Aggregating and archiving news from both sides of the aisle.
Preview: President Donald Trump's first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, has tried to undo his guilty plea for more than a year.
Preview: The acquisition would be Saleforce's largest to date if it goes through.
Preview: The large gains in November may steal from December's rally, but stocks are still expected to end the year at higher levels.
Preview: Joe Biden is considering Roger Ferguson to lead the National Economic Council and Gary Gensler as Deputy Treasury secretary.
Preview: A number of companies that rely on AWS reported issues with their services.
Preview: Stocks took a breather after the Dow Jones Industrial Average topped a significant milestone.
Preview: Officials at the meeting voted to keep benchmark short-term borrowing rates anchored near zero.
Preview: Operation Warp Speed's Chief Science Advisor Moncef Slaoui said, “We hope that we'd have vaccinated 70% to 80% of the U.S. population by May or June of 2021."
Preview: From treetop dining to underwater villas, the Maldives is coming up with imaginative ways to help travelers stay socially distanced.
Preview: The Thanksgiving box office is set to see its worst haul in decades due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Preview: Coronavirus infections are skyrocketing. Unemployment is rising. Food lines are getting longer. And President Donald Trump is tweeting.
Preview: CNN's John Avlon breaks down President Trump's unwillingness to accept the results of the 2020 election.
Preview: President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday urged Americans to recommit to fighting the deadly coronavirus pandemic in a Thanksgiving address ahead of the holiday.
Preview: President Donald Trump's annual Thanksgiving proclamation calls for Americans to "gather" for the holiday, even though federal public health officials have explicitly warned against it.
Preview: CNN's Brianna Keilar calls out Republicans for "cynically poking" at the Ivy League educations of President-elect Biden's Cabinet picks.
Preview: At my family's Thanksgiving table, we begin the meal by saying what we're thankful for, and every year we list the same themes: We are grateful for our health. For the food on the table. We are grateful that we have one another.
Preview: • Analysis: How Michael Flynn perfectly explains Donald Trump's presidency • Analysis: The pardons begin with Flynn
Preview: • Pele pays tribute to Maradona • In pictures: The life of Diego Maradona
Preview: The National Rifle Association says in a tax filing that it became aware of a "significant diversion" of its assets in 2019 and previous years, and that its current president has paid back nearly $300,000 plus interest in funds for the expenses, according to the filings.
Preview: A cross-country lobbying campaign for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' Senate seat has pitted factions divided by race, gender and geography against one another and heightened internal tensions within at least one influential caucus on Capitol Hill.
Preview: Democrat Joe Biden gave a Thanksgiving address on Wednesday where he, an allegedly devout Catholic, appeared to not know how to pronounce one of the most famous books in the Bible. Biden said, “And if we do, and I’m sure we can, we can proclaim the palmist (ph), with the palmist (ph) who wrote these […]
Preview: An LGBT advocacy group is lobbying for Pennsylvania’s Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine to be the surgeon general in a future Biden administration. “I think there is a value in giving visibility to doctors like Dr. Levine who are kind of unique in their field. Not just because of their demographics and who they are […]
Preview: During an election year brimming with close house races, the margin of victory between Republican Claudia Tenney and Democrat Anthony Brindisi in the New York District 22 congressional election may take the cake for the closest U.S. House race of the year. According to Cook Political Report Editor David Wasserman, more than three weeks after […]
Preview: Denver Democrat Mayor Michael Hancock faced widespread backlash on Wednesday after he ignored his own coronavirus recommendations by getting on a flight to allegedly go visit family members after he warned families in his city to not travel because of the pandemic. 30 Minutes before his flight today, Hancock tweeted out a graphic of guidelines […]
Preview: The North Dakota Supreme Court has rejected Republican Governor Doug Burgum’s legal attempt to fill a state legislature seat with his own appointment because the apparent winner of the election died back in October of coronavirus. “We declare a vacancy in office will exist on December 1, 2020, and the Governor does not have statutory […]
Preview: A coffee shop in central Kentucky received an outpouring of support on Wednesday after its owner refused to obey state and county orders aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the line of customers “stretched out the door” at times and at least one customer waited an hour. “Haven’t tasted […]
Preview: This week many of our nation’s most dangerous fugitives will meet in their localized criminal cells to share in an illicit meal and plot to destroy human civilization. That second part is, admittedly, speculation. As for the rest, the media, along with various governors across the country and our trusted public health authorities, have made […]
Preview: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) warned this week that the people who Democrat Joe Biden is selecting to serve in his cabinet, while qualified on paper, will lead to “America’s decline.” “Biden’s cabinet picks went to Ivy League schools, have strong resumes, attend all the right conferences & will be polite & orderly caretakers of America’s […]
Preview: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) apologized and asked for the public’s forgiveness on Wednesday evening after it was revealed that he was traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday despite his own Twitter account cautioning against travel “if you can” earlier in the day. Pass the potatoes, not COVID. 🏘️Stay home as much as you can, especially […]
Preview: President Donald Trump on Wednesday made an impromptu call into a Pennsylvania state Senate election hearing, revving up his supporters and making clear he is still in full support of personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and the broader legal fight over the 2020 election. The president was initially expected to attend the event, but it was […]
Preview: Biden appeals for unity in holiday address... (Top headline, 1st story, link) Related stories: Calls for shared sacrifice to fight pandemic... Start in Stock Market Ranks With Any in History... Ravens-Steelers Primetime Game on NBC Postponed After Outbreak... Drudge Report Feed needs your support! Become a Patron
Preview: Calls for shared sacrifice to fight pandemic... (Top headline, 2nd story, link) Related stories: Biden appeals for unity in holiday address... Start in Stock Market Ranks With Any in History... Ravens-Steelers Primetime Game on NBC Postponed After Outbreak...
Preview: Start in Stock Market Ranks With Any in History... (Top headline, 3rd story, link) Related stories: Biden appeals for unity in holiday address... Calls for shared sacrifice to fight pandemic... Ravens-Steelers Primetime Game on NBC Postponed After Outbreak...
Preview: Ravens-Steelers Primetime Game on NBC Postponed After Outbreak... (Top headline, 4th story, link) Related stories: Biden appeals for unity in holiday address... Calls for shared sacrifice to fight pandemic... Start in Stock Market Ranks With Any in History... Drudge Report Feed needs your support! Become a Patron
Preview: THANKSGIVING SUPERSPREADER FEAR (Main headline, 1st story, link) Related stories: 'WE WANT TO SEE THE FAMILY' 2,284 DEATHS IN DAY CA CASES JUMP 17% IN 24 HOURS
Preview: 'WE WANT TO SEE THE FAMILY' (Main headline, 2nd story, link) Related stories: THANKSGIVING SUPERSPREADER FEAR 2,284 DEATHS IN DAY CA CASES JUMP 17% IN 24 HOURS
Preview: 2,284 DEATHS IN DAY (Main headline, 3rd story, link) Related stories: THANKSGIVING SUPERSPREADER FEAR 'WE WANT TO SEE THE FAMILY' CA CASES JUMP 17% IN 24 HOURS Drudge Report Feed needs your support! Become a Patron
Preview: CA CASES JUMP 17% IN 24 HOURS (Main headline, 4th story, link) Related stories: THANKSGIVING SUPERSPREADER FEAR 'WE WANT TO SEE THE FAMILY' 2,284 DEATHS IN DAY
Preview: CONGRESSMAN: President should pardon himself to stop 'radical left'... (First column, 1st story, link) Related stories: FLYNN FIRST... MANY More to Come...
Preview: FLYNN FIRST... (First column, 2nd story, link) Related stories: CONGRESSMAN: President should pardon himself to stop 'radical left'... MANY More to Come... Drudge Report Feed needs your support! Become a Patron
Preview: A restaurant CEO who donated $60,000 to her employees in Kentucky one-day before the governor issued an executive order mandating that all indoor dining be shutdown to curb resurgent coronavirus cases believes that the industry is unfairly scapegoated.
Preview: Just in time for Thanksgiving, Delray Beach Police in Florida teamed up with a group of local nonprofits to giveaway free turkeys to more than 100 senior citizens.
Preview: The governor's message included a 30-second video suggesting who people should uninvite, including 'your new boyfriend', 'your drunken uncle', ' your argumentative aunt', 'your bragging brother' and 'your vegan niece.'
Preview: Seattle's crime increase will only get worse if the city's leadership continues to hamstring its police force, Seattle Police Officers Guild president Mike Solan told Fox News Wednesday.
Preview: A Minnesota woman removed some bad pears from her refrigerator and left them outside for the squirrels – one of which got a visibly tipsy on the fermented fruit in home video.
Preview: Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt praised the county Democratic Party Tuesday for passing a resolution supporting his decision not to prosecute certain protesters involved in nightly demonstrations that have played out in Portland over several months.
Preview: State officials in Illinois are investigating a coronavirus outbreak at a veterans’ nursing home that infected nearly 200 residents and personnel and killed 27 veterans.
Preview: An area of low pressure moving into the Mississippi Valley will bring some rain and thunderstorms, some of which could reach severe limits with the risk of strong winds and hail.
Preview: At least 30 gyms and fitness studios in Philadelphia are demanding that the city allows them to stay open in order to keep their businesses alive during the coronavirus pandemic.
Preview: Kasich shrugs off CNN uproar about Michael Flynn pardon during clash with Jim Acosta: 'Let's move on' Fox News Trump announces pardon for Michael Flynn in tweet CNN Trump grants Michael Flynn a full pardon Fox News Trump’s pardon of Michael Flynn is a parting disgrace The Washington Post Andrew McCarthy: Trump’s Flynn pardon justified — adviser should never have been investigated and prosecuted Fox News View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Trump Literally Phones It in for Voter Fraud 'Hearing' as He Frets Privately About Prosecutors Ready to Pounce The Daily Beast Biden Urges Unity For Thanksgiving; Trump Says Election Must Be 'Turned Around' : Biden Transition Updates NPR Trump lawyer details far-fetched strategy to reverse Pennsylvania win for Biden CNBC Ben Shapiro: Why Biden's 'return to normalcy' is going to be terrible Fox News The handoff of presidential power begins | Editorial Tampa Bay Times View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: GOP effort to invalidate more than 2.5 million votes in Pennsylvania dealt another setback The Washington Post Sidney Powell demands Georgia Zoom meeting where officials refused 'real audit' Fox News "COUNT ONLY LEGAL VOTES" Rudy Giuliani OPENING STATEMENT On Election Fraud Claims | NewsNOW From FOX NewsNOW from FOX As Trump’s stage set is struck, his disastrous plot plays out Chicago Sun-Times Team Trump’s McCarthyism Seattle Times View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: As Hospitals Strain Under Influx Of COVID-19 Patients, Deaths Are Climbing : Shots - Health News NPR Louisville hospitals pen open letter plea to community: 'We ask that you stand with us' WLKY Louisville COVID-19: Washington state officials sound new warning about Thanksgiving gatherings KOMO News Man recounts fighting COVID-19 at Baltimore hospital WBAL-TV 11 Baltimore Antibody Drugs For COVID-19 Finally Make It To Patients : Shots - Health News NPR View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Trump takes his fraud claims to a hotel ballroom — by phone POLITICO Georgia secretary of state says Trump threw him under bus despite his support CNN Paper shredding drives false election claims in Georgia WSB Atlanta Georgia secretary of state: My family voted for Trump. He threw us under the bus anyway. USA TODAY Opinion | Did American Democracy Really Hold? Maybe Not. POLITICO View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: L.A. stay-at-home rules take shape as COVID-19 spike worsens Los Angeles Times LA County Officials Close To Issuing Safer-At-Home Lockdown CBS Los Angeles California officials issue dire warnings about virus spread KHQ Right Now As L.A. COVID-19 cases rise, alarming new metrics emerge Los Angeles Times Editorial: It's not outdoor dining that worries us, but human nature Los Angeles Times View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Mayor of Denver apologizes for holiday travel after advising residents to stay put | TheHill The Hill Denver mayor apologizes for Thanksgiving travel plan CNN Denver mayor makes Thanksgiving travel plans, ignoring his own COVID policies Fox News ‘It’s disheartening’: People in Denver and beyond react to Mayor Hancock’s Thanksgiving travel FOX 31 Denver Denver mayor flies for Thanksgiving despite urging others to avoid travel FOX31 Denver View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Fauci makes "final plea" to Americans before Thanksgiving CBS News Fauci says he's worried about what coronavirus case numbers will be 3 weeks after Thanksgiving CNN Dr. Fauci says he's worried about what coronavirus case numbers will be 3 weeks after Thanksgiving WGAL Lancaster Thanksgiving 2020 might determine US’ COVID-19 future, experts say Deseret News Fauci asks Americans to 'sacrifice' Thanksgiving in COVID-19 plea New York Post View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Biden leans toward Tom Donilon as CIA chief POLITICO Biden Delivers Thanksgiving Address | NBC News NBC News Biden stakes out his anti-Trump presidency CNN Biden shows how to pick the best people for key posts USA TODAY Editorial: So far, Biden Cabinet reflects diversity and experience. Our country needs that. Houston Chronicle View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Trump administration blocks controversial Alaska Pebble Mine project Fox News Permit Denied for Pebble Mine Project in Alaska The New York Times Trump gets one right, rejects Alaska Pebble Mine permit Los Angeles Times Trump administration rejects massive Alaska mining project POLITICO Permit Denied for Alaskan Mine Project The New York Times View Full Coverage on Google News
Preview: Israel's military is preparing for the possibility that the Trump administration will launch a military strike against Iran, ...
Preview: Rudy Giuliani and others from President Trump's campaign team are holding a hearing on voter fraud with Pennsylvania Republicans in Gettysburg, Pa.The president called in to the meeting.The hearing began at...
Preview: The most senior Black lawmaker on Capitol Hill is taking Joe Biden to task over administration appointments, saying the president-elect is falling short when it comes to naming Black figures to top positions....
Preview: President Trump phoned into a meeting arranged by Pennsylvania Republicans in Gettysburg on Wednesday to renew his unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen from him, telling participants that they needed to "tu...
Preview: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) apologized Wednesday following backlash for his holiday travel to Mississippi after he advised his residents to stay put due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hancock rel...
Preview: Hopefully, the end of the Trump administration will also be the end of attempts to undermine Social Security through executive action.
Preview: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin signaled that he will move $455 billion in COVID-19 relief from the Federal Reserve back into the Treasury's General Fund, a move that would make it harder for his successor to access the...
Preview: President Trump on Wednesday pardoned Michael Flynn, his first national security adviser who pleaded guilty to a charge in connection with former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation....
Preview: Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," said on Wednesday that he would never be a Republican again after the party supported President Trump.During an appearance on "The View" with his wife and co-host Mik...
Preview: Vice President-elect Kamala Harris told reporters on Wednesday that she had "not yet" spoken with Vice President Pence since she and President-elect Joe Biden were projected to win the race for the White House earlier thi...
Preview: It was the first major decision since Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the nation's highest court.
Preview: Jenna Ellis then defended her mistake by saying "I posted it because the ifea itself is true, whether or not he said it!"
Preview: "Now, as winter approaches, they’ll keep working amid the rain, mud, and cold,” United Farm Workers said as the nation prepares to tuck into the festive season.
Preview: The CNN host assailed the Florida senator for maligning expertise and experience.
Preview: In 2017, disturbing video showed police officers confronting the Michigan child at her home. She died on Sunday after contracting COVID-19, her family said.
Preview: Earlier this month a High Court judge rejected the actor’s claim that a newspaper had committed libel when it called him a “wife-beater.”
Preview: Nearly 200 residents and staff members at the State Veterans Home at LaSalle have tested positive for the virus as cases rise throughout the Midwest.
Preview: Up to one million people per day passed through U.S. airport checkpoints from Friday through Tuesday.
Preview: Biden told NBC that his Cabinet represented the spectrum of America and would be the right team to lead at a time very different from the Obama era.
Preview: A tiny Saw-whet owl found Nov. 16 in the holiday tree at Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center is now back in upstate New York.
Preview: Goldman Sachs is being forced to open a new stock trading hub in Paris, due to uncertainty surrounding Brexit and London’s future as a European stock trading center.
Preview: Salesforce.com Inc. is in advanced talks to buy Slack Technologies Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, a deal that would unite a giant in business software with a buzzy newcomer on a mission to replace office email.
Preview: Federal officials have granted TikTok and its Chinese parent ByteDance Ltd. a weeklong extension of a deadline for completing a divestiture deal, in another delay of the Trump administration’s effort to turn the social-media app into an American company.
Preview: Delivery apps have become more important for both business owners and their customers as more people order takeout and groceries during the coronavirus pandemic.
Preview: Jeremy Grantham, co-founder and chief investment strategist at Boston-based money manager Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co., has seen his fund badly trail the broader stock market in 2020.
Preview: ‘Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t need two headless chickens fighting over the soul of the nation’
Preview: Wednesday’s top personal finance stories
Preview: President Trump addressed an audience of Republican state legislators and other supporters at the Wyndham Hotel in Gettysburg this afternoon.
Preview: U.S. stocks closed mixed Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average retreating slightly from its historic close above a milestone at 30,000 on the day before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Preview: For a still vulnerable U.S. economy now in the grips of predictable aftershocks, the case for a relapse, or a double-dip, before mid-2021 is all the more compelling.
Preview: “As we sit down for Thanksgiving this week, a lot of us, thanks to the pandemic, are farther from our families than we would like. But while we prepare smaller meals this year, it is important to remember where all that food comes from,” says Chris Hayes, giving thanks to essential farm workers during the pandemic.
