—Dozens of women and girls living in camps for those displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram have faced rape and sexual exploitation by Nigerian officials. More here
—Thousands of people are using a Facebook “check in” feature to show solidarity to protestors opposed to a North Dakota pipeline, which they say threatens the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s sacred sites, as well as the tribe’s only water source. More here
—Iraqi forces entered Mosul for the first time since ISIS took the city in 2014. Capturing the city is expected to take months. More here
Audio of Police Exchanges With Orlando Shooter Released
The recordings of conversations between Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 people in an Orlando gay nightclub in June, and police negotiators were released Monday.
While the transcripts of the conversations have been available for the last month, this is the first time the public can hear the recordings. The city of Orland released the recordings of Mateen and other 911 calls of the shooting after a court order from Margaret Schreiber, a judge in Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit.
In the 30 minutes of recordings, Mateen rants, sometimes with profanity, about U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. As USA Todaydescribes, “Mateen’s demeanor fluctuated from emotionless to frenzied and indignant,” hanging up with police negotiators several times and rejecting requests to resolve the situation peacefully. In one exchange, Mateen tells a negotiator:
You have to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq. They are killing a lot of innocent people. What am I to do here when my people are getting killed over there. You get what I’m saying?
Later, he refers to Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev as his “homeboy,” and says, “now it’s my turn.”
Mateen, who in the recordings is heard demanding to be called an “Islamic Soldier,” was killed in a shootout with police at the Pulse nightclub. Dozens of others were injured.
Nigerian Officials Accused of Sexually Abusing Displaced Women and Girls
Dozens of women and girls living in camps for those displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram have faced rape and sexual exploitation by Nigerian officials, according to a report released Monday by Human Rights Watch.
The report documented 43 cases of sexual abuse since July in seven camps designated for internally displaced persons (IDP) throughout Maiduguri, the capital of the Borno state in northwest Nigeria. Of the documented cases, four of the women reported being drugged and raped by security forces or members of vigilante groups working with the Nigerian government. Thirty-seven women said they were coerced into sex with promises of marriage or money. And according to a July study by NOIPolls, a Nigerian research organization, a vast majority of these women lack proper access to food, clean water, and health care.
“It is bad enough that these women and girls are not getting much-needed support for the horrific trauma they suffered at the hands of Boko Haram,” Mausi Segun, the organization’s senior Nigeria researcher, said. “It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them.”
Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian president, called the report’s findings “deeply worrying” and vowed to launch an immediate investigation.
We will protect the lives and wellbeing of these most vulnerable of Nigeria's citizens. And we will ensure they return safely to their homes
The women, ranging between the ages of 16 to 43, are among the more than 2.5 million people displaced as a result of the conflict between the Nigerian government and the Islamist militant group. The seven-year battle has resulted in the deaths of more than 10,000 civilians, as well as the kidnappings of thousands of others.
What Peter Thiel Said About the Gawker Case, Hulk Hogan, and 'Single-Digit Millionaires'
Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor who financed Hulk Hogan’s lethal lawsuit against Gawker, called the now-shuttered gossip-news website “a singularly sociopathic bully.”
Here are some of his remarks at an appearance Monday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.:
On why he financed Hulk Hogan’s case against Gawker: “If you’re a single-digit millionaire like Hulk Hogan, you have no effective access to our legal system. It costs too much.”
On Gawker: “Gawker was a pretty flimsy business. It was bad business. It didn’t make that much money. But they could have withstood all the lawsuits. They lost because of an enormous verdict that came in against them.”
On whether his actions set a dangerous precedent: “This is not about the First Amendment. It’s about the most egregious violation of of privacy imaginable, publishing a sex tape surreptitiously filmed in the privacy of someone’s bedroom and to hide behind the First Amendment, behind journalism. That is an insult to journalists. That’s why Gawker lost so catastrophically at the court in Tampa, Florida.”
On what the case was about: “I was very careful in the Hulk Hogan litigation, picking a lawsuit where the fight was over privacy. We did not even bring a libel action because that was sort of the way I wanted to make clear in the Hogan case that it was not about the media.”
On the internet’s “flash mobs”: “I’m generally in favor of the Internet. I generally think it’s been a good thing, but I think there are some parts of it where things have gone wrong: And one kind of phenomenon that’s very new that can take place on the internet is … we have these flash mobs that get directed at specific individuals. That’s a very new phenomenon and Gawker in some ways perfected it where you’d pick on people and destroy their lives.”
