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Aggregating and archiving news from both sides of the aisle.

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Alphabet reports better-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue

Preview: Alphabet reported earnings after the bell. Here are the results.

Investors pour money into Chinese start-ups despite regulatory crackdown

Preview: Venture capital investment in China rose in the third quarter, bringing year-to-date totals to more than all of 2020, multiple data sources show.

HSBC sees opportunity in beaten down Chinese stocks

Preview: Investors have been cautious toward Chinese stocks amid Beijing's ongoing regulatory crackdown as well as contagion fears stemming from China Evergrande.

'Rust' producers hire lawyers to interview cast and crew after fatal on-set shooting

Preview: The producers of "Rust" have hired a high-profile law firm to interview cast and crew about the accidental on-set shooting of Halyna Hutchins last Thursday

Microsoft beats revenue expectations, reporting 22% growth

Preview: Microsoft's Azure revenue growth came in ahead of analysts' expectations. The company saw strong demand for consumption-based cloud services in the quarter.

Stock futures are flat after Dow, S&P close at records

Preview: U.S. stock index futures were little changed during overnight trading on Tuesday after stocks closed at record highs.

Enphase Energy surges after record quarter despite supply chain woes

Preview: Shares of solar company Enphase Energy jumped after the company said demand is booming even as supply chain bottlenecks weigh.

Federal judge rejects Southwest Airlines pilots' request to block vaccine mandate

Preview: A federal judge in Texas denied a petition by Southwest Airlines pilots' union that sought to block the company's enforcement of a federal vaccine mandate.

As 2021 World Series starts, MLB stares down a possible lockout

Preview: Major League Baseball is about to complete its first full season of the new decade, but labor issues are once again threatening the league's future.

Congress is about to fight over the debt ceiling again – but it doesn't have to be this way

Preview: With the debt ceiling deadline set for early December, some prominent politicians are drafting ideas to reform or end the borrowing limit.

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People with health conditions that affect their immune system may get a fourth shot, according to new CDC guidelines

Preview: • FDA advisers recommend Pfizer vaccine for kids 5-11 • Opinion: Why are cops fighting vaccine mandates?

Doctor: This is why I want children to get vaccinated at school

Preview: In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, Dr. Christakis explains why he thinks it is important for children to be vaccinated at school after an FDA advisory panel voted to recommend the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

United CEO: It's not practical to have Covid testing instead of vaccine mandates

Preview: • Live Updates: FDA says benefits likely to outweigh risks for Pfizer's vaccine in younger kids • CDC moves large European country to its highest level of Covid-19 travel risk • 96% of Tyson's active workers are vaccinated • Study: Need for liver transplants due to heavy drinking soared during the pandemic

Why are cops fighting vaccine mandates?

Preview: I was waiting in line at the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) in Maryland this summer when I noticed two state troopers posted inside. Despite a mask mandate in Prince George's County, neither wore a face covering.

FDA vaccine advisers vote to recommend Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11

Preview: Vaccine advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration voted 17-0 with one abstention Tuesday to recommend emergency use authorization of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11.

Officials targeted by Trump's election lies live in fear

Preview: • Analysis: Marjorie Taylor Greene is now trying to justify the January 6 riot • Opinion: The racist theory that is animating some Trump backers

How the fatal 'Rust' shooting unfolded

Preview: • District attorney hasn't ruled out criminal charges in fatal shooting on 'Rust' set • 'Rust' actor calls gun scenes on set 'life threatening'

Missing hiker ignored calls from rescuers' unknown number

Preview: A Colorado rescue team has some simple advice for lost hikers or anyone else who might find themselves stranded in the mountains -- answer your phone.

Analysis: Democrats fight back as Republicans target education in push for suburbs

Preview: America's freshest and most emotive political battle is now raging over its schools as kids and teachers get drawn into the cultural and ideological fights dominating national and local politics.

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FDA Advisory Panel Recommends Pfizer Vaccine For Kids Ages 5-11

Preview: The Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee has given its support to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in children 5-11 years of age.  As reported by The Wall Street Journal: Experts advising the Food and Drug Administration recommended that the agency authorize the Covid-19 vaccine from [Pfizer and BioNTech] […]

Ohio City Votes To Criminalize Abortion

Preview: An Ohio city has voted to make abortion a crime. The city council of Mason, just north of Cincinnati, voted Monday evening to criminalize abortion, as council members voted 4 to 3 to make the city “a sanctuary for the unborn.” Mason currently does not have any abortion clinics within city limits. Supporters of the […]

Inside Joe Biden’s New ‘Gender Equity’ Plan: Taxpayer-Funded Abortion, Gender Ideology, Identity Politics

Preview: The Biden administration released the “National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality” last Friday. “This is our vision for the future of our nation—one that is bold in strategy,” said an enthusiastic Vice President Kamala Harris. Yet a close look at the 42-page report finds that it seeks to profoundly change “social and cultural norms” […]

Chinese Media: If Taiwan Changes Name Of Office In U.S., China Will Respond With ‘Military’ Action

Preview: Chinese propagandist Hu Xijin, editor of China’s state-run Global Times, warned in a video that if the United States allows Taiwan to change the name of its representative office in the U.S. from “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office” to “Taiwan Representative Office” that China will respond with military action. The Global Times is known for […]

Not ‘Victims,’ But ‘Rioters’ And ‘Looters’: Judge Riles Up Prosecution In Rittenhouse Case With Argument Restrictions

Preview: Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder ruled Monday that prosecutors are barred from referring to the men shot by Kyle Rittenhouse as “victims,” while the defense team was permitted to refer to them as “rioters” and “looters.” Judge Schroeder explained to Rittenhouse’s defense team that they may not refer to those shot in such […]

Dallas Parents Hire Billboard Trucks To Blast Diocese School Mask Mandate

Preview: Dallas parents with children in Catholic schools are giving the Dallas diocese a piece of their mind about the school mask mandate, using a medium that is sure to catch the bishop’s eye — billboard trucks. Three dads rented billboard trucks with messages splashed across the side protesting the Diocese of Dallas Catholic Schools mask […]

EXCLUSIVE: McAuliffe-Linked Law Firm Fighting Virginia Student Who Said She Was Gang-Raped

Preview: A law firm that employed Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is being paid handsomely to fight victims of alleged sexual abuse in schools, on behalf of a school system that the girls say failed to protect them. In one case the Hunton Andrews Kurth law firm, where McAuliffe served as a senior adviser from 2019 until […]

Elon Musk Slams Democrats Over Extreme Proposal To Tax Unrealized Capital Gains

Preview: Entrepreneur Elon Musk slammed Democrats in a tweet on Monday over a proposal they are considering that would tax unrealized capital gains. The proposal for the tax plan has gained steam in the wake of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) opposing raising corporate and individual tax rates to pay for Democrat President Joe Biden’s massive multi-trillion […]

‘Never Say Never, But Never’: Mike Tomlin Shuts Down Questions Around College Football Openings

Preview: Well, USC can end any hope they had of hiring Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin for their head coach opening.  In a fantastic press conference on Tuesday, Tomlin emphatically shut down rumors that he may be interested in coaching college football. He’s happy in the NFL, he’s happy coaching the Steelers, and if you’d […]

‘This Is Just The Kind Of Chaos The American Economy Needs’: CNN Praises U.S. Labor Shortage

Preview: As Americans find it harder and harder to purchase Christmas gifts, replace broken appliances, or eat at their favorite restaurant because of the ever-emptying store shelves and ever-increasing prices, CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria claimed that the U.S. labor shortage is “just the kind of chaos the American economy needs.” While Zakaria cited an economist who argued […]

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CDC: 4TH COVID SHOT...

Preview: CDC: 4TH COVID SHOT... (Top headline, 1st story, link) Related stories: BIDEN VAX MANDATE DELAYED UNTIL AFTER HOLIDAYS? 'YEARLY BOOSTER'... Drudge Report Feed needs your support!   Become a Patron

BIDEN VAX MANDATE DELAYED UNTIL AFTER HOLIDAYS?

Preview: BIDEN VAX MANDATE DELAYED UNTIL AFTER HOLIDAYS? (Top headline, 2nd story, link) Related stories: CDC: 4TH COVID SHOT... 'YEARLY BOOSTER'...

'YEARLY BOOSTER'...

Preview: 'YEARLY BOOSTER'... (Top headline, 3rd story, link) Related stories: CDC: 4TH COVID SHOT... BIDEN VAX MANDATE DELAYED UNTIL AFTER HOLIDAYS?

MOST EXPENSIVE THANKSGIVING EVER

Preview: MOST EXPENSIVE THANKSGIVING EVER (Main headline, 1st story, link) Related stories: 'INFLATION HERE TO STAY' WALL STREET RECORDS CONTINUE Drudge Report Feed needs your support!   Become a Patron

'INFLATION HERE TO STAY'

Preview: 'INFLATION HERE TO STAY' (Main headline, 2nd story, link) Related stories: MOST EXPENSIVE THANKSGIVING EVER WALL STREET RECORDS CONTINUE

WALL STREET RECORDS CONTINUE

Preview: WALL STREET RECORDS CONTINUE (Main headline, 3rd story, link) Related stories: MOST EXPENSIVE THANKSGIVING EVER 'INFLATION HERE TO STAY'

TESLA Is Lowest-Revenue Company to Hit $1 Trillion Market Value...

Preview: TESLA Is Lowest-Revenue Company to Hit $1 Trillion Market Value... (First column, 1st story, link) Related stories: Jack Ma disappearance prompts $497 billion ALIBABA loss... Drudge Report Feed needs your support!   Become a Patron

Jack Ma disappearance prompts $497 billion ALIBABA loss...

Preview: Jack Ma disappearance prompts $497 billion ALIBABA loss... (First column, 2nd story, link) Related stories: TESLA Is Lowest-Revenue Company to Hit $1 Trillion Market Value...

Biden Gets Pulled Into Virginia Gov. Race After Earlier Cold Shoulder...

Preview: Biden Gets Pulled Into Virginia Gov. Race After Earlier Cold Shoulder... (First column, 3rd story, link) Related stories: Youngkin Lead$ Cash on Hand... POLL: DEADLOCKED...

Youngkin Lead$ Cash on Hand...

Preview: Youngkin Lead$ Cash on Hand... (First column, 4th story, link) Related stories: Biden Gets Pulled Into Virginia Gov. Race After Earlier Cold Shoulder... POLL: DEADLOCKED... Drudge Report Feed needs your support!   Become a Patron

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Jewish civil rights group calls out Massachusetts university after violent rally

Preview: A Jewish civil rights organization is calling out the University of Massachusetts, Boston for its inaction on an investigation into a campus organization for hosting a pro-Palestine rally that turned violent.

Unvaccinated Los Angeles city workers to fork over $130 a week for testing, given two more months to comply

Preview: Los Angeles city employees who have not been vaccinated will have to fork over $130 each week to cover COVID-19 testing but will have a longer deadline to get the shots, according to a plan passed by lawmakers Tuesday.

Loudoun County parents demand superintendent, school board resign after alleged sexual assault email

Preview: Parents demanded resignations from the Loudoun County School Board and Superintendent Scott Ziegler at a school board meeting on Tuesday, citing an email that surfaced last week.

Miami-area teens involved in sword murder of high school student charged as adults, prosecutors say

Preview: Three teenagers involved in the brutal murder of a high school senior as he was being stabbed with a knife and sword will be charged as adults, authorities said Tuesday.

University of Pittsburgh department puts 'secretary,' 'clerk,' and 'omsbudsman' on 'sexist language' list

Preview: The University of Pittsburgh has declared that terms such as "secretary," "clerk," and "omsbudsman" are considered "Sexist Language."

Minneapolis slated to vote on replacing police department

Preview: Minneapolis voters will face one of the city's most daunting questions next week when they head to the polls to decide on a key ballot measure that would dismantle the police department.

Man who sent life-threatening messages to Rep. Matt Gaetz faces federal indictment

Preview: A man accused of barking death threats at Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., over the phone earlier this year was nabbed last week on a federal indictment, according to court records.

Ex-US Embassy staffer accused of drugging, molesting women worked in CIA, FBI urges victims to come forward

Preview: The FBI is urging additional victims of a former U.S. Embassy staffer who has pleaded guilty to abusive sexual conduct of numerous women for 14 years.

150 people arrested, over $31M seized in international drug trafficking sting: Department of Justice

Preview: U.S. and European law enforcement officials have arrested 150 people and seized more than $31 million in an international drug trafficking investigation stemming from sales on the darknet, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Loudoun parents gather for potentially explosive school board meeting after alleged assault revelations

Preview: Parents in Loudoun County are gearing up for a potentially explosive school board meeting on Tuesday, a week after a bombshell email showed that Superintendent Scott Ziegler had notified the school board about an alleged sexual assault in a girls' restroom about a month before he publicly declared that he had no record of bathroom assaults. Tuesday also marks the first school board meeting since Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin called for the resignations of Ziegler and the school board.

