Tesla is in the black for the first time in more than three years.
The motor company reported Wednesday that it made a net profit of $21.9 million in the third quarter, boosted by $139 million in zero emission credits from the state of California and $2.3 billion in revenue. Elon Musk, the electric carmaker’s CEO, said he expects the trend will continue into the fourth quarter as the company has reduced the costs of making its new Model 3 sedan.
The third quarter profit and a leaner capital spending plan could help grease the wheels for Musk if he does seek to tap the markets for cash. Turning a profit, even for one quarter, should help counter skeptics who have questioned his ambitious plans for combining Tesla and solar panel maker SolarCity into a company offering roof-to-garage no-carbon energy systems.
Just a year ago, the company recorded a loss of $229.9 million.
Musk has faced criticism in the past for not hitting product launch dates. The company is still reeling after the recent semi-autonomous driving system failure in the Model S.
The Model 3, targeted for a much wider market at a $35,000 starting price, is set to launch the second half of next year.
Venezuelans Protest the Maduro Regime in Widespread Rallies
Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered throughout Venezuela on Wednesday to express their opposition of the current president, Nicolas Maduro. In what has been deemed a “Takeover of Venezuela,” the capital city flooded with people in white, carrying Venezuelan flags, and chanting, "This government is going to fall!"
The protests come on the heels of a highly unpopular decision from Venezuela’s National Electoral Council to indefinitely suspend a referendum to recall Maduro. Although Maduro remains in power, recent polls show that around 80 percent of voters would like to see him ousted in the coming year.
Since assuming office in 2013, Maduro has been accused of carrying out an authoritarian regime by jailing opposition leaders and limiting access to newspapers that speak critically of his government. Venezuela also faces the worst economic crisis in the nation’s history, a situation for which many hold Maduro responsible.
"This has gone too far,” one protester, carrying a flag with the signatures of opposition leaders, told Reuters on Wednesday. “I do not like confrontation, but we have been too compromising and soft with the government.”
Wednesday’s rallies resulted in clashes between protesters and security forces in several cities. Dozens were injured, according to opposition leaders, and two protesters in Maracaibo were shot. A police officer was shot and killed, as well, while two others were injured. The protests mark yet another milestone in what portends to be a long and heated battle between opposition leaders and the Maduro regime. The leaders have already threatened a national strike on Friday and a march to the presidential palace on November 3 should the Electoral Council continue to suspend the referendum.
Two earthquakes struck central Italy on Wednesday, shaking historic buildings in Rome only three months after a temblor killed almost 300 people in the same region.
The first quake, a 5.4 temblor, struck near the town of Visso, the BBC reported. Visso is about 40 miles from Amatrice, the town where an earthquake struck in August. In the August quake, 295 people were killed; no death or injuries were reported in Wednesday’s first quake.
A few hours later, a 6.1 tremor shook the region, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which monitors seismic activity worldwide. Both of Wednesday’s quakes occurred within a few miles of one another.
Archeologists Get Their First Look at Jesus Christ's Tomb
For the first time in nearly a half-millennium, the tomb where Jesus Christ was supposedly laid to rest has been exposed by archaeologists in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Scientists removed the marble slab that covered the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the most sacred locations in Christianity, for renovations. It has covered the tomb since at least A.D. 1555.
Now comes the long process of analyzing the original rock surface of the burial bed in the limestone cave where tradition says Jesus Christ was laid shortly after being crucified by Romans. Christian teachings say he rose from the dead three days after his burial.
National Geographic, which is doing a documentary on the excavation, describes the location:
This burial couch is now enclosed by a small structure known as the Edicule (from the Latin aedicule, or "little house"), which was last reconstructed in 1808-1810 after being destroyed in a fire. The Edicule and the interior tomb are currently undergoing restoration by a team of scientists from the National Technical University of Athens, under the direction of Chief Scientific Supervisor Professor Antonia Moropoulou.
The location of Christ’s tomb was identified in A.D. 326 by Helena, the mother of the Roman emperor Constantine. It has since become the destination for pilgrims and tourists for centuries, adorned with marble, candles, and icons.
The church is operated through an often-contentious partnership between the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and the Syriac Orthodox Church. All secs recently agreed to allowing renovations for the tomb, which has been damaged by decay, fires, and earthquakes.
At least 26 civilians, mostly children, were killed Wednesday when air strikes hit a school and residential area in northern Syria.
