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.
Omicron, also known as B.1.1.529, was first detected in Botswana and South Africa earlier this month, and very little is known about it so far. But the variant is moving fast. South Africa, the country that initially flagged Omicron to WHO this week, has experienced a surge of new cases—some reportedly in people who were previously infected or vaccinated—and the virus has already spilled across international borders into places such as Hong Kong, Belgium, Israel, and the United Kingdom. Several nations are now selectively shutting down travel to impede further spread. For instance, on Monday, the United States will start restricting travel from Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.
People with scant illusions about Trump are volunteering to help him execute one of his Big Lies.
If Donald Trump had been supported only by people who affirmatively liked him, his attack on American democracy would never have gotten as far as it did.
Instead, at almost every turn, Trump was helped by people who had little liking for him as a human being or politician, but assessed that he could be useful for purposes of their own. The latest example: the suddenly red-hot media campaign to endorse Trump’s fantasy that he was the victim of a “Russia hoax.”
The usual suspects in the pro-Trump media ecosystem will of course endorse and repeat everything Trump says, no matter how outlandish. But it’s not pro-Trumpers who are leading the latest round of Trump-Russia denialism. This newest round of excuse-making is being sounded from more respectable quarters, in many cases by people distinguished as Trump critics. With Trump out of office—at least for the time being—they now feel free to subordinate their past concerns about him to other private quarrels with the FBI or mainstream media institutions. On high-subscription Substacks, on popular podcasts, even from within prestige media institutions, people with scant illusions about Trump the man and president are nonetheless volunteering to help him execute one of his Big Lies.
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is a mainstay of basic cable—and a rallying cry for a country that is losing touch with itself.
In 2007, in one of the first episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Guy Fieri visited Patrick’s Roadhouse, a railway-station-turned-restaurant in Santa Monica, California. The diner’s chef, Silvio Moreira, walked Fieri through the preparation of one of Patrick’s most notable dishes, the Rockefeller—a burger topped with mushrooms, sour cream, jack cheese, and … caviar. Fieri, looking playfully trepidatious, lifted the burger with both hands, said a fake prayer, and did what he would proceed to do thousands of times on the show: He took an enormous bite. And then he fell silent. “Wooow,” he commented, finally, shooting Moreira a what-have-you-done-to-me look.
“Different, huh?” Moreira said, grinning. “Yeah,” Fieri replied. The show’s camera discreetly cut away to the next scene.
The preponderance of the evidence suggests that social media is causing real damage to adolescents.
Social media gets blamed for many of America’s ills, including the polarization of our politics and the erosion of truth itself. But proving that harms have occurred to all of society is hard. Far easier to show is the damage to a specific class of people: adolescent girls, whose rates of depression, anxiety, and self-injury surged in the early 2010s, as social-media platforms proliferated and expanded. Much more than for boys, adolescence typically heightens girls’ self-consciousness about their changing body and amplifies insecurities about where they fit in their social network. Social media—particularly Instagram, which displaces other forms of interaction among teens, puts the size of their friend group on public display, and subjects their physical appearance to the hard metrics of likes and comment counts—takes the worst parts of middle school and glossy women’s magazines and intensifies them.
The degree to which the world depends on oil and gas is not well understood.
To appreciate the complexities of the competing demands between climate action and the continued need for energy, consider the story of an award—one that the recipient very much did not want and, indeed, did not bother to pick up.
It began when Innovex Downhole Solutions, a Texas-based company that provides technical services to the oil and gas industry, ordered 400 jackets from North Face with its corporate logo. But the iconic outdoor-clothing company refused to fulfill the order. North Face describes itself as a “politically aware” brand that will not share its logo with companies that are in “tobacco, sex (including gentlemen’s clubs) and pornography.” And as far as North Face is concerned, the oil and gas industry fell into that same category—providing jackets to a company in that industry would go against its values. Such a sale would, it said, be counter to its “goals and commitments surrounding sustainability and environmental protection,” which includes a plan to use increasing amounts of recycled and renewable materials in its garments in future years.
Why is it so difficult to get a new pair of glasses or contacts in this country? It’s easier pretty much everywhere else.
On a beautiful summer day a few months ago, I walked down to the part of the Connecticut River that separates Vermont from New Hampshire, and rented a kayak. I pushed myself off the dock—and the next thing I remember is being underwater. Somehow, the kayak had capsized as it entered the river. I tried to swim up, toward the light, but found that my own boat blocked my way to safety. Doing my best not to panic, I swam down and away before finally coming up for air a few yards downriver. I clambered onto the dock, relieved to have found safety, but I was disturbed to find that the world was a blur. Could the adrenaline rush have been so strong that it had impaired my vision? No, the answer to the puzzle was far more trivial: I had been wearing glasses—glasses that were now rapidly sinking to the bottom of the Connecticut River.