Preview: Host of Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough, speaks to Nicolle Wallace about the lawlessness of the Trump administration and his disbelief that some of their former allies in Washington are now Trump supporters
Preview: Co-founder of the Lincoln Project Steve Schmidt, New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay, and politics editor at the Daily Beast Sam Stein react to President Trump’s pardon of Michael Flynn
Preview: Glenn Kirschner makes the case that ‘we have to be prepared to fight corrupt pardons’ when it comes to Trump’s pardon of Michael Flynn and commutation of Roger Stone.
Preview: Dr. Twyla Baker joins The ReidOut to talk about how Native American communities have been impacted by the ongoing pandemic, calling it ‘colossal.’
Preview: Richard Schiff tells Lawrence O’Donnell that Covid-19 “wants to beat you. It gets into your system and it feels like wherever you think you can get a breath in, it’s going to go there – and that’s where the cough is going to go. It wants to stop you from breathing.”
Preview: Ashley Bartholomew, a former nurse in El Paso, TX, tells Craig Melvin about her decision to resign as a nurse, and a recent interaction with a Covid-19 patient who believed the virus to be nothing more than the flu.
Preview: In his first major executive act since losing the election to Joe Biden, Trump has fully pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the Russian probe. MSNBC's Ari Melber reports on the breaking news and highlights the fact that accepting a pardon confers guilt.
Preview: During a Pennsylvania Senate majority Policy Committee public hearing on the 2020 election, President Trump called his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and was put on speaker phone. NBC News’ Carol Lee reports on the baseless claims Trump continued to make about the election.
Preview: Giuliani encourages Trump's self-destructive habits, buys into conspiracies, and can't keep a secret. What a gift.
Preview: Former New York Sen. Al D’Amato was released from the hospital Wednesday after being treated for COVID-19. “I’m home and recuperating,” D’Amato told the Post Wednesday night. D’Amato, who lives on Long Island, was admitted to St. Francis Hospital last week while experiencing a mild fever and congestion. The former lawmaker will “continue his recuperation...
Preview: A Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper purchased a car seat for a woman’s son after writing her three traffic tickets. Niya Sumter shared the story on Facebook of how she was pulled over by the trooper, Bradley Sanders, as she drove her child to his doctor’s appointment. “Can I say how good god is?” Sumter wrote...
Preview: A British-Australian scholar who was serving a 10-year sentence for spying in Iran was freed in a prison swap. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, 33, a professor at Melbourne University who taught Islamic studies, had been jailed in Iran since Sept. 2018. Moore-Gilbert said she felt “bittersweet” leaving Iran despite the injustices she suffered. “I have nothing but...
Preview: A Civil War memorial toppled by Black Lives Matter protesters in Colorado over the summer will be replaced by a sculpture of a Native American woman in mourning. The new statue, approved by Denver representatives on Friday, will commemorate the 1864 Sand Creek massacre, where US Army soldiers attacked and destroyed a village of Cheyenne...
Preview: Concordia University in California said more than 50 rapid COVID-19 tests offered to asymptomatic students and faculty came back with false positive results — sparking fears of a potential outbreak on campus. The Lutheran university in Irvine reported six active cases — four students and two employees — as of Wednesday. President Michael Thomas thought...
Preview: The city opened 25 extra COVID-19 testing sites on Wednesday to help shrink hours-long lines ahead of Thanksgiving, officials said. “New York City: we heard you! More test sites, shorter lines,” Jackie Bray, a member of the city’s COVID-19 response team, tweeted. “We’ve got 25 new test sites open today.” A flier posted along with...
Preview: An Ohio man was arrested for allegedly whipping out brass knuckles during an argument about wearing a mask in Walmart, police said. Colyn Tusing, 20, was busted at about 5 p.m. Saturday inside the store in the city of Sandusky. Cops were called to the location when Tusing refused to leave the store after ignoring a...
Preview: ALBANY — It’s not over, till it’s over. After trailing in the polls by over 28,000 votes on election night, upstate Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi claimed victory Wednesday in the 22nd district over his Republican challenger — celebrating a slim 13-vote lead. The freshman Democrat now leads Republican opponent Claudia Tenney by 12 or 13...
Preview: It got through Buckner — and Steve Cohen owns it. The ball Mookie Wilson hit between Bill Buckner’s legs to complete the Mets’ wild comeback victory over the Red Sox in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series belongs to Cohen, who displayed it Wednesday night during an interview on SNY. Cohen, the new Mets...
Preview: If you’re looking for luxury fashion savings while shopping for this year’s Black Friday deals, then Vince is the place to go. The brand is taking 30% off sitewide and you’ll find everything from trendy outerwear to plush sweaters, chic dresses and even ribbed beanies. Vince’s sleek handbags are also featured in the Black Friday...
Preview: The president’s former national security adviser twice pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador.
Preview: In an emotional address, he pleaded with Americans to “hang on” and cited the death of his son to say that he understood the loss in the nation.
Preview: Political allies and associates are starting to press for clemency as the president also considers extending his criminal justice overhaul by commuting lengthy sentences for other offenders.
Preview: In earlier rulings related to coronavirus restrictions in California and Nevada, the court had taken the opposite approach. But its membership has changed since then.
Preview: Some trial participants only got a partial dose of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. Experts said the company’s spotty disclosures have eroded confidence.
Preview: The grim numbers may obscure a more hopeful trend: A far smaller proportion of people who catch the virus are dying from it. Catch up on the latest.
Preview: With cases and deaths rising fast, scientists say they worry about the virus’s course in the United States as Thanksgiving celebrations and cold weather arrive.
Preview: Claims for new unemployment benefits and other data suggest that the recent increase in infections is threatening the economic recovery.
Preview: You might be skipping turkey this year because it’s too big or just too much work. We’ve got options to get excited about.
Preview: Some of our international journalists have gone to great lengths trying to bring a taste of home to their new locations. But it hasn’t always worked out.
Preview: Treat this contagion of misinformation as a national crisis.
Preview: Reeves Weideman reveals the internal failures of WeWork in his new book.
Preview: When you work the phones for 10 hours every Thanksgiving, you know how to celebrate virtually.
Preview: The Argentine legend, who died Wednesday, was the sport’s most spectacular folk hero.
Preview: Flynn lied to the FBI and may have covered up for the president.
Preview: Our top choices.
Preview: Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel takes a less optimistic view of how Cold War-era chess players would treat Beth Harmon.
Preview: She deserves a Grammy nomination on the strength of her tweets alone.
Preview: Who is this large puppy pretender?
Preview: In Georgia’s runoffs and across the country, the radicals are on the right.
Preview: Chief Justice Roberts dissented from Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo.
Preview: Bounchan Keola was injured while fighting the deadly Zogg Fire. California rewarded him with a possible deportation.
Preview: The mayor is traveling to Mississippi to spend the holiday with his wife and daughter.
Preview: There's more evidence that community use of facial coverings is an effective tool for curbing COVID-19 transmission.
Preview: VC-related gifts for the whole family - and an opportunity to benefit charities helping refugees.
Preview: The libertarian billionaire and the head of his foundation discuss their new book, leaving partisanship behind, and learning from their critics.
Preview: By arbitrarily foreclosing relatively safe social and recreational options, politicians encourage defiance, resentment, and riskier substitutes.
Preview: The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist on Joe Biden, free speech, and leaving The Intercept for Substack.
Preview: His rumored candidate for CIA director, Michael Morell, is raising alarms.
Preview: Blood test study finds that only about 10 percent of Americans are immune to the virus.
Preview: List of state rules
Preview: Best Black Friday buys
Preview: Editorial cartoons
Preview: Best of Hulu
Preview: It was a reversal from earlier actions taken by the high court in response to state restrictions on organized religion during the pandemic.
Preview: President Donald Trump told Pennsylvania lawmakers on Wednesday that the election was a "fraud".
Preview: Mink infected with a mutated strain of COVID-19 in Denmark have "risen" from the dead, igniting a national frenzy and calls to cremate carcasses.
Preview: Michael Flynn pleaded guilty three years ago to lying about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Preview: Our View: President-elect's choices reflect America's diversity and a return of competence.
Preview: The National Weather Service is forecasting Santa Ana winds between 40 and 65 mph throughout Southern California beginning on Thanksgiving Day.
Preview: The ridges add flavor. | Getty Images Let us give thanks for a controversial American tradition. This is jellied cranberry sauce. It is an American tradition. Like so many American traditions, including Thanksgiving itself, its existence is controversial. It is a feat of engineering. It is a culinary wonder. It is an abomination, some say, slandering the cranberry’s good name. Thanksgiving will look different this year, as we observe it from the relative safety of our separate pods. But jellied cranberry sauce will look exactly the same. It always does. It may wobble, in these tumultuous times, but it will never break. And yet jellied cranberry sauce is a substance that defies easy categorization. What is jellied cranberry sauce, and is it sauce? No. Also yes. By any standard definition of the category, jellied cranberry sauce would not qualify as “sauce.” A sauce, according to What’s Cooking America, the nation’s “most trusted culinary resource since 1997” (according to itself), is a “liquid or semi-liquid [food] devised to make other foods look, smell, and taste better, and hence be more easily digested and more beneficial.” Wikipedia, my personal most trusted culinary resource, agrees that “sauces are not normally consumed by themselves,” and that a liquid component is essential. Jellied cranberry sauce — that majestic, jiggling store-bought log — does not meet these criteria: Clearly, it is a solid. In fact, one of its primary features is that it does not bleed, unwanted, into other elements of a meal. This is because it is a solid, which, by crowdsourced definition, disqualifies it from true sauce-hood, while also differentiating it from its purer sibling: whole cranberry sauce. Whole cranberry sauce is what you’d most likely make, were you to follow the recipe on the back of a bag of whole cranberries, though it can also be purchased in a can. Unlike the jiggling cranberry towers, the whole-berry version can be spooned out, sauce-like, over other elements of the meal. It is the whole-berry version that is “cranberry sauce.” The jellied cylinder qualifies as sauce only by relation, like a legacy applicant at Yale. Yet it is beloved — not as a sauce, exactly, but as a food group of its own. Indeed, it is so different from the whole-berry version that many Thanksgiving hosts serve both, in two separate dishes, side by side. And deep down, they are not so different after all: Whole cranberry sauce indeed involves whole berries. Jellied cranberry sauce goes through much the same process, but it is heavily strained, removing elements of nature — skin, seeds — that would impede its perfect silken texture. Where did it come from? The history of cranberry sauce — in general, not jellied — goes back to indigenous people, who gathered the wild berries, using them for all sorts of things: textile dyes, medicines, cooking. According to the Washington Post, a report from the colonies, circa 1672, reported that “Indians and English use it much, boyling them with Sugar for a Sauce to eat with their Meat,” though it did not come into fashion as a turkey-specific accompaniment until more than 100 years later. In Amelia Simmons’s 1796 tome, American Cookery, she suggests serving roast turkey with “boiled onions and cranberry sauce.” (As an alternative, the Post notes, she proposed pickled mangoes.) But it did not become a requirement of Thanksgiving dinners until General Ulysses S. Grant served it, alongside designated Thanksgiving turkey, to Union soldiers during the siege of Petersburg in 1864. “That sort of solidifies its place as part of Thanksgiving nationally,” Kellyanne Dignan, director of global affairs for Ocean Spray, tells me. Cranberries themselves, she points out, only grow in five states, even now: Wisconsin grows the most, followed by Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington state. (Also, British Columbia and Quebec.) All of that is only context for what happened less than 50 years later: the introduction of canned jellied cranberry sauce, a testament to the possibilities of American ingenuity. Cranberries are delicate fruits. They are “picky when it comes to growing conditions,” explains K. Annabelle Smith at Smithsonian.com. “Because they are traditionally grown in natural wetlands, they need a lot of water. During the long, cold winter months, they also require a period of dormancy which rules out any southern region of the US as an option for cranberry farming.” This reality put a cap on possibilities of the cranberry market: There are only so many cold-weather bogs to go around. Then in the very early 1910s, Marcus Urann, a lawyer who abandoned his first career to buy a cranberry bog — and would go on to become one of the founders of what would become Ocean Spray — began canning the stuff as a way to sell the seasonal berry year-round. The cranberry harvest lasts six weeks, Robert Cox, a co-author of Massachusetts Cranberry Culture: A History from Bog to Table, told Smithsonian. “Before canning technology, the product had to be consumed immediately and the rest of the year there was almost no market.” Then suddenly, there was. The jellied log became available nationwide in 1941. Thanksgiving history was forever changed. Ocean Spray, currently the world’s largest grower of cranberries, sells roughly 80 percent of its jellied sauce for the year Thanksgiving week. (There are also miniature peaks around Christmas, Easter, and the Super Bowl, thanks to a cult recipe for “Ultimate Party Meatballs.”) Americans love buying jellied cranberry sauce Ocean Spray makes 70 million cans of jellied cranberry sauce, which Dignan observes amounts to one for every American family. It is wildly more popular than canned whole-berry sauce; three cans of jellied are sold for every one can of whole-berry. Every jellied can requires 220 cranberries. “What’s interesting about cranberry sauce is that three-quarters of Americans use store-bought sauce for their Thanksgiving,” Dignan muses. “It really is the only thing on the table that the majority of people don’t just buy but want to buy.” Making your own cranberry sauce is much easier than roasting your own turkey, or making your own stuffing, or baking your own pie. It is arguably even easier than throwing together your own salad, which is apparently how people celebrate, healthfully, on the West Coast. It takes 15 minutes, some sugar, and a saucepan. Yet it is our favorite thing to buy. Here is Chris Cillizza of CNN, weighing in with passion: But seriously: The cranberry sauce in the can is the best. https://t.co/73a5G4i61n — Chris Cillizza (@CillizzaCNN) November 20, 2018 Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post agrees, as does, apparently, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. Cillizza is 100 percent right here -- if the cranberry sauce doesn't have can lines I'm not eating it https://t.co/rJscVFf8YN — Wesley (@WesleyLowery) November 20, 2018 See, this is what I mean. You think you know somebody & then they come at you with crazy talk. Canned cranberry blob is a @SenSherrodBrown thing, too, and he should have told me that way before we said, “I do.” Some things a woman needs to know early. https://t.co/BIsgK1ckTX — Connie Schultz (@ConnieSchultz) November 20, 2018 Nowhere is this is truer than in the southeastern United States, where they grow no cranberries at all. The biggest state for canned cranberry sauce consumption is Georgia, and while she cannot exactly explain this, it has, Dignan says, always been true. In an age where processed food is in decline, one might imagine that canned cranberry sauce would be struggling. But according to Dignan, it is not. Seventy-six percent of people buy the stuff. “I wouldn’t say cranberry sauce is something that’s expanding in terms of our portfolio — we’re not seeing tons of year over year growth,” she says, but sales are “amazingly steady.” “I think there’s a nostalgia to it,” she suggests. “There’s something about taking it out of the can and sort of that noise it makes and slicing it and it’s very uniquely American.” They don’t even sell canned cranberry sauce overseas, she says; they package it like a spread, in glass jars. The appeal is in its timelessness. “There’s something about the fact that it hasn’t changed much. Even if someone doesn’t eat anything out of a can the whole rest of the year, I think, for some reason, cranberry sauce really speaks to them,” she says. She is not alone in her assessment of the non-sauce sauce’s appeal. “How can you beat the tangy, sweet flavor of store-bought cranberry sauce,” said one taste tester at Bon Appétit. At Fortune, Clifton Leaf vigorously defended the “jiggly, wiggly mold of tartness.” The jellied slices, he wrote, go “down easy, like a slippery jam, potent with berry flavor and a whiff of history.” Are there dissenters? Of course. As there should be. This is America. “The wobbly crimson substance added nothing to my Thanksgiving enjoyment, unlike my mother’s lemon-zested, multi-spiced version,” lamented Gwen Ihnat at the Takeout. “Once you take the time to make a fresh cranberry or lingonberry jam in its place, you’ll never go back,” Jim Stein, executive chef at McCrady’s, told Food & Wine, proposing instead a version with “fresh lingonberries cooked down in a little bit of sugar, cinnamon, star anise, and orange juice/zest.” (Dissenters love to zest.) The exquisite beauty of the great jellied cranberry debate is that unlike many divisions — between families, between nations — it does not matter. Celebrate your freedom. Dance like no one’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt; eat your cranberries in the gelatinous form of your choice.