About 20 of the dead were children who were leaving school when strikes hit in the town of Hass at about 11:30 a.m. local time. As many as 30 civilians were injured, some critically, according to the White Helmets, a volunteer group in rebel-controlled Syria, which tweeted frequent updates. Ten children were among the wounded.
Russian forces are suspected in the attack. Hass is located in Idlib province, which is controlled by Syrian opposition groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Russia has been bombing rebels in the country on behalf of Assad’s government for more than a year.
At least 300,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict since 2011. Schools and hospitals have been caught in the crossfire, leading to the deaths of dozens of children and medical workers.
Two days before Wednesday’s air strikes, more than 80 human-rights and aid organizations called for Russia’s removal from the United Nations Human Rights Council, asking member states to “question seriously whether Russia's role in Syria—which includes supporting and undertaking military actions which have routinely targeted civilians and civilian objects—renders it fit to serve on the UN's premier intergovernmental human-rights institution.”
7th-Century Scroll Reveals Oldest Hebrew Reference to Jerusalem
Israeli archaeologists unveiled Wednesday an ancient papyrus scroll said to contain the oldest uncovered reference to Jerusalem in Hebrew.
The ancient text, believed to have originated from a Judean Desert cave during the time of Solomon’s Temple, was acquired in 2012 by the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Times of Israelreports. The scroll dates back to 7th century BCE—putting it centuries ahead of the Dead Sea Scrolls—and in Hebrew says, “From the female servant of the king, from Naharata (place near Jericho) two wineskins to Jerusalem.”
The unveiling follows a controversy caused by a UNESCO resolution that criticized Israel’s policies in the region’s holy sites—a resolution Israel has denounced as ignoring Jewish ties to the region. The resolution, which the UN cultural agency approved last week, referred to the Temple Mount—known in Arabic as Haram al-Sharif and in Hebrew as Har HaBayit—using only its Islamic name in a move Israeli officials called “delusional.”
On Wednesday, Israel recalled its ambassador to UNESCO in protest of what Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said was a second resolution adopted by the agency said to ignore Jewish ties to Jerusalem. The new draft resolution, Haaretz reports, was submitted by Lebanon and Tunisia and, unlike the previous resolution, does refer to the Western Wall by its Hebrew name.
U.S. Abstains From UN Vote Condemning Cuba Embargo
The U.S. abstained for the first time ever from a UN General Assembly vote Wednesday on a resolution to condemn the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba. Although the vote is nonbinding and largely symbolic, the U.S. abstention signals a huge shift in its relations with Cuba.
The U.S. and Israel always opposed the annual vote ever since it was first introduced in 1991. But this year, both countries abstained, and the 193-member assembly passed the resolution with no opposing votes. When Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, announced Wednesday the U.S. would abstain, assembly members applauded.
"Abstaining on this resolution does not mean that the United States agrees with all of the policies and practices of the Cuban government. We do not," Power told the assembly. "We are profoundly concerned by the serious human rights violations that the Cuban government continues to commit with impunity against its own people."
It was an important step, but one that was unsurprising. U.S. President Obama has asked Congress to lift the 50-year-old economic embargo on Cuba, but under Republican control that has not been possible. Instead, Obama has used executive powers to ease travel and trade restrictions. Along with allowing commercial flights to Cuba, the White House most recently relaxed controls on how much Cuban rum and cigars U.S. tourists could bring home with them.
Brazil and Colombia Are Getting an Army of Modified Mosquitoes
Scientists have pledged to release an army of genetically modified mosquitoes in urban areas of Brazil and Colombia starting early next year.
The decision is part of an $18 million project funded by an international team of donors, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that aims to protect people from mosquito-borne viruses like Zika, chikungunya, and dengue, the BBC reported Wednesday. The project has also received funding from local governments in Latin America, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
Brazil is at the epicenter of a Zika outbreak that has spread to more than 50 countries since last year. Zika is particularly dangerous for pregnant women; the virus has been shown to cause a severe developmental condition called microcephaly in infants born to infected mothers. Since the start of the outbreak, more than 2,000 babies in Brazil have been born with microcephaly.
Although the idea of “mutant mosquitoes” may sound like science fiction, it’s been the subject of research for the last decade. Based on a number of small-scale trials, researchers at the Eliminate Dengue Program at Australia’s Monash University have found that genetically modified mosquitoes can help reduce the spread of Zika, chikungunya, and dengue to humans.
