U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton sentenced Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, two former top associates of Governor Chris Christie, to prison time for their role in the “Bridgegate” scandal. Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, received 24 months, along with a year of probation, 500 hours of community service, fines and restitution. Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff, was sentenced to 18 months in prison. A jury in Newark, New Jersey, found them guilty last November of all charges. As I wrote at the time:
Baroni … and Kelly were indicted [in 2015] 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. …
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.
Christie, a close associate of President Trump, consistently denied any knowledge or involvement in the lane closures, and hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing.
Kelly and Baroni will remain free while they appeal their convictions.
Iraqi Forces Battle ISIS in Mosul as Concerns Over Civilian Casualties Persist
Iraqi forces are battling ISIS militants in western Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city that was captured by the Islamic State in 2014. Here’s more from Reuters today on the state of the fighting: “The close-quarters fighting is focused on the Old City surrounding the [ al-Nuri] mosque where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a caliphate nearly three years ago across territory controlled by the group in both Iraq and Syria.” Thousands of civilians are trapped in the city, and as the fighting rages, their position is fraught. Indeed, as we reported yesterday, the Pentagon is investigating the March 17 coalition airstrike in Mosul that may have led to the collapse of buildings with at least 160 people inside. “It is very possible that Daesh blew up that building to blame it on the coalition in order to cause a delay in the offensive into Mosul and cause a delay in the use of coalition airstrikes,” General Mark A. Milley, the U.S. army chief of staff, told reporters Monday in Baghdad. “And it is possible the coalition airstrike did it.” But Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the senior coalition commander in Iraq, said: “My initial assessment is that we probably had a role in these casualties.”
Bob Dylan to Accept Nobel Prize This Weekend, Swedish Academy Says
Bob Dylan will accept his Nobel Prize for Literature this weekend, a member of the Swedish Academy, the body that awards the prize, has said in a blog entry. The academy announced last October that Dylan had won the prize “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” But the famously reclusive singer did not acknowledge the award or indicate whether he would accept it until two weeks after the announcement, telling a British newspaper he would attend the ceremony “if it’s all possible.” Ultimately, he did not—but he did send a speech in which he said the prize “is something I never could have imagined or seen coming.” Which brings us to today’s blog post by Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy. She said:
The good news is that the Swedish Academy and Bob Dylan have decided to meet this weekend. The Academy will then hand over Dylan’s Nobel diploma and the Nobel medal, and congratulate him on the Nobel Prize in Literature. The setting will be small and intimate, and no media will be present; only Bob Dylan and members of the Academy will attend, all according to Dylan’s wishes.
The U.K.’s envoy to the European Union has hand-delivered a letter from Prime Minister Theresa May to the office of European Council president in Brussels, invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and formally beginning the process of talks over the U.K.’s separation from the European Union. The move comes nine months after Britons voted 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the EU, a decision that shocked the political establishment, and sparked a rancorous debate in the U.K. on what a future U.K.-EU relationship should look like. It’s the nature of that relationship that talks between the U.K. and the EU will focus on. The process will take two years, during which time the U.K. remains a full member of the bloc. Those who campaigned to keep the U.K. in the EU want a future relationship to be similar to the one the country enjoyed with full EU membership, but the main sticking point, access to the EU single market, depends on the free movement of the EU’s citizens across the bloc—an aspect of membership deeply unpopular in the U.K. Linda Kintsler wrote yesterday about what happens next. Read it here.
I thought I could fix the air quality in my apartment. I was wrong.
A few weeks ago, a three-inch square of plastic and metal began, slowly and steadily, to upend my life.
The culprit was my new portable carbon-dioxide monitor, a device that had been sitting in my Amazon cart for months. I’d first eyed the product around the height of the coronavirus pandemic, figuring it could help me identify unventilated public spaces where exhaled breath was left to linger and the risk for virus transmission was high. But I didn’t shell out the $250 until January 2023, when a different set of worries, over the health risks of gas stoves and indoorair pollution, reached a boiling point. It was as good a time as any to get savvy to the air in my home.
