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.
I knew the president had clear and straightforward talking points—I’d written them.
One phone call changed my life.
On Thursday, July 25, 2019, I was seated at the table in one of the two Situation Rooms in the basement of the West Wing. The bigger room is famous from movies and TV shows, but this room is smaller, more typically businesslike: a long wooden table with 10 chairs, maybe a dozen more chairs against wood-paneled walls, and a massive TV screen. This was the room where President Barack Obama and his team watched a feed of the Osama bin Laden raid. This morning, the screen was off. We were all focused intently on the triangular conference-call speaker in the middle of the table. President Donald Trump’s communications team was placing a call to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, and we were there to listen.
Why targets of deliberate deception often hesitate to admit they’ve been deceived.
Something very strange has been happening in Missouri: A hospital in the state, Ozarks Healthcare, had to create a “private setting” for patients afraid of being seen getting vaccinated against COVID-19. In a video produced by the hospital, the physician Priscilla Frase says, “Several people come in to get vaccinated who have tried to sort of disguise their appearance and even went so far as to say, ‘Please, please, please don’t let anybody know that I got this vaccine.’” Although they want to protect themselves from the coronavirus and its variants, these patients are desperate to ensure that their vaccine-skeptical friends and family never find out what they have done.
Missouri is suffering one of the worst COVID-19 surges in the country. Some hospitals are rapidly running out of ICU beds. To Americans who rushed to get vaccinated at the earliest opportunity, some Missourians’ desire for secrecy is difficult to understand. It’s also difficult to square with the common narrative that vaccine refusal, at least in conservative areas of the country, is driven by a lack of respect or empathy from liberals along the coasts. “Proponents of the vaccine are unwilling or unable to understand the thinking of vaccine skeptics—or even admit that skeptics may be thinking at all,” lamented a recent article in the conservative National Review. Writers across the political spectrum have urged deference and sympathy toward holdouts’ concerns about vaccine side effects and the botched CDC messaging about masking and airborne transmission early in the pandemic. But these takes can’t explain why holdouts who receive respect, empathy, and information directly from reliable sources remain unmoved—or why some people are afraid to tell their loved ones about being vaccinated.
A recent arrival at the International Space Station created a little too much excitement.
Mission control in Houston first noticed it Thursday morning.
The International Space Station was drifting. The station is always moving, of course, in a looping trajectory around Earth. But this, what mission control was seeing in the latest data, was unexpected, and unnerving. On Thursday morning, the space station was suddenly and mysteriously deviating from its course.
The massive pieces of NASA-built hardware that hold the space station in place couldn’t keep up with the motion, and within minutes, the station had been thrown out of its usual orientation.
NASA quickly turned to Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency. To counter the shift, Moscow’s mission control commanded one of its modules on the space station to ignite its engines, then instructed a cargo ship to fire its thrusters too. Inside the station, astronauts reconfigured important systems. Twice, ground control lost communications with the crew for several minutes. The longer the space station remained off track, the more scrambled its operations, including the communication system and solar panels, could become.
If you can shrug it off as just another incident of Trump talking too much, then you have already signed up for the next incident—and the one after that.
While he was president of the United States, Donald Trump tried to overthrow the election of 2020, first by fraud, then by violence. His efforts were defeated in great part because of the integrity and courage of state-level Republican officials.
Half a year has now passed since supporters of the president stormed Congress in an effort to coerce Vice President Mike Pence to declare Trump the winner of the 2020 election. In that time, honest and brave state Republican officials have been reviled, condemned, and punished by their own party.
The president was impeached, but most Republicans in the House voted against the impeachment, and most in the Senate voted to acquit. Trump has otherwise to date escaped all consequences for his attempted destruction of the Constitution. He remains the Republican Party’s best fundraiser, and the clear front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
I carried on for more than a year of the coronavirus pandemic, but I didn’t see the next plague coming.
After the end of the world, there will be birdsong. I used to imagine this when everything was going awry. I would lie in bed in my college dorm room and listen to the lone mockingbird who sang all night outside my window in the spring months. I was worried about something or other; he was getting on with things. It’s what birds do. They have a knack for it. In the Book of Genesis, after the devastation of the Earth by God’s cataclysmic flood, Noah releases from his ark a dove; he knows that the trial has ended when the bird does not return, having alighted somewhere out in the damp and dreary world, the first land-dwelling creature to begin the work of carrying on.
