Alabama Governor Robert Bentley resigned Monday amid allegations he abused power and state resources to conceal an affair. As The New York Times’s Alan Blinder reports, the second-term Republican governor plead guilty Monday to two misdemeanor charges, including failing to file a major contribution report and converting campaign contributions to personal use—charges for which he was sentenced to 30 days in jail, though the sentence was suspended. Instead, he faces 12 months of probation, 100 hours of community service, and a $7,000 fine. Bentley, whose impeachment hearing began Monday, was confronted last week with allegations of “improper communications” with Rebekah Caldwell Mason, his senior political adviser with whom he is accused of having an affair, as well as abuse of power and violating state ethics and campaign finance laws. Though Bentley asked Alabama residents for forgiveness Friday, he said he had no plans to resign, adding that: “I have done nothing illegal. If the people want to know if I misused state resources, the answer is simply no. I have not.” Alabama Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey is expected to be sworn in to replace Bentley, but as my colleague David Graham notes, the transition may not be that seamless.
Even with the handwriting so clearly on the wall, Bentley might not choose to leave office gently. His office denied any negotiation on an exit, and Alabama Media Group’s John Archibald wrote, with understated wryness, “It is possible that Bentley, who has changed his mind often during his term, could change his mind.”
Three Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide at San Bernardino County Elementary School
Updated at 7:15 p.m. ET
Two adults and one child are dead in an apparent murder-suicide inside a classroom at North Park Elementary School, San Bernardino County Police Chief Jared Burguan said today. “We believe the suspect is down and there's no further threat,” Burguan said on Twitter. Lieutenant Mike Madden, a spokesman for the San Bernardino Police Department, said at a news conference that the shooter was Cedric Anderson and his victim was Karen Elaine Smith, a special education teacher. Later Monday, authorities said an 8-year-old boy, Jonathan Martinez, was killed in the gunfire. Madden said the shooter had a handgun and had visited the classroom. He said the injured students were in critical condition, adding they were not targeted; nor were they related to the adults who were killed, he said. Students at North Park Elementary were taken to Cajon High School for safety, Burguan said earlier. The San Bernardino City Unified School District said on Twitter that North Park, Cajon Elementary School, and Hillside Elementary School are on lockdown.
This is a developing story and we’ll update it as we learn more.
Tesla (Briefly) Becomes the Most Valuable U.S. Carmaker
Tesla became the most valuable carmaker in the U.S. on Monday after its shares rose to about $313 to make it worth $51 billion, enough to edge out General Motors. It didn’t last long, however, and after the crescendo shares dipped slightly, putting General Motors back on top. But it was a clear message that investors are confident Tesla, headed by CEO Elon Musk, will lead the electric-car industry in the future. Last week Tesla passed Ford in value, despite selling a small fraction of what Ford does. In the first three months of the year, Tesla has sold about 25,000 of its Model S and Model X cars, while Ford sold more than 600,000 vehicles; GM sells 690,000. Skeptics say Tesla is overvalued, but Musk has also been venturing into non-car markets, acquiring a solar panel installation company, and debuting a new home solar-panel design. Tesla has been in a crunch to pick up car production, especially after last year, when it debuted the Model 3. At $35,000 the sedan is the company’s cheapest car, and is meant for middle-income buyers. Musk has said he hopes to produce half a million vehicles by 2018.
Neil Gorsuch Is Sworn In as the Newest Supreme Court Justice
Neil Gorsuch was sworn in on Monday as the 113th U.S. Supreme Court justice, returning the court to its full complement of nine judges, as well as to its conservative tilt. Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee to fill the vacancy created last year by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, was confirmed last week by the Senate in a contentious vote that saw Republicans exercise the so-called “nuclear option” so a simple majority of senators could approve him. His appointment brings an end to a yearlong battle that saw Senate Republicans refuse to consider Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the same seat. The new justice will have an immediate impact, as this week the court will decide which cases to take up in the coming year. At the confirmation ceremony at the White House Rose Garden, the oath was administered by Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom Gorsuch once clerked. Trump congratulated Gorsuch, and said the justice would rule “not on his personal preferences but based on a fair and objective reading of the law.” The confirmation fulfills Trump’s campaign promise to put a conservative on the bench, and on Monday the president reminded people of that: “I got it done in the first 100 days,” Trump said. “You think that’s easy?”