Thiel, Silicon Valley’s most public supporter of Donald Trump, also defended his backing of the GOP presidential nominee. You can read our coverage of his comments on Trump here.
Watch Thiel’s complete remarks here (the Gawker comments start at around the 35:00 mark):
For the First Time Since ISIS Captured Mosul, Iraqi Security Forces Have Entered the City
Iraqi troops entered Mosul on Monday, the first time since the battle for the Islamic State’s stronghold began more than two weeks ago.
Since October 17, troops have cleared the surrounding suburbs of insurgents and forced ISIS militants into a smaller territory in the city. On Monday a force commander told Reuterssoldiers had broken an ISIS defense line in an eastern suburb of Mosul, called the Karama district, which makes it the first time troops, backed by U.S. airstrikes, have entered the city since militants captured it in 2014.
The fight for Mosul was expected to be particularly intense. If ISIS loses, it would represent the militant group's most critical loss in Iraq. About 1.5 million people still live in Mosul, and minimizing the humanitarian cost of the battle has weighed heavily on the operation.
In its retreat, ISIS has lit oil fields on fire to create cover; used snipers, and detonated car bombs to take out advancing Iraqi security forces, as well as Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. There are also reports that ISIS insurgents have executed hundreds of civilians, even using them as human shields. The fighting has claimed on unknown amount of Iraqi and ISIS fighters, and at least one U.S. soldier. So far the battle has displaced more than 17,500 civilians—a figure that could top 1 million before fighting ends.
Why Are People Checking In at Standing Rock, North Dakota?
Facebook users may have noticed Monday that some of their friends, seemingly all at once, said they were at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
But they weren’t actually there.
Thousands of Facebook users used the website’s “check-in” feature to say they are at the Indian reservation where the Dakota Access Pipeline is set to be built—an area that has been the site of recent clashes between protesters who oppose the pipeline and police who say the protesters are standing on private land. Those checking in at the reservation followed the instructions of a viral Facebook message, which called on the pipeline’s opponents to check in on Facebook in order to “overwhelm and confuse” the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, which allegedly uses social media to track the protesters.
Here’s one variation of the post, which users are encouraged to copy and paste on their own timelines:
Though it is unclear if the claim that law enforcement uses social media to track protesters’ movements is true, the post has prompted thousands of users to check-in in solidarity—as of Monday, more than 4,500 people were checked-in at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation on Facebook. Last week, authorities arrested 141 protesters at the pipeline’s construction site, which opponents say threatens the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s sacred sites, as well as the tribe’s only water source.
The clowns started showing up months before Halloween this year.
In August, some residents of Green Bay, Wisconsin, called police after spotting someone in clown makeup carrying balloons and wandering around town. A few weeks later, residents of an apartment complex in South Carolina told police that people wearing clown makeup had waved to them in the street or beckoned their children into the woods. In the months since, clown sightings have been reported in more than 20 states, prompting panic among parents, concern from law enforcement, and goosebumps.
Now that Halloween has arrived, some parents are worried for the safety of young trick-or-treaters. Kimberly Kersey, a resident of Palm Bay, Florida, told CBS News she will be carrying a gun Monday night when she takes her sons out.
“I’ll be carrying for sure,” Kersey said. “I’m terrified of clowns already and if one messes with me or my kids it’ll be to the hospital or morgue they go.”
Palm Bay police urged people against dressing up as clowns. “The problem is that someone dressed like a clown could scare someone and there’s a possibility—a possibility—you could end up with someone getting shot,” Palm Bay Police Lieutenant Mike Bandish told CBS News.
Police departments in cities across the United States have issued similar warnings, citing the recent creepy clown sightings. A school district in New Jersey banned clown costumes on school grounds on Halloween. A Mississippi city council made it illegal for clowns to appear in public until the day after Halloween, imposing a $150 fine for violators. Earlier this month, Target removed some clown masks from its stores nationwide.
Raoul Wallenberg Is Declared Dead By Swedish Tax Agency
Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II and whose fate at the hands of the Soviet Union became an enduring Cold War mystery, has officially been declared dead by Sweden’s tax authority.
A spokeswoman for Skatteverket, the Swedish Tax Agency, confirmed that Wallenberg was declared dead on October 26. His date of death, the agency said, was July 31, 1952—five years after Soviet authorities said he died of a heart attack in a Russian prison. Under Swedish law, a person can be declared dead only five years after his or her disappearance. SVT Nyheter reported that Wallenberg’s trustees requested the declaration.
Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat in Budapest, gave Hungary’s Jews Swedish travel papers or moved them to safe houses, almost certainly saving them from death. He was arrested by the Soviet Red Army in 1945, in the war’s final days. The Soviets denied until 1957 that Wallenberg was in their custody. That year, they said he died in prison July 17, 1947, of a heart attack.
In 2000, Russian officials acknowledged that Wallenberg was killed in Lubyanka prison upon the orders of Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader. That year, Moscow also said Wallenberg was wrongfully persecuted and rehabilitated him as a victim of political repression.
Geert Wilders, the Far-Right Dutch Politician, Boycotts His Hate-Speech Trial
Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch politician, has refused to attend his trial, which began Monday, on charges of racial discrimination and inciting hatred.
In 2014, Wilders, head of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV),told supporters he would reduce the number of Moroccans, who make up 2 percent of the country’s population. Wilders denounced Monday’s trial as a “kangaroo court,” reaffirming his right “to speak about the problems in our country.”
NL has huge problem with Moroccans.
To be silent about it is cowardly.
43% of Dutch want fewer Moroccans.
Wilders’ criticized the charges against him as a “double standard,” noting similar remarks made byother Dutch politicians, including Dutch Prime Minster Mark Rutte, who said a group of Dutch-Turkish protesters should “go back to Turkey,” and Labour Party leader Diederik Samsom, who declared “Moroccans have an ethnic monopoly on street crime.”
Wilders’s anti-Moroccan rhetoric has not slowed since his indictment in March. He has campaigned on an anti-immigration platform, promising to close refugee centers, shutter mosques and Islamic schools, and institute a ban on the Quran. A September poll shows Wilders’s PVV to be losing popularity, dropping from 26 percent at the beginning of the year to between 16 and 19 percent—on par with the ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).
If convicted, Wilders faces up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 7,400 euros ($8,100).
Venezuela's President Meets With the Opposition in Vatican-Mediated Talks
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, met on Sunday for the first timein two years with opposition leaders who want him removed from power. The Vatican convened the talks after violent nationwide protests.
Members of the Democratic Unity coalition met with Maduro at a Caracas Museum; on hand to mediate the talks was Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, the papal envoy.
The situation in Venezuela is bleak. As my colleague Siddhartha Mahanta pointed out this weekend, global oil prices collapsed shortly after Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s leader, died in 2013. It was a ruinous turn for Venezuela, because by 2014 the country relied on oil for 95 percent of its export earnings. This resulted in hyperinflation, an almost worthless currency, and shortages of basic goods. Maduro has taken much of the blame. He is highly unpopular—about 80 percent of Venezuelans would like to see him removed, and the opposition organized a recall referendum that looked like it would pass. Then last week, a court blocked the referendum process, leading to violent protests, which grew so bad Pope Francis asked Maduro and opposition leaders start a dialogue.
Both sides have dug in deeply, and it’s unclear what arrangement they’d be willing to come to. Maduro has called the recall vote part of an international coup to have him removed. The opposition has said the court’s rejection of their recall referendum is proof of Maduro’s meddling, and that he’s a dictator.
After Fireworks to Mark Festival of Lights, New Delhi Wakes to Smog
Hindus across India celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights, over the weekend. Fireworks are big feature of the holiday, and though they might have seemed like a good idea at the time, the smoke did not help the city Monday morning.
Here’s what it looked like:
India's Central Pollution Control Board said the levels of pollutants that can cause severe respiratory ailments were at 750 micrograms per cubic meters in the worst-affected parts of the capital—a number that is 30 times the level set by the World Health Organization. Indian officials said about 65-70 percent of that came from fireworks, which are set off on Diwali to make the triumph of good over evil. The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi said the levels of pollutants had exceeded what it regards as “hazardous.”
New Delhi, home to 16 million people, is already one of the world’s most polluted cities. The government’s attempts to reduce pollutions have had mixed results.
NASA's Asteroid-Spotting Software Predicted a Close Call
A massive asteroid flew past Earth late Sunday. It was first spotted last week, and because of Scout, NASA’s new asteroid-monitoring system, astronomers could carefully predict its size and flight path, part of a program to give the world more advanced warning in case an asteroid were headed directly for Earth.