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Elon Musk rips Democrats' billionaire tax plan | TheHill - The Hill

Preview: Elon Musk rips Democrats' billionaire tax plan | TheHill  The Hill Democrats Divided Over Tax Proposals to Pay for Budget Bill  The New York Times White House enters ‘hand-to-hand’ combat stage of negotiations  POLITICO David Marcus: Joe Manchin is no moderate – he's a progressive in sheep's clothing  Fox News Is Biden’s entire agenda about to shrink into nothingness?  The Guardian View Full Coverage on Google News

4 takeaways from the Senate child safety hearing with YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok - NPR

Preview: 4 takeaways from the Senate child safety hearing with YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok  NPR Tech executives testify on social media safety  CBS Evening News TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube get earful at hearing on protecting children  Deseret News Rivals struggle to distance themselves from Facebook  POLITICO Social media giants try to distance themselves from Facebook  NBC News View Full Coverage on Google News

Men shot by Rittenhouse can't be called 'victims' during trial, but 'rioters,' 'looters' are OK, judge rules - NBC News

Preview: Men shot by Rittenhouse can't be called 'victims' during trial, but 'rioters,' 'looters' are OK, judge rules  NBC News Kyle Rittenhouse case: Prosecutors can't call wounded men 'victims' during upcoming trial, judge rules  Fox News Judge Rules Video Of Officers Thanking Kyle Rittenhouse Can Be Used At Trial  CBS Chicago Who is the judge in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial?  WISN Milwaukee Men shot by Kyle Rittenhouse can be called 'rioters' and 'looters' but not 'victims,' judge rules  The Washington Post View Full Coverage on Google News

Controversial Democratic IRS bank reporting proposal is likely dead, Manchin says - Yahoo News

Preview: Controversial Democratic IRS bank reporting proposal is likely dead, Manchin says  Yahoo News What could Biden's low poll numbers mean for Virginia's race  CNN After Pelosi complains about media not selling Dems spending bill, CNN promotes 'Build Back Better' plan  Fox News Democrats retreat on spending after failing to get votes for huge tax hikes  Yahoo News Hoyer says deal is imminent, as early as Tuesday | TheHill  The Hill View Full Coverage on Google News

Jelani Day's official cause of death released by coroner - NPR

Preview: Jelani Day's official cause of death released by coroner  NPR Missing Illinois grad student Jelani Day drowned, coroner says  Yahoo News Jelani Day's cause of death was drowning, coroner says  msnNOW U.S. Rep calls on FBI to investigate Jelani Day case  newschannel20.com Missing ISU graduate student Jelani Day drowned: coroner  Chicago Sun-Times View Full Coverage on Google News

'It's absolutely getting worse': Secretaries of state targeted by Trump election lies live in fear for their safety and are desperate for protection - CNN

Preview: 'It's absolutely getting worse': Secretaries of state targeted by Trump election lies live in fear for their safety and are desperate for protection  CNN Arizona officials describe threats following 2020 election | KOMO  KOMO News ‘Tell The Truth Or Your Three Kids Will Be Fatally Shot': Election Officials Detail Threats  Yahoo News Top Arizona elections official says violent threats fueling worker turnover | TheHill  The Hill NOW: AZ Sec of State Katie Hobbs testifies in front of U.S. Senate  ABC15 Arizona View Full Coverage on Google News

This Special Election Is Testing Republican Efforts to Court Latino Voters - The New York Times

Preview: This Special Election Is Testing Republican Efforts to Court Latino Voters  The New York Times Donald Trump won't do the 1 thing Republicans really wish he would  CNN Candidates tied to Jan. 6 create new headaches for Republicans | TheHill  The Hill Column: Republicans happily watch Democrats destroy themselves  Chicago Tribune Juan Williams: Trump is killing American democracy | TheHill  The Hill View Full Coverage on Google News

Ex-Clinton aide Huma Abedin says she was sexually assaulted by US senator but repressed memory for years - The Independent

Preview: Ex-Clinton aide Huma Abedin says she was sexually assaulted by US senator but repressed memory for years  The Independent Huma Abedin claims sex assault by US senator in new book  New York Post Longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin describes sexual assault by US senator  The Guardian Chicago-Based United Airlines, Boeing Step Up In Effort To Get Afghan Refugees To Safer Places  CBS Chicago Huma Abedin, Longtime Hillary Clinton Aide, Says a Senator Sexually Assaulted Her in New Book  The Daily Beast View Full Coverage on Google News

Biden lays into Trump while campaigning for Terry McAuliffe in Virginia - POLITICO

Preview: Biden lays into Trump while campaigning for Terry McAuliffe in Virginia  POLITICO Biden campaigns with McAuliffe ahead of Virginia's gubernatorial election  CBS News Washington Post hits McAuliffe with four Pinocchios for 'wildly' inflating Virginia's coronavirus numbers  foxnews.com The GOP’s Virginia Opening  The Wall Street Journal Matt Gorman: Virginia governor's race hangs on these three issues  Fox News View Full Coverage on Google News

Death of abandoned child found in Texas apartment ruled homicide - The Guardian

Preview: Death of abandoned child found in Texas apartment ruled homicide  The Guardian Texas kids abandoned with skeletal remains of 9-year-old brother fed by neighbors  Fox News Teen left to starve next to decomposing body of boy, 9, texted mom he couldn't take it anymore  Daily Mail Texas mother, boyfriend charged in case of boy's decomposing body and abandoned siblings  KWTX Mother, her boyfriend charged after child's remains found in west Harris County apartment, Sheri...  KPRC 2 Click2Houston View Full Coverage on Google News

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Elon Musk rips Democrats' billionaire tax plan

Preview: Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk ripped the Democratic proposal for an annual tax on billionaires' investment gains on Monday as lawmakers consider the tax as a way to fund the party's multitrillion-dollar reconciliat...

California In-N-Out shut down over vaccine mandate

Preview: An In-N-Out restaurant in Contra Costa County has been shut down for violating the county's coronavirus vaccine mandate.Health officials closed the restaurant Tuesday after it would ...

Dem hopes for infrastructure vote hit brick wall

Preview: Democratic leaders scrambling for an infrastructure vote this week to boost two Democratic gubernatorial candidates hit a brick wall Tuesday, when the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said liberals will oppose...

Apple Wallet now allows users to add COVID-19 vaccine card

Preview: Apple now allows users to add their COVID-19 vaccine card to the Wallet app to easily access their proof of inoculation.The new update came after Apple announced last month that it would ...

Host of Trump social media platform expecting more than 75M users

Preview: The internet infrastructure company that will host former President Trump's new social media platform says it expects the network to have more than 75 million users.RightForge, which is known for hosting conservati...

Sinema backs corporate minimum tax proposal

Preview: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voiced support for a proposal for a minimum tax on corporate profits as her party weighs the measure as a ...

Manchin: 'I think we'll get a framework' deal

Preview: Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), a key negotiator in Democratic talks on President Biden's social spending bill, on Tuesday predicted "I think we'll get a framework" but warned "the devil is in the details."Manchin laid o...

Dave Chappelle says distributors cancelling his documentary

Preview: "This film that I made was invited to every film festival in the United States and some of those invitations I accepted," Chappelle said.

Cleveland Clinic testing breast cancer vaccine

Preview: Researchers at Cleveland Clinic have opened a study for a vaccine seeking to prevent triple-negative breast cancer, which is regarded as the strongest and most deadly form of the disease.The first phase of the tria...

Trump issues endorsement for Bolsonaro

Preview: Former President Trump shared his endorsement for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's reelection amid backlash in Brazil over Bolsonaro's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic."President Jair Bolson...

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Trump Jr. Gets A Reality Check After Comparing U.S. To Communist Czechoslovakia

Preview: Donald Trump Jr. claimed he "waited in breadlines" in Czechoslovakia in the 1980s.

Kimmel Exposes Biggest Anti-Vaxxer 'Pandummies' In Scathing New Supercut Video

Preview: The late-night host called these people coronavirus “misinformation superspreaders.”

Democratic Lawmaker Tells 'Cheap Mistress' Trump What Republicans Say Behind His Back

Preview: Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York tried to goad the former president in an MSNBC interview.

Biden Leans On Specter Of Trump, Jan. 6 In Stump Speech For Virginia Gov. Race

Preview: "I ran against Donald Trump, and Terry’s running against an acolyte of Donald Trump," President Joe Biden said Tuesday.

Marjorie Taylor Greene Claims Declaration Of Independence Justifies Jan. 6 Attack

Preview: The far-right lawmaker said the founding document "says to overthrow tyrants."

California Officer Convicted In Fatal Shooting Of Mentally Ill Man

Preview: A jury found Andrew Hall guilty of assault with a firearm in the 2018 killing of Laudemer Arboleda, an unarmed mentally ill man in a San Francisco suburb.

Chicago Blackhawks GM Resigns, Team Fined After Sexual Assault Probe

Preview: An investigation revealed the hockey team mishandled allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player during the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2010.

Huma Abedin Says In New Book That U.S. Senator Sexually Assaulted Her

Preview: The longtime aide to Hillary Clinton didn't name the senator or his party, the Guardian reports.

Mort Sahl, Pioneering Political Comedian, Dead At 94

Preview: The satirist often ended his routines by inquiring: “Is there any group I haven’t offended yet?”

Facebook Froze As Anti-Vax Comments Swarmed Users

Preview: The social network's response raises questions about whether the company prioritized controversy and division over the health of its users.

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The Moneyist: My former mother-in-law took out a life-insurance policy on my eldest child. I’m enraged. Is that legal?

Preview: 'My ex-husband's mother is a dishonest and conniving individual who will beg, borrow, cheat and steal for her "baby boy" or herself.'

Financial Crime: Ex-tribal police chief guilty of selling badges for $300K to wealthy LA residents — so they could carry concealed weapons

Preview: Anthony Reyes Vazquez deputized a ‘VIP group’ who weren’t expected to do police work, prosecutors said.

What's Worth Streaming: Here’s everything new on Netflix in November 2021 — and what’s leaving

Preview: The live-action 'Cowboy Bebop' is finally here, along with new seasons of 'Tiger King,' 'Big Mouth' and 'Narcos: Mexico,' some star-studded movies and much more

Earnings Results: Robinhood stock falls more than 8% as crypto trading dries up

Preview: Shares of Robinhood Markets Inc. falls more than 8% late Tuesday after the online trading platform reported a wider quarterly loss and lower-than-expected sales, saying lower crypto-related revenue led to "considerably fewer" new funded accounts and dragged quarterly revenue down.

MarketWatch First Take: Apple’s ‘ad-mageddon’ is affecting Snap, Facebook, Google and Twitter differently

Preview: Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Twitter Inc. managed to avoid bigger hits to their revenue in the third quarter from the privacy changes by Apple, with both companies noting that they experienced modest impacts.

Earnings Results: Visa tops earnings expectations, boosts dividend

Preview: Visa Inc. topped earnings expectations for its latest quarter but shares dipped 2.7% in the aftermarket session as the company issued a revenue outlook that struck one analyst as conservative.

: Disneyland hikes ticket prices — on some days it will cost as much as $164 to visit

Preview: Admissions to Disneyland's theme parks increased by more than 8% in some cases.

Economic Report: New home sales soared in September — median sales price of new houses hits record high

Preview: The median-price of a newly-built home continues to set records, month after month.

Dispatches from a Pandemic: Supply-chain disruptions cause some people to panic shop again — but they’re looking beyond toilet paper

Preview: 'There's a lot of anxiety around when you realize that you're depending on this supply chain,' said a new mom who's worried about having enough infant formula.

: Kids under 12 could soon get COVID-19 vaccinations — 5 key questions parents should ask

Preview: 'Most children will not have symptoms severe enough that they need to miss school,' said Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center.

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The Charlottesville trial is barely underway — and it's already making an impact

Preview: Sticks and stones may break bones, but words of coded hate speech from white supremacists can incite violent deadly acts.

House Democrats' fundraising arm releases new ad targeting Trump

Preview: DCCC Chair, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-NY, discusses a new campaign ad targeting former President Trump. Rep. Maloney also discusses the latest in the reconciliation bill and why he expects a deal by next week.

MAGA 'sore loser' fraud playbook tested in VA Gov. race homestretch

Preview: Voters will soon cast their ballots for the next governor of Virginia, an election that will serve as a major test for MAGA politicians and Trumpism. MSNBC’s Ari Melber is joined by political strategist Chai Komanduri to discuss the significance of the race and whether Trumpism can successfully survive without Trump.

The confounding legal hurdles of the Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie cases

Preview: Many questions remain on the particular legal challenges this case continues to present.

How one GOP congressman went from barricading the doors to Jan. 6 apologist

Preview: A week after Jan. 6, Rep. Troy Nehls said he thought Capitol officers would have been justified in shooting more rioters if they had made it through that door he was helping to hold. Now, he’s going on right-wing media accusing the Capitol police of murder.

Herschel Walker endorsements from high-ranking Republicans underscore sad truth

Preview: Herschel Walker, a GOP Senate candidate in Georgia, is racking up endorsements from fellow Republicans, including Donald Trump, despite troubling allegations about his past.

'Cult-like': Riot suspect released over ‘toxic’ environment of jail's Jan. 6 wing

Preview: A Capitol riot suspect was released from jail after his defense lawyer argued that environment was “cult-like” and “toxic.”

Biden's White House rejects Trump's latest bid for Jan. 6 secrecy

Preview: Trump keeps asking the White House to shield Jan. 6 materials from Congress. The White House keeps saying no.

Deficit shrinks in the first year of Joe Biden's presidency

Preview: When it comes to the deficit, we've endured a consistent pattern for four decades. As the deficit shrinks in the Biden era, the pattern remains intact.

Lawmakers facing ethics questions have some explaining to do

Preview: Four sitting House lawmakers are facing ethics investigations, but Rep. Mike Kelly's controversy stands out.

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Ports backlog persists despite Biden promise of longer hours

Preview: The logjam at America's two largest ports has shown no sign of improving, despite President Biden's announcement earlier this month that both facilities were moving to a 24/7 work schedule.

Braves smack Astros in Game 1 of World Series despite losing Charlie Morton

Preview: The Braves won Game 1 of the World Series with a 6-2 victory over Houston at Minute Maid Park despite the loss of Charlie Morton, who was knocked out with a broken leg.

California family almost crushed by Redwood trees in storm

Preview: The trees fell during a huge rainstorm in Kentfield on Sunday and landed in a position where one got wedged between two others.

Woman dismembered and disposed of husband’s dead body to steal retirement benefits: feds

Preview: A Pennsylvania woman dismembered her dead husband's body in 2015 to falsely collect $121,000 of his Social Security benefits -- and then moved to Las Vegas, prosecutors allege.

New-look Heat another measuring-stick test for Nets

Preview: On Wednesday night, The Nets play host to the new-look Heat, who represent another good measuring stick.

Kobe Bryant’s wife Vanessa wins ruling, LA County officials to testify about crash pictures

Preview: A federal judge granted Vanessa Bryant's request to force the Los Angeles County sheriff and fire chief to answer questions about the pictures first responders snapped at the site of the 2020 crash that killed her husband Kobe, daughter Gianna, and seven others.

New York school district bans ‘Squid Game’ Halloween costumes

Preview: New York-area elementary schools have banned costumes from the hit Netflix show "Squid Game" over its "potential violent nature."

Man arrested for threatening Rep. Matt Gaetz

Preview: A California man was busted for threatening to kill Rep. Matt Gaetz and shoot his children in a profanity-laced phone message to the Florida congressman’s office, reports said.

