—Bob Dylan broke his cryptic silence about receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature two weeks ago in an interview with a British newspaper. Will he attend the ceremony? “Absolutely,” he said. “If it’s at all possible.”
—Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rojay received a narrow mandate from parliament to form a new government, ending 10 months of paralysis after two inconclusive elections.
—Icelandic voters are poised to hand the Pirate Party, a populist civil-libertarian party, the most seats in the Althing in Saturday’s parliamentary elections.
—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4).
Spain’s parliament re-elected Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Saturday, ending 10 months of paralysis following two inconclusive elections last December and this June.
Neither Rajoy’s center-right People Party nor the opposition Socialist Party mustered a simple majority of seats in either general elections, forcing both sides into a protracted stalemate as they struggled to build coalitions with smaller parties to govern.
The stalemate ended when Ciudadanos, a centrist regional party from Catalonia, threw its support—and its 32 seats—behind Rajoy. The New York Timeshas more:
The Popular Party won the most votes in June’s election but, with just 137 of the 350 seats in Parliament, fell well short of a majority. The Socialists came in second, with 85 seats, their worst-ever result, but still sufficient for them to remain the largest left-wing political group, ahead of the far-left Podemos party.
In the coming weeks, Mr. Rajoy will present a budget for 2017 that will be the first major test of his ability to pass legislation without a parliamentary majority. He will be under pressure to make budgetary concessions to regional and left-wing parties, but his spending will be curtailed by deficit targets imposed by the European Union.
Mr. Rajoy is also under pressure to defuse a territorial dispute with Catalonia. Separatist parties control the Catalan regional Parliament and have pledged to hold an independence referendum by September, despite fierce opposition from Madrid and the courts.
Had legislators not granted Rajoy a slim mandate to govern, Spain would have been forced to call its third election in a year in an attempt to break the deadlock.
Icelandic voters are heading to the polls Saturday as the country holds its first parliamentary elections since the resignation of Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson in April.
Gunnlaugsson’s fall from power followed revelations in the Panama Papers, a cache of leaked documents from the corporate law firm Mossack Fonseca, that linked him to foreign creditors who profited from the collapse of Iceland’s banking sector.
Leading the latest opinion police is Iceland’s Pirate Party, a civil-libertarian party founded in 2012. It currently holds three seats in the Althing, Iceland’s parliament, but could emerge with the most seats of any party after the election. The Guardianhas more:
Riding a wave of public anger at perceived political corruption in the wake of the 2008 financial crash and the Panama Papers scandal in April, the Pirate party campaigns for direct democracy, full government transparency, individual freedoms and the fight against corruption.
Its radical platform, which also includes decriminalising drugs, offering asylum to whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and relaxing restrictions on the use of the bitcoin virtual currency, has the backing of 21% of Icelanders, polls suggest, making it the country’s second-biggest party.
Its figurehead is Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a 49-year-old MP, poet and former WikiLeaks collaborator who has said she has no ambition to be prime minister but wants to sweep away a “corrupt and dysfunctional system.”
The election results will be announced Sunday morning local time.
Bob Dylan, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature earlier this month, finally acknowledged the honor on Friday. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, the American folk bard said he might attend the awards ceremony in Stockholm in December.
“Absolutely,” he replied. “If it’s at all possible.”
Dylan cryptically did not elaborate on why he wouldn’t be able to attend. The Nobel Foundation subsequently released a statement that said Dylan had called the Nobel committee last week. “The news about the Nobel Prize left me speechless,” he said, according to the foundation. “I appreciate the honor so much.”
The Nobel committee announced Dylan had won literature’s most prestigious honor on October 13 for “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” He is the first musician to receive the prize. The choice caused a minor controversy within the literary world, with some praising the selection’s novelty while others dissented that a more traditional writer or poet was not honored instead.
Then followed silence. Dylan made only a brief, fleeting reference to the award on his website that day. To the foundation’s frustration, he also did not answer or return numerous calls from them. A committee member last week described his silence as “arrogant and impolite.”
The generation that grew up with Rebecca Black’s “Friday” isn’t just nostalgic for that novelty tune—it’s making music inspired by it.