Here’s how scientists create these modified insects: Aedes aegypti mosquitoes—the kind that often spread viruses like Zika—are injected with a bug called Wolbachia, which is harmless to human beings.The bug is believed to make mosquitoes resistant to viruses, in turn preventing the spread of disease. When the modified mosquitoes are released into the environment, they also breed with other mosquitoes, helping to introduce the Wolbachia bug to future generations.
Ravi Durvasula, who studies medicine and infectious diseases at University of New Mexico School of Medicine, toldThe Atlantic’s Adrienne LaFrance earlier this year that there are some risks to deploying genetically modified mosquitoes. The modified bugs could end up exacerbating the Zika problem instead of eliminating it, he said. But between lab-altered mosquitoes and an incurable disease like Zika, Durvasula said that genetic modification is likely the “lesser of two evils.”
Scientists plan to monitor the project over the next three years to look for reduced cases of mosquito-borne illness. So far, they are excited by its prospects. “Wolbachia could be a revolutionary protection against mosquito-borne disease,” Dr. Trevor Mundel of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation told the BBC Wednesday. "We are eager to study its impact and how it can help countries."
Dozens of Women Come Forward in Sexual-Assault Case at Wisconsin College
Two weeks ago, a college student in Wisconsin filed a complaint with the local police department, claiming she had been sexually assaulted multiple times near campus. Days later, another student came forward, saying she'd been assaulted by the same man. By the end of last week, nine criminal charges had been filed against Alec Cook, a 20-year-old student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
The university’s campus police is investigating “multiple” further complaints, while the Madison Police Department has been contacted by “dozens of other females,” according to a search warrant filed last week. Three more charges against Cook are expected to be filed Thursday.
The allegations against Cook may constitute one of the largest sexual-assault cases at the University of Wisconsin, a school with more than 43,000 students. Cook reportedly denied any wrongdoing during a police interview, but the university has already placed him on emergency leave. “This is a serious case and the university is responding,” said Dean of Students Lori Berquam. The university’s Chancellor, Rebecca Blank, also issued a statement via Twitter:
Cook currently faces 30 counts—among them charges of felony sexual assault, false imprisonment, and strangulation—said Collette Sampson, a Dane County prosecutor, in a statement to The Washington Post on Wednesday. According to Sampson, the Dane County Police Department discovered a notebook among Cook’s belongings detailing various “grooming and stalking techniques.”
The local WKOW-TV station reported Wednesday that the notebook contained a series of entries with women’s names. “Each entry showed how he met the female, and what he liked about them,” reads an affidavit from Madison police detective Grant Humerickhouse. “Further entries went on to document what he wanted to do with the females. Disturbingly enough there were statements of 'kill' and statements of 'sexual' desires.’”
Many women have taken to Facebook to express their horror over Cook’s actions. “I remember feeling quietly afraid of you at that party,” one woman wrote in an open letter addressed to Cook. “The saying ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ doesn’t apply here because, Alec, you are a wolf—plain and simple.”
Cook’s lawyer, Van Wagner, told the Wisconsin State Journal Tuesday that “much of what has been reported on [social media] has been, for lack of a better expression, character assassination of my client… [It] has prompted a lot of people to apparently go back and re-examine their relationships with him and conclude, whether accurately or not, that they were the victim of a crime.”
Cook is being held in Dane County jail. He is scheduled to appear Thursday in county court, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Mexico Charges the Police Chief in Command During the 'Ayotzinapa 43' Disappearance
A Mexican police chief has been charged in connection with the 2014 disappearance of 43 students in the state of Guerrero—known as the Ayotzinapa 43. The chief, Felipe Flores, spent two years in hiding and was captured last Friday in Iguala, the state’s capital.
Authorities say they hope Flores can provide insight into why the students were taken off a bus on September 26, 2014, and what happened to their bodies. The students all attended Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College in Iguala, in the country’s southwest. The students had stopped and commandeered a bus—a custom common among students in the area—for a protest in Mexico City. Local police stopped the bus and fired on the unarmed students. From there the story becomes murky.
