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.
A new study suggests that almost half of those hospitalized with COVID-19 have mild or asymptomatic cases.
At least 12,000 Americans have already died from COVID-19 this month, as the country inches through its latest surge in cases. But another worrying statistic is often cited to depict the dangers of this moment: The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States right now is as high as it has been since the beginning of February. It’s even worse in certain places: Some states, including Arkansas and Oregon, recently saw their COVID hospitalizations rise to higher levels than at any prior stage of the pandemic. But how much do those latter figures really tell us?
From the start, COVID hospitalizations have served as a vital metric for tracking the risks posed by the disease. Last winter, this magazine described it as “the most reliable pandemic number,” while Vox quoted the cardiologist Eric Topol as saying that it’s “the best indicator of where we are.” On the one hand, death counts offer finality, but they’re a lagging signal and don’t account for people who suffered from significant illness but survived. Case counts, on the other hand, depend on which and how many people happen to get tested. Presumably, hospitalization numbers provide a more stable and reliable gauge of the pandemic’s true toll, in terms of severe disease. But a new, nationwide study of hospitalization records, released as a preprint today (and not yet formally peer reviewed), suggests that the meaning of this gauge can easily be misinterpreted—and that it has been shifting over time.
In his new film, the 91-year-old actor-director gets back in the saddle.
Clint Eastwood’s first Hollywood swan song was 1992’s Unforgiven, a dark, bitter Western that bade goodbye to the genre that had made him famous. He was 62 at the time, and after some 30-plus years of riding horses on-screen, the actor-director seemed ready to retire from the fictional range. Since Unforgiven, Eastwood has made 23 more films, starring in 10 of them, and many of those projects could also be considered curtain calls. In movies such as Space Cowboys, Blood Work, Gran Torino, and The Mule, he played fading exemplars of a prior generation’s masculine ideal who were struggling to understand their place in a new world. But Eastwood’s latest film, Cry Macho, marks the first time since 1992 that he’s actually gotten back in the saddle.
Vanishingly few people have legitimate reasons to avoid COVID-19 vaccination. Some say their doctors told them not to get vaccinated anyway.
In the battle against vaccine hesitancy, many officials have suggested that people talk with their doctor if they have concerns about getting vaccinated. This advice makes a certain amount of sense. Primary-care physicians are typically the doctors patients trust most, and doctors deeply understand the benefits of vaccines. The American Medical Association has claimed, based on a survey it conducted, that 96 percent of doctors are fully vaccinated.
In recent weeks, though, I’ve heard from several people with an interesting excuse for waiting to get vaccinated: They say their doctors told them not to. Most of the people I spoke with requested anonymity so they could share sensitive health information. Most would also not give me their doctors’ names in order to shield the providers from negative consequences. The doctors whose names I did get did not return my calls or declined to comment for this story, leaving it unclear what they really think about vaccine exemptions. Some of the people I spoke with may simply be vaccine-hesitant and trying to blame a doctor for their own choice to delay or forgo getting a vaccine. But because doctors are a large and relatively diverse group of people, with varied training, credentials, and personal politics, it makes sense that some doctors would have incorrect views about vaccination.
To celebrities, the red carpet of the Met Gala is like an average person’s front lawn: a place for making bold statements. The event, an annual fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, is made for flaunting ostentatious couture. The dress code is determined by a theme—this year’s was “American Independence,” in honor of a forthcoming exhibition—that can be interpreted however an attendee prefers. Tickets are $35,000 a pop. And for four hours, the invitees—normally the most relevant cultural figures of the year—get to mug for the camera before heading inside. As a red-carpet co-host, the actor Keke Palmer, declared at the top of last night’s show, “You can never go wrong with a message.”
Bullying those who refuse to get their shots won’t work in the long run.
“Your refusal has cost all of us,” President Joe Biden said to unvaccinated people last week, as he announced a new COVID-vaccine mandate for all workers at private companies with more than 100 employees. The vaccinated, he said, are angry and frustrated with the nearly 80 million people who still haven’t received a vaccine, and their patience “is wearing thin.”
He’s not wrong about that. For people who understand that widespread vaccination is our best strategy for beating the pandemic, the 25 percent of Americans who still haven’t received a single shot are a barrier to freedom. Their exasperation is warranted.
But bullying the unvaccinated into getting their shots isn’t going to work in the long run.
The transcendent power of pilgrimage comes from its total lack of thrills.
“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness.
Last month, a survey by the travel industry found that a majority of Americans changed their vacation plans this summer because of the continuing coronavirus pandemic. But not everyone canceled their vacations entirely; travel spending has been almost as high this summer as it was in the summer of 2019. Some would-be adventurers simply found ways to do the exotic things they’d planned to do overseas in less exotic places. One of my friends, for instance, went bungee jumping in North Carolina instead of Costa Rica.
