must sign off on any deal. The EU’s 27 other regions all want CETA to go ahead, citing potential trade benefits.
The EU’s failure to secure the CETA deal portends the fate of any future British arrangement with the bloc after it officially leaves the European Union following the Brexit vote.
Even teen idols get old eventually. Bobby Vee, the singer who took “Take Good Care of My Baby” to the top of the pop charts in 1961, has died at the age of 73, according to the St. Cloud Times. Vee had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
Vee got his big break when another teen idol, Buddy Holly, died in a 1959 plane crash along with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper while en route to a show on the Minnesota-North Dakota line. Robert Veline, a 15-year-old Fargo boy, hastily put together a band to fill the bill at the concert, launching his own career.
“Take Good Care of My Baby,” written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, was his biggest hit, sitting at No. 1 for three weeks, but Vee had a string of hits, last charting in 1970. Other top songs included “Run to Him” and “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes.” He continued to perform for years. One member of his band in the early days, briefly, was a young Minnesota musician who called himself Elston Gunn, and who would later win the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature under a different pseudonym.
Some Webcams That Took Down the Internet Last Week Are Being Recalled
Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology, the Chinese manufacturer, said Monday it will recall some of its webcams after hackers last week targeted its products and caused the shutdown of some of the biggest sites on the internet.
News and social-media sites faced restricted access because hackers redirected devices like webcams, DVRs, and other gadgets that make up the “internet of things” to overwhelm the sites with traffic. Security researchers learned hackers focused on products made by Xiongmai Technology because of easily exploited passwords for its equipment.
The company said it would recall some products sold in the U.S., like security webcams, and strengthen password protection and send users a software patch for products sold before April of last year. The company said the largest issue came from users not changing default passwords, which made the devices easy to hack.
The hack was a surprise not only because of how well it worked, but because of the scale. By targeting Dyn, the major DNS host company, hackers slowed sites like Twitter, Amazon, Reddit, Netflix, and many more. This recall may fix the affected products, but preventing further attacks will be hard, because it’s difficult to update passwords on these devices, and some companies hard-code the product, meaning they can’t be altered.
Iraqi lawmakers voted over the weekend in favor of banning alcohol sales—a move that has drawn sharp criticism from the country’s minority populations.
The proscription, approved late Saturday night as part of a draft law on municipalities, applies to the sale, production, and importation of alcoholic beverages in the country; those found violating the law could incur fines of between 10 million and 25 million dinars ($8,000 to $20,000). While proponents of the ban cite its legal basis in Iraq’s constitution, which prohibits any law contradicting Islam, its opponents also cite the constitution, which protects freedom of religion for minorities, including Iraq’s Christian, Yazidi, and Sabean populations.
Kurdish officials condemned the law and said it would not be implemented in the autonomous northern region, though the Iraqi parliament said the law does not apply there, Syrian press agency Ara Newsreports.
Although Islam strictly forbids the consumption of alcohol, it has always been available throughout Iraq—particularly in shops run by minorities.The ban spurred debate on social media, with many users criticizing lawmakers for prioritizing the proscription over more pressing matters, such as the government’s offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS. One cartoon circulating on social media depicts Iraqi forces turning their backs on Mosul and firing at a bottle of arak, a popular Levantine spirit.
The U.S. Officially Criticizes the President of the Philippines
The top U.S. diplomat to Asia said Monday that Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is causing unneeded uncertainty for world leaders, especially the U.S., with his controversial comments.
After meeting with the Philippines foreign minister, Daniel Russel, the U.S. assistant secretary of state, said “the succession of controversial statements and comments and a real climate of uncertainty about the Philippines’ intentions has created consternation in a number of countries, not only in mine.”
“This is not a positive trend,” Russel said.
At a meeting in Beijing last week, Duterte said he wanted to “separate” from the U.S. in favor of a closer relationship with China and Russia. “There are three of us against the world,” he said. “It’s the only way.”