Video Shows Police Drag Man Off an Overbooked United Airlines Flight
Updated at 3:38 p.m. ET
A man was forcibly removed from a United Airlines aircraft by police Sunday because the flight was overbooked, according to eyewitnesses. Video of the incident, which took place Sunday on United Flight 3411 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, shows a an unidentified male passenger screaming as three police officers forcibly removed him from his window seat. The man’s screams stopped after one of the officers pulled him to the ground and dragged him down the aisle. One passenger can be heard in the background saying, “Oh my God, look at what you did to him.” The Chicago Police Department said in a statement that the 69-year-old man struck his head on an armrest and was later treated at the Lutheran General Hospital for non-life threatening injuries. Tyler Bridges, a passenger on the plane, told the Washington Post the airline asked four passengers to voluntarily give their seats to stand-by United employees who needed to be in Louisville, Kentucky, where the flight was headed. Bridges said the airline began selecting passengers when no one volunteered and that when the man was asked to leave, he refused, noting he was a doctor and had patients to see the next day. Bridges said the man also accused the airline of choosing him because he is Chinese. Charlie Hobart, a United Airlines spokesman, said in a statement that law enforcement was asked to get involved after no one volunteered to leave the aircraft, adding “we apologize for the overbook situation.” In a separate statement, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said the airline would work with law enforcement to review the incident and apologized “for having to re-accommodate these customers.” The Chicago Department of Aviation said the officer who dragged the man off the flight has been placed on leave.
Wells Fargo Takes Back $75 Million From Top Execs in Sales Scandal
Wells Fargo said Monday it would take back $75 million from two top executives accused of downplaying and ignoring aggressive policies that prompted thousands of employees to create fake accounts to meet sales goals. The announcement came as the company released a scathing 110-page report that found the bank’s management pressured employees to push unwanted or unneeded products on customers. This led to a wide practice of fraud, and thousands of employees created up to 2 million fake accounts and lines of credit without customer knowledge. Much of the blame for the scandal has been leveled on former CEO John Stumpf, and former head of community banking, Carrie Tolstedt. The report found that when presented with the problem, Stumpf refused to hear the criticism or change practices, and Tolstedt actively worked to downplay the issue. Wells Fargo has already paid $185 million in fines. It also settled a class-action lawsuit for $110 million. Both Stumpf and Tolstedt will have their compensation taken, as well as stock options.
Marine Le Pen Denies France's Role in the Holocaust
Marine Le Pen, the National Front (FN) presidential candidate, sparked outrage Sunday when she denied France’s responsibility for the wartime deportation of thousands of French Jews to the Nazi concentration camps. “I don’t think France is responsible for the Vel d’Hiv,” the far-right leader said Sunday in reference to France’s round up of more than 13,000 Jews at the Vélodrome d'Hiver indoor cycling track in 1942, adding: “I think that generally speaking if there are people responsible, it's those who were in power at the time. It's not France.” Both President François Hollande and former President Jacques Chirac have apologized for France’s role in the incident, though Le Pen argued the Vichy regime that ruled France during World War II was an “illegal” authority, noting Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the Free French Forces, lived in exile in London at the time. Such comments are not unusual for the FN. Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s father and the FN’s founder, has repeatedly dismissed the Holocaust as a minor “detail” of history and defended Vichy government collaborators—rhetoric that prompted the younger Le Pen to expel her father from the FN in 2015 as part of her effort to rebrand the historically fringe party. Le Pen’s comments come less than two weeks ahead of the French presidential election’s first round of voting that polls project her to win.