For my vacation, I did the opposite: I went with my family to a fairly exotic place to do a distinctly unexotic thing. I went to Spain and took a very quiet 100-mile walk.
SpaceX just launched four private citizens into orbit for a three-day trip.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.—Before liftoff, the moon was the brightest object in the sky, followed by the tiny, shining pinpricks of Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. Then the rocket rose with a roar, a white-hot needle casting the dark evening in a soft gold. A crew of four sat atop it, strapped inside a small capsule. And none of them—not one—were professional astronauts.
The passengers who launched today are SpaceX’s first-ever private crew. They are Sian Proctor, a geoscience professor and artist; Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant and childhood cancer survivor; Chris Sembroski, a data engineer and Iraq War veteran; and Jared Isaacman, the tech businessman who paid for all their seats. Not long ago, they were strangers. Now they are travel buddies and—in the case of Proctor, Arceneaux, and Sembroski—the beneficiaries of a billionaire with the means to make them all spacefarers.
The battles over “virginity testing” and “virginity-restoration surgery” reveal the persistence of dangerous pseudoscience.
In the Middle Ages, a royal bride would be inspected before her wedding night to make sure she was a virgo intacta—a virgin with an intact hymen covering the entrance to her vagina. “The Hymen is a membrane not altogether without blood,” wrote the 17th-century court obstetrician Louise Bourgeois. “In the middle it hath a little hole, through which the menses are voided. This at the first time of copulation is broken, which causes some pain, and gushing forth of some quantity of blood; which is an evident sign of virginity.”
In reality, some girls are born without a hymen, while others tear the membrane long before they have sex, most commonly by exercising or, today, by using tampons. Yet the demand for virginity testing—typically, a gynecological exam in which a doctor looks for the presence of a hymen—has proved surprisingly durable. In 1979, the British government performed one on a 35-year-old Indian woman who had traveled to London to get married, in order “to see whether she was, in fact, a bona fide virgin.” (The Guardian later revealed that immigration officials subjected more than 80 women to such tests from 1976 to 1979.) The Egyptian authorities used the pretext of virginity inspections to assault female protesters during the Arab Spring in 2011, and until July of this year the Indonesian military regularly performed such assessments not only on female recruits, but also on the fiancées of its male soldiers.
Can Eric Schmitt—Missouri’s anti-mandate attorney general—sue his way to the U.S. Senate?
There’s a particular spot in Jefferson City, Missouri, the state capital, where you can walk a few yards and pass through three different sets of masking rules. Struggling against the heavy wooden doors of the state-supreme-court building and stepping through, you leave the zone of the city and county recommendations—mask when you can’t keep distance—and enter a space where masks are required by order of the court. From there, you can peer through a glass door into a government office, a parallel pandemic universe where no one can tell you what to put on your face—and where trying to do so is a form of government overreach and social control.
This is the fiefdom of Eric Schmitt, the Missouri attorney general and Republican U.S. Senate candidate. Schmitt has routinely snagged national headlines throughout the pandemic for his habit of suing people, most recently over masks. He is certainly not the only or best-known state official with bigger political ambitions battling public-health mandates in the name of personal freedom. Florida has Ron DeSantis, Texas has Greg Abbott—both governors wielding executive orders and fueling presidential speculation. Missouri does not have such a governor. Instead it has Schmitt, an ambitious attorney general wielding lawsuits.
The late comic’s best work exemplified his resistance to cheap, easy material, but also his utter unpretentiousness.
Norm Macdonald, the brilliant and lacerating stand-up comedian who died yesterday of cancer, once told one of the best jokes about the disease that I’ve ever heard. “In the old days, they’d go, ‘Hey, that old man died.’ Now they go, ‘Hey, he lost his battle.’ That’s no way to end your life!” he said. “I’m pretty sure if you die, the cancer also dies at exactly the same time. So that, to me, is not a loss; that’s a draw.” True to form, many news stories yesterday referred to Macdonald’s “battle” with the disease over the past nine years. But none mentioned that he fought it to a draw.
Macdonald was the purest kind of stand-up, someone who could sidle up to an issue as dark as cancer and talk about it with disarming frankness and goofy glee. He didn’t tell jokes to shock people or to deliver a polemic, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t be thought-provoking. He could create finely tuned routines that’d knock the house down, but he took just as much delight in eliciting roars of laughter from fellow comics by reading corny one-liners from an old joke book, to the bafflement of the audience at large.