—A jury in Newark, New Jersey, has found two former top associates of Governor Chris Christie guilty of all charges in the “Bridgegate” scandal. More here
—A jury in Charlottesville, Virginia, has found that Rolling Stone magazine defamed a former University of Virginia administrator in a discredited 2014 article about sexual assault on the campus. More here
—The U.S. economy added 161,000 jobs in October, slightly less than estimates. The unemployment rate was mostly unchanged at 4.9 percent. But average hourly earnings increased sharply. More here
—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4).
Rolling Stone Magazine Found Liable in UVA Defamation Lawsuit
A jury in Charlottesville, Virginia, has found that Rolling Stone magazine defamed a former University of Virginia administrator in a discredited 2014 article about sexual assault on the campus.
The jury found the magazine, its publisher Wenner Media, and reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely liable for defamation and said they had acted with “actual malice,” the constitutional threshold required to overcome the First Amendment’s shield against libel for journalists.
Nicole Eramo, the former associate dean of students at the University of Virginia, sued the magazine for $7.5 million over how it portrayed her in the article. At issue was the story about the rape of Jackie, the name used by the magazine to identify a young woman who said she was gang-raped in 2012 during a fraternity party at the school. The article, which alleged the school was callous toward complaints by the victims of sexual assault, prompted outrage and spurred the university to suspend all its fraternities. But The Washington Post published several articles poking holes in the story by Erdely, and Rolling Stone eventually retracted the piece in April 2015.
Eramo’s attorney, Tom Clare, had argued Rolling Stone ignored facts that disproved Erdely’s suggestion of callousness toward sexual-assault victims on UVa.’s part. But the magazine’s attorney, Scott Sexton, said the magazine didn’t know the story was false at the time it was published.
Jurors will decide later this month how much should be awarded to Eramo in damages.
San Antonio Cop Sacked for Feeding a Fecal Sandwich to a Homeless Person
A San Antonio policeman was fired after allegedly feeding a fecal sandwich to a homeless person, San Antonio Express-News reports.
The officer, who was not identified, was terminated after an investigation revealed he placed the excrement between two pieces of bread and offered it to a homeless person. Joe Krier, a city councilman representing San Antonio, called the officer a “bad apple,” adding: “We have very few bad apples in a barrel full of outstanding police ... it’s our job to get the bad apples out of the barrel as quickly as possible when they do bad things.”
Ivy Taylor, the San Antonio mayor, condemned the officer’s actions as “a betrayal of very value we have in our community.”
The officer, who has the right to appeal his termination, has hired an attorney, according to the San Antonio Police Officers Association. The motive behind the officer’s actions and the state of the homeless person who received the sandwich remain unknown.
The incident follows a recent increase in the city’s homeless population, which local homeless center Haven for Hope puts at an estimated 2,891 people.
Oil Fires Near Mosul Are Creating Toxic Clouds of Smoke Larger Than Los Angeles
Oil fires set by the Islamic State in the area surrounding Mosul have created plumes of toxic gas that now cover an area larger than Los Angeles. Interviews with locals in the northern region conducted by Oxfam, a global charitable organization, as well as newly released satellite photos, show how the billowing black smoke and oily soot have become a health concern, contaminating drinking water for nearly 900 square miles.
The fires have affected thousands of families, who have no access to clean water or health services. Oxfam has called upon the Iraqi government to prioritize extinguishing the at least 19 oil fires. Some 1,000 people have been treated for breathing problems, and there are reports of some deaths.
ISIS has used the tactic to cover its moves as Iraqi security forces, backed by U.S. airstrikes, march north toward Mosul, the largest city in the group’s self-declared caliphate. This is not a new tactic. In 1991 Saddam Hussein torched oil wells to cover his retreat from Kuwait during the Gulf War. He did it again in 2003, in southern Iraq at Rumaila oilfields, which in a month spewed 600 kilotons of sulfur dioxide, the largest non-volcanic release scientists have ever recorded.
Violence Reported Amid Russian-Declared Pause in Aleppo
Two Russian soldiers and a Syrian journalist were injured in eastern Aleppo Friday just hours into a 10-hour truce unilaterally declared by Moscow.
Several mortar rounds allegedly fired by Syrian rebel forces struck the al-Castello corridor, a designated exit route for civilians and rebel fighters in the eastern part of the divided city, state-run SANA reports. The Russian Defense Ministry said two of its serviceman were lightly wounded, and Walid Hanaya, a Syrian television reporter, was also injured. No fatalities were reported.
The halt in fighting, which was scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time, is the second such pause to be declared by Moscow in less than a month. The previous pause also had reports of clashes between Syrian government and rebel forces, focused mainly at these designated exit corridors.