Knicks will win many games if they play like they did in this one

Preview: The shooting? That part will come and that part will go. We saw that on stark display the last two Knicks games, both against the Magic. In Orlando, they were like a team full of happy hour pop-a-shot champs. In New York it looked like they were trying to force a medicine ball into a...

Mobsters, brawlers and notoriety: Danbury Trashers left a mark on hockey

Preview: A.J. Galante was 17 years old when his father, Jimmy, dubbed “the real-life Tony Soprano,” gifted him a minor league hockey team named the Danbury Trashers in 2004. Just two years later, his father, also the head honcho of a garbage removal empire with suspected mafia ties, was indicted on several charges, which included defrauding...

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Democrats Hammer Out Plan to Tax Billionaires and Corporate Giants

Preview: New proposals would fund social and climate programs by tapping billionaires’ unrealized gains and by ensuring that the biggest companies cannot avoid income taxes altogether.

Manchin Is in the Middle, With Biden’s Agenda in the Balance

Preview: Democrats, including President Biden, are lobbying for Senator Joe Manchin III’s support, knowing he is a crucial swing vote on their domestic agenda.

F.D.A. Panel Recommends Vaccine for Children 5 to 11

Preview: Covid-19 was “the eighth-highest killer of kids in this age group over the past year,” said a C.D.C. official in favor of broader authorization.

Mexico Resists Vaccinating Children Despite Court Order

Preview: President Andrés Manuel López Obrador dismissed the ruling as “not definitive” and hinted at challenging the decision. Catch up on Covid-19 news.

Your Questions About Covid Vaccine Dosage for Children, Answered

Preview: We turned to five experts to answer these frequently-asked questions.

This Special Election Is Testing Republican Efforts to Court Latino Voters

Preview: The contest to fill a vacant State House seat in South Texas has exposed the vulnerabilities of a Democratic stronghold.

Why McAuliffe Isn’t Mentioning Biden in Virginia Governor Race

Preview: Terry McAuliffe attacks Trump, but avoids talking about his Democratic ally in the White House — pointing up a vulnerability for the party next Tuesday, and beyond.

Why Poland Would Rather Keep E.U. Money Than Break With Bloc

Preview: Despite the flame-throwing rhetoric of their leaders, conservative supporters of Poland’s ruling party are dependent on millions of euros in aid, and don’t want to risk it.

Atlanta Blasts Its Way to a Win, but Loses an Ace

Preview: The Braves’ offense pounded Houston’s Framber Valdez, but Atlanta will have to scramble after Charlie Morton was knocked out of the remainder of the World Series.

Atlanta Beats Houston in Game 1 of World Series

Preview: Atlanta scored five runs in the first three innings, but the season ended for its starting pitcher, Charlie Morton, who fractured his right fibula.

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Watching Democrats Negotiate This Bill Has Become a Soul-Crushing Experience

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Biden’s plan to make your internet cheaper and better is one step closer

Preview: Jessica Rosenworcel, seen here at a protest against the net neutrality repeal, is the new permanent chair of the FCC. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Net neutrality is back on the table. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates everything from TV to internet service providers in the United States, is finally poised to pursue the pro-competition, pro-consumer agenda that President Joe Biden laid out in a July executive order that declared that an array of US companies have become too big and need to have their power checked. It took over nine months, but Biden has picked the FCC’s chair and nominated someone to fill the long-vacant fifth spot for a fifth commissioner. Jessica Rosenworcel, who has served as acting chair since January, will continue to lead as the agency’s permanent chair; she was also nominated for a new term, which would be her third. And Biden nominated Gigi Sohn, a former FCC staffer and prominent advocate for an open and affordable internet, to fill the agency’s last spot. Assuming the confirmations go through, which is expected because Democrats control the Senate, the biggest change to watch for is that the FCC will finally have the Democratic majority it needs to bring back Obama-era net neutrality rules, which have become a hugely divisive issue between Democrats and Republicans. “It’s the honor of a lifetime to be designated to serve as FCC chair,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. Obama’s FCC passed net neutrality in 2015. It’s best known as the rule that forces internet service providers, or ISPs (Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T, for instance), to treat all of the data that travels across their networks equally. Under those rules, these companies couldn’t charge more if customers go to certain sites or make their internet speeds faster or slower depending on where they go and the services they use. The term net neutrality was coined by Tim Wu, who, incidentally, is currently serving as Biden’s adviser on technology and competition policy. Net neutrality opponents believe the rule stifles innovation and discourages internet service providers from investing in their networks. In order to pass net neutrality, the FCC reclassified broadband from an information service to a common carrier, like telephone service. That then gave the FCC more regulatory power over it. The reclassification also allowed the FCC to make new privacy rules that ISPs had to get customers’ permission before collecting and sharing their data, such as their web browsing histories. When Trump took office, his FCC, chaired by Ajit Pai, quickly set about repealing net neutrality and re-reclassifying broadband as an information service. Those ISP privacy protections never went into effect, and internet service providers were able to continue to collect, sell, or share customer data — which they very much do, per a recent FTC report. The feared onslaught of extra charges to access certain websites or blocking others didn’t come when net neutrality was repealed, but the FCC effectively ceded much of its control over broadband providers and services as they became an increasingly essential part of Americans’ lives. Biden said in his executive order that he wants the FCC to bring net neutrality back. But he took a surprisingly long time to nominate the commissioners he’d need to make that happen. Since Biden took office, the FCC has been deadlocked at two Republican commissioners (Nathan Simington, who was confirmed in the waning days of Trump’s presidency, and Brendan Carr) and two Democrats (Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks). “The real issue is this: We’ve already lost a year,” Harold Feld, senior vice president at open internet advocacy group Public Knowledge, told Recode. Feld worked for Sohn when she was the CEO of Public Knowledge, which she co-founded. The 2-2 FCC has done a lot of work over the last nine months to expand broadband internet and put programs in place to help lower-income people afford it (Sohn is also big on this, telling Recode last year that affordability is the biggest hurdle to closing the digital divide). The pandemic made it obvious that broadband internet access was no longer a luxury, it is an essential service. But there was no way a deadlocked FCC was going to pass net neutrality. As months went by with no apparent action on naming a permanent chair or appointing a fifth commissioner, Democrats began to lose patience. On September 22, 25 Democratic senators wrote a letter to Biden urging him to name Rosenworcel as the permanent chair “as quickly as possible.” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who was one of the signees, said in a statement to Recode that she strongly supports the two nominations, adding: “Strong leadership at the FCC is essential to deliver on the connectivity goals our 21st-century economy demands. … I am confident that both Rosenworcel and Sohn have the expertise needed to close the digital divide and strengthen our nation for generations to come.” Rep. Anna Eshoo, who told Recode back in January that Rosenworcel was her pick for FCC chair, lauded Biden’s picks as “historic,” noting that Rosenworcel is the first woman to serve as the FCC’s permanent chair and Sohn will be its first openly LGBTQ+ commissioner. “Rosenworcel and Sohn are brilliant champions for innovation, public safety, national security, universal broadband, net neutrality, and social justice,” Eshoo said. Assuming Biden’s nominations go through, the FCC will have three commissioners who are on record as staunch advocates of net neutrality, which makes an attempt to bring it back almost a certainty. Starks has called it a “critical issue” that the FCC “dropped the ball” on when it was repealed. Rosenworcel was an FCC commissioner back in 2015 when net neutrality initially passed, and she voted for it; she was an opponent of its repeal, saying it “put the agency on the wrong side of the public, the wrong side of history, and the wrong side of the law.” And Sohn was the counselor to Obama-era FCC chair Tom Wheeler when net neutrality was passed. She’s consistently pushed for its reinstatement, saying in 2019 that it’s “critically important to the future of the Internet that net neutrality and important FCC oversight get reinstated.” “The FCC can now return to being a champion for consumers,” Wheeler told Recode. “Gigi Sohn is a proven and tested consumer champion; together with Geoffrey Starks, Chair-designate Rosenworcel has the opportunity to reverse the practices of the Trump years and return the agency to its consumer and competition responsibilities.” But net neutrality won’t happen immediately, even under the best circumstances. “It takes a long time to get an FCC order written,” Feld said. “It’s a very complicated process. Particularly for something like this, where there’s going to be a lawsuit, and it’s going to be contentious.” Net neutrality isn’t the only thing the FCC will likely take back up from the Obama era. The Biden order also called on the FCC to bring back the “broadband nutrition label” that would clearly spell out for consumers how much they pay for their broadband internet service (including all those hidden fees) and the speeds they get for that money. The FCC will also likely take more action on consumer protection and competition matters, Feld said. Biden’s order asked the FCC to require broadband providers to tell the agency their rates and subscriber counts, ban early termination fees that keep customers locked in, and stop landlords from making deals with cable and broadband companies that restrict tenants’ choice in providers. Feld expects those measures will bring broadband prices down. While broadband rates vary across the country, the United States, on average, pays more for internet than most of the rest of the world. The FCC is also in the process of opening up more radio frequencies, or spectrum, for 5G services, improving its flawed broadband maps, and ridding us of the scourge of robocalls and texts. It remains to be seen whether the FCC has enough time to see all of Biden’s initiatives — and those of the now permanent chair — through the House and the Senate. His slow path to getting his FCC in place might have squandered the possibly limited time it will have if Democrats lose control of Congress next year and the presidency in 2024. Still, Feld thinks the FCC will go back to its traditionally lower-profile role — “the technical and boring stuff.” “I say this as the ultimate compliment: Jessica Rosenworcel is the wonkiest, nerdiest possible choice for FCC chair,” Feld said. “Which is exactly what you want.”