Preview: AFP via Getty Images Retailers like Macy’s, Home Depot, and Walmart are trying to keep stores safe — and you shopping sales. Even before the coronavirus pandemic changed everything about, well, everything, Black Friday was already on its last legs. The post-Thanksgiving shopping holiday kept creeping up earlier and earlier. Retailers started opening their stores before dawn on Friday, then at midnight, encouraging shoppers to wait in line for doorbusters before they had even finished digesting their turkey and mashed potatoes. Eventually they threw caution to the wind and started opening on Thursday afternoons, well before most people had gotten a chance to eat dinner at all. This year, thanks to the seemingly endless pandemic, Black Friday has become even more nebulous, with major retailers emphasizing online shopping and offering month-long sales to keep crowds at bay. And with good reason: a Deloitte survey found that more than half of shoppers polled are anxious about shopping in stores during the holiday season, not just on Black Friday but in the time leading up to the winter holidays as well. Another survey, by Accenture, found that 61 percent of respondents plan on limiting their in-store shopping time, not only to keep themselves safe but to keep essential workers safe as well. More than half of shoppers polled are anxious about shopping in stores during the holiday season. Nothing says “super spreader event” quite like a crowd of hundreds of people — many of whom just finished having a lengthy indoor meal with friends or relatives who may or may not have traveled across the country — gathered outside a store. A traditional Black Friday wouldn’t just be dangerous for shoppers; it’d also be dangerous for store employees, who already have to work long hours on the holiday. In order to avoid that worst-case scenario, many big retailers are changing the structure of their Black Friday sales, extending them for weeks and encouragingonline shopping. Walmart, for example, is stretching its sales across three weeks. The retailer had a November 4 online sale followed by a November 7 in-person sale, a November 11 online sale followed by an in-person sale three days later, and is having a final online sale on November 25, with its last in-person sale happening on Black Friday proper. Spreading the sales across three weeks “will be safer and more manageable for both our customers and our associates,” Scott McCall, Walmart’s executive Vice President and chief merchandising officer, said in a press release. For each of the three in-person sales, customers are being asked to wait in a single-file line outside the store. Employees — including a designated “health ambassador” — will greet customers, ask them to put on masks, and let them into the store in batches. Stores will be kept at 20 percent capacity to facilitate physical distancing, according to the Associated Press. Customers will be given sanitized shopping carts. Target, arguably Walmart’s biggest competitor, is taking a similar approach. The retailer is having several week-long sales over the course of November. Like Walmart, Target will limit the number of customers who can be present in any given store at a time, though it’s unclear what those limits will be. When asked whether stores would be operating at limited capacity, a spokesperson told The Goods that stores’ “capacities account for six feet social distancing guidance throughout our stores and key areas like our check lanes. We also continue to follow local government mandates.” Target is encouraging customers to reserve spots in line ahead of time, and said it’ll let customers check online to see if there’s a line at their local store before heading over. Rather than waiting in a physical line, customers will get a text telling them when it’s their turn to enter the store, presumably to allow people to wait in their cars or homes rather than in clusters outside the store. Several retailers are also expanding curbside pickup to include sale items, another tactic to encourage customers to shop online instead of in-store. Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and Macy’s are all expanding curbside pickup for this reason. Both Macy’s and Best Buy will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, harkening back to a time when Black Friday was a single-day event rather than a weekend-long one. That said, both retailers have extended their sales throughout the month. While they may be closed on Thanksgiving, both Best Buy and Macy’s had sales throughout November. JCPenney, another major Black Friday retailer, is having an eight-day sale. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Walmart (@walmart) While traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are trying to encourage customers to shop online, Amazon is playing up its in-person offerings. It may seem counterintuitive, given Amazon’s delivery-focused business model, but according to RetailDive, the digital retailer is also focusing on alternatives to home delivery. Getting packages delivered may be safer, but given the uptick in online shopping, it could also lead to orders being delayed or even lost. For that reason, Amazon is emphasizing its “alternative delivery locations” for customers “in more than 900 cities and towns across the U.S.” Though Amazon is a primarily online retailer, it does have Amazon 4-star stores, Amazon Bookstores, and delivery hubs inside some Whole Foods locations. Retailers are largely framing their pandemic-era Black Friday plans as a way of protecting customers and encouraging them to feel safe, but there’s also the matter of worker safety as well. Unlike shoppers, who have the option of picking up their items at the door or getting a text when it’s their turn to shop, retail workers will still be expected to do what they’ve been doing throughout the pandemic: greet customers, help them find what they’re looking for, ring them up, and hope that they don’t get exposed to the virus. During the spring coronavirus surge, many retailers offered hazard pay to their workers. As the New York Times recently reported, most major retailers have since stopped. Walmart, for example, offered workers cash bonuses but never raised their wages. A few companies are still offering extra pay, however: a JCPenney spokesperson told The Goods that the brand still offers hazard pay to its workers. Nearly every major retailer has said they’ll require all customers and employees to wear masks while in stores, a precaution that is particularly important during crowded sales. However, mask enforcement will be left to hourly employees or managers, who may have little recourse when dealing with hostile customers. In October, the Times reported that the National Retail Federation had a new partnership with the Crisis Prevention Institute to teach workers how to prevent and deescalate disputes with shoppers who refuse to wear masks or follow other safety precautions. “This is one additional opportunity for our retailers to say: ‘Our staff members are trained. If there is an incident, they will handle it and you will be safe shopping,’” Bill Thorne, the executive director of the National Retail Federation, told the Times. But earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned stores against doing that very thing. In August, the health agency told retailers that their employees should refrain from arguing with anti-maskers, because they could become violent. It’s essentially a choice between asking employees to be potentially exposed to coronavirus and asking them to be potentially exposed to coronavirus and a violent attack. Ultimately, this year’s Black Friday is a balancing act between keeping customers safe, keeping workers safe, and perhaps most importantly for retailers, dealing with the ongoing logistical and financial side effects of a pandemic that seems to have no end in sight.
Preview: The feast that heals, from Babette’s Feast. | Nordisk Film Comedies, dramas, documentaries, and more to stream after you’ve had a good meal. In the US, it’s the week of Thanksgiving, and a very unusual one. With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic hampering travel and families rethinking their celebrations in pursuit of safety, the holiday defined by a feast looks different for a lot of people. But it’s still a feast, even if it’s on Zoom. And after any feast, the best thing to do is curl up on the couch with a slice of pumpkin pie, a cup of something warm, and a delicious, joyful food movie. Cinema has set feasts on screen for a long, long time, using food to evoke desire, love, loneliness, bounty, happiness, and a lot more. And there are many to take in, whether you’re craving a little cinematic confectionery or a grand banquet. Here are 10 great films you can stream about feasts, food, family, and what cooking and eating teach us about being human. For a tale of feasts overcoming ascetic grimness ... Try Babette’s Feast (1987) Based on a story by Isak Dinesen, Babette’s Feast is about a sect of austere, severe religious people living on a remote Denmark coast in the 19th century. They are led by the elderly daughters of the sect’s founder, they view pleasures as a distraction from God, and they eat only bland food. But their lives are upended when Babette (Stéphane Audran) shows up at the women’s home, seeking refuge from violence in her native Paris. They’re suspicious of her. But she offers to work for free, and stays with them for 14 years, gaining their trust. One day, she wins the lottery, and instead of using the money to finally go back home, she uses it to prepare a lavish feast in honor of the sect’s founder. And that feast — both in the story and as an on-screen repast — becomes legendary. How to watch it: Babette’s Feast is streaming for subscribers on HBO Max. It’s also available to digitally rent or purchase on iTunes and Amazon. If you want a comedy with heart and a pitch-perfect ending ... Watch Big Night (1996) Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub (need I say more?) play brothers, Italian immigrants to the US, who open a restaurant that is suffering for business because their customers’ tastes lean more toward Italian-American food. Vexed and facing a shutdown, they reach out to a friend who arranges for a famous jazz singer to attend a fancy dinner at the restaurant and thereby drum up business. They prepare a sumptuous meal and invite their friends but, of course, nothing goes as planned. Tucci co-wrote and co-directed Big Night with Campbell Scott, and it’s wonderful: A bittersweet movie about a feast that is, itself, a feast. How to watch it: Big Night is available to stream for Amazon Prime subscribers and for free (with ads) on Pluto. It’s also available to digitally rent or purchase on iTunes, YouTube, Vudu, and Google Play. For a satisfying portrait of one of the greatest food critics of all time ... See City of Gold (2016) City of Gold, about the late and beloved Los Angeles food critic Jonathan Gold, is among the best food documentaries ever made, largely because it isn’t just about food; it’s about loving a place through being a critic. Directed by Laura Gabbert (who also directed Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles), the film follows Gold as he drives his green pickup truck through LA, eating at a handful of hole-in-the-wall strip mall restaurants that most people just blithely sail past, talking about his career and his approach to his work. It’s an illuminating portrait not just of a writer but of a city, and it’s a kind of master class in how good critics think, work, and live. How to watch it: City of Gold is available to stream on Amazon Prime for subscribers with the IFC add-on subscription. It’s also available to digitally rent or purchase from iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, or Vudu. For an experimental doc-fiction hybrid with a philosophical edge ... Watch Feast of the Epiphany (2018) Feast of the Epiphany is the most experimental and daring of the films on this list, and one that will haunt you after it’s over. The first half is a scripted, fictional drama set in a New York apartment at an Epiphany dinner (celebrated by some Christians on January 6, traditionally the day the Magi arrived at the stable where the infant Jesus lay in a manger). The second half is a documentary centering on Roxbury Farms in upstate New York, where a team of farmers raise food and live off the land. Directed by Michael Koresky, Jeff Reichert, and Farihah Zaman, it’s a diptych in which the two halves echo and mirror one another implicitly, and make us think about the role that food plays in our lives — both as social beings and creatures of the earth. How to watch it: Feast of the Epiphany is available to digitally rent on Vimeo through November 29. For a modest drama about capitalism, male friendship, and baking ... Watch First Cow (2020) Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow is set in a 19th-century frontier settlement somewhere in Oregon, near the Columbia River, populated by people who are living in tiny houses and trying to scratch out a living in the New World, as well as the First Nations people who’ve been there for generations. Into that settlement, a cow arrives, setting off a chain of events that are both momentous and small. But the film is about much more than just that. First Cow is also a gentle (and gently devastating) tale about male friendship, about finding someone to share your aspirations and dreams with, and, most deliciously, about cooking. (Don’t be surprised if you have a craving for blueberry clafoutis when it’s done.) And it’s also about the kinds of constructed hierarchies — based on factors like race, class, money, and firepower — that seem to be imposed on the world wherever new civilizations pop up. How to watch it: First Cow is available to digitally rent or purchase on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, or Google Play. With a Showtime add-on, it’s available to stream on Hulu. For a side of family drama along with a portrait of an artist whose medium is raw fish ... Watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) An entire documentary about sushi? Well, not exactly. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (made by the same team behind Netflix’s Chef’s Table series) is a gentle, meditative, and entrancing portrait of Jiro Ono, considered possibly the greatest sushi chef in the world. He’s been making sushi for a long time in his small, exquisite restaurant, which is inside a subway station in Tokyo. It’s a story of true dedication to art, as well as the pressure his sons feel to follow in their father’s footsteps. Order some tuna rolls beforehand and make an evening of it. How to watch it: Jiro Dreams of Sushi is available to digitally rent or purchase on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, or Vudu. A time-spanning tale of learning to cook and trying to love ... Try Julie & Julia (2009) Meryl Streep as Julia Child may go down as one of the best casting choices of the century, but the entirety of Julie & Julia — written and directed by Nora Ephron — is just as delightful. Amy Adams plays Julie Powell (on whose memoir the movie is based), who in 2002 has a stressful job answering phone calls about plans to rebuild the World Trade Center following the 9/11 terror attacks. She begins cooking (and blogging) through Julia Child’s classic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking, much to the amusement of her supportive husband (Chris Messina). The film cuts between 2002 and the 1950s, when Child and her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci) are in France, and Child is just learning to cook. The result is a movie about marriage, love, and the healing power of food, and its feeling runs deeper than its chipper exterior initially suggests. How to watch it: Julie & Julia is streaming for free (with ads) on Amazon and for subscribers on Hulu with the Showtime add-on subscription. It’s also available to digitally rent or purchase on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, and Vudu. If you’re looking for an unpretentious, outside-the-box romance, try ... The Lunchbox (2013) The Lunchbox is a gentle romance between two people who communicate through food. Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is trying to rekindle her husband’s love for her by sending him sumptuous lunches at work. When the courier screws up, Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) becomes the accidental recipient of one of these meals and starts to wonder about the cook behind it. When they both realize the mistake, they start sending small notes to one another, and a friendship that fills both their lonely hearts begins to blossom. Not only is The Lunchbox a sweet film, but it’s a delicious one; be sure to have your favorite biryani or saag paneer on hand, or your stomach will be growling. How to watch it: The Lunchbox is available to digitally rent or purchase on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, and Vudu. For a kinky, brilliant reminder of food’s place in our domestic lives ... Watch Phantom Thread (2017) Phantom Thread masquerades as a film about fashion, but everybody who’s seen it knows it’s really about food. That’s clear from the start: The central romance’s meet-cute occurs in a hotel restaurant, in which Daniel Day-Lewis (playing finicky couture designer Reynolds Woodcock) orders a legendary meal of “Welsh rabbit with a poached egg, bacon, scones, butter, cream, jam, a pot of lapsang souchong tea. And some sausages.” And once you’ve seen the movie, you’ll never look at a mushroom omelet the same way again. How to watch it: Phantom Thread is available to digitally rent or purchase on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, and Vudu. For a family-friendly reminder that cooking is an art ... Watch Ratatouille (2007) Ratatouille is the tale of Remy the Rat, who wants to be a chef but is, well, a rat. Yet through a series of unlikely events, he becomes a chef in the kitchen of an upscale Paris restaurant. As much a reminder of the power of criticism as the power of art, Ratatouille boasts some memorable meals, and an indelible scene in which Remy — trying to coax his fellow rats into actually tasting their food — experiences a true fantasia of flavor, rendered in visual form. It’s a delight to return to again and again. How to watch it: Ratatouille is available for subscribers to stream on Disney+. It’s also available to digitally rent or purchase on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, or Vudu. 5 more movies to please your palate and whet your appetite ... Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009), available to digitally rent or purchase on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, or Vudu. Read Roger Ebert’s review. Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), available to digitally rent or purchase on iTunes, Amazon, or Vudu. Listen to the episode of the Blank Check podcast on the movie. Goodfellas (1990), available to digitally rent or purchase on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, and Vudu. Here’s how to cook the pasta sauce from the movie. Tampopo (1987), available for subscribers to stream on HBO Max, or to digitally rent or purchase on iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, and Vudu. Read why it’s one writer’s favorite film. The Trip series — including The Trip (2010), The Trip to Italy (2014), The Trip to Spain (2017), and The Trip to Greece (2020) — are streaming for subscribers on Hulu. They’re also available to digitally rent or purchase on various platforms; The Trip, for instance, is on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and Google Play. Here’s an introduction to the series following the final installment’s release.
