—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.
Some of the plots to overturn the election happened in secret. But don’t forget the ones that unfolded in the open.
Last year, John Eastman, whom CNN describes as an attorney working with Donald Trump’s legal team, wrote a preposterous memo outlining how then–Vice President Mike Pence could overturn the 2020 election by fiat or, failing that, throw the election to the House of Representatives, where Republicans could install Trump in office despite his loss to Joe Biden. The document, which was first reported by the Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their new book, is a step-by-step plan to overthrow the government of the United States through a preposterous interpretation of legal procedure.
Pence apparently took the idea seriously—so seriously, in fact, that, according to Woodward and Costa, former Vice President Dan Quayle had to talk him out of it. Prior to November, the possibility of Trump attempting a coup was seen as the deranged fever dream of crazed liberals. But as it turns out, Trump and his advisers had devised explicit plans for reversing Trump’s loss. Republican leaders deliberately stoked election conspiracy theories they knew to be false, in order to lay a political pretext for invalidating the results. Now, more than 10 months after the election, the country knows of at least five ways in which Trump attempted to retain power despite his defeat.
Facebook is acting like a hostile foreign power; it’s time we treated it that way.
In 1947, Albert Einstein, writing in this magazine, proposed the creation of a single world government to protect humanity from the threat of the atomic bomb. His utopian idea did not take hold, quite obviously, but today, another visionary is building the simulacrum of a cosmocracy.
Mark Zuckerberg, unlike Einstein, did not dream up Facebook out of a sense of moral duty, or a zeal for world peace. This summer, the population of Zuckerberg’s supranational regime reached 2.9 billion monthly active users, more humans than live in the world’s two most populous nations—China and India—combined.
To Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, they are citizens of Facebookland. Long ago he conspicuously started calling them “people” instead of “users,” but they are still cogs in an immense social matrix, fleshy morsels of data to satisfy the advertisers that poured $54 billion into Facebook in the first half of 2021 alone—a sum that surpasses the gross domestic products of most nations on Earth.
This has become a common refrain among the cautious—and it’s wrong.
For many fully vaccinated Americans, the Delta surge spoiled what should’ve been a glorious summer. Those who had cast their masks aside months ago were asked to dust them off. Many are still taking no chances. Some have even returned to all the same precautions they took before getting their shots, including avoiding the company of other fully vaccinated people.
Among this last group, a common refrain I’ve heard to justify their renewed vigilance is that “vaccinated people are just as likely to spread the coronavirus.”
This misunderstanding, born out of confusing statements from public-health authorities and misleading media headlines, is a shame. It is resulting in unnecessary fear among vaccinated people, all the while undermining the public’s understanding of the importance—and effectiveness—of getting vaccinated.
One of the ocean’s top predators has met its match.
Filipa Samarra could hear the pilot whales before she could see them. In 2015, out on the choppy waters off of southern Iceland, Samarra and her research team were eavesdropping on a group of killer whales. She listened as they pipped, squealed, and clicked when suddenly her ears were filled with high-pitched whistling. “Then the killer whales just went silent,” says Samarra, a biologist and the lead investigator of the Icelandic Orca Project. As the whistling grew stronger, a group of pilot whales came into view, and the killer whales seemed to turn and swim away.
“It’s quite unusual because the killer whale is this top predator,” says Anna Selbmann, a doctoral candidate at the University of Iceland who is supervised by Samarra. “It’s very unusual that they’re afraid of anything—or seemingly afraid.”
A group called Counterweight assists people who feel that their bosses and co-workers are forcing them to endorse social-justice beliefs.
Helen Pluckrose is a former academic who became famous for pranking the academy. Three years ago Pluckrose, who previously researched medieval religious writing, joined with the scholars James Lindsay and Peter Boghossian to concoct some fake scientific studies on outlandish topics, such as rape culture among dogs. They loaded the papers with phrasing such as “because of my own situatedness as a human, rather than as a dog,” and submitted them to peer-reviewed journals. Seven of the papers were accepted for publication. The exercise had its critics, but to the hoaxers, the stunt suggested that journals in the humanities are so blinded by ideology that they’ll publish anything that confirms their worldview.
While some Pfizer recipients can now get an extra shot, federal officials are still mum on what’s next for the at-risk individuals who got Moderna or J&J.
For some of us, booster shots have finally arrived. But they’ve charted quite a meandering course to get here. First, last month, President Joe Biden announced that most Americans would be able to nab third doses of mRNA vaccines eight months after their second shots. Then, last week the FDA narrowed the eligible population, before a CDC advisory committee suggested tightening the boundaries even further. Hours after that panel shared its recommendation, the agency’s director, Rochelle Walensky, reversed course and ballooned the guidance back out to more closely align with the FDA’s much broader guidelines—though she stopped short of urging the shots for everyone.