Immigrants could fix the US labor shortage

Preview: Construction workers in Glenwood Landing, New York, in May 2020. The construction industry has seen the largest relative increase in job postings since 2019 and relies on immigrant workers. | J. Conrad Williams, Jr./Newsday RM via Getty Images The US has more jobs than it can fill. Fixing the immigration system could boost the economy. Companies across the United States can’t find enough employees. One immediate solution is simple: Bring in more foreign workers. The US needs roughly 10 million people, including low-wage and high-skilled workers, to fill job openings nationwide — and only 8.4 million Americans are actively seeking work. And despite job openings hitting historic highs in July and extended unemployment benefits ending in September, Americans aren’t returning to work, especially in low-wage industries. At the same time, workers are resigning in record numbers. And though consumer spending has surged this year, businesses don’t have the people to meet demand — to cope, some companies are raising their prices. Supply chain bottlenecks are even threatening to ruin Christmas. When the economy is fragile, there’s an instinct to shut borders to protect American workers. And indeed, that’s what the US has done during the pandemic, practically bringing legal immigration to a halt and closing the southern border to migrants and asylum seekers. In a normal year, the US welcomes roughly 1 million immigrants, and roughly three-quarters of them end up participating in the labor force. In 2020, that number dropped to about 263,000. Generally, economic research has shown that the arrival of low-wage foreign workers has little to no negative impact on native-born workers’ wages or employment. And under the current circumstances, welcoming more low-wage foreign workers could address acute labor shortages in certain industries, helping hard-hit areas of the country recover while staving off higher inflation. The industries currently facing the worst labor shortages include construction; transportation and warehousing; accommodation and hospitality; and personal services businesses like salons, dry cleaners, repair services, and undertakers. All four industries had increases in job postings of more than 65 percent when comparing the months of May to July 2019 to the same time period in 2021, according to an analysis conducted for Vox by the pro-immigration New American Economy think tank. Immigrants make up at least 20 percent of the workforce in those industries. Officially, immigrants account for nearly a quarter of construction workers, though that’s likely an undercount because many construction workers are hired informally and don’t appear in standard economic statistics. Informal economy workers have suffered during the pandemic: On average, 1.6 billion of them worldwide saw an estimated 62 percent decline in income during the first months of the crisis. Tony Rader, senior vice president of National Roofing Partners, said his construction company — which provides commercial roof maintenance and repair services across 200 locations nationwide — is one of those struggling to hire enough workers to meet sky-high demand. “It is beyond belief, the amount of work that is out there to do right now,” Rader said. “We are nowhere near 100 percent staffing. You can’t find an estimator right now. You can’t find a project manager right now. It’s very, very difficult to hire good people.” In the absence of willing and available American workers, the company has hired temporary immigrant workers on H-2 visas. So, too, have many other employers in the roofing industry, where immigrants make up 29 percent of the workforce and there are more job openings than job seekers. Rader said his company would “support the expansion of the [H-2] program” and hopes that businesses like his will have the opportunity to “work with the Biden administration to get this fixed in a positive manner.” “The upside of the shortage is that you’re seeing wages go up, which is fabulous for American workers,” said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of New American Economy. “The downside is if you can’t get workers to come fill these roles, you can’t run businesses.” For many people who worked undesirable or low-paying jobs before the pandemic, the economy’s seeming abundance of employment options and bargaining power is an improvement in circumstances. But economists worry the worker shortage is so drastic that it will threaten economic growth overall and perhaps lead to higher inflation. The federal government can’t force people to work. But it can make it easier for immigrants to fill needed roles — and avoiding economic problems as the US works its way out of the pandemic recession is a good reason to do so. The case for bringing in more foreign workers The economic recovery from the pandemic has been uneven, across income levels certainly, but also geographically. Pockets of the country reliant on tourism, for example, were hit especially hard. Other parts of the country have been slower to recover in part because of “stickiness” in the labor market — people who have laid roots in areas where there are no jobs aren’t always able to move to places where “help wanted” signs are everywhere. Bringing in more foreign workers would help both problems. Low-wage workers, many of whom have been deemed “essential” during the pandemic, are particularly important to ensuring that those places can bounce back. According to an analysis by the Brookings Institute, low-wage workers make up between 30 and 62 percent of the jobs in nearly 400 metropolitan areas nationwide and are the backbone of “Main Street” businesses that support jobs for others and make neighborhoods attractive places to live and work. Steve Pfost/Newsday RM via Getty Images A “Help Wanted” sign hangs in the window of Gino’s Pizza on Main Street in Patchogue, New York on August 24. Increasingly, Americans don’t want to do these jobs. Immigrants have already seized the opportunity to fill that void, especially in the industries seeing the largest increases in job postings amid the pandemic. Given that these industries already lean disproportionately on immigrants, they are well positioned to capitalize on policies increasing the supply of immigrant labor. As Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, Nobel prize-winning economists at MIT, write in their book Good Economics for Hard Times, immigrants are highly mobile and willing to go where there is opportunity. The US could encourage those tendencies by introducing economic incentives, such as giving immigrants a small, one-time “transition grant” if they settle in areas with labor shortages, Banerjee said. “I do think that getting a bunch of people who would work hard and could be deployed to the right places would be actually great, in particular if they could be sent to the areas where there are supply bottlenecks,” Banerjee said. But Banerjee said that’s only a short-term solution to the immediate labor shortage problem and should be paired with efforts to help workers already in the US who continue to suffer from unemployment and an unequal economic recovery from the pandemic. Democrats’ stalled $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which is essentially a big jobs program, would be a start. (A companion bill under debate would offer family supports that could help people get back to work, although some benefits won’t kick in right away.) There have also long been worker shortages across skilled industries, ranging from health care to technology, that hold back economic growth and innovation. In general, foreign-born workers in those sectors have more potential to displace Americans than low-wage workers because they’re highly specialized. That potential tradeoff makes the argument for bringing in more high-skilled immigrants less clear-cut, Banerjee said. But during the pandemic, demand for high-skilled workers continued unabated, and a June report by New American Economy found that employers requested foreign workers in computer and mathematics-related fields at a slightly higher rate than usual. “The pandemic has had a limited negative effect on the growth of industries that often rely on high-skilled foreign workers due to chronic labor shortages,” the report says. “Failure to enable employers to fill critical workforce gaps hampers their ability to fulfill their economic potential, stymieing economic growth nationwide.” Ultimately, the US needs roughly 10 million people, including both low-wage and high-skilled workers, to fill job openings nationwide. Immigrants are willing to fill these jobs, are willing to go where the jobs are, are willing to do so now. Bringing them to the US would solve a labor shortage Americans have been unable to fix on their own, and would speed up the course of the country’s economic recovery. The only thing stopping all this from happening is US policy. How to bring in more foreign workers One of the only existing visa programs designed to bring in low-wage workers is the H-2 program, which allows employers to hire seasonal workers in industries ranging from tourism to fishing. The program is capped at 66,000 temporary foreign workers a year, though agricultural workers are exempt from that cap. The Department of Homeland Security can increase that allotment by up to 64,000 additional visas annually without any act of Congress. The Biden administration opted to add an additional 22,000 visas earlier this year, and could add even more going forward. Brent Stirton/Getty Images H-2A visa farm laborers from Fresh Harvest maintain a safe distance as a machine is moved in Greenfield, California on April 27, 2020. Fresh Harvest is one of the largest employers of people using the H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa in the US. But there are some limitations of the H-2 program. While it helps businesses meet demand in peak periods, many of the industries currently facing shortages require more workers year-round. And while it gives immigrants a means of working in the US legally on a temporary basis, they have little assurance of their ability to remain in the country long-term. That’s why it’s also important for the US to use the maximum number of green cards that it can issue annually, and why Congress might consider increasing those numbers. In 2021, the US failed to issue some 80,000 green cards due to processing delays. All of those will now go to waste, and cannot be recovered for next year. Those green cards should have gone to family members of US citizens and permanent residents, many of whom have faced years-long backlogs. Many of them might not otherwise be eligible for employment-based visas requiring certain skills or educational levels, but could fill low-wage labor shortages. The same is true of immigrants coming to the US through humanitarian channels such as asylum or the refugee program, and through diversity visas, which are issued to individuals from countries with low levels of immigration to the US. “I tend to be very skeptical of the argument that migration policy should be based principally on skills, and think the benefits will accrue at all levels,” said Deepak Bhargava, a CUNY labor studies professor and author of Immigration Matters: Visions, Strategies and Movements for a Progressive Future. “We ought to open all four channels of migration — humanitarian, economic, family and diversity — and will see benefits of it.” To make all of those channels more accessible, the Biden administration has to reverse restrictive policies that former President Donald Trump put in place and remove bureaucratic roadblocks. That includes rescinding the federal government’s pandemic-era border policy and ramping up the US’s refugee resettlement capacity. The Biden administration should also fully reopen the many consulates that remain closed, or open with limited services, due to the pandemic to ensure immigrants can be interviewed and processed abroad in a timely manner. That would go a long way in addressing lengthy backlogs for visas and green cards. Doing so would likely require additional funding for the State Department, which oversees the consulates, as well as a greater level of visa and green card prioritization from US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes applications stateside. There is a limit to how much the Biden administration can do unilaterally to increase America’s capacity to accept immigrants. Raising immigration levels beyond what they were before the pandemic and Trump would likely require action from Congress. “What’s really required is a rewrite of the country’s immigration laws that sets a much larger target for admissions under all the categories and probably adds a fifth category for climate migrants, which is going to be an increasingly large part of the flow that we see from the Southern Hemisphere in the coming decade,” Bhargava said. “So ultimately, this is going to require a new political consensus.”

One Good Thing: A book that treats The Real Housewives as an academic text

Preview: Five Housewives ‘OG’s — Vicki Gunvalson, Ramona Singer, NeNe Leakes, Kyle Richards, and Teresa Giudice — with Andy Cohen during a taping of Watch What Happens Live. | Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images Why be so nasty and so rude when you could read this book about The Real Housewives? When my friends and I get together to watch various installments of the Real Housewives franchises on Bravo, we analyze the women with a level of scrutiny and close reading that I most associate with a college English class. There’s so much to unpack, and so many layers to work with. Take the currently airing season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, for example, where the drama has mainly focused around the ongoing legal woes of Erika Girardi, a sixth-season Housewife who, up to this point, was mostly known as an astute glam-barbie with a passion for spending and a scary temper. This season, over the course of about a dozen episodes, Erika divorces her husband seemingly out of nowhere, and paints a picture of their marriage that is far different from rosy past descriptions. She contends with questions from the other Housewives as information comes out that her husband has allegedly stolen millions of dollars from the widows and orphans he represented as a lawyer. Her conspicuously glamorous lifestyle is potentially funded with said money, creating a meta tension between how much she knew and how she comes off. As such, Erika has given varyingly successful “performances” as the out-of-the-know wife, aggrieved party, and woman under investigation. My friends and I discuss and dissect it all. Erika’s behavior can be analyzed to try to glean her interior feelings, legal advice, and need to remain under contract and earn a paycheck. The other Housewives’ belief in Erika, concerns over their own reputations, and subtle attempts to predict which way the fans will go can be similarly scrutinized. I don’t think I could truly articulate the profundity and joy of the exercise of watching the Real Housewives until I read Brian Moylan’s The Housewives: The Real Story Behind the Real Housewives, a comprehensive volume that gives Bravo fans and the Bravo-curious juicy behind-the-scenes insight into some of the most explosive moments in the franchise’s history, an inside look at how these TV shows get made, and an impassioned defense of why we watch reality television. Moylan, a longtime Vulture recapper, released the book earlier this year. Throughout its chapters, he uses interviews from producers, publicists, and academics to delve into what makes the Housewives so inherently watchable, and to explain why being a fan should no longer be treated as a guilty pleasure. He poses a well-researched sociological defense of the Real Housewives franchise as an academic text that invites even reality TV skeptics to take an interest — and the book is full of recommendations for those who have never seen the shows. “You want to talk Method acting?” Moylan writes. “How about living your actual life on-screen, walking the tightrope between high drama and real emotional stakes, knowing that if you don’t do it right your days on camera are numbered?” Moylan approaches the franchise from every angle. If you’re a longtime Bravo fan, you’ll find fascinating bits of gossip, from the casting of the shows to which Housewives are pleasurable or difficult to work with. But even for non-fans, there’s plenty in the book to elucidate the psychology and mechanics of creating these shows. Moylan dives into the history of soap opera and reality television — the mother and father of the Housewives franchises, respectively — to explain how Bravo borrows from and expands their traditions. He traces an interesting path of the depiction of lowercase-h housewives on television, where the dissatisfaction of 1950s-era domesticity has been replaced by the hallmark hollowness that often chases these women through bad marriages, girlboss feminism, and conspicuous consumption. The book is strongest when it takes on the mantle of defending reality television as an enterprise, and for that reason, I’m recommending it to anyone interested not just in the genre but in so many of the themes that pop up in these shows: late-stage capitalism, class, and the nature of reality among them. Watching the Housewives involves judging the women for how well they are bridging the gap between how they would like to be perceived and how they actually come across, appraising their performances of likability, relatability, and comedy. The delusion is part of the appeal — New York’s Sonja Morgan, who still discusses her long-dead marriage to a banking tycoon as present and pretext, is, to me, a classic Edith Wharton character. The show chronicles Sonja’s fall from social grace over many bankruptcies and failed businesses, her long dating history on the Upper East Side, and her increasingly futile attachment to the symbols that once defined her life as a member of the Morgan family. It makes her a fascinating sociological study, but more than that — and Moylan never lets this point get too far away — it makes watching her antics, from her drunken lows to her fleeting moments of growth, much more fun than reading The House of Mirth. There’s so much that the Real Housewives franchise has in common with acclaimed prestige television shows. The women who populate its shows are never purely good or purely bad, and it’s the shades of gray that make them captivating. I can empathize with Atlanta’s Kenya Moore when she was unfairly blamed for instigating a physical fight between badly behaved Househusbands who skirted accountability, while still believing she intentionally provokes many of her cast mates. The ways the Housewives navigate class are reminiscent of any HBO drama about billionaires. The ones who live above their means, like Beverly Hills’ Dorit Kemsley, are so obviously and fascinatingly grifting their way into some form of societal recognition. Those who do have money, like Dorit’s cast mate Kyle Richards, cannot use it to escape the fundamental darkness of her family, which, despite desperate attempts to appear functional, seeps out in iconic moments like the season one fight in which Kyle outed her sister, fellow cast mate Kim, as dealing with alcoholism. Moylan suggests that these illusions populating Housewives’ ideas about money show viewers that class can be a fallacy, too. For me, the book crystallized all of its ideas at the end, where, in back-to-back chapters, Moylan presents an academic defense of the Housewives and offers up theories for why we watch. From a feminist perspective, the Housewives offer a depiction of middle-aged female friendship and relationships that you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. There are fascinating readings of the racial implications of Housewives, which Moylan gets into, such as adjudicating whether the franchise’s representation of Black women is positive or negative, whether that matters, and how Bravo polices violence on shows with Black casts versus white casts. “Instead of asking whether one scene or character is good or bad representation, viewers should be asking why these shows delight or disgust us,” he writes. Finally, Moylan interviews academics who place Housewives at the forefront of a new economic order, in which these women sell themselves — their relevance, their visibility, and their ability to be entertaining — as part of a broader creator and gig economy, in which their ability to get their contracts renewed hinges on how fresh their self-performance is. That very dichotomy creates the level of self-production that makes the shows so captivating and often feeds the drama, as was the case with Beverly Hills alum Lisa Vanderpump, who manipulated cast members and storylines to the point that her behind-the-scenes maneuvering became season nine’s central plot. The whole enterprise raises fascinating questions that Moylan can’t quite answer: Who owns the myriad of catchphrases, GIFs, and even the likenesses that make the shows so ubiquitous? The women who said or did them? The audience, who run meme accounts and Etsy shops promoting them? Or Bravo itself, which he points out keeps a tight grip on what aspects of their fame the Housewives are allowed to monetize. None of these questions, as central as they are to probing late-stage capitalism, are given the weight in society that Moylan allows in this book. Housewives are often watched and discussed with the same fervor as sports, but are looked down upon because they are primarily the purview of women and gay men. Moylan suggests that by considering viewership a guilty pleasure, we’re upholding the patriarchy that devalues women’s interests in the first place. I found that attitude empowering. These women are neither girlbosses nor villains. They are Real Housewives. It’s no less real to sell a performance of yourself than stocks or consulting or whatever it is that important men do, and it’s no less degrading to care. I know I’ll never find myself in the kinds of debates the Housewives have, from competing with my frenemy to produce a better booty workout video (Atlanta, season five) to arguing over how big of a slight it is to say your friend smells like a hospital (Salt Lake City, season one). But the Housewives provide a sociological and feminist lens through which to view the various insensitivities and dynamics that inevitably crop up in friend groups, the economy in which I work, and the various ways we perform our personalities for a chance at success — and they’re just really fun. So next time someone criticizes me for my fandom, Moylan taught me to use the most Housewife defense of all: You’re wrong, and actually, I’m better than you. The Housewives is available everywhere books are sold. For more recommendations from the world of culture, check out the One Good Thing archives.

