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.
Sometime this week, you might walk outside in broad daylight, look up at the sky, and see a luminous orb as bright as a full moon. Only it wouldn’t be the moon. It would be something far more explosive: the dazzling aftermath of a cataclysm hundreds of light-years away.
You’d be seeing the light from a supernova—the final, powerful flash of a dying star.
Or … you might see the regular old sky. Supernovas are nearly impossible to predict. But astronomers have recently started discussing the rare possibility with a bit more enthusiasm than usual, thanks to some odd behavior elsewhere in the Milky Way. If the supernova did show up tomorrow, it would be the celestial event of the year, perhaps even the century, leaving a cosmic imprint in the sky for all to see.
A writer who’s afraid to tell people what they don’t want to hear has chosen the wrong trade.
Christopher Hitchens and I weren’t close friends—I was a lesser planet in his orbit. Every so often I felt the rhetorical lash of his published words on my back, and then I tried to make him feel mine, and you can guess who got the better of those exchanges. They usually had to do with Iraq. We both supported the war, but I supported it in an ambivalent, liberal way, while Christopher supported it in a heroic, revolutionary way. The more I saw of the war, the deeper my despair became. Christopher made it a point of honor never to call retreat.
I know of many friendships that ended in those years, including a few of mine. But something strange happened between Christopher and me. For every time he called me a split-the-difference bien-pensant, and for every time I called him a pseudo–Lord Byron, we seemed to become better friends. We would say rude things about each other in print, and then we’d exchange tentatively regretful emails without yielding an inch, and then we’d meet for a drink and the whole thing would go unmentioned, and somehow there was more warmth between us than before. Exchanging barbs was a way of bonding with Christopher.
The “crazy worms” remaking forests aren’t your friendly neighborhood garden worms. Then again, those aren’t so great either.
On a sweltering July day, I follow Annise Dobson down an overgrown path into the heart of Seton Falls Park. It’s a splotch of unruly forest, surrounded by the clamoring streets and cramped rowhouses of the Bronx. Broken glass, food wrappers, and condoms litter the ground. But Dobson, bounding ahead in khaki hiking pants with her blond ponytail swinging, appears unfazed. As I quickly learn, neither trash nor oppressive humidity nor ecological catastrophe can dampen her ample enthusiasm.
At the bottom of the hill, Dobson veers off the trail and stops in a shady clearing. This seems like a promising spot. She kicks away the dead oak leaves and tosses a square frame made of PVC pipe onto the damp earth. Then she unscrews a milk jug. It holds a pale yellow slurry of mustard powder and water that’s completely benign—unless you’re a worm.
While public attention is focused on the Senate, the president is making controversial policy moves.
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel, the incoming White House chief of staff, said days after Barack Obama was elected in 2008. Emanuel’s point was that a moment of cataclysm meant a chance for big structural reforms that wouldn’t be possible in moments of calm.
But there are other ways to take advantage of a crisis, as the Trump administration is demonstrating right now. Even as the president’s impeachment trial moves forward, the White House is acting aggressively on a range of policy proposals that are politically, legally, or morally suspect, wagering—probably correctly—that the press and the people will mostly overlook them amid the drama in the Senate.
It isn’t, as has sometimes been claimed, that Trump wanted to be impeached, or that the impeachment is somehow a brilliant Machiavellian distraction he has orchestrated. The president has made clear that he wants the trial over as quickly as possible. But as long as it’s going on, the White House is using the crisis as best as it can.
Five years ago, the flight vanished into the Indian Ocean. Officials on land know more about why than they dare to say.
1. The Disappearance
At 12:42 a.m. on the quiet, moonlit night of March 8, 2014, a Boeing 777-200ER operated by Malaysia Airlines took off from Kuala Lumpur and turned toward Beijing, climbing to its assigned cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. The designator for Malaysia Airlines is MH. The flight number was 370. Fariq Hamid, the first officer, was flying the airplane. He was 27 years old. This was a training flight for him, the last one; he would soon be fully certified. His trainer was the pilot in command, a man named Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who at 53 was one of the most senior captains at Malaysia Airlines. In Malaysian style, he was known by his first name, Zaharie. He was married and had three adult children. He lived in a gated development. He owned two houses. In his first house he had installed an elaborate Microsoft flight simulator.
False statements and West Wing disorder are not only inseparably linked; they’re mutually reinforcing.
Donald Trump faces the diciest moment of his presidency, a Senate impeachment trial, with a pair of distinct handicaps: shattered credibility and a West Wing that is broken into fiefdoms and often clueless about his intentions. Both were years in the making; neither seems easily fixed.
From the outside, these can seem like two different problems. But in many ways, they’re one and the same. False statements and West Wing disorder are not only inseparably linked; they’re mutually reinforcing.
Start with a president who is a solitary decision maker and who has swept aside early staff efforts to vet the material he sees. Trump now absorbs information, innuendo, gossip, and calumny wherever he finds it. He’s getting it from random Twitter feeds and old friends, from overseas autocrats and pro-Trump talking heads. He’ll repeat rumor as fact without naming the source.
And a resulting acquittal verdict would present Americans with something far worse than a constitutional crisis.
On the opening day of the impeachment trial, the Senate, in a party-line vote of 53–47, approved an organizing resolution establishing the ground rules for the trial and rejecting efforts by Democrats to compel the testimony of witnesses and the production of documents not included by the House in its impeachment inquiry. However, the resolution allows Democrats to renew their motions to subpoena witnesses and documents after House managers and the president’s defense lawyers have completed their opening statements. The fateful battle over witnesses will thus begin in earnest next week.
In December, Donald Trump became only the third U.S. president to be impeached. If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell succeeds in his intention to prevent any witnesses from testifying, Trump will become the first president to be acquitted by an unconstitutional impeachment process.
In the past half century, the number of bathrooms per American has doubled.
American exceptionalism takes on many forms, both flattering (our immigrant-founded start-ups) and unfortunate (our health-care prices). But perhaps no part of life in the United States is more unambiguously exceptional than this: We have so many damn bathrooms.
Political hobbyism is to public affairs what watching SportsCenter is to playing football.
Many college-educated people think they are deeply engaged in politics. They follow the news—reading articles like this one—and debate the latest developments on social media. They might sign an online petition or throw a $5 online donation at a presidential candidate. Mostly, they consume political information as a way of satisfying their own emotional and intellectual needs. These people are political hobbyists. What they are doing is no closer to engaging in politics than watching SportsCenter is to playing football.
For Querys Matias, politics isn’t just a hobby. Matias is a 63-year-old immigrant from the Dominican Republic. She lives in Haverhill, Massachusetts, a small city on the New Hampshire border. In her day job, Matias is a bus monitor for a special-needs school. In her evenings, she amasses power.
The New York Times’ 1619 Project launched with the best of intentions, but has been undermined by some of its claims.
With much fanfare, The New York Times Magazine devoted an entire issue in August to what it called the 1619 Project. The project’s aim, the magazine announced, was to reinterpret the entirety of American history. “Our democracy’s founding ideals,” its lead essay proclaimed, “were false when they were written.” Our history as a nation rests on slavery and white supremacy, whose existence made a mockery of the Declaration of Independence’s “self-evident” truth that all men are created equal. Accordingly, the nation’s birth came not in 1776 but in 1619, the year, the project stated, when slavery arrived in Britain’s North American colonies. From then on, America’s politics, economics, and culture have stemmed from efforts to subjugate African Americans—first under slavery, then under Jim Crow, and then under the abiding racial injustices that mark our own time—as well as from the struggles, undertaken for the most part by black people alone, to end that subjugation and redeem American democracy.