It is all, frankly, a bit confusing. Millions of Americans are now in a sort of immunological limbo, wondering which expert advice to heed, and how soon to reroll up their sleeve, as the guidance coming from up top shifts seemingly by the day. Boosters are, at this point, offering more whiplash than protection. I spoke with Walensky today at The Atlantic Festival to see if we could make sense of some of the current situation—her unconventional move to break from the advisory committee’s guidance, and the tough choices millions of Americans face as they navigate the months ahead.
A conversation with the former Google CEO Eric Schmidt
For years now, artificial intelligence has been hailed as both a savior and a destroyer. The technology really can make our lives easier, letting us summon our phones with a “Hey, Siri” and (more importantly) assisting doctors on the operating table. But as any science-fiction reader knows, AI is not an unmitigated good: It can be prone to the same racial biases as humans are, and, as is the case with self-driving cars, it can be forced to make murky split-second decisions that determine who lives and who dies. Like it or not, AI is only going to become an even more omnipresent force: We’re in a “watershed moment” for the technology, says Eric Schmidt, the former Google CEO.
Schmidt is a longtime fixture in a tech industry that seems to constantly be in a state of upheaval. He was the first software manager at Sun Microsystems, in the 1980s, and the CEO of the former software giant Novell in the ’90s. He joined Google as CEO in 2001, then was the company’s executive chairman from 2011 until 2017. Since leaving Google, Schmidt has made AI his focus: In 2018, he wrote in The Atlantic about the need to prepare for the AI boom, along with his co-authors Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, and the MIT dean Daniel Huttenlocher. The trio have followed up that story with The Age of AI, a book about how AI will transform how we experience the world, coming out in November.
A weather report can’t replace an umbrella, and a coronavirus test can’t replace a shot.
President Joe Biden’s new vaccine mandate for large businesses is a strange one, in that it does not actually make vaccines mandatory for the roughly 80 million Americans it’s aimed at. Tucked plainly into the rule is a singular and obvious opt-out: Unlike federal employees and contractors, those in the private sector can test for the coronavirus on an at-least-weekly basis, a no-jab alternative that makes the White House’s decision quite a bit gentler than it could have been. “It’s a stick, but it’s sort of a soft stick,” Julia Raifman, a health-policy researcher at Boston University, told me.
The two-pronged approach is certainly more flexible, and perhaps more politically palatable, than pushing shots alone. Recent polling suggests that a majority of Americans are on board with mandates, at least when they’re doled out as a double scoop. “People like choices,” Syra Madad, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at Harvard and for the New York City Health System, told me. That’s long been true for public-health carrots as well: In places such as Israel, the European Union, and parts of Canada, negative test results are among the “passport” options that can green-light residents for entry into restaurants, bars, gyms, clubs, and travel hubs; a smattering of similar policies have been in place at certain American businesses for months.
The controversial cult brand LuLaRoe sold a powerful idea: that mothers could succeed as entrepreneurs while spending meaningful time with their kids.
People who have heard of LuLaRoe have usually come across it for one of two reasons. Either someone they know has tried to sell them the company’s stretchy leggings and fit-and-flare dresses over Facebook, or they’ve seen some of the gleeful coverage of LuLaRoe’s very public disintegration as a brand: the lawsuits, the bankruptcies filed by its sellers, the boxes of apparently moldy clothing shipped to vendors that smelled, in one woman’s description, like a “dead fart.” (Leggings! Never not controversial!) Much of LuLaRich, a new four-part Amazon series exploring the company’s rise and fall, focuses on its alleged mismanagement and manipulative aspects, grouping it with some of the splashier docuseries of years past. No one at LuLaRoe seems to have found themselves getting the area above their groin branded, or poisoning an Oregon salad bar with salmonella. But in one scene, a former LuLaRoe vendor recalls a company meetup where everyone assembled was, like her, wearing brightly patterned leggings and a broad, be-lipsticked smile. “I remember looking around and being like, We all look the same,” she tells the camera. “I was like, Oh my God, I’m in a cult.”
Social codes are changing, in many ways for the better. But for those whose behavior doesn’t adapt fast enough to the new norms, judgment can be swift—and merciless.
“It was no great distance, in those days, from the prison-door to the market-place. Measured by the prisoner’s experience, however, it might be reckoned a journey of some length.”
So begins the tale of Hester Prynne, as recounted in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s most famous novel, The Scarlet Letter. As readers of this classic American text know, the story begins after Hester gives birth to a child out of wedlock and refuses to name the father. As a result, she is sentenced to be mocked by a jeering crowd, undergoing “an agony from every footstep of those that thronged to see her, as if her heart had been flung into the street for them all to spurn and trample upon.” After that, she must wear a scarlet A—for adulterer—pinned to her dress for the rest of her life. On the outskirts of Boston, she lives in exile. No one will socialize with her—not even those who have quietly committed similar sins, among them the father of her child, the saintly village preacher. The scarlet letter has “the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.”