—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.
Insights into the little-studied realm of last words
Mort Felix liked to say that his name, when read as two Latin words, meant “happy death.” When he was sick with the flu, he used to jokingly remind his wife, Susan, that he wanted Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” played at his deathbed. But when his life’s end arrived at the age of 77, he lay in his study in his Berkeley, California, home, his body besieged by cancer and his consciousness cradled in morphine, uninterested in music and refusing food as he dwindled away over three weeks in 2012. “Enough,” he told Susan. “Thank you, and I love you, and enough.” When she came downstairs the next morning, she found Felix dead.
During those three weeks, Felix had talked. He was a clinical psychologist who had also spent a lifetime writing poetry, and though his end-of-life speech often didn’t make sense, it seemed to draw from his attention to language. “There’s so much so in sorrow,” he said at one point. “Let me down from here,” he said at another. “I’ve lost my modality.” To the surprise of his family members, the lifelong atheist also began hallucinating angels and complaining about the crowded room—even though no one was there.
Starting the process will rein in a president who is undermining American ideals—and bring the debate about his fitness for office into Congress, where it belongs.
On January 20, 2017,Donald Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol, raised his right hand, and solemnly swore to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has not kept that promise.
Instead, he has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed America’s divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us—of every race, gender, and creed—are created equal.
In the United States, carbon emissions leapt back up, making their largest year-over-year increase since the end of the Great Recession. This matched the trend across the globe. According to two majorstudies, greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide shot up in 2018—accelerating like a “speeding freight train,” as one scientist put it.
U.S. emissions do remain 11 percent below their 2007 peak, but that is one of the few bright spots in the data. Global emissions are now higher than ever. And the 2018 statistics are all the more dismal because greenhouse-gas emissions had previously seemed to be slowing or even declining, both in the United States and around the world.
Aides on Capitol Hill fear that a dramatic government failure may be the only thing to force President Trump and the Democrats back to the table.
As the longest government shutdown in American history lurches toward its fifth week, a grim but growing consensus has begun to emerge on Capitol Hill: There may be no way out of this mess until something disastrous happens.
This is, of course, not a sentiment lawmakers are eager to share on the record. But in interviews this week with congressional staffers on both sides of the aisle (whom I granted anonymity in exchange for candor), I heard the same morbid idea expressed again and again.
The basic theory—explained to me between weary sighs and defeated shrugs—goes like this: Washington is at an impasse that looks increasingly unbreakable. President Donald Trump is dug in; so is Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Democrats have public opinion on their side, but the president is focused on his conservative base. For a deal to shake loose in this environment, it may require a failure of government so dramatic, so shocking, as to galvanize public outrage and force the two parties back to the negotiating table.
Seldom can one find so succinct a demonstration of the president’s anti-Muslim sentiments, reliance on right-wing media, and lack of interest in accuracy or truth.
Imagine you were charged with choosing an artifact to put in a time capsule so that future Americans could understand the current government shutdown. This is an unrealistic scenario, of course. No single item can explain the current moment, and moreover, there’s no reason to believe that the shutdown is actually going to end.
But playing along with the game, your best bet would be this Donald Trump tweet from Friday morning:
Border rancher: “We’ve found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal.” Washington Examiner People coming across the Southern Border from many countries, some of which would be a big surprise.
It offers a succinct window into the president’s mind and his approach to the shutdown: an obsession with border security. A dubious anonymous source. Assertions that are unproven at best and likely bogus. A reliance on right-wing media. Anti-Muslim sentiments. Xenophobia. It is the total package; it’s just that the package is a booby trap.
Everyone’s winging it, but that’s not a bad thing.
Harvey Karp makes soothing babies look like a cinch. In the video that accompanies his best-selling book The Happiest Baby on the Block, he holds one screaming infant after another, deftly rolls them on their side, and bam!—the crying stops. “Side position” is just one of the techniques to calm a baby in Karp’s repertoire. He also uses swaddling, shushing, swinging, and sucking. Bleary-eyed parents ooh and aah over how Karp can instantly activate a baby’s calming reflex, or “automatic shut-off switch,” using his trademark “five S’s.”