Preview: Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-1997) sitting on a step at her home, Highgrove House, in Doughton, Gloucestershire, on July 18, 1986. | Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images Why we’re still talking about Princess Diana in 2020. Fame is a dragon. We feed it with virgin sacrifices. And was there ever a virgin sacrifice like Princess Diana? From the moment that Diana first appears on Netflix’s The Crown, a gawky 16-year-old tiptoeing away from Prince Charles with her supermodel face peeping out from behind a schoolgirl’s costume mask, a thread of electricity runs into the show: Ah, at last, there she is. There is Princess Diana, who will win over a nation, rend the Windsors apart, and die young and beautiful and tragic. We’ve been waiting for her. We’ve been waiting for Diana to show up and liven things up with scandal. And most importantly, we’ve been waiting for her to die. Her death is built into the structure of the show, the moment we’ve all been waiting for it to catch up to. What, after all, was the 2006 film The Queen — written by The Crown showrunner Peter Morgan and taking place in the days after the car accident that killed Diana — if not a statement of intention that her death is the moment that must be the inevitable climax of The Crown? So The Crown lingers on the foreknowledge of that moment with exquisite care. It features shot after shot of her slipping into the back seat of a black Mercedes like the one she died in; shot after shot of the paparazzi coming in too close, just as they did on the night she died. The Crown has been laying out a seven-course meal for seasons now, and Diana and her death are the entree. There must be something about Diana’s story that is very appealing to us, because we repeat it so often. Not just in tellings and retellings about Diana herself, but in the stories of other virgin sacrifices, other famous women who match the Diana archetype. It’s the story of Marilyn Monroe. It’s the story of Britney Spears. It’s the story of the women whose combined innocence and sex appeal and star power makes the public worship them; the story of women hounded for the idea that they might be using all that sex appeal and star power to make the public worship them on purpose, rather than out of sheer innocence. It’s the story of the women we love to death. Diana became famous for being accidentally sexy. The contradiction was fundamental to her image. Left and center: Getty; Right: SME From left: Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Seven-Year Itch; Diana Spencer in the 1980 photo that made her famous; Britney Spears in the video for “Baby One More Time.” The picture that made Princess Diana famous was taken when she was still known as Diana Spencer, before she was engaged to Prince Charles. She was just his unremarkable new girlfriend, the one the tabloids had dubbed Shy Di because of her trick of ducking her head and laughing nervously when the paparazzi photographed her. She didn’t strike the press, then, as particularly pretty or particularly special. Then one day in 1980, a photographer from the Evening Standard came to the kindergarten where Diana worked and asked to take a picture. Diana posed outside with a couple of children from the classroom, and halfway through the shoot, the sun came out, backlighting Diana’s skirt. The fabric went transparent, so that in the finished photograph, Diana’s soon-to-be-famous long legs form a striking silhouette. “I knew your legs were good,” Prince Charles is said to have commented upon seeing the resulting news spread, “but I didn’t realize they were that spectacular.” From then on, whether or not a love affair blossomed between Diana and Charles, there was certainly a love affair blooming between Diana and the media. And it wasn’t only because they had realized she was pretty. Diana was a lovely girl, but there were plenty of lovely girls hanging around Prince Charles in 1980. What made the picture iconic, and what made Diana an instant sensation, is the fact that she clearly did not know her legs would be visible in the photograph, that she clearly had no intention of showing them off, and yet there they were anyway. “The picture was so obviously, and beguilingly, a show of inexperience,” writes Tina Brown in The Diana Chronicles, the definitive Diana text. “The British public was instantly enchanted by this delightful mixture of feminine messages — modesty, sexuality, and affection for children.” Diana would manage to preserve that contradiction all the way through to her wedding day. “I have never seen such a strong charge of innocently provocative sex,” wrote one wedding guest in his diary afterward. This idea that sex appeal is at its most appealing when it is unintentional, a product of innocence, is a familiar one. The same idea was at the heart of Marilyn Monroe’s star image: that she couldn’t really help being so sexy, it just breathed naturally out of her. “She was our angel, the sweet angel of sex,” wrote Norman Mailer of Marilyn, “and the sugar of sex came up from her like a resonance of sound in the clearest grain of a violin.” Marilyn helped along the idea that it was all pure accident, with frequent quotes that managed to sound both dirty and unintentional. “It’s not true I had nothing on,” she said of her nude calendar photos. “I had the radio on.” An insistence that Marilyn’s sexuality was a pure and natural accident she did not intend is part of why the famous photograph of Marilyn with her skirt flying up over the subway grate in The Seven-Year Itch became so indelible: As with Diana 25 years later, part of the play of the moment is that Marilyn doesn’t intend to show off her legs. It’s not her fault. Her skirt was caught by the passing breeze of a subway train. She’s at the mercy of the elements, just like Diana with the sun. It just happens. In the 1990s, the media would perform a similar dance with a young Britney Spears and the newly released video for “Baby One More Time,” which features Spears in a tiny midriff-baring schoolgirl outfit. The archetype of the sexy schoolgirl was already a play on the idea of adolescent innocence intertwined with adult sexuality, and whenever Spears spoke about it in public, she did so with wide-eyed incredulity at the idea that anyone would consider her outfit to be provocative. “All I did was tie up my shirt!” she told Rolling Stone, in a line that would have done Marilyn proud. It’s this combination of innocence and sexuality that the press would find so intoxicating in Diana, Marilyn, and Britney alike: These women were all hot, but they didn’t know it, and they weren’t doing it on purpose. (It goes without saying that this contradiction works best with a blonde.) Underlying this archetype is a sort of reassuring whisper to the watching man — and it is always a man who is assumed to be watching — “It’s okay. She can’t manipulate you because she doesn’t know what she’s doing. She will never use sex to get her own way because she doesn’t know she’s sexy. It’s safe to want her. You will always have more power than she has.” Unless the woman does know what she’s doing. Unless she’s not a real virgin after all. That would ruin everything, wouldn’t it? As Diana’s wedding to Charles approached, the press went into a frenzy over her virginity Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images Princess Diana and Prince Charles on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on their wedding day, July 29, 1981. Princess Diana had to be a virgin. The Windsors were very clear on that: The woman who married Prince Charles, the woman who would someday be queen, had to walk to the altar virgo intacta. By 1980, this view was already so retro that wags would crack that Charles married Diana solely because she was the only aristocratic virgin left in England. But Diana’s virginity — the proof of her desirable youth and desirable innocence — was central to the fairy tale glamour of her myth. It had to be protected from any threat of scandal. In November 1980, Diana’s uncle gave an infamous interview to the Daily Star. “Purity seems to be at a premium when it comes to discussing a possible bride for Prince Charles at the moment,” he said. “And after one or two of his most recent girlfriends I am not surprised. Diana, I can assure you, has never had a lover.” Less than a week later, the Sunday Mirror reported that Prince Charles had smuggled his new fiancée, the now-19-year-old Diana Spencer, onto the Royal Train, where he was known to take his girlfriends for unsupervised overnight visits. The Mirror reported that Diana had spent two consecutive nights on the train, where “there followed hours alone together for the couple whose friendship has captured the country’s imagination.” Charles and Diana, the paper was suggesting, had done it. A furious Diana issued outraged denials. “I am not a liar,” she said. “I have never been on that train. I have never even been near it.” The queen’s press secretary wrote to the Mirror demanding an apology. While the Mirror stood by its sourcing and its story, an editor agreed to publish correspondence from the palace making its denials known. Plausible deniability had to remain in place all the way up to the wedding march. So strong was the insistence on Diana’s virginity, so fundamental was it to her image, that the idea of violating that image added an extra frisson of intrigue to the intrusive paparazzi photos of Diana’s pregnant belly in a bikini in 1982, taken in secret with a long-distance lens when she was pregnant with Prince William. Queen Elizabeth called it “the blackest day in the history of British journalism.” “In those pre-Demi Moore days,” writes Tina Brown in The Diana Chronicles, “a photograph of a beautiful pregnant woman, the bare skin of her swollen belly unmistakably proclaiming her sexual experience, bordered on the pornographic. If the woman was not only famous but also famously demure, private, ‘innocent,’ and protected, and if she had been photographed against her will, then to the thrill of voyeurism was added the stronger kick of — the word is all too apt — violation.” There was the virgin fairy tale princess, knocked up. What a feast of signifiers. A few decades earlier, the tabloids had never quite dared to speculate about Marilyn Monroe’s virginity. At that point, the official story of the press was that you were a virgin unless you were married. But Marilyn knew that the careful balancing act of her image could never survive a hint of sexual knowingness. When Truman Capote was looking for an actress to play the courtesan Holly Golightly as his novel Breakfast at Tiffany’s went from stage to screen, he thought at once of Marilyn Monroe. But Marilyn took herself out of the running. She would not, she said, play a lady of the evening. Unspoken in Marilyn’s refusal was the idea that putting the sheen of sexual impropriety on an actress whose image depended on balancing sex with innocence risked blowing the whole thing up. Instead, the role went to Audrey Hepburn, whose image was so unsexed that audiences left the theater remarking not on Holly’s scandalous job but on Audrey’s cool elegance. Forty years later, Britney Spears would not be so lucky. By the time Britney’s fame reached its peak, the press felt no compunctions about inquiring after the status of her virginity. “I am a virgin,” Britney said in a radio interview as a newly famous 18-year-old. “I definitely want to try not to have had sex until I’m married. I just want to wait for this special someone.” “Britney Spears swirls her virginity about like a tasselled nipple,” said an article in the Guardian in 2000. And that tease, the article concludes, is what makes Britney fascinating: “It’s what makes her videos so exciting — she doesn’t really know what she’s doing, or singing, or how she’s thrilling her boy fans with her customised school uniform. She is that innocent.” In 2001, an interviewer asked Britney point-blank if she was still a virgin. “That’s private,” Britney protested — but the speculation was rampant nonetheless. The Church of England hailed her as a “great ambassador for virginity.” Justin Timberlake gossiped that she wasn’t a real virgin in post-breakup interviews. Britney confessed in a 2003 interview to having sex with Timberlake, and in 2008, her mom made headlines when she claimed that Britney had had sex at age 14. The fairy tale virgin pop princess, not that innocent after all. What a feast of signifiers, yet again. For the virgin sacrifice to work, the virgin can’t know what she’s doing Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images Princess Diana in a “black sheep” sweater that electrified the press, Windsor Polo, June 1981. What’s at stake in all this Sturm und Drang over virginity is a more metaphorical question that has to do with knowingness. When pop culture’s princesses are virgins, the press treats their sexuality as unthreatening. They are hot, but not in a scary way; they don’t know what they’re doing; they are safe to want. But if they begin to wield their sexuality knowingly, everything changes. And their relationship with the public changes, too. The big question with Diana, the question on the cover of The Diana Chronicles: How much of it did she do on purpose? “Was she ‘the people’s princess,’ who electrified the world with her beauty and humanitarian missions?” asks Brown. “Or was she a manipulative, media-savvy neurotic who nearly brought down the monarchy?” Any honest reckoning of Diana would have to say the answer to that question is both. She was beautiful; she did have a remarkable gift for connecting with disenfranchised people doing humanitarian work — and she also spent much of her time as Princess of Wales in the grips of bulimia and suicidal ideation, using her skill with the press as her most potent weapon against the Windsors. Throughout Diana’s marriage to Charles, she consistently outshined and outworked him. At public gatherings and charity events, she was able to genuinely connect with the crowds in a way Charles couldn’t. She would crouch down on her knees to talk to the kids. She would shake hands with an AIDS patient. Such moments established both her reputation as the “people’s princess” — the saint in the killer designer suit who could love her subjects more than anyone else could, who could transcend the monarchy — and her reputation as a schemer who was upstaging the monarchy on purpose, out of selfishness and greed. And after Diana’s divorce from Charles in 1996, as she partied her way across multiple continents and began campaigning against land mines, those two ideas became ever stronger. But Brown frames her question in a way that suggests these two opposing images of Diana are mutually exclusive. The idea that Diana might have been intentionally using the press, that she might have desired to be as famous and beloved as she was and that she might have intentionally wielded her beauty and charisma to get there, seems to somehow negate the idea of saintly Diana, the people’s princess. And if Diana courted the press, if she used them in the same way they used her — well, how does that square with the way she died? How can we say that Diana was using the press that drove her off the road and to her death? A similar contradiction runs through Britney Spears’s career, a similar deep concern around the question of how much of her life and her success are of her own making. It emerged early, when she was a fresh-faced young star on the make singing “Baby One More Time”: Was she the architect of her own image, or was she just a passable singer being molded by brilliant music producers? It still exists today, as the #FreeBritney movement rages and Britney fails, once again, to have her father removed from the conservatorship that controls her life: Is Britney surviving and thriving in a conservatorship that gives her life shape and meaning and purpose? Or is she being held captive by her family, and by her very fame? As for Marilyn Monroe, the question of whether she might have had control over her own image wasn’t a subject of major attention until after she died. Audiences and producers alike considered her to be interchangeable with the dumb blondes she played onscreen, and she wasn’t allowed to leave those dumb blondes behind until she broke her contract with 20th Century Fox and started her own production company. Only in the decades since has the idea that Marilyn was smart — and that she built her dumb blonde persona deliberately — begun to take center stage. “I began my book with the expectation that the way she was viewed over time, from her death in 1962 until I finished writing, which was 2004, would have changed according to changing ideas about women — the gradual acceptance of feminism, basically,” remarked Marilyn image analyst Sarah Churchwell in 2004. “And how wrong I was.” The virgin sacrifice can’t survive her own story Alisdair Macdonald/Mirrorpix/Getty Images Diana Spencer walks to her flat surrounded by paparazzi, November 1980. The story of the virgin sacrifice can only end one way: with her destruction. And like her rise, her end comes as a collaboration between the virgin sacrifice and the press that worships her, one in which complicity and responsibility are deeply muddied. “A sex symbol becomes a thing,” Marilyn Monroe remarked a week before she died by suicide. “I just hate to be a thing.” She seems to have increasingly experienced her public image as a trap, and to know that it was one she had little chance of escaping. Britney Spears managed to survive her own destruction. But her public nadir in 2007 was both a reaction to and fueled by furious press coverage. The paparazzi followed her around for upskirt shots. She started yelling at them in a British accent. She shaved her own head, allegedly telling a nearby tattoo artist that she was sick of people touching her hair, while paparazzi photographed every angle through the windows of the hair salon. She attacked a paparazzo’s car with an umbrella. She went in and out of rehab. She sleepwalked through her performance at the 2007 VMAs so badly that Perez Hilton lectured her for being “disrespectful” to her fans, and then the press made fun of her for gaining weight. In 2008, Britney’s father petitioned the court for emergency conservatorship over Britney. She’s been living under that conservatorship ever since. In contrast, Diana’s destruction wasn’t metaphorical, and the press was intimately involved. Diana died in a car crash with her boyfriend after paparazzi aggressively tailed them out of the Ritz in Paris. The car’s driver was drinking and using prescription drugs, and a formal investigation would later clear the paparazzi of responsibility for the crash. But the image of the paparazzi mobbing Diana in that black Mercedes is an inextricable part of the spectacle of her death. And so is the rage that her family directed at the press afterward. “I always believed that the press would kill her in the end,” said Diana’s brother Earl Spencer shortly after she died. “But not even I could imagine that they would take such a direct hand in her death as seems to be the case. It would appear that every proprietor and editor of every publication that has paid for intrusive and exploitative photographs of her, encouraging greedy and ruthless individuals to risk everything in pursuit of Diana’s image, has blood on their hands today.” In The Diana Chronicles, Tina Brown describes Diana on the night of her death as displaying “an almost compulsive need to be seen.” She went to the Ritz, mobbed with tourists, and walked in the front door instead of the back. Three times she and her boyfriend would make the circuit — in through the Ritz’s front door, inside, out again to another destination, and back to the Ritz — and every time, the crowd of fans outside was bigger. It was as though the press couldn’t get enough of her, and she couldn’t get enough of them either. “The camera was Diana’s fatal attraction,” Brown writes. “It had created the image that had given her so much power, and she was addicted to its magic, even when it hurt. Her life’s obsession was how to control the genie she had released.” But the point of the story of the virgin sacrifice is that she is not allowed to control her own power. We treat her with profound suspicion the second we begin to suspect that she’s trying. We want her to be always as she was when we first saw her: vulnerable and open and possessed of a charisma she does not fully understand, such that her vulnerability is even more compounded. Such that she is easy prey for unscrupulous men. That’s how Diana first appears in The Crown, flirting bashfully with the man who will unleash disaster on her life. The scene gets its juice from the horror of its foreshadowing: She is so innocent, she is so beautiful, she has no idea how pretty she is, she has no idea of what’s to come, and isn’t it awful? You can’t look away. We feast on the spectacle of the virgin sacrifice. And the spectacle climaxes with her destruction. That’s always how the story of the virgin sacrifice ends, the one we tell over and over and over again. That’s the story of Princess Diana.
Preview: A worker checks vials of potential Covid-19 vaccine CoronaVac on the production line at Sinovac Biotech during a media tour on September 24, 2020 in Beijing, China. | Kevin Frayer/Getty Images China’s emergency vaccine program is a risky proof of concept for large-scale Covid-19 vaccine deployment. While countries around the world anxiously await the arrival of a vaccine for the coronavirus, a growing slice of the Chinese population has reportedly already been vaccinated. In an interview last week with the Sichuan Daily, the chair of the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm Group said that its Covid-19 vaccines have been used by nearly one million people in China. The vaccinations have occurred as part of an emergency use program that began in late July, though few details about it have been revealed by the Chinese government. What we do know is that as part of the program, China’s State Council authorized high-risk groups including medical workers, customs officials, and transportation workers to start receiving one of three Chinese-made vaccines — two from Sinopharm and one produced by Sinovac. But some Chinese cities have also been offering the vaccines to members of the public. So far, the vaccines appear to have been administered in a decentralized fashion, with a handful of local governments officially announcing availability. People have rushed to queue up for a dose even though transmission remains very low in China and the safety and efficacy of the vaccines has yet to be proven. Here’s what we know about China’s unconventional approach to Covid-19 vaccination so far, from the risks to the potential for global deployment. What’s so different about China’s emergency vaccine program The US is expected to launch an emergency vaccine program soon as well, but under different circumstances. Three major research teams have published initial data on their efficacy and safety. Pfizer and BioNTech, which filed for Emergency Use Authorization for their vaccine last week, reported that it is 95 percent effective based on initial results from the phase 3 trials. These trials test a vaccine on a large segment of the population (tens of thousands of study participants) for efficacy and safety. Two other vaccine makers — Moderna and AstraZeneca and Oxford in the UK — have also released promising phase 3 data showing high efficacy and no serious adverse events for their candidate vaccines. The three vaccines approved in China’s emergency use program, on the other hand, have yet to report any results from their phase 3 trials. The trials are underway in countries other than China where transmission is still high enough to quickly test the protectiveness of the vaccine. A Sinovac official said they are likely to report initial phase 3 data within the next month. International public health experts have warned that vaccination before the evidence is in from phase 3 trials could expose recipients of the vaccine to unknown risks without actually protecting them from the virus, if the vaccine doesn’t prove to be sufficiently effective. Yet Chinese central government officials have defended the program as necessary to protect Chinese citizens, even though Covid-19 cases in China remain very low. Local officials are under pressure to keep transmission at zero, so they have an incentive to allow vaccine distribution in their regions, said Yanzhong Huang, a professor of global health at Seton Hall University. China is also vying to be the leader in vaccine development and distribution: Chinese companies have five of the 13 vaccines in phase 3 trials. Sinopharm’s vaccines are already being deployed outside China — the United Arab Emirates has also approved the vaccines for emergency use. “Until now, all our progress, from research to clinical trials to production and emergency use, we have been leading the world,” said Liu Jingzhen, Sinopharm Group’s chair, in the Sichuan Daily interview last week. Because Sinopharm and Sinovac haven’t released phase 3 data, they are actually behind the leading US and UK vaccine-makers. But these Chinese vaccines have an advantage over Pfizer and Moderna: They don’t need to be stored at low temperatures. This means that distribution of the vaccines will not be as challenging. And the emergency use program that has been rolled out so far in China shows that mass deployment is already possible — at the scale of nearly 2 million doses, if the Sinopharm chair’s statement is accurate. (Like the frontrunners in the US, the Chinese emergency use vaccines are designed to be administered in two doses.) “China has always impressed with its ability to carry out large-scale operations since the beginning of the pandemic, including building new hospitals and testing millions of people within a number of days. This just adds to that list of accomplishments,” Li Yang Hsu, an infectious disease expert at the National University of Singapore, told Vox. How might 1 million people in China already be vaccinated? In August, the government official in charge of overseeing vaccine development in China, Zheng Zhongwei, said, “In order to prevent the disease spread in the fall and winter, we are considering a moderate expansion in the [emergency use] program.” People in high-risk occupations and high-risk demographics were intended to be the priority recipients. Since then, news has trickled out about the authorized vaccines becoming available in a number of cities, but not through anything resembling a coordinated campaign. Zhejiang province appears to be particularly open to administering the vaccines. As of mid-October, the provincial government said almost 750,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been doled out in Zhejiang. The news site Caixin reported that health care workers had received a vaccine at a Hangzhou hospital. Two other cities in the province, Jiaxing and Yiwu, began offering vaccines in October. These cities are known for their export industries, and workers traveling overseas have been among the main vaccine recipients in China, according to Caixin. Yet Jiaxing officials said any member of the public with “emergency needs” could sign up for an appointment — not just those deemed to be at higher risk. Recipients of the vaccine have been wide-ranging in other cities as well: NPR’s Emily Feng reported that a Peking duck chef was in line to get vaccinated in Beijing. Chinese students going abroad have also been common recipients of the vaccines, a Sinopharm official told the Paper. “This is still a decentralized process,” said Yanzhong Huang, “so local governments and vaccine makers, you know, are taking advantage of this regulatory vacuum, to make the vaccine available to the people in China.” Local governments want to keep the virus completely contained to avoid consequences from higher-ups and the mass testing campaigns and lockdowns that have followed China’s small outbreaks over the previous months. Meanwhile, vaccine makers are making money through the emergency use program, Huang said. The Chinese public has also been shown to be very open to Covid-19 vaccines. A survey published in Nature found that 90 percent of respondents in China would accept a vaccine — the highest rate among the 19 countries in the study. Some experts question the logic behind such an early rollout of mass vaccinations in a place where transmission of the virus is so low. “As one of the safest places in terms of Covid-19, it doesn’t really justify the widespread use of the vaccine in the country,” Huang said. We still don’t know how safe or effective the leading Chinese vaccines are Even as a rising number of people in China are lining up to receive a shot, they have no guarantee that the vaccines they are taking will be effective. While we await phase 3 data, the clearest picture of the vaccines’ safety and efficacy yet have come are from the smaller phase 1 and 2 trials. Here’s a quick rundown of the results published so far. Interim results from the phase 1 and 2 trials of the Sinopharm vaccine developed by subsidiary Wuhan Institute of Biological Products published in JAMA showed that the vaccine produced an immune response and recipients had low rates of adverse effects. A study of the phase 1 and 2 results from Sinopharm’s other vaccine, developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases last month, had similar findings. Last week, results from Sinovac’s combined phase 1 and 2 trials were also published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. The data shows that the vaccine doses triggered an immune response and did not cause any severe reactions among the 700 people tested, but its efficacy also appears to be lower than other leading vaccine candidates. “Although the initial data and results of the Sinovac vaccine in early-stage trials are good, it would be more reassuring to also have the results from the Phase 3 trials before mass vaccination occurs,” said National University of Singapore’s Li Yang Hsu. The risks of using these vaccines before they are proven are wide-ranging. So far, no adverse reactions have been reported, according to Sinopharm and Sinovac executives, but rare side effects may appear as a growing number of people are vaccinated. Further, if the efficacy for the emergency use vaccines turns out to be low, taking a second vaccine may not be possible because the previous immune response may interfere with the second vaccine, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Michael Dantas/AFP via Getty Images Aerial view of a burial site reserved for victims of the Covid-19 pandemic at the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in Manaus, in the Amazon forest in Brazil, on November 21, 2020. So far, Brazil and Turkey have signed contracts to buy vaccines from Sinovac. Will Chinese vaccines go global? If the Chinese vaccines do turn out to be sufficiently protective against Covid-19, they may be at an advantage compared to Pfizer and Moderna. Sorting out the cold chain logistics to keep Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at very low temperatures throughout distribution will be challenging, as Vox’s Umair Irfan has explained. Inactivated virus vaccines, like the three distributed Chinese vaccines, do not have to be kept so cold, and therefore don’t require the same kind of investment for distribution. “CoronaVac could be an attractive option because it can be stored in a standard refrigerator between 2 and 8 degrees centigrade, which is typical for many existing vaccines including flu,” Gang Zeng, a medical manager at Sinovac, stated in a press release for the Lancet study. “The vaccine may also remain stable for up to three years in storage, which would offer some advantages for distribution to regions where access to refrigeration is challenging.” Zheng Zhongwei, the Chinese official in charge of vaccine development, has said that the country plans to have 600 million doses of vaccine ready by end of this year and 1 billion by the end of 2021. But many of these vaccines are slated to be sent abroad. So far, Brazil and Turkey have signed contracts to buy vaccines from Sinovac; 6 million doses of CoronaVac are scheduled to be shipped to Brazil by January. China is also participating in Covax, a global initiative to promote the equitable provision of Covid-19 vaccines. “The number of doses available in China will by far be too little to permit export unless a political decision is taken to ship vaccines to overseas despite still-existing vaccine needs in China,” Klaus Stohr, who formerly ran epidemic response for the World Health Organization, told Nature. In the near term, as thousands of Chinese people continue to receive emergency vaccine doses, the looming question is whether the phase 3 trials show that the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines are in fact safe and effective.