Ten years ago, the most Googled name in the world belonged to a wide-smiling 13-year-old girl everyone seemed to be laughing at. She was Rebecca Black of “Friday,” the calendar-themed sing-along that reached megafame by being, in many people’s judgment, the worst song ever. Amid cheesy production by the ARK Music Factory—a now-defunct Southern California firm that Black’s mom had paid $4,000 to make the song—Black’s auto-tuned voice bleated about cereal, front seats, back seats, and “fun, fun, fun.” In the music video, which featured tweens riding around in a convertible, and on talk shows where hosts quizzed Black about why her song was so hated, she never seemed to drop her grin.
Reducing hours without reducing pay would reignite an essential but long-forgotten moral project: making American life less about work.
The 89 people who work at Buffer, a company that makes social-media management tools, are used to having an unconventional employer. Everyone’s salary, including the CEO’s, is public. All employees work remotely; their only office closed down six years ago. And as a perk, Buffer pays for any books employees want to buy for themselves.
So perhaps it is unsurprising that last year, when the pandemic obliterated countless workers’ work-life balance and mental health, Buffer responded in a way that few other companies did: It gave employees an extra day off each week, without reducing pay—an experiment that’s still running a year later. “It has been such a godsend,” Essence Muhammad, a customer-support agent at Buffer, told me.
There’s no way of knowing how bad things will get in the U.S. In a way, that’s a luxury.
This much is clear: The coronavirus is becoming more transmissible. Ever since the virus emerged in China, it has been gaining mutations that help it spread more easily among humans. The Alpha variant, first detected in the United Kingdom last year, is 50 percent more transmissible than the original version, and now the Delta variant, first detected in India, is at least 40 percent more transmissible than Alpha.
What’s less certain, however, is how the virus’s increased transmissibility will affect the pandemic in the United States. Alpha’s arrival prompted worries about a new surge in the spring, but one never came. The proportion of Alpha cases kept going up, but the total number of cases kept going down. People got vaccinated. Alpha became dominant in the U.S. Cases fell even further. The virus had become more biologically transmissible, but it wasn’t being transmitted to more people.
The Apple TV+ series Physical is a reminder that making people hate their body is a thriving pillar of American commerce.
This is supposed to be the season of unleashed, exuberant exhibitionism. Many of us have swaddled our pale bodies in Lycra and terry cloth for more than a year; the theory of Hot Vax Summer is that we’re long overdue to expose them to the cruel light of other people’s eyes. In the music video for “Solar Power,” Lorde basks on the beach in a lemon-yellow crop top, the symmetry of her rib cage its own work of art. “Forget all of the tears that you’ve cried; it’s over,” she sings, shooing away our literal and metaphorical winter of COVID-19. (Predictably, the outfit she wears—$615 plus tax!—sold out immediately.) I watched most of Physical—Apple TV+’s new series about a 1980s aerobics queen-in-waiting—with this in mind, idly running my hand over and over my unsculpted midriff, fighting the impulse to throw on a leotard and sweat joyfully along to “Space Age Love Song.” This is the conflict at the center of American consumerist fitness spectacle: Even when it’s at its most transparently questionable, the promise is almost impossible to resist.
A common ideology underlies the practices of many ultra-wealthy people: The government can’t be trusted with money.
When ProPublica published its report last week on the tax profiles of 25 of the richest Americans, jaws dropped across the United States. How was it possible that plutocrats such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett could pay nothing in income taxes to the federal government? What sneaky sleights of pen, what subterfuge, what acts of turpitude could have led to this result?
The shock stems, in part, from a disturbing reality: Nowhere does ProPublica assert that these men cheated, lied, or did anything felonious to lower their tax burdens. The naked fact of the matter is that not a single one of the documented methods and practices that allowed these billionaires to so radically minimize their tax obligations was illegal.
Farrow says she witnessed disturbing and occasionally ghastly things for years. Why didn’t she act earlier?