I knew from the get-go that the small, stuffy apartment in which I work remotely was bound to be an air-quality disaster. But with the help of my shiny Aranet4, the brand most indoor-air experts seem to swear by, I was sure to fix the place up. When carbon-dioxide levels increased, I’d crack a window; when I cooked on my gas stove, I’d run the range fan. What could be easier? It would basically be like living outside, with better Wi-Fi. This year, spring cleaning would be a literal breeze!
Other groups made a bigger splash, but Blondie was a true genre chameleon.
No decade is dominated by a single genre of popular music, but the 1970s was arguably more motley than most. What is the sound of the ’70s? Is it … folk rock? (Neil Young’s Harvest turned 50 last year.) Progressive rock? (Prog’s nadir, Yes’s Tales From Topographic Oceans, was released in 1973 and promptly crashed under its own weight.) How about disco? Punk? Post-punk? New wave? Reggae? Rap? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. And what do we do with Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell, one of the 10 best-selling albums of the decade? Is bombast a genre?
But if you were to drill down through the decade and pull up a core sample of ’70s pop, it would come up Blondie—and would look, in fact, very much like the band’s eight-disc box set, Against the Odds: 1974–1982, which is nominated for the Best Historical Album Award at this weekend’s Grammys. As the academic and artist Kembrew McLeod has written, Blondie was a mediator between the experimental music and art scene of downtown New York City and the larger pop audience. But more fundamentally, I’d argue, the group was also a conduit and popularizer of a wide variety of new rock and pop sounds.
This article was featured in One Story to Read Today, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a single must-read from The Atlantic, Monday through Friday. Sign up for it here.
Let’s say you’re a politician in a close race and your opponent suffers a stroke. What do you do?
If you are Mehmet Oz running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, what you do is mock your opponent’s affliction. In August, the Oz campaign released a list of “concessions” it would offer to the Democrat John Fetterman in a candidates’ debate, including:
“We will allow John to have all of his notes in front of him along with an earpiece so he can have the answers given to him by his staff, in real time.” And: “We will pay for any additional medical personnel he might need to have on standby.”
Homeland-security threats and national-security threats demand different responses.
Montana balloon crisis sounds a lot less dramatic than its Cuban-missile counterpart, and not just because the Chinese surveillance balloon spotted over Big Sky Country last night is inherently less threatening than Soviet weaponry just off the coast of Florida in 1962. This situation isn’t a crisis. It isn’t even close. Although the U.S. government had to acknowledge the presence of the balloon because regular citizens were posting pictures online, the Biden administration’s best option wasn’t to panic and respond with what the military calls a “kinetic action”—or what normal people call shooting the sucker out of the sky. It was to play for time.
The revelation immediately produced a chorus of armchair analysts and GOP politicians insisting that President Joe Biden was weak in the face of a clearly aggressive action by the Chinese. Some insisted that former President Donald Trump would never have allowed such a violation of American borders. Many commentators wanted the U.S. to do something—anything.
The nation’s vehement rejection of identity politics made me recalibrate my own views about woke ideology.
It took me a moment to register the sound of scattered hissing at the Tocqueville Conversations—a two-day “taboo-free discussion” among public intellectuals about the crisis of Western democracies. More than 100 of us had gathered in a large tent set up beneath the window of Alexis de Tocqueville’s study, on the grounds of the 16th-century Château de Tocqueville, in coastal Normandy. I couldn’t remember hearing an audience react like this in such a forum.
The democratic crisis that the conference sought to address has many facets: the rise of the authoritarian right, metastasizing economic inequality, the pressures of climate change, and more. But the conference, held in September 2021, had mostly narrowed its focus to the American social-justice ideology that’s commonly referred to as “wokeness.” The person being hissed at that afternoon was Rokhaya Diallo, a French West African journalist, social-justice activist, and media personality in her mid-40s. (In America, she writes for The Washington Post.) Besides me, she was one of just a handful of nonwhite speakers and, to my knowledge, the sole practicing Muslim.