The “ghost stores” of Instagram

Preview: It’s easier than ever to set up an online store. Customers are often paying extra money for goods sourced from marketplace sites like Amazon or AliExpress. | Getty Images That cute dress you bought off Instagram could be found on Shein, AliExpress, or Amazon for much cheaper. A few months ago, I came across a fashion brand on Instagram that purported to be a Los Angeles-based, woman-owned boutique. The tagline on its Instagram bio, “Alteration is innovation,” suggested that the brand championed clothing alteration and sold clothes that were upcycled or crafted out of old and discarded fabrics. The only red flag was the price of its clothes, which ranged from $60 to $150. These weren’t fast fashion prices, but they seemed suspiciously low for handcrafted garments. A quick reverse image search of the brand’s products confirmed my doubts. The Google results took me to another Instagram boutique as well as to AliExpress, a Chinese marketplace site, where the exact pieces (with the same promotional images) were sold for less than half of the stated price. I was stunned. The quirky styles and marketing had led me to think that the brand produced and designed its own clothes, rather than sourcing pre-made styles from overseas manufacturers. Instead, like the many, many other “ghost stores” floating around the Instagram abyss, it appeared to be just another cog — albeit a barely identifiable one — in the fast fashion machine. (The brand did not reply to requests for comment.) Instagram has spent years tweaking its interface, priming users to shop on the app. Its transformation into a shopping destination was swift, sudden, and hardly surprising. This paved the way for a specific type of online business, or “Insta boutique,” to thrive. These shops don’t always sell goods exclusively on Instagram; they rely on the app to draw customers to their websites, through influencer marketing or targeted ads. And while more people are turning to social media to find new products and brands, shoppers have also grown wary. People are realizing that certain brands aren’t exactly what they market themselves to be: independent, ethically-minded stores run by small business owners and designers. In some cases, shoppers are finding out that they paid at least double the price of a garment found on marketplace sites like YesStyle, Amazon, and AliExpress, or from the Chinese fast fashion retailer Shein. For example, a Business Insider reporter purchased two dresses for about $34 each from It’s Juliet, an Instagram boutique that claims to sell “ethically made” clothing, only to discover the exact same styles on AliExpress for $10 each. What’s concerning for customers is the origins of the merchandise in question. While some brands are clearly snapping up items from places like Amazon or Shein and reselling them for profit, others appear to be engaging in a practice where they don’t have merchandise on hand at all, called “drop shipping.” (Granted, not all stores on Instagram fall into this category. There are plenty of reputable, small artisans and business owners earning a living through the app.) These virtual storefronts are what I refer to as “ghost stores:” faceless, indistinguishable enterprises with few original products. These merchants rarely disclose the nuances of their business models. Even those that do vaguely impart some information to shoppers aren’t immune from consumer blowback either. That’s because the entrepreneurs behind these brands are savvy at constructing a digital facade. They’ve learned to gain customers’ trust through relentless social media marketing or by manufacturing a convincingly vague “brand story” that reveals minimal information about founders and workers. The draw of these “ghost stores” is predicated on somewhat ineffable factors. We buy from the brands we do because we connect with some element of the business, whether it be over superficial factors like unique clothing designs or something more identity-driven and moralistic, like sustainability. When we learn that a company isn’t much more than the story it’s telling — that it exists for purely profitable reasons — it can feel misleading. It is, of course, in every brand’s best interest to spin a narrative that attracts customers. One could argue that the entire retail industry is built on some level of deception. Customers, too, haven’t traditionally cared about where or how their stuff is made. After all, plenty of reputable retailers have a history of sourcing from the same factories and suppliers, while resorting to white labeling, or rebranding, their items to disguise this fact. Still, the illusion of difference and exclusiveness is comforting. It cements a sense of loyalty between the customer and the brand. Back when we did most of our shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, this pretension felt believable. Now, all it takes is a simple Google search for the facade to fall apart. Capitalism defined: All stores in U.S. do this; order wholesale clothing from over seas or have made in bulk for pennies & price it up 200-500% for resale. From IG Boutiques, to Macy’s. Small businesses aren’t scamming you, you’re just learning the inside of the retail industry. — Corrinn The Creative (@beautyboxstyle) August 26, 2021 To be clear, reselling and drop shipping are not illegal or inherently nefarious practices, although factors like product quality and authentication come into question. Drop shipping is actually a decades-old fulfillment model initially used by furniture and appliance sellers. Merchants list products for sale without having any of the inventory on hand. The merchant is in agreement with manufacturers to purchase the products at lower wholesale prices, which allows them to mark up the cost for profit. When an item is sold, the drop shipper coordinates with the supplier to send the goods directly to the customer. It’s often a process the merchant has no control over, and items can take weeks or months to arrive. Other ghost stores carry limited merchandise on hand and store it in a studio or warehouse. These virtual brands aren’t exactly drop shippers, since they have access to inventory. Still, they tend to buy wholesale from suppliers, like Shein or AliExpress, that work with drop shippers. The Instagram clothing store I encountered, for example, displays photos and videos of its Los Angeles studio and showroom, and occasionally features workers handling and shipping out garments. This is at odds with how its clothes are largely indistinguishable from that of EAM, an AliExpress store and supplier, and other Instagram boutiques. Reproducibility is a telltale sign that these brands source from the same suppliers, even while they feign authenticity and originality. The muddied similarities between various online stores, made possible by the rise of shoppable social media and mass production of goods, reveal the reality of these ventures. It lays bare what the writer Jenny O’Dell described as “the categorical deception at the heart of all branding and retail.” Consumers are starting to notice and question, for example, why they’re seeing the same pair of pants everywhere, just with a different brand label slapped on. The purchase starts to feel like a scam, even if it isn’t quite. Lisa Fevral, an artist from Canada who produces video essays on fashion and culture, has grown suspicious of a particular genre of small Instagram boutiques, selling trendy clothing styles and aggressively promoting targeted ads. In a recent video, Fevral referred to them as “doppelganger brands.” They have names like Cider, Kollyy, Omighty, Emmiol, and Juicici, and in her opinion appeared to sell clothes from the same Chinese suppliers. (Fevral was initially approached by a representative from Cider to promote the brand, but said she turned down the offer.) What worries Fevral, though, is the effort put into greenwashing their brands to deceive credulous customers. “These companies are clearly targeting young women, but it seems like they’re trying to adjust their language to appear more sustainable or ethical while not changing much about their practices,” Fevral told me. “There’s no way any company can keep up with TikTok styles and trends unless they are producing a lot of very cheap clothing.” Cider, which Business of Fashion has described as “the next Shein,” received $22 million of venture capital investment in June to expand its operations. On Cider’s “about us” page, it claims to be a “globally-minded, social-first” brand that reduces waste by operating under a preorder model and “only [produces] specific styles we know people want in a controlled amount.” Its CEO also told Business of Fashion that Cider places orders for small batches of styles. Yet customers have claimed to find copies of its clothes on AliExpress for slightly lower prices, which suggests that Cider — or its suppliers — might be producing and selling extra garments elsewhere. (Cider did not respond to requests for comment over email or Instagram.) @madeline_pendleton Answer to @gorygorygirlfriend ♬ original sound - Madeline Pendleton “It’s so easy for a brand to add another section in its about page to make you feel better about supporting them,” Fevral said. “Cider reached out to me even after I made the video [about its greenwashing practices]. These brands don’t care.” It doesn’t really matter whether sites like Cider are drop shippers or merchants with access to wholesale merchandise. They’re not breaking any laws. In fact, the conspicuousness of the entire enterprise — how exact replicas of certain products can be found on other retail sites for comparable prices — is a defining quality of capitalism. What happens if a brand’s reputation is sullied? Its architects can simply rename it, start over, and continue to source from the same places. One frustrated shopper, who purchased a pleather jacket from a seemingly real German label, remarked that these “scams are getting so sophisticated” that people should be wary of buying things from digital brands they’ve never heard of. Good morning! Instagram/Facebook clothing company scams are getting so sophisticated that if you don’t want to fall for one, you basically just can’t buy from digital brands you’ve never heard of. Signed, bozo who fell for the “Mark & Morten” “going out of business sale” — Anna Sproul-Latimer (@annasproul) August 13, 2020 That’s because there is basically no friction to constructing a virtual storefront, even if it is essentially a digital facade. An aspiring retailer only needs a few things: a website, a catchy domain name, an active social media presence, and product suppliers. (Shein is a preeminent example of this kind of direct-to-consumer retailer, and has morphed into a drop shipping supplier itself.) Several lesser-known brands with murky roots have emerged in Shein’s shadow, offering comparably affordable prices and replicable clothing styles. Like Shein and other ultra-fast fashion retailers, these brands release new styles every week, leaning into fashion “micro-trends” inspired by trendy internet aesthetics, like dark academia, cottagecore, or coconut girl. Since the internet has a notoriously short attention span, these trend-based clothes aren’t made to last. In the mission to produce and sell as many clothes as possible, these “ghost stores” are constructing a fashion monoculture — one in which consumers are basically buying and wearing the same clothes, just sold to them from different boutiques. So, is it even possible to tell these brands apart from more reputable retailers? Some shoppers suggest reverse image-searching products and clothes before an impulse purchase, while others sleuth on fashion forums, like Reddit, for customer reviews. It requires the consumer to be diligent and vigilant, to do their homework when encountering new brands, especially if they’re touting questionable origin stories or vague “About Us” pages. The moral of the story? Brands, especially when they operate online, are not always what they seem.

What happens when your favorite thing goes viral?

Preview: The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle performing in 2015. | C Brandon/Redferns A 2002 song by the Mountain Goats about a doomed divorce is suddenly big on TikTok. Why? Nobody is quite sure when or why it happened. But as of the past few weeks, the Mountain Goats became TikTok’s new favorite indie band. This is weird not because young people are discovering music that predates their existence. That happens all the time, especially on TikTok, where at any point there is guaranteed to be at least five trending ABBA songs. And it’s not weird because the song that made the Mountain Goats go viral is “No Children,” an incredibly dark divorce anthem between two fictional lovers. Weird and dark stuff gets big all the time on the platform; last year a six-hour experimental album about dementia became a viral TikTok challenge. No, it’s weird that the Mountain Goats are TikTok famous because the Mountain Goats are perhaps the least likely candidates for “viral TikTok sensation” on the planet. The band, which formed 30 years ago (and, for long swaths, consisted of just one member) and originally recorded their music on DIY-style boomboxes, has released an astounding 20 albums. These albums seem relatively unconcerned with breakout singles or hits and more interested in shaping larger complex narratives about topics from Dungeons & Dragons to professional wrestling to child abuse. Which is to say, it can be a bit daunting for would-be fans to tackle the band’s discography; there is simply so much of it, and so much subtext to sift through. The Mountain Goats getting TikTok famous sort of feels like if Ulysses suddenly became the bestselling book on Amazon. @bisexualwentworth maybe I should create some choreography for this song… #nochildren #themountaingoats ♬ no children by the mountain goats - K ! ☕️ Videos set to “No Children” first started getting tens of thousands of views in January and February and again over the summer. In early October, it went nuclear, possibly (from what I can tell) catalyzed by an 18-year-old who posted his reaction to the lyrics: “this song is way too depressing. It sounds like a middle aged man crying over a girl he met in high school. Like get over it dude.” (This is an objectively hilarious response to a widely beloved indie folk song.) “No Children” has since inspired its own dance trend, in which people use comically literal recreations to the lyrics, “I am drowning / There is no sign of land / You are coming down with me / Hand in unlovable hand / And I hope you die.” There are self-deprecating jokes about being a depressed child listening to “No Children” before fully comprehending the words; there are people coming to terms with their relationships with their fathers. Even Jack Antonoff made a TikTok about it. Largely, though, the videos I’m seeing are a sort of meta-reaction to the trend, made by longtime Mountain Goats fans who are talking about what it’s like to see a song and a band that was so deeply important to them get sucked into the infinite churn of trending content. “As a 2010-era hipster in recovery from an insufferable superiority complex, I am constantly forced to reckon with unlearning the impulse to gatekeep everything I love from everyone,” begins one TikTok. “And in an effort to combat that, because it’s the worst thing about me, here’s a crash course on the Mountain Goats.” There are others like this too, offering helpful guides on how to get started climbing the proverbial, erm, mountain. When I asked fans on Twitter what they thought, people tended to reply that they were extremely happy that the band has found a new, young audience. “At first, I felt silly that my first thought was, ‘Wait they’re mine!’ But it’s kind of exciting to have everyone discover something you hold dear, even if it’s for a weird reason,” one woman wrote. Some were concerned that the nuance of the song, and the band’s lyrics in general, could get flattened by the context collapse of a 15-second clip in a TikTok video. “All of their lyrics are excellent and they cover so many themes and images with a completely groundbreaking form, and frankly, trying to compress their work in a 15-second video is quite reductionist,” said another. @itskeyes #duet with @13leu watch me hit the Tallahassee ♬ original sound - bleu “I am a little worried that the specific portion of that song could create some misreadings and weird romanticization of ‘bad’ relationships,” one woman added. “The song really only makes sense in the context of the rest of [the album] Tallahassee, so if you hear just a snippet you might walk away with the sense that this is cool hip angst rather than a story of a really, really bad time in a couple’s relationship.” Some were nonplussed: “Maybe a couple of zoomers will really get into it and their music taste will improve. Sick. But my guess is that it’s just as ephemeral as any other social media meme. How’s that Fleetwood Mac revival going, again?” No one is more surprised than the man behind it all, chief Mountain Goat John Darnielle, who found out about “No Children”’s skyrocketing popularity only after people started tweeting at him, and who graciously agreed to sit for a phone interview about an app he doesn’t use. “Obviously, when something like this happens you think a little bit and you laugh,” he says of how it felt when he saw how Spotify streams of “No Children” were closing in on the band’s biggest single, “This Year” (they’ve now surpassed it). I wondered whether he’d been prepared for the likelihood that one of his songs would get big on TikTok, as so much of the music industry is now determined by its algorithm. “I kind of have some fairly old-fashioned dad-like values about what an artist ought to be thinking about,” he said. “If I’m sitting here thinking about my own virality too much, then I’m going to wind up stewing in an ocean of self-contempt.” He also acknowledged the implicit pressure that artists must then capitalize on their virality. “I think many artists in our shoes would have said, ‘Maybe it’s time for us to start making our own TikToks.’ And I would say, ‘No, I’m not going to be the 54-year-old sidling up to the cool party with you kids. I’m not going to do the Steve Buscemi-with-the-skateboard thing.” The idea that an artist can completely sit out a meme cycle is increasingly novel (consider Taylor Swift immediately releasing her re-recorded version of “Wildest Dreams” as soon as it became a TikTok trend, or Fleetwood Mac joining TikTok in response to the viral video set to “Dreams”). “Both the culture industry and the music industry have a lot invested in the idea that the music of today is for the youth, and youth will buy it and give us money for it,” Darnielle said. “But if the youth land on a Steve Miller Band song, they go, ‘This is a good song. I like this one.’ If they find songs in the public domain, I think the industry has a great fear of that.” As the internet has allowed folks of all ages, but especially tech-literate young people, to rediscover cultural artifacts from the past, fans of the band told me they’ve noticed an increase in the number of teens and 20-somethings at their shows. “It’s really cool to have it affirmed that music is a gigantic conversation between all generations,” Darnielle says. “I am a father of two. There is a certain joy in sort of feeling like, well, the kids have got a thing going on that I’m not going to fully get. But I can just enjoy watching. I think people fear getting older and fear that they’ll feel left out, but there’s a kind of buoyancy in that left-out quality sometimes, if you ride it the right way.” In recent performances, Darnielle has addressed the elephant in the room before playing “No Children.” “He said something to the effect of, ‘And now for the uncomfortable tension of whether the old man knows about the TikTok thing’ while winding up with the intro, then made a few jokes about how no one needs a 54-year-old on TikTok claiming they have something to say,” a concertgoer in Boston told me. The irony is, of course, that it’s precisely that kind of self-awareness and humility that TikTok could use more of. The way Darnielle sees it, going viral doesn’t diminish the value of the song, it only spreads its influence. “Everybody who’s been enjoying the song should know how grateful it makes us feel that our stuff is entertaining somebody,” he says. “For any entertainer, that’s the highest prize. You cannot ask for anything more, right?” This column was first published in The Goods newsletter. Sign up here so you don’t miss the next one, plus get newsletter exclusives.