I discovered the sixth S shortly after having my daughter nine years ago. A childbirth injury had left me bedridden with chronic pelvic pain, and for two months I lived on an air mattress in my living room because I couldn’t make it upstairs to my bedroom. I couldn’t sit in a comfortable position to nurse; I couldn’t stand to change my baby’s diaper or squat to bathe her; I couldn’t bounce her to calm her down. My husband stepped up, handling most things baby-related while I healed.
Dr. Sherman Hershfield woke up one morning and was surprised to find himself behind the wheel of his car. Somewhere between his Beverly Hills apartment and his practice in the San Fernando Valley, the silver-haired physician had blacked out. Somehow he’d avoided a crash, but this wasn’t the first time. “I didn’t know what was going on,” he admitted.
Apart from his frequent blackouts, Hershfield was in fine health for a man in his 50s. He was tall and lean, ran six miles a day, and was a strict vegetarian. “I believe a physician should provide exemplary motivation to patients,” he once wrote. “I don’t smoke and have cut out all alcohol.” Hershfield specialized in physical medicine and rehabilitation, and for decades had helped patients with brain injuries learn to walk again and rebuild their lives. Even with his experience, Hershfield didn’t know what was wrong inside his own head.
A BuzzFeed report says President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, prompting the talk of impeachment even before the special counsel finishes his probe.
Updated at 9:16 p.m. ET on January 18.
Late Thursday night, BuzzFeed News published a report that, if true, could prove historic: President Donald Trump allegedly directed his then–personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about a real-estate deal he was pursuing in Moscow during the 2016 election. Trump immediately denied the story, but for many Democrats, including those who had previously cautioned against impeaching the president before Special Counsel Robert Mueller produces his findings in the Russia investigation, the report was cause to consider proceeding with impeachment before the Russia probe is finished.
After almost two years of near-complete silence, the special counsel’s spokesman issued a statement late Friday night calling parts of the story inaccurate. “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,” said the spokesman, Peter Carr. BuzzFeed News’ editor in chief, Ben Smith, stood by the story, saying in a statement: “We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing.”
America’s largest internet store is so big, and so bewildering, that buyers often have no idea what they’re going to get.
Updated at 5:28 p.m. ET on January 17, 2019.
There’s a Gatorade button attached to my basement fridge. If I push it, two days later a crate of the sports drink shows up at my door, thanks to Amazon. When these “Dash buttons” were first rumored in 2015, they seemed like a joke. Press a button to one-click detergent or energy bars? What even?, my colleague Adrienne LaFrance reasonably inquired.
They weren’t a joke. Soon enough, Amazon was selling the buttons for a modest fee, the value of which would be applied to your first purchase. There were Dash buttons for Tide and Gatorade, Fiji Water and Lärabars, Trojan condoms and Kraft Mac & Cheese.
The whole affair always felt unsettling. When the buttons launched, I called the Dash experience Lovecraftian, the invisible miasma of commerce slipping its vapor all around your home. But last week, a German court went further, ruling the buttons illegal because they fail to give consumers sufficient information about the products they order when pressing them, or the price they will pay after having done so. (You set up a Dash button on Amazon’s app, selecting a product from a list; like other goods on the e-commerce giant’s website, the price can change over time.) Amazon, which is also under general antitrust investigation in Germany, disputes the ruling.
Corn lurks in so many surprising places, from table salt to apples to IV bags.
When Christine Robinson was first diagnosed with a corn allergy 17 years ago, she remembers thinking, “No more popcorn, no more tacos. I can do this.”
Then she tried to put salt on her tomatoes. (Table salt has dextrose, a sugar derived from corn.) She tried drinking bottled iced tea. (It contains citric acid, which often comes from mold grown in corn-derived sugar.) She tried bottled water. (Added minerals in some brands can be processed with a corn derivative.) She ultimately gave up on supermarket meat (sprayed with lactic acid from fermented corn sugars), bagged salads (citric acid, again), fish (dipped in cornstarch or syrup before freezing), grains (cross-contaminated in processing facilities), fruits like apples and citrus (waxed with corn-derived chemicals), tomatoes (ripened with ethylene gas from corn), milk (added vitamins processed with corn derivatives). And that’s not even getting to all the processed foods made with high-fructose corn syrup, modified food starch, xanthan gum, artificial flavorings, corn alcohol, maltodextrin—all of which are or contain derivatives of corn.