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.
More people than ever are hospitalized with COVID-19. Health-care workers can’t go on like this.
On Saturday morning, Megan Ranney was about to put on her scrubs when she heard that Joe Biden had won the presidential election. That day, she treated people with COVID-19 while street parties erupted around the country. She was still in the ER in the late evening when Biden and Vice President–elect Kamala Harris made their victory speeches. These days, her shifts at Rhode Island Hospital are long, and they “are not going to change in the next 73 days,” before Biden becomes president, she told me on Monday. Every time Ranney returns to the hospital, there are more COVID-19 patients.
This is why you can eat in a restaurant but can’t have Thanksgiving.
Two weeks ago, I staged a reluctant intervention via Instagram direct message. The subject was a longtime friend, Josh, who had been sharing photos of himself and his fiancé occasionally dining indoors at restaurants since New York City, where we both live, had reopened them in late September. At first, I hadn’t said anything. Preliminary research suggests that when people congregate indoors, an infected person is almost 20 times more likely to transmit the virus than if they were outside. But restaurants are open legally in New York, and I am not the COVID police. Josh and I had chatted several times in the early months of the pandemic about safety, and I felt sure that he was making an informed decision, even if it wasn’t the one I’d make.
Cynical public speech aimed at winning political power has consequences.
Three weeks after the conclusion of the 2020 presidential election, many Republican members of Congress find themselves boxed in. Some have privatelycongratulated Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for their historic win. But publicly, most Republicans have remained silent, while others have actively encouraged President Donald Trump’s baseless accusations of mass voter fraud.
The situation these Republicans face is one that many southern members of Congress would have recognized during the aftermath of the 1860 election. Southern congressmen had spent years stirring up anger and promoting fear of their opponents, and were so successful that by 1860 they had lost control of their message. Abraham Lincoln’s election caused a mass movement among white southerners to leave the Union. Even though they knew that the claims being embraced by their constituents were conspiratorial and overblown, many southern members of Congress felt they had to get on board or be left behind.
The new Netflix film is a think-piece trap—shiny on the outside, hollow on the inside.
“Everyone in this world is one of three kinds,” declares Mamaw (played by Glenn Close), the wise grand-matriarch of Ron Howard’s new film, Hillbilly Elegy. “A good Terminator, a bad Terminator, and neutral.” I hate to correct Mamaw, who is trying to encourage her impressionable grandson, J. D. Vance (Gabriel Basso), to follow a righteous path by invoking Arnold Schwarzenegger’s beloved action franchise. But there is no such thing as a “neutral” Terminator; those cyborg heroes exist to either protect or destroy. I cannot imagine what a neutral Terminator would do, save sit in a chair and remain forever shiny and inactive.
Mamaw is entitled to her bad movie opinions, of course. But this monologue is the kind of speechifying that rings hollow throughout Hillbilly Elegy, an adaptation of Vance’s best-selling 2016 memoir that debuts on Netflix tomorrow. When it first arrived on bookshelves, Vance’s story was celebrated as a glimpse into an oft-ignored pocket of America: the white working class of Appalachia and the Rust Belt who swung to Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Hailed as an “anger translator” and cited by Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton, Vance wrote about growing up poor, living with a heroin-addicted mother, and clawing his way into Yale Law School. The book arrived at a seemingly serendipitous moment, offering a bleak but candid view of communities gutted by drug abuse and poverty.
“We are on an absolutely catastrophic path,” said a COVID-19 doctor at America’s best-prepared hospital.
Perhaps no hospital in the United States was better prepared for a pandemic than the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
After the SARS outbreak of 2003, its staff began specifically preparing for emerging infections. The center has the nation’s only federal quarantine facility and its largest biocontainment unit, which cared for airlifted Ebola patients in 2014. The people on staff had detailed pandemic plans. They ran drills. Ron Klain, who was President Barack Obama’s “Ebola czar” and will be Joe Biden’s chief of staff in the White House, once told me that UNMC is “arguably the best in the country” at handling dangerous and unusual diseases. There’s a reason many of the Americans who were airlifted from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in February were sent to UNMC.
The president has repeatedly disparaged the intelligence of service members, and asked that wounded veterans be kept out of military parades, multiple sources tell The Atlantic.
When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true.
Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.
Stripe is one of those technology companies that control the internet’s plumbing. It makes payments-processing software that hustles money from your debit or credit card to someone else’s bank account. If you’ve ever purchased groceries on Instacart or supported a project on Kickstarter, you’ve used Stripe, even if you didn’t know it.
Owning this particular corner of internet infrastructure is highly lucrative. Stripe is worth $36 billion by one metric, making it among the most valuable U.S. start-ups that have yet to go public. Only a handful of firms, such as SpaceX and Cargill, are more valuable.
I asked Atlantic writers who have spent months reporting on the pandemic for their simplest advice on making it to the new year. Some Americans live with roommates, some can’t work without child care, and some have to work in crowded conditions—everyone’s situation is different—but these basic tips can, we hope, be helpful in a variety of situations. My colleagues’ guidance boils down to this winter’s golden rule for interacting with anyone outside your immediate household: Don’t spend time indoors with other people.
Penguin Random House purchasing Simon & Schuster is not the gravest danger to the publishing business. The deal is transpiring in a larger context—and that context is Amazon.
In 1960, Dwight Eisenhower’s attorney general, William Rogers, read the paper with alarm. He learned that Random House intended to purchase the venerable publisher Alfred A. Knopf. Rogers began making calls to prod his antitrust division into blocking the sale. In those days, monopoly loomed as a central concern of government—and a competitive book business was widely seen as essential to preserving both intellectual life and democracy. After checking with his sources, Rogers discovered that the merger would yield a company that controlled a mere 1 percent of the book market, and he let the matter drop.
Not so long ago, Democratic and Republican administrations alike wouldn’t hesitate to block a merger like the one proposed today, which intends to fold the giant publisher Simon & Schuster into the even more gigantic Penguin Random House. How big would the combined company be? By one estimate, it might publish a third of all books in the U.S. This deal is so expansive that it’s hard to find an author to write about it who isn’t somehow implicated. Based on the odds, I suppose, it’s not terribly surprising to reveal that I’m published by Penguin Random House.
In the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks, the French government has introduced new legislation that threatens the very freedoms it vows to defend.
The beheading of the middle-school teacher Samuel Paty on October 16 by a young man enraged by Paty’s showing his class caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to vow that France will never flinch in its defense of freedom of expression. In the name of upholding the core values of the French Republic, however, Macron’s government and members of his party have introduced new legislation that effectively restricts them. Unless the proposed laws are modified or scrapped, France will soon be a far less free country than it is now.
Three new pieces of legislation aim to make the French more secure by restricting democratic rights. A bill that sets the research budget for French universities for the next decade, adopted by France’s Senate on November 20, targets student protests and took a stab at academic freedom. The bill includes a provision criminalizing on-campus gatherings that “trouble the tranquility and good order of the establishment” with a fine of up to 45,000 euros and a prison term of up to three years. An amendment requiring that academic research hew to the “values of the Republic” was scrapped only at the last minute, after strong pushback by scholars who feared that its intent was to restrict freedom of inquiry.