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.
If you’ve tried to buy a home in the past two years, you have my most profound sympathies. Your experience has probably gone something like this: You found your dream home online; sent photos around to your family; visited the premises (or decided to buy, sight unseen); got your financial statements in order; smartly offered 10 percent over asking; and learned, several hours later, that no fewer than 831 other people had bid for the same house, which sold to a couple who paid 50 percent over asking, all cash, and cinched the deal with a contract amendment promising to name their firstborn child after the seller.
Yes, the American real-estate market really has been historically hellish, or historically hot, depending on whether you were trying to buy a home or sell one. Within the past year, just about every housing statistic you could imagine set some kind of berserk record. Home prices hit a record high, the share of homes that sold above asking hit a record high, and the number of available homes for sale hit a record low.
A new viral outbreak is testing whether the world has learned anything from COVID.
Yesterday afternoon, I called the UCLA epidemiologist Anne Rimoin to ask about the European outbreak of monkeypox—a rare but potentially severe viral illness with dozens of confirmed or suspected cases in the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal. “If we see those clusters, given the amount of travel between the United States and Europe, I wouldn’t be surprised to see cases here,” Rimoin, who studies the disease, told me. Ten minutes later, she stopped mid-sentence to say that a colleague had just texted her a press release: “Massachusetts Public Health Officials Confirm Case of Monkeypox.”
The virus behind monkeypox is a close relative of the one that caused smallpox but is less deadly and less transmissible, causing symptoms that include fever and a rash. Endemic to western and central Africa, it was first discovered in laboratory monkeys in 1958—hence the name—but the wild animals that harbor the virus are probably rodents. The virus occasionally spills over into humans, and such infections have become more common in recent decades. Rarely, monkeypox makes it to other continents, and when it does, outbreaks “are so small, they’re measured in single digits,” Thomas Inglesby, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told me. The only significant American outbreak occurred in 2003, when a shipment of Ghanaian rodents spread the virus to prairie dogs in Illinois, which were sold as pets and infected up to 47 people, none fatally. Just last year, two travelers independently carried the virus to the U.S. from Nigeria but infected no one else.
The conservative majority is likely to overturn major precedents this term—not just Roe.
Following the Supreme Court’s leak of a draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade, many Court-watchers and pundits have pointed to same-sex marriage and access to contraceptives as rights now potentially at risk. And while in the long run the logic set forth in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization could undermine those precedents, the Court may eviscerate other major areas of law far sooner—in fact, with cases on its docket this current term. Notably, the Court may soon declare the use of race in college admissions—affirmative action—illegal, and it may also massively constrain the power of the federal government to protect the environment.
The questions at hand in each case—Dobbs, Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, and West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency—differ. But they all raise issues that have been the targets of conservative legal scholars for decades, and they will now be decided by a right-wing Court with seemingly little commitment to its own precedents.
Hundreds of thousands of deaths, from either tobacco or the pandemic, could be prevented with a single behavioral change.
It’s suddenly become acceptable to say that COVID is—or will soon be—like the flu. Such analogies have long been the preserve of pandemic minimizers, but lately they’ve been creeping into more enlightened circles. Last month the dean of a medical school wrote an open letter to his students suggesting that for a vaccinated person, the risk of death from COVID-19 is “in the same realm, or even lower, as the average American’s risk from flu.” A few days later, David Leonhardt said as much to his millions of readers in the The New York Times’ morning newsletter. And three prominent public-health experts have called for the government to recognize a “new normal” in which the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus “is but one of several circulating respiratory viruses that include influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and more.”
Facing the painful parts of life head-on is the only way to feel at home with yourself.
“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness. Click here to listen to his podcast series on all things happiness, How to Build a Happy Life.
Some years ago, a friend told me that his marriage was suffering because he was on the road so much for work. I started counseling him on how to fix things—to move more meetings online, to make do with less money. But no matter what I suggested, he always had a counterargument for why it was impossible. Finally, it dawned on me: His issue wasn’t a logistics or work-management problem. It was a home problem. As he ultimately acknowledged, he didn’t like being there, but he was unwilling to confront the real source of his troubles.