The official account is that local police, under Flores’ command, took orders from the corrupt mayor of Iguala and his wife, and turned the students over to local drug traffickers. In this account, the traffickers killed the students, burned their bodies beyond recognition, buried some charred remains, and cast the rest into a river. But a panel of international lawyers challenged this account.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a report in April that found much of the government’s evidence was provided by suspects who’d been tortured, and that officers and government officials had tampered with evidence. The report said the government’s primary concern was a quick arrest to end bad press. One theory of why top officials would want to cover up the case says the military and federal police were involved in the students’ disappearance—or at the very least knew about it as it happened. That presumption would cause problems for federal officials, as Peña Nieto’s government has tried to remake Mexico’s image.
13 Israelis Charged for Inciting Violence in Wedding Video
Thirteen Israelis were indicted Wednesday in connection with a wedding video in which attendees were filmed hoisting weapons and celebrating the death of a Palestinian toddler in an arson attack last year.
The 13 individuals—including five minors and Yakir Ashbel, the 21-year-old bridegroom—were indicted on a number of charges, including incitement to violence, supporting a terror group, racist incitement, and weapons offenses, the Times of Israelreports.
The video from the wedding, which took place in December 2015, shows some wedding-goers dancing with guns and knives, while others were filmed stabbing a photograph of Ali Dawabsheh, the 18-month-old who was killed alongside his parents after his home in the West Bank town of Duma was firebombed. Amiram Ben-Uliel, a 21-year-old from an Israeli settlement north of Hebron, was charged in January with carrying out the “price-tag” attack, a term used to describe violence against the Palestinian population by Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, condemned the video, which he said shows “the real face of a group that poses danger to Israeli society and security.”
More than 30 civilians were kidnapped and at least 20 killed by a group of armed men said to be loyal to the Islamic State, Afghan officials said.
Nasir Khazeh, the governor of Ghor province, told Agence France-Presse the victims were discovered Wednesday morning—a day after a group of civilians were abducted by a former Taliban unit near the provincial capital of Firozkoh. The attack, Khazeh said, followed fighting between the group and Afghan security forces, in which the group’s commander was killed.
“Our security forces with the help of local shepherds conducted an operation and killed a Daesh (IS) commander yesterday,” Khazeh said, using the pejorative term for the Islamic State. “Daesh fighters in retaliation abducted around 30 villagers, mostly shepherds.”
Though the Islamic State did not formally take credit for the attack, the Taliban was quick to disassociate itself from the incident. Zabihullah Mujahid, the insurgent group’s spokesman, tweeted Wednesday that the attack “had nothing to do with the mujahadeen.”
Though the number of civilians killed is not yet clear, estimates range from 23 to as high as 30. The United Nations put the number of those killed at 26.
National Geographic’s Iconic ‘Afghan Girl’ Faces 14 Years in Jail
When she was 12 years old, Sharbat Gula appeared on the 1985 cover ofNational Geographic in what would later become one of the most iconic magazine issues ever released. More than 30 years later, Gula now faces a fine and up to 14 years in jail following her arrest for identification fraud.
Gula was arrested Wednesday in the northwestern city of Peshawar for the possession of false identity papers, following a two-year investigation in the area by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency. She had previously applied for an ID card in April 2014 under the name Sharbat Bibi. The fraud was reported months later by Pakistan’s National Database Registration Authority, but the three staff members who issued Gula’s false papers went missing, Shahid Ilyas, an official from NADRA, told Agence France-Presse.
Two men listed as Gula’s sons also received ID cards when she applied for them in 2014. "They may not be her sons, but this is a common practice among Afghan refugees whereby they list names of non-relatives as their children to obtain documents,” an unnamed NADRA source told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper.
When photographer Steve McCurry, who took the renowned photo of Gula, tracked her down in 2002, he found her living in an Afghan village with her husband and three daughters. But according to the paperwork she filed, Gula has been residing in the Nasir Bagh camp for Afghan refugees since 1984. It remains unclear how long Gula has been Pakistan.
Her arrest comes at a time when Pakistan is cracking down on ID fraud in an effort to control the refugee crisis. The government’s investigations have found some 60,675 ID cards in the hands of non-nationals, while the United Nations estimates that there are about 1 million unregistered refugees in Pakistan.
Auvi-Q to Introduce Cheaper Alternative to EpiPen Market
EpiPen will have some competition in the new year.
Kaléo, a privately held pharmaceutical company, announced Wednesday its plans to reintroduce its Auvi-Qepinephrine auto-injector to the epinephrine auto-injector market in 2017, providing an alternative the company says “all patients can afford.”
