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.
For weeks, Americans looked on as other countries grappled with case reports of rare, sometimes fatal blood abnormalities among those who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19. That vaccine has not yet been authorized by the FDA, so restrictions on its use throughout Europe did not get that much attention in the United States. But Americans experienced a rude awakening this week when public-health officials called for a pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, after a few cases of the same, unusual blood-clotting syndrome turned up among the millions of people in the country who have received it.
The world is now engaged in a vaccination program unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes, and with it, unprecedented scrutiny of ultra-rare but dangerous side effects. An estimated 852 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered across 154 countries, according to data collected by Bloomberg. Last week, the European Medicines Agency, which regulates medicines in the European Union, concluded that the unusual clotting events were indeed a side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine; by that point, more than 220 cases of dangerous blood abnormalities had been identified. Only half a dozen cases have been documented so far among Americans vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and a causal link has not yet been established. But the latest news suggests that the scope of this problem might be changing.
In 1974, John Patterson was abducted by the People’s Liberation Army of Mexico—a group no one had heard of before. The kidnappers wanted $500,000, and insisted that Patterson’s wife deliver the ransom.
Illustrations by Leonardo Santamaria
This article was published online on April 15, 2021.
The Motel El Encanto in Hermosillo, Mexico, served a lavish breakfast that John and Andra Patterson liked to eat on the tiled deck near their suite. The couple would discuss the day ahead over fresh pineapple and pan dulces while their 4-year-old daughter, Julia, watched the gray cat that skulked about the motel’s Spanish arches.
On the morning of March 22, 1974, the Pattersons’ breakfast chatter centered on their search for a permanent home. They were nearing their two-month anniversary of living in Hermosillo, where John was a junior diplomat at the American consulate, and the motel was feeling cramped.
After breakfast, Andra dropped John off at work. Because this was his first posting as a member of the United States Foreign Service, the 31-year-old Patterson had been given an unglamorous job: He was a vice consul responsible for promoting trade between the U.S. and Mexico, which on this particular Friday meant driving out to meet with a group of ranchers who hoped to improve their yield of beef.
Just months after leaving office, the former president has all but disappeared.
The president was insistent as he left office: “We’re not going anywhere.” It had been a turbulent end of the presidency—impeachment, appalling pardons, and a lengthy dispute over the outcome of the presidential election—but he knew that he had a devoted following, and he had every intention to remain a force in politics. And not just him: His family was eager to cash in on his electoral success, too. Usually a former president laid low for a while after leaving office. He wasn’t going to do that. He’d remain a political force, and the dominant figure in his party.
But the plan didn’t go well. The president sat at his new home—he had decamped from his longtime home state—guzzling Diet Cokes and calling friends to rage about how unfairly he’d been treated and complain about overzealous prosecutors. “You get tired of listening to it,” one friend confessed.
Beth Van Duyne was at the center of a controversy over Sharia law. Now she represents a congressional district Biden won.
In 2015, in the Dallas suburb of Irving, the fates of two very different Texans collided.
One was 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, a precocious kid in a NASA T-shirt who had built a clock out of spare parts and brought it to school in a pencil case. His English teacher decided it might be a bomb, and the school called the police, who arrested Mohamed for bringing in a “hoax bomb.” Because Mohamed’s family was part of Irving’s large Muslim minority, many liberals saw this as a baseless case of Islamophobia.
The other Texan was Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, a blond 44-year-old with Disney-princess bone structure. She defended Mohamed’s arrest on Facebook, then went on The Glenn Beck Program to repeat the “hoax bomb” lie and complain that the child hadn’t given police enough information. “We’ve heard more from the media than the child ever released to the police when we were asking him questions,” she said calmly.
Even a niche subculture built around magical cartoon horses is reckoning with racism.
Updated at 7:42 p.m. ET on June 23, 2020.
My Little Pony fans have had a Nazi problem for a long time.
That sounds just as strange no matter how many times you say it. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is a cartoon television show about friendship, compassion, and a group of magical horses with names such as Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy who live in a fantastical land called Equestria. It’s marketed to children. Nevertheless, it has an extremely dedicated adult fandom, which is mostly made up of men, or “bronies,” as they’ve been referred to for nearly a decade. Most of these men are white. Some of these men are vocal white supremacists.
