—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.
Cloth masks are better than nothing, but they were supposed to be a stopgap measure.
If you’re like most Americans, there’s a good chance you’re going to wear a cloth mask today. Doing so makes sense. It remains the official recommendation in the United States, and it is something we’ve both advocated since the beginning of the pandemic. Both of us wrotearticles as far back as March urging people to wear homemade cloth masks. We’re also the authors (along with 17 other experts) of a paper titled “An Evidence Review of Face Masks Against COVID,” which was just published in peer-reviewed form in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But it’s past time for better solutions to be available to the public.
We first released the paper as a preprint back in April, and it took nine months to go through peer review. We’re happy that it’s published but, to be honest, we’re also deeply disappointed that it’s still relevant. We’d hoped that by 2021 supply chains would have ramped up enough to ensure that everyone had better masks. Cloth masks, especially homemade ones, were supposed to be a stopgap measure. Why are so many of us still wearing them?
The handover of power was a solemn affair. There was no mistaking the new administration for the old one.
At dawn this morning, workers loaded couches and tables into a moving truck parked outside the West Wing. Men wearing white coveralls and carrying roller brushes and paint cans walked across the north driveway. Inside the White House, pictures of the 45th president had been removed from the walls. Only the hooks remained, ready for a new set of portraits of the 46th.
A lone Donald Trump press deputy, Judd Deere, sat in his small office, writing a note on a piece of stationery to whoever would be taking over his desk in a few hours. Deere was attempting to describe what it’s like to work in the building. When I looked in at noon, after the Trump presidency had officially ended, he was gone, his desk cleared. Even the magazine racks hanging on the wall had been emptied.
History suggests that Joe Biden and the Democrats are going to have a tough two years and a disaster in the midterms. Here’s their plan to avoid that.
Joe Biden’s team is planning a party. His inauguration on Wednesday, held under threat from the coronavirus and pro-Trump extremists, wasn’t much of a celebration. But the Biden administration hopes that January 20, 2022—a year from now—will mark what some aides are describing as a “renewing of the vows,” an anniversary that could be a genuinely happy moment.
By then, Biden hopes, he will have made Americans feel like they’ve put the horrors of 2020 behind them. More than anything, that depends on whether he can dig the country out from the COVID-19 crisis. Vaccine distribution and economic recovery will be key.
Basic competence of government could go a long way: Imagine the political boost Biden could earn when people start going to the movies again, or children start seeing their grandparents. Biden is already planning to push ahead on an additional $1,400 in relief checks (a disappointment to those who wanted another $2,000) and a $15-an-hour minimum wage—both part of a $2 trillion relief package. He’s also planning an infrastructure bill that would create new green jobs, and include other measures to help fight climate change.
Three particular failures secure Trump’s status as the worst chief executive ever to hold the office.
President Donald Trump has long exulted in superlatives. The first. The best. The most. The greatest. “No president has ever done what I’ve done,” he boasts. “No president has ever even come close,” he says. But as his four years in office draw to an end, there’s only one title to which he can lay claim: Donald Trump is the worst president America has ever had.
In December 2019, he became the third president to be impeached. Last week, Trump entered a category all his own, becoming the first president to be impeached twice. But impeachment, which depends in part on the makeup of Congress, is not the most objective standard. What does being the worst president actually mean? And is there even any value, at the bitter end of a bad presidency, in spending energy on judging a pageant of failed presidencies?
A global pandemic doesn’t give us cause to treat the aged callously.
Crises can elicit compassion, but they can also evoke callousness. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve witnessed communities coming together (even as they have sometimes been physically forced apart), and we’ve seen individuals engaging in simple acts of kindness to remind the sick and quarantined that they are not forgotten. Yet from some quarters, we’ve also seen a degree of cruelty that is truly staggering.
Earlier today, a friend posted on Facebook about an experience he’d just had on the Upper West Side of Manhattan: “I heard a guy who looked to be in his 20s say that it’s not a big deal cause the elderly are gonna die anyway. Then he and his friend laughed … Maybe I’m lucky that I had awesome grandparents and maybe this guy didn’t but what is wrong with people???” Some have tried to dress up their heartlessness as generational retribution. As someone tweeted at me earlier today, “To be perfectly honest, and this is awful, but to the young, watching as the elderly over and over and over choose their own interests ahead of Climate policy kind of feels like they’re wishing us to a death they won’t have to experience. It’s a sad bit of fair play.”