Webcam footage of the exit corridors by the Russian Defense Ministry showed them to be largely unused, despite the Syrian government reportedly dropping leaflets urging those remaining in the eastern part of the city to leave, The Associated Press reports. Though it remains unclear if fighting will resume after the truce’s deadline passes, the area, which is the last major rebel redoubt in Syria, has been the target of heightened airstrikes by Russia and Syria.
Last week rebel groups launched an offensive to break the Syrian government’s siege on eastern Aleppo. The United Nations condemned all parties for targeting civilians, saying it might amount to war crimes.
Jury Finds 2 Ex-Chris Christie Aides Guilty of All Charges in 'Bridgegate' Scandal
A jury in Newark, New Jersey, has found Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, two former top associates of Governor Chris Christie, guilty of all charges in the “Bridgegate” scandal.
Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff, were indicted last year on nine counts of conspiracy and fraud in connection with the scheme in 2013 to close lanes on a section of the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey, over the refusal of its Democratic mayor to endorse Christie, a Republican, for re-election. They face up to 20 years in prison, but are unlikely to be sentenced for that long.
Federal prosecutors’ main witness in the six-week trial was David Wildstein, a Christie appointee to the Port Authority who admitted to masterminding the plan. The jury also heard testimony from more than 30 other witnesses, including Baroni and Kelly. Federal prosecutors alleged Christie was aware of the actions of his aides.
Friday’s verdict is a blow to Christie, who is a top surrogate of Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee. But he has consistently denied any knowledge or involvement in the lane closures, and hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has told European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the government’s timetable for the invocation of Article 50 is unchanged.
The comments come a day after the U.K. High Court ruled the government must seek a parliamentary vote before invoking Article 50 of the EU Charter, which would trigger talks on the U.K.’s formal separation from the European Union. In a statement, May’s spokesperson said the prime minister told Juncker and Merkel in a phone conversation “that while the government was disappointed with the judgment, it had strong legal arguments ahead of the case moving to the Supreme Court.”
The U.K. government is appealing the High Court ruling to the country’s Supreme Court, which is expected to hear the case early next month. The ruling put the government in an awkward position because the U.K. public voted 52 percent-to-48 percent in June to withdraw from the EU. Although those who want the U.K. to remain the EU celebrated the decision, newspapers that called for Brexit were unanimous in their coverage:
A Shipping Vessel Has Been Stuck in Baltimore Harbor for 7 Weeks
A Malta-registered shipping vessel has been anchored in the Baltimore harbor for seven weeks, its crew of 18 mariners unable to come ashore or leave because of engine trouble the ship’s owner is unable to pay for.
Granadino crew ‘using salt for brushing’ teeth: Crew aboard NewLead bitumen tanker await word on engine repai... https://t.co/E9SGK7VUMQ
The Newlead Granadino broke down September 20. It was only meant to anchor in the harbor a few days while it delivered a shipment of asphalt. The crew of 18 men don’t have visas and are unable to come ashore. Their supplies are limited and they’ve relied on donations from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Seafarers Center, a local nonprofit. Tradewinds Newsreported the crew had run so low on essentials they were using salt to brush their teeth.
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITWF) told WBFF that some of the men have not been home in a year, have not been paid by the ship’s owner, Aeolus Compania Naviera S.A., and that the company is behind on the ship’s lease.
“What needs to happen at this point is that the bank that has the lien on this ship needs to come forward and take care of these men,” Barbara Shipley of the ITWF said, “take care of the issues taking place on this vessel.”
This type of harbor stalemate is not entirely uncommon. In September a fleet of about 90 ships and their crews were stuck in harbors all over the world because the ship’s South Korean owner, Hanjin Shipping, filed bankruptcy. The harbors refused to unload the cargo unless paid upfront, and the company feared if they docked their ships would be repossessed. Some are apparently still stranded, and one ship in Vancouver finally docked last week because it had run out of supplies.
Pakistan to Deport National Geographic’s ‘Afghan Girl’
More than 30 years after she appeared on the cover of National Geographic as the green-eyed symbol of her country’s wars, Sharbat Gula will be deported back to Afghanistan, a Pakistani court ruled Friday.
Gula, who was arrested last week on charges of carrying fake ID, pleaded guilty to all charges against her in a Peshawar court Friday, Dawn reports. The court handed her a 15-day prison sentence and a 110,000-rupee ($1,050) fine, though the previous nine days she spent in jail since her arrest will count as time served. After that, she will be deported to Afghanistan.
Dubbed the “Afghan Girl,” Gula gained worldwide fame for her iconic photo on the 1985 cover of National Geographic. Though she remained relatively anonymous in the years after the issue was published, she was rediscovered by the magazine nearly two decades later at a refugee camp in Pakistan with her husband and their three daughters. It remains unclear how long she resided in the country without papers.