A contrarian take on the disinformation panic

Preview: Jake Angeli, 33, a.k.a. Yellowstone Wolf, from Phoenix, wrapped in a QAnon flag, addresses supporters of US President Donald Trump as they protest outside the Maricopa County Election Department as counting continues after the US presidential election in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 5, 2020. | Olivier Touron/AFP via Getty Images Joe Bernstein on what we know — and don’t know — about disinformation. If you’ve followed the news over the last few years, you’re probably convinced that we’re living in a golden age of conspiracy theories and disinformation. Whether it’s QAnon or the January 6 insurrection or anti-vaccine hysteria, many have come to believe that the culprit, more often than not, is bad information — and the fantasy-industrial complex that generates and propagates it — breaking people’s brains. However, I read an essay recently in Harper’s magazine that made me wonder whether the story was as simple as that. I can’t say that it changed my mind in any profound way about the real-world consequences of lies, but it did make me question some of my core assumptions about the information ecosystem online. It’s called “Bad News: Selling the Story of Disinformation,” and the author is Joseph Bernstein, a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News. Bernstein doesn’t deny that disinformation is a thing. The problem is that we don’t have a consistent definition of the term. What you find in the literature, Bernstein says, is a lot of vague references to information “that could possibly lead to misperceptions about the state of the world.” A definition that broad, he argues, isn’t all that useful as a foundation for objective study. And it’s also not that clear how disinformation is distinct from misinformation, except that the former is considered more “intentionally” misleading. All of this leads Bernstein to the conclusion that even the people researching this stuff can’t agree on what they’re talking about. But the bigger — and much less understood — issue is that certain interests are invested in over-hyping disinformation as an existential crisis because it’s good for business and because it’s a way of denying the real roots of our problems. I reached out to him for this week’s episode of Vox Conversations to talk about where he thinks the disinformation discourse went wrong and why it’s not all that clear whether the internet broke American society or merely unmasked it. Below is an edited excerpt from our conversation. As always, there’s much more in the full podcast, so subscribe to Vox Conversations on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Sean Illing I’ve spent a lot of time the last few years making noises about disinformation and misinformation and what a great problem it is, and I have to say, you’ve really made me pause and think hard about how easily I’ve bought into the conventional wisdom on this stuff. But let’s just start there: Do you think people like me, that have been worrying publicly about disinformation, have been part of a panic? Joe Bernstein I think that the idea of bad information on the internet is a poorly understood and at times poorly discussed topic. That is a huge topic. That is a new topic. That is a very important topic, but that like many problems, it helps to define them. And if you have trouble defining them, it helps to think about why. And when you start thinking about why, it helps to think about who is trying to define the problem and why. And so, I’m not comfortable even necessarily calling it a panic because I think, especially as we’ve seen with this series of revelations in the Wall Street Journal over the past couple of weeks, and then the testimony of the Facebook whistleblower, these are real problems. It’s just not clear to me that we understand completely what’s at stake or that we understand completely how these categories that are being kind of tossed around — and I’ve at times tossed them around too, mis- and disinformation — how they’re being used. And that’s really what I wanted to do: not to say that several private companies having monopoly power over the flow of information is a thing we should just be happy with and live with, but that when we talk about the problem, we should understand who wants to address it and why. Sean Illing It might surprise people to learn that even the researchers studying disinformation can’t come up with a coherent or consistent definition of the term. Joe Bernstein This is one of the things that I played for laughs in the piece. What scholars would say is that they have a lexical problem. Everyone knows there’s an issue, but everyone is attacking this issue using the same word, with a different idea in their head. So the most comprehensive survey of the scholarly field is from 2018. It’s a scientific literature review called “Social Media, Political Polarization, and Political Disinformation.” And the definition they give of disinformation — and this is a good, broad survey of the field — this is the definition they give: “Disinformation is intended to be a broad category describing the types of information that one could encounter online that could possibly lead to misperceptions about the actual state of the world.” Now, as far as I can tell, that definition basically applies to anything you could come in contact with online. And Sean, I should make the point, this trickles down to the definitions that tech companies use when they define mis- and disinformation. So — I’m not going to get this exactly right — but TikTok’s definition of misinformation is something like, “information that is not true or information that could mislead or is not true.” There’s just not a lot of there there. There’s a lot of good research, but for something that aspires to be kind of an objective science, there’s not a good objective foundation. Sean Illing A big problem here is that we’re desperate for some kind of neutral definition of disinformation so that it’s possible to call something “disinformation” without it appearing political, but that doesn’t seem possible. Joe Bernstein Yeah. And then, one of the interesting things to me was when I looked up the etymology of the term — it’s actually a borrowing from a Russian word that was popularized in the early years of the Cold War: dezinformatsiya. It was initially defined in the 1952 Great Soviet Encyclopedia, which was kind of a propaganda encyclopedia meant for English consumption. Its definition was as follows: “dissemination in the press or on the radio of false reports intended to mislead public opinion. The capitalist press and radio make wide use of dezinformatsiya.” I don’t mean to be a complete relativist and say there aren’t things that are true or false. Of course there are. But on the internet especially, context is very, very important, and it’s very hard to isolate particular nuggets of information as good or bad information. Sean Illing What’s a better definition of “disinformation”? How’s it distinct from “misinformation” or “propaganda”? Joe Bernstein I like the word propaganda better than I like the words mis- and disinformation because I think it has a stronger political connotation. I think there is a broad understanding among the people who study and the people who talk about mis- and disinformation in the media, that disinformation is more intentional than misinformation, and misinformation tends to be poorly contextualized but nevertheless true or “truthy” information. What I wanted to do with this piece is make it clear that these definitions have politics behind them, in the way people who use them have politics behind them. I don’t even think there’s necessarily anything wrong with using these terms, as long as it’s clear that there are interests. And I’m not implying some kind of broad conspiracy. I take pains to say — maybe I didn’t say it enough in the piece — that there are people who are operating in utter good faith, who care deeply about public discourse, who are studying this problem. I just want some recognition that the use of these terms has a politics behind it, even if that’s a centrist or kind of a conventional liberal politics. I would like that to be a feature of the discussion. Sean Illing A big claim in your piece is that the disinformation craze has become a vehicle for propping up the online advertising economy, and it might sound counterintuitive to say that Big Tech companies like Facebook would enthusiastically embrace the idea that “disinformation” is a major problem. What does a company like Facebook stand to gain here? Why are they selling this so hard? Joe Bernstein Well, one of the things that got me thinking about this was, I started with kind of a buzzword that I have used; the “information ecosystem.” It just kind of makes intuitive sense. We have a world, the natural world of information, and then something’s polluted it. And so then I started thinking about other industries that pollute, and that have gotten in trouble for polluting. So like the tobacco industry — which has been a major point of comparison to big tech recently — well, cigarettes give people cancer. Or the fossil fuel industry, it pollutes and it’s contributing to climate change. And there’s good science behind that. And yet these industries have spent years fighting the science, trying to undermine the science. And I was very surprised when I thought about the timeline of how long it took Facebook to be blamed, for throwing the 2016 election in Trump’s favor and for Brexit, to when Mark Zuckerberg essentially publicly admitted misinformation was a problem. And we intuit that’s true, but I don’t think the science is necessarily there. I don’t think the study of media effects on politics is necessarily there yet. I mean, we’re still getting the political science on the effect of Father Coughlin on, I believe, the 1936 election. These are questions that are going to be resolved over time. But you had Mark Zuckerberg out there in public basically saying, “We’re going to fight misinformation.” Partially, that’s because I think Facebook has never had a particularly coherent press strategy. But part of it, I think, is that Facebook realized very quickly, as did the other big tech companies, that rather than in a kind of blanket way say, “This isn’t true. These claims, there’s no empirical basis behind them,” I think they realized that co-opting, or at least sort of putting their arms around the people who are doing this research, was a better strategy. And I started to wonder why. From a public relations perspective, it makes good sense. But also, I started to think about the nature of the claim itself, that people being exposed to bad information are necessarily convinced by that information. And then, that’s when I kind of had a “eureka” moment, which was that’s exactly the same way that Facebook makes money. What Hannah Arendt calls the “psychological premise of human manipulability,” which is kind of a mouthful. And so, if we accept that people are endlessly convincible by whatever bullshit they see on Facebook, on the internet, in some ways we’re contributing to the idea that the ad duopoly, Facebook and Google and just online ads in general, works. I’m kind of going on, but there’s a terrific book that I read around that time by a guy who’s now the general counsel of Substack. He’s a guy named Tim Hwang, who worked at Google for a long time. The book is called Subprime Attention Crisis. And it’s basically about how much of the online ad industry is a house of cards. One very interesting fact about the Facebook whistleblower disclosures to the SEC, and one that got almost no press attention, is that she claims, based on internal Facebook research, that they were badly misleading investors in the reach and efficacy of their ads. And to me, the most damaging thing you could say about Facebook is that this kind of industrial information machine doesn’t actually work. And so that kind of flipped everything I thought about this on its head. And that’s when I started to write the piece. To hear the rest of the conversation, click here, and be sure to subscribe to Vox Conversations on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Is ignoring the pandemic a crime against humanity?

Preview: Protesters wearing masks depicting Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro protest the government’s Covid-19 response, on October 20. | Andressa Anholete/Getty Images Brazilian lawmakers may try to make the case, though experts are skeptical of how far it could go. Brazil has the world’s second-highest official Covid-19 death toll, just after the United States, with more than 600,000 fatalities. Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas, had a deadly first wave that saw mass graves, and a dangerous second where it ran out of oxygen. Through it all, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro downplayed what he once called the “little flu,” dismissed public health measures, and promoted unproven treatments like hydroxychloroquine while undermining proven approaches, like vaccines. Now some Brazilian lawmakers are trying to hold Bolsonaro and his associates accountable. A Senate committee will vote Tuesday on a more than 1,000-page report outlining the government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 outbreak and vaccination campaign. The result of a months-long inquiry by a congressional panel, the report recommends charges for Bolsonaro, among them falsification of documents, misuse of public funds, and charlatanism. And one particular allegation stands out: “crimes against humanity.” The report says crimes against humanity come into play as “the entire population was deliberately subject to the effects of the pandemic, with the intention of trying to reach herd immunity through contagion and save the economy.” The report specifically ties these “crimes against humanity” to Indigenous peoples, saying the virus was an “ally” of the Bolsonaro government in its anti-Indigenous policies. The committee had initially recommended Bolsonaro also face charges of genocide and mass homicide for the Covid-19 toll on the Indigenous population, but those recommendations were removed from the final version after several senators said those allegations went too far, according to the New York Times. The “crimes against humanity” charge raises a question beyond Bolsonaro, and Brazil, about how to hold leaders accountable for real malfeasance and negligence during public health emergencies, like the still-unfolding Covid-19 pandemic. And does malfeasance rise to the level of egregiousness the world typically associates with war and repression — or at least, could it? The question is largely untested, specifically at the International Criminal Court, the venue to which the Senate committee may refer the “crimes against humanity” charge, if senators agree to it in the final vote. (Lawmakers are likely to refer the other allegations to the prosecutor-general, but he is a Bolsonaro ally and is unlikely to pursue criminal charges against the president or any of his associates.) The ICC, based in the Hague, is sometimes called the “court of last resort,” stepping in when nations themselves cannot or will not prosecute war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. It seems unlikely that Bolsonaro’s Covid-19 gross mismanagement will be taken up by the court, many experts said — but deliberate mishandling of a disease could still fit within the definition of “crimes against humanity.” If this case is referred to the ICC, it may be the first test of whether leaders can face criminal consequences for public health disasters of their own making. Should leaders be held accountable for Covid-19 malfeasance? The ICC could take up a case against Bolsonaro in theory. Brazil is party to the Rome Statute, the treaty that brought the court into force in 2002. That means if crimes against humanity happen in Brazil, the ICC has jurisdiction, said David Bosco, an associate professor of international studies at Indiana University who’s researched the ICC. (Not all countries are signatories, including the United States, which feared American troops might be subject to prosecution for actions overseas; the Trump administration even sanctioned some top ICC officials.) But even if the Senate does follow through, a referral to the ICC prosecutor is just that. It’s ultimately up to the ICC to take up a case, examine it, and pursue it. Typically, cases are referred by states themselves (or the United Nations Security Council), but it seems unlikely that the Bolsonaro government is going to refer itself. The ICC doesn’t have an obligation to pursue any referral from an outside group or even lawmakers, though the ICC can initiate its own investigations. The ICC has 15 investigations underway, and 12 preliminary investigations, according to the ICC’s website, none of them in Brazil right now. As troubling as the allegations against Bolsonaro are in this big report, they are not a neat fit for a crimes against humanity case. It’s worth starting with what the law says. The Rome Statute says a crime against humanity exists “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.” That could be widespread or systematic murder, or forced disappearance, or, as the very last provision says: “other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.” David Scheffer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former US ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues who helped lead the US delegation on ICC talks two decades ago, said the catchall nature of the last one is deliberate. “It is obvious that other types of assaults on your civilian population are going to emerge in the future, and you have to provide for that in the statute,” he said. “It’s hard to think of a better example than intentional mismanagement of a Covid-19 pandemic or some other pathogen. And so I would argue that, yes, that’s fair game.” The investigations and prosecutions that the ICC takes up involve some of the most brutal crimes, and so the bar is incredibly high: To prove crimes against humanity, of any sort, prosecutors have to prove knowledge and intent. “Disease can be a weapon, and so you could certainly imagine that constituting a crime against humanity,” Bosco said. “But negligence or disinformation, that would be a harder fit.” It’s especially tricky with a still-evolving event like the Covid-19 pandemic. The science changed, and is changing. The origins of the disease, different possible treatments, the mask-wearing of it all — expert opinion shifted throughout the pandemic. A robust pandemic response also takes resources that leaders might not have, and not all countries have access to lifesaving medical interventions like vaccines. As experts pointed out, it is a very high bar to prove knowledge and intent, and that’s ultimately what the ICC prosecutors would have to investigate and prove in any case involving crimes against humanity. Trying to parse that out in an evolving pandemic and with a new pathogen is an extraordinary task. But, as Scheffer said, as the scientific consensus coalesces, public officials “need to be responsible enough to follow the procedures and policies that can defeat and overcome the public health threat to their populations.” Experts I spoke to say there really isn’t an obvious precedent for a crime against humanity case in a public health setting; the closest examples, like destruction of water systems in Darfur, Sudan, came in the context of a larger conflict. Covid-19 has killed nearly 5 million people globally, and failures in leadership around the world likely exacerbated the toll. Other leaders have made missteps, or denied the seriousness of the pandemic at points, that may have contributed to Covid-19’s spread, from India’s Narendra Modi to the United Kingdom’s Boris Johnson to Donald Trump in the US. But deliberate intent to allow a disease to spread has to be carefully and precisely separated from what was done in error, or ineptly. The ICC is dealing with some very tough and longstanding investigations, which makes it seem unlikely it would take up a case like this. “Bolsonaro’s response to Covid has been egregious, but for both legal and pragmatic reasons, I don’t see it being something that the ICC will take up,” said Rebecca Hamilton, an associate professor at Washington College of Law. Bolsonaro is already facing referrals to the ICC, mostly from Indigenous and environmental groups. A few weeks ago, a group accused Bolsonaro of “crimes against humanity” for the “widespread attack on the Amazon, its dependents and its defenders that not only result in the persecution, murder and inhumane suffering in the region, but also upon the global population.” Another ICC referral could certainly raise the profile of those other cases, and, especially since the Senate’s report focuses a lot on the Covid-19 fallout on Indigenous communities, Scheffer said the cases all might look a lot stronger together. “The ICC has a thick file on Brazil right now, a very thick file,” he said. And it is still remarkable that lawmakers in Brazil are making the case not only that Bolsonaro failed at the pandemic, but also that some of his actions constitute a crime against humanity. It’s an attempt to hold Bolsonaro himself accountable and potentially to secure guardrails for the next pandemic or public health crisis. If leaders faced the threat of criminal prosecution for putting their populations at grave risk, they might not pursue those policies at all.