A telescope in Hawaii first picked up the asteroid, named 2016 UR36, and the data was quickly loaded into NASA’s projection software. The program, which is still in testing, determined the asteroid was about 16 to 80 feet across (5 to 25 meters), and would fly within 310,000 miles of Earth. That’s a relatively safe distance—about 1.3 times the distance of the moon—but in terms of proximity in space, it’s pretty close. By predicting early on the flight path and size of Near Earth Objects, scientists hope to avoid a large-scale asteroid impact on the level that wiped out the dinosaurs.
NASA already has a flight-path prediction program called Sentry for asteroids at a size that could cause mass extinction. In the future, astronomers say they believe they can use these two programs to spot asteroids years, even decades off. Ed Lu, the CEO of an asteroid-threat organization called B612, told NPR that if scientists can predict an asteroid’s flight path 10, 20, or even 30 years before it strikes, “then you can divert such an asteroid by just giving it a tiny nudge when it's many billions of miles from hitting the Earth."
Lebanon Has a New President After More Than 2 Years
Michel Aoun, the Maronite Christian leader and former army chief, was elected Lebanon’s president Monday, ending more than two years of political deadlock in the country.
Aoun, 81, who is backed by Hezbollah, the Shia militia group that is a major political party in Lebanon, struck a deal earlier this month with the Future Movement, the Sunni-dominated party that was his biggest rival. Al-Jazeeraadds Aoun’s ascendancy is a victory for Iran and a blow to Saudi Arabia. He may have also been helped by the declining business fortunes of Saad Hariri, the former prime minister, who heads Future Movement.
Daily Star, the Lebanese newspaper, reported Aoun was elected Monday with a simple majority in the second round of voting. The BBCadds it was lawmakers’ 46th attempt to elect a president. Lebanon has not had a head of state since Michel Suleiman stepped down in May 2014 at the end of his single six-year term. In that time, the country of 4 million people has taken in more than 1 million refugees fleeing the civil war in neighboring Syria, the former power broker in Lebanon.
Aoun is perhaps previously best known for his role in Lebanon’s bloody 1975-1990 civil war. He led the Lebanese army against Syrian and rival Christian troops, but when his forces were defeated, Aoun fled to Paris. He returned to Lebanon in 2005, allied himself with political figures close to Damascus, as well as Hezbollah.
Under Lebanon’s power-sharing structure, the presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian, the prime minister for a Sunni Muslim, and the speakership for a Shia Muslim.
Authorities arrested Monday the editor and several writers of Cumhuriyet, the oldest secular Turkish newspaper, for their alleged links to the Gulenist movementand the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the latest such action following last July’s failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Anadolu, the Turkish news agency, reported that police arrested Murat Sabuncu, the newspaper’s editor in chief, as well as 10 other staffers who work for the paper. They include: Hikmet Cetinkaya, the author of a book critical of Fethullah Gulen, who heads the Gulenist movement; Aydin Engin and Guray Oz, the columnists; Hakan Kara; Mustafa Kemal Gungor; Bulent Utku, the lawyer; Musa Kart, the cartoonist; Mustafa Kemal Gungor, Onder Celik, and Bulent Yener, members of the Cumhuriyet Foundation's managing board; and Turhan Gunay, who edits the daily books supplement. A warrant was also issued, Anadolu reported, for Akin Atalay, Cumhuriyet’s executive board chairman, and Can Dundar, the newspaper’s former editor in chief, who fled overseas earlier this year after he appealed a five-year prison sentence for revealing state secrets in the newspaper of Turkey’s operations in Syria.
Tens of thousands of people have been arrested or have lost their jobs since the July 15 coup attempt against Erdogan. Over the weekend, 15 media organizations were closed and 10,000 government officials fired for their alleged links to the coup plotters. Turkey’s government, which imposed a state of emergency after the failed coup, blames Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric, of masterminding the coup attempt and of creating a parallel state within the country. They also want the U.S. to extradite the cleric, who denies the charges against him.
Erdogan’s critics say he is using the coup attempt to silence the opposition to him and end dissent in Turkey.
Eric Holder Criticizes James Comey's Email Decision
Eric Holder, the former attorney general, has called FBI Director James Comey’s announcement Friday of possible new emails related to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, a “stunning breach of protocol.”
Writing in the The Washington Post, Holder, who was President Obama’s attorney general from 2009 to 2015, said Comey’s “decision was incorrect. It violated long-standing Justice Department policies and tradition. And it ran counter to guidance that I put in place four years ago laying out the proper way to conduct investigations during an election season.”