Duterte, the populist former mayor of Davao, took office in June. Western criticism of his war on drugs—which has resulted in 3,500 people being killed, many extrajudicially, since June—has angered Duterte. He cursed the European Union and called U.S. President Obama a “son of a whore.” U.S. officials have seemingly brushed off Duterte’s remarks as colorful talk—until his visit last week to China from where he returned with billions of dollars in signed deals.
Tom Hayden, who campaigned against the Vietnam War, championed liberal causes, and was prosecuted by the Nixon administration in the “Chicago 7” trial, died Sunday in Santa Monica, California, after a long illness, his family said in a statement. He was 76.
Hayden’s political activism began while he was still a student in 1960 at the University of Michigan. He was instrumental in the creation of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), worked in campaigns to desegregate the South, and was one of the drafters in 1962 of SDS’s Port Huron statement. Six years later, he was in the news again: He helped organize anti-war protests at the now infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The protests turned violent and Hayden and seven others were tried in what became known as the Chicago 7 trial. (One defendant, Bobby Seale, was tried separately). Hayden and three of his fellow organizers were convicted of crossing state lines to incite a riot—a judgment that was later overturned.
Hayden was a staunch opponent of then-raging Vietnam War. He visited North Vietnam in 1965 to meet with the Communist leaders there. He was branded a traitor by many of his detractors for his visits to Hanoi and his view of the war. But that didn’t affect his future political career: He served in both the California state Assembly and state Senate for years where he was a leading progressive voice. His runs for Los Angeles mayor and California’s governor were unsuccessful. Hayden also wrote several books and articles and remained an advocate for social-justice issues.
Hayden was married three times: to Sandra "Casey" Cason, a fellow student activist, from 1961 to ’62; to Jane Fonda, the actress and anti-war activist, for 17 years until 1990; and Barbara Williams, the actress from 1993. He is survived by Troy Garity, his son with Fonda; and Liam, his son with Williams.
Here’s what’s happening Monday as the operation to retake Mosul from ISIS enters its second week: Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have besieged the town of Bashiqa, about 8 miles from Mosul, cutting off a supply route to the city. Iraqi forces, who are advancing on Mosul from the south, are also making headway. ISIS is responding with suicide bombings, which has slowed some of the momentum, but U.S. officials say all objectives have been met so far.
One week into #Mosul operation, all objectives met thus far, and more coalition airstrikes than any other 7-day period of war against #ISIL.
But there is a potential complication: Turkey’s involvement.
Turkey wants a military role in the battle to retake Mosul, which was part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries until 1918. Last week, Iraq thanked Turkey for its interest, but said it had the operation covered. But over the weekend, Turkey said it provided Peshmerga fighters—belonging to a faction that has close relations with Ankara—with artillery support in the Bashiqa operation. Iraq denies that any such thing happened. We’ll cover the claims and counterclaims, as well the as operation to retake Mosul, in the coming days.
French authorities began Monday to clear migrants from the camp in Calais known as “the Jungle” before the planned dismantling of the facility.
Writing in The Atlantic in 2015, Simon Cottee noted that Calais’ proximity to the English Channel made the port city a destination for migrants looking to illegally enter the UK. Some 7,000 migrants live in the makeshift camp, often in squalid conditions, hoping to board UK-bound trucks; the UK has taken in some of the more than 1,000 unaccompanied minors in the facility.
About 1,200 French officials began the operation to clear the camp. Migrants will be taken from there to more than 400 processing centers across the country where they will be allowed to claim asylum. They will be deported if they are deemed ineligible. The camp is expected to be dismantled starting Tuesday.
The Supreme Court vacancy will surely inflame an already-angry nation.
Updated on September 18, 2020, at 8:47 p.m. ET.
A furious battle over a Supreme Court vacancy is arguably the last thing the United States needs right now.
The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg today represents a devastating loss for feminists who held up the 87-year-old as an icon of women’s rights, and as a bulwark protecting abortion rights and a wide range of other progressive ideals on a conservative Supreme Court. The Brooklyn-born jurist became one of the nation’s foremost advocates against gender discrimination as a lawyer for the ACLU, decades before President Bill Clinton appointed her to be the second woman to sit on the high court.