Though Kaléo did not say how much it expects to charge for Auvi-Q, the introduction of new competition stands to make an impact on the U.S. market, which has until recently been controlled almost exclusively by Mylan Pharmaceuticals’ EpiPen. In September, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch defended to congressional lawmakers her company’s 500 percent price increase of the life-saving drug—from $100 to $608. Amid the backlash, Mylan announced in August it would introduce a more generic version of the EpiPen that would be sold for about $300.
As The New York Timesreports, Auvi-Q first came to market in 2013 as a slimmer, and more pocket-friendly alternative to EpiPen. The product was later licensed to French pharmaceutical company Sanofi, which recalled the product in 2015 due to complaints that it wasn’t delivering the right epinephrine doses. In February, Kaléo regained the rights to the product.
Audits completed in September found that nearly 10,000 California National Guardsmen weren’t eligible for the re-enlistment bonuses they received—$15,000 or more. The Pentagon said it wanted the money back, leaving about 2,000 veterans—who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan—straddled with unexpected debts. The backlash resulted in lawmakers and others demanding that the Defense Department forgive the debt.
The issue came to light last month when audits found that nearly 10,000 California National Guardsmen weren’t eligible for the re-enlistment bonuses they received. The Los Angeles Timesreported last week that investigators found the bonuses were paid mostly between 2006 and 2008 after National Guard officials tried to meet enlistment goals during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only soldiers with specific assignments were supposed to receive the money.
Gambia Wants Out of the International Criminal Court
Gambia announced it will leave the International Criminal Court, saying the judicial body meant to try some of the world’s worst war crimes was really a caucasian court “for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans."
Sheriff Bojang, Gambia’s information minister, made the announcement late Tuesday, reasoning the court repeatedly ignored the prosecution of Western leaders. Gambia is the third African country to leave in two weeks. The others are Burundi and South Africa, and their collective denouncement of the court may signal the exodus of more African nations. Already, Namibia and Kenya have raised the possibility of leaving the ICC.
Gambia’s decision reflects a wider suspicion held among some African leaders that the ICC, established in 2002, has been aimed only at trying suspected criminals from its continent. They point out that of the ICC’s 10 current investigations, nine involve African countries. Gambia has been especially frustrated because for the past year it has sought without success to bring punishment against the European Union for allowing thousands of African migrants to die while crossing the sea to its coasts. South Africa left last week after it allowed Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, to visit even though the court had ordered his arrest on charges of crimes against humanity. Burundi left the ICC earlier this month after the court opened an investigation into its president, Pierre Nkurunziza, who won a controversial third term in 2015 and has since led a bloody crackdown on protesters and opposition.
The Philippines President Now Wants to Kick Out U.S. Troops In Two Years
Last week Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted U.S. troops out of the Philippines. Earlier this week, he apologized for those remarks. On Wednesday he said he does in fact want them out, and for the first time he set a time frame for their departure.
During a trip to Japan, Duterte said he wanted U.S. troops—and all foreign troops—gone from the Philippines in “maybe two years.” He also said he was open to revoking deals signed in 2014 with the U.S. to expand bases in the country. “And if I have to revise or abrogate agreements,” Duterte said Wednesday, “executive agreements, this shall be the last maneuver, war games between the United States and the Philippines military."
That agreement was one of U.S. President Obama’s main efforts to increase military presence in Southeast Asia, and to push back on China’s claims of the South China Sea. The agreement, approved by a Philippines court this January, is supposed to allow the Pentagon to station forces at five bases in the country, and would be used to deploy planes and train U.S. and Filipino soldiers.
Last week Duterte announced the Philippines’s “separation” from the U.S. When asked to clarify, he said he didn’t really mean separation. Then Tuesday he retracted his retraction, saying he was not a “lap dog” to any country and that he still planned to kick out U.S. troops.
French authorities say the makeshift migrant camp in Calais dubbed “The Jungle’ has been cleared of the roughly 6,000 people who lived there as officials continue to dismantle the facility.
Over the weekend, authorities clashed with migrants ahead of the planned operation to dismantle the camp. They began clearing the camp Monday. Nearly 2,000 people left voluntarily and were taken to migrant-processing centers across France where they will be allowed to seek asylum. Those whose applications are rejected will be deported. Some of the remaining migrants set “The Jungle” ablaze Wednesday as authorities cleared it.