Gula’s arrest and deportation comes amid a nationwide crackdown on unregistered refugees in Pakistan, where an estimated 1 million unregistered Afghan refugees live. The UN Refugee Agency has called the Afghan refugee crisis “one of the most difficult protracted refugee situations in the world.”
Harvard Suspends Men's Soccer Team for Lewd 'Scouting Report' of Female Players
Harvard suspended its top-of-the league men’s soccer team for the rest of the season Thursday after the school’s student paper, The Harvard Crimson, published an article explaining how each year men on the team kept a lewd “scouting report” that rated each freshman from the women’s team based on their attractiveness and sex appeal.
The Harvard Crimsonpublished its article late last month. The men kept their list on a Google document that until recently was publicly available, as well as the group’s full email list. The nine-page document is believed to have been created by the 2012 men’s team, but updated each year by the successive men’s team. The document judged each incoming freshman on the women’s team by attractiveness, based on a number scale, and designated each woman with a sexual position.
“She seems relatively simple and probably inexperienced sexually, so I decided missionary would be her preferred position,” the document read of one woman.
The men’s team is currently in first place in the Ivy League.
“The decision to cancel a season is serious and consequential, and reflects Harvard’s view that both the team’s behavior and the failure to be forthcoming when initially questioned are completely unacceptable, have no place at Harvard, and run counter to the mutual respect that is a core value of our community,” University President Drew Faust said late Thursday night.
U.S. Military Trainers Reportedly Killed in Jordan
Updated at 3:17 p.m. ET
Three U.S. service members were killed Friday in a shooting incident at a Jordanian military base, the U.S. Defense Department said in a statement.
“The three service members were in Jordan on a training mission, and the initial report is that they came under fire as they were entering the facility in vehicle,” the statement said.
Jordan’s state-run Petra news agency reported earlier that two trainers were killed in an exchange of fire at the gates of the King Feisal Airbase, in al-Jafr, Jordan. It added that a Jordanian officer and a U.S. trainer were also injured in the incident, citing an official source at the Jordan Armed Forces. But CNN, citing a U.S. official, said one American was killed at the gate and two were taken to hospital where they died.
Jordan is one of the closest U.S. allies in the Middle East, and the U.S. trains Syrian rebels in the country.
Jobs Report: U.S. Added 161,000 Jobs in October; Unemployment Rate at 4.9 Percent
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 161,000 last month, the Department of Labour said Friday in the last jobs report before the November 8 presidential election. The unemployment rate was little changed at 4.9 percent.
“Employment continued to trend up in health care, professional and business services, and financial activities,” the department said.
Bloomberg reported economists expected the creation of 173,000 jobs. But average hourly earnings increased 2.8 percent year over year, a level last seen in July 2008, making it likely the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise rates interest next month.
The report also revised upward job creation in August and September; 44,000 extra jobs were created in those two months.
The report is likely to be closely watched by the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Trump, the Republican nominee, has made what many regard as an uneven economic recovery since the 2008 global recession, the centerpiece of his campaign. Clinton, pointing to the state of the economy when President Obama inherited it, has pointed to job creation since then.
South Korea's President Denies Involvement With a Cult
Park Geun-hye’s presidency is being buffeted by questions about her friendship with Choi Soon-sil, a woman whom South Korean media have described as Rasputin-like, and on Friday Park denied she had fallen victim to a cult.
"There have been claims that I fell for a religious cult or had [shamanist rituals] performed in the Blue House,” she said in a nationally televised address, sometimes appearing on the verge of tears, “but I would like to clarify that those are absolutely not true.” But Park did apologize for giving Choi, who is not a public servant, access to policy-making. She also said she was willing to be questioned over the scandal.
As my colleague Yasmeen Serhan reported, a South Korean court issued an arrest warrant Thursday for Choi, 60, who is accused of attempted fraud and abuse of authority. Prosecutors she used her relationship with Park to seek millions of dollars in donations for her two nonprofit foundations.
The president’s approval rating sunk to 5 percent amid the scandal, and there have been calls for her impeachment or resignation.
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.
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.
The extent of the former president’s corruption may be too great for Americans to fathom.
A torrent of newrevelations is filling in the picture of how Donald Trump used, and abused, his authority as president. But the disclosures may serve only to underscore how little remains known about all the ways in which Trump barreled through traditional limits on the exercise of presidential power—and highlight the urgency of developing a more comprehensive accounting before the 2024 election, when he may seek to regain those powers.
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.
The real villain isn’t a faceless Wall Street Goliath; it’s your neighbors and local governments stopping the construction of new units.
The BlackRock saga sounds grotesque. At a time of maximal desperation in the U.S. housing market, giant investment banks, such as BlackRock, are buying up some of the few houses left on the market, boxing families out of the American dream. They’re turning these homes into rental units that they will, in some cases, leave to decay. Such faceless institutional investors are reportedly more likely than ordinary “mom and pop” landlords to aggressively raise rent—and evict people who can’t afford it.