But her passing less than two months before the presidential election also tosses one more lit match into the tinderbox of national politics in 2020: It will surely inflame a deeply polarized country already riven by a deadly pandemic, a steep economic downturn, and civil unrest in its major cities.
Changing voters’ minds is famously difficult, but a recent progressive effort found real success.
No state has haunted the Democratic Party’s imagination for the past four years like Wisconsin. While it was not the only state that killed Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes in 2016, it was the one where the knife plunged deepest. Clinton was so confident about Wisconsin that she never even campaigned there. This year, it is one of the most fiercely contested states. The Democrats planned to hold their convention in Milwaukee, before the coronavirus pandemic forced its cancellation. Donald Trump is also making a strong play for Wisconsin.
Trump’s weaknesses with the electorate are familiar: Voters find him coarse, and they deplore his handling of race, the coronavirus, and protests. One recent YouGov poll found that just 42 percent of Americans approved of his performance as president, while 54 percent disapproved. But when the pollsters asked about Trump’s handling of the economy, those attitudes reversed: 48 percent approved and 44 percent disapproved, despite the havoc wreaked by the pandemic.
Climate change is killing Americans and destroying the country’s physical infrastructure.
The federal government spends roughly $700 billion a year on the military. It spends perhaps $15 billion a year trying to understand and stop climate change.
I thought about those numbers a lot last week, as I tried to stop my toddler from playing in ash, tried to calm down my dogs as they paced and panted in mid-morning dusk light, tried to figure out whether my air purifier was actually protecting my lungs, tried to understand why the sky was pumpkin-colored, and tried not to think about the carcinogen risk of breathing in wildfire smoke, week after week.
The government has committed to defending us and our allies against foreign enemies. Yet when it comes to the single biggest existential threat we collectively face—the one that threatens to make much of the planet uninhabitable, starve millions, and incite violent conflicts around the world—it has chosen to do near-nothing. Worse than that, the federal government continues to subsidize and promote fossil fuels, and with them the destruction of our planetary home. Climate hell is here. We cannot stand it. And we cannot afford it either.
The coming months of the pandemic could be catastrophic. The U.S. still has ways to prepare.
On April 13, Robert Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, appeared on the Today show and assured viewers that the worst was nearly behind us. It had been a month since the last gathering of fans in an NBA arena; a month since the fateful week when Americans began panic-buying bottled water and canned beans. The segment’s host, Savannah Guthrie, was broadcasting from home in upstate New York. With the light of a makeshift camera reflecting in her glasses, she asked Redfield to address reports that we could be facing another three weeks of social distancing. “We are nearing the peak right now,” Redfield told her. “Clearly we are stabilizing in terms of the state of this outbreak.”
Coffee plants were supposed to be safe on this side of the Atlantic. But the fungus found them.
In the southern corner of Guatemala, outside the tiny mountain town of San Pedro Yepocapa, Elmer Gabriel’s coffee plants ought to be leafed-out and gleaming. It is a week before Christmas, the heart of the coffee-harvesting season, and if his bushes were healthy, they would look like holiday trees hung with ornaments, studded with bright-red coffee cherries. But in a long row that stretches down the side of his steeply sloped field, the plants are twiggy and withered. Most of their leaves are gone, and the ones that remain are drab olive and curling at the edges. There are yellow spots, brown in the center, on the leaves’ upper surfaces. On the underside they are pebbly, and coated with a fine orange dust.
Millions of coronavirus tests may be happening without their results being made public.
President Donald Trump has never hidden his ambivalence about testing for the coronavirus. In June, when he told an arena of supporters in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that he had instructed “his people” to “‘slow the testing down, please,’” the disclosure prompted one of the more dire news cycles of the pandemic. The president said repeatedly that he wanted the United States to reduce its testing. But in the weeks that followed, testing increased.
Not so now. In the past month, the number of tests conducted in the United States has actually drifted down—and that may be partly because of Trump-administration policy.