We can assume that U.S.-China surveillance is mutual—and it’s safer that way.
The Chinese spy balloon observed over Montana is not a new departure. It is a provocative measure because countries claim more rights over the lower atmosphere above their territory than they do over the space beyond that. But the balloon’s presence is not exactly a step on the road to World War III. In fact, this type of surveillance is much more likely to prevent, rather than provoke, conflict.
The Chinese operate the second-most-sophisticated satellite program on Earth, next only to that of the United States. As of last September, some 562 Chinese satellites were orbiting the Earth. Not all of these are surveillance systems, but many are. They send home information on U.S. military capabilities and on the American economy—the status of grain crops, for example. They are probably intercepting a lot of U.S. data traffic too; and the latest models are thought to have radar-based systems that can collect images through cloud cover and at night.
Artificial intelligence could spare you some effort. Even if it does, it will create a lot more work in the process.
Have you been worried that ChatGPT, the AI language generator, could be used maliciously—to cheat on schoolwork or broadcast disinformation? You’re in luck, sort of: OpenAI, the company that made ChatGPT, has introduced a new tool that tries to determine the likelihood that a chunk of text you provide was AI-generated.
I say “sort of” because the new software faces the same limitations as ChatGPT itself: It might spread disinformation about the potential for disinformation. As OpenAI explains, the tool will likely yield a lot of false positives and negatives, sometimes with great confidence. In one example, given the first lines of the Book of Genesis, the software concluded that it was likely to be AI-generated. God, the first AI.
If you’ve ever been to London, you know that navigating its wobbly grid, riddled with curves and dead-end streets, requires impressive spatial memory. Driving around London is so demanding, in fact, that in 2006 researchers found that it was linked with changes in the brains of the city’s cab drivers: Compared with Londoners who drove fixed routes, cabbies had a larger volume of gray matter in the hippocampus, a brain region crucial to forming spatial memory. The longer the cab driver’s tenure, the greater the effect.
The study is a particularly evocative demonstration of neuroplasticity: the human brain’s innate ability to change in response to environmental input (in this case, the spatially demanding task of driving a cab all over London). That hard-won neuroplasticity required years of mental and physical practice. Wouldn’t it be nice to get the same effects without so much work?
Yesterday Vladimir Putin went to Stalingrad. It was the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in the city once named after the Soviet dictator. The current Russian dictator solemnly bowed his head and knelt before a wreath laid to honor the heroes of the battle that turned the tide of World War II. The day before the ceremony, a bronze bust of Joseph Stalin had been unveiled in the city, whose name was changed to Volgograd in 1961. By then Stalin, perhaps the 20th century’s greatest mass murderer, was out of favor. But for Putin, the city is still Stalingrad, the year is still 1943, Nazis are still waging a scorched-earth war, and the heroic Russian people are still fighting a far stronger enemy in defense of the motherland. Only it’s 2023, and the enemy is the independent, democratic, much smaller nation of Ukraine, led by a Jewish president and armed by Western democracies—including Germany.
Subscriptions such as HP’s Instant Ink challenge what it means to own our devices.
The first rule of at-home printers is that you do not need a printer until you do, and then you need it desperately. The second rule is that when you plug the printer in, either it will work frictionlessly for a decade, or it will immediately and frequently fail in novel, even impressive ways, ultimately causing the purchase to haunt you like a malevolent spirit. So rich is the history of printer dysfunction that its foibles became a cliché in the early days of personal computing.
After years of holding out, my family finally succumbed to a pandemic inkjet purchase. (Like many, we were doing a lot of online shopping in 2020, which meant a lot of return labels.) I girded my loins for the agony of paper jams, phantom spoolererrors, and the dreaded utterance “Driver not found.” What I did not expect, however, was for my printer to shake me down like a loan shark.