Egypt's State of Emergency Takes Effect After ISIS Attacks on Coptic Churches
Egypt’s three-month state of emergency went into effect Monday, a day after ISIS claimed responsibility for attacks on two Coptic churches that killed more than 40 people. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi declared a state of emergency Sunday following the attacks. The Egyptian Cabinet, which must approve the move, did so today. “The state of emergency allows both the armed forces and the police to execute those procedures necessary to combat the threats of terrorism and its financing, maintain security around the country and protect public and private property, as well as preserving the lives of citizens,” the Cabinet said in a statement. Yesterday’s attacks in the northern city of Tanta and in Alexandria targeted worshippers who had gathered for Palm Sunday.
U.S. Steps Up Pressure on Russia Over Its Support of Syria
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is meeting today with his colleagues from the Group of Seven (G-7) industrialized nations, ahead of a meeting this week with his Russian counterpart. The G-7 is hoping to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his military and diplomatic support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Tillerson’s visit to Moscow comes days after the U.S. struck a Syrian airbase following what the U.S. says is Assad’s use of chemical weapons last week in Idlib province. The U.S. strike marked an apparent turning point in the U.S. view toward Assad: Just days ahead of the chemical-weapons attack, U.S. officials, including Tillerson and Nikki Haley, the U.S. envoy to the UN, said Assad’s removal from power was not a U.S. priority. After the strike, however, U.S. officials said they wanted Assad gone—but through a political process. Tillerson, speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation, said: “I think the issue of how Bashar al-Assad’s leadership is sustained, or how he departs, is something that we’ll be working with allies and others in the coalition. But I think with each of those actions, he really undermines his own legitimacy.” Haley, appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, said: “In no way do we see peace in that area with Russia covering up for Assad. And in no way do we see peace in that area with Assad at the head of the Syrian government.” The U.S. has emphasized though that fighting ISIS remains its priority in Syria.
It’s time to abandon the dogma that’s driven our foreign policy and led to so much disaster in the region.
President Donald Trump’s October decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria produced a rare moment of bipartisanship in foreign policy. With a shared sense of alarm, Republicans and Democrats alike accused Trump of betrayal.
Certainly, it was a betrayal of the Kurdish partners who bled for us in the fight against the Islamic State. It was also a betrayal of process—leaving our military leaders and diplomats struggling to keep up with tweets, our allies in the dark, our messaging all over the map, and chaos on the ground.
If all this episode engenders, however, is a bipartisan dip in the warm waters of self-righteous criticism, it will be a tragedy—or worse, a mistake. We have to come to grips with the deeper and more consequential betrayal of common sense—the notion that the only antidote to Trump’s fumbling attempts to disentangle the United States from the region is a retreat to the magical thinking that has animated so much of America’s moment in the Middle East since the end of the Cold War.
I served as a career diplomat throughout most of this era, sharing in our successes as well as our failures. Despite important achievements, we all too often misread regional currents and mismatched ends and means. In our episodic missionary zeal, especially after the terrible jolt to our system on 9/11, we tended to overreach militarily and underinvest diplomatically. We let our ambitions outstrip the practical possibilities of a region where perfect is rarely on the menu, and second- and third-order consequences are rarely uplifting. The temptations of magical thinking, the persistent tendency to assume too much about our influence and too little about the obstacles in our path and the agency of other actors, led to indiscipline and disappointments—steadily diminishing the appetite of most Americans for Middle East adventures.
That leaves American policy at a crossroads. Our moment as the singular dominant outside player in the Middle East has faded, but we still have a solid hand to play. The key to playing it well will be neither restoration of the inflated ambition and over-militarization of much of the post-9/11 period nor sweeping disengagement. Instead, we need a significant shift in the terms of our engagement in the region—lowering our expectations for transformation, ending our habit of indulging the worst instincts of our partners and engaging in cosmic confrontation with state adversaries, finding a more focused and sustainable approach to counterterrorism, and putting more emphasis on diplomacy backed up by military leverage, instead of the other way around.