The United States now reports about 100,000 fewer daily tests than it did in late July, according to the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic. Some of this decline is due to reduced demand: The surge of infections across the South and West has subsided, and when fewer people are sick, fewer people seek out tests. Yet this cannot explain all of it. In the Midwest, the number of confirmed cases is growing faster than the number of tests, which has been a sign of a growing outbreak throughout the pandemic.
Reports of a vote-by-mail apocalypse are greatly exaggerated.
President Donald Trump stood on a North Carolina tarmac earlier this month, Air Force One idling behind him, and urged his supporters to commit a crime. He said they should cast the ballots they received in the mail—just as he has done many times in the past—and then they should go to their polling place on Election Day and test the system by trying to vote again. “Let them send it in, and let them go vote,” Trump said. “If their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote.”
Officials in North Carolina were aghast. The executive director of the state’s board of elections, Karen Brinson Bell, issued a statement the next day explicitly warning North Carolinians not to follow the president’s advice. “It is illegal to vote twice in an election,” she said. “Attempting to vote twice in an election or soliciting someone to do so also is a violation of North Carolina law.”
A new biography squares the decorous legal figure with the feminist gladiator.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not just having a “moment” in American feminist culture. She has rapidly become—in a time that craves heroines—the American ideal of power and authority for millions of women and girls. Beyond the movies (RBG, released in May, and On the Basis of Sex, out in December) and the biographies, not to mention the memes and T-shirts and mugs that proliferate like lace-collared mushrooms, Ginsburg at 85 is also the closest thing America has to the consummate anti–Donald Trump. Today, more than ever, women starved for models of female influence, authenticity, dignity, and voice hold up an octogenarian justice as the embodiment of hope for an empowered future.
The kitschy celebrations of the justice have always insisted, in their way, that the personal is judicial.
In 2014, Kate Livingston created a quirky Halloween costume for her 12-week-old son. It featured a black, sleeved onesie. And a white silken collar. And a pair of large, plastic-rimmed glasses. Livingston snapped a picture of the cosplaying infant—he provided the cool scowl—and then added a caption, in blunt all-caps, to the photo she took: “I DISSENT.” Ruth Baby Ginsburg was born.
Justices of the Supreme Court have traditionally existed above the fray. They wear body-obscuring black robes, stay stoic at the State of the Union address, and prioritize a long-view approach to human events. But Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died today at age 87, changed that model, because Ruth Bader Ginsburg lived within the fray: Particularly in her later years, she was a justice who was also a celebrity. There was Notorious RBG, the meme and the Tumblr and the book. There was On the Basis of Sex, the 2018 biopic telling the story of Ginsburg’s early years as a professor and a litigator. There was RBG, the documentary. There were Kate McKinnon’s swaggering impressions on Saturday Night Live (“You’ve been Ginsburned!”). And there was the array of RBG-themed goods: the prayer candles, the dolls, the coloring books, the jewelry. There are the collections of RBG-inspired collars. Hers is a visible fandom.
Some of the year’s best new movies are about American soul-searching.
David Byrne has long been a master of perfectly designed worlds. The 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense, with his band Talking Heads, captured how carefully he stages his shows, bringing in band members one by one to emphasize how each contributes to the harmonies of a song. Byrne’s latest tour, “American Utopia,” was documented by Spike Lee in a film of the same name, due out October 17 on HBO. In it, Byrne again tries to construct a new musical universe, making jolly music and dancing in lockstep with shoeless artists in natty gray suits. But as the film’s title suggests, he wants to create a better world beyond the concert venue too.
American Utopia was the opening-night feature at this month’s Toronto International Film Festival, which kicks off the fall movie season every year with big premieres and awards-friendly projects. Thanks to the coronavirus and the general hibernation of the industry, TIFF screened just 50 new films this year (compared with more than 300 in 2019). But even in its compact form, the festival offered a preview of what moviegoers can expect in the next few months as Hollywood navigates the pandemic. Given that the United States is in the midst of a fraught election season, it’s unsurprising that some of the most compelling new films confront the idealistic notion of America—and how promises of progress and justice are so often blunted by the grim realities of racism, poverty, and polarization.