“What do you think of this company Netscape?” my parents asked. It was 1995, and they had called me on the landline, which back then just meant the telephone. Netscape was a company that made a graphical web browser—the web browser, really—but gave it away for free. Its income statement showed only modest revenue (and substantial losses). The web was new and exciting but unproven, so I steered my folks away from Netscape’s IPO.
Hahaha. Netscape stock doubled its $28 offering price the day it went public, making its founders half billionaires and ushering in the dot-com era. By the end of the year, the stock hit $174, and when AOL acquired the company in 1999, just before the dot-com crash, the deal was worth $10 billion.
Sixty years ago, Helen Gurley Brown’s best-selling book promised women sexual freedom. Today, it reads like an omen.
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In 1991, as the SupremeCourt hearings of Clarence Thomas were turning sexual-harassment allegations into television, Helen Gurley Brown, the editor and muse of Cosmopolitan magazine, was asked whether any of her staffers had been harassed. “I certainly hope so!” she replied.
The sentiment would not have come as a surprise to readers of the book that had, roughly three decades earlier, shot Brown to fame and infamy. Sex and the Single Girl, first published in 1962, is part memoir and part advice manual, offering tips about careers, fashion, beauty, diet, hobbies, self-care, travel, home decorating, and, yes, dating. The book—like its author, both ahead of its time and deeply of it—often reads as resolutely backward. But it is best remembered, today, for one of the arguments it put forward: Sex, as Brown summed it up in her introduction to the book’s 2003 reissue, “is enjoyed by single women who participate not to please a man as may have been the case in olden times but to please themselves.”
The film offers the same clinical gaze to both the mundane and graphic sides of the adult-entertainment business.
The protagonist of Pleasure is a plucky young performer who has moved to Los Angeles with a dream of superstardom. Bella Cherry (played by Sofia Kappel) has a Hollywood story that gets told off- and on-screen all the time: An ambitious starlet does anything she can to break into movies, grasps at celebrity while encountering corruption, and tries to maintain her integrity in a craven business. But despite following that well-worn formula, Pleasure distinguishes itself by looking into an underdiscussed cinematic niche: the porn industry.
The director Ninja Thyberg’s new film is graphic yet deeply unerotic. It’s loaded with sex and nudity, but both are largely presented in a clinical, businesslike way. The opening sequence sees Bella going through the procedures of her first porn shoot, signing paperwork and talking through sexual logistics with the detached tone of someone about to assemble IKEA furniture. These slice-of-life details, while sporadic, make Pleasure compelling, offering a distinct perspective on a creative process that can be mundane but seems always at risk of spinning out of control.
The shortage is a calamity—not a victory for breastfeeding.
The baby was just two weeks old, and hungry. Elizabeth Hanson tried to breastfeed, but didn’t have enough milk. With terror, she watched as her daughter lost weight, tiny bones protruding from her skin.
In America, in modern times, most parents can count on multiple safe, healthy options for feeding an infant: breast milk or formula. That is, unless they are experiencing the impacts of the current formula shortage, as thousands of families across the United States are.
But in 1724, Elizabeth Hanson couldn’t turn to formula when her milk dried up. Her story illustrates the nightmarish realities that confronted families before the development of modern commercial formula in the mid-20th century.
The novel is darkly observant of Millennial malaise. The TV adaptation is a different story.
Early in Sally Rooney’s debut novel, Conversations With Friends, the heroine has a nightmare. Frances, a college student, dreams that a tooth has come loose in her mouth, leaving a hole that pumps out so much blood, she can’t speak. “The blood tasted thick, clotted and salty,” she recounts. “I could feel it, vividly, running back down my throat.”
The dream provides a dramatic metaphor for how the reserved Frances has been feeling voiceless next to her gregarious ex-girlfriend turned best friend, Bobbi. Then again, the subconscious tends to be unsubtle—especially the subconscious of Rooney’s characters across her three books, including Normal People. Her protagonists are often aloof, even unreadable, in person. But they exhibit a cerebral interiority that has led to Rooney being hailed as “the first great millennial novelist.” Through them, she captures the way her generation strives to be cool and insightful while being laden with the anxiety of awareness.