She who dies with the most checked boxes wins, right? Wrong.
“How to Build a Life” is a column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness. Starting today, the column will be published weekly on Thursday mornings.
I am an inveterate scorekeeper. I can go back decades and find lists of goals I set for myself to gauge “success” by certain milestone birthdays. For example, in my 20s, I had a to-do list for the decade, the items on which more or less told the story of a penniless musician who had made some dubious choices. It included quitting smoking, going to the dentist, mastering my pentatonic scales, and finishing college. (I hit them all, although the last one mere days before my 30th birthday.)
There is nothing unusual about this tendency to keep score. Google “30 things to do before you turn 30” and you will get more than 15,000 results. Researchers writing in the journal Psychological Science a few years ago observed that people are naturally motivated toward performance goals related to round numbers, and birthdays in particular can often act as landmarks to motivate self-improvement. We naturally seek outside sources of quantitative evidence of our progress and effectiveness—and, thus, our happiness.
Millions of Americans sympathize with the Capitol insurrection. Everyone else must figure out how to live alongside them.
They could be real-estate agents or police officers, bakers or firefighters, veterans of American wars or CEOs of American companies. They might live in Boise or Dallas, College Park or College Station, Sacramento or Delray Beach. Some are wealthy. Some are not. Relatively few of them were at the United States Capitol on January 6, determined to stop Congress from certifying a legitimate election. Millions more cheered the rioters on—and still do.
As a group, it’s hard to know what to call them. They are too many to merit the term extremists. There are not enough of them to be secessionists. Some prominent historians and philosophers have been arguing for a revival of the word fascist; others think white supremacist is more appropriate, though there could also be a case for rebel. For want of a better term, I’m calling all of them seditionists—not just the people who took part in the riot, but the far larger number of Americans who are united by their belief that Donald Trump won the election, that Joe Biden lost, and that a long list of people and institutions are lying about it: Congress, the media, Mike Pence, the election officials in all 50 states, and the judges in dozens of courts.
I’ve been thinking about Barbara Tuchman’s medieval history, A Distant Mirror, over the past couple of weeks. The book is a masterful work of anti-romance, a cold-eyed look at how generations of aristocrats and royalty waged one of the longest wars in recorded history, all while claiming the mantle of a benevolent God. The disabusing begins early. In the introduction, Tuchman examines the ideal of chivalry and finds, beneath the poetry and codes of honor, little more than myth and delusion.
Knights “were supposed, in theory, to serve as defenders of the Faith, upholders of justice, champions of the oppressed,” Tuchman writes. “In practice, they were themselves the oppressors, and by the 14th century, the violence and lawlessness of men of the sword had become a major agency of disorder.”
In 20 minutes, the president signaled how he will approach this job and this moment in history.
Political speeches follow a surprisingly simple set of rules—or at least the successful ones do. Newly sworn-in President Joe Biden observed them all in his inaugural address. Although his 20 minutes at the lectern are not likely to be parsed and studied for rhetorical flourishes, with this speech Biden accomplished something more important: He signaled how he will approach this job and this moment in history.
The first rule in political rhetoric is authenticity. Does the essence of the speech—its vocabulary, its rhythms, its cadences, its tendencies toward “plain” versus “fancy” tone—match the essence of the speaker? Does the rhetoric call attention to itself? Or does it mainly serve to transmit the mood, intention, and ideas the speaker hopes to convey?
A casualty of Argentina’s so-called Dirty War, Isabel haunted my childhood like a ghost. Then I started searching for her.
The report from the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team included 20 photos of my half sister’s bones—nearly as many photos as I had ever seen of Isabel herself.
The ones of the bones punctured by bullets—her rib, her pelvis, her humerus—did not move me as much as those of her skull. It was so old-looking, like one of those prehistoric craniums of Homo sapiens, the nose bashed in, some of the teeth missing, that earthen coloring. The skull had lain in a common grave, untouched for more than 30 years, before being taken to a lab, where it remained officially unidentified for about another 10. The sight of it destroyed me. In all the photos I had seen, Isabel looked incredibly young, with a cherubic beauty—round cheeks, light hair, searching blue eyes. She had been murdered and disappeared by the military dictatorship in Argentina in January 1978, when she was just 22. Staring at those photos of her skeleton in March 2018, I was eight years older than she ever had been. Never before had I quite grasped how much time she hadn’t gotten to live, to age and grow old, until I saw her bones, and realized they had been aging without the rest of her.