What else is there to do? When COVID-19 began to spread in the United States, late in the winter of 2020, I told myself as much. In plagues, as in life, there is a morally arbitrary hierarchy of luck, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that my family and I were among the lucky ones. I was in my late 20s, hale and hearty, my husband the same plus a couple of years. Our children were young—our baby was, in fact, under a year old, something I eventually mentioned in a meekly anxious aside to a doctor I was interviewing for a story on the emerging pandemic. He acknowledged certain risks in the way that doctors do, and then said: “Don’t worry. Kids are kicking ass with this thing.” I was both comforted and chastened; this wasn’t mine to panic about. The best I could do for those in peril was to carry on.
In the time I spent with Mike Lindell, I came to learn that he is affable, devout, philanthropic—and a clear threat to the nation.
When you contemplate the end of democracy in America, what kind of person do you think will bring it about? Maybe you picture a sinister billionaire in a bespoke suit, slipping brown envelopes to politicians. Maybe your nightmare is a rogue general, hijacking the nuclear football. Maybe you think of a jackbooted thug leading a horde of men in white sheets, all carrying burning crosses.
Here is what you probably don’t imagine: an affable, self-made midwesterner, one of those goofy businessmen who makes his own infomercials. A recovered crack addict, no less, who laughs good-naturedly when jokes are made at his expense. A man who will talk to anyone willing to listen (and to many who aren’t). A philanthropist. A good boss. A patriot—or so he says—who may well be doing more damage to American democracy than anyone since Jefferson Davis.
Two students went to Amy Chua for advice. That sin would cost them dearly.
Every striver who ever slipped the rank of their birth to ascend to a higher order has shared the capacity to ingratiate themselves with their betters. What the truly exceptional ones have in common is the ability to connect not only with their superiors but also with their peers and inferiors. And only the rarest talents among them can bond authentically—not just transactionally—with the people who will help them be who they want to be in the world. It’s a preternatural, almost Promethean gift if you have it, and Amy Chua does.
Thus begins the scandal dubbed “dinner-party-gate,” the latest in the annals of Amy Chua, Yale Law’s very own Tiger Mom, whose infamous defense of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was the “dinner-party-gate” of its day approximately three years ago. Then, as now, Chua’s differences with some denizens of her milieu played out in the press, vituperations, allegations, insinuations, and all.
Just as concerts return, a new film reveals the cynicism and cultural rot that led to one of the most notorious shows ever.
We’re halfway through the first summer of full-capacity crowds at American arenas and nightclubs after pandemic-induced hibernation. Have you attended a glorious, mythmaking concert to mark the occasion? Perhaps Foo Fighters reopening Madison Square Garden gave you chills, or maybe you air-tromboned to the band Chicago at New Jersey’s first big comeback show (NJ.com’s review: “Enjoyment came in many forms Thursday night”).
The frustrations that burst into public view this month have been simmering for decades.
Every Thursday at 5 p.m., my grandmother would go into her bedroom in Havana, lock the door, and tune her Soviet-made radio to Radio Martí, a Miami-based station run by Cuban exiles who had fled Fidel Castro’s revolution. She always set the volume barely above a whisper. “Walls have ears,” she would say. Despite being an ordinary and compliant citizen, she, like the rest of my family, avoided controversial political topics on the phone, afraid that the lines were tapped. We acted as if the state were always staring directly at us. Its presence was everywhere.
For my mother’s generation, the following things, among others, were forbidden: listening to the Beatles, being openly gay, displaying religious beliefs, and reading certain books. As a kid in the late 1980s, I wore the same clothes as everybody else did, received an identical education, and even used the same and only toothpaste brand, Perla. Individual autonomy and freedom of choice did not exist.
Getting COVID-19 when you’re vaccinated isn’t the same as getting COVID-19 when you’re unvaccinated.
A new dichotomy has begun dogging the pandemic discourse. With the rise of the über-transmissible Delta variant, experts are saying you’re either going to get vaccinated, or going to get the coronavirus.
For some people—a decent number of us, actually—it’s going to be both.
Post-vaccination infections, or breakthroughs, might occasionally turn symptomatic, but they aren’t shameful or aberrant. They also aren’t proof that the shots are failing. These cases are, on average, gentler and less symptomatic; faster-resolving, with less virus lingering—and, it appears, less likely to pass the pathogen on. The immunity offered by vaccines works in iterations and gradations, not absolutes. It does not make a person completely impervious to infection. It also does not evaporate when a few microbes breach a body’s barriers. A breakthrough, despite what it might seem, does not cause our defenses to crumble or even break; it does not erase the protection that’s already been built. Rather than setting up fragile and penetrable shields, vaccines reinforce the defenses we already have,so that we can encounter the virus safely and potentially build further upon that protection.