Preview: Elsa seems about to burst into song in Frozen II. | Disney The 5-and-a-quarter-year-old critic at small loves Frozen. The 39-year-old critic at large doesn’t want to turn 40. Seven years ago, on November 22, 2013, a lone voice, crying in the wilderness, issued a proclamation that would enthrall a planet’s children with its honeyed tongue. “Let it go,” urged the voice. “Let it go! Can’t hold it back anymore! Let it go! Let it go-o-o! Turn away and slam the door!” “I don’t care,” the voice continued, “what they’re going to say. Let the storm rage on. The cold never bothered me anyway!” That voice, later identified as Princess Elsa, one of the dual heroes of the Disney animated feature film Frozen, returned with the new doctrine of Frozen II on November 22, 2019 (yes, right down to the day). In this chronicle, Elsa and her sister Anna issued further proclamations the children of the world took to heart. Also, Elsa got a super rad water horse. I have never quite understood the appeal of the Frozen franchise. I like the movies, but I find them to feature overstuffed plotting and considerable failures of nerve. Both Frozen films come so close to upending the Disney template before ultimately chickening out; as someone who enjoys the Disney template but also doesn’t mind subverting it, I find them to be failures of potential. And that’s before we get to all of the ways the movies want to have their cake and eat it too (Elsa being vaguely coded as a queer character without being textually queer). But I am a non-child, and therefore, some of Frozen’s appeal is surely lost on me. (Okay, I understand the water horse. I’d love a water horse.) Fortunately for me, one of my most esteemed colleagues* is an expert on both the Frozen franchise and on being a child. I speak, of course, of Vox’s critic at small, Eliza, who is now 5-and-a-quarter and who consented to speak with me in some detail about the Frozen franchise. * I am reliably informed that Eliza described me as her best friend out of all of her mother’s coworkers, and I can assure you Eliza is my best friend who is 5. Emily and Eliza on Frozen’s eternal appeal Disney Emily: As I just mentioned, I find the Frozen films slightly half-baked. The first is loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” and you can almost see the roots of that story in the film if you look closely. But in “The Snow Queen,” the titular character is a villain, and Frozen never has the courage to make Elsa its antagonist, even briefly. She is demonized and misunderstood, not so drunk off her own power that she actually becomes monstrous. I don’t know that making Elsa villainous is necessary — especially if you want to read her as subtextually queer (as I tend to do) — but it creates a movie where the story all but demands that Elsa and Anna seem like they’re truly at odds, before backing away from that conflict almost completely. Instead, it’s Anna’s boyfriend Hans who turns out to be the true bad guy, via a diabolical plot that makes next to no sense. (He needs to sideline both sisters to rule the kingdom, yet he does almost nothing to achieve this nefarious objective until it’s time for him to reveal his plan.) There are even more moments when Frozen II shies away from something truly interesting. It very nearly destroys the castle of Arendelle, as part of a story about how a country’s people are what has value, not its power, but it blinks. It also flirts with the idea that Elsa might have met the girl of her dreams, before promptly sidelining that character for a large swath of the movie. But let’s just admit up front that I am not the target audience for Frozen. And I don’t even mean that because I’m not a kid. What I mean is that I’m not one half of a duo of young sisters. Yes, I have sisters, and yes, we have complex and fascinating dynamics (though I am so clearly the Elsa), but when we were kids, a Disney princess was defined by her boyfriend. Not so with the children of today! Eliza, as a child of today, which Frozen movie is your favorite? Eliza: Both. Emily: Interesting. Why do you like them both, instead of one or the other? Eliza: The first one because Marshmallow at the end isn’t mean anymore, and the second one because the Earth Giants aren’t mean after the end. Emily: You like when things that are big and scary turn out to be not so mean? Eliza: [nods] Emily: When you think about the characters in the movie, who’s your favorite? Eliza: [long pause] Anna. Emily: My favorite’s Elsa, and I have asked you this question before, and you have said Elsa in the past. And now Anna’s in front. Why do you like Anna more now? Eliza: Because she’s my sister’s favorite. Emily: Awwwwww. [Legitimately, I said this. I have the transcript to prove it.] So why do Anna and Elsa stop being mean to each other and start being nice to each other again? Eliza: I don’t know. Emily: You don’t know? Eliza: I forget. [lightbulb] Oh! Wait! Because, because, because, because Anna turns to ice because she saved Elsa. And then, and then, and then, and then Elsa unfreezes Anna. And then Anna unfreezes and she’s back to normal with an unfrozen heart. [beat] Guess what! There’s a rubber band on Mommy’s chair. Emily: Why is there a rubber band on Mommy’s chair? Eliza: I don’t know. How did it even get on the chair? It’s looped around her chair, but it’s not open, so people couldn’t get it off. Emily: You should ask your mom why there’s a rubber band looped around her chair. I want to get to the bottom of this mystery. [To date, this mystery remains unsolved.] Eliza and Emily on Frozen: merchandising bonanza Emily: Disney must have seen Frozen’s success as a surefire way to sell the children of the world toys featuring not just one princess but two. You can’t have an Elsa toy without an Anna toy, and vice versa, and I can imagine the accountants at Disney feverishly anticipating a whole wave of “Love Is an Open Door”–themed engagement parties and “Let It Go”–themed divorce celebrations, as the Frozen generation ages to adulthood. Decisions made based on toys are a little grubby and materialistic, but I don’t think anyone would ever mistake the Walt Disney Company for one that wasn’t at least a little bit grubby and materialistic. And at least if the kids of today are having fictional role models, Anna and Elsa are pretty good ones, thanks to their sisterly bond, Anna’s refusal to give up on Elsa, and Elsa’s super cool ice powers. Eliza, you’ve attended our little confab dressed as Anna. This sartorial choice is in keeping with your stated preference for Anna at this point in time. Why didn’t you come dressed as Elsa? Come to think of it, why didn’t I come dressed as Elsa? That slinky ice blue number from “Let It Go” is pretty amazing. Eliza: The Elsa dress is really, really, really itchy. [for emphasis] Very, very itchy. Emily: I want to elaborate on why Elsa is my favorite: She has ice powers. I think it would be really cool to have ice powers. What do you think? Eliza: My favorite is Anna and Elsa. Emily: In the first one, they kind of get into a fight. What do you think about that? Eliza: I don’t like it. Emily: Do you and your sister ever do anything like that? Eliza: [silence] I don’t know. Emily: Well, Anna and Elsa also save each other a few times. Have you ever done anything nice for your sister? Eliza: Uh-huh! One night, I wanted Mom to stand [next to my top bunk] and pet me, because I’m learning to sleep by myself, and so is Nora. But I said first I want Nora to get a turn with Mom petting her, because I love her. Emily: That’s really sweet. Eliza: [spinning around in her mother’s desk chair] Wheeeeeeeee! Eliza and Emily on gigantic things Disney The Frozen franchise even includes short films like Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. Emily: Eliza, who are some of your favorite characters who aren’t Anna or Elsa? Eliza: The Earth Giants. Emily: Ah, yes, kids really do love big things. I suppose that’s because when we’re children, everything is big, from our parents to many other kids to big dogs. Thus, when we as children see something that dwarfs anyone — even adults — we feel both a primal joy and a primal terror, especially once we realize that such a gigantic creature could be our friend. What do you think of my theory, Eliza? Why do you like the Earth Giants? Eliza: Because they’re so big. Emily: Did you hear what I just said? What’s fun about things that are big? Eliza: [with a look that says “truly, ma’am, you are not getting it”] Because I like things that are big. Emily: What are some other things that are big that you like? Eliza: My swing set! Emily: How big is that? Eliza: Mmm ... [looks out window to estimate] Emily: As big as an Earth Giant? [long pause] What’s going on outside? Eliza: [The swing set is as big as] Nine cars stacked on top of each other! An Earth Giant is as tall as a tree! Emily: If I had a friend who was that big, I would ask them to put me in their hand and then put me on top of a building. What if you were that tall, though? What would you do? Eliza: I would climb up my swing set like Squirrely the Squirrel does. Squirrely the Squirrel is what we name every squirrel we see. Squirrels are brown. Guess what? Emily: What? Eliza: I saw a brown squirrel and a black squirrel before. Eliza and Emily on why Frozen is so rewatchable Emily: As the parents of the world will attest, Frozen and its sequel have become fixtures of many a child’s media diet. Disney movies have always had this rewatchable quality, and Frozen sure does seem to scratch that particular itch, if only because “Let It Go” is so absurdly catchy. Even beyond the catchiness of its songs, though, Frozen, especially, is uniquely episodic. It breaks down into a series of short stories that link up into a larger one, and it’s theoretically easy for parents to pause the movie after, say, the visit to Oaken’s store or after Hans reveals his betrayal, because it’s time for dinner or bed. (Please don’t pause the movie to send kids to bed after Hans reveals his betrayal.) [Editor’s note: Joke’s on you. It is never easy to pause a movie without a tantrum.] The first Frozen movie had a rather chaotic production process that saw the movie’s central story constantly shift while the film was being made. And even though the result sometimes doesn’t make much sense, those constant story shifts did accidentally create the episodic quality that makes Frozen so rewatchable. If you’re over one thing, the movie will be on to another imminently. The same quality applies to Frozen II, though not quite as readily. That movie is knottier and more thematically ambitious, even if it is beset by failures of nerve throughout. Its storytelling hangs together slightly better as a cohesive whole, but, perversely, that cohesiveness perhaps works against the movie, emphasizing how overstuffed with characters the franchise truly is. (Frozen II, for instance, loses track of Anna’s boyfriend Kristoff and his reindeer Sven for a large portion of its second act.) Eliza, prove me right here. How many times have you watched these movies? Eliza: I’ve seen Frozen II three times and Frozen I two times. Emily: You’ve seen Frozen more than two times! Eliza: Wait. I mean four times. Emily: That’s already double what you said before! Frozen came out before you were born, but do you remember going to see Frozen II in the theater? Eliza: Yes. And I remember the part when [my sister] was asleep when the Earth Giants came. So she missed it. Emily: Did you tell her about it later? Eliza: No. But she saw it, because we watched the movie last night. And guess what, Emily? We watched the whole movie before dinner! Emily: Wow! I never get to do that! So are there things in these movies that you maybe didn’t like as much before that you like a lot more now? Or are there things you did like before that — Eliza: Guess what I dream about every night?! Emily: What? Eliza: Octonauts! My favorite show! They go under the water! Emily: [blatantly trying to get back on topic] And Frozen is about frozen water! So you just like water-based storytelling. Eliza: Yes! I’m very, very, very, very good at swimming. [falls to floor where Emily cannot see her, presumably begins doing various strokes] Eliza and Emily on personal identification Disney No matter who you are, there’s a Frozen character for you to identify with. Emily: As my esteemed colleague Eliza has pointed out, there are many characters one might identify with in the Frozen universe, which may be why the films are so very popular. If you’ve never been an Anna or an Elsa in your relationship with your sibling, you will be at some point. And we can all be Kristoffs and Svens and snowman Olafs too. We might all be Earth Giants as well. Eliza — Eliza: Guess what!? I’m 5-and-a-quarter! Emily: Wow. I’m 39 and 50 weeks [at the time of this conversation]. Do you know what that means? In like 10 days, I’m going to be 40. I’m not looking forward to it. I don’t like being this old. Eliza: Why not? Emily: [desperately trying not to say to a 5-year-old, “I’m afraid of death”] Because I have to do boring things like pay my bills. I can’t run around and play pretend with my sister. Now. Which character are you most like in Frozen? Eliza: Anna. Emily: Why do you think you’re like Anna? Eliza: Because Anna’s 5, and she has brown hair. [Anna is much older than 5, and she has red hair, but we’ll give Eliza this one.] Emily: Does that make your sister Elsa? Eliza: No. She’s Anna too. Emily: What about me? Who am I most like? [long pause] I know you don’t know me as well as you or your sister, so you don’t have to have — Eliza: Elsa. Emily: That is honestly the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Eliza: You have the same kind of hair. Emily: What about your mom? Who is she most like? Eliza: [silence] Olaf. Emily: Olaf? Why Olaf!? Eliza: [longer silence] Because she told me. Jen, Eliza’s mom, in extreme distance: I did not tell you that! Eliza: [very quietly] I’m joking. Emily: Do you have a different answer for who your mom is like? Eliza: Elsa. Emily: Yeah, that’s safe. Let’s stick with that.