Americans don’t agree about much, but they seem united in believing that this is a despicable state of affairs. In the past few days, institutional housing investors have drawn criticism from Fox News and Republican politicos as well as left-wing commentators.
The way the cause is now deployed drives a perception that conservative Christians, who are tightly linked to Republican politics, will be the beneficiaries of its expansion.
In the legal battle between religious rights and gay rights, religious freedom gained a victory today. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the First Amendment’s religious-freedom protections prevent the city of Philadelphia from refusing to contract with a Catholic foster-care agency that, based on its religious beliefs, does not place foster children with same-sex couples. The decision, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, is a victory for conservative Christians who have been arguing that the Constitution’s guarantees of religious freedom protect religious organizations and individuals who wish to deny certain services to LGBTQ people.
The Fulton decision is substantial, but it is not the blockbuster outcome that some had expected. In a narrow ruling, the Court determined that Philadelphia’s policies were not neutral toward religion and thus violated the First Amendment’s free-exercise clause. Fulton is in line with the Court’s shift toward a broader interpretation of First Amendment protections, but the Court was divided about the bigger question, specifically whether to expand religious-liberty rights by replacing a 1990 legal precedent, Employment Division v. Smith.
The narrative that nonwhite people will soon outnumber white people is not only divisive, but also false.
In recent years, demographers and pundits have latched on to the idea that, within a generation, the United States will inevitably become a majority-minority nation, with nonwhite people outnumbering white people. In the minds of many Americans, this ethno-racial transition betokens political, cultural, and social upheaval, because a white majority has dominated the nation since its founding. But our research on immigration, public opinion, and racial demography reveals something quite different: By softening and blurring racial and ethnic lines, diversity is bringing Americans together more than it is tearing the country apart.
The majority-minority narrative contributes to our national polarization. Its depiction of a society fractured in two, with one side rising while the other subsides, is inherently divisive because it implies winners and losers. It has bolstered white anxiety and resentment of supposedly ascendant minority groups, and has turned people against democratic institutions that many conservative white Americans and politicians consider complicit in illegitimate minority empowerment. At the extreme, it nurtures conspiratorial beliefs in a racist “replacement” theory, which holds that elites are working to replace white people with minority immigrants in a “stolen America.”
A “green vortex” is saving America’s climate future.
Here, at least, is the standard story: The past decade has been abysmal for climate-change policy in the United States. In 2009, a handsome new president took office pledging to pass a comprehensive climate bill in Congress. He did not. The Environmental Protection Agency sought to meaningfully reduce carbon pollution from power plants. It did not. The United States joined the Paris Agreement. Then we elected President Donald Trump, and we left.
Yes—and here, the narrator always inserts a gale-force sigh—America knows what it needs to do: Pass a carbon fee or tax, some kind of policy that nudges people to reduce their use of fossil fuels. Yet America refuses. And so the 2010s, once greeted as a “new era” for climate action, now seem unexceptional, the third decade in a row that the United States understood the dangers of climate change but failed to act. Meanwhile the seas rose, wildfires raged, and the Earth saw its hottest 10 years on record.
The Handmaid’s Tale showed the ease with which the unthinkable can become ordinary—a lesson crucial in the age of the Big Lie.
In June 2019, Kylie Jenner shared with the world some pictures of a birthday party she’d thrown for a friend. The event had a theme: The Handmaid’s Tale. It featured guests garbed in blood-red gowns; servers dressed as “Marthas,” or women enslaved for household labor; and drinks with such names as “Under His Eye tequila” and “Praise Be vodka.” The whole thing was cringey and absurd. It was also, as so often happens when the extended Kardashian family is involved, grimly eloquent. One of the lessons of The Handmaid’s Tale is the ease with which horror can become a habit. In a culture that is adept at turning tragedy into comedy, even the darkest of dystopias might be consumed, in the end, as a signature cocktail. Banality has its allure.
The Human Genome Project left 8 percent of our DNA unexplored. Now, for the first time, those enigmatic regions have been revealed.
When the human genome was first deemed “complete” in 2000, the news was met with great international fanfare. The two rival groups vying to finish the genome first—one a large government-led consortium, the other an underdog private company—agreed to declare joint success. They shook hands at the White House. Bill Clinton presided. Tony Blair beamed in from London. “We are standing at an extraordinary moment in scientific history,” one prominent scientist declared when those genomes were published. “It’s as though we have climbed to the top of the Himalayas.”
But actually, the human genome was not complete. Neither group had reached the real summit. As even the contemporary coverage acknowledged, that version was more of a rough draft, riddled with long stretches where the DNA sequence was still fuzzy or missing. The private company soon pivoted and ended its human-genome project, though scientists with the public consortium soldiered on. In 2003, with less glitz but still plentyof headlines, the human genome was declared complete once again.