—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.
Harry Reid may be the only person who can keep the Democrats from killing one another before selecting a nominee. But will he live long enough to do it?
LAS VEGAS—Swing past Caesars Palace; head up the Bellagio’s driveway, where its famous fountains are erupting to an auto-tuned Cher hit. Walk by the Dale Chihuly glass-flower ceiling above the check-in line, and the animatronic exhibit with the half-human, half-monkey figures. Head past the blackjack tables and the jangling slot machines and the chocolate fountain to the austere concrete corridors beyond them. There, getting wheeled around in a red metal-frame wheelchair is the 80-year-old man on whom the unity of the Democratic Party in 2020—if not the Democratic nomination—may hinge.
If he can stay alive that long.
Harry Reid, who retired in 2017 after representing Nevada for 30 years in the U.S. Senate—a dozen of them as chair of the Democratic caucus, eight of them as Senate majority leader—was supposed to be dead already; his pancreatic cancer was forecasted to prove fatal within weeks. But he’s still here, which is how I came to be talking with him, not long before Thanksgiving, in a conference room at the Bellagio, asking him why he remains the person to whom many of the Democratic presidential candidates come for advice and anointment.
It’s surprisingly common for men to start losing entire chromosomes from blood cells as they age.
In the 1960s, doctors counting the number of chromosomes in human white blood cells noticed a strange phenomenon. Frequently—and more frequently with age—the cells would be missing the Y chromosome. Over time, it became clear this came with consequences. Studies have linked loss of the Y chromosome in blood to cancer, heart disease, and other disorders.
Now a new study—the largest yet of this phenomenon—estimates that 20 percent of 205,011 men in a large genetic database called the UK Biobank have lost Y chromosomes from some detectable proportion of their blood. By age 70, 43.6 percent of men had the same issue. It’s unclear exactly why, but the authors think these losses might be the most glaring sign of something else going wrong inside the bodies of these men: They are allowing mutations of all kinds to accumulate, and these other mutations could be the underlying links to cancer and heart disease.
A conversation with the evangelical pastor and theologian
Shortly after I met my wife, Cindy, in 1989—she was living in New York City at the time, while I was living in Northern Virginia—she told me about a new church she was attending in Manhattan: Redeemer Presbyterian. The young minister, she told me, was “the best pastor in America.”
His name was Timothy J. Keller.
Since that time Keller, 69, has become one of the most consequential figures in American Christianity. When he founded Redeemer in the fall of 1989, fewer than 100 people attended; in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001, Keller was preaching in multiple services in three different venues each Sunday to about 5,000 people—mostly young, single, professionally and ethnically diverse. He has written about two dozen books, several of them best sellers. And unlike that of many popular ministers, his reach extends farbeyond the Christian subculture.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Television in 2019 offered up sweet birthday babies and hot priests; exposed nuclear cores and examined injustices; giant octopuses and the king of edible leaves, His Majesty the Spinach. It was a year in which more than 500 original scripted series were estimated to air—a new record signaling a television landscape that’s more abundant but also more fragmented than ever.
With that in mind, this year’s “best of” list, like last year’s, tries to recognize shows that did specific things particularly well. Some were brand new; some have already been canceled. But most of them came into being because someone took a chance on an odd idea, a risky concept, or a distinctive voice. As the streaming wars heat up, none of these series feels like a safe bet, which is precisely what makes them so worthwhile to watch.
The fancy bike brand tried to depict a wellness journey. It didn’t go as planned.
The internet has some feedback on Peloton’s holiday ad campaign. The fitness-tech company, famous for its $2,400, Wi-Fi-enabled stationary bikes that let riders stream spin classes, debuted a new television commercial in mid-November, but it didn’t become infamous until earlier this week, when Twitter got ahold of it.
In the ad, a young mom gains confidence in the year after her husband buys her a Peloton for Christmas—or, at least, that’s what the ad seems to be aiming for. The commercial documents the woman (who is also documenting herself, via her phone’s front-facing camera) while she gets up early day after day to exercise or jumps on the bike after work. At the end, she presents the video of her exercise journey to her husband. “A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me,” she tells him. “Thank you.”
A spacecraft has finally gotten close enough to the sun to gather clues about some lingering questions.
For a little NASA spacecraft, the weather outside is frightful.
The Parker Solar Probe is on a mission toward the sun. The spacecraft has been exposed to scorching temperatures and intense sunlight as it draws closer with every loop around. Eventually, Parker will glide through the star’s outer atmosphere and feel the toastiness of nearly 2 million degrees Fahrenheit (more than 1 million degrees Celsius).