Preview: TV shoppers at a Best Buy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2018. | Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images Streaming TV should be easy, but fights among Roku, Amazon, HBO, and NBC are making it hard. When Wonder Woman 1984 opens in theaters on Christmas Day, most HBO Max subscribers will be able to watch the movie at home. Emphasis on most: Right now, that group of HBO Max subscribers does not include those who use a Roku device to watch streaming TV. This is because Roku, which dominates the US market for streaming devices, and AT&T’s WarnerMedia, which owns HBO Max, don’t have a deal to put the new service on Roku’s streaming boxes, sticks, and TVs. If the two companies don’t get a deal done soon, it’s unlikely they’ll have anything in place for the holiday season, according to people who work at both companies. Call it the collateral damage of the streaming wars, which bring you an enormous amount of choice about what you can watch and where you can watch it — but also require you to make sure the device and streaming service you want to use are playing together nicely. So on the one hand, you can now pick and choose between streaming TV packages that have just about everything or “skinny bundles” that leave out things like sports; you can also sign up for services like Disney+ because you want to see The Mandalorian and then easily unsubscribe when you’re done. On the other hand, you can’t watch Peacock, Comcast’s new streaming service, on Amazon’s Fire TV, or Apple TV+ on Google devices — at least without doing some work beyond pointing and clicking. It’s not like the old days of cable TV when programmers and distributors also fought periodically but they never asked you to figure out whether your TV set worked with their cable box. Instead, both sides are looking at it as a way to set new terms: Who controls the way streaming video gets to you? How does the money you spend on that video get split up? What about the money advertisers spend trying to reach you? Because all of this is new — and because everyone thinks it’s going to change a lot in the coming years — you’re probably going to see these kinds of scrimmages happening periodically. Even if Roku and HBO Max come to terms in the near future, that deal likely won’t be a long-term one, which means they could end up in a fight again in a year or two. There are a lot of people caught in the middle of these skirmishes, too. HBO Max, for instance, has around 9 million users; Roku has 46 million users, giving it an estimated 30 percent of the streaming device market. If it’s any consolation for frustrated HBO Max subscribers, they’re not alone. As of right now, anyone who wants to watch Peacock can’t watch it on Amazon devices. That’s a big group of people: Peacock has at least 15 million subscribers, and Amazon’s Fire ecosystem is the second-most-popular streaming tech in the US. Peacock is trying to work out a deal with Amazon, and maybe that will happen before the holidays, too. These things are moving targets: Peacock, which launched last spring, didn’t get a deal to land on Roku devices until September. HBO Max, which launched in May, didn’t get an Amazon deal until mid-November. Even if your streaming plans aren’t going to be interrupted by these two fights, it’s worth understanding the backstory to them. They’re fundamentally about money, of course. But the variations in them shine some light on the way the companies plan to make money from you, the viewer. In the case of Comcast’s Peacock and Amazon, the main sticking point seems to be over who will have direct contact with the viewer, as well as access to their viewing habits and other valuable data. (Comcast is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this site.) In the past, Amazon has been able to sell access to HBO and other streaming services via its “channels” offering in its Prime Video hub — which meant Amazon controlled billing and every other point of contact with the programmers’ customers. But increasingly, programmers want to wrest that control back. They want to distribute their own apps on Amazon’s Fire TV app store. They’re also okay with giving Amazon a cut of the revenue they make from subscriptions, but they want a direct line to their viewer. You can see how this played out with the new deal that WarnerMedia and Amazon struck to get HBO Max onto Amazon devices. While neither company is commenting publicly about the terms, people familiar with the negotiations say the deal essentially unwinds a previous agreement that had allowed Amazon to sell HBO subscriptions itself. Instead, WarnerMedia will use its own HBO Max app, which is available on the Amazon Fire TV app store. The distinction shouldn’t matter much to you, the person who wants to stream the new season of Succession. It mattered enough to Amazon and WarnerMedia to fight about it for months. When it comes to HBO Max and Roku, it’s a little harder to parse the dispute. People I’ve talked to on both sides seem frustrated. But the main negotiating points that Roku has with partners are well-known: Roku wants a slice of every subscription dollar consumers spend on its platform; it wants the ability to sell advertising on ad-supported services on its platform, and in some cases, it wants shows or movies from programmers that it can stream on its own Roku-branded service. (As part of its new deal with Comcast, for instance, Roku gets to run the media company’s NBC News Now show live on its free Roku channel.) Industry officials say that Roku, which has seen a steady rise in users over the past few years, has been increasingly aggressive about the terms it asks for. Scott Rosenberg, a senior vice president who handles programming deals for Roku, says that’s not the case. He says that companies that work with Roku benefit because Roku benefits when they do well. “Partners who have a growth mindset, who embrace the opportunity, see enormous growth,” Rosenberg told me. The old cable TV distributors, he says, “were toll-takers” who made the same amount of money regardless of what you watched. “They weren’t particularly incented to drive [a programmer’s] success.” Roku and Amazon dominate streaming TV, but they’re not the only ones that end up in disputes. You can get to Netflix on Apple’s Apple TV box, for instance, but not on Apple’s Apple TV app because Netflix doesn’t want Apple to have access to its data or its customers. As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings put it in 2019: “Apple’s a great company. We want to have people watch our shows on our services.” Apple, meanwhile, doesn’t have its Apple TV app available on most devices running Google’s Android software. There’s a flip side of all of this: You can argue, with a straight face, that TV is better than it’s ever been. In the old days, you were unlikely to lose the channels you loved to a dispute between programmers and distributors — but you didn’t have any choice about the channels you paid for. Now you do, and that’s great. And just because a programmer and a TV distributor are at odds doesn’t mean you’re completely out of luck. It just means you need to investigate workarounds, which can range from watching on your laptop to streaming a show on your phone and casting it to your TV to buying an extra gadget that is compatible with the programmer you want and plugging that into your TV. Which is what I do, with an older Apple TV box, so we can watch HBO Max on our Roku TV. It’s not ideal. But it will let us watch Wonder Woman.
Preview: Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy. | Lacey Terrell/Netflix Three critics from rural places discuss Ron Howard’s Netflix adaptation of J.D. Vance’s bestseller. The reviews for Ron Howard’s Netflix adaptation of J.D. Vance’s memoir Hillbilly Elegy (including Vox’s) have not been kind. That’s largely because the movie is not good. Not only is it a surprising clunker to watch, it also fails to compensate for flaws in its source material (facile ideas about “hillbillies,” a not-very-interesting protagonist) while introducing new problem of its own (baffling narrative structure, forehead-slapping dialogue, and plot devices). Three of Vox’s critics, all of whom grew up in different parts of rural and largely white America, were particularly astounded by the movie’s failure. So we — Aja Romano, Alissa Wilkinson, and Emily VanDerWerff — got together to (virtually) sort out what on earth happened with this disaster of a film. Alissa Wilkinson: Aja, Emily, I think we may have all had the same reaction to Hillbilly Elegy as we watched it — confusion followed by bafflement, then horror, then something like fury. Having seen the trailer and the posters, I expected it to be condescending toward its characters. Hollywood movies rarely manage to represent anyone with an accent and a pickup truck as less than a caricature. But I wasn’t expecting it to be so ... boring. Or confusing! As I noted in my review, the movie is both constantly explosive — people scream, rage, get literally set on fire — and shockingly dull. When it ended I just kind of stared at the screen, amazed that I’d just seen the worst movie of the last few years at least, and that it had so much well-meaning talent attached to it, from director Ron Howard to writer Vanessa Taylor to stars Glenn Close and Amy Adams. What did you think as you watched it? And what do you think happened here? Aja: What didn’t I think? As a hillbilly born and raised (in rural west Tennessee), I’m very used to seeing rural American life painted with broad strokes. Every scene of Hillbilly Elegy is designed to mix the laziest form of pathos with the laziest form of social commentary and present it with the most condescending tone of profundity, and y’all, I could have been rewatching Winter’s Bone instead of this patronizing mush. But like Alissa said, I was mostly prepared for that. I wasn’t prepared for this film’s sheer quixotic nothingness. Apart from the extremely lazy way the film shorthands its characters through regional and class stereotypes, Hillbilly Elegy is an incoherent, meandering, misogynistic tangle of vanishing subplots and vague ideas. I hesitate to even call them subplots since that suggests a plot arc to begin with. For example, I honestly spent the whole movie wondering why the opening leaned so heavily on the narrator’s childhood summers in Kentucky — his seminal time spent with “my people,” a phrase he said over and over again like Moses freeing the Israelites — even though we never returned to Kentucky or his extended family again. Our hero, real-life memoirist J.D. Vance, spent most of the film treating “his people” like shit. Lacey Terrell/Netflix Haley Bennett, Glenn Close, and Owen Asztalos in Hillbilly Elegy. J.D. is easily the most loathsome protagonist since Holden Caulfield. He’s unfunny, abrasive, self-righteous, constantly selfish, and completely clueless. Yet Hillbilly Elegy rewards him over and over again by framing him as the calmest, most reasonable person in the room despite all evidence to the contrary — like when he tried to wedge his teenage body under a small coffee table or decided on a whim, without telling anybody, to make a 20-hour round trip drive from Yale to Ohio to see his convalescing mother the day before a job interview that supposedly represented his only chance to avoid being unable to pay his college tuition. (As an aside, you can tell when privileged rich people who’ve never been poor write screenplays about being poor, because they always include scenes where the poor person’s credit card is awkwardly declined, as J.D.’s is when he tries to buy gas during his road trip. In reality, when you’re poor, you know every cent you have in the bank, down to the last penny, and you have already calculated exactly how much gas you can put in your car and how far that gas will get you before you run out of money. The only people who think poor people are surprised when they run out of money are people who think poor people are poor because they’re bad with money. But really, a lot of poor people are great with money, and Hillbilly Elegy not knowing that is just one of the zillion ways it sucks.) J.D., who is apparently smart enough to hop-skip-jump into Yale Law (the movie barely covers his college career), is not smart enough to know that literally everything he does on his dramatic trip back to Ohio could just as easily be accomplished with a couple of phone calls — and he would have been significantly less fucked and significantly less passive-aggressively bitchy about it. Then again, this is a guy who thinks that being a teenage political wonk who disses Whitney Houston makes him a unique soul worthy of being lifted out of poverty into a better world full of salad forks and basic white wine selections, instead of an insufferable douchebag who thinks he’s better than everybody else. (Also, for the record, my rural American grandmother cherished her Old Country Rose china set and taught all her progeny how to properly lay out the place settings for holiday dinners, so fuck this movie.) J.D. is self-righteously smug at everyone around him. He’s smug about his mother’s ongoing battle with her opioid addiction. He’s smug about his grandmother’s bad parenting and his sister’s life choices. He’s smug about how drugs are bad for you, right up until he inexplicably about-faces and starts doing pot, smoking, and committing small felonies with his group of low-life friends — except then he’s smug about that, too. Because Hillbilly Elegy is so intent on cramming in every single stereotype of vanishing rural American life that it can, the film lightly crayons over the details of J.D.’s life in a way that undermines its insistence that J.D. is the hero. For instance, in the middle of a drunken attempt to vandalize a local factory, he first steals, then crashes, his grandmother’s car. He also risks a jail sentence. Given how poor his grandmother seems to be, this setback might have seriously jeopardized her ability to care for herself and her family — yet we’re never shown his actions having any detrimental effect on the rest of the family. J.D. never has to pay his grandmother back for the damage to her car. And he inexplicably escapes jail time; the movie never explains how. All this drama inexplicably resolves itself at the end of the film through a vague montage covering half of J.D.’s life that glosses over him getting through a stint in the military, completely skips over his four years of undergrad at Ohio State, and includes the death of his grandmother. This strange and non-thematic sequence is supposed to be the catalyst for J.D.’s great sweeping, life-changing realization — which is, wait for it, that he can’t live his life for his mother. Lacey Terrell/Netflix Haley Bennett, Gabriel Basso, and Amy Adams in Hillbilly Elegy. Which is hilarious, because all he’s done up until that point is act like a selfish prick who’s ashamed and embarrassed about where he came from and desperate to escape his entire family. Hillbilly Elegy frames its female characters as obstacles that keep happening to J.D., driving him deeper into his own narcissistic spiral of doubt and emotional upheaval. They’re all problems he has to solve, even his girlfriend — who, even though she’s a Yale grad student, has to have the seriousness of a heroin addiction explained to her like she’s from Mars — by, who else? J.D. Guys, I hate him so much. Emily: The book Hillbilly Elegy was a bit of an oddity. I read it in 2016, and though I didn’t hate it, I felt baffled by the reputation it had established as a book that “explained” Trump country — which is to say poor, rural white folks. Having grown up in a heavily rural, heavily white area (though in South Dakota, not Appalachia), I recognized a lot of the basic character types the real J.D. Vance talked about, and I recognized the affection in which he held his grandparents, especially. But overall, the book was a fairly mediocre memoir with some “just pull yourself up by your bootstraps!” nonsense at the end. So I was doubly surprised after the election, when Hillbilly Elegy was pressed on America by assorted media outlets as the book that would help everyone understand what had happened. But watching the movie, I think I understood that insistence on the book’s importance a lot more. In both book and movie, J.D. is someone who escapes his station merely by having a lot of gumption and drive. The book is not a pure inspirational story like the movie wants to be, but the core of one is there: See, if you’re poor and live in a rural area, you have the means to escape. You just have to want it bad enough! Hillbilly Elegy, in book form especially, situates the solution for any problems bedeviling rural America in the individual, not in the collective. And to be sure, one reason I left my tiny farming community was that I really did want to go off to the big city and make it as a writer, which required some degree of gumption and drive. But another reason I left was that my family had enough money to send me to college, because I went to a state school at a time when such a thing was affordable, and because I was afforded a ton of opportunities due to my race and the gender people perceived me as at the time. We can pretend all we want that people like J.D. Vance and people like me are people who just worked hard enough to make it, because on one level, we are. I don’t want to run down all of the hard work I did to get where I am. But suggesting that’s the only reason we’ve made it absolves the intended audience of Hillbilly Elegy — well-meaning white people in the upper classes — from thinking about how there might be systemic reasons for the collapse of rural America. It’s just a bunch of people who are lazy, see?! And that’s a classist nightmare. Lacey Terrell/Netflix Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy. The film largely avoids being a classist nightmare by having no larger political point whatsoever. It’s just extremely thin gruel that strips away everything but the supposed inspirational heart of Vance’s story. It feels, for all the world, like the movie generated by a neural net that had been fed every Best Picture nominee since 1992 and every New York Times piece about trying to understand Trump voters. It understands rural poverty mostly via iconography — rundown houses and kids in swimming holes and the like. But does it have anything to say about rural poverty? Nah. Though it does have what amounts to a neoliberalism Rocky montage, where J.D. learns to do hard work and rise through the ranks of capitalism, to kick off its third act! Alissa: And that montage is prompted by a revelation over a chicken breast! I read the book after I saw the movie — I felt I had to, because I suspected there was no possible way the book could have been that bad. (I think I was right.) The way you describe it is more or less how I feel about it, Emily: It’s a book that somewhat accidentally became touted as some kind of skeleton key to “unlocking Trumpism,” when it truly is nothing of the sort. It is underdeveloped, too. I felt like whoever pushed it through to publication must have been unfamiliar with the world Vance describes and enamored with it — as if it were a glimpse into a world that’s exotic and strange — and consequently missed that it’s pretty half-baked. The book also commits what I think of as the cardinal memoir rule: With vanishingly few exceptions, the writer of a memoir should never be the hero of the story. (The movie can’t escape that, though it sort of tries to cast Mamaw as the hero, I suppose.) All three of us have lots of firsthand experience and personal connections with rural, working class white people. Aja, you’ve mentioned some of this already, but when you think of the ways the movie depicts this demographic versus what you know, where do you see divergence? Aja: Everywhere? So much of what this movie tried to frame as being somehow representative of rural America is not unique to growing up in the country or in a small town. Emotionally abusive parents, domestic violence, undiagnosed mental illness, drug addiction, having Forrest Gump be the last movie shown in your dilapidated small town movie theatre, having childhood trauma because your mother set your alcoholic father on fire at Christmastime and left you to extinguish the flames against a backdrop of “O, Holy Night” — none of these things are tragic symptoms of vanishing rural American life. Honestly, I could have been rewatching The Last Picture Show. There were so many bizarre moments where it felt like screenwriter Vanessa Taylor was adding random details just to add them. Why did the movie treat Kentucky and Ohio like two completely different universes when they share a border and have very similar demographics? Why did the characters keep encountering hillbilly prejudice, even in their own hillbilly town? How did the personal flaws of Papaw, grievous though they were, consign him to being a member of a fascist robot army in his wife’s Terminator metaphor, which sounded an awful lot like someone wanted to adapt the Dungeons and Dragons Alignment Chart for 1997 but failed miserably? Why did this movie seem to take place in a world without any type of child welfare services — or, for that matter, so little medical care? For the record, 50 plus rural counties across both Kentucky and Ohio have been expanding their opioid rehab centers and counseling programs, with one project specifically targeting Appalachia — meaning that despite what Hillbilly Elegy would have you believe, people in Appalachia can probably find rehab assistance near them — and probably would have had some sort of access in 2007, when the later part of Hillbilly Elegy is set. This movie’s soundscape was also so weird to me, because it was so atonally at odds with the rest of the film. Appalachian folk music and modern country music — which in the ’90s enjoyed radio saturation across the country — would have been a constant part of the background of these people’s lives. But apart from the vaguely Ashokan Farewell nature of Hillbilly Elegy’s gorgeous score, which was composed by David Fleming and Hans Zimmer, nothing in the movie sounded like rural America. Visually, Hillbilly Elegy wanted to trap me inside of an Iris Dement song full of folk themes about waning country life — but clearly didn’t know enough about its rural sonic landscape to do so. Not a single LeAnn Rimes reference? No “Fancy” or “Friends in Low Places” singalong? What kind of white trash fantasy are we running here, anyway? Emily: Garth Brooks’s music is apparently incredibly difficult to license, alas. (Though this reminds me of when one of my friends married a woman from New Jersey, and when the DJ played “Friends in Low Places,” all of us South Dakotans started belting it out while the New Jersey folks looked on in confusion.) In reading both of your reactions to this movie’s script, I’ve realized that it is trapped between two dominant impulses moviemakers seem to have when adapting a book. The first is to liberally change the story so that it works better onscreen, where the risk is removing some ineffable magic that made the source material work in the first place. The second is to try to remain so faithful as to include everything (a.k.a. the approach used by the first two Harry Potter films). The risk there is that you’ll bore the hell out of everyone who’s not already a diehard fan. Hillbilly Elegy kinda tries to have it both ways, to its detriment. The film contains several elements from the book that are taken as givens within the book’s world — like the cultural divide between Kentucky and Ohio — but without the context the book provided, which makes them seem like they’ve arrived from nowhere. The film also dramatically alters its source material, trying to turn Mamaw into the story’s protagonist, while still remaining too wedded to that source material. It just can’t let go of some of the book’s most memorable moments, even when it has to contort itself to fit everything in. Taylor’s script aims for verisimilitude but forgets to provide detail, which results in a two-hour movie that feels like a J.D. Vance stan’s supercut of a 10-hour miniseries. Or, as Mashable’s Angie Han put it: HILLBILLY ELEGY the book was supposed to teach coastal elites about "real Americans''; HILLBILLY ELEGY the movie doesn't even try to do that much and instead just tells the story of how some random dude with no personality got a job as a lawyer — Angie J. Han (@ajhan) November 10, 2020 Maybe the most damning thing about this movie is that it ends with home video footage of the real Vance’s family, so we can ooh and ahh at how the filmmakers turned Glenn Close and Amy Adams into carbon-copy replicas of the real-life women they play. But why would we care? These are not beloved historical figures! They’re people in a book! If Hillbilly Elegy the book had a larger point, it was, “In this life, you can only count on yourself.” If the movie has a larger point, it’s: “Sometimes, you have to cut people loose when they’re dragging you down.” And honestly, I completely believe that’s true! We don’t have nearly enough art about how hard but how necessary it is to end toxic family relationships before they turn cancerous. The scene where J.D. finally lets go of his mom and accepts that he can’t save her is at least theoretically powerful. But the movie doesn’t even follow up on that one powerful moment, quickly shoehorning in an inspirational ending and reminding us that Vance’s mother is now six years sober, lest we worry for a second that something bad happened to anybody in this tale. I mostly watched Hillbilly Elegy wishing that both the book and the movie had a point-of-view other than Vance’s to rely on. I would love to see the version of this story about J.D.’s sister Lindsey, as it seems like she carved out a great life for herself under even more difficult circumstances than J.D. Or I’d love to see a version that compared and contrasted J.D.’s experiences with those of his girlfriend (and eventual wife) Usha, the daughter of Indian immigrants, to provide two different viewpoints on rising through the American class system at a time when doing so is more difficult than ever. Mostly, I just wanted this movie to have a point-of-view. I’m not sure it does. Alissa: At this moment, I can’t tell whether we’re going to be talking about this movie all the way up until the Oscars (which won’t happen until April 2021, thanks to the pandemic), or whether it will mercifully fade out of view. But I do know it’s brought Hillbilly Elegy, the book, back into the public conversation. And so lately, I’ve found myself recommending other, better books in its stead. Probably the best is Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land, which feels oddly more acquainted with poor, white, “red” America than Hillbilly Elegy ever does, even though Hochschild is a highly respected sociologist from UC Berkeley. She paints an empathetic portrait of her subjects (in Louisiana, though her argument seems broadly applicable) via the prevailing narrative that animates them versus urban liberals, even those in a similar class. It’s a highly readable book, and I think about it all the time. If you were to pick one book or movie or show or something else to recommend to people in Hillbilly Elegy’s stead, what would it be? Roadside Attractions Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone. Aja: I’ve mentioned The Last Picture Show and Winter’s Bone already, and they’re both masterpieces. But if we’re sticking with strictly “hillbilly” culture, it has to be Winter’s Bone — the bleak, beautiful Ozark noir that drew Oscar nods for director Debra Granik and actor John Hawkes, and launched its star Jennifer Lawrence’s career. Winter’s Bone tells the story of a determined 17-year-old named Ree who embarks on the darkest hero’s quest: She has to find her missing father in order to keep her family’s house — and keep her family together. To do that, she must navigate a world of drug lords and secrets and somehow uncover the truth without winding up dead. And she has to do it almost entirely alone. The general public mainly knows Lawrence through her goofy celeb persona and later career choices, but in Winter’s Bone, she turns in a performance that’s just about perfect. The poverty-ridden community we see in Winter’s Bone is squalid to a degree you’d never find in a movie like Hillbilly Elegy, but Granik’s camera frames it unrelentingly and without judgment, allowing us to confront Ree’s everyday reality, and inevitably see the humanity of everyone who endures it. As a statement on rural American life, it’s everything Hillbilly Elegy is too self-inflated to be. Emily: [blatant plug alert] Can I point to season two of my scripted fiction podcast, Arden, which takes place in rural Montana and is about the uncomfortable intersections of rural identities and queer identities, as well as modern agribusiness? Oh, also there’s murder and flirting! [blatant plug alert] When it comes to my particular brand of rural America, however, nothing has been quite as good as Chloe Zhao’s The Rider, a scripted narrative feature that nevertheless bears lots of documentary elements in its painstaking portrayal of a South Dakota rodeo champ who risks so much more than his health when he gets on the back of a bronco. It’s also set on a reservation and stars a cast of Indigenous actors. Alternately, if you want to see an outsider’s portrayal of rural American poverty among predominantly white folks, consider Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, about a group of lower-class kids who climb in a big van and drive around the Great Plains selling magazines to people who probably don’t need more magazines. It’s a long movie at 163 minutes, but I have watched it multiple times and found it deeply moving every time. Hillbilly Elegy premieres on Netflix on November 24.