Director Comey broke with these fundamental principles. I fear he has unintentionally and negatively affected public trust in both the Justice Department and the FBI. And he has allowed — again without improper motive — misinformation to be spread by partisans with less pure intentions.
Comey’s Friday-afternoon bombshell, just days before the presidential election, has come under scrutiny—celebrated by supporters of Donald Trump, the GOP presidential nominee, and excoriated by Democrats, including Clinton. Indeed, Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said that Comey, by his actions, may have violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials from using their positions to influence elections.
Our Politics team will have more on this story, and we’ll provide a link to their reporting later in the day.
Students need more exposure to the way everyday things work and are made.
One of the most useless questions you can ask a kid is, What do you want to be when you grow up? The more useful question is: What are you good at? But schools aren’t giving kids enough of a chance to find out.
As a professor of animal science, I have ample opportunity to observe how young people emerge from our education system into further study and the work world. As a visual thinker who has autism, I often think about how education fails to meet the needs of our very diverse minds. We are shunting students into a one-size-fits-all curriculum instead of nurturing the budding builders, engineers, and inventors that our country needs.
Back when I went to school in the 1960s, shop class was the highlight of my day. I can vividly recall the wooden workbenches and the coping saws, hammers, pliers, screwdrivers, and eggbeater drills hung from a pegboard in a neat row. I also loved home economics. Although I was a tomboy, I enjoyed working with my hands in all kinds of ways. The skills I learned by embroidering, sewing, and measuring ingredients, I still use today.
Late last month, analysts at the investment bank Credit Suisse published a research note about America’s new climate law that went nearly unnoticed. The Inflation Reduction Act, the bank argued, is even more important than has been recognized so far: The IRA will “will have a profound effect across industries in the next decade and beyond” and could ultimately shape the direction of the American economy, the bank said. The report shows how even after the bonanza of climate-bill coverage earlier this year, we’re still only beginning to understand how the law works and what it might mean for the economy.
It may not be as bad as last year’s … but it certainly won’t be good.
This fall, unlike the one before it, and the one before that, America looks almost like its old self. Schools and universities are in session; malls, airports, and gyms are bustling with the pre-holiday rush; handwashing is passé, handshakes are back, and strangers are packed together on public transport, nary a mask to be seen. On its surface, the country seems ready to enjoy what some might say is our first post-pandemic winter.
Americans are certainly acting as if the crisis has abated, and so in that way, at least, you could argue that it has. “If you notice, no one’s wearing masks,” President Joe Biden told60 Minutes in September, after proclaiming the pandemic “over.” Almost no emergency protections against the virus are left standing; we’re dismantling the few that are. At the same time, COVID is undeniably, as Biden says, “a problem.” Each passing day still brings hundreds of deaths and thousands of hospitalizations; untold numbers of people continue to deal with long COVID, as more join them. In several parts of the country, health-care systems are struggling to stay afloat. Local public-health departments, underfunded and understaffed, are hanging by a thread. And a double surge of COVID and flu may finally be brewing.
Beneath its frozen surface could be a salty ocean—and maybe a comfortable home for small life forms.
Cynthia Phillips was mesmerized when she saw the latest pictures of her favorite moon. Here at last was a fresh look at Europa, an icy satellite of Jupiter. The moon resembles a truffle drizzled haphazardly with strips of melted white chocolate, as if the universe had rushed to finish a baking-show challenge. The images gave us a new sense of Europa’s topography, its collection of ridges and troughs appearing more intricate than ever. The lighting was different this time, Phillips told me, and the shadows brought out dramatic shapes in the terrain.
The images were taken by a Jupiter-observing spacecraft as it swept past Europa last week, coming within just 222 miles (358 kilometers) of the frozen surface. Phillips, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, immediately reached for the Europa globe on her desk and began comparing the real-world views with the topography stretched over the plastic orb. The last probe to come this close to Europa was disposed of in 2003, when NASA deliberately plunged it into Jupiter’s atmosphere after the mission started running low on fuel. “We haven’t seen Europa's surface in this level of detail for 20 years,” Phillips said.
Accessory dwelling units might just spell the end of the American suburb as we know it—in the best possible way.
Updated at 10:30 a.m. ET on October 6, 2022
Pull up to any intersection in Los Angeles, and you will see a column of illegally posted signs forming a kind of capitalist totem pole. Most advertise services catering to the darker side of life: “Cheap Divorce!” “Fix Your Credit!” “Liquidation Sale!” Even the now-ubiquitous “Sell Your House Fast” calls to mind desperate families collapsing under the weight of a mortgage. Yet over the past couple of years, a more hopeful sign has joined the mix: “Free ADU Consultation.”