House isn’t selling? Blame the ghosts.

Preview: Zac Freeland/Vox Realtor? Check. Appraiser? Check. Ghostbuster? Check. Part of the Horror Issue of The Highlight, our home for ambitious stories that explain our world. The Nyack, New York, home is a looker. A baby-blue Victorian clocking in at more than a century old, and endowed with a prime view of the Hudson River and proximity to New York City, it might even have inspired an Edward Hopper painting. Perhaps less desirable, however, were the three ghosts allegedly loitering around the property. Helen Ackley, who lived in the house from the 1960s to the early 1990s, believed the ghosts resided in her home, telling the New York Times that she once saw one while she was painting the living room ceiling and that another one waltzed in her daughter’s bedroom. The third ghost, she said, was seen by her son and was a Navy lieutenant during the Revolutionary War. It may have all been fun and games until, after decades of calling the place home, Ackley made moves to sell the property at the tail end of the 1980s. In 1989, an out-of-town buyer emerged, someone who was unaware of the house’s well-known local reputation for being haunted. The unlucky man, Jeffrey Stambovsky, a bond trader from New York City, eagerly put down $32,000 on what he thought would be his new $650,000 home. Until, that is, he learned of the home’s mysterious past. Spooked, Stambovsky sued, demanding his down payment back. New York’s State Supreme Court, in a 3-2 decision that has become a staple in many law school classes, decided in his favor. “As a matter of law, the house is haunted,” wrote Justice Israel Rubin for the court in what would later come to be called the Ghostbusters ruling. The case of Stambovsky v. Ackley is a quirky artifact of legal history, but it also prompts questions about the flimsy underpinnings that hold up the institution of homeownership. A home is the largest and arguably most important asset any American will ever own. Its value rests on a variety of factors, like architectural style or the size of the kitchen, but most uncomfortably, it rests on subjective beliefs around what is and isn’t desirable. Part of that subjective evaluation includes the paranormal. Good schools can bump up a home price. Ghosts lurking by the basement door, not so much. In fact, paranormal activity affecting property prices is common enough that a cottage industry has sprung up trying to clear homes of anything supernatural before a sale. It’s a reflection of just how tenuous the value of a property is that the whispers of ghosts can inflict a real cost. That’s why the Ghostbusters case isn’t the only time that the legal system has had to wrestle with the question of what to do with purportedly haunted houses or places where there has recently been a death. Four states have laws on the books regarding paranormal activity and real estate, according to Zillow. In New York, as the Stambovsky case settled, if a seller invents and maintains that their property is haunted and then allows a potential buyer to remain ignorant of the “home’s ghostly reputation,” the court will rescind the sale. In New Jersey, if homeowners are asked, they’re required to disclose whether there are “psychological impairments.” In Massachusetts and Minnesota, the laws go in the other direction: Instead of ensuring that the buyer has information about paranormal activity, the law protects a seller who may choose to withhold that info. Caring about ghosts in your home isn’t just for the superstitious, it’s for a market-conscious buyer as well. Even if just 10 percent of people would be uncomfortable buying a home where there are rumored to be ghosts, that reduces the value of the property, because it can reduce demand. And 10 percent could be an underestimate: A 2009 Pew survey found that nearly a fifth of Americans said they had “seen or been in the presence of a ghost.” A more recent 2019 YouGov poll found that roughly 45 percent of Americans believed in ghosts, demons, and other supernatural beings. It’s unclear how many people would allow that belief to affect their home-buying decisions — particularly in a market as hot as this one — but a dissenting judge in the Ghostbusters case wrote that Stambovsky sued because, “as a result of the alleged poltergeist activity, the market value and resaleability of the property was greatly diminished.” David Chapman, a real estate professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, wrote about the Stambovsky case and how to teach it in a paper subtitled You don’t have a ghost of a chance. Chapman, a real estate agent, says he’s had clients refuse to buy properties if they think there might be something strange going on in the home. “I had a client that carried a box, some sort of Geiger-counter-looking-thing, and she would put it in front of each house and it would determine whether we would even go into the house at all,” he tells Vox. Chapman also notes that America’s aging housing stock could change how frequently this comes up. “My wife and I own a lot of houses that were built between 1895 and 1920, so if you look at the amount of owners that had been through those homes, I would guess that there were not very many of those that somebody did not die in the house,” he says. According to Freddie Mac, more than 50 percent of single family homes were built before 1980 — and the older the home, the higher the chance that someone died there. In his written opinion, Judge Rubin from the Stambovsky case sarcastically quipped that while buyers are legally responsible for screening their purchases, strictly applying that standard “to a contract involving a house possessed by poltergeists conjures up visions of a psychic or medium routinely accompanying the structural engineer and Terminix man on an inspection of every home subject to a contract of sale.” While the image of a psychic accompanying would-be buyers to each property might be comical, it’s not as far-fetched as the judge made it sound. A cottage industry of spirit-related businesses exists to assist buyers and sellers grappling with the ghosts that may or may not be lurking beneath the floorboards. The website DiedInHouse.com was started in 2012 after its founder got a call from a tenant who noticed paranormal activity in her home. Now, people can pay $11.99 to get a report about whether anyone has ever died in the house they are considering purchasing. For some, the knowledge of whether there was a death — or even a murder — in the house recently isn’t enough. That’s where Jane Phillips comes in. Phillips is a self-proclaimed ghostbuster who travels the country offering “paranormal energy clearing services” to real estate agents and homeowners alike. Her business is often driven by agents who are having difficulty getting a listing sold; they call Phillips, she clears the house, and, she tells Vox, that makes it possible for the house to sell. A mortgage banker before becoming a professional psychic, Phillips is in tune with the real estate world. She runs her business out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, but says she does business “all over the world.” One of her clients, a Santa Fe real estate agent named Suzanne Taylor, uses Phillips’ services frequently when selling homes. “I buy and sell a lot of properties that are distressed and very old...so I use Jane all the time,” she says, explaining that she’ll spend hundreds of dollars each time Phillips comes to a house and “clears” it of any negative or supernatural energy. Phillips has a checklist, she explains, that helps her rule out things like a loose screen door that could be blown open by the wind. “An oncologist is always going to see cancer,” she adds. “I’m a paranormal, so I’m always looking for it to be paranormal... but I have to put some reason and logic in.” Along with using essential oils, a pendulum, and some L-shaped rods, she explains, she taps into her “intuition and psychic abilities to remove interfering and dark energies.” For some buyers, a little spiritual cleansing is enough to make a sale — particularly in a housing market this hot. Over the last year, demand for homes has spiked, exacerbating an already dire housing shortage in the United States. Research by Freddie Mac shows that the US is short 3.8 million homes to satisfy the existing demand. This has made people more willing to overlook a lot of their preferences around homes in order to get their hands on any property — even violent deaths in the home. One Maryland house in an attractive DC suburb was the site of several murders, but after a short period of time (and an address change) it hit the market at a much higher selling price. Even the childhood home of Jeffrey Dahmer found a buyer. “Given a choice, people would rather not buy [a home] that has a psychological problem, but when they don’t have a choice, they will,” Chapman says. Owning a home in the United States is not simply a way to find shelter in a place where you’d like to live; for many, owning a home is a bet on the future value of that property. Yet, as one of the primary wealth-building tools Americans have access to and are encouraged by government policy to pursue, the bet of homeownership can be remarkably risky. Unlike many other physical assets, a home’s value is predicated on more than just the cost of the physical materials. Things outside of an owner’s control like the quality of nearby schools, the crime rate, changing fads about what type of house style is “in” and, of course, whether or not it is haunted, play an important role. And, importantly, neither the buyer nor the seller need themselves to be believers in the paranormal for it to affect the value of the home. While it can be a bit funny to think of something like a poltergeist affecting your retirement nest egg, it becomes sobering to consider the more insidious ways that subjective evaluations can affect homeowners. Most notably, Black Americans have faced a racism penalty when selling their homes: Many find their homes undervalued relative to their white counterparts, finding a decreased demand to live in Black neighborhoods can negatively impact the value of their homes. As for the Nyack house, it turned out to be a case study in never knowing how public opinion will end up affecting the market: While Ackley lost the case, the publicity ended up actually working in her favor. After the Ghostbusters ruling became a curiosity, it increased the value of the home for people who were interested in living in a haunted house. Roughly 30 years after the case was settled, film director Adam Brooks, musician Ingrid Michaelson, and singer/rapper Matisyahu have all lived in the home. According to Realtor.com, it is now roughly 200 percent more expensive than nearby properties. It sold for over $1.7 million this year. Jerusalem Demsas is a policy reporter specializing in housing for Vox.