Many of the migrants in the “Jungle” tried to enter the UK illegally from Calais, from where trucks and other forms of traffic make their way between continental Europe and the UK.
WATCH: Newt Gingrich's Exchange With Fox's Megyn Kelly
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and current surrogate for Donald Trump, told Megyn Kelly, the Fox News anchor, that she is “fascinated with sex.” They were discussing the allegations of sexual misconduct against the Republican presidential nominee.
Kelly’s reaction was incredulous but amused: “Me? Really?” You can watch the full exchange here (it starts at about the 4:40 mark):
Gingrich appeared to be pleased with his exchange, which he touted on Twitter last night:
The handover of power was a solemn affair. There was no mistaking the new administration for the old one.
At dawn this morning, workers loaded couches and tables into a moving truck parked outside the West Wing. Men wearing white coveralls and carrying roller brushes and paint cans walked across the north driveway. Inside the White House, pictures of the 45th president had been removed from the walls. Only the hooks remained, ready for a new set of portraits of the 46th.
A lone Donald Trump press deputy, Judd Deere, sat in his small office, writing a note on a piece of stationery to whoever would be taking over his desk in a few hours. Deere was attempting to describe what it’s like to work in the building. When I looked in at noon, after the Trump presidency had officially ended, he was gone, his desk cleared. Even the magazine racks hanging on the wall had been emptied.
History suggests that Joe Biden and the Democrats are going to have a tough two years and a disaster in the midterms. Here’s their plan to avoid that.
Joe Biden’s team is planning a party. His inauguration on Wednesday, held under threat from the coronavirus and pro-Trump extremists, wasn’t much of a celebration. But the Biden administration hopes that January 20, 2022—a year from now—will mark what some aides are describing as a “renewing of the vows,” an anniversary that could be a genuinely happy moment.
By then, Biden hopes, he will have made Americans feel like they’ve put the horrors of 2020 behind them. More than anything, that depends on whether he can dig the country out from the COVID-19 crisis. Vaccine distribution and economic recovery will be key.
Basic competence of government could go a long way: Imagine the political boost Biden could earn when people start going to the movies again, or children start seeing their grandparents. Biden is already planning to push ahead on an additional $1,400 in relief checks (a disappointment to those who wanted another $2,000) and a $15-an-hour minimum wage—both part of a $2 trillion relief package. He’s also planning an infrastructure bill that would create new green jobs, and include other measures to help fight climate change.
Children rarely get very ill from COVID-19. But there’s another reason to vaccinate them.
A few days after Christmas, Molly Hering, 14, and her brother, Sam, 12, got their first shots as part of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine trials for kids. Their mom had heard about a clinical trial being conducted at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and Molly told me that she’d agreed to join because she wanted to contribute to the vaccine-development effort.
Molly and Sam’s dad was recently hospitalized with COVID-19. (He recovered.) Both kids have spent most of the past year dealing with Zoom school and its attendant technical glitches. Molly finally went back to in-person ninth grade this month, but masks and social distancing are required at school. Like everyone else, she’s looking forward to the end of the pandemic. “I’ll finally be able to go to school normally,” she said.
She who dies with the most checked boxes wins, right? Wrong.
“How to Build a Life” is a column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness. Starting today, the column will be published weekly on Thursday mornings.
I am an inveterate scorekeeper. I can go back decades and find lists of goals I set for myself to gauge “success” by certain milestone birthdays. For example, in my 20s, I had a to-do list for the decade, the items on which more or less told the story of a penniless musician who had made some dubious choices. It included quitting smoking, going to the dentist, mastering my pentatonic scales, and finishing college. (I hit them all, although the last one mere days before my 30th birthday.)
There is nothing unusual about this tendency to keep score. Google “30 things to do before you turn 30” and you will get more than 15,000 results. Researchers writing in the journal Psychological Science a few years ago observed that people are naturally motivated toward performance goals related to round numbers, and birthdays in particular can often act as landmarks to motivate self-improvement. We naturally seek outside sources of quantitative evidence of our progress and effectiveness—and, thus, our happiness.
Three particular failures secure Trump’s status as the worst chief executive ever to hold the office.
President Donald Trump has long exulted in superlatives. The first. The best. The most. The greatest. “No president has ever done what I’ve done,” he boasts. “No president has ever even come close,” he says. But as his four years in office draw to an end, there’s only one title to which he can lay claim: Donald Trump is the worst president America has ever had.