The four-part HBO docuseriesAllen v. Farrow opens with a gliding aerial shot of Manhattan, the camera moving slowly across Central Park: the baseball fields, the reservoir, the dark-green trees, lush summer, fecundity. But the music doesn’t suggest summer splendor; it’s ominous and portentous. We fly past the park, and the camera comes to rest at the grand facade of the Plaza Hotel, with its famous mansard roof, the copper burnished by time to a patina of sea-foam green, an echo of the green park beyond it. It’s a strangely loaded opening to the series: The Plaza figures in the saga only as the site of two press conferences related to the bitter custody fight between Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. But the music and the lingering shot of the building make it seem like a sinister location.
Leagues are seeing the downside of treating vaccines as simply a matter of personal choice.
When the NBA announced Wednesday that Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul was being sidelined indefinitely under the league’s coronavirus-safety protocols, the next question was obvious: Had Paul been vaccinated?
For COVID-19 concerns to interrupt Paul’s brilliant playoff run seemed particularly cruel—not only because the widespread availability of vaccines has made transmission of the virus largely preventable, but also because the Suns had just secured a spot in the Western Conference finals. Even though Paul is one of the best NBA point guards ever, this week’s development was another unfortunate entry in his long history of medical problems during the playoffs.
The television analysts Matt Barnes and Jalen Rose, both of whom are former NBA players, soon reported that Paul had indeed been vaccinated. But all the discussion of his status raised another important question: Do fans even have the right to know, and do journalists have the right to ask, if a player has been vaccinated against COVID-19?
Of all the injuries we suffered, mine is the worst. My brain injury has shaken my confidence in my own personality, my own existence.
The worst things can happen on the most beautiful days. My family’s worst day was a perfect one in the summer of 2019. We picked my daughter up from camp and talked about where to go for lunch: the diner or the burger place. I don’t remember which we chose. What I do remember: being woken up, again and again, by doctors who insist on asking me the same questions—my name, where I am, what month it is—and telling me the same story, a story that I am sure is wrong.
“You were in a car accident,” they say. But this cannot be. We’re having lunch and then going on a hike. I had promised the think tank where I work that I’d call in to a 4 p.m. meeting.
“You are in Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital in New Hampshire.” Another ludicrous statement. I started the day in Vermont. Surely if I had crossed the river to New Hampshire I would know it.
Why are many dating practices a throwback to an earlier era?
Heterosexual women of a progressive bent often say they want equal partnerships with men. But dating is a different story entirely. The women I interviewed for a research project and book expected men to ask for, plan, and pay for dates; initiate sex; confirm the exclusivity of a relationship; and propose marriage. After setting all of those precedents, these women then wanted a marriage in which they shared the financial responsibilities, housework, and child care relatively equally. Almost none of my interviewees saw these dating practices as a threat to their feminist credentials or to their desire for egalitarian marriages. But they were wrong.
As a feminist sociologist, I’ve long been interested in how gender influences our behavior in romantic relationships. I was aware of the research that showed greater gains in gender equality at work than at home. Curious to explore some of the reasons behind these numbers, I spent the past several years talking with people about their dating lives and what they wanted from their marriages and partnerships. The heterosexual and LGBTQ people I interviewed—more than 100 in total—were highly educated, professional-track young adults who lived in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. This was not a cross section of America, for certain, but I did expect to hear progressive views. Most wanted equal partnerships where they could share both financial and family responsibilities. Almost everyone I interviewed was quite vocal in their support of gender equality and didn’t shy away from the feminist label.
People in the United States no longer agree on the nation’s purpose, values, history, or meaning. Is reconciliation possible?
Nations, like individuals, tell stories in order to understand what they are, where they come from, and what they want to be. National narratives, like personal ones, are prone to sentimentality, grievance, pride, shame, self-blindness. There is never just one—they compete and constantly change. The most durable narratives are not the ones that stand up best to fact-checking. They’re the ones that address our deepest needs and desires. Americans know by now that democracy depends on a baseline of shared reality—when facts become fungible, we’re lost. But just as no one can live a happy and productive life in nonstop self-criticism, nations require more than facts—they need stories that convey a moral identity. The long gaze in the mirror has to end in self-respect or it will swallow us up.