Scream broke all the rules of horror — then rewrote them forever

Preview: Dimension Films Scream turns 25 this year. Here’s how it permanently changed horror movies. When Wes Craven’s Scream appeared on the scene in 1996, horror was stuck in a rut. The fun, philosophical innovations that characterized the genre in the ’80s had been reduced to derivative, repetitive slasher flicks: stab, wipe, repeat. The cultural ascendence of 1991’s Silence of the Lambs kicked off an era in which stylish cat-and-mouse thrillers with horror elements had dominated mainstream cinema, while more traditional teen slasher fare languished. That all changed when Scream debuted five days before Christmas in 1996. In one single, terrifying opening scene, and with one now-immortal line — “Do you like scary movies?” — Scream transformed ’90s horror and paved the way for generations of smart, genre-savvy filmmaking to come. As this self-referential icon turns 25, horror is currently enjoying a renewed “golden age,” with modern horror films like Get Out (2017) and Hereditary (2018) being hailed as genre-elevating masterpieces. With so many of these cerebral horror films shaping cultural discourse, it’s important to recognize the role Scream played in the genre’s evolution. For while it embodies the quirks of ’90s horror — including overaged teenagers, trope-filled plots, and enjoyably over-the-top deaths — Scream also completely up-ended trope-filled scary movies, arguably forever. The horror genre has since become so saturated with films following Scream’s self-aware horror-comedy model that it’s worth recognizing that all this metatextuality basically has a single point of origin. We wouldn’t have films like Get Out, The Cabin in the Woods (2011), or even 2020’s Promising Young Woman without Wes Craven’s hit meta franchise — and we can’t talk about modern horror without talking about Scream. Scream’s knowing use of horror movie tropes was iconic, terrifying, and game-changing This might sound like a bland observation from the vantage point of 2021, but in 1996, Scream’s use of other horror movies to navigate its own plot was unique. There’s a well-known idea that horror movies don’t exist in horror movies — that the characters often act as though they’ve never seen one. While the genre is usually extremely self-aware, that self-awareness typically exists offscreen, as a relationship between the filmmaker and the audience. The characters themselves don’t have a clue, and therefore make choices that viewers find to be extremely unwise or naive, because the characters don’t understand the concept of a horror movie. Wes Craven had tried to explore this idea once before, in his clever, very meta 1994 film Wes Craven’s New Nightmare — but it didn’t quite work. Heather Langenkamp — who grew up starring in Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street series as the feisty teenager Nancy, opposite Robert Englund’s razor-handed Freddy Krueger — stars in a cheeky narrative that’s as much about Hollywood as it is about horror. Langenkamp plays a version of herself, the grown-up actress, realizing that Freddy Krueger (played once again by Englund, who also plays himself) actually exists and is hunting her in dreams. To stop him, Craven, also playing himself, decides they must make more Nightmare on Elm Street films, conveniently giving the movie an excuse to nostalgically revisit the earlier films as a nod to diehard fans. Craven’s idea was possibly a bit too new in 1994 — we were still five years away from Being John Malkovich’s celebrity navel-gazing, after all — and the attempt at reviving the Nightmare franchise flopped at the box office. Nonetheless, critics found it fascinating. “This is the first horror movie that is actually about the question, ‘Don’t you people ever think about the effect your movies have on the people who watch them?’” Roger Ebert wrote. Perhaps Craven realized that he had had the right idea with New Nightmare but stumbled in its execution. With Scream, he took a step back into the realm of the purely fictional, while still exploring the effect of horror movies as a phenomenon in a way that invited viewers to apply their understanding of the genre to what they were seeing. “Scream mainstreamed metatextual storytelling and made that analytical understanding of the genre mainstream in a lot of ways,” says Sam Zimmerman, a curator at the horror streaming service Shudder and former managing editor of Fangoria magazine. Scream accomplished all of this in its first scene. In case you need a refresher or haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the film, here’s what happens in Scream’s first 12 minutes: A teenager, home alone, is settling in for a relaxing evening in front of the TV. The phone rings. At first, she thinks it’s a wrong number — until the caller calls back. He engages her in a friendly chat, getting her to talk about her favorite scary movie. It’s Halloween, she tells him, absently fondling a giant carving knife similar to the one Michael Myers wielded in the famous 1978 slasher. The caller plays along — but then abruptly turns sinister, asking her to tell him her name “because I want to know who I’m looking at.” From there, the caller proceeds to terrify her, making it clear he’s watching the house and then gutting her boyfriend right before her eyes — but not before making her play a macabre game of “guess the horror movie.” Ultimately, the killer drives her out of the house and brutally murders her on her front lawn. The whole sequence is riveting, shocking filmmaking — and crucially, it referenced other horror movies as it kicked off a horror movie full of references to other horror movies. Not only was Scream telling on itself — this is a horror movie whose characters know about horror movies! — it was also subverting a major horror trope right from the start. The key to Scream’s unforgettable opening scene is that it’s not supposed to happen. Audiences familiar with countless slasher flicks would have instantly read the perky, innocent blonde as Scream’s main character and been primed to relate to her. Craven’s decision to cast Drew Barrymore in the role furthermore signaled that here was our lead. Barrymore was a child star from her role in Spielberg’s blockbuster 1982 film E.T., and a celebrity member of a royal Hollywood family, the Barrymores. Scream’s opening scene presented her as prime fodder for a Final Girl — the typically virginal, sweater-wearing blonde who survives the movie. But Scream, overturning all assumptions, slaughters Barrymore, audaciously, right in front of our eyes. Once those first 12 minutes are over, it’s clear that all bets are off. If Scream had stopped there and gone on to tell a more conventional horror tale, it would still be influential because it acknowledged the existence of horror movies and their tropes, while subverting audience expectations. But the film keeps going: The entire movie is jammed with self-referential storytelling. The plot picks up with a set of high school friends learning about the death of Barrymore’s character, Casey. One of them, Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott, is especially disturbed because her mother was recently murdered; although the man convicted of the crime is in prison, Casey’s killer seems to be targeting her. While she tries to evade him, her friends discuss both murders as though they were late-night horror fare, all while cutthroat reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) pursues Sidney in search of a story. At every turn, the film’s script, written by Kevin Williamson, dissects well-known horror clichés. Even as one character outlines the “rules” of surviving a horror movie, Scream is breaking each one as it goes — often with the characters cheekily drawing attention to them while they’re being broken. As Roger Ebert put it in 1996, “Scream is self-deconstructing. Instead of leaving it to the audience to anticipate the horror clichés, the characters talk about them openly.” Dimension Films Scream characters doing what few horror movie characters before them had: watching a horror movie. Prior to Scream, horror movie characters usually didn’t know what story they were in until it was too late — and when they did manage to wake up and seek agency against the narrative, à la Rosemary’s Baby or The Omen, their efforts usually ended badly for them. The notable exceptions to this pattern were the scream queens. These were female characters who fronted long-running franchises: Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie in Halloween, Ashley Laurence’s Kirsty in Hellraiser, and Langenkamp’s Nancy in Nightmare on Elm Street, for example. Nearly all of these characters started out vulnerable and helpless but over the course of their franchises, they steadily gained the power to manipulate their stories. Sidney, however, starts her narrative arc at the end of another horror story entirely — she’s been a witness to the murder of her mother. She’s not only self-aware because she’s aware of horror movies; she’s primed to survive this killer because she’s already survived her mother’s killer. Over the course of the Scream franchise’s four films (a fifth film is now slated to arrive in 2022), Sidney’s survival skills ramp up, as does her ability to fight back against the genre she’s in, and by the fourth film, she’s effortlessly turning horror tropes against her would-be killers. And the killings are all inspired by a litany of famous horror villains. By making the characters be part of a knowing horror audience, Scream single-handedly opened up a new procedural dimension for horror films — and it wasn’t just about meta references and tongue-in-cheek satire. Plenty of genre-savvy films (including Final Destination, Shaun of the Dead, The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, The Cabin in the Woods, You’re Next, and Get Out) would follow in Scream’s wake. Each one explored the idea that it’s possible to know what story you’re in, and to not only be aware of the tropes, but also use your understanding of them to manipulate the situation and survive (or whatever your objective might be). For that narrative tension to be effective, the viewers must bring their own sophisticated knowledge of genre to a given film — and that’s another thing Scream furthered: the audience’s genre awareness. “These days, anyone knows what a Final Girl is,” Zimmerman tells me. “In Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, even though the movie’s really funny, the way they talk about genre is straight-up academic. They’re talking straight-up Carol Clover stuff” — referring to famed academics like Clover who’ve dissected horror films for their larger sociocultural implications, from their themes of gendered violence to their use of allegory. Zimmerman points out that even cerebral, thematically ambiguous indie horror films like 2015’s It Follows or 2016’s The Witch can break through into the mainstream these days, mainly because audiences seem to have embraced layered storytelling. “People are willing to give things a chance more,” Zimmerman says, crediting the rise of on-demand and streaming services for allowing audiences to pay attention to riskier, smaller-budget films. “I think there’s a generally more cinematically savvy audience happening right now.” This knowing genre-referencing is only one element of what Scream gave us. Perhaps the more permanent way Scream altered the horror landscape was by providing a template for stories in which the characters’ pre-awareness of the existence of horror deepened the layers of tension and meaning in a story. After Scream, movies were free to examine the role horror plays in the real, post-9/11 world New Line Cinema The Orphanage’s subtle story within a story was a way of examining its own multiplicity. As cinema entered the late ’90s, we began to see more explorations of postmodernism and metatextuality in horror. 1997’s Funny Games shockingly broke the fourth wall to make points about narrative control. 1999’s Blair Witch Project toyed with the line between reality and fiction and kicked off a decade-long craze for the “found footage” subgenre, with its multiple points of view and layered storytelling. 1999’s The Sixth Sense used unreliable narration and careful cinematic technique to deliver one of the most famous twists in movie history. Even horror franchise reboots delved into meta storytelling: At one point in 1998’s Halloween H20, the film’s ensemble of teen characters watches Scream 2. This use of narrative rule-breaking wasn’t just superficial or stylistic. Films like Blair Witch and Funny Games were successful not just because they subverted the “rules” of horror, but because they did so in ways that shocked and disoriented audiences. The question of whether the characters were able to navigate, control, or manipulate their narratives became a major source of tension and conflict that added to the films’ feeling of horror. As a storytelling approach, metatextuality evolved and became especially prominent throughout the aughts, when post-9/11 horror cinema injected an often bleak, chaotic nihilism into its themes and subjects. The unpredictability of post-Scream horror storytelling aligned with the overwhelming post-9/11 sense that whatever was happening onscreen was completely out of anyone’s control — sometimes even the film’s production team. If, for example, a character could break the fourth wall completely — like Sadako breaking through the TV screen to pursue her victims in 2000’s Ring and its 2002 American remake The Ring — then how can the audience ever be safe? What if you think you’re in one story but wind up in a different one, like the hapless victims of 1999’s Audition, 2009’s The House of the Devil, or 2011’s Kill List? What if the cinematic tricks of a movie itself ultimately manipulate you, as with 2003’s High Tension, 2003’s A Tale of Two Sisters, or 2005’s The Descent? Alongside narrative subversion, the genre also delved into trope deconstructions, often reminding us that the horror on display was a mask for a different, larger kind of horror. Films by Spanish directors like The Others (2000), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), and The Orphanage (2007) deployed horror tropes to explore the long-term impact of grief and violence. Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s The Host (2006) used the classic monster movie formula to explore classism and climate crisis, while Swedish hit Let the Right One In (2008) made its monster the heroine instead of the villain, and turned typical horror fare into a coming-of-age love story that examined bullying and social ostracism. Much of this exploration involved giving agency to women in horror who had long been denied it, often relegated to the role of helpless victim. In American horror, a glorious glut of women-centered films took the self-awareness of Scream’s Sidney Prescott and made it a narrative starting point, so that the Final Girl trope (The Descent, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, The Rise of Leslie Vernon) as well as the monstrous feminine (Ginger Snaps, May, Teeth, Jennifer’s Body) has continually been interrogated, reexamined, and reconfigured. Women in horror emerged from the first decade of the 21st century with more autonomy, and proceeded to put it to good use: Films like American Mary, Lovely Molly, and Jug Face explored the way women navigate systems of oppression while still maintaining their agency. 2014’s Housebound allowed its heroine to be surly and unlikeable in the face of major gaslighting; 2011’s You’re Next gave a girl a crossbow and let her tear shit up. More recent films of feminine destruction and vengeance like 2016’s Raw and Revenge arguably paved the way for genre-bending, subversive hits like 2020’s Promising Young Woman, and all share a lineage to Scream. Then there’s the influence Scream had on Jordan Peele, who included it in his list of films that directly influenced Get Out. Another game-changing horror hit, Get Out followed Scream’s example in that it, too, explicitly used its audiences’ understanding of the genre to further its narrative goals. Where Scream’s aim was to use the horror genre against itself, Get Out used horror to illustrate and explain aspects of modern racism. Peele also cited Scream’s fourth-wall-breaking, genre-savvy characters as influencing his own, noting that the film’s “postmodern reference,” and its characters who’ve watched horror movies, were more realistic than in the typical horror film. Films like Get Out and Promising Young Woman may spearhead a generation of socially conscious films that use genre tropes to comment on the times we’re living in. This probably wasn’t what Craven and Williamson anticipated when they set out to terrorize Sidney Prescott and her friends — but it seems like a fitting evolution of the journey that Scream began. Correction, October 26, 10:30 am: An earlier version of this article mistakenly identified Freddy Krueger as the villain of Friday the 13th rather than the Wes Craven franchise Nightmare on Elm Street. Ghostface would be very disappointed, since every good horror fan knows the villain of Friday the 13th is Jason’s mom.

Wall Street doesn’t care about the Facebook leaks. Mark Zuckerberg does.

Preview: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a security conference in 2020. | Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images Facebook’s numbers are doing fine for now — but not its reputation. Facebook’s market value is doing just fine. But a recent deluge of damning reports about Facebook that first appeared in the Wall Street Journal — from how the company’s products impact users’ mental health to how it contributed to political polarization in the buildup to the January 6 Capitol riot — is clearly frustrating CEO Mark Zuckerberg. On the company’s quarterly earnings call on Monday, Zuckerberg addressed the scrutiny and criticism directed at Facebook by striking a notably defiant tone that differed from his usually even-keeled public demeanor. “Good-faith criticism helps us get better. But my view is that what we’re seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use the leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company,” said Zuckerberg. “The reality is that we have an open culture, where we encourage discussion and research about our work so we can make progress on many complex issues that are not specific to just us.” It’s important to note that Facebook is performing well financially. The company reported mostly strong quarterly earnings on Monday, even though this is the first report after Apple introduced privacy changes in April that could have severely limited Facebook’s ad business. And despite all the reports about the potential social harms of its products, Facebook’s share prices are on the rise. So the fact that Zuckerberg spent the first several minutes of his 10-minute introductory remarks on the call defending the moral integrity of his company speaks to how much these reports seem to have aggravated him. Zuckerberg’s comments also raise questions about how he views the role of the press in reporting on his company to the public. The “coordinated effort” to “selectively use” leaked internal Facebook documents that Zuckerberg mentioned seemingly refers to the existence of a reporting consortium of more than 17 newsrooms, including the Associated Press, the Atlantic, and the New York Times, that began publishing articles late last week. The consortium was established to share thousands of files leaked by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen (Recode joined the consortium on Monday). The initial consortium set a mutually agreed-upon time for publication of their stories, in what’s called an “embargo” — a common media practice that Facebook PR itself regularly uses for product rollouts and other press announcements. Facebook previously released a public statement attacking the reporting consortium before the articles came out. On Monday’s earnings call, Zuckerberg said he “can’t change the underlying media dynamic,” and that instead he would double down on continuing to build new products for Facebook’s users. Repeatedly, he called Facebook an “industry leader” in reducing harmful content on its platforms. He also pointed to existing methods the company has to share snapshots of its inner workings with the public, such as its self-curated transparency reports, ad archive, oversight board, and programs to share selected internal data with outside researchers who study things like political polarization and health misinformation on the platform. “We believe that our systems are the most effective in reducing harmful content across the [social media] industry. And I think that any honest account of how we’ve handled these issues should include that,” Zuckerberg said. What he didn’t mention is how many of those mechanisms of transparency have been criticized for being inadequate by respected outside authorities. Even Facebook’s own oversight board has accused the company of withholding key information; in April, the board said that Facebook “was not fully forthcoming,” by “failing to provide relevant and complete information on some occasions,” and demanded more transparency from the company. And academics have long complained that Facebook is too slow and limited in the data it shares for outside studies, which can render Facebook’s academic partnerships ineffective for time-sensitive research on pressing topics like social media posts about Covid-19. Zuckerberg has a point when he says Facebook has fostered an open culture for its in-house, world-class researchers to analyze the company’s most complicated problems. What he seems to be upset about now is that Haugen has shared those findings with the public. While that hasn’t seemed to worry investors, analysts, and shareholders all that much — as Facebook is still a massively profitable business — Zuckerberg’s comments on Monday’s earnings call hint at how hard these leaks have rocked the company. Facebook’s financials may still be squarely under Zuckerberg’s control, but its moral standing isn’t anymore.

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