Preview: Attorney General Bill Barr and President Donald Trump depart after delivering remarks on citizenship and the census at the White House on Thursday, July 11, 2019. | Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images The Court must decide whether to follow the Constitution’s clear text — or to rubber-stamp an illegal effort by Trump. Donald Trump will no longer be president in two months. But an unconstitutional memorandum he handed down last July could potentially shape both US policy and American elections for the next decade, if the Supreme Court, scheduled to hear the case on November 30, allows that memo to take effect. The Constitution provides that “representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed.” Nevertheless, Trump’s memo claims that “aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status” should not be counted when seats in the House of Representatives are allocated following the 2020 census. The memo, in other words, violates the unambiguous text of the Constitution, as well as federal laws governing who should be included in census counts. An estimated 10.6 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States, and nearly 20 percent live in California. So the nation’s largest blue state could lose as many as three House seats if Trump succeeds in his plans to cut these immigrants out of the apportionment count. (It is likely that the red state of Texas would also be hit hard — but Texas’s Republican legislature is likely to draw gerrymandered maps that would impose the cost of any lost House seats on Democrats. California uses a bipartisan redistricting commission to draw legislative lines.) The courts have thus far approached Trump’s memo with considerable skepticism. Four different three-judge panels have all unanimously concluded that Trump may not exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count. That means that a dozen judges, some appointed by Democrats and some by Republicans, all agree that Trump’s memo is unconstitutional. The legal questions in these cases, in the words of one lower court that rejected Trump’s arguments, are “not particularly close or complicated.” Nevertheless, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Trump v. New York, one of the four cases challenging Trump’s unconstitutional memo. The mere fact that the Court will hear this case does not necessarily mean that a majority of the justices are inclined to side with the lame-duck president. The justices normally get to pick and choose which cases they want to hear — ordinarily, four justices must agree to hear a case before it can be argued in the Supreme Court. But federal law sometimes requires the Court to decide cases that involve time-sensitive, election-related issues, such as how many seats each state will have in the next House of Representatives. New York is one of these rare cases that arise under the Court’s mandatory jurisdiction. The justices cannot simply ignore this case even if they agree with the lower courts that ruled against Trump. So it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that the Supreme Court will agree with the unanimous consensus of the lower court judges who’ve considered Trump’s memo and rejected it. Nevertheless, with six conservatives on the Court — including three Trump appointees — there is no guarantee that Trump will lose. Trump claims he gets to decide who counts for purposes of apportionment Trump’s memo claims that the Constitution’s provisions, governing who should be counted for purposes of apportionment, should not be read literally. “Although the Constitution requires the ‘persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed,’ to be enumerated in the census,” Trump says in his memo, “that requirement has never been understood to include in the apportionment base every individual physically present within a State’s boundaries at the time of the census.” He’s not wrong that some foreign nationals, who may be physically present in the United States during a census, are not counted. Tourists, foreign diplomats, international businesspeople, and other non-citizens who temporarily visit the United States typically are not included in the census. “The term ‘persons in each State,’” Trump’s memo fairly reasonably notes, “has been interpreted to mean that only the ‘inhabitants’ of each State should be included.” This general premise — that only “inhabitants” of a state, and not temporarily foreign visitors, should be counted by the census — is fairly uncontroversial. But Trump then claims the power to decide who counts as an “inhabitant” for census purposes. “Determining which persons should be considered ‘inhabitants’ for the purpose of apportionment requires the exercise of judgment,” his memo argues. And Trump, according to his lawyers, “validly exercised that judgment in deciding to exclude illegal aliens ‘to the maximum extent feasible and consistent with the discretion delegated to the executive branch.’” But Trump’s lawyers do not cite an actual statute giving Trump the power to determine who counts as an “inhabitant” of a state, and the federal laws governing the census suggest that Trump does not have this power. Those laws provide that the secretary of commerce shall report the “total population by States” to the president once the census is done counting individuals, and they require the president to “transmit to the Congress a statement showing the whole number of persons in each State” once he is done reviewing the census. These references to the “total population” and the “whole number of persons” suggest that the president may not pick and choose who is counted. Moreover, as the lower court that ruled against Trump in New York held, “it does not follow that illegal aliens — a category defined by legal status, not residence — can be excluded” from the census by claiming that they are not “inhabitants” of a state. “To the contrary,” the court explained, while quoting from Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, “the ordinary definition of the term ‘inhabitant’ is ‘one that occupies a particular place regularly, routinely, or for a period of time.’” Many undocumented immigrants reside in a state for “many years or even decades,” the court continued. These immigrants are as much “inhabitants” of those states as any other resident. Two of the judges who joined this opinion, it is worth noting, were appointed by Republican President George W. Bush. Unable to cite any legal authority giving Trump the power to decide who is an “inhabitant” of a state, Trump’s brief points to a handful of other sources — some legal, some otherwise — which are at least somewhat consistent with the outgoing president’s understanding of who counts as an “inhabitant.” Trump’s brief, for example, quotes a line from a 1992 Supreme Court decision, which says that the determination of whether a particular individual should be counted by the census may “include some element of allegiance or enduring tie to a place” — though it’s unclear what quoting this line adds to Trump’s argument because an undocumented immigrant who has long resided in the same state has an “enduring tie” to the place. Similarly, Trump’s brief points to The Law of Nations, a 1758 treatise by the Swiss lawyer Emmerich de Vattel, which defined the term “inhabitant” to include “strangers, who are permitted to settle and stay in the country.” American courts do not typically rely on 262-year-old books by European authors to override the unambiguous text of the Constitution. And there’s also a glaring problem with relying on Vattel to determine who should be counted by the census. As one of the plaintiffs’ briefs in the New York case explains, “Vattel defined ‘inhabitants’ as ‘distinguished from citizens’ — i.e., in his lexicon, only noncitizens were classified as ‘inhabitants.’” Thus, if the Supreme Court were to rely on Vattel’s definition of an “inhabitant” to determine who should be counted by the census, it would exclude US citizens from the count. House apportionment would be determined solely based on how many non-citizens were lawfully residing in each state. New York is an early test of the new Supreme Court majority’s commitment to the rule of law The Supreme Court hears a lot of difficult cases, but Trump v. New York is not one of them. Trump’s memo is at odds with clear constitutional text. Trump’s brief offers little support for his arguments. Every judge to consider Trump’s memo has ruled against it. And it’s not even clear that the justices would have agreed to hear this case in the first place if it didn’t fall within the Court’s mandatory jurisdiction. But the case is also being heard by a deeply conservative Court that appears emboldened by the confirmation of new Justice Amy Coney Barrett to move the law dramatically to the right — especially in cases impacting elections. New York, in other words, will be an early test of just how emboldened the Court’s new majority has become. If the justices back Trump in New York, despite clear constitutional text to the contrary, then that’s a worrisome sign about the future of the rule of law in the United States. In any event, the Court is likely to decide this case very quickly. By law, Trump must inform Congress of how House seats will be apportioned among the states by January 10, 2021.
Preview: Amanda Northrop/Vox Dark matter, unexplained. If you go outside on a dark night, in the darkest places on Earth, you can see as many as 9,000 stars. They appear as tiny points of light, but they are massive infernos. And while these stars seem astonishingly numerous to our eyes, they represent just the tiniest fraction of all the stars in our galaxy, let alone the universe. The beautiful challenge of stargazing is keeping this all in mind: Every small thing we see in the night sky is immense, but what’s even more immense is the unseen, the unknown. I’ve been thinking about this feeling — the awesome, terrifying feeling of smallness, of the extreme contrast of the big and small — while reporting on one of the greatest mysteries in science for Unexplainable, a new Vox podcast pilot you can listen to below. It turns out all the stars in all the galaxies, in all the universe, barely even begin to account for all the stuff of the universe. Most of the matter in the universe is actually unseeable, untouchable, and, to this day, undiscovered. Scientists call this unexplained stuff “dark matter,” and they believe there’s five times more of it in the universe than normal matter — the stuff that makes up you and me, stars, planets, black holes, and everything we can see in the night sky or touch here on Earth. It’s strange even calling all that “normal” matter, because in the grand scheme of the cosmos, normal matter is the rare stuff. But to this day, no one knows what dark matter actually is. “I think it gives you intellectual and kind of epistemic humility — that we are simultaneously, super insignificant, a tiny, tiny speck of the universe,” Priya Natarajan, a Yale physicist and dark matter expert, said on a recent phone call. “But on the other hand, we have brains in our skulls that are like these tiny, gelatinous cantaloupes, and we have figured all of this out.” The story of dark matter is a reminder that whatever we know, whatever truth about the universe we have acquired as individuals or as society, is insignificant compared to what we have not yet explained. It’s also a reminder that, often, in order to discover something true, the first thing we need to do is account for what we don’t know. This accounting of the unknown is not often a thing that’s celebrated in science. It doesn’t win Nobel prizes. But, at least, we can know the size of our ignorance. And that’s a start. But how does it end? Though physicists have been trying to figure out what dark matter is for decades, the detectors they built to find it have gone silent year after year. It makes some wonder: Have they been chasing a ghost? Dark matter might not be real. Instead, there could be something more deeply flawed in physicists’ understanding of gravity that would explain it away. Still, the search, fueled by faith in scientific observations, continues, despite the possibility that dark matter may never be found. To learn about dark matter is to grapple with, and embrace, the unknown. The woman who told us how much we don’t know Scientists are, to this day, searching for dark matter, because they believe it is there to find. And they believe so largely because of Vera Rubin, an astronomer who died in 2016 at age 88. Growing up in Washington, DC, in the 1930s, like so many young people getting started in science, Rubin fell in love with the night sky. Rubin shared a bedroom and bed with her sister Ruth. Ruth was older and got to pick her favorite side of the bed, the one that faced the bedroom windows and the night sky. “But the windows captivated Vera’s attention,” Ashley Yeager, a journalist writing a forthcoming biography on Rubin, says. “Ruth remembers Vera constantly crawling over her at night, to be able to open the windows and look out at the night sky and start to track the stars.” Ruth just wanted to sleep, and “there Vera was tinkering and trying to take pictures of the stars and trying to track their motions.” It wasn’t that everything we knew about matter was wrong. It was that everything we knew about normal matter was insignificant. Not everyone gets to turn their childlike wonder and captivation of the unknown into a career, but Rubin did. Flash-forward to the late 1960s, and she’s at the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, doing exactly what she did in that childhood bedroom: tracking the motion of stars. This time, though, she has a cutting-edge telescope and is looking at stars in motion at the edge of the Andromeda Galaxy. Just 40 years prior, Edwin Hubble had determined, for the first time, that Andromeda was a galaxy outside of our own, and that galaxies outside our own even existed. With one observation, Hubble doubled the size of the known universe. By 1960, scientists were still asking basic questions in the wake of this discovery. Like: How do galaxies move? Rubin and her colleague Kent Ford were at the observatory doing this basic science, charting how stars are moving at the edge of Andromeda. “I guess I wanted to confirm Newton’s laws,” Rubin said in an archival interview with science historian David DeVorkin. Alan Dyer/Universal Images Group via Getty The Andromeda Galaxy. Per Newton’s equations, the stars in the galaxy ought to move like the planets in our solar system do. Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, orbits very quickly, propelled by the sun’s gravity to a speed of around 106,000 mph. Neptune, far from the sun, and less influenced by its gravity, moves much slower, at around 12,000 mph. The same thing ought to happen in galaxies too: Stars near the dense, gravity-rich centers of galaxies ought to move faster than the stars along the edges. But that wasn’t what Rubin and Ford observed. Instead, they saw that the stars along the edge of Andromeda were going the same speed as the stars in the interior. “I think it was kind of like a ‘what the fuck’ moment,” Yeager says. “It was just it was just so different than what everyone had expected.” Ingo Berg/Wikipedia On the left, what Rubin expected to see: stars orbiting the outskirts of a galaxy moving slower than those near the center. On the right, what was observed: the stars on the outside moving at the same speed as the center. The data pointed to an enormous problem: The stars couldn’t just be moving that fast on their own. At those speeds, the galaxy should be ripping itself apart like an accelerating merry-go-round with the brake turned off. To explain why this wasn’t happening, these stars needed some kind of extra gravity out there acting like an engine. There had to be a source of mass for all that extra gravity. (For a refresher: Physicists consider gravity to be a consequence of mass. The more mass in an area, the stronger the gravitational pull.) The data suggested that there was a staggering amount of mass in the galaxy that astronomers simply couldn’t see. “As they’re looking out there, they just can’t seem to find any kind of evidence that it’s some normal type of matter,” Yeager says. It wasn’t black holes; it wasn’t dead stars. It was something else generating the gravity needed to both hold the galaxy together and propel those outer stars to such fast speeds. “I mean, when you first see it, I think you’re afraid of being … you’re afraid of making a dumb mistake, you know, that there’s just some simple explanation,” Rubin later recounted. Other scientists might have immediately announced a dramatic conclusion based on this limited data. But not Rubin. She and her collaborators dug in and decided to do a systematic review of the star speeds in galaxies. Rubin and Ford weren’t the first group to make an observation of stars moving fast at the edge of a galaxy. But what Rubin and her collaborators are famous for is verifying the finding across the universe. “She [studies] 20 galaxies, and then 40 and then 60, and they all show this bizarre behavior of stars out far in the galaxy, moving way, way too fast,” Yeager explains. This is why people say Rubin ought to have won a Nobel Prize (the prizes are only awarded to living recipients, so she will never win one). She didn’t “discover” dark matter. But the data she collected over her career made it so the astronomical community had to reckon with the idea that most of the mass in the universe is unknown. By 1985, Rubin was confident enough in her observations to declare something of an anti-eureka: announcing not a discovery, but a huge absence in our collective knowledge. “Nature has played a trick on astronomers,” she’s paraphrased as saying at an International Astronomical Organization conference in 1985, “who thought we were studying the Universe. We now know that we were studying only a small fraction of it.” To this day, no one has “discovered” dark matter. But Rubin did something incredibly important: She told the scientific world about what they were missing. In the decades since this anti-eureka, other scientists have been trying to fill in the void Rubin pointed to. Their work isn’t complete. But what they’ve been learning about dark matter is that it’s incredibly important to the very structure of our universe, and that it’s deeply, deeply weird. Dark matter isn’t just enormous. It’s also strange. Since Rubin’s WTF moment in the Arizona desert, more and more evidence has accumulated that dark matter is real, and weird, and accounts for most of the mass in the universe. “Even though we can’t see it, we can still infer that dark matter is there,” Kathryn Zurek, a Caltech astrophysicist, explains. “Even if we couldn’t see the moon with our eyes, we would still know that it was there because it pulls the oceans in different directions — and it’s really very similar with dark matter.” Scientists can’t see dark matter directly. But they can see its influence on the space and light around it. The biggest piece of indirect evidence: Dark matter, like all matter that accumulates in large quantities, has the ability to warp the very fabric of space. “You can visualize dark matter as these lumps of matter that create little potholes in space-time,” Natarajan says. “All the matter in the universe is pockmarked with dark matter.” When light falls into one of these potholes, it bends like light does in a lens. In this way, we can’t “see” dark matter, but we can “see” the distortions it produces in astronomers’ views of the cosmos. From this, we know dark matter forms