Parker is dressed appropriately for the journey. It wears a thick, custom-made shield to protect its scientific instruments and systems, and tubes with flowing water to cool itself down. Inside, it is a cozy 78 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius). Since it set out last summer, Parker has made three sweltering passes of the sun, with many more still to come in the next five years. And its findings are already surprising scientists back home.
MAGA nation should be outraged about President Trump’s personal attorney.
If the grassroots right wants to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C., it can’t ignore the suspicious behavior of Rudy Giuliani. Here’s one red flag: Wealthy, powerful people tend to pay their lawyers top dollar. But as Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Giuliani works for free. In fact, an attorney representing Giuliani’s wife in divorce proceedings told the New York Post that he’s losing money. “Not only does he work for free, but all of his expenses every time he goes down to Washington, D.C., every time he travels for the president, it comes out of his own pocket,” the divorce attorney explained, “and he won’t say how much it’s costing him.”
Why has the former New York City mayor taken on a billionaire as a charity case? It’s not clear, and neither is the nature of the work he’s done relating to Ukraine, a subject of interest in the House impeachment inquiry. At times, Giuliani has described his Ukraine meddling as heroically public-spirited, declaring that “I’m not acting as a lawyer.” He once told a Fox News host, “I wasn’t operating on my own; I was operating at the request of the State Department.” Yet on a different occasion he said, “This isn’t foreign policy,” but help for “my client.”
GOP lawmakers used to oppose the president’s embrace of Putin and the Kremlin. Not anymore.
Just how far will Republicans go in following President Donald Trump’s embrace of Russia? An answer may be crystallizing as the GOP mobilizes its defense of the president against impeachment.
Both congressional Republicans and conservative commentators are defending Trump from impeachment partly by accusing Ukraine of intervening against him in the 2016 presidential election—despite repeated warnings from national-security and intelligence officials that those claims are not only baseless, but advance Vladimir Putin’s goal of discrediting Ukraine.
Earlier in Trump’s presidency, many Republicans sought to distance themselvesfrom his warm tone toward Putin. But just this week alone, a number of Republican lawmakers, the official House Republican report rebutting impeachment, and the Fox News host Tucker Carlson have repeated Kremlin lines on Ukraine.
Why some people are withdrawing from mainstream society into “intentional communities”—and what the rest of the country can learn from them
For the last eight years, Nicolas and Rachel Sarah have been slowly weaning themselves off fossil fuels. They don’t own a refrigerator or a car; their year-old baby and four-year-old toddler play by candlelight rather than electricity at night. They identify as Christian anarchists, and have given an official name to their search for an alternative to consumption-heavy American life: the Downstream Project, with the motto to “do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.”
As it turns out, exiting the system is a challenging, time-consuming, and surprisingly technical process. Here in the Shenandoahs and central Virginia, a handful of tiny communities are experimenting with what it means to reject the norms of contemporary life and exist in a radically different way. They seem to share Americans’ pervasive sense of political alienation, which arguably reached an apotheosis with the election of Donald Trump: a sense of division from their peers, a distrust of government. The challenges of modern politics—dealing with issues like climate change, poverty, mass migration, and war on a global scale—are so vast and abstract that it’s difficult not to find them overwhelming. But instead of continuing in passive despair, as many Americans seem to do, the people in these communities decided to overhaul their lives.
For some kids, the weekly trash pickup is a must-see spectacle. Parents, children, waste-management professionals, and experts on childhood all offer theories as to why.
For Ryan Rucker, a dad in Vacaville, California, the weekly summons comes on Wednesday mornings, usually around seven. For Rosanne Sweeting on Grand Bahama island, in the Bahamas, it’s twice a week—Mondays and Thursdays, anytime from 6 to 8:30 a.m.—and for Whitney Schlander in Scottsdale, Arizona, it’s every Tuesday morning at half-past seven.
At these times, the quiet of the morning is broken by the beep beep beeping of an approaching garbage truck—and broken further when their kids start hollering, begging to be escorted outside to wave or just watch in awe as the truck collects and majestically hauls away the household trash. Rucker’s daughter Raegan, 3, takes her stuffed animals outside with her to watch the pickup. Cassidy Sweeting, 4, enlists her mom’s help to deliver granola bars and water bottles to the three trash collectors. Finn Schlander, 3, invited the neighborhood garbage-truck driver to his birthday party. (Ultimately, he was unable to attend, but the party had garbage-truck decorations nonetheless.)