The abbreviation needs no explanation in California, where accessory dwelling units have graduated from wonky planning jargon to popular parlance. Variously known as granny flats, mother-in-law units, or casitas, ADUs are small, additional rental units that share a lot with another structure—typically a single-family home.
An Arizona law seeks to solve the problem of police misconduct by preventing anyone from documenting it.
Sometimes cops lie. Sometimes they shoot a man in the back and leave him facedown on the ground but tell the public something else. Sometimes they say a man was responsible for his own death because he “physically resisted,” even though he had been restrained and begging for his life. Sometimes they gun down a 12-year-old without giving him time to drop his toy firearm, yet insist otherwise. And sometimes there’s video proving that they lied.
Video, even if it does not ultimately tell the entire story, can provide uniquely compelling evidence in a way testimony or physical evidence from the scene of a crime cannot. The spread of cellphone cameras has provided grim confirmation that police can be as dishonest as any other human being. That in itself raises certain dilemmas, such as how much weight to grant police statements and uncorroborated witness testimony.
Ahead of the midterm elections, the president issues a blanket pardon for those convicted of the federal offense of simple possession of marijuana.
Joe Biden is an unlikely stoner hero. Three of his four Baby Boomer predecessors in the Oval Office had explored marijuana in their youth, but by the time they became president, they all disdained the stuff. But Biden, like Donald Trump, was a straight-edge who says he never touched marijuana and was skeptical of any liberalization of drug laws throughout his long career in politics.
You don’t get to have a long career in politics, though, unless you can tell which way the wind is blowing—and detect the aromas it carries. That explains Biden’s announcement Thursday that he will pardon all federal offenses for simple possession of marijuana and seek to have the drug removed from Schedule I, the highest classification of dangerous substances the federal government maintains. He also called on state and local governments to free prisoners locked up for weed possession.
Our instincts often steer us to love things and use people. We need to do the opposite.
“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness. Click here to listen to his podcast series on all things happiness, How to Build a Happy Life.
“We have willfully sinned,” millions of Jews around the world prayed in their Yom Kippur Viduy, or confession, over the past week—confession of sin being a core tenet of Judaism (as it is in many faiths). “We have committed evil … we have gone astray, we have led others astray. We have strayed from Your good precepts and ordinances, and it has not profited us.” For all people, Jews and gentiles alike, this prayer lays bare one of the greatest puzzles of human behavior: We voluntarily commit transgressions for which we are truly regretful, and they don’t even benefit us.
In the lobby, attendees networked in a cocktail bar created by the superstar restaurateur Danny Meyer; in front of the main stage, they held up blue and orange glow sticks to record their votes in polls like “Which will kill us first?” (AI or climate change) and “Who would you rather take care of your children?” (a surveillance robot or TikTok stars). The agenda for this conference, Unfinished Live, was almost random in its diversity: Attendees could learn about how Indigenous communities were using decentralized technology to create their own maps, and they could also learn about importing products into the metaverse, starting with a sweater that has a microchip in it. (This allows the sweater to “accrue value based on who owned it last.”) The Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen invoked several times the necessity of a Mothers Against Drunk Driving for social media. Nadya Tolokonnikova, a founding member of Pussy Riot, vaped onstage and responded coolly to questions about how blockchain tech is used to fund the defense in Ukraine. “There’s nothing particularly magic about cryptocurrency,” she said. “It’s a tool, like a road or a gun.”
I am alive and autumnal. In this state, I read about candy corn, the seasonal candy that looks like corn kernels. And everything I read about candy corn insists that I have a strong opinion on the matter. Love it or hate it! But must I? The truth is simpler: Candy corn is not evil or good, but simply present.
I’m not going to rehearse the whole story. Candy corn is a late-19th-century confection, invented during an agrarian age that found horticultural treats endearing. Its tricolor, three-part composition was laborious to construct and novel to behold. Once perennial, it later became associated with autumn and then Halloween.
Traditions marking the passage of death, All Hallows’ Eve and its precursors have haunted the harvest season, when plant life dies to be later reborn, for millennia. But trick-or-treating emerged only in the 1920s and wasn’t popularized until after World War II, when suburbanization made it congeal like nougat—perhaps as a perversion of the indulgences begged for on All Souls Day, or as an anxious mirror of a Victorian aristocratic ritual.