Why we need to face the best arguments from the other side
Images above: A protestor holding a sign that reads “Abortion Is Freedom” and protestors holding anti-abortion signs
In 1956, twoAmerican physicians, J. A. Presley and W. E. Brown, colleagues at the University of Arkansas School of Medicine, decided that four recent admissions to their hospital were significant enough to warrant a published report. “Lysol-Induced Criminal Abortion” appeared in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. It describes four women who were admitted to the hospital in extreme distress, all of them having had “criminal abortions” with what the doctors believed to be an unusual agent: Lysol. The powerful cleaner had been pumped into their wombs. Three of them survived, and one of them died.
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.”
The surreal story of how a comedian who played the Ukrainian president on TV became the president in real life—then found himself at the center of an American political scandal
Last May, in the weeks leading up to his presidential inauguration, Volodymyr Zelensky learned that a man named Rudy Giuliani wanted to meet with him. The name was only distantly familiar. But the former mayor of New York City was the personal attorney of the president of the United States, and he apparently wanted to make the case that certain investigations deserved the full attention of the new Ukrainian administration. Zelensky understood that it might be hard to say no.
Zelensky had won his country’s highest office despite having been a politician for little more than four months. Even as he prepared to assume the presidency, he remained a professional comedian and a fixture on television shows, including League of Laughter. Unsure of whether he should agree to meet Giuliani, Zelensky gathered advisers in the headquarters of his entertainment company.
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.
In its third season, the series is stuck in a relentlessly cheery mode that’s cloying to watch.
The great irony of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s television shows is that the dialogue gushes forth with the insistence of a burst hydrant, and yet the most beguiling moments are the ones in which no one speaks at all. Midway through the third season of Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a man and a woman whose chemistry has smoldered almost since the show’s inception find themselves alone, in the early hours of the morning, at a hotel. They gaze at each other. They each glance meaningfully through the open door toward a bed. They say nothing. The energy is so heightened and so loaded with expectation that I couldn’t have stopped watching if the room around me had suddenly caught on fire.
The five hours or so that preceded it, though, had mostly the opposite effect, where any scenes without Rachel Brosnahan’s unsinkable comic Midge Maisel—and even a few with her—were either inert or insufferable. What used to feel like Sherman-Palladino trademarks now come across as tics: the barrage of inane chatter; the superficial stereotyping; the overreliance on spectacle without substance, like a dinner composed entirely of cake pops. More vexing than anything, though, is how defiantly The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel refuses to have stakes. Everything plays out in the same major key. Everything—lost children, homelessness, divorce, social injustice—is just a joke, bedazzled and glib and gorgeous. This is a series so vacantly uplifting, it’s managed to transfigure Lenny Bruce into Prince Charming.
As anyone who has been called out for hypocrisy by a small child knows, kids are exquisitely attuned to gaps between what grown-ups say and what grown-ups do. If you survey American parents about what they want for their kids, more than 90 percent say one of their top priorities is that their children be caring. This makes sense: Kindness and concern for others are held as moral virtues in nearly every society and every major religion. But when you ask children what their parents want for them, 81 percent say their parents value achievement and happiness over caring.
Kids learn what’s important to adults not by listening to what we say, but by noticing what gets our attention. And in many developed societies, parents now pay more attention to individual achievement and happiness than anything else. However much we praise kindness and caring, we’re not actually showing our kids that we value these traits.
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.
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.)
The city’s leaders believe a revamped education system will make its people more loyal to China and less likely to protest.
HONG KONG—After months of protests, an embarrassing rebuke at the ballot box, a pair of new laws in the United States targeting Hong Kong, and a worsening economic outlook, the territory’s leader, Carrie Lam, promised to do some soul-searching. It seemed an appropriate response: Her city looked to have changed, gripped by a suddenly politically engaged populace determined to face down the authorities.
And in recent days, it appears Lam has indeed emerged with a solution for how to quell unrest here: Faced with demands for greater freedoms, an end to police brutality, and full universal suffrage, she has determined that what Hong Kong’s people really need is more Chinese-style patriotic education instead.