Concerns about blood clots with Johnson & Johnson underscore just how lucky Americans are to have the Pfizer and Moderna shots.
A year ago, when the United States decided to go big on vaccines, it bet on nearly every horse, investing in a spectrum of technologies. The safest bets, in a way, repurposed the technology behind existing vaccines, such as protein-based ones for tetanus or hepatitis B. The medium bets were on vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, which use adenovirus vectors, a technology that had been tested before but not deployed on a large scale. The long shots were based on the use of mRNA, the newest and most unproven technology.
The protein-based vaccines have moved too slowly to matter so far. J&J’s and AstraZeneca’s vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19—but a small number of recipients have developed a rare type of blood clot that appears to be linked to the adenovirus technology and may ultimately limit those shots’ use. Meanwhile, with more than 180 million doses administered in the U.S, the mRNA vaccines have proved astonishingly effective and extremely safe. The unusual blood clots have not appeared with Pfizer’s or Moderna’s mRNA technology. A year later, the risky bet definitely looks like a good one.
The CDC has finally said what scientists have been screaming for months: The coronavirus is overwhelmingly spread through the air, not via surfaces.
Last week, the CDC acknowledged what many of us have been saying for almost nine months about cleaning surfaces to prevent transmission by touch of the coronavirus: It’s pure hygiene theater.
“Based on available epidemiological data and studies of environmental transmission factors,” the CDC concluded, “surface transmission is not the main route by which SARS-CoV-2 spreads, and the risk is considered to be low.” In other words: You can put away the bleach, cancel your recurring Amazon subscription for disinfectant wipes, and stop punishing every square inch of classroom floor, restaurant table, and train seat with high-tech antimicrobial blasts. COVID-19 is airborne: It spreads through tiny aerosolized droplets that linger in the air in unventilated spaces. Touching stuff just doesn’t carry much risk, and more people should say so, very loudly.
The joys of money are nothing without other people.
“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness.
Arthur C. Brooks will discuss the science of happiness live at 11 a.m. ET on May 20. Register for In Pursuit of Happiness here.
In 2010, two Nobel laureates in economics published a paper that created a tidal wave of interest both inside and outside academia. With careful data analysis, the researchers showed that people believe the quality of their lives will increase as they earn more, and their feelings do improve with additional money at low income levels. But the well-being they experience flattens out at around $75,000 in annual income (about $92,000 in today’s dollars). The news materially affected people’s lives—especially the part about happiness rising up to about $75,000: In the most high-profile example, the CEO of a Seattle-based credit-card-payment company raised his employees’ minimum salary to $70,000 (and lowered his own salary to that level) after reading the paper.
Some of the winning entries in this year’s annual photo competition
The winning entries of the annual World Press Photo Contest have just been announced. This year, according to organizers, 74,470 images were submitted for judging, made by 4,315 photographers from 130 different countries. Winners in eight categories were announced, including Contemporary Issues, Environment, General News, Long-Term Projects, Nature, Portraits, Sports, and Spot News. World Press Photo has once more been kind enough to allow me to share some of this year’s winning photos here with you.
In early March 2020, Rick Phillips, 63, and his wife, Sheryl Phillips, quietly cloistered themselves in their Indianapolis home. They swore off markets, movie theaters, the gym, and, hardest of all, visits with their three young grandchildren. This April, three weeks after receiving her second shot of Pfizer’s vaccine, Sheryl broke her social fast and walked into a grocery store for the first time since last spring. Rick has yet to join her. He received his shots on the same days his wife received hers. By official standards, he, too, can count himself as fully vaccinated. But he feels that he cannot act as though he is. “I personally remain scared to death,” he told me.
Rick has rheumatoid arthritis, which once rendered him “barely able to walk across the room,” he said. He now treats the condition with an intensely immunosuppressive drug that strips his body of the ability to churn out disease-fighting antibodies. Rick credits the treatment with changing his life. But it might also keep him from developing lasting defenses against COVID-19.