Instead of using his acquittal to promote vigorous discussion, many administrators sent out statements decrying the verdict.
At universities, the recent acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse should be an opportunity to study a divisive case that sparked complex debates about issues as varied as self-defense laws, guns, race, riots, the rights of defendants, prosecutorial missteps, media bias, and more. If administrators were doing their jobs, faculty and students would freely air a wide variety of viewpoints and have opportunities to better understand one another’s diverse perspectives. Instead, many administrators are preemptively imposing their preferred narratives.
The Rittenhouse saga began in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 25, amid rioting that followed the police shooting of a Black man. Rittenhouse, then 17, armed himself with an AR-15-style rifle and walked into the chaos, claiming that he intended to protect the community. He wound up shooting three men, killing two. Last week, a Wisconsin jury found him not guilty of murder, crediting his claim that, at the moment he fired, he feared for his life and acted in self-defense. This, many analysts argued, was a plausible conclusion to draw from Wisconsin law and video footage and testimony presented at trial.
Every year thousands of Americans die on the roads. Individuals take the blame for systemic problems.
More than 20,000 people died on American roadways from January to June, the highest total for the first half of any year since 2006. U.S. road fatalities have risen by more than 10 percent over the past decade, even as they have fallen across most of the developed world. In the European Union, whose population is one-third larger than America’s, traffic deaths dropped by 36 percent between 2010 and 2020, to 18,800. That downward trend is no accident: European regulators have pushed carmakers to build vehicles that are safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and governments regularly adjust road designs after a crash to reduce the likelihood of recurrence.
But in the United States, the responsibility for road safety largely falls on the individual sitting behind the wheel, or riding a bike, or crossing the street. American transportation departments, law-enforcement agencies, and news outlets frequently maintain that most crashes—indeed, 94 percent of them, according to the most widely circulated statistic—are solely due to human error. Blaming the bad decisions of road users implies that nobody else could have prevented them. That enables car companies to deflect attention from their decisions to add heft and height to the SUVs and trucks that make up an ever-larger portion of vehicle sales, and it allows traffic engineers to escape scrutiny for dangerous street designs.
The traumas of the past year have left some people wrestling with an awful question: Am I still a good person?
Throughout the pandemic, people have had to make impossibly tough decisions. Kathleen Turner, a 52-year-old intensive-care nurse in San Francisco, has been haunted by hers. Since COVID-19 patients started overwhelming her hospital last spring, she has had to give patients sedatives knowing they would likely have lasting negative health consequences, and systematically deny relatives a chance to say goodbye to dying loved ones. Last year, Turner was following guidelines when she told a woman that she could not visit her dying mother—on Mother’s Day. “I upheld the rule on the piece of paper,” she told me. “But in terms of what would a good person do? It’s not that.” Collectively, these experiences have fundamentally shaken her sense of morality. “Am I really a good person? There’s that seed of doubt,” she said.
His work was strongest when it lingered in the pain of knowing that no ever after lasts long.
Back in 2020, I might’ve imagined the end of the pandemic being something like that gum commercial: everyone together, vaccinated, picking the same time to come safely and communally out of lockdown and get back to the way things were before, so grateful to be alive we practically leapt into each other’s arms as soon as we got the chance. That is not, of course, the way things have gone in 2021. But the closest I’ve felt to that gum-commercial feeling came from being in the audience at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on a recent Monday night, an experience I’ve played and replayed in my head since learning that Stephen Sondheim died suddenly on Friday at 91.
November 15 was the re-opening night for Sondheim’s Company, which had abruptly ceased previews in mid-March of 2020. This production, directed by Marianne Elliott, had previously run in London, and it makes the formerly male protagonist of the show, Bobby, a female Bobbie instead. My colleague Sophie Gilbert has aptly described Elliott’s reimagining of the musical as “a kind of 21st-century Lewis Carroll fever dream.” Bobbie becomes our latter-day Alice, a disoriented but intrepid navigator trying to make sense of the strangeness of contemporary bourgeois life. In that way, it is sort of a perfect show for right now, when a lot of us feel a bit like observers trying to relocate our place as participants in the world. It’s much better living it than looking at it, Bobbie’s friends say. They’re talking about love and marriage, but the line takes on a more expansive meaning in the midst of a pandemic. In the audience, it was hard not to feel elated to be living.