a spherical cocoon around galaxies, lending them more mass, which allows their stars to move faster than what Newton’s laws would otherwise suggest. NASA, ESA, D. Harvey (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland), R. Massey (Durham University, UK), Harald Ebeling (University of Hawaii at Manoa) & Jean-Paul Kneib (LAM) This is a NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the galaxy cluster MACS J0717.5+3745. Shown in blue on the image is a map of the dark matter found within the cluster. These are indirect observations, but they have also given scientists some clues about the intrinsic nature of dark matter. It’s not called dark matter because of its color. It has no color. It’s called “dark” because it neither reflects nor emits light, nor any sort of electromagnetic radiation. So we can’t see it directly even with the most powerful telescopes. Not only can we not see it, we couldn’t touch it if we tried: If some sentient alien tossed a piece of dark matter at you, it would pass right through you. If it were going fast enough, it would pass right through the entire Earth. Dark matter is like a ghost. Here’s one reason physicists are confident in that weird fact. Astronomers have made observations of galaxy clusters that have slammed into one another like a head-on collision between two cars on the highway. Astronomers deduced that in the collision, much of the normal matter in the galaxy clusters slowed down and mixed together (like two cars in a head-on collision would stop one another and crumple together). But the dark matter in the cluster didn’t slow down in the collision. It kept going, as if the collision didn’t even happen. The event is recreated in this animation. The red represents normal matter in the galaxy clusters, and the blue represents dark matter. During the collision, the blue dark matter acts like a ghost, just passing through the normal colliding matter as if it weren’t there. John Wise of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (A note: These two weird aspects of dark matter — its invisibility and its untouchability — are connected: Dark matter simply does not interact with the electromagnetic force of nature. The electromagnetic force lights up our universe with light and radiation, but it also makes the world feel solid.) A final big piece of evidence for dark matter is that it helps physicists make sense of how galaxies formed in the early universe. “We know that dark matter had to be present to be part of that process,” astrophysicist Katie Mack explains. It’s believed dark matter coalesced together in the early universe before normal matter did, creating gravitational wells for normal matter to fall into. Those gravitational wells formed by dark matter became the seeds of galaxies. So dark matter not only holds galaxies together, as Rubin’s work implied — it’s why galaxies are there in the first place. So: What is it? To this day, no one really knows what dark matter is. Scientists’ best guess is that it’s a particle. Particles are the smallest building blocks of reality — they’re so small, they make up atoms. It’s thought that dark matter is just another one of these building blocks, but one we haven’t seen up close for ourselves. (There are a lot of different proposed particles that may be good dark matter candidates. Scientists still aren’t sure exactly which one it will be.) You might be wondering: Why can’t we find the most common source of matter in all the universe? Well, our scientific equipment is made out of normal matter. So if dark matter passes right through normal matter, trying to find dark matter is like trying to catch a ghost baseball with a normal glove. Plus, while dark matter is bountiful in the universe, it’s really diffuse. There are just not massive boulders of it passing nearby Earth. It’s more like we’re swimming in a fine mist of it. “If you add up all the dark matter inside humans, all humans on the planet at any given moment, it’s one nanogram,” Natarajan says — teeny-tiny. Dark matter may never be “discovered,” and that’s okay Some physicists favor a different interpretation for what Rubin observed, and for what other scientists have observed since: that it’s not that there’s some invisible mass of dark matter dominating the universe, but that scientists’ fundamental understanding of gravity is flawed and needs to be reworked. While “that’s a definite possibility,” Natarajan says, currently, there’s a lot more evidence on the side of dark matter being real and not just a mirage based on a misunderstanding of gravity. “We would need a new theory [of gravity] that can explain everything that we see already,” she explains. “There is no such theory that is currently available.” NASA, ESA, M.J. Jee and H. Ford (Johns Hopkins University) On the left, a Hubble Space Telescope image of a galaxy cluster. On the right, a blue shading has been added to indicate where the dark matter ought to be. It’s not hard to believe in something invisible, Mack says, if all the right evidence is there. We do it all the time. “It’s similar to if you’re walking down the street,” she says. “And as you’re walking, you see that some trees are kind of bending over, and you hear some leaves rustling and maybe you see a plastic bag sort of floating past you and you feel a little cold on one side. You can pretty much figure out there’s wind. Right? And that wind explains all of these different phenomena. ... There are many, many different pieces of evidence for dark matter. And for each of them, you might be able to find some other explanation that works just as well. But when taken together, it’s really good evidence.” Meanwhile, experiments around the world are trying to directly detect dark matter. Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider are hoping their particle collisions may one day produce some detectable dark matter. Astronomers are looking out in space for more clues, hoping one day dark matter will reveal itself through an explosion of gamma rays. Elsewhere, scientists have burrowed deep underground, shielding labs from noise and radiation, hoping that dark matter will one day pass through a detector they’ve carefully designed and make itself known. But it hasn’t happened yet. It may never happen: Scientists hope that dark matter isn’t a complete ghost to normal matter. They hope that every once in a while, when it collides with normal matter, it does something really, really subtle, like shove one single atom to the side, and set off a delicately constructed alarm. But that day may never come. It could be dark matter just never prods normal matter, that it remains a ghost. “I really did get into this business because I thought I would be detecting this within five years,” Prisca Cushman, a University of Minnesota physicist who works on a dark matter detector, says. She’s been trying to find dark matter for 20 years. She still believes it exists, that it’s out there to find. But maybe it’s just not the particular candidate particle her detector was initially set up to find. That failure isn’t a reason to give up, she says. “By not seeing [dark matter] yet with a particular detector, we’re saying, ‘Oh, so it’s not this particular model that we thought it might be.’ And that is an extremely interesting statement. Because all of a sudden an army of theorists go out and say, ‘Hey, what else could it be?’” But even if the dark matter particle is never found, that won’t discount all science has learned about it. “It’s like you’re on a beach,” Natarajan explains. “You have a lot of sand dunes. And so we are in a situation where we are able to understand how these sand dunes form, but we don’t actually know what a grain of sand is made of.” Embracing the unknown Natarajan and the other physicists I spoke to for this story are comfortable with the unknown nature of dark matter. They’re not satisfied, they want to know more, but they accept it’s real. They accept it because that’s the state of the evidence. And if new evidence comes along to disprove it, they’ll have to accept that too. “Inherent to the nature of science is the fact that whatever we know is provisional,” Natarajan says. “It is apt to change. So I think what motivates people like me to continue doing science is the fact that it keeps opening up more and more questions. Nothing is ultimately resolved.” That’s true when it comes to the biggest questions, like “what is the universe made of?” It’s true in so many other areas of science, too: Despite the endless headlines that proclaim new research findings that get published daily, there are many more unanswered questions than answered. Scientists don’t really understand how bicycles stay upright, or know the root cause of Alzheimer’s disease or how to treat it. Similarly, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, we craved answers: Why do some people get much sicker than others, what does immunity to the virus look like? The truth was we couldn’t yet know (and still don’t, for sure). But that didn’t mean the scientific process was broken. The truth is, when it comes to a lot of fields of scientific progress, we’re in the middle of the story, not the end. The lesson is that truth and knowledge are hard-won. In the case of dark matter, it wasn’t that everything we knew about matter was wrong. It was that everything we knew about normal matter was insignificant compared to our ignorance about dark matter. The story of dark matter fits with a narrative of scientific progress that makes us humans seem smaller and smaller at each turn. First, we learned that Earth wasn’t the center of the universe. Now dark matter teaches us that the very stuff we’re made of — matter — is just a fraction of all reality. If dark matter is one day discovered, it will only open up more questions. Dark matter could be more than one particle, more than one thing. There could be a richness and diversity in dark matter that’s a little like the richness and diversity we see in normal matter. It’s possible, and this is speculation, that there’s a kind of shadow universe that we don’t have access to — scientists label it the “dark sector” — that is made up of different components that exists, as a ghost, enveloping our galaxies. It’s a little scary to learn how little we know, to learn we don’t even know what most of the universe is made out of. But there’s a sense of optimism in a question, right? It makes you feel like we can know the answer to them. There’s so much about our world that’s arrogant: from politicians who only believe in what’s convenient for them to Silicon Valley companies who claim they’re helping the world while fracturing it, and so many more examples. If only everyone could see a bit of what Vera Rubin saw — a fundamental truth not just about the universe, but about humanity. “In a spiral galaxy, the ratio of dark-to-light matter is about a factor of 10,” Rubin said in a 2000 interview. “That’s probably a good number for the ratio of our ignorance to knowledge. We’re out of kindergarten, but only in about third grade.”
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Preview: ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico food banks will be able to provide more meals for thousands of families with an infusion of $5 million in funding as part of an economic relief package approved by state lawmakers and signed by the governor. Mag Strittmatter, president and CEO of ...
Preview: WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - Six members of the Pakistan cricket squad in New Zealand have tested positive for COVID-19 and have been moved from managed isolation into quarantine. Two of the cases are deemed historical and four are new but all six players will move to the quarantine arm ...
Preview: PHOENIX (AP) - An Arizona funeral director faces discipline for allowing a service to be held at the wrong grave site and then relocating the casket without informing the family. Mark Dunn was issued a consent agreement by the Arizona State Board of Funeral Directors & Embalmers seeking suspension of ...
Preview: JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) - On Monday afternoon, Candace Montgomery’s four daughters burst into the new apartment their mother moved into a week ago. It’s a place she hopes they’ll all soon call home. The girls quickly found their bedrooms and Alexis, 9, and Bella, 7, immediately started making plans for ...
Preview: LOS ANGELES (AP) - Firefighters in Silicon Valley were sent out to enforce statewide business restrictions as the state faced a Thanksgiving shadowed by an out-of-control coronavirus surge and health officials begged people to avoid large family gatherings that could become “superspreader" events. “You have a 15-person gathering at a ...
Preview: Today in History Today is Thursday, Nov. 26, the 331st day of 2020. There are 35 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Nov. 26, 2000, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris certified George W. Bush the winner over Al Gore in the state’s presidential ...
Preview: OGDEN, Utah (AP) - Isiah Brown had a career-high 26 points as Weber State routed Adams State 88-60 in a season opener on Wednesday night. Brown hit 9 of 10 foul shots. Cody Carlson had 13 points for Weber State. Michal Kozak added 10 points. David Nzekwesi had ...
Preview: ONTARIO—After distraught staffers at Penguin Random House Canada complained about the publication of Jordan Peterson's new book Beyond Order: 12 More Rules For Life, the publishing company quickly solved the problem by forcing the crying employees to read Jordan Peterson's book. According to sources, employees have been completely cured of their whining, self-destructive victimhood. The post Staffers Crying Over Jordan Peterson Book Cured By Forcing Them To Read Jordan Peterson Book appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: U.S.—Democrat experts are warning the public to avoid excess amounts of thankfulness this year after studies showed that feelings of gratefulness often lead to conservatism. The post Democrats Warn That Excess Thankfulness May Lead To Conservatism appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: LOS ANGELES, CA—LeBron James announced today that he doesn't really care what the CDC recommends, he's still going to travel this year. The post LeBron James Says He's Still Going To Travel This Year Despite CDC Guidelines appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: U.S.—Democrats are very thankful for Never Trumpers, brave conservatives who fought against Trump his entire administration. They are so grateful that they are rewarding the leaders of the Never Trump movement with access to a special VIP section of the gulags they are building. The post Never Trumpers To Be Granted Special VIP Section Of Gulags When Dems Take Over appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: SACRAMENTO, CA—California governor Gavin Newsom is especially concerned that the holiday season could lead to people coming together in joy and brotherly love -- i.e., superspreader events. To fight this, Newsom has enacted a number of strict rules for the holidays and has now gone the extra step of sending police door to door to arrest anyone showing clear signs of violating the law, namely anyone not depressed and alone. The post Governor Newsom Orders Police To Go Door To Door Arresting Anyone Not Depressed And Alone appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: PENNSYLVANIA—After Pennsylvania announced it would be banning alcohol sales this week, a mysterious "Beer Baron" began smuggling multiple truckloads of beer into the state, saving Thanksgiving for everyone. The post Mysterious Orange-Haired Vigilante Smuggles Thousands Of Beer Kegs Into Prohibition-Era Pennsylvania appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: U.S.—After fending off a deadly pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands of people, Planned Parenthood proudly announced that they will still earn the title for most Americans killed in a given year. The post After Fending Off Pandemic Challenger, Planned Parenthood Retains Title For Most Americans Killed In 2020 appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: BRENTWOOD, TN—Coffee sales at the He-Brews Cafe located inside Faith Fellowship Grace Living Hope Community Church have skyrocketed during a recent sermon series on the book of Leviticus. While a number of reasons have been suggested to explain the increase, the prevailing theory is that the messages are so unbelievably boring that churchgoers are forced to heavily caffeinate themselves just to make it through. The post Church Cafe Offers Triple Espresso Shots To Help Members Get Through Pastor's 12-Part Series On Leviticus appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: WASHINGTON D.C.—Attorney Sidney Powell has vowed to any day now “release the space Kraken” -- to make public an avalanche of evidence of a real UFO. The post Sidney Powell Promises To Very Soon Show Us A Real UFO appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: ONTARIO, CA—Local man Kyle Nicolay settled in with a men's group to read some G.K. Chesterton this week. The post Man Pretends To Understand G.K. Chesterton Book appeared first on The Babylon Bee.
Preview: ATHENS, GA—Beaming as the youngsters rushed down the stairs and threw open the oven doors, parents Jack and Christina Packton allowed their excited children Wednesday to tear open one turkey for Thanksgiving Eve. “We know it’s a day early, but there’s nothing more magical than sitting around with friends and family on… Read more...
Preview: The Bureau of Land Management is investigating after a helicopter crew in Utah stumbled upon a shiny metallic monolith standing roughly 10 feet tall in a remote area of the state, which they believe may be an illegal art installation. What do you think? Read more...
Preview: WILMINGTON, DE—Ending two weeks of a transition blockade, President-elect Joe Biden confirmed Wednesday that he had received his first box of wadded-up napkins and greasy receipts comprising President Trump’s intelligence briefing. “We appreciate the Trump administration cooperating in a peaceful transition of power,… Read more...
Preview: VALLEY FORGE, PA—Wondering aloud whether some of the products appearing on his television were even real, local Caucasian man Landon McGill was reportedly ushered into an alternate world Wednesday when a brief viewing of BET exposed him to advertisements intended for African Americans. “Whoa, what’s happening—it’s… Read more...
Preview: WASHINGTON—Calling it a blatantly corrupt abuse of the recruitment system, critics slammed Alabama’s senator-elect Tommy Tuberville Wednesday for using free cars and Auburn cheerleaders to lure a five-star intern onto his staff. “Tuberville clearly spoiled this guy with steakhouse dinners and signed footballs to… Read more...
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Preview: Boy, have we got some good news for you, gamers. Oh yes, we do. What is it, you may be wondering? Well, get ready, because it’s going to knock your socks off: After pulling some strings, we are pleased to announce that the common loon Gavia immer is now officially the gaming bird! Read more...
Preview: Hear why some animal activists are asking people to consider giving one of the thousands of lonely turkeys trapped in an animal shelter a nice, warm forever home this Thanksgiving. Read more...
Preview: Despite warnings from the CDC to stay home, Thanksgiving may as usual be the busiest travel period of the year, as nearly 1 million Americans passed through airport screenings on Sunday. What do you think? Read more...