In December 2019, he became the third president to be impeached. Last week, Trump entered a category all his own, becoming the first president to be impeached twice. But impeachment, which depends in part on the makeup of Congress, is not the most objective standard. What does being the worst president actually mean? And is there even any value, at the bitter end of a bad presidency, in spending energy on judging a pageant of failed presidencies?
In 20 minutes, the president signaled how he will approach this job and this moment in history.
Political speeches follow a surprisingly simple set of rules—or at least the successful ones do. Newly sworn-in President Joe Biden observed them all in his inaugural address. Although his 20 minutes at the lectern are not likely to be parsed and studied for rhetorical flourishes, with this speech Biden accomplished something more important: He signaled how he will approach this job and this moment in history.
The first rule in political rhetoric is authenticity. Does the essence of the speech—its vocabulary, its rhythms, its cadences, its tendencies toward “plain” versus “fancy” tone—match the essence of the speaker? Does the rhetoric call attention to itself? Or does it mainly serve to transmit the mood, intention, and ideas the speaker hopes to convey?
I’ve been thinking about Barbara Tuchman’s medieval history, A Distant Mirror, over the past couple of weeks. The book is a masterful work of anti-romance, a cold-eyed look at how generations of aristocrats and royalty waged one of the longest wars in recorded history, all while claiming the mantle of a benevolent God. The disabusing begins early. In the introduction, Tuchman examines the ideal of chivalry and finds, beneath the poetry and codes of honor, little more than myth and delusion.
Knights “were supposed, in theory, to serve as defenders of the Faith, upholders of justice, champions of the oppressed,” Tuchman writes. “In practice, they were themselves the oppressors, and by the 14th century, the violence and lawlessness of men of the sword had become a major agency of disorder.”
So somehow, US Airways' official Twitter account tweeted a picture of a nude woman with a toy airplane inserted into her vagina.
This article is from the archive of our partner .
Updated at 1:56 p.m. ET on December 4, 2020.
So somehow, US Airways' official Twitter account tweeted a picture of a nude woman with a toy airplane inserted into her vagina. The list of things that would be worse to tweet is short enough that we feel comfortable awarding the airline All-Time First Place Victor in Worst Corporate Social Media #Brand Strategy. Congratulations to all involved, especially the soon-to-be-out-of-work tweeter behind the unfortunate image who now has something for his résumé.
A casualty of Argentina’s so-called Dirty War, Isabel haunted my childhood like a ghost. Then I started searching for her.
The report from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team included 20 photos of my half sister’s bones—nearly as many photos as I had ever seen of Isabel herself.
The ones of the bones punctured by bullets—her rib, her pelvis, her humerus—did not move me as much as those of her skull. It was so old-looking, like one of those prehistoric craniums of Homo sapiens, the nose bashed in, some of the teeth missing, that earthen coloring. The skull had lain in a common grave, untouched for more than 30 years, before being taken to a lab, where it remained officially unidentified for about another 10. The sight of it destroyed me. In all the photos I had seen, Isabel looked incredibly young, with a cherubic beauty—round cheeks, light hair, searching blue eyes. She had been murdered and disappeared by the military dictatorship in Argentina in January 1978, when she was just 22. Staring at those photos of her skeleton in March 2018, I was eight years older than she ever had been. Never before had I quite grasped how much time she hadn’t gotten to live, to age and grow old, until I saw her bones, and realized they had been aging without the rest of her.
Quarantine is turning you into a stiff, hunched-over, itchy, sore, headachy husk.
The first time my hips locked up, the reason was at least a little bit glamorous. It was 2018, and I was returning from vacation in Sicily, which was the fanciest thing I’d ever done by several orders of magnitude. As I went through the motions—and, perhaps more important, the lack of motion—of international flight, my gait began to stiffen, and my stride contracted to a fraction of its former self. My body, settling into its mid-30s, rebelled against the hours spent in airplane seats, the nights in unfamiliar beds, the constant, awkward physicality of travel.
The same thing happened a few more times over the next year and a half, always after long-haul flights. I began to think of it as “airplane hip,” and the condition was annoying but temporary; I don’t spend much time on planes, and a yoga move called “pigeon pose” would stretch my stiff waddle back into a walk in a day or two. Usually, the discomfort was worth it—a small musculoskeletal price to pay for the occasional privilege of seeing parts of the world still new to me.